The Numbers in the Scriptures!(Do they Carry any Spiritual Significance?)
by Tony Warren
There are many Christians who think that when God put numbers in the Bible there was no spiritual significance to it, and neither should we apply any meaning to it other than the number itself. But even if we were to look at this issue superficially, we can readily see that there is some method and certain numerical symbology to the use of numbers in scripture. The consistency in their signification in certain situations testifies to this. There is most certainly a great Spiritual defining in the application of many of these numbers. We are often inclined to underestimate God and what He has planted within His Holy Word. There is far more in the scriptures than can be understood in one man's lifetime, and we can only glean the surface of this storehouse of information. For we see through a glass dimly and know only in part. In this brief study we will look at some of the numbers that carry spiritual or symbolical significance, and examine many of the passages where they are found. Our hope is that this study might help you discern some of the truths which God has ordained that these numbers should illustrate.
When we look through the scriptures we find that God often uses the number two as a signification for agreement, and by implication, truth. And because God has declared that the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1st Timothy 3:15), this number is also often used in association with it. It's the numerical symbolism of a faithful (truthful) witness or testimony. i.e., one being in agreement or a "confirming" witness of another. For example, the two witnesses spoken about in the book of Revelation chapter eleven. They are the Lord's faithful witnesses who bear testimony to the truth! Therefore are they spoken of as "two" witnesses, signifying that they come with the truth. In fact, we can readily see that the designation of two witnesses has always been the guide post that God has used for "establishing agreement of truth." From scripture we see that from the very beginning God instituted this number as the guide post for truth.
- "Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die."
- "But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."
- "It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.."
- "After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them Two and Two before His face into every city and place, whither He Himself would come."
- "And He called unto Him the twelve, and began to send them forth two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits."
- "And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel:
- "Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, Confirmed it by an oath:
- That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to LIE, we might have a strong consolation..."
1st Timothy 3:15
- "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth".
Another of the numbers where we can readily see God use it in a spiritual sense to signify something, is the number three. It is used of God to signify His Purpose or His Will! For example, when God sent the three messengers to Abraham to tell him that Sarah would conceive in her old age (Genesis 18), by the use of the number three we see in this an illustration that they came with God's "purpose and will" to Abraham. i.e., it was by the will of God and for His own purposes that Sarah should conceive so that God would make a great nation of Abraham through it. The same illustration is seen as God brought a thick darkness upon the land of Egypt (exodus 10:22-23) for three days. In this, God's purpose and sovereign will of judgment is worked out. The number three illustrated that it was for God's purposes that they were in darkness while all the Children of Israel had light! We can see this in the three times in a year God commanded that the men of Israel were to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem (Ex. 23:14,17 Deu. 16:16). This illustrated the will and purpose of God in the feasts Laws, which all pointed to Christ! In 2nd Samuel 21:1 the Lord sends famine in the land for three years, and says it was because of Saul and his bloody house. In other words, it was God's will that this happen, and the purpose of God in doing this was to bring judgment because of Saul's bloody House. Another example is in 1st kings 17:21 as Elijah stretches forth his body over a dead child three times, and the child lives again. This signified that it was God's will and for His own purpose that the child should yet live again, a type or spiritual "shadow" of things to come. Again, as the Lord said His servant Isaiah walked naked and barefoot three years as a Sign (signification) and a wonder upon Egypt (Isaiah 20:3), once more indicating God's will and purpose for Egypt. Even when we look at the three men who were cast into the furnace of fire, and a fourth who was there like the Son of God (Daniel 3:24-25), we see that it was God's will and purpose that these three men would not be harmed by the fire because of the presence of the Son of God. This was demonstrating that by the presence of Christ, the will and purpose of God that His people not be harmed in the fire, will be accomplished. These are just a few of the examples, and we could go on and on about this. These places where the number three is found is numerical symbology which is putting forth spiritual truths, that we can learn from as we consider them. For in three, God works out His purpose and His will. As Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, so it indicated it was for God's purpose, and that His will would be worked out in this (Again, a type of Christ). If I could use an earthly analogy of a Biblical principle, It's somewhat like asking someone three times whether they really want to sell their house for a certain fee. After they say yes the third time, it's established that this is their will and purpose or intention. That, of course, is a bad analogy, but one which makes the point. That is the way the number three is often used in scripture. It signifies the establishment of God's will and His purpose. The three days and three nights Jonah spent in the fish established that God's purpose and will would be worked out in that. In Acts, the Lord smote the Apostle Paul with blindness for three days:
- "And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink."
The exact same principle in Acts Chapter 10, when a voice from heaven told Peter to rise kill and eat the beasts of the earth that were on a sheet descending from heaven. And Peter says No, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. Then the voice says, "what God has cleansed, don't call it common". And we read,
- "This was done thrice (3 times): and the vessel was received up again into heaven."
1st John 5:7
- "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one".
2nd Corinthians 12:8:
- "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice (three times) that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My Grace is sufficient for thee.."
