The Heh in Abraham’s Name
The “Heh” v in Abraham’s and Sarah’s Names
From Parsha Lech Lecha
Scripture informs us that YHVH Elohim visited Abram five times and on the fifth visitation gave Abram a new name, Abraham. This is the first mention of any human receiving a new name in Scripture, and because of its uniqueness; we should look to see if there is a deeper lesson to learn from this event for it was this fifth visitation of G-d that introduced to us the theme of grace.
This fifth visitation represented by the number 5 has long been recognized as the number associated with grace. Five then represents the primary attribute of redemption. A formula you might use to demonstrate and remember this is that the Father represents 1, the Son represents 2, and the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) correspond to 3 different aspects of YHVH Elohim. The number 4 represents the world system characterized by humanities weakness. The formula 4+1=5, YHVH‘s omnipotence added to the weakness of humanities impotence signifies G-d’s unmerited favor bestowed upon a fallen humanity by forgiveness and redemption.
We might also note that G-d’s fifth appearance corresponds with the fifth Hebrew letter “heh.” When G-d changed Avram’s name to Abraham, he inserted the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the “heh,” into the middle of Abram’s name, forever imprinting upon Abraham the quality of G-d’s grace. In Judaism, the “heh” is also the numeral five, representing grace, but it is also the letter that represents YHVH Elohim. This represents G-d’s action in the world; literally, the “heh” becomes a witness to the Divine’s work among us. When standing alone, it is also a word meaning “Behold.” When we read this epithet in our English translations we see that the action following originates from YHVH. Be it a matter of unmerited favor (grace) or pronouncement of some punishment that G-d metes out or intends to mete out; “Heh” translated in English as “Behold” or “lo” is a symbol of divine action.
At the same time, that G-d changed Abram’s name to Abraham He also changed Sarai’s name (meaning a chief, governor or leader as a masculine form) to Sarah, which means “Princess.” Her name change from Sarai to Sarah was also accomplished by the adding of a “heh” as a suffix. It is interesting to note that when the “heh” is added to the end of a word it illustrates the feminine ideal of gentleness, loving affection and devotion. In this, she too bears the mark of G-d’s grace, because before her name change Sarai bore the masculine form of this word and she was unable to bear children as a male cannot bear children, but the adding of the “heh” feminized her name therefore opening her womb and Isaac was born. As Sarai, she was unfruitful but with the addition of the suffix “heh” (G-d’s grace) as Sarah, she becomes fertile. Truly, it suggests she was elevated to a princess as Sarah denotes, in the feminine form, contrary to the masculine status inferred by her previous name in the masculine form. In a real sense she has become the matriarch of the entire redeemed world.
Inclusive with our understanding of the “heh” that represents G-d and His grace we also read in the Parsha at the fifth visitation of G-d to Abraham the introduction of the name El Shaddai. This name of G-d is usually translated G-d Almighty. Yet, little known is that it also carries within the name “the breasted one,” that informs us of the feminine attributes attached to the name. El Shaddai implies all-sufficiency, but it also implies never-ending loving providence, the principal characteristic of grace. It is the proper name for grace. However, even before Abram and his change of name to Abraham G-d introduced this doctrine of grace in Genesis (Bereshit) 2:4. Let me read:
Gen 2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that YHVH Elohim made the earth and the heavens…
Unfortunately, it is not evident in the English translations we have, but in the original Hebrew text, we see that the Hebrew word behibaram, a phrase, meaning, “when they were created,” contains a miniature “heh.” This marks G-d’s work of grace at the very beginning and designates the beginning of G-d’s plan of salvation. In Deuteronomy 32:6 where YHVH is speaking of a corrupt and degenerate generation we find an enlarged “Heh,” that appears as the first letter in the phrase “Do ye thus requite,” or in modern English “compensate…” and we will explore more on that a little later. However, in this Song of Moshe, we find him prophesizing about Israel in the latter days, and five times in the song, Moshe refers to the Rock, a euphemism for YHVH/Yahshua. Again the number of grace.
Let me read this passage:
Deu 32:6 Do ye thus requite (compensate) YHVH, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?
This bookmark signified by an enlarged “heh,” is interpreted to signify YHVH’s tempering of Grace with Judgment. It is suggestive of the Sefirot (the spheres) found in the kabalistic “Tree of Life.’ Those of Chesed and Gevurah: Loving kindness (grace/chesed) and Gevurah (strength/judgment), and how they compliment and balance each other in G-d’s dealing with humanity.
The question in modern English this verse at 32:6 asks: “Is this how you repay YHVH?” The enlarged “heh” is a signpost to this unanswerable question for it is a rhetorical question accusing Israel of apostasy, in the face of divine providence, and it signals that grace will be tempered with judgment. That it applies to the Israel of today is evident for Israel is largely secular and in the hands of the socialists. She has not returned to the Israel of her fathers. Therefore, it is appropriate that this question comes just before Israel’s final battle, for the “Song of Moshe” is a prophetic judgment of Israel in the time of “Jacob’s trouble.” Even so, by G-d’s grace, this deserved judgment will be followed by a momentous victory brought about by Divine intervention, and the Age of the Kingdom will result with the exhalation of Israel as the premier nation of this earth.
Historically, Israel has had the five books of Moshe, the Torah to guide them, the fivefold Rock to defend them and the mark of the “heh” is Abraham’s and Sarah’s names validating that the covenant of Grace is still in effect. Furthermore, the signposts of the enlarged and small “ heh” are in G-d’s word at the beginning and at the end of Torah to remind them of G-d’s graciousness.
In 1948, YHVH Elohim began returning His people to the Land He had given them (Deu 30:5), and though Israel will still endure punishment for their apostasy we see that the final mark of the “heh” found in Deuteronomy 32:6, assures Israel of G-d’s on going providence of grace in action. Furthermore, the addition of the “heh” incorporated into Abraham and Sarah’s name emphasizes to this generation the fact that G-d’s covenant with Abraham is a covenant of grace. However, we are not to be amazed that the combination of the small “heh” with the large “heh” foretells that Israel’s redemption will be loving kindness tempered with strong judgment. As we know that is the calling of all believers to experience the refining fire that develops us into genuine faithful children of G-d. In closing let me reiterate that these “heh’s” call attention to the fact of G-d’s impending divine action that will eventually work out divine redemption for all Israel.