Facets of God Displayed in the Hebrew Aleph-Bet: Ayin, Pey, and Tsaddiq
My favorite Biblical studies center around the ancient Hebraic roots of our Christian faith. Hebrew word studies, and the pictographs that they contain, can sometimes give us a more detailed and in-depth view of Biblical concepts.
There are a total of 22 letters in the Hebrew Aleph-Bet. This article will study the sixth set of three letters of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet in their pictograph form. These are "ayin", "pey", and "tsaddiq". These also will present a unified lesson as it concerns the character of God.
Before we continue, 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 describing the position of the letter 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 actual images of the pictographs we will be studying.
Additionally, at the end of each section, there will be a video that furthers the lesson about each letter. These videos were produced by Jewish Jewels Ministries and hosted by Dr. Danny Ben-Gigi, former professor of Hebrew at Arizona State University.
"Ayin" is an Eye
"Ayin" (ע) is a picture of an eye as well as the Hebrew word for "eye." "Ayin" shows us that He is a God who sees and notices us, as well as all the happenings of the universe.
The Bible tells us that God's seeing goes further than simple observation, but a searching desire to be active on behalf of those who love Him.
. . . the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.
— II Chronicles
Not only does He see us, but He wants to show us His great strength in our situations and circumstances.
This letter is used in the description of the Lord our Shepherd ( Yahweh Roi יהוה רעי) in the familiar 23rd Psalm, which beautifully depicts His watchfulness that is associated with His tender loving care. We looked at the shepherd staff with the letter "lamed" as in His leading, teaching, and discipline. This depiction is leading more toward His watchfulness over His flock.
The Lord is my shepherd (the God who watches over me); I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow (pursue) me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
In chapter ten, John details how Jesus, "The Good Shepherd," watches over and protects His sheep.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
— John 10:11
God is the one who sees and notices us. Often in life, we might feel alone and ask such things as "does anyone know"? Or "does anyone care"? This letter shows us unequivocally, yes!
The next section will give us an illustration drawn from Hagar's experience with the God who sees.
God—A Fountain of Living Waters
The story of Hagar, an Egyptian servant girl of Sarah, Abraham's wife, showcases the first mention of God "seeing" the plight of the culturally insignificant. Hagar was rejected and alone in the wilderness after Sarah sent her away from the family. In the desert, Hagar encounters God and declares Him to be El Roi (The God who sees me). (Genesis chapter 16)
Hagar's rejection occurred because she despised Sarah in attitude when she discovered she was pregnant with Abraham's child. Perhaps being pregnant with Abraham's child bought Hagar temporary notoriety within the culture in which she felt insignificant. However, the result was she ended up in a prideful arrogance that landed her in a desert of rejection.
We often seek significance from family friends and the culture that we are surrounded by and find ourselves in a dry and desolate wilderness. Like Hagar, in the desert, we realize that God and God alone is the source of our notoriety and affirmation.
"Ayin" is also the same Hebrew word for a fountain and is draws its imagery from the concept of the eye as water springs forth from the tear ducts. It was not coincidental that Hagar was found at a fountain of water, considering it is mentioned three times in two verses.
God is revealed, in Jeremiah chapter two, as the "Fountain of Living Waters" when he accuses His people of forsaking their only hope of life and sustenance by running after other people and things to satisfy themselves.
Jesus, in the New Testament, spots a woman by a well of water who sought her necessities in the desert of human relationships. He reveals to her that He is, in fact, the living water that she truly needs.
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him I will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.
— John 4:13-14
"Pey" is an Open Mouth
"Pey" (פ) is a picture of an open mouth.
The Hebrew word for "wonderful" begins with the letter "pey." It is defined as distinguishable or miraculous. The visual that goes with this letter is that of a mouth opened wide with astonishment.
. . . His name will be called Wonderful . . .
— Isaiah 9:6
The wonderfulness of God is strongly associated with what God does and how incredible He is.
I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders (פֶּלֶא) of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds . . . Who is so great a God as our God You are the God who does wonders (פֶּלֶא); You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people . . .
— Psalm 77:11-14
The mouth is an organ of speech. God spoke the entire physical world into existence.
Then God said . . .
— Genesis 1:2
That is a wonder in and of itself. This letter is invitational for us to come and hear what it is God has to say.
. . . whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.
— Matthew 7:24
What God has to say is powerful, relevant, and worthy of our attention.
"Tsadiq"—A Humble Righteous Man
"Tsadiq" (צ) is thought to be a picture of a man kneeling with hands lifted in praise. We learn from this letter that God is the Righteous One who alone is worthy to be praised. The Hebrew word for righteousness in all of its forms contains the same letters as "tsadiq."
Jeremiah 23:6 reveals God as "Yahweh Tsidkenu" יהוה צדקנו (The Lord Our Righteousness)
The Lord is righteous in all His ways . . .
— Psalm 145:17
Righteousness Requires Humility
It is difficult with this image to associate the righteousness of God with the humility of kneeling. Yet, in Isaiah chapter 53, we get a picture of Jesus, "The Righteous Servant," humbly described as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, despised, stricken, smitten, oppressed, and afflicted. He humbled Himself by being wounded for our transgression and bruised for our iniquities. He submitted to the chastisement for our peace. This portion of scripture tells us that He was numbered with the transgressors.
It doesn't get any lower than that, nor is there any higher form of love. The God of the universe stooped down from infinite heights to suffer with and for us.
He is the God who makes things right even at the expense of Himself!!
‘I will go before you And make the crooked places straight . . .
— Isaiah 45:2
In combination, we can see that the God who sees us (ayin-eye) our fountain of living waters is wonderful, miraculous, and extraordinary (pey-mouth) as well as righteous (Tsadiq-kneeling man) in all that He is and does.
"The Wonder of The Cross" ~ Vicky Beeching
© 2012 Tamarajo