In last weeks’ blog post on the symbolism of numbers and colors, I mentioned one of my great institute teachers (John Fowles) that got me going down that path. He also introduced me to this week’s “study topic,” which isn’t really a study as much as something that became a sacred fascination and incredible proof of God’s existence that I want to share with you.
One day in class, Brother Fowles mentioned that when he was at BYU, one day he found himself in the locker room after a gym class or something, and Hugh Nibley walked in after playing squash or something (I don’t remember the exact details). What do you say when you’re confronted with an opportunity like that?!?! If I remember right, Brother Fowles asked Brother Nibley about Hebrew Gematria and if there was anything to it. Hugh smiled and said, “oh, that’s just good clean fun.” (If I remember right…)
In a conversation with this teacher he told me to get a copy of the out-of-print book “Roots of the Bible” by Friedrich Weinreb and he gave me a reference to a man who was translating other of Weinreb’s works into English from German. I called this individual and he had one spare copy he sold me. For 15 years I waited knowing someday I’d read the book and finally a decade ago, felt the time was right and dove in. Here’s a smattering of what I’ve learned.
The Hebrew language, absolutely proves the existence of a God beyond all doubt. No mortal could have come up with a system so complex and amazing to assign numeric values to letters which in turn tell such an intricate story behind the meaning of words and phrases. A full treatise on the book isn’t possible, nor can I do it justice in a few paragraphs, but I will share a few highlights.
To begin, the Hebrew language consists of 22 consonants which all have meaning. The structure of a word that has different vowels but the same consonants as another word, changes the image, but not the core structure of the word. It is this structure that tells all. This page shows the name of the sign, the letter/form, the numeric Gematria value of the letter, the English symbol, the ancient Hebrew image of that letter, and then how that letter’s name is spelled (ex. Aleph is A-L-Ph or 1-30-80).
The number 1, represented by the first letter in the alphabet “aleph,” represents God, the unity of all things. The number 2, “beth,” represents the duality as the 1 creates something opposite itself. When the 2 multiplies into further life, the next extension, it becomes a 4, so the natural progression of things created is 1-2-4.
It is shown by the author over and over that in the creation, things go from 1 to 4, or from God’s perfect world, into something created which in turn creates on it’s own and thus became “as the God’s” knowing good and evil.
This amazing gematria structure is seen in many ways. One set of this proportion is shown not just in language, but in relative proportions. “The tree of life” has a structural value of 233 when the values of the words’ letters are added together. “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil” has a value of 932. Comparing these values we see a 1 to 4 ratio. The word “the” which I’ve included there, does not appear in the King James Version of the Bible, but Weinreb says it does exist in the source material he has and points out that without the “the” in the phrase, it would change the value of the structure and thus alter the meaning of the language. This insertion gives a different flavor to the name and function of the tree.
Putting this into symbolic terms, the tree of life represents God while the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents the multiplicity of God’s creations. The author spends considerable time building up to this understanding which is all good preparation and would no doubt be easier to comprehend through his build-up than my shortened explanation, but here are a few highlights which help to make sense of this concept.
The Hebrew word for man is denoted 1-4-40. Truth is 1-40-400 showing similar proportions to man. Weinreb explains the 40 and 400 are simply the 4 in another plane. It’s a progression of the 4 into 40 (times 10) and into 400 (times 10 again) which is a fullness of the development one can achieve in mortality. Now this gets fascinating as by removing the 1 from man so we just have 4-40, we obtain the structure of the word for blood. Without the 1, or the tree of life, we are blood alone, missing out on the 1 (life). When we drop the 1 from truth, we have 40-400, or the structure of the word for death. Without the tree of life, we experience death which is the ultimate multiplicity of creation shown as the 4 in higher planes. (ie. Ultimate spiritual death).
One more example of how this language is shown in the development of life. Man is 1-2, mother is 1-40. The words for son and daughter are 2-50 and 2-400 respectively, showing that sons and daughters are created (the 2’s) from the origin of man and woman which start with 1’s.
One development of this concept is the Hebrew word for create which has a structure of 2-200-1. Weinreb explains this that when something is created (2) it is then released by it’s creator to achieve all that it can in its sphere of existence and carry itself to the highest point outward from the creator (200), but then it must return to its creator (1) even though it may not have comprehended such a path was planned for it.
The word for “come” is 2-1 showing that a father (1-2) creates and then invites his creation to return to him (2-1). The word “lost” in Hebrew is 1-2-4 meaning the father created something and it failed to come to him and instead became unto itself a duality (lost in the world). These things fascinate me and prove to me the existence of a very high order of language, far beyond something that man could create where the very structure of the word gives meaning to the words and to the purpose of life.
There are many examples in the book on a variety of subjects and I will only share one more here pertaining to the name of the Lord. In Genesis chapters 1 and 2 we read two accounts of the creation story. In the first chapter, God does everything, while in the second chapter, it changes to “Lord God”. We understand that the first chapter deals with a spiritual creation of the earth and the word for “God” is “Elohim”. In the second chapter, we have the word “Jehovah” being used and the structure for this name is 10-5-6-5. Forgive me for not going into great detail as the author spends considerable time on this name and I cannot say that I understand it well enough to dispense it to you in summary form, except that the 6 is a “hook” or “joining” word so we see in the name of Jehovah that there is a 10, and then another 10 expressed as a duality of creation (5 and a 5). This is what the author says of the name’s proportion:
“All this is henceforth determined by what is expressed in the name of ‘Lord God’. This name is spelled in Hebrew yod-hee-waw-hee. (10-5-6-5) The name is not pronounced that way, because in pronouncing this proportion, or writing it down in the original Hebrew letters, one would create something of eminent force and power which one is not allowed to use for phenomenal proportions. Only in very special circumstances and in a very special place may this name be uttered, according to ancient lore.”
Interestingly, the author points out that knowledge of this name is called “shem” and one who possesses knowledge of this name is called a “baal-shem”. Shem was the righteous son of Noah whose lineage the priesthood came through. It’s possible he was the same individual we know as Melchizedek, the great high priest and we read in scripture that the priesthood was given his name for this reason:
“But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his [Jehovah’s] name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood.” (D&C 107:4)
In other words, to avoid the too frequent use of Jehovah’s name (something of eminent force and power), they called the priesthood after Melchizedek. Shem was one who was certainly schooled by his father Noah in the righteous ways of the patriarchs and obtained more sacred knowledge than others and thus it was passed down that those who possessed this knowledge were a type of Shem. If there was a word in Hebrew that meant “sacredly fascinating,” I would use that word to describe this knowledge.