The Mystery in Zahab: The Hebrew Word for Gold

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We all know what gold is, but what does the Bible say that it is? Why does Zahab seem so important and so often lead to idol worship? How can something so valuable become Cherem or devoted to destruction? Will an investigation into the letters of the words Zahab and Cherem reveal a mystery and direct us to Messiah? Let’s find out.

In the Biblical text gold or Zahab in Hebrew occurs many times. It is one of at least six Hebrew words for gold but the only one that appears in the book of Joshua. As Joshua and his army prepare to conquer Jericho, Joshua is given instructions by Yehovah to set apart certain things. 

In Chapter 6 verses 18 and 19 we read: 

And ye in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when you take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.  But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD. 

The word used here for gold is Zahab and the phrase the accursed thing is Cherem. Let’s first explore the word Zahab. 

In conventional Hebrew, the word Zahab comes from a root meaning to shimmer. There is obviously a connection between Yehovah and gold. In Exodus 25 verse 11, the construction of the Ark of the Covenant is described:

And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without thou shall overlay it and shall make upon it a crown of gold round about.

Further in verse 17, the mercy seat is also to be of Zahab:

And thou shall make a mercy seat of pure gold.​ 

Even in the last book of our Ancient Prophetic Text in Revelation Chapter 21 verse 18 we are told this of the gold in the New Jerusalem:

And the building of the wall of it was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. 

Let’s see what mystery we might find in the letters of Zahab Zayin Hey Beyt.


Zayin is the picture of the garden tool or the weapon and means to cut off, to pierce, to prune, or to harvest. 


Hey is the picture of the man with uplifted arms and means to pay attention to what follows, to behold, or to look upon, and can mean the Holy Spirit as the Revelator.


Beyt is the picture of the tent and means house, family, dwelling place, or inside, and is the first letter in the Torah that identifies the Son of God. 

So the first mystery we find in the Hebrew pictographs tells us why gold is found on the ark and the mercy seat. We are to behold the Son of God who will be cut off and pierced for us. Zahab is a constant reminder to us of the value of what Messiah has done on our behalf. 

The disciple of Yeshua named Matthew wrote something we should note here. In his Gospel, Chapter 23 verse 17, he quotes Yeshua:

Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? ​ 

The value the Zahab or the gold holds comes from something greater; the temple does not get its greatness from its gold but instead from the Master of the temple. 

The numbers these letters represent confirm this picture. Zayin is the number 7 and denotes spiritual perfection. Hey is the number 5 and refers to grace. Beyt is the number 2 and refers to God the Son. It was the perfect spiritual plan of our Heavenly Father to extend His grace to us through His Son. 

But something in Zahab seems to wrongly demand worship of us. In the Torah, in the Book of the Exodus Chapter 32 verse 3 and 4 we find this:

And the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.  And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.​ 

This leads us to the Zahab, the gold, becoming the Cherem, the accursed thing from the account in Joshua. 

Cherem is found 38 times in the scriptures and 9 of those times it is translated net. The picture is of a doomed object being shut in and appointed for destruction. It is spelled Chet Reysh Mem. What mystery can we learn here?


Chet is the picture of the fence and refers to a private place, or to separate, to be cut off, or an inner room.


Reysh is the picture of the head stands for the leader, the head, the master, or the prince. 


Mem is liquid, mighty waters either chaotic like a tsunami or gentle like the rain that makes the desert bloom. 

Here we see that the things under the ban in Joshua, including the Zahab, were to be cut off or separated and given to the prince for destruction. Everything Cherem belongs to Yehovah. In Joshua Chapter 7 verse 12 we see what happens when this is not done:

Therefore the chidren of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. 


By keeping some of the Cherem made of Zahab which belonged to Yehovah, the people of Israel became themselves Cherem or accursed. 

There is a final twist to our account. The word Dizahab only occurs one time in our scriptures. It is found in Deuteronomy Chapter 1 verse 1 where it is the place that Moses spoke the words of Yehovah to the nation. The Di added to Zahab means sufficient or even abundant gold. Many think that this meant this territory was a place of abundant gold. 

Psalm 119 gives us a better understanding. Perhaps written by King David the entire psalm, which is the longest of all the psalms, is a prayer by one who delights in living according to the Torah which contains the words of Yehovah. Verse 72 says this:

The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.​ 

The word law here is Torah. The psalmist is reminding us where the real gold is to be found. The words of Yehovah that Moses spoke were the real gold, the real Zahab.

When you next view Zahab remember that it reminds us of the perfect spiritual plan of our Heavenly Father to extend His grace to us through His Son Yeshua Ha-Mashiach the perfect Lamb of God.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Chris says:

    Dr Jeff Benner from the Ancient Hebrew Research Center did a 3 part video on the Ark of the Covenant that had some interesting stuff about gold in it. Like how it is so coherent you can pound it extremely thin, so thin it becomes transparent. Which would mean that the Acacia wood that the Ark was made of could have been visible and covered with a shiny layer of transparent gold. It has been a while since I watched them, but here are the links — #1

  2. Marilyn L Harmon says:

    Love all I can understand.

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