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העלם Ha-Olam “The Eternal One/Concealed One”

In my many years of Hebrew study, I have often come across a sneaky practice of scholars where they take a simple objective word and interpret (more like morph) it into a more subjective concept for the purpose of avoiding readings that seem too weird for common sense to endure.

The Hebrew word “olam” עוֹלָם is noted by the grammarian master Gesenius as being far more often used in the context of the future than anything else (cf. Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon), but is never translated as such. Why? The Hebrew Scriptures are mostly about revealing “the eternal”, something conceptually different than time. But therein is the key. The future is hidden, concealed from sight.

Taking a look at the word Olam we find that it can easily be defined objectively by its root alam (#5956) which means to conceal or hide. The literal meaning is vanishing point/horizon. It must refer therefore to that which is hidden, or out of sight. Because contexts are based around eternal aspects, it’s easy to interpret it as the eternal, or future, being a hidden thing. But what sense does it make to “conceal eternity”?

There is another element to consider. Olam is a Hebrew word that appears around 15 or 16 times with a definite article, i.e. The Olam. It also often appears with the preposition “to” לְעֹלָֽם “to Olam”. If there is no objectivity to this “eternity” or “everlasting” then there is quite a contradiction in the idea of “the Eternity” or “the Everlasting”.

Here’s what we end up with in an objective translation:

He-who-is-kneeled [blessed] is Yahweh Elohe of El-Strives [Israel], from-out the Eternal-one and until the Eternal-one…

1 Chron. 16:36 RBT

…and now a corner, he has taken also of the Wood of the Living Ones, and he has eaten, and he has lived to the Eternal-one…

Gen. 3:22 RBT

מן העולם ועד העלם  from the Eternal One and until the Eternal One… (1 Chron. 16:36 RBT)