Unnoticed Connections in Scripture, Lesson 5: Numbers Continued

In this lesson, we continue exploring the significance of numbers in the Bible.  For we find specific numbers coming up over and again throughout Scripture.  For example, God commanded His people to celebrate seven festivals in the Old Covenant—four during spring and three in the autumn.  These three fall festivals all took place in the seventh month.  The final one lasted seven days, with it culminating on the Sabbath, a Saturday, the seventh day of the week.  Even the sacrifices offered during the Feast of Tabernacles added up to multiples of seven.

Hmm, what’s going on with seven?  This is one number sequence we will explore today.

 

Common Number Groups in Scripture

In the last Lesson, we looked at three, which is a primary number used to represent God.  Scripture often uses this number in subtle ways, including threefold repetitions, one for each Person of the Trinity.

 

Four

Four-part groupings refer to the creation or living creatures.  This use of four still affects the way we speak, as we still use the expression “the four corners of the world.”

Isaiah 11:12: [The Root of Jesse] will lift up a banner for the nations and gather the dispersed of Israel; he will collect the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

Jeremiah 49:36: “I [God] will bring the four winds against Elam from the four corners of the heavens, and I will scatter them to all these winds.”

Mark 13:27: “[The Son of Man] will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”

The use of the number 4 to refer to the earth is not always obvious.  For example, when the Lord came to earth to visit Ezekiel (chapter 1), he rode a chariot born by four angels, each with four faces.

Zechariah saw the Lord sending four chariots, representing the four spirits of heaven going out after presenting themselves to the Lord of the whole earth (Zechariah 6:1, 5).  Revelation often describes humanity through a fourfold repetition, such as “every nation, tribe, language, and people” (Revelation 14:6).

  • Others Examples: East, North, South, West (not necessarily in that order): Genesis 28:14; Numbers 35:5; 1 Kings 7:25; 1 Chronicles 9:24; 2 Chronicles 4:4; 2 Chronicles 4:4; Psalm, 107:3; Ezekiel 48:10, 16, 17; Zechariah 14:4; Luke 13:29; Revelation 21:13.
  • All creation: Exodus 20:11; Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 96:11, 135:6, 146:6; Haggai 2:6; Acts 4:24, 14:15; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 5:13, 12:12, 14:7.

 

Five

Five-part structures refer to human emotions or experiences, including the five senses.

  • Joel 1:10: The field is ruined, the land mourns, for the grain is destroyed, the new wine dries up, fresh oil fails.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:11: Up to the present hour we are hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, roughly treated, and homeless.

 

Six

Six-part structures refer to creation but focus on the process behind such creating, the work of this creation.  This work can either be good or evil.

Good Sixes

Read John 2:1-11

  • How many water jars did Jesus turn into wine?

 

In 1 Timothy 6:11, we see a pattern of six, but with God behind these works: “follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.”

Bad Sixes

We learn about six denoting something terrible in the Devil’s authorship of sin, imitating God’s creation to undo and destroy God’s good work.  And so, when we see a list of six in Revelation 9:20, it shows through its numerical pattern of people enslaved by sin.

  • “Repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils and idols of gold, and silver and brass and stone and of wood.”

 

Seven

The Good Side of Seven

Genesis 2:2-3:

On the seventh day God had completed the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.  God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it he rested from all his work of creation.

We find consistent use of 7 in Scripture from Genesis through Revelation.  After the six days of creation, the seventh day was set aside as a day of rest (Sabbath), a day seat apart to be in God’s presence and receive His forgiveness.  This is why we find seven relating to worship.  In the Old Covenant, God established:

  • Seven annual festivals, with three of them falling in the seventh month.
  • Two of the festivals lasted seven days.
  • Every seventh year was set aside as a Sabbath year, and after seven cycles of seven years, the people celebrated a Year of Jubilee.
  • Within the Temple, we find the seven-branched lampstand.

In both Isaiah (11:2) and Revelation (1:4) associate the number 7 with the Holy Spirit’s presence or work.

From these uses, seven become a symbol of God’s saving work for us.

The ancient Israelites understood this connotation very well.  For example, to “seven oneself” is a Hebrew expression for making a promise or covenant, based on sheba, the word for seven (see Genesis 21:27-32).  Seven is 3 (the number of God) plus 4 (the number for the earth or mankind), symbolizing God restoring a fallen people back to Him, which He does in the Covenant with us on the Seventh day, the Sabbath.

