Bethsheba Ashe
Biblical Gematria was a system of formal mathematics.

#1. Letters of the Lord: The letter Beth

Giuseppe Angeli (painter) Venetian, 1712 - 1798. Public Domain.
'Elijah Taken Up in a Chariot of Fire', by Giuseppe Angeli (painter) Venetian, 1712 - 1798. Public Domain.

Welcome back to my gematria blog, and Shabbat Shalom.

In the first of our series on the Hebrew letters we will be looking closely at the gematria of the first two verses of Genesis because they correspond to and describe the properties and themes of the letter Beth. Originally the letter Beth came from an Egyptian hieroglyph of a house. In the Hebrew alephbet, the Beth was the House of God.

We start the series with the Beth because we are following the order of the alephbet as it is described and corresponded to in the first two chapters of Genesis. While the regular order of the alphabet led with the letter aleph, there were theological reasons for placing the Beth before the Aleph. According to Kabbalah, before God made the heavens and the earth there existed the holy letters. Each of the letters had a story theme, a count and a book. The Sepher Yetzirah:

By thirty-two mysterious paths of wisdom Yah has engraved [all things], [who is] the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, the living God, the Almighty God, He that is uplifted and exalted, He that Dwells forever, and whose Name is holy; having created His world by three of sefar : namely, sefer (a scroll), sefor (a count) and sippur (a story), along with ten calibrations of empty space, twenty-two letters.

The letter Beth represented God’s primary habitation. The ancient’s thought God had a home, and it made sense to everyone who lived back then that God was likely at home at the top of a mountain, or in the middle of that great wheel which is the night sky. In ancient times, a man or woman could look out across a sky which was shorn of light pollution, and marvel at the infinite twinkles whirling a circle around the pole star at its axis. This wheel was visualized as belonging to a great Chariot that was ridden by God. This merkabah (Chariot) transported God about the heavens and the earth within roiling clouds that flashed and thundered. The notion may sound fanciful today, but in ancient times a man could witness a storm or the night sky and see direct evidence for it.

More abstractly, God’s domicile of choice was imagined to be inside a perfect circle. A circle has one line but two sides; inside and outside. Everything outside of this circle was created by God with the sacred letters of his name. The letter Beth was given the numerical value of 2, or when written large 2000, and words such as בית (House), רוח (Spirit), and באפיו (Nostrils), were given set values of 2 rather than representing the sum of their component letters. Possibly the association with the realm of smell was connected with the idea that smoke could drift up into the sky to please the nostrils of God and win his favour.

On the Seven Palaces[1], the letter Beth represents the highest seventh palace. This diagram resembles a wheel. The letter Beth is at once part of the diagram and removed from it too. The letters of the Holy Name represent four sections of the wheel/seven palaces – except the letter Beth which has a special place set apart for God. Likewise, the sum of the alphabet – except for the letter beth – in the main biblical gematria cipher is 800:

ב = 2
אגשדתהוזחטיכלמנסעפצקר = 800

In the Canaanite city of Ugarit, the values of 7 and 8, or 700 and 800 were symbolic of perfection and eternity. A simple way to think of it would be that the 700 represented everything existing right now everywhere, and 800 represented everything existing right now everywhere including things that existed in the past and things that would come to exist in the future – the whole shebang. The ancient Hebrews in the region likely shared this notion with them.

Genesis 1:1:

בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ׃

Using the art of Notariqon, the sum of the first letters from each word in 1:1 (בבאאהוה) is 800 with the reversal cipher. With the biblical gematria cipher the sum of 1:1 is:

בראשית + אלהים + השמים + הארץ = 700 (b.g).

We know we are to add this sum because the verb ברא  and the prepositions את and ואת indicate addition in the ancient system.

Let us look closely at the first word:
בראשית = 220 (b.g)

If we iterate the sum through each word letter by letter:
ב בר ברא בראש בראשי בראשית = 2000 (r.c).

