What Numbers Mean In The Bible
The Bible is perhaps the most widely read religious publication in the world and a vast array of symbolic and literal interpretations have been attempted since its writing. Numbers, being a fundamental part of everyday life and culture, often appear throughout the pages of the Bible and can hold layers of meaning far beyond what their literal value might at first suggest. From the symbolic reference to almost all aspects of the Bible’s narrative structure, to significant mathematical parallels embedded in the text, numbers can often provide a tangible marker of how our sense of faith is portrayed.
In Judaism and Christianity, the first use of numbers in the Bible appears in the book of Genesis, which states that God created the world in six days. This seemingly arbitrary number has come to represent the amount of time it takes to achieve one’s goals, as well as being a warning to seek wisdom before attempting the impossible. On the sixth day, God created man and woman, thus bringing forth the concept of the Holy Trinity and the unity of the Triune God. The striking doctrine of the Trinity is frequently presented in the Bible through the use of threefold repetition, such as the three gifts given by the Magi to Jesus or the three temptations faced by Jesus in the desert.
Furthermore, the number seven, often referred to as the perfect number, appears in the Bible multiple times. Signifying completeness and perfection, the number seven appears in divine days of creation, the great flood, and other significant moments. The book of Leviticus recounts seven days of purification and the book of Exodus outlines how, once every seven years, a special festival of release from slavery is kept. Lastly, the number seven signifies spiritual perfection, which may be seen throughout the Book of Revelations.
The number twelve, a number with numerous connotations of wholeness and oneness across different spiritual traditions, appears often in the Bible. In the Old Testament, the twelve sons of Jacob became the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve loaves of the showbread symbolized divine nourishment to the twelve tribes. In the New Testament, Jesus chose twelve disciples and even commanded them to cast out twelve stones which symbolized the twelve tribes of Israel. The number twelve also appears at the Last Supper, in which Jesus served twelve apostles the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrament.
Other numbers such as forty, representing a long journey of hardship or a great span of time, and one hundred and forty-four thousand, representing the saints to accompany Jesus at his return, can also be seen as symbolic reference points for biblical events. Furthermore, the Bible also uses numbers to signify unique individuals like Cain, who is called the “seventh from Adam”, and to refer to incredible and monstrous entities, such as the behemoth mentioned in the book of Job and the thousand eyes that adorn Satan’s coat of many colors.
One technical aspect of numbers in the Bible worth noting is the biblical numerology and gematria. Each Hebrew letter contains a numerical value, and each word is then given a numerical significance. For example, according to a popular book on biblical numerology, the Christian holy trinity is represented by the number three, as each member possesses two distinct personalities that form one collective being.
Similarly, the number seven, often referred to as a number of wholeness and completeness, is said to be a symbol of the complete nature of the universe and all its life. According to early Christian thought, the number seven symbolizes the seven days of creation, seven archangels, seven churches, and so on. As such, the symbolic reference to the number seven in the Bible is representative of all life, encompassing the complete and perfect nature of existence.
Beyond its symbolic meaning, certain mathematical symbolism can be seen in the biblical text. For instance, the number four, which may appear in the four corners of the earth or the four rivers of Eden, is often used to represent a square, that is, an object or area with four equal sides. The number ten, the total number of commandments in the Bible, may represent a perfect order or symmetry in its entirety. In addition, the number twelve is often used to signify a strict adherence to divine laws, often associated with the twelve tribes of Israel. As such, the use of multiple numbers in the Bible seems to point towards a universal understanding of mathematical theory and imagery.
For followers of orthodox religions, the study of numbers in the Bible goes beyond a mere examination of literal and figurative phrases. Within the Christian faith, numbers are used to symbolize various aspects of divine thought and understanding. In the Gospel of Mark 8:9, Jesus warns of the dangers of neglecting the “Leaven of the Pharisees” and the “Leaven of Herod”. This phrase has been interpreted to mean a false teaching or form of organization in the church, and is often associated with the number two, signifying the duality of sin or disunity.
