Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail
The Bible’s use of symbolic numbers carry with them a mystical tone. While some numerical usage is familiar to us such as the seven days of creation, other passages can leave one perplexed. A portion of Bible readers will choose to simply glaze over what they don’t understand– others will become frustrated toward an unfamiliar abstraction. The sixth-century philosopher Pythagoras believed that numbers carried a deeper meaning and could be used for more than mathematics. It’s interesting to note that the Greeks assigned a number to their alphabet in such a way that one could turn each word into a number and each number into a letter. Alpha was equal to one, beta would be two— and so on. With the intimidating mountain of confusion that’s associated with Biblical numerology, it would be helpful to create a list (though an incomplete one) of the most popular numbers found in scripture.
COMMON BIBLICAL NUMBERS AND THEIR MEANING
666: The number of the beast in Revelation 13.18 could be the most widely feared by the superstitious. It’s possible that much of the symbolism within Revelation is due to the ongoing persecution of the church since the masking of names and places would add a layer of protection from a vicious government. In other words, it might have been written in a coded language in the same way that military intelligence would code their sensitive messages.
12: It’s the number that represents power and authority. Jacob has twelve sons, who then fathered seven nations. The seed of Abraham will bring about the Messiah and His twelve followers. When the number twelve is used, we can be sure of an underlying importance. It’s likely to be in a section which is only part of a prominent Biblical thread. As the holy timeline unfolds, the number twelve is then understood and fully appreciated.
7: Used many times in both the Old and New Testaments (over 600 times), the number seven is prominently found in the book of Revelation. There are seven churches, seven seals, seven angels, seven stars.,etc. It’s a representation of perfection or completeness and is regarded by the Hebrews and Greeks alike to be a number attributed to God. God is perfect and makes all things complete just as He completed all things in a seven day period, including His day of rest.
40: Noah and his family endure forty days and nights of rain while on the ark, Jesus would fast for the same period of time, and for forty days Moses would stay on Sinai to receive the holy law from God. There are other examples, but the number itself symbolizes a period of trial and testing. It’s interesting to note that several ancient cultures outside of Mesopotamia believed that it took twenty days to break a habit, and twenty days to form new ones. A total of forty days. Some psychologists even believe that in order to change a negative personality trait, you’ll need to supplement the negative with a positive for forty days, if the results are to be lasting. While the use of the number outside of scripture is speculative, God is clear in how He utilizes it.
1: A fascinating number that’s independent, yet it makes up all other numbers after it. It represents unity and is also attributed to God along with three and seven.
Though God is made up of three personalities, they are all unified. The significance of both three and one can be found in Ephesians 4.5-6 where Paul would say that there is only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. John 14.6 declares that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. There’s power in the verified and absolute singularity of each use of one, especially when they appear in sets of three. This number brings a heavy humility. Our minds must come to focus on the finality of the Judgment. There will only be one Great Day, and it’s on that Day where each person will be responsible for how they lived their lives here. Every nation and tribe will be there but it will come to a head in a critical moment. A time will come where each one will stand before The One to receive our perfect and just sentence.