Let’s multiply it!
(b.g) ב × ר × א × ש × י × ת = 48000

When the word for “heavens” is iterated:
ה הש השם השמי השמים = 217 (b.g)

The sum of the last three nouns with biblical gematria is:
אלהים + השמים + הארץ = 480.
(Note: 480 minutes is 8 hours).
This calculation produces the sum of 777 with the standard cipher, which is the sum of the days of the week, and the three columns of the seven palaces, among other things.

ראשון שני שלישי רביעי חמישי שישי שבת = 777

And let’s consider the last three nouns when iterated all at once:
א אל אלה אלהי אלהים + ה הש השם השמי השמים + ה הא האר הארץ = 930.

There is almost total correspondence between the math of 1:1 and the major gate values of the seven palaces . 220 is the sum total of the letters in the Yod section. 217 is the sum total of the letters in the first Heh section. 480 is the sum total of the letters in the Vav section, and 93 is the sum of the final Heh. 217 is also the sum total of each of the seven palaces: באארדדה , and it is 7 × 31, whereas 93 is 3 × 31, which is significant as אל (God) = 31.

Genesis 1:2:

והארץ היתה תהו ובהו
וחשך על פני תהום ורוח אלהים מרחפת על פני המים׃

With the reversal cipher, the notariqon of 1:2 sums to 666:
ו ה ת ו ו ע פ ת ו א מ ע פ ה = 666.

I think there are actually two sentences and two calculations here. The first:
והארץ + היתה+ תהו + ובהו = 360
which alludes to the circular nature of God’s home because there is 360 degrees in a circle.

The sum of the next sentence is:
וחשך + פני + תהום + ב + אלהים אלהים + פני המים = 800 – Zero
The answer is 800 with the reversal cipher but it is 666 with the standard cipher.

There are a couple of things to note about the calculation. The word על indicates subtraction of the previous noun from the sum so we start at 0 with modern math (or would do if the interface allowed me to do that). The word ורוח has the set value of 2 and has been replaced by a beth in the calculation above. Also מרחפת indicated duplication of the prior word so אלהים is used twice. We ignore the second על because it occurs after a verb.

Because the number 666 has become infamous and it occurs here twice, this needs a little further explanation. The next time it appears is under the verses concerning the creation of human beings  בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ “in the image” of Elohim (Genesis 1:26), so could it be that “in our image” is actually an allusion to a number? In this case the number 666? Well, we now know that מנו means ‘his number’, and בְּצַלְ means ‘in the shadow’, and so it does indeed follow that the number of man (human beings) is the same as this number which you see is primarily associated with the House of God. I suggest that John of Patmos is trying to describe the nephesh (animal soul) of human beings during Revelation 13:15-18. The vision of the great beast is a creation that personifies the nature of the nephesh when it is unmoderated by the Ruach and the Neshamah.

Aleister Crowley tried to replicate some of the mathematics of Genesis 1:1 in English transliterated gematria using the biblical gematria cipher, in his Book of the Law. Besides making sure his book had the sub-figura number of 220 (the same sum as ‘בראשית’), the first line sums to 480:

Had! The manifestation of Nuit!
Had + manifestation + Nuit = 480.

The letter beth is a unity of a duality. As Crowley might put it 0 = 2. In Genesis 1:3, God will divide this unity of 2 to make the darkness of the night (1) and the light of day (1), which is the value of the letter aleph (1).

Visit the Shematria site to see the calculations for Genesis 1-2 here.


Author News
In October, my general guide to the subject of Gematria will be published by Aeon Books. ‘Behold! The Art and Practice of Gematria’ is available to pre-order on Amazon.

[1] The Holy Name, the Seven Palaces and Genesis 1:1.

About the Author
Bethsheba Ashe is a fifty two year old tea-drinking cryptographer who broke the gematria ciphers to the Bible and the Book of the Law. She is the author of two books on Biblical Hermeneutics; "Behold: The Art and Practice of Gematria" and "Chariot: An Essay on Bereshit and the Merkabah." She is the creator of the popular ‘Shematria’ online calculator, and inventor of the Galay writing script. Currently she lives in Pennsylvania and is creating an open-world VR Island adventure game with her boyfriend, two cats and a cockatoo, but she says she owes all her success to Tetley.
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