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Esoteric Hebrew Names of God

Hebrew Names of God

Esoteric Hebrew Names of God

In addition to the many Names of the God of Israel revealed in the Torah, Nevi'im, and Ketuvim (i.e., the Tanakh), the Jewish mystical tradition coined some other Names for God, primarily for use in the study of Kabbalah and Kabbalistic meditation. Many of these mystical Names were derived from the Scriptures using methodologies developed in ancient Babylonia.

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Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh

 WARNING: The Name of the LORD represents His power, actions, and reputation in the universe.  Almighty God cannot be "conjured" or treated as an object, since He is the Master of the Universe and subject to no one. It is chilul HaShem to attempt to invoke the Name of God for selfish or manipulative purposes (Exodus 20:7).

The material provided here is for educational purposes only and is NOT an endorsement of any form of occultism or Kabbalah. The mystical approach to interpreting Scripture often leads to dubious interpretations and serious errors.

Methods of Derivation

The Jewish mystical tradition had two primary groups that were interested in esoteric meanings of the Hebrew Names of God:

  1. Theoretical Kabbalists meditated on the Names of God for spiritual insight. Often this took the form of studying "permutations" of the divine Names to gain esoteric knowledge about God. This is a form of Gnosticism or "theosophy."
  2. Practical Kabbalists attempted to use the Names of God to "magically" affect the physical and supernatural worlds. Often this took the form of inscribing the Names on protective amulets and other artifacts. This is a form of occultism that is plainly condemned in the Torah (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; 20:27).
     

Many alternate Names of God were derived through various methodical formulas applied to Biblical verses and already existing Names of God. These methods include:

  1. Notarikon - The initial or final letters of the words of a verse or verses are used to make an acronym. For example, the name Tzamarkhad is derived from the final letter of the first five verses of Genesis:

    Tzamarkhad


  2. Temura - Letters are substituted with other letters. Using At Bash, each letter (of a word or phrase) is exchanged with its "opposite" letter and then the result is calculated. "Opposite" letters are determined by substituting the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (Aleph) with the last letter (Tav), the second letter (Bet) with the next to last (Shin), and so on.

    Thus (by At Bash): Yod Hey Vav Hey -> Mem Tsade Pey Tsade:

    At Bash


  3. Gematria - A type of numerological study that may be defined as one of more systems for calculating the numerical equivalence of letters, words, and phrases in a particular Hebrew text. These systems are used for the purpose of gaining insight into interrelating concepts and for finding correspondences between words and concepts. Using this method, the supposed angel Metatron was thought to be particularly powerful because numerically this name is equivalent to Shaddai.

     
  4. Kabbalah - The kabbalah of Names usually involves some permutation of the Sacred Name (YHVH) or the association of the Ten Sefirot of the "Tree of Life" with certain attributes of God.

Mystical Hebrew Names of God

Monogrammata

The letter Hey ( ) commonly appears on Western European amulets (i.e., charms or talisman), either alone or repeated five times to represent the Name of God.

Hey

According to the Jewish mystics, Hey represents the divine breath or revelation. On the fifth day, the LORD created ruach ("living creatures") and this corresponds to the letter Hey. Since the numerical value of Hey is five, this corresponds on a physical level to the five fingers, the five senses, and the five dimensions. On a spiritual level it corresponds to the five levels of soul:

  • Nefesh - instincts
  • Ruach - emotions
  • Neshamah - mind
  • Chayah - bridge to transcendence
  • Yechidah - oneness

"By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth" (Psalm 33:6). In the Talmud (Menachot 29b) it is said that the "breath of His mouth" refers to the sound of the letter Hey - the outbreathing of Spirit.

The letter Aleph is the "father" of the Aleph-Bet, whose original pictograph represents an ox, strength, and leader. It's numerical value is one (and also 1,000) and it is a silent letter. Aleph therefore is preeminent in its order and alludes to the ineffable mysteries of the oneness of God. Indeed, the word aluph (derived from the very name of this letter) means "Master" or "Lord."