In the book of Numbers, the Israelites are said to number twelve tribes, and their journey is said to take forty years. This number can be seen as an example of the perfection of God’s will, symbolizing the Israelites’ testimony of God’s divine interventions in their lives. In this way, many Bible scholars have looked to various numbers as symbols to connect various parts of the Bible and to explore theological implications.
Though most numbers are seen as having a positive connotation, the Bible also refers to certain numbers as being evil or wicked. Numbers such as six and thirteen, signifying a fallen angel or an unholy group of people, can often be seen as symbolic of evil or adversity. Additionally, Revelation 17:9-11 discusses a woman who is described as “the woman who rides the beast” with seven heads and ten horns, which has been interpreted to represent a harlot or idolatrous embodiment.
Numbers can often be interpreted in multiple ways, often depending upon the reader’s own perception and beliefs. For instance, the number three may represent the holy trinity in the Christian faith, but it may also represent humanity or the temporal world in other spiritual traditions. Additionally, the number seven can represent wholeness and perfection, but it may also represent the self, as the number seven is frequently thought of as the most perfect combination of one’s spiritual and physical self.
Influence On Culture
Numerology and the study of numbers in the Bible have had a profound influence on various cultures, and their numerical significance is still often discussed today. Often embedded in popular art and public speech, the notion of numbers can provide insight into the complexities of life and faith. Furthermore, many authors and historians have pointed to various mathematical interpretations of texts as an indication of divine intervention and an indication of a higher power at work.
Creative works often use the symbolic references to numbers in the Bible as a means to explore and explain the mysterious power of God in the world. One example of this can be seen in Man of Steel, a recent comic book movie inspired by the life of Jesus, in which the protagonist is then tasked with gathering twelve disciples to join him. The number twelve is then used to represent the strength of the human spirit and the power of unity in the face of adversity.
Role In Faith
The use of numbers and numerology in the Bible is thought to provide an important window into the lives of believers and how our faith is portrayed. Numbers, being one of the most important and fundamental aspects of our lives, is used to aid in the understanding of spiritual truths and the workings of the world. From the simplest objects to the most complicated problems, numbers are often seen as divinely inspired and are thought to give us greater insight into our purpose and our divinely ordained paths in life.
In addition, numbers can often be interpreted as reminders of the spiritual debt we have to one another, and the power of love, understanding, and compassion over our lives. Numbers can be used as reminders of God’s grace and mercy, and can be seen as symbols of God’s presence in our lives and our faith. In this way, the use of numbers in the Bible can act as a source of divine inspiration, providing a deeper understanding of spiritual truths and of our place in the divine plan.
Symbology In Popular Culture
Today, numerology and the symbolic references to numbers in the Bible can be seen throughout our society, from the most popular works of art to the simplest everyday interactions. In the musical world, groups such as the Jonas Brothers and the Black-Eyed Peas have drawn attention to their use of biblical symbolism in their popular songs and music videos. Similarly, movies such as The Matrix and The Da Vinci Code also contain a heavy emphasis on Biblical numbers, often in the form of animals, objects, or patterns that contain significant numerological meaning.
Outside of the entertainment industry, numerology has also had a major impact on popular culture. Athletes such as basketball player Kobe Bryant and soccer star Steven Gerrard have been known to ascribe to the power of numerology in their careers, with both men often wearing the number eight on their jerseys. Similarly, many professional and everyday organizations have used numerology to devise their own logos and strategies, often using various interpretations of numbers to connect people, counsel others in God’s will, and explain the ancient messages found in the Bible.
The study of numbers in the Bible offers a vast array of symbolic and literal interpretations that can provide insight into the divine truth of our faith. From the symbolic reference to almost all aspects of the Bible’s narrative structure, to significant mathematical parallels embedded in the text, numbers can often provide a tangible marker of how our sense of faith is portrayed. It can also be seen as a reminder of the spiritual debt we have to one another, and the power of love, understanding, and compassion over our lives. Additionally, numerology and the symbolic use of numbers can often be seen in popular culture, ranging from works of art to everyday interactions, acting as a source of divine inspiration and providing a deeper understanding of spiritual truths and of our place in the divine plan.