Symbolic numbers in Scripture

by Jannie

Certainly numbers offer specific meaning in its context.  It is only logical. But, because of The Bible’s obvious supernatural property (see the meditation “The Bible”), do we often find theories that suggest some mystical formulae or codes.  However, the numbers in Scripture are, as part of text, supposed to be accepted in its contextual perspective and not be over-emphasized by forcing it into a readers prejudiced perception or ideas.

For example, could “Seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22; Lk 17:4) very well just imply “don’t ever stop forgiving”; expecting the believer to understand why (because you know the change from Gen 4:24 to Heb 12:24 and Mt 6:12,14,15 or Jn 20:23).  Then again, are many, and probably most, merely serving as factual recordings such as in Num 16:35,49.

A fascinating number that has been misused to manipulate many people with fear is found in Rev 13:18. This is actually a strong example of how Scripture explains Scripture. A fuller exegesis is found on pages 10-11/25 in the meditation entitled “Rapture raptured”, but for our purposes now, note “the number of the beast, for it is a human number [the number of a certain man]; his number is 666”.  Well, who amongst men is more a “certain man” than Solomon (1 Kings 3:12,13)?  Now see 1 Kings 10:14.  Solomon received in one year 666 shekels of gold (20 000 -30 000 kg).  Also, he then had a big throne of ivory made, overlaid with gold, with six lions left, six steps between and six lions on the right (v 18-20).  Interestingly, when the queen of Sheba ascended these stairs “her spirit left her” (some translations interpret this as “she was breathless”.  Either way, the breath God breathed into man was the ruach/pneuma – His Spirit) – 1 Kings 10:4,5.  No Spirit, no Spirit-life [fruitful relationship with God the Father]…  See what Asaph confesses in Ps 73:22 (Ps 49:20).  Without Spirit you return to dust (carnal thinking with a carnal mind in self-righteousness and religion), and the devil eats the dust of the earth.  See Rev 22:4 and Eph 5:5!

The point is this:  If Solomon in all his wisdom went lost (1 Kings 11), we should be very aware of the “self” (1 Cor 10:6-12).  The sign of “the beast” is simply greed and lust – i.e. self-righteousness.  This is what you find in the materialistic world in abundance, highlighted in the O.T. system’s legalistic, religious world – law; also in yourself, before Jesus saved you – from yourself.  This is why the Law of Moses kills and steals (2 Cor 3; Gal 3).  The double-mentioning of the figure 666 in 1 Kings 10:14 as well as v 19, as referenced in Rev 13:18, could symbolically very well point to both the material and religious sides of conceited but vain self-righteousness culminating in man’s lust and greed. Carefully then, contemplate Jn 1:17 (3:3; 14:6; 1 Jn 2:4)…

The number 144 000 (multiples of 12) is discussed in the meditation “Revelation the Book”.

So then, can we each examine a few obvious applications of numbers on our own from the following Scriptures and observe how even apparent contradicting links can be found when generalized:

One……     Unity – Dt 6:4; Mt 19:6

Two…..      Unity – Gen 1:27

Two…..      Division – 1 Kings 18:21; Mt 7:13,14

Three…      Mystical and complete number (recorded as such by Jews and other nations)

The Trinity – Mt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14

Resurrection – Hos 6:1,2; Mt 12:40; Lk 13:32

Completion – 1 Cor 13:13

Testing – Judg 7:16

Four…..      Completion – Mt 13:4-8; Jn 4:35

Five…..      Table of punishments, legal requirements, 5 empires of Daniel

Ex 22:1; Lev 5:16; 22:14; 27:15; Num 5:17; 18:16; Dan 2:5

Incompletion – Mt 25:2, 15-20

Six…..        Man’s testing – Gen 1:27,31; Rev 13:18

Seven…..    Plurity or completeness, probably from Gen 2:1-3

Completion – Ex 20:10

Fulfillment – Josh 6:4

Perfection – Rev 1:4

Eight…..     New beginning – Ezek 43:27; 1 Pet 3:20

Ten…..       Completion, improvement – Dan 7:7

Tenth as “God’s part” – Gen 14:20; Mal 3:10; (proof of acceptance of Ps 24:1; but refer to the meditation entitled “Tithing”).  An excerpt from this mediation reads as follows:

It is interesting to read a seemingly casual edifying statement in Ex 16:36, “Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah.” The Hebrew word for “tenth” there, namely עשׂירי (as-ee-ree’, H6224), which is from H6235 an abbreviation of tenth month or feminine part, is interesting. Is the bride of Christ symbolically in here somewhere; and, filled with Christ, much more (symbolically x 10)? An ephah as an Egyptian derivation (Heb 8:6-10; 11:26-27; Jude 1:5) is a measure in general; so the meaning of a tenth in the deeper context of Ex 16:36, can therefore be extrapolated to prophetically read, in plain language: The Bride of Christ is incomplete (symbolically a tenth) without Christ inside of her and only complete with daily communion with Him and His Spirit (Jn 4:23-24; 6:63) and His Word (Jn 1:14; 2 Tim 3:16-17); and so a tenth would be sadly misapplied if foolishly used with blind algebraic precision – especially if the motive is to merely gain [buy] for the self in any way, shape or form. For a fuller exegeses on this, kindly refer to the meditation “Tithing”.

Twelve…..  God’s purpose – Jn 11:9; Rev 21:12-17

Forty…..     Testing – Jn 3:4; Mt 4:2

Judgement – Num 14:33; Ps 95:10

Seventy…   God’s completed purpose (7 X 10) – Jer 25:11; Dan 9:24

7,10,40,100…  All implying an idea of completeness

It is therefore prudent to be wary of intricate explanations of how a certain present name, date or year is “calculating” to a mystery that supposedly is hidden behind a code that existed all along since Genesis one.  This is unlikely to be true if you hear Jesus in Jn 1:1-4 or Mt 11:25-30, and understand The Gospel of Jesus Christ more accurately (Rom 10;1-2). The meditations such as “Apparent Controversies in The Bible”, “The Gospel” or “Mixing Old and New” should build on what we are observing here with a more balanced insight into Biblical references to certain numbers and figures, especially where a symbolical meaning may be interpreted or even observed.

This I say with the reservation that I believe we probably read The Bible too superficial if we don’t discover a pointer to Jesus Christ in every and any part of His Word, and then yes surely, ultimately Christ in us and we in Him (Jn 14:26; 17:15-26; 1 Jn 3:1-3). The meditations “The Bible” and “Apparent controversies in The Bible”, refer.

Go in peace with Eph 1:3; 3:19-21 and Col 1:11-20.