Duolingo Hebrew - Will I be able to read biblical scriptures?
Will the Duolingo course get me close to being able to read scriptures, like Isaiah in their original language? Or does it not go that far? Or is biblical Hebrew much different from Modern Hebrew (like Greek/Koine)?
Yes and no.
If you're reading a dual-language text, the ability to read the Hebrew-language text using what you learn in DL Hebrew will give you a LOT of insight. You can see that this word has such-and-such root, and is related in such-and-such way to a word in the previous sentence. Those sorts of connections are lost in translation, and it doesn't take a lot of Hebrew training to start noticing them. So yes, studying DL Hebrew will help with your Bible study.
However, being able to pick up Isaiah in Hebrew and really understand it is asking way too much. Much of the vocabulary, and even much of the grammar, will be very different from anything you see in DL Hebrew. Moreover, while the Torah (5 books of Moses) is mostly written in simple and direct language, Isaiah and the other major prophets (Ezekiel, Jeremiah, etc.) use a LOT of poetic language, convoluted grammar, and abstract imagery. Reading Isaiah in English is hard enough. Reading him in Hebrew without a side-by-side English translation is nigh on impossible.
I'm a native Hebrew speaker. Even us native speakers can struggle reading biblical Hebrew, though you can usually at least get the gist of most sentences. I don't know to what level the Duolingo course brings you though, so I can't estimate how much it will actually help you understand biblical Hebrew.
From what I've read, learning Modern Hebrew gives you a good basis to learn Biblical Hebrew, and people compare it to the difference between Modern English and Old English. Of course, I am not a native speaker so I only know what I have read elsewhere. It does seem easier to find resources for Modern Hebrew.
Yes, it will help since you have to learn the aleph-bet and basic (usually) three-letter word roots. However, the DL tree is geared entirely towards conversational modern Hebrew. It contains no lessons specifically designed to teach Biblical Hebrew. This would be similar to asking if one could read Shakespeare after completing the Modern American English DL tree - probably not.
Native Hebrew speaker here (who completed the tree once) - It depends how fluent you will be, even with what Duolingo teaches you (how naturaly you can translate in your head). Having a good understanding of modern Hebrew is a good solid basis to try reading the Biblical version. The closest comparison is sheksprean English and modern English (if you'll know the modern one you'll be able to understand the old one - but not vice versa).
P.S - I liked LSadun comment about the specific books.
Since Hebrew is a revived language it didn't go through much change in the days since biblical Hebrew was spoken, so, as far as I know, you should be able to read it without too many problems. Maybe it would help to read up on the major differences. The one that I am aware of is the usage of tenses, which were aspects in biblical Hebrew.
Edit: I missed the bit where you asked about the DL tree specifically. My experience is that it doesn't quite give you enough practice to read Hebrew fluently, which would be an obstacle. You would also probably need a dictionary as the tree focuses on modern life, so the vocabulary is probably not a great fit.
Edit 2: My knowledge is second hand (from a Hebrew teacher), so if a native speaker says they're struggling, I would believe them over me.
Uh, yes, and that's not a whole lot of change, considering the time difference. Considering how old biblical scripture is, if Hebrew had been in continued existence for all that time, it would almost certainly be unrecognisable. Old English was spoken until about 1000 years ago, making it much younger than Biblical Hebrew and it's completely incomprehensible to a speaker of Modern English. Early Modern or Shakespearian English, on the other hand, is understandable to a Modern English speaker with help from a dictionary and the occasional lost pun. What you're saying doesn't actually prove me wrong...
My understanding is that modern Hebrew owes a great deal of its syntax to European languages, so if you want to read biblical Hebrew you should get a grammar and work through it so that you get a feel for biblical Hebrew prose in the Torah and books such as Judges, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. The gentleman who wrote about biblical Hebrew poetry did a great job noting that it presents its own challenges. The vocabulary of biblical Hebrew will help with modern Hebrew. For instance, a generic biblical Hebrew word for "bird" is עוף which can refer to a couple different types of birds, but in modern Hebrew seems to mean "chicken." You could get a good feel for biblical Hebrew prose by getting a used copy of Weingreen's Hebrew Grammar. It would be a good idea to also work through Miguel Perez Fernandez, An Introductory Grammar of Rabbinic Hebrew (Engl. trans. Brill, 1999), because post-biblical Hebrew syntax is kind of in-between biblical Hebrew and modern Hebrew. If you really get excited about the topic, you might work through Michael Owen Wise's Language Literacy in Roman Judaea: A Study of the Bar Kokhba Documents (Yale, 2015), but that's an academic tome.
To elaborate on this, a lot of biblical Hebrew syntax is still part of the official language, but has largely been replaced by Indo-European syntax in everyday usage, thanks to waves of immigrants speaking German or Yiddish or English or Russian. This makes Biblical Hebrew sound like Yoda-speak to a modern ear. For instance, most sentences in modern Hebrew are SVO (subject-verb-object), just like English, but much of the Bible is VSO. The beginning of Genesis, translated word-for-word, is "In the beginning created G-d the heavens and the earth", and the most repeated phrase in the Torah is "And said G-d to Moses". Biblical Hebrew relies heavily on suffixes to indicate possession, direction and purpose, while modern Hebrew uses helping words. Biblical Hebrew often uses a construction where the prefix vav turns past tense verb conjugations into future and vice-versa.
Then there's vocabulary. Ben-Yehudah and the other creators of modern Hebrew were very clever about constructing words for modern things based on classical roots (e.g. the word for computer is based on the root for thinking), and on roots in other Semitic languages, especially Arabic. Even so, most modern Hebrew words refer to things that just didn't exist in biblical times, while many biblical words refer to things that don't exist in modern times.
Bottom line: there is a close connection between modern and biblical Hebrew, but they're not really the same. Learning one helps with the other, but you need to study the differences as well as the similarities.
עברית מקראית מאד שונה מהמדוברת אבל זה בהחלט יוכל לעזור אבל צריך לדעת שאפילו ישראלים לא תמיד מבינים מה פירוש הפסוקים ולכן יש הרבה פירושים שמסבירים מה רצה הכתוב לומר אם זה רש"י או מפרשים אחרים. אבל היא מובנת המילים דומות בשונה מיוונית או קווין
The Bible obviously won't have any of the modern slang and modern idiomatic uses of words, but you should be able to understand quite a lot. Hebrew evolved much slower than English. This is not only because it existed only as a "language register" in various Judeo-languages for centuries, but was already slowed down in ancient times compared to English. The reasons being a highly literate society - unwritten languages evolve faster than written ones - as well as relatively good hygiene and consequent good health amongst the population resulting in children being exposed to the speech of their grandparents.
The result is that although Biblical Hebrew is thousands of years older than modern Hebrew, the difference from modern Hebrew is more comparable to the difference between modern English and Shakespeares English which is only several centuries older.
English speakers also have an advantage in that English idiom was heavily influenced by the King James Bible which often translates Biblical Hebrew idioms word for word. You will often find that an English speaker with only intermediate Hebrew knowledge can grasp the sense of a Biblical Hebrew phrase better than some fluent modern Hebrew speakers because of this.