In ancient civilizations like the Chinese, Sumerians, Babylonians, and Egyptians, the name for God has been written with pictograms, where the pictures not only meant God, but had a certain secondary meaning. Have Jews over the centuries seen a similar meaning in the letters making up God's name, Yahweh? To give an example, the Babylonians used the Sumerian cuneiform for the word "deity", which they wrote in the form of a single eight pointed star: Scholars say that this Sumerian symbol has a secondary meaning of brightness, shining, height (eg. the stars being high up), and the heavens. Of course, the ancient Israelites used a phonetic alphabet like Greek, rather than a simple pictoral script, like Chinese. However, the Hebrews developed their script out of an originally pictoral one. For example, the letter aleph was drawn like the head of an ox. Here is a chart showing the development of Hebrew letters: http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/files/alphabet_chart.gif Joel Hoffman in his book "In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Alphabet" notes that Hebrew was unique among ancient alphabets of its time in that included vowels like Y,H, and W. He claims that due to the invention of these letters the Hebrews chose to give them special treatment, like adding the H in Abram (Abraham), Sarai (changed to Sarah) and Elym (changed to Elohim, meaning God). He quotes the schema from Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God (elhym), the Lord is One", and he comments: Spoiler: Click here for the excerpt from Hoffman's article According to Deuteronomy, the way they are to make sure they do not forget this statement is both by repeating it but also significantly by writing it down. ... A picture thus emerges that ties monotheism to writing. ... the vowel letters may have been invented by scribes for the purpose of making it easier for the masses to write. Perhaps what the scribes wanted the masses to write was nothing less than the central creeds of the emerging Judaism. A religious leader... may have realized that writing was central to spreading the word of God. And vowels were central to letting people read and write. In one short paragraph we find the name of the one member of the Hebrew god-set as marked by the letter heh, and the instruction to write down the creed that the Lord is in fact one. [The word YHWH is] amazing in its connection to the vowel letters invented by the Hebrews, for it contains nothing but those letters... While many modern names for God have come from trying to pronounce these letters... traditional Judaism teaches that the original pronunciation of this name for God has been forgotten. ... there is in fact a traditional pronunciation associated with that word; but it seems not to come from the letters in the word. In Jewish tradition, yhwh is pronounced adonai... But clearly, yhwh does not spell adonai. He proposes on this basis that the reason why YHWH was chosen for God's name Is it true that the Hebrew letters like Heh were not part of any other alphabet of its time, like Egyptian hieroglyphics? It seems likely to me that such sounds would exist in ancient Egyptian letters too. In any case, my next point is that the Hebrews gave their drawn letters secondary meanings beyond their simple phonetic value. "Shin" is sometimes drawn with four prongs instead of three, one such case being its use on the Tefilim. God's name has special mystical and spiritual significance in Judaism too. This is shown by how the divine name was considered so sacred that there was a Jewish tradition of writing Adonai (The Lord) instead of the divine name, called the Tetragrammaton (meaning "the four letters"). The literal meaning of the spoken name, Yahweh, is considered commonly to be "The existing one". Another name found given to Moses in the Torah is "Am I who I am". Yitzhaq Hayut-man comments about the meaning of YHWH: Spoiler: Click here for his comments The meaning of this name has to do with Existence, Being and Becoming. It is the summation of the expression HaYaH HoWeH WeYiHiYeH – “Was-Is&Will Be”. ... We may mention here that these three letters [Y H W] are the softest and most subtle Hebrew letters and are more vowels than consonants (in Hebrew there are no vowel letters as such). This Name is thus a wonderful medium for subtle meditations. ... Jews avoid uttering this name and substitute it with ADoNaY (“my Master”). At most, some intersperse in prayer the 4 letters of YHWH with the four letters of ADoNaY... The Name of YHWH is used, however, by Hebrew mystics in contemplation, using the scores of permutations of letters of this Name with different vowels. ... The changing of the Hebrew fonts to the square “Assyrian” script (Ketav Ashuri) has added a visual-geometric meaning to the letters of the Name. The letter Y’od ? is seen as a point, the letter W’aw ? as a line, and the letter H’e ? as surface – or a volume. This geometrical view can serve to contemplate the Name of YHWH as the key for moving in five-dimensional space. Footnote: This letter [I think Yitzhaq means the Hebrew Heh] is made of two lines as an angle (forming a surface) and one line that is separate from them. It may be regarded as perpendicular to that surface, thus denoting a 3D volume http://israelseen.com/2011/10/22/semantic-insights-for-genesis-1-bereshith/ What do you think about the underlined idea about how YHWH in Assyrian script points to multidimensional space? There was also a tradition that the written name itself had spiritual or mystical significance. In one of the Jewish traditions dated at least to the Middle Ages Solomon or David had a seal or amulet with supernatural powers that in some versions of the tale included the Tetragrammaton inscribed on it. As I understand it, the four letters are: Yod, H, Waw, H Yod = Nail / Hook, was originally drawn as one, and still looks like one. H = Behold / Look / Window and was drawn like a man with his arms raised Waw = Arm and was originally drawn like one After the Assyrian conquest, the Hebrew alphabet switched to the modern one, called the Assyrian or Ashurite