I need a little insight from those familiar with the Hebrew language. I ran into someone who claimed that not only does the Hebrew alphabet convey the letters by which words are spelled, but also that each letter also contains its own meaning. For example, God tells Abram to “walk before me.” The word for walk here is halak (הָלַך), meaning to go or to come or to walk. He claims that in the ancient Hebrew language הָ means “behold,” לַ means “shepherd,” and ך means “open hand.” So the word halak is "the shepherd with the open hand." Thoughts
In short, nah....
Mystical interpretations of Hebrew letters may have been popular in the Middle Ages, or in Kabala, but this is anachronistic. The letters you wrote above are square Aramaic alphabet. But Old Hebrew script was the original script of many OT books. I can't read the Paleohebrew alphabet, but I don’t need to. Check out these letters in the script from the time of David — compare them to the more modern script — and the (questionable ) interpretation falls apart. (In addition, the first two letters are syllables -- someone forgot to remove the vowels. Halakh does indeed mean to walk, but the other claims are highly questionable.
Steve, Joey, anything to add?
- Steve Kinnard weighs in: I agree with Douglas. This is definitely overreaching. Hebrew names often have meaning, but the letters of the alphabet don’t. At least not in the time of the OT. That's an important distinction. We should not be taken in by such claims.
- Joey Harris weighs in: I am with Douglas. Mystical interpretation of the Hebrew letters is very popular, but there are no standard interpretations even between the various schools of Kabbalah. In addition, there are several modern attempts to reinterpret or even modernize the mystical meanings of Hebrew letters (remember The Bible Code?). While meditating on the letters might be a valid form of meditation, it is definitely not sound exegesis. Even those who believe in interpreting this way will make a clear distinction between the "natural" and the "spiritual" meanings of a text and will be able to explain the sound, exegetical meaning alongside the "deeper, spiritual" (and I believe much more subjective and relative) meaning of a text.