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Facets of God Displayed in the Hebrew Aleph-Bet: Yod, Caph, and Lamed

Tamarajo is an avid Bible Studier who loves nothing more than to seek out the treasures in God's Word and share them with others.

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Introduction

My favorite Biblical studies center around the ancient Hebraic roots of our Christian faith. Hebrew word studies, and the pictographs they contain, can sometimes give us a more detailed and in-depth view of Biblical concepts.

There are a total of twenty-two letters in the Hebrew Aleph-Bet. This article will study the fourth set of three letters in their pictograph form. They are "yod", "caph", and "lamed". These three letters together will also present a unified lesson as it concerns the character of God.

Before we continue, please note that the words with Hebrew fonts should read from right to left. Knowing Hebrew won't be necessary, but it is helpful to know the directional aspect when describing the letter's position within the word. When I mention the first letter, it will be the letter beginning on the right, and the last letter will be on the left.

It is also important to note that the fonts I am using in this article are modern Hebrew ones developed during the Babylonian captivity and are used in Israel today. In their most ancient form, these letters were in pictograph form.

Additionally, at the end of each section, a video will further the lesson about each letter. The videos are produced by Jewish Jewels Ministries and hosted by Dr. Danny Ben-Gigi, a former Hebrew professor at Arizona State University.

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"Yod"—a Working Hand

The Hebrew letter"yod" (י) is the tenth letter of the Aleph-Bet and the first letter of this particular study. It is represented by a picture of a hand and forearm indicating God's power, as evidenced by His Works. Hand muscles are, indeed, powerful.

"The muscles which power the fingers are strong—strong enough for some people to climb vertical surfaces supporting their entire weight at times by a few fingertips."

— eatonhand.com1

Working hands are excellent metaphors for God's mighty works.

For You, Lord, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands. O Lord, how great are Your works!

— Psalm 92:4-5

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His Works Are Skillful

Hands are known to do powerful work, but they are also noted for skillful work. Job describes God's handiwork in the following verse.

‘Your hands have made me and fashioned me, An intricate unity . . .

— Job 10:8a

The Psalmist continues this thought.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

— Psalm 139:14-15

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The Possessor of Heaven and Earth

"Yod" can also denote possession. We seize and possess things with our hands. The following verse describes God as possessing greatness, power, etc. A sense of ownership is implied with this thought.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all . . . In Your hand is Power and might.

— I Chronicles 29:11,12

When Melchizedek blesses Abraham, he identifies God as the possessor of heaven and earth.

Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him (Abram) and said,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

— Genesis 14:18-20

Hands appear to be a recurring theme in this and the continuing conversation. In the above verses, Melchizedek credits the Possessor of heaven and earth with the power of delivering the enemies into Abram's "hand." The next scene involves the king of Sodom, who wants to reward Abram and credit him with the victory. Abraham refuses by lifting his "hand" to God Most High and crediting the Possessor of heaven and earth with the triumph.

And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’

—Genesis 14:21-23

âAh, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You ~Jeremiah 32:17

âAh, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You ~Jeremiah 32:17

He Shares His Power With Us

What does this mean to us personally and practically? According to II Peter, the God who possesses all things chooses to share His possessions with us.

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.

— II Peter 1:3

According to Paul's letter to the Ephesian church, the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of God (position of power) is made available to believers.

. . . and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 1:19-22

Paul prays in his letter to the Colossian believers that His Power would strengthen us.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy . . .

— Colossians 1:9-11

Nelson Study Bible Notes summarizes Paul's thoughts with the following.

"The divine power is the power God used in raising Christ from the dead and that same power is available to the church."

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"Caph"—A Cupped Hand

"Caph" (כ) is the eleventh letter of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet and is communicated with an image of a cupped hand and speaks of God being capable and containing everything we need. A hand in the cupped position illustrates both giving and receiving.

You (God) open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

— Psalm 145

In terms of God's ability and all-sufficiency, both Hebrew words for "capable" and "all" begin with the letter "caph" (כֹּ), and as we will see, they are used together frequently in the Scriptures.

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, worship, magnify, and glorify the king of heaven. All (כֹּל ) his works are truth, all (כֹּל ) his paths are justice, and he is able (caph) to humble all who walk in pride.”

— Daniel 4:37

His Wings of Refuge

"Caph" also comes with the concept of a wing with the idea of something that covers.

He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge . . .

— Psalm 91:4

A palm faced down shows us that we can take refuge and cover under the capable and all-sufficient one.

Deliver me from mine enemies, O Jehovah, Near Thee I am covered

— Psalm 143:9

"Yod" and "Caph" Work Together

In this next verse, we can see how God's ability, which connects with the concept of "caph," is also linked with His power (yod), which we looked at with the previous letter pictograph.

Now to Him who is able (caph) to do exceedingly abundantly above all (caph) that we ask or think, according to the power (yod) that works in us.

— Ephesians 3:20

These letters speak of God's ability and sufficiency. El Shaddai, the God who is enough, is well able to provide everything we need.

And God is able (caph) to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency (caph) in all (caph) things, may have an abundance for every good work (yod).

— II Corinthians 9:8

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"Lamed"—A Shepherd Staff

"Lamed" (ל) is the twelfth letter of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet and is represented by a shepherd's staff. It depicts God as our leader, teacher, and instructor. "Lamed" is the Hebrew word for teaching as well.

The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches (lamed) His way.

— Psalm 25:9

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, Who teaches (lamed) you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go

— Isaiah 48:17

God tells us that He will instruct us.

I will instruct you and teach (lamed) you in the way you should go;I will guide you with My eye.

— Psalm 32:8

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Lamed and the Number Twelve

In the Gospels, Jesus is portrayed as a teacher. "Rabbi" or "rabboni" is one of two words used to refer to Jesus as a great teacher. In keeping with lamed's pictographic meaning, the Bible also references Him as the Good, Great, and Chief Shepherd.

A shepherd staff is also known as a symbol of authority and also connects with the concept of teaching,

. . . the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority.

— Matthew 7:28,29

It is also interesting that the letter "lamed" is the twelfth letter of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet. The number twelve in Scripture represents divine government and authority on the earth carrying the concept of a kingdom. This divine government expressed with the number twelve is a frequent pattern in Scripture.

  • Twelve patriarchs from Noah to Jacob
  • Twelve tribes of Israel
  • Twelve disciples and apostles,
  • Twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53), and finally the
  • Twelve foundations in the New Jerusalem structure are in Revelation, chapter 22 representing the final and eternal rule and reign of God over all who are His. All these are representative and show the progression of God establishing His Kingdom.

The familiar twenty-third psalm gives us an excellent picture of the Lord, our Shepherd using the illustration of rod and staff in its depiction of God's guidance through life.

The Lord is my shepherd . . . your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

— Psalm 23

Our response to the Shepherd is to respond to His call to follow and obey His voice.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

— John 10:27

Conclusion

In conclusion, we see in these three letters representing God's ability (yod), power (caph), and authority (lamed) are, obviously, related concepts. Without power and or ability, there is no authority.

Jesus reveals His authority in His introduction to the "great commission."

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All (caph) authority (lamed) has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

— Matthew 28:18

Putting all of these letters together, we can conclude that Jesus has all power, ability, and, therefore, authority.

Jesus once again invites us to participate in who He is, partake of what He has, and share it with whomever He would have us.

Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

— Luke 10:19

We have been given His authority (lamed), which is backed by His power (yod) and ability (caph) working in us to do His will.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

— Philippians 2:9-13

Sources

1https://eatonhand.com/

© 2012 Tamarajo

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