Passages: Jacob’s Ladder and the Anointed Pillar

I don’t normally link to Kabbalistic sites or delve into Kabbalistic teachings because they’re not purely Bible-based, but one site has a fascinating quote about the spelling of related words in an article about the connections between the themes of Chanukah and the number eight:

“In Hebrew, the word shemonah (eight) has the same exact letters as hashemen (the oil), neshama (soul), and mishna (transmitted teaching).”

Let’s ignore the mishnah connection because it refers to oral teaching that’s not a part of Scripture. But there are some very interesting connections between the other three words that link through a particular passage in Genesis.

First, though, it’s important to understand that neshamah really isn’t “soul” – the usual word translated as “soul” is nefesh (H5315), which is basically the state of being physically alive. (In Genesis 1:30, the beasts of the field and birds of the air are all described as having living souls – chay nefesh – although it’s translated as “wherein [there is] life”. So this word is not limited to people.) However, neshamah (H5397) is usually translated “breath” instead. The words are related, since usually if a person or animal is alive, it is breathing, and if it’s breathing, it’s alive. It’s possible to remain alive for short durations without breathing though, so it makes sense that “life” and “breath” are distinct things and have different words. Another related word is ruach (H7307), which also can mean breath, or wind, but also spirit, and it’s specifically used for God’s Spirit: Ruach Ha’kodesh is the Holy Spirit of God, occurring from the beginning in Genesis 1:2.

All that was just a preface to distinguish neshamah from other similar words. The critical thing to note is that because these three words (shemonah, ha’shemen, and neshamah) are spelled with the same Hebrew letters in different orders (shin, mem, nun, hey; hey, shin, mem, nun; nun, shin, mem, hey), their numerical value is exactly the same: 395. We can therefore draw thematic connections between them.

The general word for oil is shemen (H8081), but in this equivalence, it includes the definite article ha (the hey-prefix). Oil is used many times throughout Scripture for many different purposes including anointing, light, and food.

The number eight is shemonah, as the original quote indicates, which also corresponds to the Hebrew letter chet, the eighth letter. This letter is also the first letter in Chanukah (not hey, which you might think given the more common spelling of Hanukkah).

As an additional note, the word ha’shamayim (the heavens – definite plural form) also has a value of 395, but it’s not spelled with the same four letters as the other words here.  It’s still a special word though because it’s the fifth word of the Hebrew Scriptures, in Genesis 1:1. Note that 395 = 5×79. A verse that connects neshamah (breath) and ha’shamayim (the heavens) is Isaiah 42:5: “Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:”. It’s also the fifth verse in its chapter, so the use of neshamah here is a strong indicator of the hey theme of breath.

Another passage that draws these words together is Genesis 28:11-12, about Jacob’s dream of a ladder stretching to heaven and of the stones he slept on: “And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put [them for] his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.” Let’s skip past the rest of the actual vision. Also verse 18 is relevant: “And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put [for] his pillows, and set it up [for] a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.”

To start, the letter chet came from a shape that in ancient times looked like a fence or ladder. One theme of chet is of an enclosure or fence. Actually, the “ladder” here is a weak link, because in the Hebrew, it’s a word that’s only used the once, in this verse (cullam), and so there are no other examples to triangulate on the actual meaning. I’m not here to speculate on what this ladder actually might have been (considering it reached to heaven), merely to point out that it forms a thematic link to chet.

Verse 18 is actually the first use of “oil” (shemen) in Scripture, and the first description of anointing something – anointing people came later. However, the first use of the same definite grammatical construction of “the oil” is most likely not until Leviticus 14:16 with the instructions to the priests for using the holy oil of the temple. I say “most likely” because it’s much more difficult to search the Hebrew text for a specific sequence of letters that form a grammatical construction, rather than searching by well-indexed root words. Verses 16-18 there specifically describe using the oil to anoint someone who is to be cleansed.

The oil is therefore specifically the holy blend of oils for the temple. It’s not known whether Jacob would have used a specific blend of oils like that to anoint his pillar stone, or if it would have just been pure olive oil. After God’s Temple was established with its regulations, the holy blend of oils was forbidden to be used except for Temple purposes, but Jacob lived before the Temple, so he could have used it without breaking God’s rules for His people, just as he and the other patriarchs could individually offer burnt offerings on stone altars without needing a temple or priests.

