All Israel

The only dead language in history to be revived

The Hebrew language was considered dead for almost 2,000 years, except in religious readings and settings

Hebrew letters (Photo: Shutterstock)

“For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.” (Zephaniah 3:9)

Sometimes when the prophets first spoke, they spoke about answers to problems that had not yet been realized. When Zephaniah prophesied that God would restore a “pure language," it was approximately 50 years before Israel’s exile to Babylon and the Hebrew language was still widely written and spoken as their mother tongue. How strange for his listeners at the time to hear that God would restore a language that they had never lost.

Because it was the language that God spoke to Moses, Hebrew itself was considered sacred. For this reason, when the exiles returned from Babylon, Nehemiah chided the exiles for not knowing “the language of Judah” (Nehemiah 13:24). Then once the Roman influence took over the region before the birth of Jesus, followed by the Temple’s destruction in 70 A.D. and the Jewish people were scattered, their unifying Hebrew language seemed to fade into history. 

History demonstrates that when a culture breaks down, a language is gone for good. Scholars may study forgotten ancient Greek dialects or understand Coptic. They can decipher many Egyptian hieroglyphs and even read Latin liturgy. But these dead languages are no longer native tongues in a community and no one speaks them at home or on the street. 

Likewise, the Hebrew language was considered dead for almost 2,000 years, except in religious readings and settings. 

Yet, historically speaking, Hebrew is not like any other language.

Hebrew is the only 'dead' language to be revived as a common unifying tongue for the descendants of those who originally spoke it. Furthermore, no other ancient language foretold its linguistic death and revival thousands of years before it occurred. 

What is stunningly unique about this promise in Zephaniah is that in the preceding verse (v.8), we find every possible letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet (alphabet), including the five final forms (sofits). There is no other verse in the whole of Scripture that has the entire written Hebrew aleph bet in it, only the verse before the promise to restore the language. Let that “statistical coincidence” sink in. 

While speaking at Franklin & Marshall College in March 2019, Nancy Berg, a professor of Hebrew language and literature at Washington University in St. Louis said: “The revival of the Hebrew language in the 19th and 20th centuries was improbable, unprecedented and, at least as of now, unreplicated.”

Unprecedented in human history, yes, but not for God.

How Hebrew was revived is another incredible story about the life of Eliezer Ben Yehuda. It's one that we don’t have space for here but there are some great videos and some fascinating books about his life that are well worth the time.

As a result of Ben Yehuda’s lifelong work, the nation of Israel today uses the same language as its ancestors. I was once in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, eavesdropping on an Israeli guide taking an American Jewish family through the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.

The guide turned to the 13-year-old girl who was in Israel for her Bat Mitzvah and asked if she could read a portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This young girl easily read the ancient texts written over 2,000 years ago as her smiling family marveled at the prophecy fulfilled. Quietly, I did too. 

Quite literally, this verse has been fulfilled in the last 150 years. In the early 1900s, Hebrew was still considered a dead language. Today, millions around the world are learning it with apps on their smartphones. Moreover, there are now millions of people whose first language is Hebrew, living everyday life in the land where it originated over 3,000 years ago. 

Because of this prophesied restoration, Christians from around the world are also benefiting, whether they know Hebrew or not. The words in scripture, from Genesis to Malachi, as well as the context and teachings of the Hebrew-speaking Jewish rabbi from Nazareth, are coming alive like never before. 

If the nation of Israel has shown us anything in the last 75 years, it is that the words of the prophets are true, accurate and tangible. The fact that God is still keeping His promises today should give us all tremendous “shalom."

Read more: HEBREW

Doug Hershey is the author of the best selling photo books "Israel Rising" and "Jerusalem Rising" that provide historical and visual documentation of biblical prophecy coming to pass in our day. When not in Israel, he resides in Portland, Maine. Check out more information on courses, event requests and Israel tours on his website

All Israel
Receive latest news & updates
    A message from All Israel News
    Help us educate Christians on a daily basis about what is happening in Israel & the Middle East and why it matters.
    For as little as $5, you can support ALL ISRAEL NEWS, a non-profit media organization that is supported by readers like you.
    Donate to ALL ISRAEL NEWS
    Popular Articles
    Latest Stories