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The Hebrew Meaning of Hineni

The phrase “Here am I!” has a heroic ring to it. This phrase became famous thanks to a passage from the Book of Isaiah. It was the prophet’s courageous response to God’s calling:

And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I (hineni)! Send me.’ Isaiah 6:8

Isaiah is quick in his obedience. He gives a resounding “yes” to God’s call, before knowing what would follow.

What does ‘Hineni’ mean?

“Hineni” (hee-neh-nee) is a Hebrew phrase comprised of two short words: ‘hineh’ and ‘ani’, meaning “here” and “I”. More literally, “hineh” is translated as “behold” (certainly, surely), which is a much stronger word than simply “here”.

When the two words are put together, ‘hineni’ becomes more than just sharing your geographical location. It is a powerful declaration – one that can be made to God, and one that God can make to us.

“With reference to the past or present, it points generally to some truth either newly asserted, or newly recognized (Genesis 1:29, 17:20, 27:6, 1 Samuel 14:33). With reference to the future, it serves to introduce a solemn or important declaration (Exodus 32:34, 34:40, Isaiah 7:14),” according to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon.

What makes ‘hineni’ such a powerful statement? It is an offer of complete availability, of total readiness to serve. When we utter ‘hineni’, we make ourselves fully available to whatever it is God might ask of us. Even without knowing what that might be. The answer of ‘hineni’ is one of faith.

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