So the act of anointing is what connects the holy oil with the breath of life. In ancient Israel, this was done by the priests for the purpose of cleansing. In New Testament times, after the church was established, anointing was done to request healing from God. As James 5:14-15 says, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”. So the anointing by elders may result in both healing and forgiveness, the restoration of physical and spiritual life.

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Metaphor: Concentric Circles

There’s more to be explored with the concept of circles. Previously the exploration was about how each letter of the alef-bet exhibits some aspect of circularity, because the alef-bet is an illustration of the cyclical wheel of the Word.

Naturally, we can’t condense the complexity and majesty of God down into a simple shape, but for the sake of illustrating a concept, let’s consider God the Father to also be like a huge circle encompassing the totality of everything that exists. The Messiah is like God the Father, and is God in kind, part of the same family, so they have the same shape. If both are represented by circles, what is the relationship between the two?

Note first Heb 1:3, which says that the Messiah is: “upholding all things by the word of his power…” Not “the power of his word”. His power is words. Back up a verse, and we get the phrase “by whom also he made the worlds”. In Genesis we know that God spoke and creation happened, and multiple times we see the Messiah described as “the Word”. Everything that was created was made through the Messiah, so his circle also encompasses everything that exists.

Scripture also makes it clear that in old times, many of the prophets and righteous men whose experiences were recorded for us spoke directly with God, but at the same time, God the Father has never been seen or heard directly by anyone. Who did they speak with? One who speaks as God yet is not the Father can only be the Son, the Messiah. In those times, from our perspective, in the simplified representation as circles, it would be as if both circles were the same size, with the Messiah completely overlapping and hiding the Father from human sight.

When the Messiah was born as a man to be the Redeemer of humanity, he voluntarily gave up heavenly glory for a time to pursue that critical mission. After he was resurrected again by the Father, he was not restored back exactly to what he had been before. Instead, he was resurrected as an example of what faithful humanity will become – a perfected spirit being, like God in nature, but not equal to God the Father.

His circle still encompasses everything, because he still has more power and authority than any other living being except for the Father. And the Father’s intent is for all to be placed under the Messiah’s authority in the end, as 1 Corinthians 15:28 says: “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” The Father is the ultimate authority and encompasses the Son like concentric circles. No longer is the Father hidden, because the Messiah came to reveal Him to man. Both can be known by those who seek them.

If the Messiah is an example of what God’s people will become, then that means that resurrected humanity can also be represented by smaller circles within the larger circles of the Father and the Son. Some circles will be larger than others, indicating authority over more. As the parable says, “…because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.” (Luke 19:17) The master in the parable goes on to give another servant five cities, and so on. Prophecies such as Ezekiel 37:34 indicate that King David will be resurrected and given rulership over Israel again, and the twelve apostles will judge the twelve tribes, according to Matt 19:28.

So that means that authority in the Kingdom of God could be represented something like this:

Of course, physical humanity might be represented as mere pinpricks, with authority over nothing.

Cross-section: 1 Timothy (Part 10) – Yod

The systematic cross-section of 1 Timothy continues with Yod.

For a much more in-depth reference on numerical themes and how they correspond to the twenty-two Hebrew letters and are expressed on every level throughout Scripture (even in the books written in Greek), please see the original Bible Wheel book and site. Note that not every verse will thematically carry its numerical theme, but overall, the patterns are clear. If a verse doesn’t thematically carry it, and sometimes even if it does, it tends to have a secondary numerical characteristic that connects, which will also be noted.

Yod – Tenth letter of the Hebrew Alef-bet. Symbolizes hands, works, power, praise, possession, fear of the Lord.

In 1 Timothy, there are six yod verses: the tenth verse of each chapter. Yod is specifically notable in 1 Timothy because as the 54th book of the Bible, 1 Timothy is the third cycle’s book on the yod spoke of the Wheel, and the yod themes are very clear in each of the tenth verses.

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719: The Beginning of Wisdom

The Hebrew word for “beginning” is reshit (H7225), which is best known for being part of the very first word of Scripture, b’reshit, in Genesis 1:1. That word is also the Hebrew name for the whole book of Genesis, which is therefore sometimes called the Book of Beginnings. It’s also the name of the first portion of Scripture in the Jewish cycle of annual readings, read on the Sabbath following the last Holy Day after the Feast of Tabernacles (which was yesterday). While the year “begins” in a civil sense on the Feast of Trumpets and in a religious sense at Passover, the time after the fall feast season ends is a new beginning in the sense of a time to begin applying the wisdom learned during the Holy Days.

