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The symbolism of the numbers in the Bible

In the Bible, the numbers, when they are not to be taken in the literal sense, have a symbolic value which is often a literary expression of what is unique, complete, incomplete, completed, in abundance... For each explanation regarding the number a biblical text will be quoted with the key phrases or a key word (John 17:17 "your word is truth", the Bible).

This Bible study has nothing to do with numerology, a form of spiritism forbidden in the Bible and it has nothing to do either, to a secret "code", that is also contrary to the biblical context (The numerology is a form a spiritism: "Now the works of the flesh are plainly seen, and they are sexual immorality, uncleanness, brazen conduct, idolatry, spiritism" (Galatians 5:19-21). Esotericism does not conform to the biblical context: "But there is nothing carefully concealed that will not be revealed, and nothing secret that will not become known" (Luke 12:2)) (READ THE BIBLE DAILY; BIBLICAL TEACHING).

Number 1

The number 1, which represents what is unique, applies to Jehovah God: "Listen, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah" (Deuteronomy 6:4). His name is unique: "I Will Become What I Choose to Become" (Exodus 3:14).

It represents what is unique, not similar and which will not be repeated or recreated. Jehovah has only "one" son, Jesus Christ, who is not similar to the millions of other angels in heaven who are called "sons of God" (Job 2:1): "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son" (John 3:16).

The number 1 is applied to Jehovah and Jesus Christ: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). Jehovah God and his son Jesus Christ are not part of the trinity. They are united in their actions, just as the disciples of Christ must be one, by being united in their actions: "so that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us, so that the world may believe that you sent me" (John 17:21).

This expression is used for the "one" day of Jehovah, the great tribulation to come will be a unique event in the human history and which will not be repeated more in the future: "And it will become one day that is known as belonging to Jehovah" (Zechariah 14:7). "And there will occur a time of distress such as has not occurred since there came to be a nation until that time" (Daniel 12:1). "For then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again" (Matthew 24:21).

Number 2

The number 2 or the repetition twice, symbolizes the certainty of a prophetic declaration, the assured fulfillment of a future event: "And the fact that the dream was repeated to Pharʹaoh twice means that the thing is firmly established on the part of the true God, and the true God is speeding to do it" (Genesis 41:32).

The number 2, connected with the number 1, symbolizes the plural in general: "where she is to be fed for a time and times and half a time" (Revelation 12:14 (a (1) time, times = 2 times, and half a time, that are 3 times and a half (compare with Daniel 12:7 (a parallel prophecy)).

The number 2, connected with the number 3, symbolizes the insistence in action: "Indeed, God does all these things Twice, three times, for a man" (Job 33:29).

Number 3

The number 3 expresses what is at the top when it is a repetition. Praise addressed to God three times means a superlative expression of this divine quality: "Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is coming" (Revelation 4:8).

The number 3, which follows the number 2, means the maximum in action, the symbolizing 2, the minimum required, in a testimony procedure, for example: "But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established" (Matthew 18:16).

Number 4

It represents what is complete in space and volume ("Suddenly a great wind came from the wilderness, and it struck the four corners of the house" (Job 1:19)). This number refers to the four cardinal points described as the four "corners" of the earth ("After this I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding tight the four winds of the earth" (Revelation 7:1, Revelation 20:8)). The same number 4, multiplied by itself (4x4) and multiplied by 100, represents the totality of the immensity of space ("for a distance of 1,600 stadia" (Revelation 14:20): 4x4x100 =1600. The "stadia" is the largest Roman unit of measurement (185 meters or 607 feet) which means on the whole earth. To add to the distance, the huge volume, it is written that the blood was coming out "as high up as the bridles of the horses").

Number 5

It is often associated (as a multiple) with the distance in width in length, the symmetry or the square aspect. The square of 5 (5x5 = 25) is often mentioned in the territorial division especially in the vision of the temple seen by Ezekiel and the territory of Israel (Ezekiel 40-48).

In the book of Revelation the number 5 is used in a symbolic sense by mentioning a plague of locusts that harasses humans for "five months" (Revelation 9: 5-11). The "Five Months" symbolize the life span of the locust. Thus, the spiritual harassment of these symbolic "locusts" lasts all the life of this insect. In this context, the "five months", the whole life of the locust, means unceasingly, as long as they exist, until God makes them disappear (compare with Exodus 10:4-19)...

Number 6

In the Bible, the number 6 is not necessarily connected with what is bad. For example, in Revelation 4:8, it is written that some spiritual creatures with God have 6 wings (3 pairs of wings), which seems to symbolize the extreme speed of movement of these spiritual creatures,  with an extraordinary visual acuity under all angles, since they are full of eyes.

