The notion that the Bible contains alphanumeric codes is controversial among believers and unbelievers alike. There is a very prevalent mental association of gematria and isopsephy with the occult which is at least partly to blame for the stigma surrounding these practices among Christians. In this brief analysis I hope to impart knowledge that will help to abolish many of the irrational fears and lingering misconceptions surrounding biblical numerology generally, and Hebrew gematria specifically.
The Ancient Hebrew Alphanumeric System
Every civilized society must possess some sort of organized system for representing numerical values in writing. Without one, things like buying and selling, doing taxes, issuing receipts, publishing math books, and so forth–become very difficult. Today it is easy to take for granted the fact that we have a system of numeral representation (the Hindu-Arabic numeral system) that is common throughout the whole world. Yet there was a time when this system of numeral representation did not exist, and systems for representing numbers in writing varied from kingdom to kingdom.
For ancient societies like the Jews and Greeks who both inherited their alphabet from the Phoenicians, systems of alphabetic numerals eventually became the standard. These systems operated on a very simple logic in which each letter of the alphabet was assigned a specific numerical value. Below is the alphanumerical system which was devised by the Hebrews, which is believed to have been created about 75-100 years before the birth of Jesus.
Systems such as these provided a simple yet logical means by which any particular numerical value could easily be represented in writing by merely combining specific letters of the alphabet. So to give an example to illustrate, suppose you’re a Jew living in the first century BC, and you need to write the number 27. To do this, you would use a combination of the letters kaph (כ), which was the letter used to represent the numerical value of 20; and zayin (ז), which was the letter used to represent the numerical value of 7. The number 27 in ancient Israel would thus have been written as כז.
Like the Greek alphanumeric system devised a few hundred years before it, the Hebrew alphanumeric system was one devised to be used for practical purposes. Yet one important point to note about the Hebrew alphanumeric system is that it was devised hundreds of years after the last book of the Old Testament had already been written. I have constructed the following timeline in order to make it easier to visually convey this very important point:
The fact that the Hebrew alphanumeric system was devised hundreds of years after the final book of the Old Testament was written, proves that none of the writers of the Old Testament books could have been deliberately responsible for any alphanumeric codes found in the Old Testament which are based on the Hebrew alphanumeric system, since that system did not even exist at the time that they were writing.
What is Hebrew gematria?
Although the ancient Jews developed their alphanumeric system to be used for practical purposes, it didn’t take long before this system began to be applied to biblical exegesis and used for mystical speculation. John the Revelator’s famous line “count the number of the beast” (Rev. 13:8) attests that many Jews were already familiar with using the Hebrew and/or Greek alphanumerical systems as exegetical tools by the time the book of Revelation was being written (ca. 90-100 AD). Likewise the rabbinic commentaries of the Talmud are saturated with expositions of various biblical passages based on mystical speculations about the meaning of observed alphanumerical equivalencies occurring between various words and phrases in the Old Testament. Such clear early references to the use of Hebrew gematria in early Jewish and Christian literature proves that the use of the Hebrew alphanumeric system as a tool for interpreting Scripture was one of Judaeo-Christian origins. Heretical sects and occult groups like the Gnostics (and much later–the Kabbalists) would later adopt this method and use it in corrupt and perverse ways for which it was not intended. However, it is important to understand that these groups did not invent the practice, and they certainly do not have some sort of patent on it.
The basic idea of Hebrew gematria is that God (in his perfect foreknowledge) used the man-made Hebrew alphanumerical system to cryptically establish and strengthen prophetic connections between related biblical constructs and whole passages which might not bear any relation otherwise. As it pertains to the Bible, the basic idea of Hebrew gematria is that biblical words, names, phrases, and even whole verses which have the same total gematrical value when the values of all of their containing letters are summed, are in some way related within the Logos, which for our purposes here can be summarily defined as simply “the mind of God.“
Examples of the different types of Hebrew Gematria in the Old Testament
Hebrew gematria manifests in varying degrees of complexity throughout the Old Testament. Spiritually meaningful alphanumeric equivalencies can be found occurring between single-worded constructs, multiple-worded constructs and statements, and even entire verses. In order to ensure that you get a well-rounded picture, I will use the remaining space to present a few different examples of spiritually meaningful Hebrew alphanumeric equivalencies of various types found in the Old Testament.
The most basic type of alphanumeric code found in the Bible which utilizes the Hebrew alphanumeric system are single-word alphanumeric equivalencies like the one charted in the following example:
As can be seen, the name “Joseph” and the word “Zion” as spelled in Hebrew, both carry a total gematrical value of 156 when all of their containing Hebrew letters are summed. Such alphanumerical equivalencies are often indicative of some kind of spiritual relationship between the two words, and this is certainly the case here.