There are two places in Scripture that contain the exact phrase, “the beginning of wisdom”: Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10. Both of these are the tenth verse in their chapter. Psalm 111:10 says in full, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” The verse doesn’t directly mention the commandments; it’s just a way in English to fill in the grammatical phrase. But the emphasis is on actively doing, which is the main theme of the tenth letter (yod). In other words, the idea is that wisdom is not just something one knows, but something one does.

The Greek equivalent for “beginning” is the word arche (G0746), which first occurs in Luke 20:20, but one very interesting occurrence is in John 1:2, which says, “The same was in the beginning with God.” The context is the Word who became the Messiah existing with God the Father before the beginning of all things. The value of arche by itself is 709, but with the iota subscript, as in this verse, its value is 719, which is a prime number. The value of the entire verse, however, is 2876, which is exactly 4 x 719. There are five other verses with this total verse value, but this is the only one that is an exact multiple of one of its words like this.

In addition, there is exactly one verse that has a total verse value of 719 itself, Proverbs 15:20, which says, “A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.” It’s another verse about wisdom, although the word is not the same one used in the “beginning of wisdom” verses mentioned previously. Besides the literal meaning, children of God who seek wisdom make their Heavenly Father glad because they will fear Him.

There’s another verse that is connected numerically, because it has a total value of 7190, or 10 x 719. That verse is James 4:10: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” Not only is the verse value a multiple of ten, but it too is the tenth verse in its chapter. While this verse is about humility rather than wisdom, there is still a connection. Proverbs 22:4 says, “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.” This verse brings the subject full circle back to the fear of the Lord. Ultimately, all wisdom and humility come from properly fearing and revering the Father of all and the Messiah.

Cross-section: 1 Timothy (Part 9) – Tet

The systematic cross-section of 1 Timothy continues with Tet.

For a much more in-depth reference on numerical themes and how they correspond to the twenty-two Hebrew letters and are expressed on every level throughout Scripture (even in the books written in Greek), please see the original Bible Wheel book and site. Note that not every verse will thematically carry its numerical theme, but overall, the patterns are clear. If a verse doesn’t thematically carry it, and sometimes even if it does, it tends to have a secondary numerical characteristic that connects, which will also be noted.

Tet – Ninth letter of the Hebrew Alef-bet. Symbolizes good (vs evil), fruit, taste, twisting, the serpent, deceit/lies, falling short.

In 1 Timothy, there are six tet verses: the ninth verse of each chapter.

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Cross-section: 1 Timothy (Part 8) – Chet

The systematic cross-section of 1 Timothy continues with Chet.

For a much more in-depth reference on numerical themes and how they correspond to the twenty-two Hebrew letters and are expressed on every level throughout Scripture (even in the books written in Greek), please see the original Bible Wheel book and site. Note that not every verse will thematically carry its numerical theme, but overall, the patterns are clear. If a verse doesn’t thematically carry it, and sometimes even if it does, it tends to have a secondary numerical characteristic that connects, which will also be noted.

Chet – Eighth letter of the Hebrew Alef-bet. Symbolizes a fence or wall, life, grace or mercy, renewal, binding together.

In 1 Timothy, there are six chet verses: the eighth verse of each chapter.

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Cross-section: 1 Timothy (Part 7) – Zayin

The systematic cross-section of 1 Timothy continues with Zayin.

For a much more in-depth reference on numerical themes and how they correspond to the twenty-two Hebrew letters and are expressed on every level throughout Scripture (even in the books written in Greek), please see the original Bible Wheel book and site. Note that not every verse will thematically carry its numerical theme, but overall, the patterns are clear. If a verse doesn’t thematically carry it, and sometimes even if it does, it tends to have a secondary numerical characteristic that connects, which will also be noted.

Zayin – Seventh letter of the Hebrew Alef-bet. Symbolizes a weapon, judgment, perfection, completion, rest, remember, consider.

In 1 Timothy, there are six zayin verses: the seventh verse of each chapter. 1 Timothy’s numerical themes emphasize 6 and 10, which means some other numbers like 7 aren’t as strong. The chapter themes really color the way zayin is expressed in this book.

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