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Home > Weekly Columns > Hebrew Thoughts

Hebrew Thoughts
Week of October 26 - November 1, 2014


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Author Bio
KJ Went has taught biblical Hebrew, hermeneutics and Jewish background to early Christianity. Their "Biblical Hebrew made easy" course can be found at

Why not consider Greek, Aramaic, Biblical or Modern Hebrew online, it's easier than you think.

BMSoftware, founded by KJ, offer a wide range of biblical, Hebrew, Greek and multilingual software for theological use.

byn "distinguish, discern, understand"
   BIya (Strong's #995)

byn "distinguish, discern, understand" BIya (Strong's #995)

"Who is the wise man that may understand this..." (Jeremiah 9:12, KJV)

BIya byn s a root verb meaning "to distinguish" (Strong's #995, x170) in the sense of gaining understanding by being able to discern, separate, or decide between. A derivative construct noun is BAya bayn that translates as "between", "within" or "difference" (Strong's #996, x32).

It is first used in Genesis 41:33,39 of Joseph's ability to interpret dreams, and then in Deuteronomy 1:13 of a required characteristic of leaders over the tribes of Israel, alongside "wisdom" xFkFe chkhm (Strong's #2450, x137) and "knowing" ydA) ydha‘ (Strong's #3045, x947).

Indeed, BIya byn is regularly paired (20x) with xFkFe chkhm as "wisdom and discernment/understanding" and several times with ydA) ydha‘ as "knowledge and understanding".

It is not surprising, therefore, that it occurs most frequently in the Wisdom literature of Proverbs (x30), Psalms (x26) and Job (x23), nearly half of its uses. The book of Daniel, like its first use in Joseph's dream interpretations, also gets wide usage (x19) after the prophet Isaiah (x20).

BIya byn is not just prophetic or interpretation though, it is used of perception and discernment via all the senses. Whether of the eyes (Proverbs 7:7; Job 31:1; Isaiah 5:21), ears (Proverbs 29:19), taste (Job 6:30), or touch (Psalm 58:10).

Understanding of the heart - for which read "mind" as Hebrew had no word for mind/mental at the time, also uses BIya byn as in Isaiah 6:9-10.

Wisdom, skill, and perhaps eloquence, of speech are suggested by its use with DFbFr dbhr (Strong's #1697, x1439) "word, speech" to describe a young David, before he was king, in 1 Samuel 16:18.

In Solomon's famous prayer for wisdom he asks for an "understanding" heart, using shma‘ (Strong's #8085, x1159) rather than BIya byn but goes on "that I may discern between good and evil" using BIya B"ya byn byn together.

In the Hiphil causative form of the Hebrew verb it gains the meaning of "bringing wisdom, understanding, knowledge" through teaching, instruction, declaration, explanation, or interpretation, as in Nehemiah 8:7-9.

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