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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Sign

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'Ôth (אוֹת, Strong's #226), “sign; mark.” Cognates of this word appear in Aramaic and Arabic. It occurs 78 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods of the language.

This word represents something by which a person or group is characteristically marked. This is its emphasis in Gen. 4:15: “And the Lord set a mark [NASB, “sign”] upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” In Exod. 8:23 God promises to “put a division between my people and thy people: tomorrow shall this sign be” (cf. Exod. 12:13). Num. 2:2 uses 'ôth to represent a military banner, while Job 21:29 uses the word of the identifying banners of nomadic tribes. Rahab asked her Israelite guests for a trustworthy “mark” (NASB, “pledge of truth”), which they stipulated to be the scarlet cord by which she lowered them out of her window and outside Jericho’s walls (Josh. 2:12, 18).

The word means “sign” as a reminder of one’s duty. This usage first appears in Gen. 9:12: “This [the rainbow] is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature …” (cf. vv. 4-15).

A reminding token is represented by 'ôth: “And it [the observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread] shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in thy mouth …” (Exod. 13:9).

A “sign” eventually showing the truth of a statement is indicated by 'ôth: “Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain (Exod. 3:12).

In passages such as Exod. 4:8 'Ôth represents a miraculous “sign”: “And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.” “Signs” are attestations of the validity of a prophetic message, but they are not the highest or final test of a prophet; he must speak in conformity to past revelation (cf. Deut. 13:1-5).

Several passages use 'ôth of omens and/or indications of future events: “But if they say thus, Come up unto us; then we will go up: for the Lord hath delivered them into our hand: and this shall be a sign unto us (1 Sam. 14:10).

An 'ôth can be a “warning sign”: “The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar: for they offered them before the Lord therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel” (Num. 16:38).

The first occurrence of 'ôth is in Gen. 1:14. Here it refers to the stars, indicators of the time of day and seasons.

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Sign'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/s/sign.html. 1940.

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