The number 666 of the book of Revelation chapter 13:18, is a "Name" or designation. If this number-name symbolizes the mark of the wild beast, a mixed submission with the worship of the worldwide human sovereignty. The number 666 is clearly alluding to UN Resolution 666, that prophetically described in Revelation 13:16-18, a right of embargo (or not) for any person who does not submit to the worldwide human sovereignty (see complete study of the symbolism 666). Nevertheless, this does not mean that number 6, whether in the Bible or the context of the book of Revelation, would systematically symbolize what is bad, or what would be "flawed" (see Revelation 4:8).

Number 7

It symbolizes in the Bible, what is complete or completeness, which is the maximum, the expression of the almightiness of God (Genesis 4:15 the maximum of a sentence "seven times"; completeness of a week of creation of "seven days" (Genesis 2:1-3), the seventh day being the symbol of the completion of this creation by a "rest").

The 6 associated with the 7, expresses the insistence and what is completed. "6, yes 7"... 6 completed by its maximum, 7 ("There are six things that Jehovah hates; yes, seven things that he detests" (Proverbs 6:16); "He will save you from six calamities, even the seventh will not harm you" (Job 5:19)).

The number 7 connected with the number 8, is the expression of abundance or overabundance ("Give a share to seven or even to eight, for you do not know what disaster will occur on the earth" (Ecclesiastes 11: 2); "We will raise up against him seven shepherds, yes, eight princes of mankind" (Micah 5: 5)).

The 7 associated with a multiple like 2 (7x2), can also express abundance (Genesis 31:41). It can express the completeness of a group (of humans) (Numbers 31:12-32 (Number 7 symbol of completeness and number 2, symbol of the group); (Number 7 (completeness) x10 (completeness of a group)): Numbers 11:16,24 "Gather for me 70 men from the elders of Israel"). The number 70 (7x10) added with the unit 7, is undefined or endless ("Jesus said to him: “I say to you, not up to seven times, but up to 77 times"" (Matthew 18:22 compare with Genesis 4:24).

In the book of Revelation, the number 7 means exactly the same general biblical idea, of what is complete, to the maximum or the expression of the almightiness of God: Revelation chapter 2 and 3, the "seven congregations" represent both literally congregations at the time of the Apostle John, but also, by the number "seven, the representatives of all the Christian congregations on earth. The "seven spirits" of God represent His Almightiness (Revelation 4:5).

Number 10

It has several symbolism according to the biblical context, which often evoke the abundance or accentuation when it becomes a multiple ("Our sister, may you become thousands times ten thousand" (Genesis 24:60); "And your father has tried to cheat me and has changed my wages ten times" (Genesis 31:7,41); "I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness and yet have kept testing me these ten times and have not listened to my voice" (Numbers 14: 22); "These ten times you have rebuked me; you are not ashamed to deal harshly with me" (Job 19: 3)).

The number 10 can be what is complete in action (The Ten Plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7-12)). The ten plagues of Egypt find a symbolic echo by the three times 7 plagues of the Apocalypse (Of 7 seals, 7 trumpets and 7 bowls), which demonstrates that the symbolism of 7 and 10 can take the same meaning for what is complete.

The number 10 in Revelation is connected with the date of Tishri 10 (Ethanim), the day of atonement, which appears in a symbolic sense, in Revelation 11:19 by the vision of the ark of the covenant, visible only on that day (in the past) (Leviticus 16:32): "Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison so that you may be fully put to the test, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). These 10 days allude to the date of Tishri 10, which will end, as Paul under inspiration wrote, in the death and the fulfillment of the hope of everlasting life in heaven, for all the 144000: "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, both sure and firm, and it enters in within the curtain" (Hebrews 6: 19). The "within the curtain" is the most holy in the sanctuary where was the ark of the covenant, symbol of the presence of God.

The number 10 a complete set, often associated with the ten horns of the wild beasts that represent all the world's governments, or world human sovereignty (Revelation 12: 3; 13: 2 and Chapter 17).

In Revelation, there is the mention of the tenth of the holy city: "In that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; and 7,000 persons were killed by the earthquake, and the rest became frightened and gave glory to the God of heaven" (Revelation 11:13). The holy city is the whole People of God (Malachi 3:16-18).