Understanding the relationship between Joseph and Zion
Let us begin by asking ourselves: “what is Zion?” Simply put, Zion is the name of a specific hill in the center of Jerusalem which God has chosen to be his permanent divine residence (Ps. 132:13). It should immediately be noted that in the Bible, anything that God “chooses” is always hated by the world (John 15:19; 1 Cor. 1:28). It thus follows that because Zion is God’s chosen dwelling place, Zion is hated by the world (Mic. 4:11; Ps. 129:5). Put another way, Zion is the place that God has chosen out of all of the tribes of Israel to “put his name there,” (Deut. 12:5; 12:21; 26:2; 1 Kings 11:36; 14:21; 2 Chron. 12:13; Ezra 6:12), and Zion is accordingly hated “for his name sake” (Isa. 66:5; cf. Matt. 24:9; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17).
Like Zion, Joseph was also specifically chosen by God. Of his 11 brothers, it was he who was chosen to be the deliverer of Israel and the entire world (Gen 45:4-13; 50:20). He was also divinely chosen out of all his brothers to be the one who would inherit the birthright promises (1 Chron. 5:2). Because he was divinely chosen, he was hated by his brothers (Gen. 37:4-11), who on a prophetic level in the Genesis narrative typify the entire world system.
The spiritual relation between Joseph and Zion is very clear. Both were chosen by God, and as such–both were are hated by the world. The alphanumeric equivalency between these two biblical constructs was deliberately done of God in order to reflect this spiritual relationship.
Hebrew gematria codes are not limited to single words. The example below charts an obviously deliberate alphanumeric equivalency occurring between two sets of constructs:1
Here we can see that, in the original Hebrew text, the phrases “two witnesses” (as it appears in Deut. 17:6) and “the pure candlestick” (as it appears in Exod. 39:37) both have a total gematrical value of 524 when the values of all of their respective Hebrew letters are summed. For those of us who believe that God utilized the alphanumeric system of the ancient Hebrews to establish and strengthen spiritual connections between spiritually related biblical constructs in the Bible in this way, the fact that these two constructs (as they appear in these Scriptures) are gematrically equivalent potentially suggests that these two constructs are in some way deeply related in the Logos.2 But what might the connection between them be? The keys to understanding the spiritual relationship between these two important biblical constructs lies in Zechariah 4 and Revelation 11.
Understanding the relationship between the candlestick and the two witnesses.
In Zechariah chapter 4, we have a record of a prophetic vision shown to the prophet Zechariah in 520 BC. This vision is of a golden candlestick with a golden bowl on top of it, and two olive trees on the right and left sides of it (Zech. 4:2). This vision in turn forms the basis of the prophecy of Revelation 11 (recorded about 600 years later), in which God states that he will give power to his “two witnesses“, who are revealed to be the two olive trees of the vision of Zechariah 4 (Rev. 11:4). Thus what we have here is an additional and completely independent biblical witness affirming this prophetic connection between the constructs of “the pure candlestick” and “two witnesses”. Obviously, this testifies to the reality of biblical gematria, which God freely used to establish and strengthen such relational connections between diverse biblical constructs.
Note that equivalencies occur between more than just simple constructs. Our second example of Hebrew gematria in the Bible is an equivalency between a statement and a construct comprised of multiple words. Note the following:
Here we find a gematrical equivalency between the statement “seal the Law among my disciples” in Isa. 8:16, and the construct “Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel,” as it appears in Hag. 2:23. In the original Hebrew text, both of these carry a total gematrical value of 1151 when all of their containing Hebrew letters are summed. Might this have been deliberately done by God to establish or affirm some kind of spiritual relationship? Indeed. In order to understand the relationship between these, we must first understand what it meant to “seal” a document in antiquity.
Understanding the relationship between Isaiah’s commandment to “seal the Law” among his disciples, and Zerubbabel, God’s servant.
In ancient times, every king owned a signet ring. A signet ring was a ring with a custom engraved emblem (known as a seal) on the front of it, which functioned as a mark of identity and a symbol of the ring owner’s authority. Any time the king would issue any kind of legislation or written correspondence, he would roll up the document, pour molten wax or clay on the top of it, and press the part of his signet containing his seal into the molten wax. Once the wax cooled, it would harden–creating a hardened impression of the king’s seal.3 The king’s seal certified that the king was the author and issuer of the legislation, and thus established that all laws contained therein were absolutely binding upon all subjects residing within his dominion. The signet ring, in other words, functioned as ancient man’s handwritten signature.4
Aside from functioning as a mark of identity and a symbol of personal authority, there were additional benefits to sealing written documents in old time. Once a document was sealed, it could not be opened and read without breaking the seal. Thus, sealing a piece of written correspondence was a means by which one could ensure that it was kept confidential. But even more than that, it was a way by which one could be certain that the text of a written document had not been tampered with or altered by a third party at any point during the process of transmission.
