Hebrew Word For Father: AB/AV

by | Feb 14, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

A famous quote from Dimitri the Stoneheart says, “A father doesn’t tell you that he loves you. He shows you.”  But fatherhood means different things for different people depending on upbringing and societal norms. Let’s examine this word from the Biblical point of view.

So, what’s the Hebrew word for father?

The Hebrew word for father is ab/av. In the Old Testament, the word father refers to God or an earthly father like Abraham. The Hebrew word ab also refers to the biblical patriarchs or men God used to establish the nation of Israel. Unraveling the word father helps us better understand God and see how His fatherhood is eternal.

Unraveling the Hebrew Word For Father

The Hebrew word for father ab, pronounced as AWB is first seen in the Old Testament in Genesis, where it says:

“That is why a man leaves his father (ab) and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

AB comes from Beyt and Aleph. The pictograph of Aleph is an ox, which represents the head of a family, strength, and leadership. In ancient Hebrew, the work of an ox was to lead the cows and calves in its herd to safe pastures and protect them from predators. The pictograph of Beyt is a tent or a house and represents safety or protection. When these two words are combined, they mean a leader who protects those in his household.

The numerical translation is also important in Hebrew. Aleph is number 1 and represents God the Father. Beyt is number 2 and represents God the Son. When the two numbers are combined, they add up to three to form gimel, which means to lift representing the Holy Spirit.

The pictograph of the Hebrew word gimel also carries a wide range of meanings, including Yeshua, Mashiach, or Messiah the Redeemer. It also represents the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The most common Modern Hebrew word for father Abba, which refers to daddy or papa doesn’t appear in the Old Testament. 

God The Father

Most of us who focus more on the New Testament will remember the name father in reference to Jesus, who called God his Father (John 5:18). In fact, the way Jesus used the word father shows that he knew God intimately. When he gave his longest prayer, Jesus said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son” (John 17:1).

After the resurrection, Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

In both contexts, Jesus chose the word “Father” to imply the father-child relationship. God is eternally the Father of Jesus Christ, and through Jesus, He is our Father. Christ also points out that His Father is our Father and His God is also our God to emphasize there is only one Father, one God. Through Jesus, we receive the Father’s love and are called “children of God” (John 1:12). In the case of God, His fatherhood is eternal.

The Old Testament rarely uses the word father to describe God. In fact, there are only two instances, both of which are found in Isaiah. In the two cases, Isaiah says, “O Lord our father” (Isaiah 63:16–17; 64:8–9). These two chapters mean that Isaiah called God the father because He is Israel’s Creator.

God had also established a covenant with the Israelites and for Isaiah to call God father was to acknowledge the special relationship He has with His people. Israel as the children of God is seen in Scripture which says:

“Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy on him, said the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:20).

God here wonders what kind of people the Israelites had become. The words also express the yearning of a father’s heart towards the son he still loves despite all his faults. By calling Ephraim (the ten tribes of Israel) “my child/ dear son,” the Bible shows that God has chosen Israel and its people as His children. Because God is their father, He will redeem them despite their sinfulness. The unconditional love between a father and his children is also illustrated.

Everlasting Father

Isaiah talks of Everlasting Father when he says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

In the Hebrew construction of the phrase, father is the primary noun, and everlasting describes His fatherhood. The Hebrew word olam, translated as “everlasting,” refers to “perpetual” or “without end,” meaning He is a Father forever. Many kings and rulers in ancient times were considered “fathers of the country.” Here a father provides and protects. In this context, Isaiah means the father’s role will continue without ceasing.

Various people in the Bible, including Moses, used the phrase “the God of your fathers” to refer to YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This was a way to remind the Israelites of God’s role as their father as a provider, protector, and redeemer. Like a father, YHWH protected his children after leaving Egypt, provided for them while they were in the desert, forgave them for wickedness, and led them to the Promised Land.

Abraham the Father of Many Nations

There are several great father stories in the Old Testament that point to unconditional love and set worthy examples. For example, Jacob and his son Joseph; as well as Caleb and his daughter Achsah. Nonetheless, the story that mostly stands out in the Old Testament is of Abraham as the father of many nations.

Abram, initially named Avram in Hebrew, which means “the Father is exalted,” had his name changed to Abraham/Avraham after God made a covenant declaring him “the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4). This promise was to be fulfilled through Isaac (Genesis 12:1–3; 17:1–8; 21:12). Abraham also ended up becoming the ancestor of the 12 tribes of Israel because of Jacob’s sons.

A nation born out of the seed of Abraham was further set apart to fulfill God’s plan through David’s lineage, which became everlasting. The Messiah promised to come from the line of David was a key aspect of this plan (2 Samuel 7:13-16). God also portrayed a father-son relationship in the promise to David by saying: “I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to me” (verse 14).

God specifically chooses Abraham to be the earthly father of believers (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8; John 8:39; Acts 13:26; Galatians 3:7). The Bible calls the children of Abraham “those who have faith” and further states that through Christ we are the true children of Abraham and heirs according to the promise he was given (Galatians 3:7- 9 3:29).


We all want worthy father figures we can emulate and God our Father serves as the ultimate example. In Hebrew, the word “ab” shows that God is our Father and through Abraham, we are heirs to his promises. This proves that our Father had a plan to save us through the Messiah and give believers eternal life.


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About: Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.
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Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.

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