Numbers in Scripture

Fridge magnet mathematics

I don’t remember exactly when I began to see the spiritual truths found in patterns and numbers in the Bible but it has been an ongoing discovery that has continued to open my eyes to this day.  The consistency of meaning throughout a book written by different people over thousands of years testifies to God as the underlying author.

The importance of knowing the Biblical meaning of numbers is not something you hear often in sermons or even find in books.   I was surprised that friends who were well versed in the Word knew little or nothing about this topic.

There is no way to get more than a taste here, but my hope in this article is to whet your whistle with a little information along with a prayer that the Spirit will lead you to explore the topic more deeply.[1]

Kevin Connor in his excellent book Interpreting the Symbols and Types gives the following as basic principles for the interpretation of numbers.

“1.  The simple numbers 1 through 13 have spiritual significance.

  1. Multiples of these numbers or doubling and tripling, carry basically the same meaning only intensifying the truth.
  2. The first use of the number in Scripture generally conveys its spiritual meaning.
  3. Consistence of interpretation. God is consistent, and what a number means in Genesis, it means throughout all to Revelation.
  4. The spiritual significance is not always stated, but may be veiled or hidden, or seen by comparison with other Scriptures.
  5. Generally there is good and evil, true and counterfeit, Godly and Satanic, aspects to numbers.”

Let’s take a look at some of the more commonly used numbers.

ONE – Unity, Source, Beginning, First

Being indivisible and not made up of other numbers, one represents unity. It is first, the beginning, the source of all other numbers and as such, independent of them.    Genesis, the book of firsts, opens with “In the beginning God…” who is first, the source, all begins with Him. What a profound symbol for God.

The meaning of unity is demonstrated in the two Hebrew words for one: echad  and yacheadEchad means a collective or compound unity, as in “one crowd.” It is used in Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one Lord.” [2]  Examples of the concept of compound unity can be seen in Gen 2:24 and 1 Cor 6:16 “the two shall be one flesh,” andI and my father are one,” John 10:30, and over and over in the prayer of Jesus in John 17.

On the other hand Yachead shows absolute unity, as in “my only” like Isaac as the only son[3] in Gen. 22:2.  In the New Testament absolute unity is found in John 1:14 “only begotten,” and in passages asking Jesus to heal an only child in Luke 7:12, 8:42 and 9:38.

TWO – Witness and Testimony or Comparison, Separation, Division

I was taught that two was the number of witness, “by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” Deut. 19:15 (also in Deut. 17:6, 2 Cor. 13:1 and 1 Tim 5:19.)  Jesus sent his disciples out two by two.  The Law hangs on two commandments, loving God and neighbor.  Matt. 22:40.

Later I discovered that two was also used to compare, separate, or divide as light and darkness, good and evil, joy and sorrow, life and death, earthly and heavenly, flesh and spirit etc.  People are compared like Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, even Adam and Jesus.  We see the comparison on testimonies in the witness of Joshua and Caleb vs the 10 who thought the God was not able to overcome the giants in the Promised Land.  There are two natures at war within us but we overcome by the blood of the lamb and the Word of our testimony and we do not love life or fear death.  Rev. 12:11 (my paraphrase)

THREE – Divine Completeness and Perfection

When I think three, the first thing that comes to mind is the complete perfection found in the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Divine completeness is found in the three major feasts, Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles; three sections of the temple, Outer Court, Holy Place, and Most Holy Place; the symbolism of three is found repeatedly in the last hours of our Lord, and we see the perfect witness in the Spirit, Water and Blood, 1 John 5:8.

God also demonstrates completeness in the natural realm with the number threeConsider: the heavens with sun, moon and stars, matter in the categories, animal mineral and vegetable, time divided into past, present and future, the geometric completeness of a triangle, the three dimensions of length, width and height, the scope of human capability found in thought, word and deed — the list goes on and on.

FOUR – The Creative Works of God, Earth

Four concerns God’s under the sun creative works.  There are four seasons, four phases of the moon, four cardinal directions, N. S. E. W.  Scripture speaks of four corners of the earth, Rev. 7:1; four winds, Matt 24:31, four horsemen who bring disaster to earth Rev. 6:1-8.

FIVE – Grace

From the beginning God has made provision for us.  Letters in Hebrew are also numbers.  The fifth letter is H with the numeric value of five.  God inserted the H in Abram and Sarai making Abraham the father of multitudes and Sarah noblewoman.[4]   The Levitical system had five offerings, and five ingredients in anointing oil.  The structure of the Tabernacle (a picture of Christ’s ministry to us and how we move into maturity in our relationship to Him) is filled with multiples of five.  These are only a few of the places that show God’s Grace active in the Old Testament.

Examples of five representing grace in the New Testament include: the five wounds of Christ offseting the five I will’s of Satan,  there are five weapons of our warfare, 2 Cor. 10:4-6; and five ministries to bring us to maturity, Eph. 4:11-15.

Grace is a gift of undeserved favor from the God of the Universe.   For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not as a result of works so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8-9 

Next week we will look at numbers six through thirteen with forty thrown in for good measure.

Footnotes

[1] A bibliography is found under theses footnotes

[2] I see the doctrine of the Trinity supported in echad and reinforced by the fact that the word God (Eloheim in Hebrew) is plural—a compound unity!

[3] Isaac is the only son of Sarah, the only son of the promise- see also Amos 8:10

[4] H is in YHVH the unspoken name of God

Bibliography

Abbot,Shari. “The Meaning of Numbers in the Bible?” www.reasonsforhopejesus/the-meaning-of-numbers-in-the-bible/

Bullinger, E. W. Number in Scripture Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance. Grand Rapids, MI, Kregel Inc., 1967

Connor, Kevin J. Interpreting the Symbols and Types.  Portland, OR, Bible Temple Publications, 1980

Davis, John J.  Biblical Numerology, A Basic Study of the Use of Numbers in the Bible.  Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Book House, 1968

 

 

 

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