Facets of God Displayed in the Hebrew Aleph-Bet: Yod, Caph, and Lamed
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 fourth set of three letters of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet in their pictograph form. These are "yod", "caph", and "lamed". 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 should 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. The videos are produced by Jewish Jewels Ministries and hosted by Dr. Danny Ben-Gigi, a former Hebrew professor at Arizona State University.
"Yod"—A Working Hand
"Yod" (י") is 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."
Working hands makes hands an excellent metaphor 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
His Works Are Skillful
Hands are known to do powerful work, but they are also noted for works of intricate detail tasks.
‘Your hands have made me and fashioned me, An intricate unity . . .
— Job 10:8a
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
"Yod" can also denote possession. We seize and possess things with our hands.
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
What does this mean to us personally and practically?
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
He Shares His Power With Us
The same power that created all things, the same outstretched arm that delivered the children of Israel from bondage, the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of God (position of power) is toward us.
. . . 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 that His Power would strengthen us.
. . . strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy . . .
— Colossians 1:11
"The divine power is the power God used in raising Christ from the dead and that same power is available to the church."
— Nelson Study Bible Notes
Paul prays that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that is at work in us.
Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
— Hebrews 13: 20-21
"Caph"—A Cupped Hand
"Caph" (כ) is the picture of a cupped hand and speaks of God being capable and containing everything we need. The hand, in the cupped position, illustrates both giving and receiving.
You 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
"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
"Caph" 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
"Lamed"—A Shepherd Staff
"Lamed" (ל) is the twelfth letter of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet and is represented by a shepherds 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
Lamed and the Number Twelve
In the Gospel accounts, we frequently see Jesus referenced as a teacher. The word "Teacher" often translates as "rabbi" or "rabboni." 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 shown in Revelation, chapter 22 representing the final and eternal rule and reign of God over all who are His. All these are representative and showing 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.
There is also an excellent book I highly recommend that can be obtained free online titled A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller that parallels God's attributes with interesting methods used by shepherds. The author relates them with the scriptural examples of the Lord, our Shepherd. Just type the title in your preferred browser.
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
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 prelude 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 He 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.
© 2012 Tamarajo