Facets of God Displayed in the Hebrew Aleph-Bet: Aleph, Bet, and Gimel
As many of you know my favorite Biblical studies center around the ancient Hebraic roots of our Christian faith. In many of my articles, I like to include Hebrew word studies and the pictographs they contain that can sometimes give us a more detailed and in-depth view of Biblical concepts.
In this series of articles, I would like to look at each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet and show how each one amazingly portrays a facet of Gods character. Please note that the words with Hebrew fonts are to be read from right to left. Knowing Hebrew won't be necessary but it is helpful to know the directional aspect when I am describing the position of the letter within the word. So when I mention the first letter it will be the letter beginning on the right.
It is also important to note that the fonts I am using in this article are modern Hebrew ones that were developed during the Babylonian captivity and are what is used in Israel today. In their most ancient form, these letters were actual images of the pictographs we will be studying.
Also, at the end of each section will be a video that furthers the lesson about each letter. These are done by Jewish Jewels and are hosted by Dr. Danny Ben-Gigi former professor of Hebrew at Arizona State University.
"Aleph" is a Strong Dependable Ox
The Father is Strong and Dependable
We begin with the letter "aleph" (א). "Aleph" (א) is represented by the image of an ox. The qualities of an ox will help us understand the concepts that go with this letter.
This animal is notable for its strength as the writer of Proverbs well notes.
much increase comes by the strength of an ox.
— Proverbs 14:4
The ox ranks in the top ten of strongest animals in the world which is why they are used for plowing, pulling carts, and any type of large heavy load. They can pull loads up to, or surpassing, their own weight. which can range between 1500-3000 pounds. We can, therefore, conclude that "aleph" shows us that God is strong!
The very first revealed name of God in the scriptures is Elohim (אלהים) which begins with the letter "aleph" and denotes His strength as seen in creation.
In the beginning God (Elohim-אלהים) created the heavens and the earth
— Genesis 1:1
Isaiah the prophet completes this thought.
God (Elohim) is enthroned above the circle of the earth;
its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a fabric
and spreads them out like a tent to live in
Look up and see:
who created these?
He brings out the starry host by number;
He calls all of them by name.
Because of His great power and strength
— Isaiah 40:26,22
An ox is also noted for its dependability and reliability. In fact, the early pioneers preferred oxen over mules or horses for pulling wagons, for this very reason. Horses were faster but not as steady nor well tempered.
Lord God of Hosts,
who is strong like You, Lord?
Your faithfulness surrounds You.
— Psalm 89:8 HCSB
The "aleph" (א) also has to do with beginnings considering that it is the "first" letter in the Aleph-Bet.
It is also the "first" letter in the Hebrew word for father (ab-אב ). Father is the very "first" word in the Hebrew dictionary.
Aleph begins with showing us the strong dependable Father.
The New Testament uses an Aramaic version of this word which is "Abba" on three occasions all of which convey the idea of a strong dependable Father who strengthens His children when they are feeling weak. The first time it is used by Jesus Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane experience.
Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow—to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.” Then He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”
— Mark 14:34-36
Paul encourages both the Roman and Galatian Christians, like Jesus did in the Garden, to cry out to the Father as a child would for strength to overcome.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!
— Romans 8:15
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!”
— Galatians 4:6
The Father's Love Revealed
It is also a relevant connection that the Hebrew word for love, "ahab" (אהב), contains the same letters as "father" with the addition of one letter in the middle.
"Ab" (אב), the Hebrew word for father is spelled with an "aleph" (א) and a "bet" (ב)
Love is spelled with an "aleph" (א), a "hey" (ה), and "bet" (ב).
From a pictograph perspective, the "hey's" (ה) position in the middle of the word, between the "aleph" (א) and "bet" (ב), the Hebrew word for father, signifies the heart of the word.
The Hebrew letter "hey" (ה) is a picture of a window and represents something revealed. In putting these concepts together, love in terms of God's character may be defined as the heart of the Father revealed and in the heart of the Father is love.
David Timms, in his book "Living the Lord's Prayer", offers this very similar sentiment as it concerns this pictograph interpretation.
"In Aramaic the term Abba (Father) is a term of intimacy and respectful familiarity, a word of belonging and connection, of family and protection and of love...A fathers love formed the center of the household"
Remember Philips plea to Jesus.
“Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
— John 14:8
It was as if Philip was saying that it's all we need to know. That is what Jesus came essentially to do was show us the heart of the Father full of love for us.
