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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Modern Hebrew Words

Letter

By Jeff A. Benner


The word “letter” is written with four different “letters”: L/l, E/e, T/t and R/r. These letters are Latin in origin, which was in turn taken from the Greek. The Greek in turn was taken from the Semitic (which includes Hebrew) alphabet. In fact, when we look at these four letters from the Semitic alphabet we see a very close resemblance.

L/l

E/e

T/t

R/r

While many will recognize the word alphabet as coming from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha and beta, it is less known that the Greek names for the first two letters are in turn derived from the first two letters of the Semitic alphabet: aleph and bet.

The Modern Hebrew word for a “letter” is אות (ot, Strong's #226, the plural form is אותיות/ otyot). This word can be found in the following passage.

Then the LORD said to him, “Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him. (KJV, Genesis 4:15)

Is it possible that the “mark,” the אות, was an actual “letter” of the Semitic alphabet? Let’s take a look at another passage that uses the word “mark.”

And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. (KJV, Ezekiel 9:4)

Again we have Yahweh placing a “mark” on a person, but this time it is not the Hebrew word אות, but instead the word תו (tav, Strong's #8420). This is another Hebrew word that means “mark,” but it is also the 22nd and last “letter” of the Hebrew alphabet, which in Modern Hebrew is written as ת, and as in ancient times. Is it possible that the אות (mark) Yahweh placed on Cain is the אות (letter) ?




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