As from the beginning this was the number of days in the week, so it often has in Scripture a sort of emphasis attached to it, and is very generally used as a round or perfect number. Clean beasts were taken into the ark by sevens, Ge 7. The years of plenty and famine in Egypt were marked by sevens, Ge 41. With the Jews, not only was there a seventh day Sabbath, but every seventh year was a Sabbath, and after every seven times seven years came a jubilee. Their great feasts of unleavened bread and of tabernacles were observed for seven days; the number of animals in many of their sacrifices was limited to seven. The golden candlestick had seven branches. Seven priests with seven trumpets went around the walls of Jericho seven days, and seven times on the seventh day. In the Apocalypse we find seven churches mentioned, seven candlesticks, seven spirits, seven stars, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven vials, seven plagues, and seven angels to pour them out.
Seven is often put for any round or whole number, just as we use "ten" or "a dozen;" so in Mt 12:45; 1Sa 2:5; Job 5:19; Pr 26:16,25; Isa 4:1; Jer 15:9. In like manner, seven times, or seven-fold, means often, abundantly, completely, Ge 4:15,24; Le 26:24; Ps 12:6; 79:12; Mt 18:21. And seventy times seven is a still higher superlative, Mt 18:22.
This number occurs frequently in Scripture, and in such connections as lead to the supposition that it has some typical meaning. On the seventh day God rested, and hallowed it (Ge 2:2-3). The division of time into weeks of seven days each accounts for many instances of the occurrence of this number. This number has been called the symbol of perfection, and also the symbol of rest. "Jacob's seven years' service to Laban; Pharaoh's seven fat oxen and seven lean ones; the seven branches of the golden candlestick; the seven trumpets and the seven priests who sounded them; the seven days' siege of Jericho; the seven churches, seven spirits, seven stars, seven seals, seven vials, and many others, sufficiently prove the importance of this sacred number" (see Le 25:4; 1Sa 2:5; Ps 12:6; 79:12; Pr 26:16; Isa 4:1; Mt 18:21-22; Lu 17:4). The feast of Passover (Ex 12:15-16), the feast of Weeks (De 16:9), of Tabernacles (De 13:15), and the Jubilee (Le 25:8), were all ordered by seven. Seven is the number of sacrifice (2Ch 29:21; Job 42:8), of purification and consecration (34'>Le 27:34,34; 8:11,33; 14:9,51), of forgiveness (Mt 18:21-22; Lu 17:4), of reward (De 28:7; 1Sa 2:5), and of punishment (Le 26:21,24,28; De 28:25). It is used for any round number in such passages as Job 5:19; Pr 26:16,25; Isa 4:1; Mt 12:45. It is used also to mean "abundantly" (Ge 4:15,24; Le 26:24; Ps 79:12).
(See NUMBER.) The Semitic has the word in common with the Indo-European languages; Hebrew sheba answering to Latin septem, Greek hepta.
See NUMBERS AS SYMBOLS.
The frequent recurrence of certain numbers in the sacred literature of the Hebrews is obvious to the most superficial reader, but seven so far surpasses the rest, both in the frequency with which it recurs and in the importance of the objects with which it is associated, that it may fairly be termed the representative symbolic number. The influence of the number seven was not restricted to the Hebrews; it prevailed among the Persians, ancient Indians, Greeks and Romans. The peculiarity of the Hebrew view consists in the special dignity of the seventh, and not simply in that of seen. The Sabbath being the seventh day suggested the adoption of seven as the coefficient, so to say, for their appointment of all sacred periods; and we thus find the 7th month ushered in by the Feast of Trumpets, and signalized by the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Great Day of Atonement; 7 weeks as the interval between the Passover and the Pentecost; the 7th year as the sabbatical year; and the year: succeeding 7X7 years as the Jubilee year. Seven days were appointed as the length of the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles; 7 days for the ceremonies of the consecration of priests, and so on; 7 victims to be offered on any special occasion, as in Balaam's sacrifice.
and especially at the ratification of a treaty, the notion of seven being embodied in the very term signifying to swear, literally meaning to do seven times.
Seven is used for any round number, or for completeness, as we say a dozen, or as a speaker says he will say two or three words.
SEVEN. The number seven is consecrated, in the holy books and in the religion of the Jews, by a great number of events and mysterious circumstances. God created the world in the space of seven days, and consecrated the seventh day to repose. The rest of the seventh day, according to St. Paul, Heb 4:4, intimates eternal rest. And not only the seventh day is honoured among the Jews, by the repose of the Sabbath, but every seventh year is also consecrated to the rest of the earth, by the name of a sabbatical year; as also the seven times seventh year, or forty- ninth year is the year of jubilee. In the prophetic style a week often stands for seven years, Da 9:24-26. Jacob served his father-in-law Laban seven years for each of his daughters. Pharaoh's mysterious dream represented to his imagination seven fat oxen, and seven lean ones; seven full ears of corn, and as many that were empty and shrivelled. These stood for seven years of plenty, and seven of scarcity. The number of seven days is observed in the octaves of the great solemnities of the passover, of tabernacles, and of the dedication of the tabernacle and the temple; the seven branches of the golden candlestick, the number of seven sacrifices appointed on several occasions, Nu 27:11; 29:17-21, &c. Seven trumpets, seven priests that sounded them, seven days to surround the walls of Jericho, 6/4'>Jos 6:4,6,8. In the Revelation, are the seven churches, seven, candlesticks, seven spirits, seven stars, seven lamps, seven seals, seven angels, seven phials, seven plagues, &c. In certain passages, the number seven is put for a great number. Isa 4:1, says that seven women should lay hold on one man, to ask him to marry them. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, says, 1Sa 2:5, that she who was barren should have seven children. Jer 15:9, makes use of the same expression. God threatens his people to smite them seven times for their transgressions, Le 26:24, that is to say, several times. The Psalmist, speaking of very pure silver, says it is "purified seven times," Ps 12:6. And elsewhere, "Render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom," Ps 79:12; punish them severely, and as often as they deserve it. The slayer of Cain was to be punished seven times; but of Lamech seventy times seven times, Ge 4:15,24. The slothful man thinks himself wiser than seven men, that set forth proverbs, Pr 26:16; he thinks himself of more worth than many wise men. St. Peter asks our Saviour, Mt 18:21-22, How many times should he forgive his brother? till seven times? And Christ answers him, I say not only seven times, but seventy times seven; meaning, as often as he may offend, however frequent it may be.