Generations: toledot (Strong’s 8435)
Hebrew spelling: תּוֹלְדוֹת (tav, vav, lamed, dalet, vav tav).
Sounds like: tole-dowt.
I love reading and learning Hebrew Scripture, but it is not the only thing I do. I’m also a big fan of researching genealogies. I love diving into family history and helping others do the same. This week is the PEI Genealogy Fair, taking place on April 28th in Charlottetown [shameless plug!], of which I am on the planning committee. So, naturally, I love that genealogy is Biblical. In fact, we can point to the roots of the study of genealogy back to ancient Hebrew culture. Genealogies, censuses, and archival practises all have their roots in Jewish history.
That being said, in this posting we are going to take a slightly different approach, looking at the word, and spelling of, toledot.
The Oddities of the Hebrew Language
The word toledot shows up 39 times in the Tenakh: thirteen times in Genesis, three times in Exodus, thirteen times in Numbers, and nine times in 1st Chronicles, and once in the book of Ruth.
Toledot can be translated as either generations or genealogies. The first instance of this word in the Torah is:
These are the generations (תוֹלְד֧וֹת) of heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven.
In Hebrew, which reads from right to left, toledot is spelled tav-vav-dalet-lamed-vav-tav (תוֹלְד֧וֹת). Why point this out? Well, the Tenakh is very unique in that there are many weird anomalies that are found within the writing and spelling of words. And these oddities have not been edited out. Thankfully they have all been kept as believers have insisted that divinely inspired Scripture should be, in no way, altered or edited. If the Scriptures are divinely inspired then these little inconsistencies are meant to be where they are.
What are these “inconsistencies”? Well, there are many examples of extra tiny sized letters within normal sized words. There are instances of extra large letters dropped into words. Sometimes letters are suspended above the word. In one instance there is a broken letter, and there are a few instances where the letter nun is written backwards. Contained within each of these instances is relatable, visual, spiritual lessons. It is another way of finding significance within the text. Unfortunately none of these are visible in English translation, so we tend to miss these interesting little lessons.
For this reason spelling “mistakes” within the original text should be carefully considered. This is why the word toledot is worth exploring.
Why Spelling Matters
So, the first time we see toledot it is a six letter word book-ended by the letters tav and vav, and the letters lamed and dalet in the middle.
However after Genesis 2:4 is the story of the Fall of Man found in Genesis 3, which puts a break between God and humanity. From this point on every single time we see the word toledot it is missing a vav (and sometimes both vavs), until one crucial point in Jewish history when the vav returns to the word. (More on that, later).
So the second time we see toledot in the Torah is:
This is the book of the generations (תּוֹלְדֹ֖ת) of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.
What is the significance of the missing vav? To delve into that question we must take a closer look at the Hebrew alphabet.
There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and each letter holds a pictorial image and a corresponding number. Before the Hebrew alphabet began using the Aramaic lettering, which they adopted during the Babylonian captivity, the Hebrew letters were pictographic.
The Hebrew language began with a picture alphabet, much like their neighbours in Egypt who used hieroglyphics. Each letter was a picture so that every letter in a word was a visual symphony that explained the meaning.
For example: tears… dimah (dalet-mem-ayin-hey). The letter dalet was represented as a picture of a door. The letter mem looked like waves and represented water. The letter ayin represented eyes and the letter hey looked like a little man with his arms raised saying ‘look here!’, ‘behold’ or ‘revealed’. So, doorway, water, eyes, look were put together to represent tears. Each picture had a sound attached to it di-muh-ah. So dimah was a doorway from which water was revealed from the eyes. Those four picture letters were put together to represent tears.
Original pictographic Hebrew is utterly amazing as it is the only language that is both pictographic and phonetic. Each letter was a picture AND a sound. English is phonetic. We sound out the letters and in our mind we picture what it is. Apple is made up of the sounds a-p-l. We sound it out and see the image of an apple in our head. In modern picture languages (such as Chinese characters and Japanese kanji) there is a picture and what it sounds like is memorized in the brain. But in ancient Hebrew each letter made a sound (phonics) and each letter-picture combined together to make a composite, multi-picture, word.
In the word toledot it is the letter vav that requires careful consideration. The picture corresponding to the letter vav is a hook or a nail. To visually make the point, the leftter vav is used for the English word ‘and’.
Rather than giving ‘and’ its own special word, the Hebrew language just adds a vav to the beginning of the second word in the ‘and’ grouping. For example:
My help comes from YHWH who made heaven and-earth (shamayim wa-aretz ).
This is the verse in Hebrew (reading from right to left). YHWH is in blue, the vav is in red:
עֶ֭זְרִי מֵעִ֣ם יְהוָ֑ה עֹ֝שֵׂ֗ה שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָֽרֶץ
Basically the vav nails, or hooks, the two words together.
The original, six letter, word toledot had the following pictographs:
By removing the second vav, there is a break between the door to the shepherd and the Covenant. It is a nail that reconnects us to the Covenant.
What is the significance here? Jesus was nailed on the cross to fulfill the God’s plan and issue in the New Covenant promised in the Tenakh (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
He [Yeshua] was handed over by God’s set plan and foreknowledge, and you, by the hands of the lawless, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, releasing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for Him to be held in its clutches.
As interesting as it is that the vav represents a nail, and the nail was the tool used to connect Jesus to the cross, there is another aspect to the vav which may give us hints as to why the vav goes missing in the word toledot.
Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet also has a numeric value. The letter vav is the 6th letter of the aleph-bet and, not surprisingly, stood for the number six. Within the Biblical narrative, it was on the 6th day that man was created. For this reason many associate the letter vav with man or mankind. It is interesting, therefore, that after the fall of man, a vav goes missing. The letter that represents man has fallen out of the word.
