Saturday, August 4, 2012

God's use of numbers in the Bible

Proverbs 16:11 A just balance and scales belong to the LORD;
All the weights of the bag are His concern.

Why God wanted to use numbers in the Bible
God is the author of all absolutes - whether they be morals, measurements or constants of nature.  Biblical Numerology is the name assigned to identifying the ways certain numbers are used in the Bible.  Numbers and numerical patterns were devised by God and are used by God to govern the lives of His people, the giving of His revelation in the Old and New Testaments and to point the way to certain spiritual principles.  Although it would be going too far to say that every number has a particular significance or meaning, yet at the same time there are certain numbers in the Bible that appear repeatedly. 

Examples of certain numbers and their meaning in the Bible
In studying God's Word there is an undeniable pattern of meaning that we can assign to certain numbers.  I would encourage the reader to get a copy of H.L Wilmington's: "The Complete Book of Bible's Lists" as well as Walter Lewis Wilson's: "Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types".  Both are reliable reference works for understanding the significance of numbers in the Bible.  Below are some of the more significant numbers and their meanings that we find in the scriptures.  I hope you find them helpful and spiritually enriching:

One = The number of unity, supremacy. There is One God. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)  One mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)

Two = The number of testimony. By the mouth of two or three witnesses is a matter established. (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; Hebrews 10:28)  Jesus always appealed to at least the Law and the Prophets in establishing His identity. (Luke 24:44) 

Three = The Number of Completeness. God Himself is Father, Son and Holy Spirit - The Trinity. (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 2:18; 2 Corinthians 13:14).

Four = The Number of the Earth. There were four categories of created things in the visible creation (birds of the air, fish of the sea, beasts and crawling things).  There is North, South, East and West.

Five = The Number of Grace. Wilmington in his book (see above reference) points out five Levitical offerings in Leviticus 1-5 and five wise virgins in Jesus parable of the wise and foolish virgins of Matthew 25:2. 

Six - The Number of Man. Revelation 13:8 tells us plainly that the number "666" is man's number.  Man was created on the sixth day.  Man's number points to incompleteness, in need of God. 

Seven - The Number of God, Divine perfection.  This is perhaps the most extensively used number in God's Word.  It truly is the finger print of God.  We see for instance seven key men in Genesis; seven pieces of furniture in the Old Testament Tabernacle; seven feasts of Israel and the Spirit of God having a seven fold nature in Isaiah 11.  We see in the New Testament Jesus revealing Himself through seven "I AM sayings"; seven sayings from the cross and seven signs in the Gospel of John wherein Christ was revealing both His Divine and Human natures.  In Revelation we seven sets of seven judgments.  Jesus told Peter that He had to forgive seventy times seven.  These are but just a few examples.

Eight - The Number of Renewal.  Wilmington points out that baby boys in Israel were circumcised on the eighth day of their life and that Thomas saw Jesus eight days after His resurrection.  Further study reveals that in John's Gospel, seven signs govern the flow of the book - however Christ's resurrection itself could be counted as the eighth sign - lending to this idea of the number.

Nine - The Number of Fulness.  We see for example in Galatians 5:22ff the nine fruits of the Spirit.

Ten - The Number of the nations, Divine Government. 
We know the book of Genesis for instance is fond of using the number ten to refer to God's government of history and humanity.  For instance, between Adam and Noah are ten generations. (Genesis 5)  From the point of Noah's Son Shem to that of Abraham is another ten generations. (Genesis 11:10-32)  Then from Abraham's Son Isaac to Moses lies yet another ten generations.

The first set of counting numbers are definitely used by God to communicate truths about Himself and principles by which God's people can live by.  Tomorrow we will continue exploring some more numbers in God's Word to discover how they point us to Christ, God's purposes and spiritual realities of the Christian life.