Studying the layers of meaning present in Hebrew words is an enjoyable pastime of mine. I never cease to be amazed both at the depth of essence buried in even each Hebrew letter, and the sometimes subtle, sometimes giant, leaps translators take transmitting Hebrew to other languages. Since my primary language is English, I used the English Strong's Concordance, and read several English translations during my study.
I will begin with English word: “day” and what Hebrew words this comes from using Strong's Concordance. Just by scanning through my concordance, this is what I found:
Strongs numbers: in order of occurrence: day
3117 – too many to count
3119 – also too many to count
3118-////// // Ezra 6:9-8:31 (6 occurences), Daniel 6:10 and 6:13
7837-//////: Gen. 32:24 (2) Joshua 6:15, Judges 19:25, I Samuel 9:26, Job 3:9
1242-/// Judges 16:2, Judges 19:26, 2 Samuel 13:4
4283-// I Samuel 30:17, Jonah 4:7
216-/ Job 26:10
215-/ 2 Samuel 2:32
5399-/ Job 7:4
Strong's: listed for days:
almost exclusively 3117
8543-/ (most translations do not use “days” here. See this site for more detail. http://concordances.org/hebrew/strongs_8543.htm ) 1 Samuel 21:5
3118: 9 x in Daniel
1242 also in Daniel
Here are the definitions of each. Note the variety of meanings in each word.
3117 = יום from an unused root meaning to be hot; a day (as the ward hours), whether lit. (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or fig. ( a space of time defined by an associated tern), [often used adv.]: age, + always, + chronicles, continueally (-ance), daily, ([birth], each, to), day, (now a, two) days (agone), + elder, X end, + evening, + (for) ever (-lasting, -more), x full, life, as (so) long as (….live), (even) now, + old, + outlived, + perpetually, presently, + remaineth, x required, season, x since, space, then, (process of) time + as at other times, + in trouble, weather, (as) when, (a, the, winin a ) while (that), x whole (+age), (full) year (-ly) + younger.
3118 = יום Chaldean
3119 = יומם yomam, from 3117; daily...
7837 = שחר shachar, also translated morning, daybreak, dawn
1242 = בקר boqer, morning,
4283 = מחרת macharat, feminine form of machar. In Samuel, it refers to “of the next” (day), this word is usually used with a mem prefix and means: the next day, the following day, on the next (day), etc.
215/216 = אור ohr, meaning light, illumination, to be light, etc. In the verse in Job, אור is translated mostly as light, rightly so. Only KJV seems to place “day” as the translation. In the 2 Samuel verse, אור is translated “break of day”, “dawn”, or “daybreak”.
5399 = נשף nasheph, day, dawn, but also evening and twilight! Here, it means “dawning of the day”
The Strong number study I performed relying heavily on www.biblos.com, which contains both Strong's concordance numbers and interlinear Hebrew/English, along with numerous translations, English and otherwise.
So there we have a study based on the English words day/s listed in Strong's Concordance. Conversely, I would like to take us from the Hebrew, yom יום .and see how it is rendered in English translations. This was harder to do. Doing a search on יום in my e-Sword application gave me well over two thousand verses to plod through.
There was an online study, which you may read here: http://www.answersincreation.org/word_study_yom.htm
Greg Neyman, the author, had a different agenda for his analysis of the Hebrew word: יום , than I have endeavored here. I caution students not to take to heart his entire study, since it obviously served to construe the Hebrew to support his billions of years theory. I quote his article here for academic examination. Brackets are my additions.
Word Study: Yom By Greg Neyman
© 2007, Answers In Creation
Published 16 March 2005
(This article can be freely copied and distributed, as long as it is unaltered and a link back to the original article appears on the page)
“...Other Uses of Yom
Day is not the only translation for the word Yom. Here are some other uses.
It is interesting to note that in 67 verses in the Old Testament, the word Yom is translated into the English word "time." For instance, in Genesis 4:3, it says "And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord." In this instance, Yom [actually, yomim, days, is the word used here] refers to a growing season, probably several months.
[Genesis 26:8 also uses הימים, hayomim and is translated “time”]
Again, in Deuteronomy 10:10, it refers to a "time" equal to forty days. [actually, the number forty precedes the word yom, and in Hebrew syntax, sometimes singular nouns are used in conjunction with numbers.] In I Kings 11:42, it says "And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years." In this case, Yom [actually, yomim, days, is the word used here] translated as the word "time" is equivalent to a 40 year period. [translated only in some English Bibles. Others say “days”]
In Isaiah 30:8, it says "Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever." In this case, Yom is equal to "forever." ….[for the day to come forever and ever. Yom is prefixed with - ל]
Four times in the Old Testament Yom is translated "year." In I Kings 1:1, "David was old and stricken in years..."In 2 Chronicles 21:19, "after the end of two years" and in the very next verse "Thirty and two years old." Finally, in Amos 4:4, "...and your tithes after three years." In each case, Yom represents years, not days. [note: actually, this final example is pretty weak, since only KJV, WBT and YLT render it years, all the others have “days”]
Eight times in the Old Testament Yom is translated "age." These range from sentences like "stricken in age," meaning old age (Genesis 18:11 and 24:1; Joshua 23:1 and 23:2), and other times it says "old age" (Genesis 21:2, Genesis 21:7). Genesis 47:28 refers to "the whole age of Jacob," therefore yom here refers to an entire lifetime. In Zechariah 8:4, it says old men and women will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, "each with cane in hand because of his age."