In the classical Hebrew script (ketav Ashurit) used for writing Torah scrolls, Aleph is constructed with two Yods (one to the upper right and the other to the lower left) that are joined by a diagonal Vav. Ketav Ashurit was the script that Jesus would have read (ketav Ivri was an older script, similar to ancient Phoenician, but was not the script used when Moses received the Torah from the LORD on Sinai. Ketav Ivri is also sometimes called the Temple Script because samples of it are extant dated to the time of Solomon's Temple).

The basic gematria for the letter Aleph is one, indicating the One and only God who is the Master of the universe. Note, however, that the gematria for the parts of the letter Aleph add up to 26 (Yod+Yod+Vav). This is the same number as the sacred Name YHVH, also indicating a link between the Aleph and God Himself. This is also demonstrated in Exodus 3:14-15, where the LORD reveals His Name (I AM THAT I AM) to Moses.

Digrammata

"Digrammaton" means "two letters" and refers to a two-letter Name of God. In the Scriptures, there are two main digrammata:

Digrammata

The Name (Aleph-Lamed) comes from a root word meaning "might, strength, power" and probably derives from the Ugaritic term for god. In Scripture, the primary meanings of this root are "god" (pagan or false gods), "God" (the true God of Israel), and sometimes "the mighty" (referring to men or angels). When used of the true God of Israel, El is almost always qualified by additional words that further define the meaning that distinguish Him from false gods. These other Names or Titles for God are sometimes called "construct forms."

Another digrammaton is the Name (yah). It is generally thought that Yah is a shortened form of YHVH. This Name of God occurs about 50 times in the Tanakh. In Psalm 68:4 [5, H] this Name is particularly stressed. The Name YAH is also found in the construct word "hallelu-YAH," which means "you [pl.] praise the LORD," as well as in many Biblical proper names (e.g., Eliyahu).

The Talmud states that God used the letter Hey to create the present world (olam hazeh) and Yod to create the world to come (olam habah). The sages derive this idea from the Name (yah) found in Isaiah 26:4:

Isaiah 26:4

How did they come up with this?  Well, they consider b'yah in the text as meaning "with Yod-Hey" instead of referring to the Name Yah.

In most Siddurim (prayerbooks) and other Jewish religious literature, you will often see the Sacred Name written in an abbreviated manner as Yod-Yod:

Abbreviated

This is done to avoid casually reading, writing or saying the sacred Name of God. Some mystics claim that this convention is also a Name of God, though that is unlikely.

The Tetragrammaton

In the Tanakh, YHVH is the personal name of God and his most frequent designation, occurring over 5,200 times. This is the Ineffable Name or Unutterable Name of the God of Israel. Because it is composed from the four Hebrew letters Yod, Hey, Vav, and Hey, it is also referred to as the "Tetragrammaton," which simply means "the four letters." Kabbalists use the Name (and permutations of it) in their meditations.

The Tetragrammaton

Though we do not know how to pronounce the sacred Name, we can be confident that the letters derive from the Hebrew verb "to be" (hayah) and indicate God's utter transcendence as the Source and Ground of all being. For more information about the Sacred name, click here.

The Octagrammaton

"Octagrammaton" means "eight letters" and refers to an eight-letter Name of God created by interspersing the letters for Adonai with the letters for the Tetragrammaton:

The Octagrammaton
The Octagrammaton

The Decagrammaton

The so-called "Ten Letter Name of God" is derived from running together the names of the first three Sefirot (divine emanations or attributes of God which are said comprise the mystical "Tree of Life"): Keter (Crown), Chokhmah (Wisdom), and Binah (Understanding):

Decagrammaton

The Twelve Letter Name of God

Sefirot

There are two forms of this Name. The first form of the twelve letter Name is simply YHVH three times: YHVH YHVH YHVH:

Twelve Letter Name of God

This comes from the prayer liturgy: Adonai Melech, Adonai Malchah, Adonai Yimlokh L'Olam Va'ed – "YHVH is King, YHVH was King, YHVH will be King forever and ever."

