Mi•la (a word) is a biblical word that, with a slight addition that does not change its pronunciation, gets a different meaning. As ‘word’ it is spelled with ‘Mem,’ ‘Lamed,’ and ‘Hey,’ and if you write it with a ‘Yood’ after the ‘Mem,’ it means circumcision, but still sounds the same. As ‘circumcision,’ mi•la appears only once in the entire Bible:
“He gave him the covenant of circumcision. So Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day. Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs”
The complete term used here is ‘be•rit mi•la’ ‘the covenant of circumcision.’
Important as the word ‘word’ may be, mi•la (without the ‘Yood’) also appears in the Bible only once:
“For before a word is in my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it all”
But there is something ‘tricky’ with this word – it has a synonym which also may mean ‘word’ that is mentioned 139 times in the Old Testament and 162 times in the New Testament. There, too, it may mean ‘word.’
Why do we say ‘may mean’ and not ‘means’? Because it has two completely different meanings and may be correctly construed only by context. The second meaning is ‘thing’ or ‘essence.’ This suggests that a good knowledge of Hebrew is needed to distinguish between the two ‘word’ words! One famous name of the plural form of this word: ‘De•va•rim,’ is actually the Hebrew name of the Book of Deuteronomy. It was named as such arbitrarily after the second word in the book’s first verse. It is translated there as ‘words’ but it can equally mean ‘things’ in this context. Remember that any translation of a biblical word, important as it may be, is not holy to the same extent as the original Hebrew because it is a secondary, ‘man-made’ thing or word. (You see, this works here with both meanings as well). However, ‘da•var’ may also mean ‘an essence,’ in the sense of ‘being’ or ‘existence,’ especially when attempting to describe an exalted or abstract concept.
With no attempt to challenge a canon of Christianity – the concept of Jesus being the ‘Living Word’ as we see it in John 1:1, ‘Da•var’ would not have been construed that way if the reader of the Hebrew verse had not been introduced to the ‘Living-Word’ concept beforehand. For this reader, ‘Da•var’ in this context would be perceived in its natural, logical Hebrew meaning: ‘an essence.’ The reader would understand from the verse that a man (John) is attempting here to describe divinity. The reader (who is also a man or woman) knows that it is almost impossible to describe divinity with ordinary human words, and therefore is very likely to understand the word ‘da•var’ as ‘essence’ because of the natural absence of precise human vocabulary for divinity. Whereas ‘davar’ has two meanings, as discussed here, ‘mila’ has only one meaning: ‘word’. The interesting question is why this ‘make-no-mistake’ word wasn’t used in John 1:1.