Metaphor: The Wheel of Scripture

In some sense, circles are the most perfect geometric form. They are infinitely symmetric, and they mysteriously take up area based on a transcendental number (pi) that can’t be calculated exactly. There are so many things that are naturally circular that they lend themselves well to metaphor and comparison.

Oddly enough, the word “circle” appears only a single time in Scripture:

Isaiah 40:22: [It is] he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof [are] as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

There are two more verses that use the same Hebrew word (chuwg) but translate it a bit differently.

Job 22: 14: Thick clouds [are] a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven.

Proverbs 8:27: When he prepared the heavens, I [was] there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:

All three verses mention the heavens, with the same Hebrew word (shamayim). According to these verses, both the earth and the heavens are known to be round to these writers. In other words, it’s a simple truth that at least some ancient peoples, particularly those inspired by the spirit of God, knew the earth was round, not flat.

Circles are such a fundamental shape that they illustrate aspects of every major theme of the Wheel of scripture, which is itself circular. A simple but deep concept like the circle is a good way to get an overview of the whole alef-bet (Hebrew alphabet) concept.

Aleph – Circles are a symbol of unity, an unbroken, infinitely symmetric shape. A perfect circle is easily symbolic of the Father in heaven, encompassing the universe.

Bet – The line of a circle marks a fundamental separation in space between what is inside the circle vs outside the circle. Eventually, everything that is inside God’s universe will be perfected and illuminated; everything that is outside will be darkness.

Gimel – The Hebrew word galgal, beginning with gimel, is the word for “wheel”. Another theme is that of riches, often illustrated by round coins.

Dalet – The “four corners of the earth” sounds like a very odd way to describe a round shape, but on the surface of a very large sphere, we still have four directions: north, south, east, west; or up, down, left, and right.

Hey – It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. This letter connects the idea of a window, as something one looks through, with the instruction to “look!” or “behold!” Modern windows aren’t usually round, although some are (portholes, etc), but the pupil and iris of the eye are both quite round.

Vav – The sixth letter is the link between heaven and earth, which are circles hanging on the hook of nothing where God placed them. Consider Job 26:7: “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, [and] hangeth the earth upon nothing.”

Zayin – The seventh day completes a week, which is the only divinely-determined cycle of time – the only one that cannot be derived from the motions of heavenly bodies, which are always elliptical and never perfectly circular.

Chet – The line of a circle encloses or binds the area within. The original word for circle (chuwg) is itself a word beginning with chet. Another critical word is chayyim, for life, which might bring to mind the concept of the “circle of life.” Mortal man comes from the earth and returns to it. The eighth day is the beginning of a new cycle.

Tet – This letter twists, thematically like a spiral, which would look like a circle when viewed from above. Downward spirals are depressing and undesirable; while upward spirals mean that something is getting better and better. This manifestation of a circle has a dual nature, like the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Yod – The smallest letter, this is the letter of action. Like a wheel rolling along the ground, yod shows progress at performing works and deeds.

Kaph – This letter embodies glory and majesty, like the circular crown of a king, and indeed there are many crowns mentioned in scripture, belonging both now to God and in the future to God’s people as well when they become His kings and priests.

Lamed – Viewed from above, a circle can illustrate a round staff or rod. Lamed is the letter of teaching or pointing, and the Wheel of scripture points the way to God and teaches how to be like God.

Mem – The circle of the earth is covered by the waters of the oceans and the people of humanity, both of which are themes of this letter. Also, the value of the Hebrew word echad for “one” or “unity” is the same as the value of mem – thirteen – so there is a fundamental unity to the themes of mem.

Nun – As with chet, the circle of life is evident in the theme of nun as offspring or children.

Samech – A circle can illustrate a pillar, a symbol of support, the main theme of the fifteenth letter. For instance, 1 Tim 3:15 says in part: “…the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Also, in some Hebrew scripts, this letter literally is written as a circle.

Ayin – This letter represents the eyes of God. While again, eyes themselves aren’t round, the pupil through which the light actually passes certainly is circular. So light passes through the circle and not outside it in order to be perceived.

Pey – The theme here is the mouth that speaks. Through the circle of one’s lips can come either truth or lies, depending on what is in one’s heart. See Matthew 12:34b: “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” The value of the Hebrew chuwg for circle is also seventeen.

Tzaddi – The main focus of the eighteenth letter is righteousness, and those who are righteous. Righteousness is defined by the Law of God in multiple places, but primarily as the Ten Commandments. The 360 degrees enclosed by a circle can be divided into ten 36-degree segments, each of which is twice eighteen. Righteousness is doubled by being illustrated through both the Father and the Son.

Qoph – This letter is illustrated by a cry or call, being represented by the voice. There are some connections to song as well, such as many of the Psalms having been originally written as songs to be sung. Music has a number of distinct cycles for timing, pitch, rhythm, meter, etc. The most structured cycle is the pitch cycle of octaves, where in a particular key, the eighth note will repeat the first, but higher or lower.

Resh – As pey represents the lips, resh represents the head or mind. The circle of one’s mind encompasses all that we are and distinguishes one’s self from what is outside of the self. Wisdom is a primary theme of resh as well – our minds are filled with more wisdom as we gain experience.

Shin – This letter represents destruction: tearing, shattering, burning; but also instruments of that destruction such as teeth or fire or the sun. A circle with a dot in the center has been the astronomical symbol for our sun for millennia, as far back as the Egyptians.

Tav – The final letter is the seal of perfection, the symbol of completion. What better shape than a perfect circle? Traditionally, tav is represented by an X or cross, but it also bears the weight of all the letters, which form the perfect Wheel encompassing all of Scripture.

John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” In Greek, “truth” is aletheia, which begins and ends with alpha, like a circle that returns to its starting place. In Hebrew, “truth” is emet, spelled aleph-mem-tav – it starts with the first letter, continues with the middle letter, and ends with the last letter of the aleph-bet. So in either language, Scripture is linked with the Wheel of the alef-bet.

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2 thoughts on “Metaphor: The Wheel of Scripture

  1. Pingback: The Purpose of the Wheel | The Perfect Law of Liberty

  2. Pingback: Metaphor: Concentric Circles | The Perfect Law of Liberty

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