Recently, a new friend invited me to explore pictographic interpretations of the Bible. This discussion led me to research the topic again.
Ultimately, I think there are several sound reasons not to employ this methodology:
First, consistently attempting to interpret the Bible with pictographic interpretations would lead to wildly divergent explanations. While this process might work for one word here or there, applying the same pictographic meanings to every other word in the same sentence would generate confusion. Further, the plain meaning of each sentence, paragraph, or chapter would increasingly be at odds with the pictographic interpretation.
Second, the Leningrad Codex is the most complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible. The Masoretic community wrote it with vowels and accent marks to ensure the accurate pronunciation of each word. There is no usage of pictographic interpretation to find meaning in this text.
Third, scribes stopped using Paleo-Hebrew many centuries before the Leningrad (and Aleppo) codices. As the Biblical Archaeology Society notes, “…the Paleo-Hebrew script  was used by the Israelites until the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in 586 B.C.E. When the Judean exiles returned from Babylon, they brought back the square Aramaic script, which ultimately replaced the Paleo-Hebrew script. Both the Paleo-Hebrew and the square Aramaic scripts, however, were used together for hundreds of years.”
Fourth, our understanding of this language is limited because the square Aramaic script replaced Paleo-Hebrew so long ago. It is challenging for scholars to determine this language’s vocabulary, grammar, and cultural connotations. With limited data, there is an extensive range of potential interpretations.
It’s also the case that “Paleo Hebrew” was a language that changed and developed over time. Though we are using one term for it, a more precise discussion of the language would need to account for the variations in this language over the centuries. The result should be a more tentative and speculative approach to any meanings derived from this language. Because we need more information to work carefully with this language, we are more susceptible to confirmation bias.
Fifth, since the scribes did not write our Biblical texts in Paleo Hebrew, any use of Paleo Hebrew language goes beyond the Bible. Strictly speaking, to interpret the Hebrew Bible in light of a hypothetical reconstruction of the text in a prior language is to go beyond the Bible. It is a higher regard for God and how he revealed his word to us to work with what we have in the texts that God has preserved for us to read and study.
Sixth, the Bible itself is sufficient to interpret the Bible. For instance, we have no examples of Biblical authors explaining a passage in pictographic ways. The New Testament regularly references Old Testament passages to establish their points. Still, each author does so according to other interpretive principles.
Seventh, this approach falls outside the scholarly consensus. Reading through hundreds of academic commentaries for a couple of decades, I have never seen a reference to pictographs to provide insight into any passage. While it is essential to learn from scholars, the esoteric nature of Paleo-Hebrew would mean the “true” meaning of the Bible is only available to those with secret knowledge from God. However, it appears that God intended to make his identity and love known to everyone without the need for recourse to finding hidden meanings in the Bible.
For these reasons, I recommend avoiding this interpretive method in the Uncommon Pursuit community.
I look forward to hearing from other perspectives.