Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

The Number of the Beast

Today is June 6th, 2006. Some write this date as 6/6/06, which apparently many people confuse with the number 666 because there have been numerous accounts of pregnant women opting to induce labor or have a caesarian section rather than risk delivering on this day. The new remake of The Omen is being released today (I suppose nobody thought to remake Rosemary's Baby), and David Lee Roth's new album is being released today (the title has something to do with the Devil). And even before today, for years in fact, I've heard of people refusing phone numbers and license plates because they contained the sequence 666 in the number. So I want to see if I can clear up a few things, and maybe share a a few interesting tidbits along the way.

The verse wherein we read of the number 666 is in Revelation. In particular,

"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six," (Revelation 13: 18).

Okay! First note that this is not the Devil's number. It is the number of the Beast. Moreover, it is not the numeric sequence six-six-six (6-6-6), it is the number 666 (six hundred and sixty six). The number 1666 is a different number, because 666 does not equal 1666. The date 6/6/06 is not the number of the Beast, because 6/6/06 does not equal 666. In point of fact, 6/6/06 is not a number at all. It's a date. If your license plate, or your phone number, or any other number that contains more than three digits, or any alphanumeric sequence you should run across, happens to contain the numeric sequence 6-6-6, it is still not the number of the Beast.

Notice how the number is phrased in the verse above. It is phrased, six hundred, sixty, and six. At this point it is likely worth looking at how Jews wrote numbers. We use Arabic numerals to write numbers, and Latin letters to write words. But the Jews used Hebrew letters to write both words and numbers. So even if we look to the earliest Greek transcripts, we would just find it written out in Greek words (,>"6@F4@4 ,>06@<J" ,>, which is Greek for six hundred sixty six). Instead, let's look at just how this would have been written by a Jew near the end of the 1st Century.

If you don't have a Hebrew font installed on your computer (or a Greek one for the preceding paragraph), then this might get a bit difficult for you to read.

Hebrew Numbering

The first nine letters of the Hebrew alephbet are assigned values 1 - 9.

(aleph) ‘! = 1, (bet) ‘"=2, (gimel)‘#=3, (dalet)‘$=4, (he) ‘%=5, (vav) ‘&=6, (zayin) ‘'=7, (khet) ‘(=8, (tet) ‘)=9

Note that each character is followed by an apostrophe (Hebrew is written right to left, so the apostrophes are following the letters). This is done when a letter is used by itself to represent a number. Similarly, the next nine letters represent the numbers 10 - 90 (by tens).

(yod) ‘*=10, (kaf) ‘,=20, (lamed) ‘-=30, (mem) ‘/=40, (nun) ‘1=50, (samech) ‘2=60, (ayin) ‘3=70, (peh) ‘5=80, (tsade) ‘7=90

Finally, the last four letters represent 100 - 400 (by hundreds).

(quf) ‘8=100, (resh) ‘9=200, (shin) ‘:=300, (tav) ‘;=400

If you want to write the number 37, you would write '"- (30 + 7). Note the quotation mark which precedes the zayin (remember, right to left). This is included before the last character in a multi-character number, to indicate that this is a number, not a word. If you wanted to write 437, you would write '"-;(400 + 30 + 7).

There are two exceptions to the way numbers are written. They are the numbers 15 and 16. Okay, there are actually any number of exceptions, because these two exceptions apply to any number that ends with either 15 or 16. If you want to write the number 15, you write 9 + 6, or &"), instead of 10 + 5, or %"*. Similarly, 16 is written '") (9 + 7), instead of &"* (10 + 6). Likewise, 215 would be written &")9, and 316 would be written '"):.

The reason for these two exceptions is that each of the numbers 15 and 16, written normally, would constitute part of the Covenant Name of God, %*&* (yod-vav-yod-he, right to left). If you read the King James version of the Holy Bible and see the name Lord written (as you see here) in all caps, it is %*&* (yod-vav-yod-he) that is represented.

You might recognize the English transliteration of the Covenant Name of God, YHWH with no vowels, that some have come to pronounce "Yahway." Apparently many believe that because the Jews never write out the name that they don't know how to pronounce it.

First, there are no vowels in the Covenant Name of God because there are no vowels in Hebrew. Instead they use diacritical marks to aid in pronunciation. Most who are sufficiently fluent in Hebrew don't bother to write the vowels/diacriticals in any words, and the sopharim never include them in the Torah. They are forbidden in the Torah, and they just aren't necessary for the fluent. And all of that notwithstanding, there is no mystery about how to pronounce the Covenant Name of God. In Hebrew it is pronounced Yehovah, and in English transliteration it is pronounced Jehovah (the &, vav, is sometimes pronounced as a 'v' and sometimes as a 'w', but is usually transliterated as a 'w').

While we're on the subject, let's clear up a bit of misunderstanding about why the Jews never write out the Covenant Name of God. In fact, you might have noticed that they omit the vowel in English. They write G-d instead of God. Many believe that this is because the Decalogue forbids creating a graven image, or representation, of God. Still others believe it is because of the proscription of taking His name in vain, or using His name casually. In point of fact, the reason Jews do not write out the name of God stems from Deuteronomy 12. Upon entering into the Promised Land, the Jews were commanded to eradicate all evidence of the false gods of those who were there before them, right down to their very names. Then in verse 4 they are enjoined from ever defacing or erasing the name of God. Since they can never be certain of what may happen to any piece of paper on which they should write His name, they simply never write it down to begin with. Then they never have to worry about erasing it, even unintentionally.

But let's get back to the number of the Beast. You might have noticed, if you're particularly astute, that the Hebrew letter & (vav) represents the number six, and is most often transliterated as a 'w'. For this reason, some years ago, there were some who were convinced that the internet was "the Beast," because all URL's (at the time) began with "www." They concluded that this represented the number 6-6-6 (apparently being unable to distinguish between a number and a numeric sequence), and their imaginations took off.

But as I wrote earlier, the number of the Beast is recorded as the number 666 (six hundred sixty six), not the numeric sequence 6-6-6. From the earlier paragraphs we can see that in Hebrew numbers, the number 666 would be written &"29; (400 + 200+ 60 + 6), not &&& (which, to one fluent in Hebrew, would be simple gibberish).

Finally, I would like to point out that the Jews were not the only peoples to use their letters to represent numbers. The Romans also used letters to represent numbers, and there is one artifact of their number system that I find very interesting (with respect to this whole subject). If you write down each letter of the Roman numbering system that was in use in the First Century, In descending order of magnitude, you get DCLXVI, which is the number six hundred sixty six (666), the actual number of the Beast as opposed to the numeric sequence 6-6-6.

Deuteronomy 12: 1 - 4
1 These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth.
2 Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree:
3 And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.
4 Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God.