I’ve been teaching an adult Bible study for quite a while now and I research and triple check everything (so easy with the internet). I recently started teaching myself Hebrew to better understand the Old Testament. I wish I had started learning this language thirty years ago, though. Nevertheless, I am amazed and awed at both the divine complexity and simplicity of the very letters that make up this ancient language. Here are just a few of the beautiful word pictures “hidden” before our eyes:
The first letter is the Aleph (a) which was originally a pictograph of an ox and represents “leader”. The second letter is Bet (b) which first looked like a tent and means “house”. Putting the two letters together you get the word ba, meaning “father”. God’s intention is for the father to be the leader of the house.
The word for “son” is made from the two letters Bet and Nun (n) – ben (nb) as in Ben Hur, remember from the movie? Nun means “heir” and since we already know that Bet is “house” we can see that the word son means heir to the house.
It would be way too complicated to throw 22 Hebrew letters at you and explain them all in one article, but I have to show three more just so I can share a thrilling revelation I made a few months into my study. First of all, the 10th Hebrew letter is the smallest and it looks a lot like our apostrophe. Here it is: y. It means hand and represents power, might, ability and authority. The name of this letter is “yod” and it gave rise to the Greek iota and the English jot. In Matthew 5: 18 it says: “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” The original Greek says “not one iota” and that smallest letter is the y.
This little yod is also used grammatically to show possession. By placing at the end of a word it means “my” because it’s like you have grasped it with your hand. It sounds like saying “eee” at the end of a noun. We know one of God’s names is El (El Olam, Elohim, El shadai) and in Matthew 27:46 we read about the crucifixion: “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" that is, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?"” See how God’s name El becomes Eli?
Now, keep remembering that y represents “hand”.
Next we’ll look at the 5th letter, hey (h), which means BEHOLD. Nothing is lost in translation here – “Hey!” still gets one’s attention. It appears hundreds of times in the Old Testament and is often translated “Lo”. This single letter also represents the breath of God, the sound He made as He breathed life into Adam. This is the letter that was added to both Abram and Sarai’s names to make them Abraham and Sarah.
Remind yourself now what y represents. Remember what h means?
The 6th letter is the Vav (u) which means “hook” or “nail”. It hooks sentences together like the word “and”. Many of the Old Testament books start with this letter because they are continuations of the previous book (scroll). It looks like an ancient nail, doesn’t it?
There are many, many names for God in the Bible, but the one that Hebrews do not pronounce (the Tetragrammaton) is huhy. It is transliterated as Yahweh or Yehovah or Jehovah. When they are reading Scripture Hebrews say “Hashem” or “Adonai” instead because they do not say this most holy name.
Hebrew is read from right to left and I’ve had a difficult time learning the letters and then the words and then remembering to start at the right and go left. For me it takes a lot of concentration and that deliberate focus got me to thinking about these four letters in God’s name. Read the ancient symbols in either order and think about what they mean and see if you are as amazed as I was.
The Lord Jesus Christ and His crucifixion were clearly evident all along. Hand. Behold! Nail! Behold!
All my books on Amazon: