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Home > Weekly Columns > Hebrew Thoughts

Hebrew Thoughts
Week of March 22 - 28, 2015


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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.

shâchôr 'black, dark'
   $Fxr (Strong's #7838)

shâchôr 'black, dark' $Fxr (Strong's #7838)

"I am black, but comely" (Song of Songs 1:5, JPS)

Hebrew has several words to describe being dark or black, whether of face, skin, hair, mood or the weather. One such is $Fxr shâchôr "black" (Strong's #7838, x6) coming from $FxAr shâchar "to be black" (Strong's #7835, x1) which only occurs in Job 30:30, "My skin is black...burned with heat".

Hebrew's words for colours are not concrete chromatic colour charts but poetic terms derived from nature. Indeed, most ancient cultures lacked a word for blue at all. Even the biblical "blue" is more violet, somewhere between red and purple - T:k"lEt tekhêleth "blue-violet" (Strong's #8504, x50).

Other words translated as "black" include: KFmAr kâmar "black" (Strong's #3648, x4) from the idea of the heat of the sun, used in Lamentations 5:10; qFdAr qâdar "be dark, mourn" (Strong's #6937, x17) translated as "darken, blacken" sometimes and often used of moods, mourning, or the weather; another is sOxErEt çôwchereth "black" (Strong's #5508, x1) used of a type of onyx black marble, only used in Esther 1:6.

$Fxr shâchôr is also related to another word spelled the same as $FxAr shâchar "to be black" which is "to seek early, earnestly" (Strong's #7836, x12). The similarity probably relates to an earlier affinity between the words meaning dawning of the sun, that period of darkness that begins to be illuminated, and indicates again that $Fxr shâchôr means tanned, darkened by the sun.

$Fxr shâchôr is used of the priests checking for leprosy, looking for "black" hairs in a scab (Leviticus 13:31,37) and of the black-haired chariot horses described in Zechariah's vision (Zech 6:2,6).

Song of Songs 5:10-11: "My beloved is white and ruddy...His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are curled, and black as a raven" - here, $Fxr shâchôr is used for hair that is "black as a raven" and cAx tsach "white" (Strong's #6703, x4) from cFxAx tsâchach "to glow whiter" (Strong's #6705, x1) is used of the beloved's visage, more his brightness, for he is also described as "ruddy" (Fde ’âdhôm "reddish" (Strong's #122, x9).

Song of Songs 1:5-6: "I am black, but comely...Look not upon me, that I am swarthy, for the sun has tanned me" - so render the JPS, NAS but the KJV has "black" and NKJ "dark", instead of "swarthy", the Hebrew in the first instance is $Fxr shâchôr but in the second, is the related $:xAr:xr shechar'chôr "blackish" (Strong's #7840, x1). The rendering "black but comely/beautiful" is slightly misleading for the Hebrew word translated as "but" is more commonly the word "and".

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