Al (Aleph)
By Jeff A. Benner

Characteristics

Ancient Modern
Image Ox Head  
Meaning Strong, Power, Leader  
Name Al Aleph
Sound ah, eh Silent



History & Reconstruction

The original pictograph for this letter is a picture of an ox head - representing strength and power from the work performed by the animal. This pictograph also represents a chief or other leader. When two oxen are yoked together for pulling a wagon or plow, one is the older and more experienced one who leads the other. Within the clan, tribe or family the chief or father is seen as the elder who is yoked to the others as the leader and teacher.

The Modern name for this letter is aleph and corresponds to the Greek name alpha and the Arabic name aleph. The various meanings of this root are oxen, yoke and learn. Each of these meanings is related to the meanings of the pictograph . The root aleph () is an adopted root from the parent root el () meaning, strength, power and chief and is the probable original name of the pictograph .

The is a shepherd staff and represents authority as well as a yoke (see the letter Lam). Combined these two pictographs mean "strong authority". The chief or father is the "strong authority". The can also be understood as the "ox in the yoke". Many Near Eastern cultures worshipped the god , most commonly pronounced as "el" and depicted as a bull in carvings and statues. Israel chose the form of a calf (young bull) as an image of God at Mount Sinai showing their association between the word and the ox or bull. The word is also commonly used in the Hebrew Bible for God or any god.

The concept of the ox and the shepherd staff in the word has been carried over into modern times as the scepter and crown of a monarch, the leader of a nation.

These modern items are representative of the shepherd staff, an ancient sign of authority, and the horns of the ox, an ancient sign of strength.

In Modern Hebrew this letter is silent but was originally used as the vowel "a" as well as a glottal stop. The Greek letter "alpha" derived from the "aleph" is also used for the "a" sound.

The Early Semitic pictograph was simplified to and in the Middle Hebrew script and continued to evolve into the in the Late Hebrew script. The Modern Hebrew letter א developed out of the Late Semitic. The Middle Semitic was adopted by the Greeks to be the letter "A" and carried over into the Roman "A". The Middle Semitic script became the number "1" we use today.

Semitic Script Charts