The Theory of Gematria

The Hebrew alphabet comprises 22 letters each of which are assigned numbers. The first letter ‘Aleph’ א is equivalent to the value of 1 and the last letter ‘Taf’ ת is equivalent to the value of 400. In the gematrical system the numbers assigned to letters are arranged in three tiers: single units, 10’s (decanes) and in 100’s (centanes) (See Table 1). Hence the first nine letters of the alphabet, aleph א to tet ט , increase in single units 1,2,3…9. The next nine letters, yod י to tzadek צ, increase in units of ten: 10, 20, 30 etc....90. And the final four letters, koph ק, resh ר, sin ש and taf ת increase in units of 100: 100, 200, 300 and 400.

These three levels: units, decanes and centanes, represent three levels of consciousness, whereby:

1-9, represents the physical and phenomenal form;

10-90, the conscious form, and

100-400,  the spiritual form.

Four hundred is the highest value of the Hebrew alphabet and represents the highest level of spiritual consciousness that can be attained by man on this Earth.

Beyond 400 is the 500 – the next world, leading up to 1000. This is the supra-spiritual world that exists beyond this world of which we have little understanding and can only allude to through phenomena expressed through miracles or through our sub-consciousness.

It is to be noted that in Hebrew the word for 1000 is ‘eleph’ and has the same pronunciation and spelling as aleph אthe first letter with a value of one!! This has several implications regarding the cyclic nature of our conscious evolution: from ‘the one’ we evolve through the three stages of consciousness: the physical level, the conscious level and the spiritual level in order to returns to ‘the one’ at the supra spiritual level[1] .

Pictographic Formats

In addition each Hebrew letter is associated with an image whose origins can be attributed to the pictographic format used by the Sumerians in the late 4th millennium BC. These and their associated qualities and numerical values are summarised in Table 1 (See hyperlink to table one). Briefly: aleph is symbolised as a bull’s head, beth is a house, gimmel is a camel, daledsymbolises a door and taf is a cross, etc. Whilst these images are not used in the numerical calculation they are sometimes assistant in the interpretation of the subject matter and are useful indicators as to the origin of the letter, as we shall see later[2].

Root to the Hebrew letters

The Hebrew alphabet is the foundation stone of Greek, Latin and the modern alphabet. Hence Aleph, Beth, Gimmel in Hebrew is Alpha, Beta, Gamma in Greek and A, B, G in the modern alphabet.

Ancient Hebrew evolved from the Assyro-Babylonian Language, which is also known as Akkadian, an extinct Semitic language. Akkadian is the oldest known member of the Semitic languages, written and spoken in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) from the 3rd to the 1st millennium BCE, some five hundred years before a prototype script was developed in Chinese language. It displaced Sumerian, the earlier, unrelated language of Mesopotamia, after the Semitic ruler Sargon the Great (reigned about 2335 to 2279 BCE), founder of the dynasty of Akkad, conquered the region

This early language was deciphered in the 19th century and was written with about 600 words or syllable signs. It had 20 consonant and 8 vowel sounds. In about 1950 BCE, after the break up of the Akkadian and Sumerian Empires, the Akkadian language broke up into two major dialects, Babylonian in the south and Assyrian in the north, each of which gradually underwent a number of changes.

Some scholars believe that Brahmi, the parent of Tibetan, Bengali and Devanari languages, was also a branch of Akkadian and hence Semitic languages.

It should be understood that Semitic script as used in Hebrew was not an immediate production of 22 characters such as used today, but an evolutionary process whereby characters were added and deleted in accord with need. The Proto-Canaanite script that evolved from 17th-12th Century BCE originally had 27-30 characters, some of these were omitted from the script until the 12th Century BCE when the 22 characters used today ceased from further evolution, except with minor changes.

Similarly, the writing format also evolved. For instance the Phoenician script was originally in written in vertical columns such as some Chinese and Japanese scripts even today. Later it changed to a zig-zag format, in the manner that one would plough a field. Only by the 12th Century BCE was the right-to-left format firmly adopted and as is used today in modern Hebrew and Arabic. The Semitic script used in Hebrew today is a branch of Akkadian and evolved about 3rd Century BCE. It was strictly a biblical language for the written script until the modern era.

The Origins of Gematria

Gematria is a tool for the analysis of Hebrew Biblical texts through assigning the numerical values of Hebrew letters to words and phrases in order to obtain deeper understanding of the texts. The term Gematria itself has no equivalent in English and whilst it is commonly translated as ‘numerology’, this is misleading. Although some of numerology’s origins are similar, Gematria is certainly not numerology and should not be considered as such in use, interpretation or understanding.

There is some evidence indicating that numbers were assigned to characters as far back at 2300 BCE in the cuneiform script of the Sumerians. However it would seem the use of numbers in Hebrew script can be attributed to the Greeks who assigned numerical values to their borrowed Western Semitic script by the 6th century BCE and this was adopted by their Semitic neighbours three centuries later in the 3rd century BCE.

