Number - Bible References

3 occurrences in 3 dictionaries

Reference: Number


After the captivity the Hebrew used the alphabet letters for numbers, 'Aleph (?) equalling 1; Bet[h] (?) equalling 2, etc.; Yod[h] (?) equalling 10; Qoph (?) equalling 100, etc. The final letters expressed 500 to 900; 'Aleph (?) + a line over it equalling 1000. Our manuscripts all write numbers at full length. But the variations make it likely that letters (which copyists could so easily mistake) originally were written for numbers: compare 2Ki 24:8 with 2Ch 36:9; Isa 7:8, where 65 is in one reading, 16 and 5 in another. 1Sa 6:19 has 50,070, but Syriac and Arabic 5070 (1Ki 4:26 with 2Ch 9:25). Numbers also have often a symbolical rather than a mere arithmetical value. But straining is to be avoided, and subtle trifling. The author's sense, history, the context, and the general analogy of the Scripture scheme as a whole are to be examined, in order to decide whether a figure is employed in a merely ordinary sense, or in an ordinary and symbolical, or in an exclusively symbolical sense.

Zechariah and Daniel dwell upon seven; Daniel and Revelation use several numbers to "characterize periods", rather than indicate arithmetical duration. Science reveals in crystallization and chemical combinations what an important part number plays in the proportion of combining molecules of organic and inorganic life.

Two notes "intensification" (Ge 41:32), "requital in full" (Job 42:10; Jer 16:18; Isa 61:7; Re 18:6); the proportions of the temple were double those of the tabernacle; two especially symbolizes "testimony" (Zec 4:11; 11:7; Isa 8:2; Re 11:3), two tables of the testimony (Ex 31:18), two cherubim over the ark of the testimony. God is His own witness; but that witness is twofold, "His word and His oath" (Heb 6:13,17), "Himself and His Son" (Joh 8:18).

Three, like seven, is "a divine number". The Trinity (Re 1:4; 4:8); three great feasts (Ex 23:14-17; De 16:16); the threefold blessing (Nu 6:14,24); the thrice holy (Isa 6:3); the three hours of prayer (Da 6:10; Ps 55:17); the third heaven (2Co 12:2). Christ is "the Way, the Truth, the Life," "Prophet, Priest, and King." The threefold theophany (Ge 18:2; 1Sa 3:4,6,8; Ac 10:16).

The number 3 1/2, one-half of 7, is "a period of evil cut short", shortened for the elect's sake (Mt 24:22; Jas 5:17, three years' and a half drought in Israel; Lu 4:25; Re 11:2-3,9; 12:6). Da 7:25; 12:7, time, times, and a half, 1,260 days, three days and a half. The 42 months (30 days in each) answer to the 1,260 days; three years and a half equals 1,260 days (360 in each year). Probably the 1,260 years of the papal rule date from A.D. 754, when his temporal power began, and end 2014. (See ANTICHRIST.)

At the close of spurious Christianity's long rule open antichristianity and persecution will prevail for the three years and a half before the millennium. Witnessing churches will be followed by witnessing individuals, even as the apostate church will give place to the personal man of sin (Da 7:25; Re 11:2-3). The 2,300 (Da 8:14) years may date from Alexander's conquests (323 B.C.), and end about the same time as the 1,260, namely, 1977. The 1,290 (Da 12:11-12) and 1,335 days correspond to 1290, during which Antiochus Epiphanes profaned the temple, from the month Ijar, 145th year of the era of the Seleucidae, to Judas Maccabeus' restoration of worship, the 25th day of the ninth month Chisleu, 148th year (1Ma 1:54; 1Ma 4:52-56); in 45 days more Antiochus died, ending the Jews' calamities; in all 1,335. Again, 1,260, 1,290 and 1,335 may be counted from Mahomet's retirement to the cave, A.D. 606-610, and his flight from Mecca, 622: these figures added may mark the closing epochs of Mahometan power.

