Athbash Coding

According to H. Leuchter (Biblica 85 pp 503–522), Hebrew authors probably learned athbash from Assyrians working under Esarhaddon (680–669 BCE). They observed a parallel to Hebrew athbash carved within an Akkadian Cuneiform inscription, which would have been well known to the Judeans exiled to Babylon in 597. In athbash, the first eleven letters of the Hebrew alphabet are aligned right-to-left, and in a facing row beneath the other remaining letters run left-to-right. For several thousand years scholars have been content with this simple interchangeability. However, by rotation and by converting an athbash word into a search master, those writing Scripture derived twenty-two sets of equivalents rather than just two. The Exilic Code, pages 27–29, illustrates this.

The table above shows all possible athbash letter exchanges. Just select the true word on line 1 and then substitute in parallel on all other lines. This yields twenty-one athbash equivalent spellings. Please feel free to incorporate the table into your own search work. This table sets forth the most important discovery in this book.

Scripture’s writers applied expanded athbash in two ways. First, they spelled an athbash name (letters in any order) within a single text word—termed an athbash anagram. Second, biblical authors inserted one letter of an athbash spelling within consecutive text words of a passage. Call this coded writing.

The following illustrates athbash anagrams. Ezekiel wrote, “Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet [‘feet’ contains two Cyrus anagrams] the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet [two Cyrus anagrams]? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet [two Cyrus anagrams], and drink what you have fouled with your feet [two Cyrus anagrams]?” (Ezek 34:18–19). Ezekiel’s last dated writing was in 571, while Cyrus the Great did not surface in the Middle East until the 550s. Yet some two decades earlier the prophet accused the Persian of doing Israel harm. This example supports athbash anagrams and at the same time bids us to reconstruct Israel’s exilic history.

Could those Cyrus anagrams have been coincidental? The concentration is without parallel. Hebrew Scripture’s 305,496 words contain only 999 Cyrus anagrams. But Ezekiel chapter 34 within its 220 text words has 8 such anagrams. A chi-square test for coincidence produces sixteen zeroes to the right of the decimal. Given this tiny probability, coincidence is impossible. Note that to calculate the proof, one first must determine the 999 occurrences within Scripture of the twenty-two athbash spellings of the name.

Now to coded writing—consecutive text words containing one letter of an athbash spelling per word. Persisting over years, our computers searched the Hebrew Bible for original and athbash encodings of twenty-five hundred biblical proper names. The qualifying probability that we applied, below one per thousand, was fifty times more stringent than that often used in social science studies. We discarded finds above that .001 line, and retained the remainder. Calibrating every name, we derived groups—statistically significant concentrations of the same name within the same chapter. Scripture produced 1.7 million groups.

As an example of coded writing, someone termed Dtr left his or her personal mark upon seven consecutive books, from Deuteronomy through Second Kings. To find Dtr, we tested two thousand names against those books. Who was Dtr? Probably the leader was Micaiah son of Gemariah, an official of King Jehoiakim (Jer 36:11–13). Micaiah the scribe had a higher percentage of encodings than any other person. But Micaiah had help. His son Achbor wrote a good deal, and so did Daniel, Jacob (Second Isaiah), Jeremiah, and the P Source Ezra (Shaphan Group, 67–76).

We suggest that anyone disputing coded writing must explain the consistently extreme improbabilities of occurrence. The same holds true for Ezekiel’s use of Cyrus anagrams—the statistical underpinning of that passage appears overwhelming. The work of athbash anagrams and coded writing needs redoing by more expert hands. We ask scholars to seize these opportunities.