- "Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven.
- For where two or three are gathered in My name, there Am I in the midst of them."
There are many other numbers which carry great spiritual significance, just as the numbers two and three does. The number four for example illustrates the universality of something. Derived from the four compass directions being all points, all directions, or everywhere.
- "Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God unto the land of Israel; an end, the end is come upon the four corners of the earth."
Acts 10:11, 11:5
- "And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth."
- "And after these things I saw four Angels standing on the FOUR corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree."
- "And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, God and magog, to gather them together to battle..."
- "And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a Trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to another."
- "Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already".
One number which there has been a couple of popular ideas about what it might represent, is the number 6. Some Theologians say it's the number of man, some say it represents something else. But the problem is, there is generally no solid biblical foundation that would substantiate these claims. We must have solid scriptural reference before we can say that we believe a number seems to indicate a certain thing. Sound Biblical hermeneutics demands it! I'm sure that many think that they have justification, but when their proof texts are examined carefully, it doesn't really hold up. For example, the popular belief that six is the number of man or mankind. This belief is chiefly based on the fact that man was made on the sixth day (along with a few other ambiguous references). But so were cattle made on the 6th day. Does that give us the justification to say that the number 6 signifies the number of cattle? Not at all! Birds were made on the 5th day, does that give us justification to say the number 5 is the number of birds? No! We must be careful in the applying meanings to numbers, and we have to take the "whole Bible" into consideration when searching for meaning, not just a couple of verses. Jumping upon a popular theological idea is not the way to come to truth. When we look at the number six in scripture, it most often deals with the application of "work" in the world. In fact, even in the chapter of Genesis that many use to claim it represents man, it clearly signified the completion of work days. i.e., in six days, work was complete, and on the seventh there was Rest! The emphasis was on the number 6 being days of work, not on it being the day man was created (which was a work of God). And this theme of work is what is usually seen being illustrated by the number six all throughout scripture. It was the time that God spent doing His Work, and it is the time we are likewise told to work! Through much consideration and study in the scriptures, I have also come to believe that ultimately it is a representation of our sojourn (work) in the world, on our way to the ultimate Sabbath of rest. From the very beginning God used the number six to illustrate a period of work.
Genesis 1:31 - 2:1
- "And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
- Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
- And on the seventh day God ended His WORK which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made."
- "Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
- but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord Thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
- for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."
- "...I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying,
- at the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee..."
- "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after that same example of unbelief."
- "...Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may REST from their labours; and their WORKS do follow them."
- "And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor and the needy shall eat."
Sometimes the meaning of the number 6 is less conspicuous. For example in a verse like Ezekiel 46:1 when talking about the Sanctuary,
- "Thus saith the Lord God; the gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut six working days; but on the Sabbath it shall be opened."
1st Kings 10:19
- "The Throne had six steps, and the top of the throne round behind:...."
- "Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord Thy God: thou shalt do no work therein."
Another number which I believe is widely misinterpreted is the number seven. Many Theologians say that the number seven illustrates perfection. I have studied this conclusion and I must say that I fail to find sufficient biblical justification for this interpretation. If anyone knows of any sound Biblical explanation, I'd be delighted to read about it, but I have received no strong Biblical references concerning it. While it is true that perfection can be represented in completeness (1st Corinthians 13:9-10), it is not consistently represented that way. I believe it is the other way around. When the completion is come, then that which is in part (partial knowledge and prophecy) will be done away with. In other words, the number seven rather than representing the perfection is often numerical symbology illustrating the 'totality or completeness' of whatever is in view. It is the 'all inclusiveness' of a thing. For example, the seven Churches of Asia (Revelation 1-3) represent the 'totality' of God's congregations (nothing to do with dispensationalism). This can be clearly seen as God says Christ stands in the midst of the seven candlesticks. This signifies that Christ stands in the midst of all Churches 'which are represented by these seven Churches' of Asia. Likewise, they are called seven golden candlesticks signifying that they are to be what the Old Testament called the [tamiyd], the 'Continual' or the 'Daily.' They are to be the light of the world shinning continually. This can also be seen in the seven stars of the seven candlesticks (Churches) which are the seven messengers of the Churches, and they are in God's right hand. These are all the messengers of the Churches whom God holds securely and who do His will (the right hand). The truth is, when God talks to these seven Churches, He is not talking to just those, He is talking to all believers and to all Churches. The totality of them which spans throughout time. We today are part of the seven (totality) Churches to whom God gives these warnings and encouragements.
- "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches: To Him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of Life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."
- "And they did eat, and were filled, and they took up of the broken that was left, seven baskets full."
- "And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs".
- "And there appeared another Wonder in Heaven, and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads."
Earlier in this number study we looked at the number six and we saw that it was the number of work. In looking at that number we also saw that the number seven was the Sabbath of rest. Even in that, we see that number 'clearly' illustrated as the totality of the week. It signified the completeness of time as it relates to coming to the Sabbath of Rest. Seven is the complete (finished) week. This is the same principle with this number.
