The Atbash Cipher and Jeremiah 51:1
The Atbash cipher is a basic encoding method known to be used in the Bible. Examples of its employment appear in the Book of Jeremiah which dates to around 600B.C. The simplicity of the code should not have one assume a lack of depth for meaning, though.
The name Atbash derives from how the code works, and the Hebrew language which has been noted to use it. The first letter of the alphabet is exchanged for the last; the second letter exchanged for the next to last and so on. In the Hebrew alphabet, these letters are Aleph (first) and Tav (last), Beth (second) and Shin (next to last). Taking the first letter of each supplies ATBSH for the rendering of Atbash. Basically, it is a reversal of writing. In English, A to Z would equal Z to A.
In the Book of Jeremiah the code is seen used in 25:26, 51:1, and 51:41. Jeremiah 25:26 and 51:41 includes the place name, “Sheshach”. This place was unknown to scholars at first, but, after applying the Atbash cipher, they realized it was the coded name for Babylon (Babel). Why Babylon was encoded in this way is not entirely certain. Suggestions have been made the code was to conceal Jeremiah’s prediction of the nation’s destruction. Others say Jeremiah may have used the coded name for Babylon because it was a known and commonly used name for it at the time. No one is for sure.
However, in Jeremiah 51:1, the coded word used for Babylon is another word and may hold a clue to why the atbash cipher was used to encode the name. Jeremiah 51:1 reads, “See, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer against Babylon and the people of Leb Kamai.” Here the encoded word is Leb Kamai. Using the Atbash cipher, Leb Kamai decodes to Kasdim/Chaldea-Babylon. Literally though, Leb Kamai can be translated as, “the heart of those who rise against me.”
What I find leading is the equating of Babylon to the people of ‘the heart of those who rise against me/ Leb Kamai.’ The atbash cipher is a form of Temurah. Temurah is a belief by Cabbalists that the rearrangement of letters in words holds spiritual meanings; like how the anagram of a person’s name revealed hidden meanings or a person’s destiny was discovered through its process.
The process used for the Atbash cipher is the letters are all reversed to represent another. Could a deeper layer of meaning be realized here?
Proverbs 3:3-4 speaks of how to win God’s favor one must have love and faithfulness. It says, “Write them on the tablet of your heart.” Obviously, Babylon did not have ‘God’s favor’ and I feel it could be for this reason Leb Kamai was used. Leb Kamai, (the heart of those who rise against me), could indicate, by applying the atbash cipher to encode another name for Babylon, that the writing on their heart was ‘reversed’. Since the atbash cipher used reversed writing, it reveals Babylon’s rise against God.
It is also interesting to note that the infamous term ‘Baphomet’ has been found to render ‘Sophia’ by applying the atbash cipher. This is something which I will have to write on later, because I am out of time as of now. Sorry for the abrupt ending…will fix it another day.
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