Original Hebrew Alphabet. Concrete symbols also with abstract meanings. Caution required.
The original Hebrew alphabet comprised signs representing real objects. Below you can see the first letter: aleph, pictured by an ox head and given the meaning strong, power, leader. Do you see the relationship between concrete and abstract? Isn’t this an excellent way to portray strength and potency?
Other tangibles portraying intangibles would be hand describing work, or a tree showing growth and stability. Likewise, a recognizable picture defines an action. A bow portrays reverence, and a handshake depicts agreement.
I would be amiss to not add a word of caution here. Some take this concept too far. They apply these abstract meanings to each letter, and by stringing these meanings together, they construct stories for each word. Be very careful with such a concept. As you can see from the chart below, each letter in the Hebrew alphabet can easily have three or four different meanings. When you interlace these variants for a five or six-letter word, the number of possibilities can reach into the hundreds. Choosing which meaning for which letter amounts to interpretation, that’s where caution is a must. You cannot arbitrarily attribute a meaning to a letter.
Even deciding the meaning of each Hebrew alphabet letter poses other questions. For instance, the aleph, the first letter of the alphabet designates El which means God (or god). It has the pictogram of an ox head, which, as you know, was the symbol of an Egyptian god, the Apis Bull. the Bull refers to the Golden Calf the Israelites worshipped in Exodus 32. Maybe you wondered why they poured their gold into a calf. Egyptian worship still impregnated them with disastrous results. It was idolatry. The lesson is God is not an Apis Bullhead.
The chart below is ONLY given to show tangible signs representing INtangible, abstract concepts. Bible context must confirm those abstract ideas. Words in their Biblical context give meaning, not the interpretation of the accumulated meanings of the various signs representing each letter.
The Hebrew alphabet shows concrete and abstract usage of Biblical Hebrew. Notice the letters and their meanings, both concrete and abstract. Read the 22 letters, and in the column, Meaning, realize often there are both concrete things and abstract concepts. For example, the Mem (13th letter) has the picture water (mayim in Hebrew), and the concrete meaning blood, and the abstract meanings of chaos and mighty.
You can read about the history of the Latin script, which derives from Egyptian hieroglyphics via Greek. A Semitic alphabet is similarly concrete and abstract. But they do not teach us these notions in school. Teachers show us how to write, but not why or where the alphabets and writing come from. The Explanation discussed the origin of language in the context of the singularity of humankind.
A word about why The Explanation uses the outstretched hand as a favicon representing our goal. The outstretched arm and open hand are 2 natural human gestures. First, when we ask a question, we raise an arm with outstretched fingers to seek an answer. We’re all seekers of answers to the big questions in life. Second, when we have an answer, we raise an arm to show we can solve the problem. But there’s a fuller aspect to the outstretched hand.
We want or must have the coherent and complete answer. Not just any answer will do. The four-piece assembled puzzle in the hand’s palm symbolizes the correct solution. The Explanation refers to coherent completeness, assembly of all the pieces of the puzzle to represent one coherent, complete image. That’s God’s plan, proper theology.
Hebrew is a very concrete language using the practical to express the abstract. We need caution. The abstract meaning of the Biblical Hebrew alphabet letters does not have an evident context within a word. On the contrary, Biblical Hebrew words do have a context within verses, chapters, books, and indeed, the entire Bible.
Remember, in Key 3, concrete and abstract meanings, we are neither studying Biblical Hebrew nor words nor letters of and by themselves. The goal is unlocking Bible meaning, seeking, and receiving God’s coherent, complete answers to the big questions in life.
Now let’s learn the abstract meaning of the very first word in the Bible. Just understanding this one principle unlocks Bible meaning and clarifies the question of the state of Earth in Genesis 1:1.
Dig Deeper into The Explanation
Join The Explanation Newsletter to stay informed of updates. and future events. No obligations, total privacy, unsubscribe anytime, if you want.
The Explanation series of seven books. Free to read online or purchase these valuable commentaries on Genesis 1-3 from your favorite book outlet. E-book and paperback formats are available. Use this link to see the details of each book and buy from your favorite store.
Since you read all the way to here… you liked it. Please use the Social Network links just below to share this information from The Explanation, Original Hebrew Alphabet. 22 Enlightening Concrete Symbols