SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE

A. Certain numbers functioned both as numerals and symbols.

1. One – God (e.g., Deut. 6:4; Eph. 4:4-6)

2. Four – the whole earth (i.e., four corners, four winds, e.g., Isa. 11:12; Jer. 49:36; Dan. 7:2; 11:4; Zech. 2:6; Matt. 24:31; Mark 13:27; Rev. 7:1)

3. Six – human imperfection (one less than 7, e.g., Rev. 13:18)

4. Seven – divine perfection (the seven days of creation).  Notice the symbolic usages in Revelation:

a. seven candlesticks, Rev. 1:12,20; 2:1

b. seven stars, Rev. 1:16,20; 2:1

c. seven churches, Rev. 1:20 

d. seven spirits of God, Rev. 3:1; 4:5; 5:6

e. seven lamps, Rev. 4:5

f. seven seals, Rev. 5:1,5

g. seven horns and seven eyes, Rev. 5:6

h. seven angels, Rev. 8:2,6; 15:1,6,7,8; 16:1; 17:1

i seven trumpets, Rev. 8:2,6

j. seven thunders, Rev. 10:3,4

k. seven thousand, Rev. 11:13

l. seven heads, Rev. 13:1; 17:3,7,9

m. seven plagues, Rev. 15:1,6,8; 21:9

n. seven bowls, Rev. 15:7; 21:9

o. seven kings, Rev. 17:10

5. Ten – completeness

 a. use in Gospels

 (1) Matt. 20:24; 25:1,28

 (2) Mark 10:41

 (3) Luke 14:31; 15:8; 17:12,17; 19:13,16,17,24,25

 b. use in Revelation

 (1) Rev. 2:10, ten days of tribulation

 (2) Rev. 12:3; 17:3,7,12,16, ten horns

 (3) Rev. 13:1, ten crowns

 c. multiples of 10 in Revelation

 (1) 144,000 = 12x12x1000, cf. Rev. 7:4; 14:1,3

 (2) 1,000 = 10x10x10, cf. Rev. 20:2,3,6

6. Twelve – human organization

a. twelve sons of Jacob (i.e., twelve tribes of Israel, Gen. 35:22; 49:28)

b. twelve pillars, Exod. 24:4

c. twelve stones on breast plate of High Priest, Exod. 28:21; 39:14

d. twelve loaves, for table in Holy Place (symbolic of God's provision for the twelve tribes), Lev. 24:5; Exod. 25:30

e. twelve spies, Deut. 1:23;

f. twelve rock carriers, Jos. 4:2,3,4,8,9,20

g. twelve apostles, Matt. 10:1

h. use in Revelation

 (1) twelve thousand sealed, Rev. 7:5-8

 (2) twelve stars, Rev. 12:1

 (3) twelve gates, twelve angels, twelve tribes, Rev. 21:12

 (4) twelve foundation stones, names of the twelve apostles, Rev. 21:14

 (5) New Jerusalem was twelve thousand stadia squared, Rev. 21:16

 (6) twelve gates made of twelve pearls, Rev. 21:21

 (7) tree of life with twelve kinds of fruit, Rev. 22:2

7. Forty – number for time 

 a. sometimes literal (exodus and wilderness wanderings, e.g., Exod. 16:35); Deut. 2:7; 8:2

 b. can be literal or symbolic

 (1) flood, Gen. 7:4,17; 8:6

 (2) Moses on Mt. Sinai, Exod. 24:18; 34:28; Deut. 9:9,11,18,25

 (3) divisions of Moses life:

 (a) forty years in Egypt 

 (b) forty years in the desert

 (c) forty years leading Israel

 (4) Jesus fasted forty days, Matt. 4:2; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2

 c. Note (by means of a Concordance) the number of times this number appears in time designation in the Bible!

8. Seventy – round number for people

 a. Israel, Exod. 1:5

 b. seventy elders, Exod. 24:1,9

 c. eschatological, Dan. 9:2,24

 d. mission team, Luke 10:1,17

 e. forgiveness (70x7), Matt. 18:22

B. Good references

1. John J. Davis, Biblical Numerology

2. D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks

 

Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International