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The Alphabetic Verses

Digital Image of Psalm 119 (KJV)
Digital Image of
Psalm 119 (KJV)

The Alphabetic Verses are passages of the Old Testament that were designed explicitly upon the pattern of the Hebrew alphabet. They include several Psalms, most of Lamentations, and the last twenty-two verses of Proverbs. The complete set is listed in the table below. Each verse begins with an Alphabetic KeyWord that starts with the corresponding Hebrew letter. These KeyWords are essential to the study of the Bible Wheel because they establish the meanings of the letters which are profoundly correlated with the content of the books on the corresponding Spokes. Particularly stunning examples are found in the Alphabatic KeyLinks in which the content of an Alphabetic Verse is found only on its corresponding Spoke and nowhere else (see the Table of Alphabetic Links).

Psalm 119 is the most prominent and well-known of the alphabetically structured passages. It consists of twenty-two stanzas, each having eight verses that begin with the same Hebrew letter for a total of 176 (= 8 x 22) verses. The first eight verses each begin with an Aleph KeyWord, the next eight with a Bet KeyWord, the next eight with a Gimel KeyWord, and so forth. Its alphabetic structure is transparent in many Bibles such as the King James Version which prints the name and form of the corresponding Hebrew letter above each eightfold stanza. The digital photograph shows the first nine verses of Psalm 119 as found in my personal copy of the King James Bible. See Chapter 7 of the Bible Wheel book for a further explanation of the Hebrew alphabet, the meaning of the letters, and how they are connected with the Bible Wheel.

The Alphabetic Verses
LAMENTATIONS
  • Chapter 1: 22 verses, one for each letter in the standard alphabetic order from Aleph to Tav.
  • Chapter 2: 22 verses, one for each letter. This chapter introduces the curious variation that the order of Ayin and Pey is reversed. This same interchange appears also in Chapters 3 and 4.
  • Chapter 3: 66 verses, three consecutive verses for each letter from Aleph to Tav
  • Chapter 4: 22 verses, one for each letter from Aleph to Tav.
  • Chapter 5: 22 verses, but they are not written alphabetically.
PROVERBS 31:10-31:
  • 22 Verses, one for each letter in the standard alphabetic order from Aleph to Tav.
ALPHABETIC PSALMS:
  • Psalms 9 & 10: 39 verses: These two Psalms were composed together. The first runs from Aleph to Kaph, the second from Lamed to Tav. It follows a skip pattern with a KeyWord in every other verse. There are a few variations from the expected pattern, such as the missing Dalet and Quph verses.
  • Psalm 25: 22 verses. The KJV versification gets out of line with the Alphabet at verse 5, which includes the Hey and Vav verses in one. Tav therefore appears in verse 21. Also, there are two consecutive verses corresponding to Resh, one of which fills the space usually occupied by Quph. This Psalm ends in verse 22 with an appended verse beginning with the Pey KeyWord hdeP] (p'dey, redeem) which is used in one of the Pey verses of Psalm 119. It also is appended to Psalm 34.
  • Psalm 34: 22 verses. This Psalm follows the standard order with the exception that the verse corresponding to Vav is missing, so correlation between the verse numbers and the letters is off by one after verse 5. For example, the Tav verse is AV Ps 34:21 rather than the expected 22. This Psalm ends in verse 22 with an appended Pey KeyWord hdeP] (p'dey, redeem) which is also appended to Psalm 25.
  • Psalm 37: 40 verses. Most of this Psalm follows a skip pattern with every other verse corresponding to a Hebrew Letter. The first verse starts with Aleph, the third with Bet, the fifth with Gimel and the seventh with Dalet. If this pattern were followed throughout, there would be 44 (= 2 x 22) verses. But the pattern breaks down in a few places where there is no verse separating the sequential Letters. This first happens with Hey appearing in verse 8 immediately after Dalet in verse 7. But then the original plan begins again, with Vav in verse 10, Zayin in verse 12, Chet in verse 14, and so forth until we come to Kaph in verse 20. These variations are easy to follow and the corresponding KeyWords are clearly discerned.
  • Psalm 111: 10 verses. The whole Alphabet is represented in standard order from Aleph to Tav. The first 8 verses each have two clauses beginning with consecutive Letters and the last 2 verses have three clauses, so the 10 (= 8 + 2) verses represent all 22 (= 8 x 2 + 2 x 3) letters. The clauses will be indicated by letters such as AV Ps 111:1a for the Aleph clause and AV Ps 111:10c for the Tav clause.
  • Psalm 112: 10 verses. The whole alphabet is represented in standard order from Aleph to Tav. Each verse divided into two or three clauses in exactly the same way as Psalm 111.
  • Psalm 119: 176 verses. This is the greatest alphabetically structured chapter in the Bible. It is also the longest. It consists of 22 sections, each containing 8 consecutive verses that begin with the same Hebrew letter, for a total of 176 (= 8 x 22) verses. The first eight begin with Aleph, the next eight with Bet, the next eight with Gimel, until the alphabet is exhausted. There are no variations from the standard order. Its alphabetic structure is transparent in many Bibles, such as the New International and King James Versions, which present the name of the letter at the beginning of each section of 8 verses.
  • Psalm 145: 21 verses. This follows the standard order from Aleph to Tav, with the exception that the Nun verse is missing in some manuscripts. This is why it has 21 rather than the expected 22 verses.




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