A second form of the 12-letter Name consists of the initials of the twelve tribes of Israel. These are recited in reverse order according to the breastplate of the Urim and Thumim: Reuven, Shimeon, Levi, Yehudah, Issachar, Zevulon, Dan, Naftali, Gad, Asher, Yosef, and Benyamin:

Twelve Letter Name of God

The Fourteen Letter Name of God

The Fourteen Letter Name was derived from the phrase Adonai Eloheinu Adonai from the Shema, and was sometime written on the backs of mezuzot. The Name is formed by the simple method of substitution known as At Bash:

Fourteen Letter Name of God

The 22 Letter Name of God

The 22 Letter Name is sometimes considered part of the 72 Letter Name (see below) that includes reference to the 12 tribes of Israel (considered as Jeshurun):

22 Letter Name of God

Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaakov, the tribes of Yeshurun
(i.e., the upright).

The 33 Letter Name of God

This Name is derived from the Torah and is comprised of nine Names of God run together: Adonai, El, Eloah, Elohim, Shaddai, Tzeva'ot, Ehyeh, Yah, and YHVH:

33 Letter Name of God

The 42 Letter Name of God

The 42-Letter Name (like many of the others) has no known pronunciation, and perhaps was derived from the 2nd-century prayer "Ana Bekoach."  It is mentioned in the Talmud and many of the Jewish Sages have speculated about its significance:

42 Letter Name of God
Ana Bekoach

The 72 Names of God - (or the 216 Letter Name of God)

The 216-Letter Name of God is really a 72-part Name, since it is a sequence of 72 triads of letters all of which are derived from permutations on Exodus 14:19-21 (which itself is composed of three verses of 72 letters each).

To create the first triad, you put together the first letter of verse 14:19, the last letter of verse 14:20, and then the first letter of 14:21. To create the next triad, you put together the second letter of 14:19, the second to last of 14:20, and the second letter of 14:21. This continues until all the letters are used up. Like so:

Exodus 14:19-21

Using the algorithm, you will find the following 72 triads of letters embedded in Exodus 14:19-21:

72 Names of God

Theoretical Kabbalists will look at each of the 72 triads and consider them as one of the 72 Names of God. They will perform various forms of gematria and other analysis of these names in order to elicit spiritual insight and transformation (this is sort of thing that Yehuda Berg does in his book, The 72 Names of God, Technology for the Soul).

Practical Kabbalists create amulets using the 216 Letter Name. The Name is divided into two groups of thirty-six which the scribe writes on two amulets. One amulet is worn on one arm and the other on the other arm.

The 304,805 Letter Name of God

What is the "best" Hebrew Name of God? Some of the Jewish sages have said that it is revealed by reciting all 304,805 letters of the Torah in a series. That is, string together all 304,805 letters of the Torah - from the first letter of Bereshit (Bet) through the last letter of Devarim (Lamed) - and "read" this as a single "Word."

304,805 letters in Torah

Of course, we should also add the letters for the Prophets (neviim) and the Writings (ketuvim) to the Torah's 304,805 letters, not to mention the 138,020 words of the Greek New Testament. When we do so, we have the 3,000,000 letter name of God!

Obviously this "Name" of God is intended to humble us and to remind us that God Himself is Ein Sof - without End or limitation of any kind. God is always greater than our greatest thoughts about Him, even if we attempt to express His transcendence by means of the sacred letters of the Torah.



Abba

Taking a different approach, we learn from the teachings of Yeshua the Mashiach that the Name of God is best understood as "Father." In fact, Yeshua used the common Aramaic word for "father" (abba) to refer to His relationship with God, and He wanted his talmidim (disciples) to do likewise.

Abba

We do not need gnostic awareness or ethereal speculations to help us understand the Name of God our Father.  He relates to us intimately as a good earthly father relates to his children. We do not need incantations or abracadabra to conjure up feelings to help us overcome the existential void that haunts us - we can trust that the love of our Father in heaven as exemplified in the gracious sacrifice of His Son for us. We do not trust in emanations of spiritual forces hidden in Hebrew letters, since we can know the "Word that is behind the word" as experienced in the life and love of Yeshua our Savior.

It is well and good to understand the meaning of the hundreds of Names and Titles of God as revealed in the Scriptures, of course, but in the end we need to trust in Him as a small child trusts in the love of his father....


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