Bethsheba Ashe
Biblical Gematria was a system of formal mathematics.

#10 The Letters of the Lord: the letter Cheth.

Wick of a Candle. Author: Henry Mühlpfordt. Shared under wiki creative commons license.
Wick of a Candle. Author: Henry Mühlpfordt. Shared under wiki creative commons license.

In this special series of blog articles at the Times of Israel we’re analyzing the gematria of Bereshith (Genesis) 1-2. I’ve published all the calculations for the first two chapters on Shematria (click here), but in these articles we’re going to go through them letter by letter and we’re going to look more deeply at how the math was constructed with the ancient system.

The letter Cheth has the value of 8, and it began its life in the Sinai region of ancient Egypt from two hieroglyphs: O6 was an enclosure of some type, and V28 was the picture of a twisted candle wick, or rushlight. The theme of the letter in Genesis 1:26-28 is the creation of human beings.

The metaphor of a candle wick for a human life is ancient. In Isaiah 43:18 it is written “and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick”. Generally an early candle wick would have been made from a reed, typically one of flax that was dipped in animal tallow. One word in particular which is of Egyptian origin in connection with this is אָחוּ (reeds), and the word revealingly appears in Pharaohs dream (Genesis 41:2):

And it came to pass at the end of two full years that Pharaoh dreamed and behold he stood by the Nile. And behold from out of the Nile seven cows, fine looking and fat of flesh, and they grazed in the reeds (בָּאָֽחוּ)”. The reeds represented the life of Egypt and according to Joseph the seven cows represented the seven good years without famine. The word אחו is very close to the word for brother (אח), so if the two hieroglyphs were used to distinguish a gender, the candlewick was probably the masculine symbol. Egyptian lamps often used a floating wick in lamps made of translucent alabaster which shone, so the O6 enclosure hieroglyph may have represented a lamp and been a feminine symbol.

Let’s skip right along to our analysis of the Genesis verses for the Cheth:
ויאמר אלהים נעשה אדם בצלמנו כדמותנו וירדו בדגת הים ובעוף השמים ובבהמה ובכל הארץ ובכל הרמש הרמש על הארץ׃
And said Elohim “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.
And let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

The above is the standard translation, but the word בצלמנו (“in our image”) ends with מנו which may be translated as “from his number” and it may be that this word is a portmanteau: a word that combines the form and meaning of two or more other words. The argument for this is strengthened by the fact that it is treat as a middot in the calculation and not used. It could be translated instead as “in the reflection of his number”, and since the first calculation is 700 like the first line of Genesis it can be seen as a reflection of the number of God’s house in the Seventh Palace:

אלהים אדם כדמותנו = 700 (r.c)
בראשית + אלהים + השמים + הארץ = 700

900 = ס הים ב השמים ז הארץ הרמש – הרמש + הארץ (r.c)
700 + 900 = 1600
1600 ÷ 8 = 200.

The sum of 900 is identical to Genesis 1:28. Let’s explore the logic of this calculation. The initial samekh is there because “fish” has the set value of 60, and the hieroglyph of a fish was used for the Samekh during the early days of the development of the alphabet. “Birds” have the set value of 2 as we’ve seen in earlier verses, and “cattle” has the set value of 7, as we see in Genesis 1:25 corresponding to the letter Zayin. As usual, על (upon) indicates subtraction of the previous word.

Genesis 1:27 is the first time gender is introduced. The Adam is both male and female; a hermaphrodite, as noted by many a rabbi in the Talmud. This time, the references to images are straightforward and the מנו suffix is not used, therefore the words are included in the sum. At first, I thought these words might be candidates for a set value of 2, which gave the final total of 1:27 as 666 which appears in Genesis 1:2, but in the end, time and further practice has dissuaded me from this initial conclusion. I note however that my earlier hypothesis over the word may have been echoed by St. John of Patmos when he wrote Revelation 13:18 as it is an obvious inference and many of the rules of gematria follow this type of straightforward logic.

ויברא אלהים את האדם בצלמו בצלם אלהים ברא אתו זכר ונקבה ברא אתם׃
And created Elohim the Adam in His own image, in the image of Elohim created them male and female created them.

What I thought it was!!! [But I was wrong]:
אלהים האדם ב ב אלהים זכר ונקבה האדם = 666 (b.g)

What it actually is:
אלהים האדם בצלמו בצלם אלהים זכר ונקבה האדם = 992 (b.g)
Just like Genesis 1:24, we are required to add the value of the letter this verse corresponds to, to complete the sum:
992 + 8 = 1000.

Within the sum we also find that “in His own image, in the image” has the sum of 500 which is half the sum of the large aleph (see Genesis 1:3-5), and that “male and female” sums to 400, making each half the sum of the letter Resh:
בצלמו בצלם = 500 (r.c)
זכר ונקבה = 400 (r.c)

Genesis 1:28:
ויברך אתם אלהים ויאמר להם אלהים פרו ורבו ומלאו את הארץ וכבשה ורדו בדגת הים ובעוף השמים ובכל חיה הרמשת על הארץ׃
And blessed them Elohim, and said to them “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

האדם האדם אלהים האדם אלהים הארץ ס הים ב השמים חיה – הרמשת + הארץ = 900 (b.g)
900 + 1000 + 900 = 2800
2800 / 8 = 350 (half of 700).

This last calculation utilized all the words with a set value we saw earlier, combined with a blessing at the beginning which is a multiplication by 2 of the previous word, and the replacement of אתם (‘them”) with the name of the things or person being referenced (in this case “the Adam”) which is a standard convention.

That’s it for today. Just a reminder that my book ‘Behold! The Art and Practice of Gematria’ will be published on October 31st. My publisher has a 20% pre-order discount if you use the code BE20. You can read more about the book on my site:

Next time we’ll be examining the last letter of chapter one, which is the letter Teth, and I’m preparing quite the literary feast for you. So stay tuned for more numerical honey from the first Temple! 🙂

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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