It is this latter function which enables us to fully understand the LORD’s commandment through the mouth of Isaiah in Isa. 8:16 to bind up the testimony and seal the law among his disciples. What he is inferring is that the Law (the Written Word of God) was to be rolled up and sealed with the LORD’s own signet, so that after all of the prophecies contained therein had been fulfilled in years to come–one could break the seal and open it and read and see for themselves that these were the true words of God.
Now you ask, how might the Hebrew phrase “seal the law among my disciples” in Isa. 8:16 be related to the numerically equivalent phrase “Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel” of Hag. 2:23? The answer to this question is revealed in the very verse from whence this cluster of words was taken:
In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts. (Haggai 2:23)In Hag. 2:23, the LORD through the mouth of the prophet Haggai declares to Zerubbabel that he will make him like a signet (seal).
As we can see, Haggai 2:23 is a prophecy addressed to Zerubbabel, in which the LORD declares that he will make him like his own signet.5 Thus it as if the numerically equivalent phrase “seal the law among my disciples” in Isaiah 8:16 functions on one level as a divinely encoded alphanumeric cryptographic allusion to the numerically equivalent phrase “Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel” of Hag. 2:23–as Zerubbabel was to become God’s signet (the ring which he would use to seal his Law). This is yet another compelling example testifying to the truth that the Hebrew text of the Old Testament is saturated with such alphanumeric “codes.”
The first words of God recorded in the Bible were spoken on the first day of Creation, those being “y’hi or” (translated: “Let there be light“). As can be seen, in Hebrew this phrase is numerically equivalent with the Hebrew phrase “divir-yhwh” (translated: “word of the LORD“), which is frequently used throughout the Old Testament to refer to the spirit of prophetic inspiration and divine revelation.
Understanding the relationship between “Let there be light” and “the word of the LORD”
The fact that these two clusters of words are numerically equivalent suggests that they are deeply related within the Logos, which leads us to ask what the relationship between them might be. This one is actually quite easy. In the case of “Let there be light,” we have the very first spoken words of God in the biblical record, which corresponds to the first of all of his created works, namely–light. The connection becomes readily apparent when we remember that the word of the LORD is symbolized as a light in Scripture (Ps. 119:105; John 1:1-5), and is also repeatedly stated to have existed from the beginning (John 1:1-5; 1 John 1:1; cf. Prov. 8:23)–being the very first of the works of God (Rev. 3:14). In other words, the word of the LORD is the light that God spoke into existence on the first day of Creation. Thus, what we have here is God using Hebrew gematria in the Bible to strengthen this scriptural relation between these two biblical constructs, thereby further establishing their relational equivalence. The word of the LORD and God’s first recorded words in the biblical record are relationally interchangeable within the Logos
In all the examples we have looked at thus far, we have seen that God uses Hebrew gematria to establish prophetic connections between alphanumerically equivalent constructs, statements, and clauses. Hebrew gematria codes can also occur between entire verses. My own analysis of codes of this particular variety has led me to the conclusion that their primary function is to bear witness of the authenticity of the text by functioning as a kind of divine watermark upon it. It is also important to note that, because the modern system of verse divisions found in the Old Testament today weren’t devised until the fifteenth century, the existence of Hebrew gematria codes of this type prove that the Old Testament’s system of verse divisions is just as divinely inspired as the written text itself. I have created the extremely compressed timeline below in order to make this very important point more apparent. Behold:
As the above timeline shows, there is a space of approximately 1,850 years between the time that the last book of the Old Testament was written, and the time that the modern system of verse divisions found in the Old Testament today was created. Again, this means that it is literally impossible for the biblical writers to have been consciously responsible for any alphanumeric codes of the whole verse variety, since the system of verse divisions such codes rely upon didn’t exist at the time that they were writing. It also means that the hand of God was just as much upon Rabbi Nathan (who devised the system of Old Testament verse divisions) as it was upon the biblical writers who penned the words of God. These are all very important points to keep in mind as you consider the examples I am about to present.
