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 Heh emerged from two ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs – of a little man standing with his hands raised to the sky in praise or adoration, and another little man who is seated.
The little man seated represented “one million” in the hieroglyphic numbering system, a number that was beyond counting – according to the Egyptians – an infinity. The Hebrew value of 5 for the Heh came from its place in the natural order of the alphabet, but its hieroglyphic origins were remembered in the Bible and its theme was the millions of stars in the sky.
ויוצא אתו החוצה ויאמר הבט נא השמימה וספר הכוכבים אם תוכל לספר אתם ויאמר לו כה יהיה זרעך׃
And he brought him outside and said “Look now the heavens and count the stars if you can to number them”, and he said to him, “so shall be your seed”.
צ צ השמימה ה ה ז = 300
והרביתי את זרעך ככוכבי השמים ונתתי לזרעך את כל הארצת האל והתברכו בזרעך כל גויי הארץ׃
And I will multiply your seed like the stars in the heavens and I will give to your seed all the lands, these [Israel], and shall be blessed in your seed all the peoples of the earth.
ז ה השמים ז הארצת ישראל זז גויי הארץ = 1000.
1000 × 1000 = one million.
It is verses like these that demonstrate the Hebrew involvement with the development and use of the early alphabet – not in the ninth century BCE (as some naysayers would have it) – nor even in the late bronze age (as demonstrated by the Mt. Ebal curse tablet) but in the 19th – 15th Centuries BCE (as demonstrated by Douglas Petrovich).
The knowledge of the two Heh’s is also demonstrated in the alphabetic acrostic of Proverbs 24:1-22, as was noted by Professor Victor Hurowitz. In his paper (‘An often overlooked alphabetic acrostic in Proverbs 24:1-22′) he dated the text to the 7th Century at the latest, and he noticed that there were a group of ten letters Hehs in verse ten, which were meant to call attention to the letters numerical value of five.
Some writers, who spend their time wearing blinkers and then tell us proudly of their limited perspective, want to tell us it was the Canaanites who invented the alphabet, or they accuse Jews of copying the practice of Gematria from the Greeks, but the writings of the Canaanites display no understanding of the origins of the letters as hieroglyphs, and nor do they use them for formal math calculations. By contrast, biblical writings show knowledge of the hieroglyphic origins of the letters, making Hebrews the most obvious candidates for this breakthrough in the art of writing. Moreover, biblical compositions show that the hieroglyphs were not chosen at random, but picked for their thematic representations, with the alphabet as a whole presenting an aide memoire for the entire creation story. Even when the names of the letters were not directly descriptive of the hieroglyphic origins of the letter, there are often words which are given set values which demonstrate thematic knowledge of the early alphabetic letters. This is totally expected seeing that such knowledge was the natural cultural legacy of the early Israelites. The name of the letter Heh may tell us very little about its hieroglyphic origin as a man adoring the light of the heavens, but the word כוכבים “stars” has the set value of 5 for the letter Heh, and it is the light of millions of stars which is being adored by the little hieroglyphic man with his arms raised to the sky.
The hermeneutical systems in biblical writings stand as a direct witness to the invention of the alphabet, and any attempt to dodge and evade this fact is to rob an entire culture of its historical achievements in both literacy and numeracy. This can only be regarded as antisemitism, and there is no excuse for it.
The first association made between the letter Heh and stars is from Genesis 1:17 – 1:18. There are seventy letters in the relevant verses. We do not include the concluding “and saw Elohim it was good” because each one of these sentences belongs to a calculation concerning the aleph (see my essay on that).
1:17 contains the same operators that we’ve encountered before. There is the אתם which requires you to fill in the objects or persons it is referring to – in this case the stars (see 1:16), which has a set value of 5 for the letter heh. The next convention is using the set value of 3 for the word ברקיע (expanse). The we see a subtraction operator in על so we subtracted the prior word. We’re using the reversal cipher for this.
ויתן אתם אלהים ברקיע השמים להאיר על־הארץ׃
And set them [the stars] Elohim in the expanse of the heavens for the light upon the earth.
537 = ה אלהים ג השמים – להאיר + הארץ (r.c)
The next line is interesting because it uses the word ולמשל (and to rule) to denote using the result of the previous sum, but its referencing the sum using the biblical gematria cipher. This element of the formal system was unknown to me until recently, but it is allowing extra insight into some important verses where it is used elsewhere. As usual, the word בין (between) indicates divide by 2, which we do for the light and the darkness האור + החשך but we reference their values via the reversal cipher again. I can’t say at the moment what guides the scribes preference for the ciphers he used. He may decide such matters after being influenced by his meditations on the Seven Palaces, rather than being random or ruled by utilitarian motives.
ולמשל ביום ובלילה ולהבדיל בין האור ובין החשך
And to rule in the day and in the night and for division between the light and between the darkness.
ה אלהים ג השמים – להאיר + הארץ = 242 (b.g)
האור + החשך / 2 = 221 (r.c)
537 + 242 + 221 = 1000,
and this is the value of the large aleph, and as we’ve seen in previous articles the aleph governs the light and the darkness, the day and the night. There’s also some interesting notariqon for these verses, but I’ve no conclusions to draw from them at the moment.