In the former nation of Israel, it was the priestly class that was chiefly beneficiary of the tithe (Leviticus 10: 38). Therefore, the tenth of the city that "falls" or dies, represents all 144,000 humans, redeemed from the earth to live in heaven to serve as kings and priests (Revelation 5:10). As a result, the 7000 who will die and immediately be resurrected (just before the great tribulation), represent the remaining humans to complete the 144000, as group (1 Thessalonians 4:17, Revelation 20:4). The rest of the city that gives glory to God, represents the great crowd that will survive the great tribulation (Revelation 7: 9-17, Zechariah 13: 8 "the third part") (GREAT TRIBULATION; ONLY ONE DAYPLANETARY JUBILEE).

Number 40

The number 40 in the Bible is often connected with completeness in time. The Israelites were punished for 40 years of wandering in the wilderness: "The Israelites had walked for 40 years in the wilderness until the entire nation had died off, that is, the men of war who left Egypt who did not obey the voice of Jehovah. Jehovah swore to them that he would never let them see the land that Jehovah had sworn to their forefathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 16:35 ; Joshua 5:6).

Jesus Christ fasted after his baptism, for 40 days in the wilderness: "After he had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, he felt hungry" (Matthew 4:2).

The number 12

It represents the expression of God's sovereignty by an administration of a nation or a group of Jehovah's worshipers. The 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles (Genesis 49: 28, Matthew 12: 2-4). This symbolism of the administration of a people, stands out very well in Revelation: the 12 times 12000 of the Spiritual Israel, the 144000 (Revelation 7: 4-8, 14: 1-5). The dimensions of the New Jerusalem revolve around the number 12, as a multiple: "And the city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as its width. And he measured the city with the reed, 12,000 stadia; its length and width and height are equal" (Revelation 21:16). A cube of 12 thousand stadia on each of the 12 edges of the cube, we get by their sum, the number of (12x12000) 144000 stadia. The astronomical height (12000x185 (607 feet) = 2220 km) of the New Jerusalem illustrates the fact that it descends on earth from God, like a symbolic umbilical cord, which connects the Earthly Paradise with Heaven where God lives: "I also saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:2).

This symbolic heavenly town has a base with a wall of 144 cubits in height: "He also measured its wall, 144 cubits according to a man’s measure, at the same time an angel’s measure" (Revelation 21:17). The symbolic of the 144 cubits (measure of the length of a human forearm), seems to indicate that the heavenly administration of the New Jerusalem, will have its human or earthly correspondence. For example, the 144,000 will be kings and priests according to Revelation 5:10. The human correspondences to these two heavenly functions will be: the prince as representative of this heavenly kingship, and of "sons of Zadok", the priests, corresponding to the heavenly priesthood (Psalms 45:16, Isaiah 32: 1,2 "princes"; Ezekiel 44: 3 "chieftain" (prince); Ezekiel 40:46 "sons of Zadok"). These two functions of prince and priest, will constitute the protective basis of the sovereignty and worship to God, of the New Jerusalem on earth by the symbolic wall of 144 cubits in height.

Often, the biblical expressions, in connection to numbers, are figures of styles which have the value of a qualifying symbol. As we have briefly seen, to express the completeness or what is to the maximum, in the sacred (7), what is incomplete (6), the insistence (2 and 3), the completeness in space (4), what is superlative or excessive, when the 10 multiplies a 7 or a 4, and so on. It is often the immediate biblical context that allows us to understand the symbolism of a number expression (THE GREAT CROWD; THE EVERLASTING LIFETHE HEAVENLY RESSURRECTION; EARTHLY RESURRECTIONEARTHLY KINGDOM OF GOD; THE EARTHLY PRINCETHE EARTHLY PRIESTTHE EARTHLY LEVITE).

144000

 "Then I saw, and look! the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who have his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads" 

(Revelation 14:1) 

This text describes King Jesus Christ in heaven, with the group of 144,000 who will share royalty and the priesthood with him. It is quite normal to wonder whether this number of 144,000 is to be taken literally or figuratively. It is the context of the Book of Revelation that allows us to have a clear answer, especially in Chapter 7:3-8. In verse 4, it is written: "And I heard the number of those who were sealed, 144,000, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel". The following verses (5-8), list the 144,000, in 12 tribes of 12,000.

Next, from verses 9-17, the apostle John described a great crowd that will survive the great tribulation. Regarding this group of humans, he wrote: "After this I saw, and look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands" (Revelation 7:9). In this text we have indirect information which clearly indicates to us that the number 144000, is to be taken literally: "After this I saw, and look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number". Why did the apostle John write "no man was able to number"? Because this information on the innumerable great crowd, is in contrast with the previous one, that of the precise group of 144,000. This vision follows that of the complete group of 144,000, divided into 12 tribes of 12,000, which shows that the number of 144000, is to be taken literally.