The modern Hebrew alphabet developed from the Aramean alphabet. However, there was an older Hebrew alphabet in use before that. The letters may be used in a system of Hebrew numerals or a mystic system known as Gematria. Hebrew speakers call this alphabet the "aleph-beth".
Archeological evidence indicates that the original Hebrew script is related to the Phoenician script that was in wide use in the Middle East region at the end of the 2nd millennium B.C., and which eventually evolved in Europe into the Greek and Roman alphabets. During the Babylonian exile (6th century B.C.), the Jews adopted a more modern form of the same script from the Babylonians (who inherited it from the Assyrians). It was the "square" alphabet that is still used today. "Square"-related scripts were in use all over the Middle East for several hundred years, but following the rise of Christianity (and later, the rise of Islam), they gave way to the Roman and Arabic alphabets, respectively. According to traditional Jewish thought, the Hebrew writing system contained all the current letters at the time of Moses, although Ezra is known for his contribution to the square form.
Following the decline of Hebrew and Aramaic as the spoken languages of the Jews, the Hebrew alphabet was adopted in order to write down the languages of the Jewish diaspora (Yiddish and Judaeo-Spanish), probably because it was easier to teach Tanakh to the children that way. The hebrew alphabet was retained as the official alphabet used for writing down the Hebrew language during its rebirth in the end of the 19th century.
See also: Hebrew language/Introduction and History.
Letters of the modern Hebrew Alphabet:
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