Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The Hebrew verb ידע (yada') means to know. This very important root occurs 944 times in the Old Testament and is found across the Semitic language spectrum. Its Greek counterpart is γινωσκω (ginosko).
This verb is used in all the expected ways, but most notably in Proverbs 1:7, where it reads: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge". Since knowledge is typically obtained through the senses, the mere act of observation appears to be equal with fearing God.
Another notable usage of our verb is in the procreative sense: when a man "knows" a woman, he's having sex with her (Genesis 4:1, Judges 11:39), and this says quite a bit about how the Hebrews saw marriage and the process of learning. The Word of God was of course personified, and so learning about the laws of nature was deemed equal to being in a marriage relationship with the Creator.
Our verb may also describe knowledge that is not so much cognitive but rather empirical or experiential. Ecclesiastes 8:5 states that 'he who keeps the commandment will know no evil', which refers to the experience of bad things rather than a cognitive examination of vice. In that same vein, the dire consequences of eating from the 'tree of knowledge of good and evil' obviously does not refer to the dangers of learning or scientific rebellion (learning and science are held in the highest possible regard in the Bible) but rather the notion that chomping off the wrong branch is going to make bad things happen to you.
The derivatives of this verb are:
- The masculine noun דע (dea') meaning knowledge (Job 36:4) or judgment or opinion (Job 36:3).
- The feminine noun דעה (dea'), also meaning knowledge (1 Samuel 2:3; "A God of knowledge is YHWH", Jeremiah 3:15).
- The feminine noun דעת (da'at), also meaning knowledge (Genesis 2:9, Joshua 20:3). This noun is the most common word for knowledge.
- The masculine noun ידעני (yidde'oni), denoting a familiar spirit (Leviticus 19:31, 1 Samuel 28:3, Isaiah 8:19). This word is commonly translated with sorcerer or magician.
- The masculine noun מודע (moda') or מדע (moda'), meaning relative or kinsman (Ruth 2:1, Proverbs 7:4).
- The feminine noun מדעת (moda'at), meaning kindred or kinship (Ruth 3:2 only).
- The masculine noun מדע (madda'), meaning knowledge (2 Chronicles 1:10), or literally: the place of knowledge, or thought (Ecclesiastes 10:20).
- The adverb מדוע (madua') or מדע (maddua'), expressing an inquisition: why? This word is probably a contraction from מה־ידוע (me-yadua'), meaning: what being known?