The letter Aleph
The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is called Aleph. Pronounced “ah-lef,” Aleph has no sound of its own, and usually has a vowel associated with it.
I was first introduced to Aleph when I heard James Barnett speak one Sunday at church (you need to check out James’ story if you don’t know it). The story around Aleph stood out, at first, because it involves Aaron (the bible Aaron). Let’s get into the story.
Ox. Strength. Leader.
Aleph is the “father” of the Aleph-bet. It’s original pictograph represents an ox, strength, and leader. It’s numerical value is one. This basic gematria of one indicates the One and only God who is master of the universe.
The upper Yod, or arm of Aleph, represents the hidden and infinite aspect of YHVH (the Hebrew name for God). The lower Yod represents the revelation of YHVH to mankind. The Yods are connected by a diagonal Vav that is thought to represent humanity. The Vav is diagonal since it is humbled in the face of God’s mystery. The two Yods also represent the paradox between experiencing God as both far and near.
The nature of man
The Hebrew word for “man” is adam which is mad up of dam or “blood” and Aleph, which represents the Lord. The Lord turns flesh and blood into a “living soul.”
There are three parts to the Aleph, but it is One. There are three Persons to the Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), but there is only one true God.
Aaron and the Golden Calf
“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain,<span class=”crossreference” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-2440A” data-link=”(A)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before<span class=”crossreference” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-2440B” data-link=”(B)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>
us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”<span class=”crossreference” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-2440C” data-link=”(C
)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>
Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings<span class=”crossreference” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-2441D” data-link=”(D)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol<span class=”crossreference” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-2443E” data-link=”(E)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>
cast in the shape of a calf,<span class=”crossreference” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-2443F” data-link=”(F
)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
The people of Israel had been in bondage in Egypt for over two hundred years. God called Moses and told him He had heard their cries. During their time in Egypt, the Israelites began to doubt the existence of the God. To help Moses prove the existence and power of God, he was given a number of miracles to help the Israelites believe. After all of these miracles were done, the Israelites came out of Egypt with a renewed belief in God.
The people of the Middle East were very religious, but they worshiped many gods. The ten plagues God brought on the Egyptians were judgments against specific gods they worshiped and showed that the Lord was greater than all of them. When God gave His laws to the Israelites, He began by addressing this religious pluralism.
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.”
While Moses was up on the mountain receiving God’s laws, the people were getting anxious. Moses spent forty days up on the mountain with God. By the end of that time, the people were beginning to think Moses had died or left them. They urged Aaron, their temporary leader, to make gods for them to follow. Since they were accustomed to having visual symbols of gods, this was the natural (but sinful) result. Aaron took their gold earrings and melted them down to make a golden idol. The idol he crafted for them was a calf.
Many readings trash Aaron for creating this idol and allowing everyone to worship it as if it were God. Without a doubt, Aaron made a large mistake. Some try to give Aaron a little credit, though. Some think Aaron knew Moses was coming back very soon, and by creating the calf he was buying time. He didn’t think the people would actually part with all of their precious jewelry, but they did!
God told Moses about the sins of the people, and He said they would all die. Moses prayed to God to spare the Jewish people. God finally agreed with Moses and He promised to spare the people of Israel.
As Moses come down from Mt. Sinai, he heard the people shouting with joy. Moses saw that the reason for the joy is because they were worshiping the golden calf. He was upset that the people could worship a golden calf so soon after they witnessed God.
Moses said, “Whoever is with God, come to me!” The tribe of Levi gathered with him, and Moses ordered them to kill everyone guilty of worshiping the golden calf. That day, three thousand men of the children of Israel lost their lives, in punishment for their idolatry.
Aaron was sternly scolded by Moses for his part in this matter, but Moses intervened for him before God, who then forgave Aaron’s sin. Read more about Aaron’s life if you want. He had quite the life.
Aaron and Aleph
It is unlikely that Aaron meant the calf to represent another idol since he announced a festival in honor of YHVH when he finished making it. The people’s declaration, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,” seems to indicate that they took it as a depiction of YHVH.
In their request of Aaron to make a god, they explained that they wanted a god to lead them because they did not know what had become of Moses. This seems to suggest that they wanted the calf to replace Moses.
They didn’t intend the calf to depict YHVH, but to operate as the channel of His presence among them, as Moses had functioned.
Remember, Aleph means ox, strength, leader the pictogram of Aleph is the head of an ox.
The story of Aaron is interesting to me not only because it’s my name, but because it is a great story. Similarly, the letter Aleph is extremely interesting, and an awesome representation of God.