What does the Hebrew language tell us about God?
What connects a door, a bucket and a scroll?
Methinks it’s time for us to have another exploration of Hebrew. In the next chapter you are going to be introduced to the Hebrew alphabet, but we are going to have a sneak preview of just one of the letters: d (dalet), the fourth letter. Here it is in its full glory:
It started out as the following picture, in Old Canaanite:
It looks like an angular fish, but it was, in fact, a door. Here’s what the picture evolved into with Old Hebrew:
From this came the Hebrew letter, d, dalet. The shape of this letter is reminiscent of the upper corner of a door frame. Allied to the general meaning of “door” is the idea of a path or way of life.
It gets more interesting when we discover that dalet is the Hebrew word for ... door.
(dalet – lamed - tav) = dalet =door, specifically the idea of hanging or swinging.
The root verb connected to this is:
(dalet – lamed - hey) = dalah =that which hangs down, or the idea of letting down (or drawing up), as in a bucket down a well.
From this comes the word for a bucket.
(dalet – lamed - yod) = daliy =bucket.
This is all commonplace and mundane but the beauty of Hebrew is it can take these everyday things and take a jump. Let’s look at Psalm 30:1:
“I will exalt You, LORD*; for You have lifted me up.”
The word used for lifted me up is, as above:
(dalet – lamed - hey) = dalah
So the mundane process of hanging down a bucket and drawing water from a well can have a spiritual application, of being lifted up, in the sense of being set free from despair.
The same word is used in Proverbs 20:5:
“Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”
Here we get the sense of drawing out the purposes of man’s heart. So an everyday process known by everyone in Bible times has also been used in matters of the heart and the mind. That’s the beauty of Hebrew, drawing the spiritual from the mundane.
Let’s look at Psalm 141:3:
“Set a watch, LORD*, before my mouth. Keep the door of my lips.”
Here the word dalet is used in the phrase “door of my lips”, a handy and vivid description of a mouth!
Finally there’s an interesting use of the word dalet in Jeremiah 36:23:
“And it was, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, he cut it with the scribes’ knife and threw it into the fire that was on the hearth, until the whole scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.”
The “columns” of the scroll are the leaves of a book, parchments hanging off a central spine. The word dalet has been used for this, for the simple reason that we have something (the “columns”) hanging.
For the previous article in this series, click here.
To find out what is my favourite book of the Bible, click here.
You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.