The Dark Side of Seven

Apart from God’s saving work, when four (the fallen creation) and seven (God) meet, the result is divine judgment.  We see this more in Revelation than any other book, in which the number seven occurs more than any other.  Pointing to God’s judgment on “great Babylon,” we read in Revelation 18:2-3:

“Fallen, fallen is great Babylon, and [1] is become a home for demons, and [2] a haunt for every unclean spirit, and [3] a prison of every unclean bird, and [4] a prison of every unclean and [5] hated beast.  For all the nations have drunk the wine of her sexual immorality, and [6] the kings of the earth have committed adultery with her, and [7] the merchants of the earth have grown wealthy from her luxurious excesses.”

Notice the seven “ands” in the Greek text.

 

Ten

Ten is the biblical symbol for totality, completion, or the full scope of something.  The most obvious example in the Bible are the ten plagues of Egypt and the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 34:28: [Moses] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.

Some other examples are Laban changing Jacob’s wages ten times (Genesis 31:7), Job’s friends insulting him ten times, and ten virgins in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 25:1).

 

Twelve

Twelve is the number for the Church.  Since the Church is the result of God’s work among His people, it makes some sense for the number of the Church to be a multiple of both God’s number (3) and mankind’s number (4): 4 x 3 = 12.

Exodus 24:4: Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.  He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel.

Matthew 10:1: [Jesus] called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

Jacob had twelve sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulon, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin, whose descendants formed the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:28), God’s people in His Old Covenant.  After Jacob’s sons died, the tribes each chose a prince, who were all ruled by one king.  Just as King David ruled with twelve princes, Jesus chose twelve Apostles.

 

Forty

The number 40 calls to mind many events in which God’s people received divine revelation after or during a period of struggle.

Genesis 7:12: Rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

Exodus 24:18: Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain.  And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years when God led them in a pillar of could by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21, Deuteronomy 8:2).

1 Kings 19:8: [Elijah] got up and ate and drank.  Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

Noah was in the ark while the rain fell and Elijah was in the wilderness.  Each time marked a period of testing and struggle, through which God revealed Himself for His people.  We see this most clearly in Jesus as the divine Revelation of God for us.

Read Matthew 4:1-11

  • How many days did Jesus fast?

 

  • How did Jesus refute the Devil?

 

  • Deuteronomy 8:3: Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
  • Deuteronomy 6:16: Do not test the Lord your God.
  • Deuteronomy 6:13: Fear the Lord your God, serve him.

Deuteronomy informs us much about 40.  Moses fasted two times, each for 40 days.  The first time was when he was preparing to receive the 10 Commandments (Deuteronomy 9:9-11).  In the second, Moses fasted for 40 days after he gave the Law because of the sins of his people (The golden calf incident, Deuteronomy 9:18).  Afterward, God allowed Israel to continue to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 10:10-11).

Once there, the people rebelled again. They didn’t think they could overcome the inhabitants.  So they sent in scouts to assess their chances.  After 40 days, the scouts returned, saying it was impossible. Their discouraging report caused to people to rebel.

What was their punishment for this rebellion?  Forty years in the desert!  One year for each day their scouts explored the land (Number 14:34).

Deuteronomy points forward to Jesus as the “new Moses.”  After fasting for 40 days, He began His public ministry, God’s divine revelation for us, culminating in Him suffering for the sins of the people.  He is Israel condensed into one Man, who was faithful when the Israelites were not.  Unlike the Israelites who repeatedly fell away from God in the desert, Jesus remained faithful.

 

Multiplying and Cubing Numbers

490 (70 x 7)

Sometimes numbers are multiplied to add meaning.

Matthew 18:21-22:

Then Peter approached [Jesus] and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?  As many as seven times?”  Jesus replied, “I tell you, not as many as seven but seventy times seven.”

Instead of forgiving his brother seven times, Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother “70 x 7,” 490 times—accentuating how great his forgiveness should be.

144,000

With cubing, numbers are multiplied by themselves as a way of expressing perfection or completeness.  God designed the Most Holy Place in the Temple, which housed the Ark of the Covenant, as a perfect cube.  Its length, width, and height were all equal, an expression of God Himself, three co-equal Persons of the Trinity.

We now consider the 144,000 saints, mentioned by John in the book of Revelation.

Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. [Revelation 14:1]

John tells us Revelation is a book of symbols (Revelation 1:1, samaino, “signified”).  The number 144,000 in Revelation 7:4, 14:1, and 14:3 is symbolic.  There never were 144,000 pure, male virgins standing on top of Mount Zion in Jerusalem, with God’s name on their foreheads (Revelation 14:1, 4-5).

The number is, instead, a beautiful symbol: 12 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10.  This is the Old-Covenant Church x the New-Covenant Church x the number of completeness cubed.

 

 

In the most emphatic way possible, God says that the complete number of all believers will be in heaven.  Not a single one will be left out.

 

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