A Stone of Help; A Rock of Salvation
As I was reflecting on the battle that Israel is now waging against Hamas in Gaza, my mind was drawn back to an earlier time when Israel was battling the Philistines. 1 Samuel 7:10-14 records this: Now as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the LORD thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and drove them back as far as below Beth Car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued, and they did not come anymore into the territory of Israel. And the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. Then the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered its territory from the hands of the Philistines. Also there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
As you may deduce from the passage above, “ebenezer” means “stone of help”. It was a stone monument which served as a continual reminder to the Israelites as to how God gave them the victory. It is written as one word in the Scriptures, but it is in fact made up of two words – “eben” and “ezer” (pronounced ayt-zer). Stone is “eben” and help is “ezer”. But even though we loosely translate “ezer” as “helper”, it is more than that. In the fulness of its meaning “ezer” means: saviour, rescuer, protector. That’s why Moses names one of his sons Eliezer – it was to commemorate the God who repeatedly helped Moses and delivered him. “Eli” means “my God” and “ezer” means “help” – my God is my helper. Next time you read the Psalms take notice of how often it speaks of God as a Helper – the One who exercises the divine power of salvation, rescue and protection.
The word “eben” is even more interesting. If you apply the Hebrew characters, it consists of three: aleph, beit, nun. These characters tell quite the story:-
1. Aleph. Because its original pictograph used an ox for its symbol, it means strength and leader. It is also the first letter in the Hebrew word for father (being ab and which, in the Aramaic, became Abba). Interestingly, the name of man also contains “aleph”. See, when you read the Bible, people always assume the name of the first man was Adam. In fact, Adam is just Hebrew for man. It is pronounced “adawm” and consists of the characters “aleph”, “dalet” and “mem”. “Dalet” and “mem” are closely related to the word “dam” which means “blood”. The only difference between blood, “dam”, and human, “Adam”, is the letter Aleph, which signifies the relation to the higher, the complete and the infinite. Therefore, we are flesh and blood, but we have the Father in us because we are created in the image of God.
2. Beit. Well, “beit” is an easy one. We recall the town of Bethlehem. It is Beit Lechem in the Hebrew, meaning house of bread. So, “beit” means house.
3. Nun. This is a symbol of life and activity. Aramaic relates “nun” to a fish, early Hebrew a seed sprouting – both basically referring to life. Both are highly interesting in the context of Scripture. So far as a seed is concerned, what did Jesus describe Himself as? A seed falling to the ground which would die but would then bring forth much fruit.
So, let’s put it together:-
1. Aleph beit (ab) means “father”;
2. Beit nun becomes “ben” which means “son”.
To write the word “stone” you combine “ab” and “ben” - father and son becomes “eben”. And why did Israel stumble? Because they would not accept that Jesus came from the Father and that, as He testified in John 10:30: I and My Father are one.
So, next time you hold a stone in your hands, remember the word “eben” – because it speaks marvelously of the gospel: it is a word that contains characters referring to the Father, to the Son, to a house and to life. Do you see it!? In the Son, we may have eternal life in the Father’s house! Perhaps that also goes to some lengths to explain the statement Jesus made in Luke 19:39-40: And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” Maybe Jesus wanted them to see that even an inanimate object testified more of the gospel than they were willing to believe.
Right now, Israel needs the Stone of Help and the Rock of Salvation. Isaiah 41:14: “Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you,” says the LORD and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. But Israel also needs believers to pray for them and to stand with them. Will you?