Anything going on its belly, and anything going on all four, and all having many feet Leviticus 11:42
Belly - In the midpoint of the torah is the word “belly” (Hebrew gachon). At the very center of the torah, the midpoint letter is enlarged. If you were reading in Hebrew, you would see it like this (phonetically): al-gchon. This enlarged letter provides the scribe with an heuristic device to insure that there are precisely 152,402 letters before this “vav” (the name of the letter), and 152,402 letters after this “vav.” You might say, “Fascinating. But, so what? Who really cares how meticulous the scribes were in days without computers?” Just wait! There is a much deeper lesson here. Pay attention.
Hebrews consider the very letters of the Scripture inspired. That means that every letter carries the breath of God. None are accidental. None are trivial. This view of inspiration demands the utmost attention to detail, for if a man mishandles the actual words of God, how can he expect to be counted worthy in his obedience? It is a dangerous thing to be mistaken about exactly what God says. The first lesson is the need for absolute fidelity and meticulous care when it comes to transmitting God’s word. But that isn’t all.
When the Hebrew script is translated into English, or any other language, these variations in the text are lost. You might think that it really makes no difference because we aren’t scribes. But you would be wrong. You see, this little counting device is only one of many oddities in the Hebrew text. There are letters that are deliberately reversed, intentionally “broken”, enlarged, or diminished. There are usually stories behind these textual oddities. They add to the color of the document – and to its mystery. Not all are as innocuous as the enlarged “vav” at the belly of the torah.
Reflect of this for a moment. Perhaps you will feel the pang of shame that comes with treating God’s Word in such a cavalier manner as most of us do. We stuff a Bible into any open space on a bookshelf. We toss it in the backseat of the car on the way to church. We might even set a coffee cup on it. We show little respect for the words of the Lord of the universe. In fact, the dozens of translations that we commonly encounter might even contribute to this insult to God’s holy words. Of course, they intend to make the word more accessible, but in the process many of these translations make us feel as though we have just one more point of view about what God says. We don’t count the letters so we don’t see just how crucial every one of them is.
Ask yourself about your attitude toward the Scriptures. Are you so entranced by the words of the Creator that you could never imagine treated them in any way except with the utmost care and reverence? Does the Bible hold a place of honor in your life? Do you respect it for what it truly is – God’s breath in written form?
Maybe it’s time to reconsider what we can learn from such a simple thing as an enlarged letter in the torah. Maybe it’s time to stop treating the Bible like a book and start treating it like the receptacle of the Spirit.
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