Jots and Tittles: Beth

Bethlehem, Bethany, Bethel, Bethesda, Bethsaida, Bethphage and Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan—so many places in Scripture start with ‘beth’. And there’s lots more than just those seven just mentioned. They are just the common ones you might be likely to recognise. There’s also Beth Shean, Beth Shemesh, Beth Lebaoth, Beth Meon, Beth Ma’acah, Beth Peor, Beth Aven, Beth Horon, Beth Anath, Beth Barah, Beth Nimrah, Beth Jeshimoth and, well, you get the idea. There’s lots and lots and lots and more lots of them.

So just what does beth mean? Very simply it means house or tent or place. It’s a bit like ‘–ton’, meaning town, on the ends of names like Boston, Dayton, Kingston, Edmonton, Houston, Wellington, Washington and Southampton. Or like ‘–ville’, meaning town or city, in Nashville, Townsville, Jacksonville, Hicksville, Bourneville and dozens of others.

Bethlehem means house of bread or house of warfare. Bethany means house of dates or house of sorrow. Bethel means house of God. Bethesda means house of mercy. Bethsaida means house of fish or house of the hunter. Bethphage means house of figs.

‘Beth’ isn’t just a word meaning house or place. It actually comes from a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The first letter is ‘aleph’ and the second is ‘beth’—and if you run them together, you’ll actually see where our English word alphabet comes from.

Way back, these letters weren’t just random scribbles or shapes. They stood for things: ‘aleph’ stood for an ox and ‘beth’ stood for a tent. Now the shape of the letter beth might not look much like any modern tent but it represented the floor plan of an ancient dwelling. These were set up very carefully with the women protected in the inmost part of the tent and the men’s quarters closer to the door. There was a communal space as well.

It should be no surprise then that ‘beth’ also came to mean family. The ‘house of David’ meant the family descended from David, though most often it was used to mean the line of kings. The ‘house of Jacob’ meant the family descended from Jacob, which of course was all of the people of Israel.

In the letter to the Hebrews, God’s house is mentioned:

‘Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are His house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.’ (Hebrews 3:6 NIV)

And God’s house here means God’s family. We’re all part of His ‘beth’, if we’ve put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

About the author



Today’s Readings

Keep On

‘The testing of your faith produces perseverance.’ James 1:3 NIV Perseverance keeps you going when friends fail you, discouragement whispers, ‘Give up,’ and doubt says, ‘It can’t be done.’ It’s your anchor in life’s storms, your compass when you’re lost, and the tailwind that gets you up the next hill. James says, ‘The testing of your faith…

He Is Faithful

‘The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you.’ 2 Thessalonians 3:3 NIV Most of our worries can be summed up in two words: ‘What if?’ What if I lose my job… what if I lose my friend… what if I lose my car… what if I lose my money… the list is endless….

Today’s Readings

The Splat

‘Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’ Hebrews 12:1 NIV So there was this traveller who met a leadership expert somewhere along a bumpy backroad and asked him, ‘Where’s the highway to success?’ The expert didn’t speak but instead pointed to a place off in the far distance. The man, thrilled at the…

Today’s Readings

The First Move

‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Matthew 22:39 NIV Two of the most famous ‘marriage advice’ type of verses can shed some real light on how all relationships, not just the relationship between husband and wife, can work better: ‘Be considerate’ (1 Peter 3:7 NIV) and ‘Be worthy of respect.’ (1 Timothy 3:11 NIV) In any kind of relationship, it’s about growing an environment…

Today’s Readings

Fulfill Your Destiny

‘He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives.’ Luke 4:18 NKJV Michelangelo’s masterpiece David is in a gallery in Florence, Italy. Thousands of tourists wait for hours every day to get a glimpse. But many of them fail to notice the series of unfinished sculptures that line the corridor on the…

Today’s Readings

Recent Articles

Jots and Tittles: Hanukkah

Hanukkah—also known as the Festival of Lights or Feast of Dedication—is still celebrated today. It’s an annual event and it goes for eight days. It commemorates a great victory and a wondrous miracle.

Switchfoot: United Through Music

Being part of a successful band for twenty-four years is a rare achievement, but Chad Butler from Switchfoot has lived that reality. There have been many highlights over the years, and while he admits that the experience has been a gift, it’s also a wild ride.

The Sations

It was a quiet night in watching Netflix that prompted Dom, wife Laura and Dom’s sister Rachel to form their band, ‘The Sations.’ Dom says he and Laura wanted to try something different, so they invited Rachel to join them and decided to try writing a song.

Truth to Stand On

Leanna Crawford shares a bit of her journey and how God led her to becoming a singer and songwriter.

Donate to vision

Over 80% of our income is from the freewill gifts of wonderful people just like you.
So thank you for helping. Your generous support is 'Connecting Faith to Life'.