Quartz Hill School of Theology

Lesson 1: The Hebrew Alphabet

Hebrew is classified as a Northwest Semitic language. The Northwest Semitic languages are subdivided into the Canaanite and Aramaic branches, with Hebrew falling under the Canaanite branch. The writing system used by the Canaanite and Aramaic branches diverged from each other so far as the shape of the letters are concerned. During the Babylonian captivity, the Jewish people adopted the Aramaic script and replaced the writing system they had been using with it. Thus, the Hebrew alphabet in use today in Israel and in all printed versions of the Bible is actually the Aramaic alphabet. It is also the alphabet of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Hebrew alphabet is listed below. Notice that the kaph כ, mem מ, nun נ, pe פ, and tsade צ have two forms. The second form is what is called the "final" form of the letter. The final form is used at the end of a word. The other form is used everywhere else in a word.

There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The שׁ and שׂ are counted as a single letter.

Hebrew texts are written from right to left, the opposite of English.

Notice, also, that all these letters are consonents. As with many Semitic languages, the vowels were not originally indicated by the writing system (both Modern Hebrew and Arabic write only the consonents). Vowel pronunciation was understood from a knowledge of the language and context.

As Hebrew ceased to be a spoken language, the letters vav and yod came to be used to sometimes represent the o or u and i or e vowels respectively, and later the Masoretes (scholars in Tiberias between 700 and 1100 AD) developed a system of dots and dashes placed above and below the consonents to represent the vowels. You will learn this system in Lesson Two.

Letter Name   Letter   Pronunciation
alef א   glottal stop
betב   b as in boy or v as in have
gimelג   g as in go
daletד   d as in dog
heה   h as in hate
vavו   v as in valley
zayinז   z as in zoo
hetח   ch as in German Bach
tetט   t as in tick
yodי   y as in yellow
kaphך כ   k as in kitty or ch as in German Bach
lamed ל   l as in look
memם מm as in moon
nunן נn as in nanny
samekסs as in silly
ayinעglottal stop
peף פp as in peace or f as in infant
tsadeץ צts as in cats
qofקk as in kitty; usually transliterated as q
reshרr as in rat
shin, sinשׁ שׂsh (if the dot is on the right) as in sheep or s (if the dot is on the left) as in silly
tavתt as in tick


Write the letters, don't draw them. Keep in mind that just as English letters when printed in a book have extra serifs and such, the same is the case with Hebrew. Write the letters as simply as possible. Notice the "Simplified Square" script on page 25 of Biblical Hebrew Step-by-Step. That is how you should write your letters.


Please read pages 3-28 in Biblical Hebrew Step-by-Step.


1. Memorize the Hebrew alphabet.

2. Do the Exercises on pages 12, 16-17, 22, and 27-28.

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Quartz Hill School of Theology
43543 51st Street West
Quartz Hill, CA 93536

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