How To Pronounce Difficult Bible Names


We've all been tempted to do it. As we read through a passage of Scripture, we come across a genealogical section that contains several difficult to pronounce names. We quickly skim over these names until we find the next word that we recognize, skipping an important part of the narrative. Do we not realize that nothing in Scripture is there by accident, including genealogies? Each difficult to pronounce name is there for a reason. It is important, therefore, for us to avoid skipping these sections. This becomes easier to do when we actually know how to pronounce them.

Most of the difficult to pronounce words that we run across in Scripture are names. One reason why we may be willing to skip over these is that we don't place as much importance on names as the Biblical authors did. In fact, names could tell you quite a bit about an individual. Because of this, if we are to understand Scripture as it was intended to be understood, we must be willing to look at the names mentioned in Scripture, as well.

Did you know that there are several different resources available to you that will help you pronounce those difficult Bible names? The purpose of this post is to introduce you to some of these resources and to help you discover how to pronounce those difficult Bible names. Don't skip them. Rather, learn to read them!

1. Books

Believe it or not, there are some books that make a point to help the reader pronounce difficult words and names. Often times, these books are not expensive, but they are incredibly helpful. They are often intended for the lay reader who is struggling with the same issues. They do not require any understanding of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. In short, these resources are intended for anyone who faces the issues that this post is about. Let's look at a couple types of these resources.

First, Pronunciation Guides are books that are designed to tackle this specific problem. These are literally books filled with words and how to pronounce them. So, if you want to know how to pronounce "Maher-shalal-hash-baz" or "Kiriatharba," then a Pronunciation Guide, such as The HarperCollins Bible Pronunciation Guide will be a great benefit to you.

A second type of resource that tackles this problem is a Bible Dictionary. While the main focus of Bible dictionaries is to help individuals understand the meaning of a word, oftentimes Bible dictionaries will also help with the pronunciation of a word. Not every one does this, but many do. A good, solid resource that includes both solid definitions of Bible words and aids to pronunciation is Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary. This particular Bible Dictionary, as of right now, runs about $30, but you can save about $16 if you are willing to buy the Kindle Edition (which is actually better because it makes navigation far easier). Whether you choose a Bible pronunciation guide or a Bible dictionary, you are sure to benefit from these resources.

2. Audio Bibles

If you know me, you know that I am an advocate for audio Bibles. One reason is because hearing someone else pronounce a difficult to pronounce word in Scripture will help you pronounce it. I believe that an audio Bible helps best when it is paired with a hard copy of the Bible. In short, if you read along while listening to an audio Bible, it will help you in this area.

There are several free audio Bibles that you can turn to. Several translations from several speakers are available at BibleGateway. This is a great resource if you want help with genealogical sections of Scripture, since you can choose which book and chapter you want to start in. Facing a chapter with several difficult words? This tool may be the most beneficial to you.

In addition, you can get some great audio Bibles that are not included in BibleGateway's collection for a decent price. One such resource is the NIV Live audio Bible on CD. This is perhaps the best audio Bible on the market today, and it is really cheap. When you purchase it, you not only get the entire Bible, dramatized, on CD, but you also gain access to their app, which is great for both reading and listening at the same time. The app is where you will find the greatest amount of help in regards to pronouncing difficult words, since you will both see and hear the word at the same time.

3. Online Resources

Believe it or not, there are free online resources specifically designed to help with the problem of difficult words in the Bible. Some are simple to use, while some require several steps. While I am introducing some of them here, I am in no means introducing all of them. Some are more helpful in certain situations than others. Therefore, it is important that you understand what your options are in regards to online resources that address this problem.

First, there is a website called BibleSpeak, which literally has hundreds of difficult Bible names and words available for listening. It has a simple interface. First, from the menu, select the first letter of the word you are having difficulty with. Next, select the word you are having difficulty with. Third, hit the play button that appears on the following page. You can listen to this word over and over until you understand its pronunciation. Did I also mention that this resource is free?

Second, Logos Bible Software has a full-feature option that will help users pronounce difficult words. It is simple to use, and instructions can be found here. This is a great tool for those who are already using Logos Bible Software in their personal study or devotions.

Third, BibleStudyTools  has a resource available that helps to pronounce transliterated words. By this, I mean that it pronounces words in their original language. However, this may be beneficial for difficult names, especially. Simply type the passage that contains the difficult name. Then click on the name that appears in the next section. Finally, click the speaker icon in order to hear the word pronounced. This is a great tool for those who would be using a concordance anyway.

4. Sound It Out!

Ok, so let's say all of the above resources have failed you. There's always the option to sound out the difficult word. This, of course, requires a bit more effort on the part of the reader, especially if he or she is in a chapter that contains several difficult names (such as Genesis 10 or 1 Chronicles 1). However, the effort will be worth it in the end.

One more note: while pronunciation can be important, the more important part of reading the Bible is understanding what it means and to Whom it points. Don't get frustrated if you have difficulty with some of the names that you encounter, and definitely don't give up or skip over them. Persevere, and you will eventually reap the benefits of being able to pronounce these difficult words.

Recommended Resource: The HarperCollins Bible Pronunciation Guide

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