Again, the 2,300 may be the years between 480 B.C., the time of Xerxes' invasion of Greece (Da 11:2), and A.D. 1820, when Ali Pasha cast off the yoke of the Porte and precipitated the Greek revolution. Thirdly, the 2,300 may date from Antichrist's profanation (Da 9:27). After the 1,260 days Jesus in person will deliver the Jews; during the 30 more their consciences are awakened to penitent faith, making 1,290; in 45 more Israel's outcasts are gathered, and the united blessing descends. These all are conjectures. Evidently these numbers symbolize the long "Gentile times" from the overthrow of Judah's kingdom by Babylon, and of Jerusalem by Titus, down to the restoration of the theocracy in Him "whose right it is" (Eze 21:27). The seven times of Israel's punishment (Le 26:18,21-24) are the times of the Gentile monarchies; the seven times of antichrist's tyranny in the Holy Land will be the recapitulation and open consummation of what is as yet "the mystery of iniquity."

The three and a half during which the two witnesses prophesy in sackcloth is the sacred seven halved, for the antichristian world powers' time is broken at best, and is followed immediately by judgment on them. It answers to the three years and a half of Christ's witness for the truth, when the Jews disowned and the God-opposed world power crucified Him (Da 9:27). He died in the midst of the last of the 70 weeks; the three and a half which seemed the world's triumph over Him was immediately followed by their defeat in His resurrection (Joh 12:31). The world powers never reach the sacred fullness of seven times 360, i.e. 2,520, though they approach it in the 2,300 (Da 8:14). The 42 months answer to Israel's 42 sojournings in the desert (Nu 33:1-50), contrasted with the sabbatic rest of Canaan. Three and a half represents "the church's time of toil, pilgrimage, persecution". Three and a half is "the antagonism to seven".

Four symbolizes "worldwide extension". The four winds and quarters of the earth (Re 7:1; Da 7:2). The four living creatures or cherubim with four wings and four faces (Eze 1:5, etc.; Re 4:6, in contrast to the four beasts, Daniel 7; Da 2:40 the four kingdoms); Eden's four streams (Ge 2:10; Eze 40:47). Four expresses "the spread of God's kingdom over the earth". As Christ's seamless vest marks its unity, so the rending of the outer garment into four by the four Roman soldiers symbolizes its ultimate worldwide extension (Joh 19:23-24). The numbers especially symbolical are 3, 4, 7, 10, 12, 40; 6 is so because coming short of the "sacred" 7, 8 as coming after 7 and introducing "a new series or era".

Three and a half is seven broken in two. The Bible begins with seven days, and ends with a succession of sevens. Seven represents "rest and release from toil", also "a divine work", in judgment or mercy or revelation (Ge 4:24; 41:3,7; Mt 18:22; Ex 7:25). Le 26:18, "I will punish you seven times more for your sins," Le 26:21-24,28; Isa 4:1; 11:15; 2Sa 24:13. Da 4:16,25, "seven times shall pass over thee" (Nebuchadnezzar). Re 15:1, "the seven last plagues." "divine fullness and completeness" is the thing signified; as Re 1:4, "the seven spirits ... before His throne" are "the one Holy Spirit in His manifold fullness"; Isa 11:2-3 corresponds.

So in offerings and divine rites: Le 12:2,5; 13:4,6,21-26,31,33,50,54; 14:7-9,16,27,38,51; 15:13,19'>19,28; 16:14,19'>19; Nu 12:14; 2Ki 5:10,14. The seven days' grace (Ge 7:1-10); and at the taking of Jericho (Jos 5:13-6:20); the antitype, spiritual Babylon, shall fall at the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Re 11:13,15; 14:8). The sevenfold candlestick (Ex 25:37), the seven churches corresponding (Re 1:12,20), the seven deacons (Acts 6), the sevenfold ministry (12'>Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12). Seven prayers are given in full in the Old Testament. (See PRAYER.) Seven petitions of the Lord's prayer in the New Testament. The seven beatitudes (Matthew 5; Ps 12:7). Satan mimics the "divine" seven (Pr 6:16; 26:25): Mary Magdalene's seven devils (Mr 16:9; Lu 8:2); the unclean spirit returning with seven (Mt 12:45); the seven Canaanite nations subdued by Israel (De 7:1; Ac 13:19); the dragon with seven heads and seven crowns (Re 12:3; Nu 23:1).