For the purpose of scholarship here is the list of the 39 times toledot shows up in the Tenakh: (It’s a lot of words. I won’t be offended if you want to skip ahead).
Genesis 2:4- both vavs are in the word- Generations of heaven and earth
Genesis 5:1- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Adam
Genesis 6:9- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Noah
Genesis 10:1- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Shem
Genesis 10:32- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Noah
Genesis 11:10- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Shem
Genesis 11:27- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Terah
Genesis 25:12- missing BOTH vavs- Genealogy of Ishmael
Genesis 25:13- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Ishmael
Genesis 25:19- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Isaac
Genesis 36:1- missing 1st vav- Genealogy of Esau
Genesis 36:9- missing 1st vav- Genealogy of Esau
Genesis 37:2- missing 1st vav- Genealogy of Jacob
Exodus 6:16- missing BOTH vavs- Genealogy of the sons of Levi
Exodus 6:19- missing BOTH vavs- Genealogy of the sons of Levi
Exodus 28:10- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of the sons of Israel
Numbers 1:20- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Reuben
Numbers 1:22- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Simeon
Numbers 1:24- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Gad
Numbers 1:26- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Judah
Numbers 1:28- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Issachar
Numbers 1:30- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Zebulun
Numbers 1:32- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Ephraim
Numbers 1:34- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Manasseh
Numbers 1:36- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Benjamin
Numbers 1:38- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Dan
Numbers 1:40- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Asher
Numbers 1:42- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Naphtali
Numbers 3:1- missing 2nd vav- Genealogy of Aaron
1 Chronicles 1:29- missing 1st vav- Genealogy of the sons of Abraham, Isaac & Ishmael
1 Chronicles 5:7- missing 1st vav- Genealogy of Reuben
1 Chronicles 7:2- missing 1st vav- Genealogy of Issachar
1 Chronicles 7:4- missing 1st vav- Genealogy of Issachar
1 Chronicles 7:9- missing 1st vav- Genealogy of Benjamin
1 Chronicles 8:28- missing 1st vav- Genealogy of Benjamin
1 Chronicles 9:9- missing 1st vav- Genealogy of people of Jerusalem
1 Chronicles 9:34- missing 1st vav- Genealogy of people of Jerusalem
1 Chronicles 26:31- missing BOTH vavs- Genealogy of the Hebronites
Ruth 4:18- both vavs are returned to the word- Genealogy of Perez, and Boaz & Ruth’s descendants
Suddenly, after all those misspellings, the word returns to its original spelling found in Genesis 2:4, and it comes at a crucial point. It is at the genealogy of Ruth’s descendants… a genealogy that leads from her son, Obed, to King David and all the way down throughout the ages to Yeshua (Jesus). The 2nd vav, which represents the man and the nail, is returned to the generations.
Ruth 4:13b-15, 18
And YHWH enabled her [Ruth] to conceive, and she gave birth to a son [Obed]. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is YHWH who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him…”
…Now these are the generations (תוֹלְד֧וֹת) of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab, and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon, and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed, and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David.
Biblically, all descendants are considered your sons and daughters. Although it is Obed that is born to Ruth, the Redeemer, Restorer, and Sustainer prophetically speaks to the Messiah that comes through the line of Ruth, and her grandson David. The vav is restored to the word generations in Ruth’s line because it is Yeshua that re-seals the break in the covenant. He is the Restorer and the Redeemer. Yeshua, referred to as the Son of Man and the Son of God, is the Messiah. The restoration of the proper spelling of the word generations is part of His identification.
The Genealogy of Yeshua
The very first thing we read in the New Testament/New Covenant (B’rit Chadashah) the genealogy of Yeshua. The Jewish people, today, refer to the New Testament as the B’rit Chadashah (chadashah means “new” and b’rit means “covenant”). Although they do not accept the validity of this collection of books, they continue to refer to it as the New Covenant. Many Jewish people who dare to open the book are often surprised to find the opening words:
This is the record of the genealogy of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ), the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king.
This is a Jewish book, with a Jewish Messiah with a Jewish genealogy. Ruth, although born a Moabite, adopted the Jewish faith. Yeshua’s mother was a devout Jew who would have raised her son in the traditions of the Jewish faith. When Mariam (Mary) discovers her unique pregnancy she sings a magnificent song, (notice how it highlights the word generation):
Then Mary (Mariam) said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour!
For He has looked with favour on the humble state of His servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His name.
His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation.
Mariam knows that she will be considered blessed by all generations because of this baby that she carries insider her. It is this little infant that extends mercy to all people, Jews and Gentiles. From that point on humanity has a Saviour. The fall of Man removed a vav from the generations, but the Messiah IS the missing vav. His presence on earth fulfilled God’s promise to all people on earth.
Paul: I became a servant, by the commission God gave me, to fully proclaim to you the word of God, the mystery that was hidden for ages and generations is now revealed to His saints…
Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled God’s Covenant so that all the mysteries embedded in the Old Testament (including the word toledot) could now be fully revealed. He is the Messiah, the final key that makes sense of all the prophetic statements revealed in the Tenakh.
This is what makes the Hebrew language so special. It has layers and layers of meaning. Like a delightful puzzle that we may never completely sort out. But dive deep enough, with sincerity and humility, and the mysteries of God, once hidden, can now be revealed. Seek the key to knowledge and you may discover the mysteries for yourself!
Yeshua is the Messiah for all generations. He is our Redeemer, our Restorer of life, our Sustainer in old age, and the King of all genealogies! Blessed be He!
Next week: knowledge