The table below documents one example of an obviously deliberate (and therefore divinely planted) alphanumeric code in the Hebrew Old Testament of the whole verse variety:
As we can see, the two verses charted in the table above both have a total gematrical value of exactly 2,168 when all of their containing Hebrew letters are summed. One will also note that both verses mention the LORD overthrowing horses and riders. Such blatantly obvious topical relation between the two verses attests that it is no coincidence that they are alphanumerically equivalent. This is the finger-work of God.
The table below documents another example of a Hebrew gematria code in the Old Testament of the whole verse variety. Behold:
As can be seen, both of the above verses carry a total gematrical value of exactly 2,942 when all of their containing Hebrew letters are summed. While alphanumerical equivalencies between whole verses can occur by random chance, the fact that these two verses share such obvious topical relation (as we saw with our previous example) attests that this was done deliberately by God.
Hebrew Gematria codes are not bound by time.
The word of God is eternal (Ps. 119:89; Isa. 40:8; Matt. 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:32), and consequentially is not subject to the laws of time and space (2 Tim. 2:9). It should therefore not surprise us if this divinely ordained alphanumerical system that God so creatively used to establish and strengthen prophetic connections between spiritually related constructs in the Bible is not exclusively confined to the written text of the Old Testament. What do I mean by that exactly? Suppose I were to tell you that God in his perfect foreknowledge used Hebrew gematria to link constructs from the Bible with spiritually related constructs in the modern Hebrew dialect spoken by Israelis today. Such a notion sounds baffling doesn’t it? It would seem to be impossible, and yet–it is reality. Allow me to give an example to demonstrate.
The following chart combines a biblical construct that we looked at in a previous example (top row), with three different modern Hebrew renderings of what it actually represents as a biblical symbol. Behold:
I have written at great length about the spiritual relationship between the golden candlestick of the Zechariah 4 vision and the biblical canon in another article. As I so successfully proved in that systematic presentation, the golden candlestick is a figurative type of the Holy Bible, as specifically exemplified in the Protestant biblical canon. If you study the description of it’s design given in Exodus 25:31-40, you will find that it contained a total of 66 individual ornaments (consisting of knops, bowls, and almonds) on its seven arms. What is more, when you apply the 4-3 divisional schema which multiple biblical witnesses testify was inherent to the candlestick’s design, you will find that the two divisions of the golden candlestick contain a total of 39 ornaments (branches 1-3 plus the shaft) and 27 ornaments respectively (branches 4-6). Taken together, the golden candlestick symbolizes the Holy Bible as specifically exemplified in the Protestant biblical canon, which consists of 66 books divided into 2 testaments–with 39 books in the OT, and 27 books in the NT. Note that this is not my own subjective interpretation that is open to debate, but is an objective truth that is easily provable by Scripture. The golden candlestick is a figurative symbol of the Protestant biblical canon, which God in his perfect foreknowledge instructed Moses to make for a witness of something that was to be spoken after (Heb 3:5).
Note that none of the terms in the remaining three rows of the chart above are found anywhere in the Bible. There was no biblical canon in biblical times, and therefore none of these three sets of words existed yet. These terms exist only in modern Hebrew. Yet, God in his perfect foreknowledge intentionally worked it out to where the word “candlestick” as it is spelled in Zech. 4:2 is alphanumerically equivalent with these modern Hebrew names for what the golden candlestick actually represents as a biblical symbol. By this alphanumeric equivalency, God has found yet another way to creatively affirm that the golden candlestick is spiritually tied to the biblical canon within the Logos.
The truth that God used the man-made Hebrew alphanumerical system to deliberately encrypt and watermark the Bible is undeniable. As previously noted, the fact that this system wasn’t devised until several centuries after the last book of the Old Testament was written, proves that only God could have been deliberately responsible for the Hebrew gematria codes found in the Old Testament which are based on this system.
My primary motivation in giving this very brief introduction to Hebrew gematria was primarily to dispel the myths surrounding this ancient Judaeo-Christian practice, and to destroy the stigma which stems from them. When used cautiously for the pure and holy purpose for which it was intended, Hebrew gematria can be a very powerful exegetical tool, and can open up a whole new interpretive framework to the student of the Bible through which God can communicate revelation. I will do a much more detailed and thorough discussion on the subject of alphanumeric codes in the Bible at some point in the future.
- A construct is defined as particular string of words that come together to form one complete thought.
- For the purposes of the present discussion, the Logos can be summarily defined as the mind of God.
- For a visual demonstration of this process, see the following video.
- As a matter of fact, the modern Hebrew verb לחתום (“to sign“), is the ancient Hebrew verb “to seal.” The word is the same, only the meaning has changed.
- It should be noted that the Hebrew word for “signet” and “seal” in Hebrew were the same word.