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

Eben meaning stone

There aren’t many prophecies about Jesus that get repeated by both Peter and Paul in their letters. One of them is the mysterious verse: ‘Therefore this is what the Lord God says: “Look! I am laying a foundation stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation: Whoever believes firmly will not act hastily.”’ (Isaiah 28:16 ISV)

Now because Paul quotes this in Ephesians 2:20 and Peter mentions it in 1 Peter 2:6, most commentaries confine themselves to pointing out it’s all about looking forward to the coming of Jesus.

This avoids the strangeness of it all. So both Peter and Paul saw this verse that keeps mentioning a stone and apparently they immediately thought: ‘Aha! Stone! It’s so so so so obviously Jesus!’

Yeah. Well, right. Do you see the word stone repeated and think Jesus to yourself? Maybe you do. Maybe you’ve been brought up in church and the words kind of naturally fit together. But Peter and Paul didn’t have the benefit of two thousand years of Christian teaching. They were among the first Christians and had to figure it out for themselves.

So what did they see that we miss?

Well, there is an amazing set of clues hidden in the Hebrew word for stone. It’s ‘eben’ and it’s spelled אבן. Now the ancient Israelites had a special understanding of this word. They saw that it was made up of two overlapping words: one was ‘ab’, אב father, and the other was ‘ben’, בן son.

The overlap of the two words was the letter B or ב, which signified a house.

So the special hidden meaning of stone for Peter and Paul was this: father and son living in the same house. Since Isaiah prophesied this would be in Zion, it was about the temple in Jerusalem—the Father and the Son together, as One, in the House of the Lord.

Jesus said that He was one with the Father (John 17:22) and He wanted us to be the same too. That’s why Peter calls us ‘living stones’ in the verse just before he quotes the prophecy of Isaiah. Because, when we’ve decided to follow Jesus, we become the children of God living together with Him in His house.

About the author

Anne Hamilton

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