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Biblical Gematria was a system of formal mathematics.

Letters of the Lord: the letter Daleth

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 origin of the letter Daleth is a pictogram of a triangular door of a tent. The theme of this letter is the comings and goings of living things to the earth and the heavens, and according to the Genesis creation story, the first living things on the earth were plants.

The letter Daleth has the value of 4, which is the same value as the letter Tav (Time) in biblical gematria. These two letters actually share the 4th place in the priestly ordering of the alphabet, but there’s no way of showing this in a linear list so that’s why we see the order run ב א ג ש ד ת ה etc in the story of Genesis (1-2). Midrash Tadshe says 4 things were created on the third day and asks question that is often puzzled over. The midrash begins with an interpretation of Gen. 1:11:

And God said, Let the earth bring forth” (“Tadshe ha-aretz”). R. Pinchas asked, “Why did God decree that grass and herbs and fruits should grow upon the third day, while light was not created until the fourth? To show His infinite power, which is almighty; for even without the light He caused the earth to bring forth [while now He creates all manner of trees and plants through the operation of the light].”

We read in Genesis 1:3-4 that on the first day God made light and darkness, and separated them into day and night. What he doesn’t create until the fourth day was Time, and the Sun and Moon needed for measuring time. So on this third day, God has light for all the plants and trees he sends through the door between the heavens and the earth, though it is not until the next day when time is created that they can start to grow. On the third day they are frozen and fixed, with no time to grow, flower, go to seed or die. All of these things exist in potential.

On the Seven Palaces, there are two Palaces which are assigned to the letter Daleth, and these are placed directly under the Palaces of the Alephs. We can imagine mortality proceeding in an anti-clockwise direction on the Palaces, with new souls and living things entering into the sphere of the earth through the Daleth on the left palace, travelling to the earth with the light of the Sun (Resh), having their time on earth (Heh), and exiting the mortal life through the Daleth on the right.

Let’s dive right in and look at the calculations embedded in the verses of the daleth (Genesis 1:11-12).

ד Daleth 4

ויאמר אלהים תדשא הארץ דשא עשב מזריע זרע עץ פרי עשה פרי למינו אשר זרעו־בו על־הארץ ויהי־כן׃

And said Elohim, “They will grass the earth, grass, plants from seed, seed, tree, fruit, plant, fruit of their number, that seed is in and upon the earth”, and it was so.

The calculations:

אלהים ד הארץ ד עשב ז ז עץ פרי עשה פרי ז הארץ = 1600 (b.g)
1600 = 4 x 400.

Note how the third word תדשא and fifth word דשא  are almost identical? The only difference is the prefix of the tav, which in biblical Hebrew is a third person, plural, feminine, future tense. So דשא means grass, with the tav תדשא הארץ means something like “they will grass the earth”. In any case, both words receive treatment as proper nouns in biblical calculations, so we include them, and because these words have the set value of 4 we simply add a daleth to the sum each time they appear.

Other set values of note: זרע (seed) and its prefixes and suffixes have the value of the zayin (7). This may be something to do with ancient observations that seeds that have passed through the digestive track of cattle will tend to sprout.

The word על usually means subtraction of the word before it but only if that is a proper noun, which in this case it isn’t so we disregard it.

Also note the treatment here of עשה as a proper noun near the end of the sum, and with a meaning that is a variation of עשב (plants), rather than being a verb that means “yield” as it is in translations or “to make” or “do a deed”, as it is elsewhere used. There are no other examples of it being used in this fashion in the rest of the Tanakh, except here and in the next verse. Let’s have a look at that now:

ותוצא הארץ דשא עשב מזריע זרע למינהו ועץ עשה־פרי אשר זרעו־בו למינהו
וירא אלהים כי־טוב׃
ויהי־ערב ויהי־בקר יום שלישי׃

And let birth the Earth grass, plants, from seed, seed, from their number, and tree plant, fruit that their seed in and to their number,
and saw Elohim that it was good.
And there was evening and there was morning, day three.

The calculation:

930 הארץ ד עשב ז ז ועץ עשה פרי ז =  (b.g)

The same words with set values that were used in the previous verse are used here too. There is a curious cycle of correspondences for the value of 930 when we consider that on the Merkabah the letters of the section corresponding to the final heh sum to 93 (3 x 31), and when this is added to sum of the letters corresponding to the former heh 217 (7 x 31) the result becomes pertinent to the three lettered name of God; YHW since 217 + 93 = 310. But the value of 930 is 310 x 3, and the value of the word that means God (אל) is 31, so round and round go the values on the wheel of the Chariot of God.

You might be wondering where is the final destination of all the plants, trees and fruit seeds mentioned in the numbers? Simply subtract 930 from 1600 to find the gate value of the 1st Palace; the Palace of the Heh corresponding to the place of the Earth.

That’s it for now. Next time we’ll look at the interesting verses for the tav corresponding to the creation of Time where everything is set into motion. So, stayed tuned for more numerical honey poured straight from the notes of Moses and the scribes of the first Temple.

Author News – Don’t forget that my book “Behold! The Art and Practice of Gematria” will be published on the 31st October 2023 by Aeon Books. Available to pre-order now from Amazon.