Ago One time Yom is translated "ago." 1 Samuel 9:20 says "As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, ..."
Four times yom is translated as "always," in Deuteronomy 5:29, 6:24, 14:23,
[kol-hay-yamim, כל הימים is an idiomatic phrase in Hebrew meaning continually.]
and in 2 Chronicles 18:7...
[In 2 Chronicles 18:7, the Hebrew is slightly different due to a word pair construct. The Young's Literal Translation has this: "And the king of Israel saith unto Jehoshaphat, 'Still -- one man to seek Jehovah from him, and I -- I have hated him, for he is not prophesying concerning me of good, but all his days of evil, he is Micaiah son of Imlah;' and Jehoshaphat saith, 'Let not the king say so.' "]
Always here can be interpreted as a lifetime...for instance, we are to keep the commandments of the Lord always (Deut. 5:29).
Three times yom is translated "season." In Genesis 40:4, "...and they continued a season in ward." Again, in Joshua 24:7, "dwelt in the wilderness a long season," and in 2 Chronicles 15:3, "...a long season Israel hath been...". In each case yom represents a multi-month period.
[דברי הימים Divrei HaYomim means “words/things of the days/times” . This is translated Chronicles in the English.]...
Ever is used to represent a long period of time, such as in Deuteronomy 19:9, "to walk ever in his ways." [this example is really just another one of kol-hay-yamim, כל הימים, which has already been covered]
Nineteen times Yom is translated "ever." The old testament uses "for ever" instead of the word forever. In sixteen cases of use of the word ever, for is placed before it, indicating a infinite period of time. I will not list them all (consult Strong's Concordance for a full listing) [when I looked under “forever”, there were no listings at all, it just said to see EVER. , so I did, and looked for Strong # 3117 see my longer note below*] but here is an example. In Psalm 23:6, it says "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Here Yom is translated as the final word of this verse,ever. Thus, Yom in this verse, and 16 others, represents eternity. [here is where the author swerves off track in order to prove that a day can be interpreted as “forever”. In the verse, however, the word ארך, oh-rekh, meaning: 'length or forever' is the word meaning forever here. Yomim is “Days” as it should be. See: http://biblos.com/psalms/23-6.htm ]
In one instance, when yom is used in conjunction with kôwl, [כל הימים ] Yom is translated "evermore." Deuteronomy 28:29, "...and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore;" thus representing either a lifetime or eternity. [keep in mind, this is the English translation only in KJV and a couple others...there are MANY ways it is translated: see: http://mlbible.com/deuteronomy/28-29.htm , including: always, at all times, for ever, continually, or as long as you live. ].....
[end of excerpt]
Short bio of author here: http://www.answersincreation.org/biogneyman.
*Just a note on the “ever” connection. The verses I looked at: Genesis 43:9, Deuteronomy 4:40, 1 Samuel 2:32, Jeremiah 31:36, it was our kol-hay-yamim, כל הימים, in which the kol was translated “for”. There were several other examples of this. The only variance I found was Psalms 37:26 “He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.”could be equally translated as “All day he is merciful...”. Only KJV and Webster's Bible Translation render כל הימים as “ever” in this verse. See http://mlbible.com/psalms/37-26.htm So, to try and define “for ever” as a new and different translation of יום is a bit misleading of G.N. to do.
To summarize, יום , יומים ,הימים , כל הימים all based on the shoresh: YOM is almost always translated as “day/s” in the English. But other renderings would be: time, year, age, ago, always (continually, evermore, everlasting, forever, ever), season, or chronicles
Other Hebrew words that could be translated as “day” in English are: שחר shachar, בקר boqer, מחרת macharat, אור ohr, נשף nasheph. And we can see, that although these other words are translated “day” in a few places, the VAST majority of “days” are interpreted from יום .
I hope that through this study that students of Hebrew may appreciate the expanse of interpretation when translating Hebrew. Many Bible verses are understood only through context. The poetic form of much of the writings leaves room for a variety of translations in the English. Let us not become so dogmatic about our personal translations that we detract form the beauty of the Hebrew. Good Hebrew does not equal good English. Taking in account the grammar, especially the syntax and various idioms, is vitally important to comprehension.
Thank you for your time. Please feel free to comment or leave questions!