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Posts tagged ‘eh’

Aleph is A

ʾĀlep is the reconstructed name of the first letter of the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, continued in descended Semitic alphabets as Phoenician Aleph Phoenician aleph.svgSyriac ‘Ālaph ܐ, Hebrew Aleph א, andArabic ʾAlif ا.

The name aleph is derived from the West Semitic word for “ox“, and the shape of the letter derives from a Proto-Sinaitic glyph based on a hieroglyph
which depicts an ox’s head.

A chart of the Ancient Hebrew Alphabet is available through the Ancient Hebrew Research Center –

The name of the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet is aleph. Aleph is a Hebrew word meaning ox as can be found in Ps 8:7 – all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,

4,000 years ago, the Hebrew alphabet was written with pictographs. The original form for this letter was a picture of an ox head.

This letter represents the ideas of strength and power, the characteristics of the ox. This pictograph may also represent a chief or other leader.

This letter has an ah sound as in the word ox, or an eh as in the word elk.

Some Hebrew words that begin with this letter are el meaning mighty one, but often translated as god, av, meaning father, aniy meaning I, and adon meaning lord.

Early form
The ancient hebrew aleph can be seen in this rock inscription found at Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai Penninsula, which was inscribed about 1500 BC.

Middle form
Around 1000 BC the Hebrew alphabet evolved into a simpler form that usually called Paleo-Hebrew. This form can be seen in the Tel Dan inscription that dates to about 850 BC.

This form of the letter was adopted by the Greeks and became the letter alpha, note the similarity between the Hebrew name aleph and the Greek name alpha.

Second Middle form
The aleph was also written in a slightly different form and this form can be seen on the Moabite Stone which is also dated at about 850 BC.

This letter, the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet became the number 1.

Late form
Around 400 BC this letter evolved again, as it appears in this scroll fragment found in the Dead Sea Caves dated to the first century BC or first century AD.

This letter is very similar to the Modern Hebrew letter as can be seen in the Aleppo Codex dated to about 1000 AD.

Al (Aleph)
By Jeff A. Benner


History & Reconstruction

The original pictograph for this letter is a picture of an ox head –  representing strength and power from the work performed by the animal. This pictograph also represents a chief or other leader. When two oxen are yoked together for pulling a wagon or plow, one is the older and more experienced one who leads the other. Within the clan, tribe or family the chief or father is seen as the elder who is yoked to the others as the leader and teacher.

The Modern name for this letter is aleph and corresponds to the Greek name alpha and the Arabic name aleph. The various meanings of this root are oxen, yoke and learn. Each of these meanings is related to the meanings of the pictograph . The root aleph() is an adopted root from the parent root el () meaning, strength, power and chief and is the probable original name of the pictograph .

The  is a shepherd staff and represents authority as well as a yoke (see the letter Lam). Combined these two pictographs mean “strong authority”. The chief or father is the “strong authority”. The  can also be understood as the “ox in the yoke”. Many Near Eastern cultures worshipped the god , most commonly pronounced as “el” and depicted as a bull in carvings and statues. Israel chose the form of a calf (young bull) as an image of God at Mount Sinai showing their association between the word  and the ox or bull. The word  is also commonly used in the Hebrew Bible for God or any god.

The concept of the ox and the shepherd staff in the word  has been carried over into modern times as the scepter and crown of a monarch, the leader of a nation.

These modern items are representative of the shepherd staff, an ancient sign of authority, and the horns of the ox, an ancient sign of strength.

In Modern Hebrew this letter is silent but was originally used as the vowel “a” as well as a glottal stop. The Greek letter “alpha” derived from the “aleph” is also used for the “a” sound.

The Early Semitic pictograph  was simplified to  and  in the Middle Hebrew script and continued to evolve into the  in the Late Hebrew script. The Modern Hebrew letter א developed out of the Late Semitic. The Middle Semitic was adopted by the Greeks to be the letter “A” and carried over into the Roman “A”. The Middle Semitic script  became the number “1” we use today.


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