On the Road to Emmaus, Jesus told “the things concerning himself” “beginning at Moses” (Luke 24:27). Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. So open your Bibles to Genesis 1:1 and look for the Messiah. There he is – do you see it? Jesus is all over the very first word in the Bible. Of course, it isn’t so easy to see in our English translations, so let’s look at the word as the original Hebrew readers did.
Hebrew is a much more detailed language than English. Every single letter has a meaning. You can look at the various letters that make up a word, and the meaning of each individual letter will tell you more about that word.
The word translated “in the beginning” is the Hebrew word pronounced “berasheet”, spelled in Hebrew bet, resh, aleph, shin, yod, tav. (That corresponds to the English b, r, a, s, y, t.) We’ll look at each letter individually.
The first letter is bet, which means house. But you’ll find something interesting in the way the scribes write the first bet – they write it much larger than the other letters. Now to an English reader, that might just appear to be the way the letter is capitalized, just as we capitalize the first letter of a sentence. But to a Hebrew reader, that tells them that the meaning of the letter should be magnified. The letter bet means house, so to magnify it, we would say it is the house of God. The letter bet at the beginning of a word means “in”. Here the bet is attached to the word “resheet” which means first, beginning, or first born. So the word picture is “the firstborn in the house of God”. Maybe you’re already seeing a hint of the Messiah, but keep reading, as we’ve barely scratched the surface. It has been said that there are Hebrew scholars who can spend their entire life studying just this first word of Scripture.
The second letter is resh, which means head. The letters bet and resh spell the Hebrew word that translates into English as “son”. Here is a second indication in this word pointing to a son, and that he will be at the head of the house.
The next letter is aleph, and it means ox, strength, or leader. These first three letters, bet, resh, and aleph spell the Hebrew word for “created” which happens to be the second word in the Hebrew Scriptures. So now, in the first three letters of Scripture, added to “house of God” and “son” we see the act of creation.
The next letter in the word beresheet is shin, which means destroy, or consume. It also is used to signify the El Shaddai name of God, translated into English as God Almighty. The letter shin appears on the mezuzah that is often placed at the doorway of Hebrews, and serves to show that the household is observant to the Almighty God, and that El Shaddai is welcomed in that home.
The third and fourth letters in the word beresheet form the Hebrew word spelled aleph shin, which is the word for fire, heat, or wrath, such as a consuming fire. The last two letters in beresheet are yod, which means hand, and tav, which means sign or cross. Of course, we know whose hands were nailed to the cross.
Jesus told his disciples he was the alpha and omega, which are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Considering that he was Hebrew, as were his disciples, it is more likely that he spoke to them in Hebrew, telling them that he was the aleph and tav, the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Aleph means strength, and tav means cross, so together they mean “the strength of the cross”.
Putting all of this together, the first word of Scripture can be expounded upon to mean something to the effect of “The firstborn son is going to build (create) the house of God. He will be the head of the house, a consuming fire, the almighty God, with God, whose hands are on the cross, who is the strength of the cross.”
If you ever have an opportunity to try to share Jesus as the Messiah to a Jewish believer, perhaps starting with the very first word in the Torah is the best place to begin.
To study this word from another angle, please also click here.