Interpretations of the Torah employing the use of Gematria were certainly in use among the Tannaim of the 2nd century CE in the Galilee region of Israel and it became a significant element in Kabbalistic thought from the 12th through to the 19th centuries, where it underwent a complex elaboration and Moses Cordovero (1522-70 C.E.), the great systematic theologian of the Safed Kabbalah, listed nine different types of Gematria.

Some scholars have indicated that numerical values are indicated in Old Testament scriptures, such as Gen 14:14, Deut 31:1-6, and Ezek 5:2 and A. G. Wright P. W. Skehan has suggested that examples of Gematria can be found in the Book of Koheleth (c. 250 B.C.E.) and in Proverbs (c. 600 B.C.E.) respectively. Whilst this evidence is weak and there is little indication that reference is given to Gematria and relation to numerical values in the Bible, there is very strong evidence in Commentaries of Book of Genesis in the Dead Sea Scroll. In accord with scholars this manuscript itself was probably written in the first half of the 1st century BCE; i.e. 300 years before The Tannaim cited above.

In these Commentaries, parchment number No. 4Q252, the story of Noah and the flood is reiterated. Whilst the bulk of the content is similar to that in the Bible there are pertinent additions and changes that suggest that the text was written in a gematrical context. For instance it is noted that:

  • In the 480th year of Noah and God said my spirit shall not abide in man forever and their days shall be determined to 120 years;
  • 17th day of the 2nd month the Flood arrived in the 600th year of Noah;
  • It rained 40 days until 26th day of the 3rd month
  • Water prevailed 150 days until 14th day 7th month (Erev Succoth);
  • Waters abated and the ark came to rest on Arahat on 17th day 7th month;
  • The waters continued to abate until 1st day of 10th month and the tops of mountains appeared;
  • 10th day of the 11th month (40 days after seeing tops of mountains) Noah open the window of the Ark;
  • After 7 days he released a dove who found no resting place and return to the Ark;
  • After another 7 days sent her out again and came back with olive leaf (24th day of 11th month);
  • After another 7 days she didn’t come back at all: This was 1st day of the 12th month;
  • On 1st day of the 1st month at the end of 3 weeks after sending out the dove Noah opens the ark on dry land. This was 601 year of Noah’s life.
  • On the17th day 2nd month the earth was dry and Noah left the ark after 364 days.

As mentioned, this version is much ‘cleaner’ than that of the version that appears in the Bible. It is cleaner because (i) the dove and the raven are not intermixed; (ii) the number of days and the dates correspond one to the other and (iii) the dates fit neatly into gematrical theory, notably:

1. The commandment from God that man shall live only 120 years occurs when Noah is 480 years old and the Flood begins when Noah is 600 years old. This provides a 1:4 ratio between 120:480 (see hyperlink the mist, Adam and the two trees).

2. The date ‘17th’ of the month appears 3 times: at the beginning of the flood; in the middle of the flood when the flood waters begin to abate, and finally at the end of the flood when the earth is dry and Noah leaves the Ark. As noted in (See hyperlink seventeen) the number 17 is the gematrical value for ‘good’ meaning change, i.e. a process of destruction in order to create, change or make new in a positive sense;

3. The rains continue 40 days from 17th of the 2nd month until the 26th of the 3rd month where 26 corresponds to the gematrical value for God and would suggest/confirm that the flood was sent by God.

4. A significant difference between the two versions is that in the Dead Sea Scrolls version, Noah, his family and animals leave the Ark on the 17th of the 2nd month and in the Bible they leave the Ark on the 27th of the 2nd month, which suggests some “literary license’ in the Biblical text.

From the above it is understood that Gematria was developed by the Greeks after the writing of the Biblical texts, and later it was adopted by Jewish scholars for interpretation of the texts. A fundamental question arises whether the scribes that wrote the different books of the Bible understood the numerical relationship between the words that they were writing. And if they did not then how is it that we find such wonderful numerical logic between the words that were written. i.e. are the picturesque texts we find in the Biblical stories a mask for a deeper truth written in digital form? Were the numerical under tone written by intention, by coincidence or does it point towards a cosmic intellect which we understand to be called ‘God’ and indeed the Bible is the word of God which we earthlings, with our inferior intelligence, are trying to understand. A similar argument can be made for the commonality of all ancient religions across Europe, Egypt and Asia who worship and sacrifice the bull – which evolved during the Age of Taurus and represented in the letter Aleph א (See hyperlink taurus)

The letter and the word

The link between numerical values and Biblical text is adequately illuminated in the Hebrew word sepher meaning ‘book’, sipoor meaning ‘story’ and sapher meaning ‘count’ or ‘tell’. All three words are derived from the same root[1]: samech ס –peh פ –resh ר and so ‘book’, ‘story’, ‘to tell’, ‘literature’, ‘recount’ ‘count’, ‘enumerate’ and ‘number’ all come from the same root: samech-peh-resh. It is therefore no accident that the stories and events depicted in the Bible are linked to numerical, finite and definitive values that are related to each other. Indeed it may be said that the numerical value of a Biblical text is possibly the closest that we can reach the ultimate truth extended from the breath of G-d.

