The concept/word “forever” is mentioned several times in the Scriptures, in the Tanakh, the Prophets, and the Brit Chadashah, and yet, do we really understand what it means? Do we understand what it meant to the peoples at the time the word was given? Let’s examine it together to uncover the truth!
The word “forever” as found predominantly in the Tanakh (Old testament) is the Hebrew word “olam” עוֹלָם (H5769 – ō·läm) which means “long duration, antiquity, futurity, for ever, ever, everlasting, evermore, perpetual, indefinite or unending future, eternity.” It is derived from the primitive Hebrew root “alam” עָלַם (H5956 – ä·lam) which means “to conceal, hide, be hidden, be concealed, be secret.”
The literal picture of the meaning of the word “olam” is “to look beyond the furthest point your feet can carry you, whatever is on the other side of that is forever.” It is a very concrete, action related concept in Hebrew thought rooted in what can be physically observed.
The first instance of “Olam”
Beresheit (Genesis) 3:22: Yahweh Elohim said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil. Now, lest he put forth his hand, and also take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever…”
– This scripture refers to the events after the consuming of the apple by Adam and Hawwah (Eve) and the danger of Yahweh’s creation knowing all like Him. He did not wish that His creation should have the burden of that knowledge and eternal life, for they would certainly rebel against Him, much like the later events of the Tower of Bavel (Babel).
Other instances of “Olam”
Beresheit (Genesis) 9:16-17:
(16) And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between Elohim and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
(17) And Elohim said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.
Beresheit (Genesis) 17:7-8:
(7) And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your seed after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be an Elohim unto you, and to your seed after you.
(8) And I will give unto you, and to your seed after you, the land wherein you are a stranger, all the land of Kena’an, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their Elohim.
Shemoth (Exodus) 3:15: And Elohim said moreover unto Mosheh, Thus you shall say unto the children of Yisra’el, Yahweh the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Avraham (Abraham), the Elohim of Yitschaq (Isaac), and the Elohim of Ya’aqov (Jacob), has sent me unto you: this is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
All in total, there are some 400+ different instances of the word “olam” in the Tanakh, and many more in the entire scriptures. Please take time to study them and enjoy journeying in the word. Shalom Aleichem!