The Bible and Numbers


     Introduction:  Numerical symbolism involves figurative suggestions springing from the use of numbers. For instance, the number seven is referred to in one way or another in nearly 600 verses in the Bible. It is obvious there is often symbolic association with the number seven (Lk. 17: 3, 4, completeness).

I. The symbolic use of multiples.

  A. In addition to the use of the number seven, you also encounter multiples of seven (Matt. 18: 22).

  B. Many scholars attach significance to 14 (twice seven), 49, 70, and 77 (Ex. 12: 6, Gal. 2: 1; Lev. 23: 15 ff.; 2 Kgs. 10: 1; Gen. 4: 24).

II. The number three.

  A. Some see symbolic use involving the numbers three, four, ten, and twelve (Gen. 6: 10, Ps. 55: 17; Jere. 49: 36, Matt. 13: 19-23; Ex. 20: 2-17, Matt. 25: 1; Ex. 24: 4, 28: 21, Rev. 7: 5).

  B. Let us briefly consider the number three and associated truths.

    a. There are three in the Godhead, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13: 14). 

    b. Man consists of body, soul, and spirit (I Thes. 5: 23).

    c. There are three avenues of temptations, the lust of the flesh, eyes, and the pride of life (I Jn. 2: 16).

    d. Christ is presented as Prophet, Priest, and King (Acts 3: 22, 23; Heb. 4: 14; I Tim. 6: 15, 16).

    e. There are three abiding principles, faith, hope, and love (I Cor. 13: 13).

    f. The reward of the faithful is glory, honor, and immortality (Rom. 2: 6, 7).

III. There is, however, attendant danger in becoming too involved with such a use of numbers.

  A. We must never read more into the use of a number than is intended ("secret codes")

  B. Bible numbers are abused when we make a perceived understanding of a number contradict plain teaching, or seek to create some formula involving the biblical use of these numbers to attempt to foretell the future or engage in exercises of chance, such as gambling.

     Conclusion:  As a rule, figurative message (when intended) is not esoteric but is reflective of entirety.   Hence, the "seven Spirits of God" is not teaching seven Holy Spirits as opposed to one (Rev. 4: 5, cp. 1: 4).  As John T. Hinds remarks, "It is true that the Holy Spirit as a person is one (Eph. 4: 4), but symbolically may be referred to as "seven Spirits" to indicate the fullness of his work; the one personality but diverse manifestations of power (I Cor. 12: 4)" (A Commentary on the Book of Revelation, pg. 20).