Eight begins a new era and life after the seven has been completed (Ex 22:30; Le 9:1; 22:27). Lepers are reinstated on the eighth day (Le 14:10; 15:13,29). Circumcision on the eighth day begins a new life in the covenant. The eighth day after the seven of the feast of tabernacles (Le 23:36). From the eighth day, when the

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1. Notation.

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Like most Oriental nations, it is probable that the Hebrews in their written calculations made use of the letters of the alphabet. That they did so in post-Babylonian times we have conclusive evidence in the Maccabaean coins; and it is highly probable that this was the ease also in earlier times. But though, on the one hand, it is certain that in all existing MSS of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament the numerical expressions are written at length, yet, on the other, the variations in the several versions between themselves and from the Hebrew text, added to the evident inconsistencies in numerical statement between certain passages of that text itself seems to prove that some shorter mode of writing was originally in vogue, liable to be misunderstood, and in fact misunderstood by copyists and translators. These variations appear to have proceeded from the alphabetic method of writing numbers. There can be little doubt, however, that some at least of the numbers mentioned in Scripture are intended to be representative rather than determinative. Certain numbers, as 7,10,40,100, were regarded as giving the idea of completeness. Without entering into St. Augustine's theory of this usage, we may remark that the notion of representative numbers in certain cases is one extremely common among eastern nations, who have a prejudice against counting their possessions accurately; that it enters largely into many ancient systems of chronology, and that it is found in the philosophical and metaphysical speculations not only of the Pythagorean and other ancient schools of philosophy, both Greek and Roman, but also in those of the later Jewish writers, of the Gnostics, and also of such Christian writers se St. Augustine himself. We proceed to give some instances of numbers used, (a) representatively, and thus probably by design indefinitely, or, (b) definitely, but, as we may say, preferentially, i.e. because some meaning (which we do not in all cases understand) was attached to them.

1. Seven as denoting either plurality or completeness, perhaps because seven days completed the week is so frequent as to make a selection only of instances necessary, e.g. seven fold

Ge 4:24

seven times, i.e. completely,

Le 26:24; Ps 12:6

seven (i.e. many) ways,

De 28:25

2. Ten as a preferential number is exemplified in the Ten Commandments and the law of tithe.

3. Seventy, as compounded of 7 X 10, appears frequently e.g. seventy fold.

Ge 4:24; Mt 18:22

Its definite use appears in the offerings of 70 shekels,

Nu 7:13,19

ff,; the 70 elders, ch.

Nu 11:16

70 years of captivity.

Jer 25:11

4. Five appears in the table of punishments, of legal requirements,

Ex 22:1; Le 5:16; 22:14; 27:15; Nu 5:7; 18:16

and in the five empires of Daniel.

Da 2:1


5. Four is used in reference to the 4 winds,

Da 7:2

and the so-called 4 corners of the earth; the creatures, each with 4 wings and 4 faces, of Ezekiel,

Eze 1:5

ff.; 4 rivers of Paradise

Ge 2:10

4 beasts,

Da 7:1

... and Reve 4:6 the 4 equal-sided temple-chamber.

Eze 40:47

6. Three was regarded, by both the Jews and other nations as a specially complete and mystic number.

7. Twelve (3X4) appears in 12 tribes 12 stones in the high priest's breastplate, 12 apostles, 12 foundation-stones, and 12 gates.

Re 21:19-21

8. Lastly, the mystic number 666.

Re 13:18

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