The word ‘se•fer’ is first mentioned in Genesis 5:1. It appears in the Bible with reference to the four translations above, but mainly to that which we use today: ‘a book’. This is the source of the phrase ‘se•fer ha•se•fa•rim’: The Book of Books,’ the Bible.
The first time the Bible was referred to as ‘the books’ was in the Book of Daniel:
“I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years, which, according to the word of the Lord…”
This phrase was later translated into Greek as ‘TA BIBLIA,’ which became ‘the Bible’ in most languages.
In Exodus 24:7, we read the interesting reference, ‘the Book of the Covenant:’ “And he took the Book of the Covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people.” This is interesting because previous mentioning refers to it as the ‘tablets of the covenant’ (Deuteronomy 9:11). In other places it is called ‘the book of Torah’ (II Kings 22:8).
There are other derivatives from this word, such as the root, ‘S.F.R,’ which has two confusing meanings: ‘to tell’ and to ‘count.’ This mixup has probably led to the strange name that English has given to bank clerks: ‘tellers.’ There is no justification for this name whatsoever. A bank teller would very rarely, if ever, tell us tales or stories. It is simply a misuse of the Hebrew root which has, as mentioned, two meanings. Bank clerks should have been called by the other meaning of this Hebrew word, ‘counters,’ which truly depicts the nature of their work. Someone in the process of coining the word made this historical mistake that cannot otherwise be explained. Do you want to test it? Go ahead and ask your bank teller why he or she is called that name. You are guaranteed to get nothing beyond head scratching; but you’ll have a nice opportunity to give your bank teller a quick Hebrew teaching…