What Are the Biblical Meanings of Numbers?

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Many theories abound on the use and significance of numbers in the Bible. However, many scholars and theorists seem to agree on the significance of a set of several numbers: 1, 3 through 7, 10, 12, 14, 40, 50, 70, 300 and 666. But other scholars and theorists include other numbers as well.

1 Facts

Most of the meanings attributed to numbers in the Bible relate to prophecy, laws to be followed or punishments inflicted. The most common Biblical number is 7. According to Genesis, the Earth and everything in it was completed by God in six days, and the seventh day is reserved as the Day of Rest (or Completion). Seven is considered the number of perfect time; times for religious feasts are based on cycles of seven.

The numbers 6 and 12 are important for the people of Israel: Six is for the judgment of the wicked, while 12 is both for the people at rest as well as the number of the original tribes of Israel.

In the Old Testament, redemption and wrath came in sets of the numbers 5 and 10: Tithing is set at 10 percent, while curses were given in a series of five but with two chances for redemption.

2 Time Frame

The number 7 has been considered the "perfect number of God" since the beginning of the study of Bible numbers. The number, including such terms as "seventh" and "sevens" is used 582 times throughout the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation. The Books of the Bible that contain a majority of Bible prophecy--Daniel and Revelation--contain 42 mentions of the number 7. A reading of Revelation reveals seven churches, seven trumpets, seven heads, seven crowns, seven last plagues, seven kings and many more references to the number 7. The number 7 is designated as the number of divine worship, the number of completion and obedience, and, of course, the seventh day is the Day of Rest.

3 Significance

Many writers of Biblical numerology assign significance to specific numbers. For example, the number 1 is for the Beginning. The number 3 usually refers the three parts of God in Christianity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Four is about the four corners of the Earth. The number 6 is for man, beast and Satan. Seven is the perfect number of God. Ten stands for law, government, restoration and the amount of one's income that belongs to God. Twelve is the number of the 12 tribes of Israel as well as the apostolic number. The number 14 is important for Passover. The number 40 is used for probation, testing and judgment; and the number 50 is the number of jubilee. Furthermore, 300 is considered a number meaning faithful remnants, and 666 is famously the "sign of the beast" or the Antichrist.

4 Considerations

Another often used number is 40. For example, the Great Flood lasted 40 days, and Moses fled to Midian at age 40 and stayed there for 40 years. Moses also was up on Mount Sinai for 40 days to receive the Ten Commandments, the Israelites spent 40 years wandering the desert, and the spies spent 40 days in Canaan after the Exodus. The fasting of both Elijah and Jesus lasted 40 days, and after the Resurrection, Jesus spent another 40 days on earth. The Judges of the Old Testament had 40-year terms, and the Old Testament Kings Saul, David and Solomon reigned for 40 years each.

5 Misconceptions

Many religious scholars caution against assigning magical powers to the number patterns found in the Bible. The letters of the Hebrew alphabet are based on numbers, so the early Hebrews often interpreted cosmic relationships in numbers. Later, numerical mysticism evolved in certain Jewish sects, and through the German Kabbalists, a numeric interpretation system--gematria--was developed. Although the number 7 is considered God's perfect number, the number 10 was considered perfect by the early Greeks and Hebrews.

Pamela Hilliard Owens is a former public school teacher, college instructor and sales manager. With a master's degree in English, she writes and edits for individuals, grad students and businesses in nine countries. She founded Writing It Right For You in 1998 and is published in many online and print media.