script, so the letters' appearance in the modern alphabet changed. A website on the Phoenician alphabet says that ancient Hebrew letters corresponded to ancient Phoenician ones, and that the ancient Jews found it important to write Yahweh as YHWH. Due to their reverence for it, there was even a practice of writing Yahweh's name in the original ancient "Middle Hebrew"/Phoenician script, rather than in the modern "Assyrian" alphabet: The Phoenician website above points to this text from Qumran that retained the Middle Hebrew (what it calls "Phoenician") spelling: So this original spelling in the earlier letters remained important. This leads to my main question is whether in Jewish tradition there have been proposals to the meaning for the Tetragrammaton's letters when written out like an acronym. Yitzhaq Hayut-Man drew this combination of the letters of YHWH in modern Assyrian script and finds secret meaning in them: He comments: Spoiler: Click here for his writing The Name of YHWH as a Multidimensional Ladder According to the Book of Proverbs (18:10) "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runs into it, and is exalted". This means that the very name of YHWH is a kind of a tower or a ladder that stands between heaven and earth and lifts whoever contemplates it up to spiritual situation of the righteous and exalted, one who sojourns in the higher worlds. Indeed, the Name (HaShem) of YHWH serves in the Qabbalah as a map of the worlds – where the lower H (He ה) is the bottom edge and the top tip point of the first letter Y (Yod י) is the point of contact with the highest world. http://www.global-report.com/thehope/a82-1-b-worlds-multidimensions-of-genesis OK, I can see that someone can line the letters up like that, because the yod, as the first letter, can be put on top as the top letter, the heh right under it, etc. So you can make this graphical rearrangement of the Assyrian letters tomake them look like a person, although that does not show what the acronym is. To find or use the potential acronym, you would need to look at what each letter by itself stands for. In any case, he makes the case for a graphical geometric meaning based on the letters' shapes and arrangements: Spoiler: click here to read Yitzhaq's theory Yet the three Hebrew letters that comprise the Tetragrammaton (the four-lettered Shem YHWH) can be conceived (for example, as done by Qabbalah teacher Yitshaq Ginsburg) as representing the geometrical concepts of Point (י), Line (ו) and surface (ה). IF so, it is possible to regard the "tower" of the Name (haShem) of YHWH as constituting the geometrical representations of the letters, which combine together into the following geometrical structure: The lower H (ה) is the surface upon earth, upon which the tower of haShem is situated. The W (ו) is conceived as the line that is perpendicular to that base surface. The upper H (ה) would be regarded as a surface – namely two dimensions – that is perpendicular to the three-dimensional cubic space, and with these there forms a five-dimensional space, as is presented also in Sefer Yeẓirah. The Y (י) is, as noted, a point of contact for additional dimension(s), especially by means of its top tip, that represents the trend towards innumerable dimensions, or a point of contact with still higher worlds. While this geometrical understanding is based on the form of the Hebrew letters in the square (Ashuri) script, it is also valid to the original, round, form of the Hebrew letters. The letter H of the round letters represents a circle (or a ring between concentric circles). In this way, the tower would be in a form of a cylinder, whose top is surrounded by a dome that represents the two higher hyper-dimensions. I don't know what Yitzhak means with the part I underlined, since when I look at the chart for the original Hebrew letters I have trouble finding the circle for the Heh he is referring to. Here is the chart of the letters: http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/files/alphabet_chart.gif One of my challenges is that I don't see much in the Torah that would match a concept combining the three images in what looks to be the acronym Nail, Behold, Hand/Arm, Behold. Serpents have nail-like teeth and in the story of the Israelites in the desert, Moses made a brass serpeant and when the Israelites looked at it, they were healed. (Num. 21) But serpents' arms are shriveled up. Some snakelike creatures have arms. ^This animal is a skink, not a snake. Skinks lack fangs. Click here for a skink skull: http://31.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mcg9ptcLTH1rjeer3o1_1280.jpg Not sure what animal this is. The only other references that come to mind about combined concepts of God, beholding, nails, and hands are in: The Torah mention about building the temple and tents with nails. Ecclesiastes 12:11 (the words of the wise from a shepherd - probably God - are like nails) Judges 5 (about gouging nails into a person's skull temples) Psalm 40 (about God gouging - in Hebrew "karah" - ears into the narrator, presumably so he can hear God's words. This could tie in to Judges 5) Psalm 22:15-17 (the narrator's enemies gouge - maybe karah again - his arms/hands with sharp instruments and stare and gaze at him, while the narrator prays for salvation) Zechariah 12:10 (God says: י וְשָׁפַכְתִּי עַל-בֵּית דָּוִיד וְעַל יוֹשֵׁב יְרוּשָׁלִַם, רוּחַ חֵן וְתַחֲנוּנִים, וְהִבִּיטוּ אֵלַי, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-דָּקָרוּ; וְסָפְדוּ עָלָיו, כְּמִסְפֵּד עַל-הַיָּחִיד) But there is no specific mention of hands/arms in Zech 12, unless you want to relate the piercing to the wounds between the hands in Zech 13:6. (And why else does Zech 13 mention the hands except as some cryptic reference?) At the end of Isaiah 52, the nations seem to look in amazement at the suffering, physically abused, atoning Servant who is disfigured beyond recognition as a man, and Isaiah asks rhetorically "To whom has the hand/arm of God been revealed?" This could tie in to Psalm 22 where the narrator says he is not a man. There is no specific mention of nails in Is.52 though.