All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
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What Is In a Number?

God used the ancient Hebrew writers to communicate profound truths in skilled and intricate ways. These include the use of numbers, which are used to reveal deeper meanings throughout Scripture that are commonly missed by casual readers. This month we will focus on this subject, not as a spiritual lesson, but in preparation for important applications in future articles.

As Pastor Doug Batchelor has pointed out, “Throughout history, men with great minds, like Augustine, Isaac Newton, and Leonardo Di Vinci, showed more than just a passing curiosity regarding the importance of biblical numbers.” He goes on to say, “Jesus said, ‘The very hairs of your head are numbered’ (Matthew 10:30), so obviously, Bible numbers should be carefully considered.”*

However, I will insert a strong caution here: While understanding the significance of these recurring biblical numbers is useful as an aid in studying Scripture, I certainly do not condone numerology—a practice associated with the paranormal, alongside astrology and similar divination arts used to predict the future. These are counterfeits, and therefore, a perversion of what God intended us to see in His use of numbers.

Seven

So what do biblical numbers show us? We will start with the number seven. It is the most common and important one, by far, since it appears many hundreds of times in both the Old and New Testaments.

Just glancing over the Old Testament, we find that Noah brought seven pairs of every clean animal and bird aboard the ark, and seven days later it began to rain. The Egyptian Pharaoh dreamed of seven fat and seven lean cattle, which represented seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Led by seven priests with seven trumpets, the Israelites marched around the city of Jericho seven days—and seven times on the seventh day—before its walls crumbled.

The New Testament is also full of sevens: Jesus used seven loaves to feed 4,000 people and had seven large baskets of leftovers, He commanded us to forgive seventy times seven, and cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene. But nothing represents this number’s importance more clearly than the fact that it is found in the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation dozens of times. As others have pointed out, Revelation alone mentions seven churches, seven spirits, seven candlesticks, seven stars, seven lamps, seven seals, seven horns, seven eyes, seven angels, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven heads, seven crowns, seven plagues, seven vials, seven mountains, and seven kings! Let’s go back now and look at the amazing intricacy of the first story in the Bible—the first account of Creation found in Genesis 1:1 through 2:3. The Bible says our world was created in a literal seven-day week of evenings and mornings; and God’s Sabbath, the day He rested from His labor and blessed, is clearly listed as the seventh day.

There are interesting multiples of seven that occur here, as well. In the Hebrew text, Genesis 1:1 has seven words, and Genesis 1:2 has 14 words. In addition, if we count the words “It was so,” “It was good,” and “God saw,” in the story of Creation, we find that they all appear seven times, while the word “earth” appears 21 times.

There are many more examples, but the repeated use of the number seven and its multiples clearly indicates the extreme importance of both God’s seven-day Creation Week and His seventh-day Sabbath.

Numbers in Genealogy

Notice the multiples of seven in the lineage of Jesus. Matthew 1:17 says, “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.” But let’s look at two genealogical lines from the Old Testament; the non-covenant-keeping line of Cain (Genesis 4:17–24), and the godly line of Seth, which the Bible begins with Adam (Genesis 5:1–32). Cain’s lineage lists seven names, and the seventh one is Lamech—the most violent man of Cain’s wicked line, who killed a man for merely striking and wounding him. Notice his peculiar use of numbers when he boasts, “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.” Genesis 4:24.

It’s interesting to note that another Lamech, from Seth’s righteous line, is mentioned as living 777 years (Genesis 5:31). There are also ten generations listed in the covenant-keeping line of Seth (beginning with Adam). The seventh name on this list is Enoch, who walked with God and was taken to Heaven without seeing death. Obviously the seventh person in each line balances out the other.

The number ten also has significance in biblical genealogy. The righteous line of Seth lists the tenth man as Noah. He is extremely important because he built the ark and was saved from the Flood. He is, in essence, the second Adam, since our world’s population all descended from him. Now let’s look at one of Noah’s sons. Shem’s righteous line (Genesis 11:10–26) lists the tenth name as Abram, with whom God made a covenant, and through whom He established a holy nation.

The number four also emerges as a new and significant number in Shem’s line. His fourth descendant was Eber, after whom the Hebrews were named. According to the Old Testament prophets, if they were to remain faithful to God, they would ultimately fill and rule the earth. So the number four came to represent the whole earth.

Seventy

Genesis 10 lists the genealogy of the sons of Noah—70 in all—from whom the whole earth was repopulated. Thus, this number became symbolic of all the nations of the earth.

God used this same number later, when He instructed Moses to take 70 of the elders of Israel up Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:1, 9). Had they remained faithful, His plan was to set them up as administrators over all the nations of the earth.

Then, when Jesus instructed His followers to spread the gospel, He sent out “the 70” to all the nations of the earth (Luke 10:1–20). These, and many other numbers, used by the ancient Hebrew writers heighten the richness and unity of Scripture. The ancients understood their significance, and it didn’t take Satan long to produce a counterfeit. Six, the “number of man,” refers to his creation on the sixth day (see also Revelation 13:18). Numerology was used as early as Babylonian times. Nebuchadnezzar used the number six and its multiples to build a self-exalting statue. It was six cubits wide and 60 cubits high—a tall, thin statue way out of human proportions. It towered into the sky, elevating him to the status of a god. Study of the Bible will constantly yield new insights into the depth and richness of God’s Holy Word. The fact that so many writers at different times and places in history could have written such a cohesive Book under God’s inspiration is simply amazing!

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