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I am studying an interlinear translation of the acrostic poem in Proverbs Chapter 31, found at http://biblehub.com/interlinear/proverbs/31.htm (lines 10-31).

My question is this: since the English is given in left-right order and since Hebrew is right-left, have the Hebrew words been reversed on the page so as to roughly align with the English?

I am assuming that one of the purpose of an interlinear translation is to assist students in translation, so word order must necessarily correspond as nearly as possible.

I am also assuming that the order of the Hebrew letters within the words have not been changed, only the word order.

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  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site functions. In the link you have provided, the flow of the English gloss is right-to-left, in keeping with the flow of the Hebrew. If you are referring to "The words" and "of King", for example, there is no definite article in the Hebrew, nor is there a word for "of". Giving such things in reverse, i.e. "words the" and "King of" word be tedious and confusing. Keep in mind also that interlinears such as BibleHub's are for non-experts.
    – enegue
    Nov 20 '17 at 0:10
  • No, the Hebrew letters do not change to correspond with the direction of the Eng. translation. If you want to see the interlinear Hebrew left-right to compare: scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Hebrew_Index.htm -- (This pdf doesn't have Strong's #s.) Another site connected to Scripture4all.org has right-left OT with Strong's in PDF format: c-s-s.website/download -- Scripture4all.org also has a program that makes for quicker study (left-right) - ISA2 is fully functional and can be found under ISA3 beta download area: scripture4all.org/download/download_ISA3.php
    – tblue
    Nov 20 '17 at 15:10
  • @enegue Are you implying that there Is an 'expert interlinear' available somewhere?
    – tblue
    Nov 20 '17 at 15:44
  • No. My understanding of an "expert" is one who is as familiar with ancient Hebrew as a native English speaker is familiar with English. A native English speaker can pick up a Bible, scan a page for a particular phrase, highlight it with a marker pen, and add notes in the margin. An "expert" in ancient Hebrew would be able to do the same with regard to ancient Hebrew texts. BTW, I am a "non-expert" in ancient Hebrew.
    – enegue
    Nov 20 '17 at 21:25
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All interlinears will be aligned to one language or another. Sometimes you can find the same language pair aligned both directions. For example here is Genesis 1:1 (ESV) with Hebrew interlinear:

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Obviously the word order there follows the English translation. The chunks of Hebrew are shuffled around to be under where the equivalent bit of English is. Here is the same Hebrew text with English added as an interlinear:

enter image description here

This follows the Hebrew word order (note this segment of Hebrew starts on the right!) and shuffles around the bits of translation to be under the Hebrew words.

Notice that in the first example even some Hebrew words have been split and in the second example more that one word often matches to a single word. This is common where suffixes or other grammar properties trace their meaning to different structures in each language.

This issue caught your attention because English is a left-to-right language while Hebrew is right-to-left, but actually it applied to all languages. For example if you look at a Greek-English interlinear some of the words will also be out of order, as will translation to almost any language.

Here's a subtle one from John 1:1, the ESV text with Greek interlinear:

enter image description here

Here is the same phrase in the Greek with English as the interlinear:

enter image description here

Note that translating any text involves more that just substituting words, you have to understand both languages and what structures connect the words to form meaningful relationships between them. Without knowing the language and just messing around with a dictionary, lexicon or interlinear tool you might well completely misunderstand what is even the subject vs, what is the object of the sentence.

The closer the languages are to each other in terms of language families the less pronounced this is, but even if both languages generally run in the same direction word order will not be the same. For example in English most sentences will commonly run subject-verb-object. In Turkish, sentences run subject-object-verb or in the case of using a pronoun for the subject, they are object-verb-subject where the subject is a suffix on the verb. As a result words get shuffled around if you try to show an interlinear almost as if the language was RTL (it's actually LTR). In fact the flow of thought is even more reversed in Turkish that many RTL languages where the sentence order is subject-verb-object even if it's written on the page in a different orthographic order.

And yes, most interlinears keep words as they are rendered in the original, so each even in the first example above the Hebrew words are read letter by letter from right to left of each word.

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