The whole Bible is replete with the numerical symbology of the number seven. There were seven seals to the book that is opened by the Lamb, which were indicating that it is completely or totally secure in these seals. No one could open it but God. Likewise, the seven trumpets are indicating the totality of God's judgments. From start to finish, when we reach seven, it is finished. Or in the seven vials which are the totality of the Wrath of God that is to be poured out upon the earth. All these things show this spiritual signification of the number. Even when Mary Magdalene was healed:
- "And certain woman, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called magdalene, out of whom went Seven Devils."
- "Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared unto mary Magdalene, out of whom went Seven devils."
- "And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary".
- "Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven".
- "And unto the Angel of the Church at Sardis write, these things saith He that hath the Seven Spirits of God, and the Seven stars; I know thy Works, that thou hast a name which thou liveth, and art dead."
- "And out of the Throne proceedeth lightnings and Thunderings and voices; and there were Seven lamps of fire burning before the Throne, which are the seven Spirits of God."
- "And I beheld, and lo in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures,, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having Seven Horns, and Seven Eyes, which are the Seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth."
(7 horns - Omnipotent) The totality of His Power!Psalms 12:6
(7 spirits - Omnipresent) He is all (totality) Everywhere!
(7 eyes - Omniscient) He is all (totality) knowing/seeing!
- "The Words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified Seven Times."
- "And I saw in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with Seven Seals."
- "and He cried with a loud voice, as when a Lion Roareth, and when He cried Seven thunders uttered their voices."
- "but in the days of the voice of the Seventh Angel, when He shall begin to sound, the Mystery of God should be finished, as He hath declared to His servants the Prophets."
The Numbers ten and it's multiples (100, 1000) often illustrates the Fullness of whatever is in view, without it "necessarily" being the totality. As a practical illustration, monday would be a full day, but not the totality of the week. Likewise ten would represent the fullness or completeness of that particular day, but not necessarily the totality of the whole week which that day is part of. A perfect Biblical example is the Beast of Revelation chapter 12 and chapter 17, with it's 7 heads and 10 horns. The number seven illustrates the totality or total length of time of Satan's authority (heads) and rule (crowns), while the ten horns illustrates His rule only near the end of the world. i.e., as said in Revelation 17, the ten horns had no kingdom as yet (when revelation was written), but is prophesied to reign one hour with the Beast. The ten horns signified the fullness of time (10) that these kings would have power (horns) to reign with the beast. It's called a short season, but it is the fullness of time within the time context of the rule of this Beast! That number ten signifies that fullness of time. Likewise, the multiples of ten, as ten times ten (100) or ten times one hundred (1000) illustrate the completeness or fulness of whatever is in view, without it necessarily being the totality of it. As an example, look at the parable of the silver money.
- "Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?"
- "And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
- What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
- And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing".
- "And it shall come to pass in THAT DAY, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings, it shall even be for briers and thorns. With arrows and with bows shall men come hither; because All he land shall become briers and thorns."
- "Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;"
- "Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations,"
- "He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations."
The number twelve is another prime example of spiritual significance. In other words, God uses this number to show us some spiritual truth in it's application. Would we be prudent Bible students in thinking that it has no meaning besides a count, and it's mere coincidence the places which it is found? No, we would be negligent to think so. In my studies I have found that the number twelve spiritually points to the Congregation of God. A good example would be the twelve brothers, the twelve sons of Jacob who were the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. This was the Old Testament congregation, or Children of God. The number twelve spiritually signified this! These twelve sons were not a coincidental number of births, they were God ordained! Likewise, the significance is passed on after the cross as the twelve apostles became the New Testament representative of the congregation or Children of God. The exact same spiritual number attached to God's congregation on both sides of the cross. We can see this brought forth Gloriously as in Revelation 21, the Bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem (Thee Church) comes down from Heaven.
- "And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the Twelve Tribes of the Children of Israel:"
- "And the wall of the City had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the Twelve Apostles of the lamb."
- "And straightway the damsel arose and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. and they were astonished with a great astonishment."
Things that might appear coincidental to the average or carnal reader are brought out spiritually by God to His people. They are not understood by natural man, they are spiritually discerned.
Another example is when the wicked men came to take Jesus away, and His Apostles were going to fight for Him, and Jesus told them to put away their swords,
- "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve Legions of Angels?
- But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?"
- "And a certain Woman which had an issue of blood twelve years.."
- "And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that virtue had gone out of Him, turned Him about in the press and said, who touched My Clothes."
The number forty in scripture often illustrates a time of trial or testing. For example as the Lord tried/tested Israel in the wilderness.
- "And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or no."
- "and He was there in the Wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan."
likewise, after Christ was killed, He proved Himself forty days.
- "to whom He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."
- "Here is Wisdom. Let him that hath understanding COUNT the number of the beast: For it is the number of MAN; and his number is six hundred threescore and six."