Hebrew Word: Olam (Universe, Eternity)
The Hebrew word עוֹלָם olam is often translated as eternal, everlasting, or forever, all of which have a meaning of a “continual existence”. By extension olam means “universe” or “world”, i.e., the whole creation of YHVH, known today better by the Greek word kosmos, rather than by the Hebrew olam.
As such olam appears in the Hebrew texts to represent the physical dimension of the universe relating specifically to its infiniteness. Thus, olam means simply “world” (i.e., all that exists).
But when it is related to the time dimension of the universe (relating to the boundless kosmos and everything that exists anywhere at any time), olam means also “eternity”, or the elapsed time from the beginning of time with the creation of light to an indefinite extent of time.
In other words, as a noun olam means “universe”, “world”, or in the sense of “eternity”, means remote time in both directions, that is, the future or past indefinitely, or “time out of mind” (past or future), hence, “eternity”. Used adverbially olam means “forever”, and adjectively, it means “everlasting”.
But as in the case of many Hebrew words, the word עוֹלָם olam is derived from the primitive 3-letter verb עָלַם alam, which literally means to veil from sight, to conceal (literally or figuratively), hide (self) or a secret thing.
The meaning of the word עוֹלָם olam now becomes clear: the whole [visible] world is a manifestation of the hidden mystery of the transcendent Creator. For indeed the Creator is not visible in the world, yet the whole world is testimony to the concealed Eternal.
From olam to olam: time travel in the universe
Before the mountains were born, or You had formed the earth and the world, and from eternity to eternity, You are El. (Psa 90:2)
The ancient Hebrew mind did not concern with what is beyond the known [visible] world. Anything that is beyond the visible manifestation, or beyond understanding, is olam. When David therefore says in Psalm 90
וּמֵעוֹלָם עַד־עוֹלָם אַתָּה אֵל
umeiolam ad olam atah eil
“From eternity to eternity, You are Elohim”,
he is stating the fact that the Eternal YHVH is beyond his understanding.
On the other hand, olam with the meaning of “forever” is defined as long as time exists, and therefore limited within the Messianic Kingdom in the last, seventh millennium of the world. After the end of the Messianic Kingdom, the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and time will cease to exist (see Isa 60:19-21 and Revelation 21). Then, King Messiah will submit himself to the Creator (this we studied in the article “The Time When the Messiah will be Subject to the Father“), and timeless will begin.
The same motif of endless reign is expressed in the song of praise which Mosheh and the children of Israel sang at the Red Sea, in celebration of the miracles YHVH did for Israel. The song closes with an inspiring prospect of the time, when “Yehovah reigns ceaselessly”. They concluded the song at the shore of the Red Sea thus,
Yehovah reigns forever and ever. (Exo 15:18)
יְהֹוָה יִמְלֹךְ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד
Yehovah imloch le’olam va’ed
Le’olam va’ed here means literally, “for eternity and until” and figuratively “”for eternity and perpetuity”.
Olam as unity of time and space
The root of the Creator’s Name Yehovah means to exist, and the Name means “He who exists”. The everlasting existence of the Creator is comprised in His unique Name that includes three syllabi: ye, ho, vah: “will be” (yehiyeh), “is” (hoveh), and “was” (havah). The flow of time thus is expressed, as we read the Name Yehovah, from future, to present, and to past, to convey the idea of timeless. Therefore, all past is future, present, and past, and all is confined in the oneness (echad) of Elohim in all time dimensions.
Grammar note: If you know the function and tense of root verb, then you know what time era you are in while reading, and you know the direction of time, and thus you understand how Hebrew connects the time dimensions.
With that being said, time and space are bound together in a single time-space coordinate system expressed by the Hebrew word olam, “eternity” and “universe”.
“Time is an accident consequent upon motion and is necessarily attached to it. Neither of them exists without the other. Motion does not exist except in time, and time cannot be conceived by the intellect except together with motion. And all that with regard to which no motion can be found, does not fall under time.”
As it seems that the above quotation sounds more like Einstein’s theory of relativity (the theory that space and time are relative concepts rather than absolute concepts), it is actually from the great Jewish Torah scholar of the twelfth century Maimonides’ the Fifteenth Premise, The Guide of the Perplexed, Introduction to the Second Part.
Perhaps, the secular physicist Albert Einstein probably was inspired by Maimonides’ writings, in which “motion”, as well as space, imply measurement and can only apply to the physical world. And since the Creator is incorporeal, He is not confined by time and/or space, for time and space are created concepts and as such are subjected to Elohim.
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This page contains sacred literature and the Name of the Creator. Please, do not deface, or discard, or use the Name in a casual manner.