Now that we’ve analyzed the calculations in Genesis, lets go ahead and have a look at the role of Heh on the seven chambers of the Merkabah, and see what is said of them in Kabbalistic and Occult sources.
The letter Heh appears on two places on the Merkabah – above and below. The upper Heh joins the letters Gimel and Zayin before the throne of God (underneath the Palace of the Beth). These letters, when joined to the two Palaces of the Alephs and also the Palace of the Resh, comprise the second Heh of the Holy name. The lower Heh is given to the first Palace, corresponding to both Yesod and Malkuth on the Tree of Life. This lower Heh, together with the Palaces of Daleth and the path of Peh, comprise the final Heh of the Holy Name – thus the upper and lower Heh correspond to the Hehs of the Holy Name.
Kabbalists have discussed the two Heh’s, starting with the Bahir “there’s is an upper heh and a lower heh”, and this was greatly expanded upon by Joseph Gikatilla in the Shaarei Orah.
“The upper Hey-ה, which is Understanding-Binah, is the secret of the Upper Benefactor-Parnas HaElyon- סנרפ ןוילעה , in that all the Sefirot receive bestowal and blessings from it. […]
The final Hey-ה, which is Kingship-Malchut, is the secret of the Great and Final Benefactor-Parnas HaGadol HaAcharon- סנרפ לודגה ןורחאה , from Whom the world of the angels, their governors and camps, receive bestowal, sustainment, sustenance, and life. Likewise, it is from this Benefactor that the celestial world, the sun, moon and stars, as well as all the hosts of earth, including every metal, mineral, vegetation and living animals to their kind, all receive strength, sustainment, existence and life, according to what is appropriate for them from the Sefirah of Kingship-Malchut, which is the secret of the final letter Hey-ה of the Name HaShem- והי”ה .”
For Gikatilla, the lower Heh on the Chariot was not simply a receiver of the light of the stars, as was denoted by the theme of the early letter, but was the benefactor of all the blessing of God.
In the Occult community, the letter Heh was attributed to the Tarot Card of the Star by Aleister Crowley, to the irritation and shock of the Golden Dawn community who was used to having Tsade attributed to the Star and Heh attributed to the Emperor. Crowley refused to explain his reasons for swapping the Tsade and Heh, because doing so would have involved publicly disclosing his knowledge of both the Seven Palaces and the biblical cipher, which was the basis of many of his qabalistic tests included in Liber Al vel Legis, so to this day the Golden Dawn still uses the Tsade for the Star.
Towards the end of his life, Crowley fobbed his questioners off with a complex explanation about an astrological double loop though this is a total blind. The real reason for the swap was that he studied Genesis 1-2, and realized the attributions were incorrect. It’s easy to see why the Star should have the letter Heh, but less easy to see why Tsade fits the Emperor, until you realize that the particular Emperor referenced by the card is Caesar, whom legend has it was born by Caesarian section, and so the Tsade, which governs childbirth (and in Genesis the making of Eve was regarded as the first “birth” by Kabbalists), fits the card of the Emperor and its true thematic meaning well well.
There is a checksum and confirmation in the Book of the Law to see that the Heh fits the Star and is intentional, and moreover this shows that Crowley was ordering the Major Arcana to reflect the order of the letters in Genesis 1-2:
AL II:16: “I am the Empress & the Hierophant, thus eleven as my bride is eleven.”
When we swap the letters and order the Majors to reflect the Genesis order they run:
0 Beth : The Magician
I Aleph : The Fool
II Gimel : The Priestess
III Shin : The Aeon
IV Daleth : The Empress
V Tav : The Universe
VI Heh : The Star
VII Vav : The Hierophant
IV + VII = XI (eleven).
And we’ll stop there for today. And next time we’ll be looking at the letter Vav, and we hope you stay tuned for more numerical honey, and the wisdom of Moses and the scribes of the first Temple, and, and, and!
In the early nineteenth century, the study of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs was regarded as a thoroughly disreputable matter that was the province of cranks and charlatans. People like Athanasius Kircher were mislead by the 4th-century Greek grammarian Horapollon into thinking hieroglyphs were picture writing with symbolic meanings. Kircher published four volumes of “hieroglyphic translations”, which didn’t come remotely close to doing the job. But of course, as we very well know, it was all sorted out when Jean-François Champollion and Thomas Young self-published the correct decipherment of hieroglyphs and thus opened up a new chapter in our studies of world history. It is not beyond possibility that the decipherment of a formal system of mathematics in the Hebrew Bible will follow a similar trajectory.
In my forthcoming book “Behold! The Art and Practice of Gematria” (to be published 31st October), I have included a wealth of evidence which supports the view that Hebrew speaking peoples invented the alphabet and were using it with a formal system of maths in the Bronze age. By my efforts, I hope to refute the antisemitic detractors of ancient Israel once and for all, so please buy the book, read the book, and tell your friends about it. Thank you.