"Jesus said to him...He who has seen Me has seen the Father"
— John 14:9
It was Jesus who demonstrated this heart of love for us as is shown in this next word revelation.
The two letters ending this particular Hebrew word for love (ahab-אהב) are "hey" (ה) and "bet" (ב) and this Hebrew word is an abbreviation for a word meaning "to give". Keep in mind that the ox was also known to be a sacrificial animal in the Bible (see Numbers 7). The following familiar portion of scripture ties this all together.
For God (the Father-אב) so loved (אהב) the world that He gave (הב) His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
— John 3:16
A revelation of the Father's love is revealed in the sacrificial giving of His Son who bore the burden of our sin that plowed a path for a new eternal beginning with Him.
"Bet" is a Household Tent
The Son Builds the Household
The second letter of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet is "bet" (ב). "Bet" (ב) is represented by a picture of a tent implying the concepts of household and family.
"Bet" (ב) is the first letter of the Hebrew word for "son" (ben-בן). It is also the first letter of the word for "build" (benah-בנה). We can see that one letter "hey" is added to "son" to form the word "build". When the letter "hey" is at the end of the word it can indicate something that comes from the word being used. What comes from the son? The household and family. The Building the of the family was the responsibility of a son. It was imperative for an ancient Near Easterner to produce sons for this very purpose.
This thought of producing sons in order to build the family is communicated in a couple of places in Genesis. The first is displayed in the scene where Sarai is tired of waiting for the son that God had promised to Abram so she comes up with her own plan of action.
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children (had not borne to him). And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children (I will build-בנה) by her.”
— Genesis 16: 1-2
The very literal translation of "perhaps I shall obtain children by her" above should read "perhaps I will build from her". Sarah understood that producing a son would be her honorable participation in building the family.
This is also displayed again in a scene with Jacob and Rachel. After her sister Leah had borne four sons to Jacob she desperately and competitively devises another construction plan.
Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children (she had not borne to Jacob), Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, “Give me children (literally sons), or else I die!”
And Jacob’s anger was aroused against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?”
So she said, “Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, and she will bear a child on my knees, that I also may have children by her (I will build-בנה, also I, from her”
— Genesis 30:1-3
Again the literal translation of "that I also may have children by her" literally reads "I will build, also I, from her" and shows us the ancient connection between building and sons.
This letter shows us that Jesus the Son of God was sent to build a kingdom, household, and family.
Is this not the carpenter...?
— Mark 6:3
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named
— Ephesians 3:14
In receiving God's Son we become His sons with the very same purpose.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus
— Galatians 3:26
...you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
— I Peter 2:5
A relative quote from Charles Spurgeon concludes this section.
"Christ Himself is the builder of his spiritual temple, and has built it on the mountain of His unchangeable affection, His omnipotent grace, and His infallible truthfulness."
"Each individual believer is being prepared and polished and made ready for his place in the temple, but Christ's own hand performs the preparation work"
— C.H. Spurgeon
"Gimel" is a Camel: A Bestower of Benefits
The Holy Spirit is a Bestower of Benefits
"Gimel" (ג) is the third letter of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet and it is represented by a camel. In a previous hub "Bless and Knee" it was noted that the camel could be viewed as a bestower of blessings and benefits.
This letter and its pictograph offer us this very same illustration of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity and a bestower of benefits and blessings, as is described by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian church.
the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
— I Corinthians 12:7-11
A camel traverses through the wilderness to deliver benefits from one place to another just as the Holy Spirit traverses the wilderness of this earth to be a bestower of Christ to man.
A camel is also noted for its kneeling or descending as well as its lifting up. The Holy Spirit is seen in these two types of actions as well. We see the Holy Spirit descending like a dove when Jesus being baptized...
When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
— Luke 3:21-22
...and also descending from heaven upon the Apostles at Pentecost in the book of Acts.
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
— Acts 2:1-2
It was the Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead and bestowed the treasures from above to us.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
— Romans 8:11
Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
— Acts 2:33
Luke writes in the book of Acts some of these benefits bestowed by the Holy Spirit as was exhibited through Jesus.
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him
— Acts 10:38
This next verse ties together the first three letters of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet and their respective pictograph revelations as they describe facets of God Himself.
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
— Romans 5:5
It is the Love of God the Father (aleph) poured into our hearts through His Son (bet) by the Holy Spirit (gimel) who was given to us.
This wraps up the first part of the series. In the next article we will look at the next three letters of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet which are "dalet", "hey", and "vav".