The Bible and numbers
Numbers are mentioned prominently in the Bible. There is even a book called “Numbers”. People are numbered and recorded. Exact numbers of years are mentioned. Why? Christians do not need to be disturbed by an analysis of numbers in the Bible. It’s not numerology. It’s not mysticism. It’s all part of the understanding that we may take from the Bible.
The Bible and numbers
The plain words of Scripture highlight certain numbers.
- Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness.
- There were forty days from Jesus’ resurrection to His ascension to heaven.
- Before the flood, it rained for forty days and forty nights.
- Moses was forty years in Egypt and forty years in Midian, and he led the Israelites for forty years in the wilderness
- Moses was forty days and forty nights on Mt Sinai receiving the tablets of stone from God. Moses broke the tablets in the face of Israel’s rebellion. Then he was a further forty days and forty nights on Mt Sinai receiving the Law.
- The twelve spies were in Canaan for forty days.
- For forty days Goliath challenged Israel each morning and evening.
- David reigned over Israel for forty years.
- Solomon reigned over Israel for forty years.
Why the emphasis on forty?
The Bible doesn’t say. But it’s reasonable to make an assumption.
These are literal periods of time, but it seems that forty also symbolizes a period of testing. The hand of God is on view.
Now, every letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a numeric value, and the Bible phrase יד יהוה means “the hand of the LORD”, and יד יהוה has a total numeric value of forty. That seems to be by design.
Numbers in the Bible are symbolic.
Fifty is another number that stands out.
- The Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers on the Day of Pentecost.
- Pentecost was 50 days after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
- Under the Old Covenant, the 50th year was a Jubilee year.
- In the 50th year slaves had to be set free.
- The Law was given to Israel 50 days after the Passover and the Exodus from Egypt.
- In the Law, a feast was set for Israel, 50 days after Passover. It was called the Feast of Shavuot. It was to commemorate the new harvest. Shavuot means “sevens”. “… count seven sabbaths … and the day after the seventh sabbath (the 50th day) you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD.” (see Lev 23:16)
50 represents freedom … power … harvest.
But 50 is expressed here as 7 x 7 … seven sevens … and then the day after is the 50th day. Why the emphasis on seven?
Seven gets a lot of emphasis in the Bible. It seems to be a special number to God.
- There were seven days of creation
- There were seven good years and seven years of famine in Egypt.
- In the seventh year, Hebrew slaves were set free.
- There were seven feasts for the LORD, and seven days for each of the two main feasts.
- Seven priests with seven trumpets went ahead for seven days, and on the final day, Israel marched seven times around Jericho.
And when we come to the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, sevens are on view everywhere.
- Seven churches and seven spirits before the throne
- Seven golden lampstands.
- Seven stars, being the seven angels of the churches
- Seven torches of fire.
- Seven seals
- Seven horns
- Seven trumpets
- Seven thunders
- The dragon has seven heads and seven crowns.
- There were seven golden bowls, seven plagues, and seven times we find the expression, “Blessed is …”
Then there is the number eight.
Jewish males are circumcised on the eighth day after birth. Jesus was circumcised when He was eight days old.
Eight follows seven. Seven days in a week. Eight is the day after the Sabbath. Jesus rose from the grave on the day after the Sabbath … the eighth day.
Eight seems to represent … new birth … new beginnings.
We are touching on a few significant numbers in the Bible. But there are many numbers … seemingly random, but they aren’t ...
David had 37 mighty men. Jesus told the disciples where to fish and they pulled up 153 large fish. Does 153 represent something?
The Bible doesn’t waste words. The Bible speaks in practical, but also in deeply spiritual terms, and the Bible records that the catch was exactly 153 fish.
666. In the book of Revelation we learn that the number of the beast is 666, and we are told to calculate his number. If we are wise … if we have understanding … we will calculate his number.
Two is an interesting number. In God’s view there are two groups … Jews and Gentiles. In Christ, the two become one … one new man. Israel divided into two … the tribes in the south (Judah) and the tribes to the north (Ephraim). Then the LORD told Ezekiel to act out a prophecy (see Ezek 37:15-23). A day was coming when Judah and Ephraim would become one, again.
It’s like marriage … “… a man shall … be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).
There seems to be something symbolic in the number two.
- Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
- Peter James and John.
- “There are three that testify … the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and the three agree in one.” (1 John 5:8).
There were twelve tribes of Israel. And twelve apostles in the New Testament.
But it gets a little complicated. And as it was for Israel, so a pattern repeats in the New Testament.
Out of the twelve tribes, Levi was set apart. Levi had no inheritance of land. The LORD was his inheritance. Twelve became eleven, by one count.
But Joseph married outside the land, and Joseph had two sons, and Joseph’s father, Jacob, brought the two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to the fore, to receive an inheritance. Twelve became thirteen, by a different count.
In the New Testament, Judas betrayed Jesus and was lost. Twelve became eleven.
A replacement was chosen, Matthias, (Acts 2:23-26), so eleven became twelve, again.
Then the LORD chose Paul to be an apostle … someone chosen, after the others (Acts 9). Twelve became thirteen.
We’d hardly notice these things, except that there’s a symmetry between the Old and New Testaments. Is that symbolic?
There are 66 books in the Bible … the complete revelation of God.
27 books in the New Testament. That’s 3 x 3 x 3 = 27. Three symbolizes testimony. 3 x 3 x 3 seems to be testimony emphasized.
Out of the 66, there are 39 books in the Old Testament. That’s 3 x 13.
Some people are superstitious about the number 13. But Jewish males become men … they have their Bar Mitzvah at age thirteen.
In the Old Testament, the four-letter word that represents the name of the LORD is יהוה in Hebrew. The numeric value of the word is 26. 26 is 2 x 13.
Is 13 bad? Where does the idea come from?
Every letter of the Greek alphabet has a numeric value. The expression … “… who is called the devil and Satan …” in the New Testament (Rev 12:9), in the Greek is: Ο ΚΑΛΟΥΜΕΝΟΣ ΔΙΑΒΟΛΟΣ ΚΑΙ Ο ΣΑΤΑΝΑΣ. It has a total numeric value of 2197, which can be expressed as 13 x 13 x 13.
The devil is evil, and the Bible emphasizes that. 13 x 13 x 13.
But, in the same Greek New Testament it says that there was a notice on the cross, above Jesus’ head, that read: “Jesus the Nazarene”. In the Greek: ΙΗΣΟΥΣ Ο ΝΑΖΩΡΑΙΟΣ. hat name and title also has a total numeric value of 2197, which equals 13 x 13 x 13.
That could be confusing. But, the Bible says, “… Jesus, who knew no sin, was made to be sin on our behalf, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (see 2 Cor 5:21). Thirteen represents sin. But thirteen also represents atonement.
God loves us. So He reached out to rescue us. He bought us … through the blood of Jesus … if we accept that.
What is stated in the plain text of the Bible is more than sufficient to find salvation in Christ.
But, just out of sight in the Bible, is a watermark of God … a seal of His hand of design ... a mathematical structure in the Hebrew and in the Greek.
One day, it’s going to be plain for everyone to see.