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Samekh: The Beginning and the End

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“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

Webster’s defines a “cycle” as being, “any complete round or recurring series.” It is also defined as, “a round of years or a recurring period of time, especially one in which certain events or phenomena repeat themselves in the same order and at the same intervals.” We see this type of “phenomena” everywhere we look for Nature itself, created as the expression of the one and only God, is imbued with cycles. The cyclical nature of things is so much a part of our lives, that we tend to take it for granted and overlook its importance. If you don’t think that is true, take another look at the face of your wristwatch. Notice that it is marking time with hands that go round and round - in cyclical fashion! Not only that, but notice that the end of one sixty-minute period is merely the beginning of another - and on and on it goes.

The fifteenth letter of the Hebrew alef-bet, samekh - written as a circle - is a picture of this concept. (In fact, the numerical value of this letter is sixty.) The circular form of the letter symbolizes the eternal nature of cycles and the inherit unity between beginning and end. In other words, samekh demonstrates how the end is not only tied to the beginning, but is itself the beginning of the next cycle. For instance, the life process is seen as a circle. First comes birth, then infancy, then childhood followed by adolescence. Adolescence gives way to adulthood which eventually leads to old age and finally death - the circle of life. Yet, as believers, we understand that physical death is merely the beginning of life in another realm.

You have heard it said that, “History repeats itself.” Well, it is true. History appears as an ever expanding circle within other circles, much like ripples in a pond. The circle - samekh - demonstrates that wherever you go and whatever happens, you ultimately return to the beginning point. The Bible itself validates this concept in many passages. One such instance is Ecclesiastes 3:15 where we read, “That which is has been already, and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by”(NAS). This is understood to mean that if you want to comprehend what is happening today and what will happen tomorrow, you have to understand what happened yesterday. In other words, God causes the historical patterns of the past to repeat in the present and future. Therefore, God, His Word and, yes history, should be understood and interpreted cyclically.

Revealed From the Beginning

In form, the letter samekh is one of two letters that is completely closed (the other letter is mem sofit or the “final” mem). Tradition teaches that when God wrote upon the tablets at Sinai with His fiery finger, the letters were not etched into the stone but burned into it, meaning all the way through to the other side. Tradition also points out that the mem sofit and samekh, letters that are completely connected, stood miraculously. (Being complete circles, the stone inside the letters should have fallen out, but did not.) This miracle is said to teach that the mem sofit represents the “coming world” and samekh represents the “coming future.”

According to the rabbis, the “coming world” is a revelation of the future based on the past and present and can be understood only in the light of past and present. The “coming future,” – represented by samekh - is absolute revelation of the future which cannot be completely understood by present circumstances. In other words, one can make predictions based on trends, but still cannot predict absolutes. Ultimately, the future is known only to God. In fact, the Father makes this point clear when He says:

 “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

Only He can know the absolutes of the future. Nevertheless, He does give us a clue how to understand the future. He hints to us that the “end” can be found in the “beginning.” You see, He does not declare the end “from the end,” but “from the beginning.” Allow me to put it this way. No one will ever absolutely understand the book of Revelation – the end - until they take the time to understand the book of Genesis – the beginning. When we attempt to interpret the last book of the Bible without the foundational knowledge of the first book, we are left to speculate as to what all these mysterious images John wrote about truly mean. If we start at the beginning and read through to the end, most (not all) of the mystery becomes clear.

According to rabbinical sources, one of the Hebrew words translated as “end” – sof (notice that it begins with the letter samekh ) - alludes to this principle; “The end (sof) of deed arose in the beginning of thought.” This teaches that to understand the true nature and intent of one’s deeds, it is necessary to understand what the person was thinking before they began to act. When we apply this to properly understanding God’s purpose and plan for us, and why certain things happen in the end of time, it becomes necessary to understand God’s purpose and plan at the beginning – it has not changed. To demonstrate what I mean by this, I am going to adapt an illustration I learned from my good friend Brad Scott of Wildbranch Ministry.

Linear or Cyclical?

Consider that most Christians view time and God’s Plan for Man as a long line that begins on the left and runs infinitely to the right. On that line are critical points where God intervened on Israel ’s behalf and affected the course of history (i.e. the Exodus). Also appearing on that line are those points where it seems that God changed how He dealt with man (i.e. dispensations). The thinking goes that, at the beginning, there was a covenant with Adam, then with Noah, followed by the covenant with Abraham, then on down the line to Moses, to David and ultimately we arrive at the point on the line where the Messiah Y’shua gives us the New Covenant. It has been determined by mainstream Christianity that when Y’shua gave us the New Covenant, He fulfilled and did away with all the former and comparatively inferior covenants.

The problem with this thinking is, first of all, it infers that it took the Father four thousand years to figure out what He was trying to do. (The New Covenant was given approximately 4,000 years after the Creation.) It also infers that God changes His mind, despite the fact that He said, “I am the LORD. I do not change” (Mal. 3:6). Finally, by viewing Time and God’s Purposes as being linear in nature, it abandons the principle that God actually reveals Himself through Nature and through His Word in cyclical fashion. In other words, it did not require 4,000 years for God to “get it right” – He knew exactly what He was doing from the start. Furthermore, the Messiah did not do away with those former covenants, no more than the Abrahamic covenant did away with the Noahide Covenant. Like each covenant before it, the Covenant Messiah gave us was built upon the others. All of those previous covenants – from Adam to David - are actually contained within and are renewed by the New Covenant. (Actually, in Hebrew the “New Covenant” is brit chadashah and literally means, “Renewed Covenant.”) The distinction between the Renewed Covenant and those that preceded it is this: they were consummated with the blood of bulls and goats; the Renewed Covenant was consummated with the precious blood of Messiah. That is how He made them full of meaning.

In short, those covenants did not disappear into oblivion but actually lend “support” to the Renewed Covenant and visa versa. Interestingly enough, the word samekh means “to support.” You see, just as in a circle, where one covenant seems to “end,” the other actually “begins.” Still, this does not do away with what preceded it, rather it builds upon it. If you look at the Renewed Covenant in Messiah Y’shua as the bigger ripple in the pond, you will notice that it does not extinguish the previous ripples, but actually “supports” and sustains them, causing them to expand even further.  

Finally, permit me to leave you with this thought. When the Messiah spoke to John on the Isle of Patmos, it doesn’t make sense that He would have spoken to him in Greek – John was a Jew. So then, I don’t believe He said, “I am the Alpha and Omega – the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. He probably said, “I am the Alef and the Tav, the beginning and the end.” Alef and Tav are the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Now, if we are to consider that Time and God’s purposes are to be understood linearly (on a line), notice that when the alef (the first letter) is placed at the beginning point of the line and the tav (the last letter) is placed at the end of the line, the two letters are disconnected.

On the other hand, if we are to understand Time and God’s purposes as being cyclical (in a circle), when the alef (the first letter) is placed at the beginning point of the circle and the tav (the last letter) is placed at the end of the circle, the two letters are one. Why? Because the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. Only the One who stands at the Beginning can determine the End – only He knows the future - because He is the Beginning and the End

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