Jots & Tittles: A Closer Look at a Little Bit of Hebrew

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, He spoke into the chaos in order to bring the universe into being. His first recorded words are: ‘Let there be light.’ (Genesis 1:3 KJV)

At least, that’s how we report what He said in English. Just four words. There are even less in the original Hebrew: These two words are ‘yehi ׳owr’ which, translated into English, are more like: ‘Be, light!’ or ‘Exist, light!’

Now, an apology (but not much of one) for the following lesson in English grammar. If you’ve studied a foreign language, you might know a bit about the verb ‘to be’ and how it is conjugated. But if you haven’t, you’ve probably only noticed this when someone from another country says something like ‘you is late’ instead of ‘you are late’ or ‘we am waiting’ instead of ‘we are waiting’. If you’ve been speaking English all your life, you instinctively know the way the following pronouns and verbs match up:

I + AM

Now, notice that ‘I am’ is the first of the ‘to be’ sequence. But as it so happens, ‘I AM’ is one of the names of God.

So we can see that the very first word God spoke when He was creating the universe—‘Be!’—actually came from His own name. He not only fashioned the heavens and the earth, He introduced Himself to His creation by name.

His second word connects His name to ‘light’. Jesus said, ‘I am the Light of the World.’ (John 8:12 NIV) That word, ‘world’, is actually ‘kosmos’—and refers to the entire universe.

Look closely at His words:

They go right back to the very creation of the universe when God said, ‘Yehi, ׳owr!’ So Jesus was claiming to be the ‘I AM’, the ever-existing one who created all things. And both His friends and His enemies knew it. Some believed it—some did not.

What about you? Do you believe Jesus is the great ‘I AM’?

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