Numbers are immutable. They may be divided, added, subtracted, multiplied or undergo multiple manipulations, but ultimately they are immutable. Their essence remains the same. Their relationship to each other can change, just as the relationship of ‘6’ and ‘3’ can be related either to the multiplier 18, or the divisor 2, however the essence of 6 and 3 remains the same. Similarly 22 always equals 4: it can never be 4 ¼ 4 ½ or 5. For this reason numbers are unbiased and objective: they express the essence of the letter. Numbers are immutable and fixed and therefore are not subjective through interpretations of individuals or personal bias.

In turn, letters that form words also have a unique combination of numerical values where both the numerical sequence and the total added value are equally important.

Therefore when we look at a word, we do not only look at its total numerical value but also the way it is formed. Hence the word for ear and which is the main tool in the Bible through which word of God is transmitted, is ozen in Hebrew and spelt aleph-zayin-nun אזן with numerical values 1-7-50. The total value is 58. The sequential values are ‘1’ representing the primordial form of God; ‘7’ representing the seventh day –the Sabbath and ‘50’ means new birth, renewal, jubilee and change. The word ozen therefore suggests that by listening to the word of God through the spiritual space in time created by the Sabbath day we may reach and realise renewal and rebirth. The total value is 58 represents the end of a physical period of time and hence the beginning of another as is suggested by the process of renewal. (see link 58,580, 5800)

As we see later in the discussion of the creation of the Universe, the Bible may be compared to a computer. What we see on a computer screen can be a multiple variety of features: texts written in many languages, maps, pictures, spectrums of colours, children’s games and so on, but in essence it is a result unique combination of binary digits ‘0’ and ‘1’ that are programmed to form the image we read and see and from which we interpret our understanding. So it is that binary forms and their relationship to each other that creates the myriad of the universe that we see before us – it is called duality.

Examples of Gematria

Let us consider the three levels of consciousness - the phenomenal world (1-9), the conscious world (10-90) and the spiritual world (100-400).

The word for truth in Hebrew is ‘emet’ spelt aleph-mem-taf אמת. The aleph א has a gematrical value of 1. It represents the primal form of God in our physical and phenomenal world and from which all things emanated. At the next level of decanes we come to mem which has a value of 40 and represents human consciousness – the mind. At the next level of centanes, we come to taf ת which is the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a value of 400 representing the highest spiritual level of consciousness attainable by human kind in this earthly world. Thus through this one word ‘truth’ we see the form 1-40-400, meaning – through realising God, using our human consciousness we can reach the highest level of spirituality attainable in this earthly realm.

Let us look at the Hebrew word for ‘one’ spelt aleph-chet-daled אחד, has a value 1+8+4 =13. From this we derive that ‘1’ which is the value of the letter aleph and represents unity, singleness of the universe and God in a phenomenal form, is also related to the numerical value 13.

If we then go up to the next decane level, 13 is related to 130. The value of 130 is that of the Hebrew name for ladder, sulam, spelt samech-lamed-mem סלם = 60-30-40 =130 and also for Sinai spelt samech-nun-yod-yod סניי = 60-50-10-10. Not only that, but 13 is ½ of the value 26 which is the value of the sacred and unspoken word of God – the Tetragrammaton –YHVH spelt יהוה yod-heh-vav-heh = 10-5-6-5 =26.

Hence we can see the relationship between ‘one’ (achad), the letter aleph, God in the phenomenal form, the ladder, as in Jacob’s ladder (See hyperlink Jacob ladder); the revelation of the Ten Commandments when God descended upon Mount Sinai and spoke to Moses and the most sacred word for God YHVH. We shall look at these relationships in more detail in the text.


[1] In the main, Hebrew characters comprise only consonants. Hence the sound of the word and the vowel forms: e a i o u are either inferred from the text or expressed in the form of dots or symbols written either under, beside or above the word. Moreover words in Hebrew are based upon a common root usually comprising usually 3 letters which make up the foundation of the word. Hence without additional symbols, the root form samach-peh-resh could be pronounced ‘sipoor -story, sepher-book, sopher-count or writer.

[2] It is recommended to make a photo-copy of Table 1 for easy reference to the Hebrew characters and their numerical value

[1] These three levels are similarly found in Hinduism and in particular in the shape and form of Hindu temples. Hindu temples are structured in four distinct sections (see the Temples at Khajaraho): the base relief – a square shape (the earth) showing scenes of daily life and sexual union; the second stage of geometrical design representing the abstract world; third stage is a smooth turret representing the spiritual world and finally supra-spiritual world represented by the lotus at the top.

[2] Hebrew sages ascertain that each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has associated properties and hence each letter can be used as a basis of meditation in accord with the qualities of the letter. They also ascertain that repetitive incantation of the permutations and combinations of pairs of letters in the alphabet can lead to the formation of a golem, a living being that is without soul.

 

 
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