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I am an English speaking non-Jew but am studying the Hebrew Scriptures and need help in Hebrew language for my studies.

It is quite a simple question but it will help me very much.

What is the difference between the words הָאֵ֑לֶּה and הָהֵ֔ם?

I know that הָהֵ֔ם is translated in most english bibles as "those", whereas הָאֵ֑לֶּה is often translated to mean "these". I've learnt that the root word for הָאֵ֑לֶּה is אֵ֫לֶּה which is also translated as "these". But there are parts in the Hebrew Scriptures where both words are translated as either "these" and "those" alike.

For example, Deuteronomy 18:14 uses the word הָאֵ֑לֶּה (most commonly translated as "these") is translated as "those". In Numbers 16:14, the word הָהֵ֔ם is translated as "these".

Why are there two different words which seem to mean the same thing? And why is there a root word (אֵ֫לֶּה) that simply means "these", not "this" or "that" etc.?

The reason I ask is because of Zechariah 8. In this chapter God says how is now going to restore Jerusalem, unlike in the former days where he was determined to punish Jerusalem for its iniquity. In this chapter. He uses both words: הָאֵ֑לֶּה and הָהֵ֔ם.

I know this question may seem strange and irrelevant but it will be a great help to know the difference between the two words.

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אֵלֶּה is a demonstrative pronoun, the plural of the singular demonstrative pronouns זֶה‎ and זֹאת‎ (masculine and feminine respectively). הָאֵלֶּה is the same word, but with the definite article attached to it.

הֵם is the third person masculine singular pronoun, the plural of הוּא‎, and הָהֵם is likewise the same word with the definite article attached to it.

About the difference between them, here is a passage from Gesenius' grammar (paragraph 136):

The distinction between them in usage is that זֶה‎ (like hic, ὅδε) almost always points out a (new) person or thing present, while הוּא‎ (like is, ille, αὐτός, ἐκεῖνος) refers to a person or thing already mentioned or known (see the examples below).

The word הָהֵם in Zechariah 8 is always in connection with הַיָּמִים הָהֵם, "those days" (once in the chapter הָהֵמָּה, which is no different in meaning from הָהֵם). In general (without commenting specifically on the usage in the chapter in Zechariah), these words are an exception to the rule, since the meaning is not about some aforementioned days, but about those days in the future: the idiom used in the Bible often has "in those days" or "on that day" (בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא) as a reference to specific days in the past or future even without having mentioned that time beforehand. This usage is also cited by Gesenius:

Nevertheless זֶה‎ and אֵ֫לֶּה‎ are also found in certain common combinations where הוּא‎ and הֵ֫מָּה‎ would be expected, and vice versa; thus almost always הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה‎, plur. הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵ֫לֶּה‎, but בַּיָּמִים הָהֵ֫מָּה‎ or בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם.

  • So, when God mentions the days of the second year of Darius (Zechariah 8: 9b -10), he uses the word הָהֵ֔ם. In Zechariah 8:15 he refers to days with the word הָאֵ֑לֶּה. Is he then saying that the days of the second year of Darius are a different time and, if so, does הָאֵ֑לֶּה used in v15 indicate that he is referring to the present days (Zechariah 8 was made in the fourth year of Darius), different to the 2nd year of Darius? – user329957 Jun 8 '18 at 17:16
  • I think Strong's concordance says that זֶה and אֵלֶּה are two different words. זֶה is number 2088 whereas אֵלֶּה is 428. – user329957 Jun 8 '18 at 17:40
  • @user329957 They are two different words. One is singular and the other plural. An English dictionary would also list "this" and "these" separately. Regarding the question on Zechariah, I would recommend asking on Biblical Hermeneutics – b a Jun 9 '18 at 18:08

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