Gershom Scholem, the late great scholar of Jewish Mysticism, maintained the “Alphabet of Metatron, the celestial scribe,” to be the oldest of these angelic alphabets, which he mentioned “is preserved in many manuscripts and came to the German Hasidim with the Babylonian Merkabah material.” [Scholem, G. & Werblowsky, R.J.Z.: Origins of the Kabbalah, Jewish Publication Society (Princeton University Press), Princeton 1990]
Now, whilst the “Alphabet of Metatron” is perhaps more employed for mystical/contemplative rather than magical/talismanic purposes, I believe a closer investigation of the form of its component glyphs indicates that these magical alphabets are not composed of randomly chosen signs. In fact, judging the detailed analysis of this alphabet in a commentary which Scholem thought might have “derived from the pen of Eleazar of Worms,” it appears that each glyph is loaded with meaning.
Unfortunately detailed delineations of Hebrew based magical alphabets are rare, and since we have really only one such analysis of a magical alphabet, i.e. the “Alphabet of Metatron” [Weinstock, I.: Temirin: Mekorot u-Mech’karim b’Kabbalah v’Chasidut, Mosad ha-Rav Kook, Jerusalem 1972], which was written by an anonymous author some centuries back, we are still in the dark as to the primary reasoning behind the construction of most of these magical alphabets. Notwithstanding this, we can get greater clarity from a closer perusal of the “Alpha Beta shel Metatron,” regarding which we find the following details. The information shared here does not comprise a full translation of the text in question, but merely a description of some of the relevant material:
(Alef), i.e. (Anochi YHVH Elohecha—“I am the Lord thy God”) (Exodus 20:2). We are also told that those who fulfil this and every other letter of the law, will after their demise be led into paradise by the archangel Metatron. It is said this awesome Spirit Intelligence will clothe those who are worthy, with eight raiments of the Shechinah, i.e. the feminine aspect of Divinity.
Curiously enough, in the “Alphabet of Metatron” the glyph for the letter Alef comprises eight endings, six of which are said to represent the six directions, three opposite three, i.e. East—West, North—South, Above—Below, plus a further two said to indicate the Unique Holy One beyond time, space and events, the "One" who encompasses everything above and all below.
We are also told that the four groupings and eight endings of the lines comprising the current magical glyph for Alef, denote the “Throne of Glory” resting on the four Chayot ha-Kodesh (Holy Living Creatures), each of which has four faces and four wings. In this regard we read in Ezekiel 1:6:
v’arba’ah fanim l’echat v’arba k’nafayim l’achat lahemTranslation:
And every one had four faces, and every one of them had four wings.The four “faces” and four “wings” are said to be represented by the eight endings of the magical glyph for the letter Alef. However, this very letter indicates the absolute oneness of the Eternal One, as expressed in Deuteronomy 6:4 reading:
Shmah Yisra’el, YHVH Eloheinu, YHVH EchadTranslation:
Hear, O Israel, YHVH our Lord, YHVH is One.
(Bet) The magical glyph for the letter (Bet) comprises four endings, three reaching upwards and the fourth downwards. In this regard we are informed that the Divine One established three of the four borders of the manifested universe, i.e. East, West and South, and that he kept the North unbounded in order to instruct an arrogant monarch, who might consider himself to be a god, that the Divine Creator (—Borei) set bounds for the three listed quarters, and that the insolent human ruler should validate his power by wrapping up the fourth.
We are also told that the four endings have a further significance. In this regard, we are told that after we uttered the Shema (Shmah Yisra’el, YHVH Eloheinu, YHVH Echad—“Hear, O Godwrestler, YHVH Our God, YHVH is One”) (Deuteronomy 6:4), and formulated Divine Sovereignty over all four ruchot (winds/directions) of the earth, i.e. North, South, East and West, we conclude by blessing the handiwork of the Almighty One. Starting with the letter Bet, we verbalise the phrase Baruch shem k’vod malchuto l’olam va’ed
(—“Blessed be the Name of His glorious Kingdom throughout eternity”). This is said to affirm the Talmudic statement (Berachot 13b) that “once you have declared Him king over all that is above and below and over the four quarters of heaven, no more is required.”