As a graduate student, and as one who desires to pursue postgraduate studies this is a question I have had to ask myself, Why study Hebrew? During my early undergraduate years when I solidified my course of studies, I was confused as to why anyone would go through the torture of learning a language so far divorced from their own. And when I found out the form of Hebrew mainly studied by Biblical scholars is a “dead language” (There are four main forms of the Hebrew language: Classical,Rabbinical/Mishnaic, Medieval/Rabbinic, and Modern) it was clear that Biblical scholars enjoy crying themselves to sleep at night. For those who are familiar with Biblical Studies the benefits of studying Classical/Biblical Hebrew are pretty familiar, and even then they sometimes elude us; and it is important to remind ourselves.
Upon glossing over the text I was taught beginner level Hebrew on, I encountered a list of reasons for why one should learn Hebrew, Dr. Lee Roy Martin came up with in his book Introduction to Biblical Hebrew. Here is a shorter version of that list:
1. Given the limitations of translation learning Hebrew gives the reader access to “subtleties of Hebrew” lost in translation.
2. Poetry and all figures of speech rely heavily upon the sounds and meanings of original Hebrew.
3. The resources used by those who engage in the study of the Bible or Hebrew text require a working knowledge of the language. Even such items as Concordances, journal articles, grammars, and even commentaries.
4. One needs to be able to think and engage the text critically and not simply rely on commentaries and translations of other’s. The weaknesses of the studies if others can also be strengthened.
5. It strengthens the sermon preparation and lesson preparation.
6. It leads to a greater understanding of the culture.
7. It enhances the students communication skills by adding to the understanding of linguistics in general.