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The Gematria of the Mt. Ebal Tablet (Revised)

Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

As I mentioned earlier this year, the Mt. Ebal curse tablet is the hottest discovery in the archaeological world right now. Distinguished Professor Gershon Galil[1] has called it “the most ancient and the most important Hebrew inscription ever found.” After their press release last month, everyone and their mothers are have been excitedly weighing the implications for biblical studies, and we all await the publication of their paper in the next few days[2] with anticipation.

Gershon Galil and Peter van der Veen visited Scott Striping a couple of days ago, and Gershon finally let us FB fans and friends know the exact 48 letter inscription folded within the curse tablet yesterday. Oh, happy days! Though it is different from what we thought:

אתה ארור לאל יהו ארור תמת ארור ארור מת תמת ארור אתה ליהו ארור

The confusion arose because of the fact that there are two inscriptions – one on the outside and one on the inside. In the press release last month they told us they had a sum of 12 words that say “curse” and that the inner inscription was 48 letters long, so we were completely wrong footed because we failed to consider there is an inscription on the outside cover of the tablet that is almost identical to the inner inscription (except for the name of God). [Hell – I didn’t even know about the inscription on the cover!] But it’s our own fault. We did not heed the aphorism “act in haste, repent at leisure”, or “when you “assume” you make an ass out of u and me.”

The result is, I must wave bye bye to my theory about Nephtali being the writer of the curse tablet because the calculation is different, however the tablet still displays rhetoric math, so the curse tablet still dates the practice to the Bronze Age. The actual math in the inner fold presents two really nice multiples of 31, which is the value of אל “God”. As a demonstration of ancient rhetoric math, it actually makes a more conclusive case. The calculation requires that you replace אתה with ישראל because the curse is against Israel, and there are established precedents for this use of the ‘אתה’. The sum is split into two segments of seven words:

1st seven words:
אתה ארור לאל יהו ארור תמת ארור
Calculation:
ישראל + (לאל יהו\2) + (נ\2) = 310
.אל × 10 =

2nd seven words:

ארור מת תמת ארור אתה ליהו ארור
Calculation:
248 = (נ\2) + נ + (ישראל\2) + ליהו
.אל × 8 =

10 is the value of Yod and 8 is the value of Cheth. Together this spells the word חי ‘Chai’, which means “life” but in reverse, which is quite creepy.

I find the curse tablet to be a wonderfully romantic bit of true history. In my mind’s eye I can imagine an ancient Israelite secretly preparing a potent curse using all his knowledge of the hermeneutic arts of his day. He writes on a tablet so tiny it was designed to be overlooked, and he works in secret so that only himself and God is privy to its contents, making it potent and magical. I imagine the scribe creeping out in the dead of night under the light of a full moon to bury his tablet on the mountain of Ebal, leaving it active and potent beneath the sands… until 2019 when it was discovered and the power of the curse was theoretically dissolved… (or was it???)

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  1. Gershon Galil is a Professor of Biblical Studies and Ancient History and former chair of the Department of Jewish History at the University of Haifa.
  2. Due to be published in the June edition of: Judea and Samaria Research Studies.
About the Author
Bethsheba Ashe is the creator of the popular online Shematria Gematria Calculator, and a member of the American Cryptogram Association as well as being the current Grand Master of the Sanctum Regnum. She has spent the last seven years in research into the formal system of gematria, culminating in the publication of her most recent book "Behold! The Art and Practice of Gematria" which is available at Amazon, Lulu and other outlets.
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