Is there any truth to the idea that certain numbers are significant in Scripture, such as the number seven’s being the perfect number?
Certain numbers do have Scriptural significance. They are obvious from study and understanding of the Word. But let me first warn of dangers associated with Biblical numerology. Some people begin to read meanings into the Bible that aren’t there.
One could regard this type of searching as in the same class as stargazing, fortune-telling, date-setting, and the like. Unfortunately, even professing Christians get caught up in this futility, writing books and other literature “proving” this and that. I have also seen ads by fortune-tellers who list Biblical numerology along with their other “arts.”
Nevertheless, we can and should recognize that God is a Being of order and perfect design. We see this quality in the preciseness of the heavenly bodies God created and in the specific instructions given at times to His people. In the latter we can note as examples the completeness of the plans for Noah’s ark and the dimensions of the Old Testament tabernacle. In similar fashion, we can see certain patterns in Scripture regarding various numbers. The question is, Why didn’t God choose other numbers in Scripture? We believe He chose certain ones for meaning. Let’s take a look:
One. The Bible uses the number one to show unity, soleness, and primacy, particularly in reference to God and to the human race. Deuteronomy 6:4 states, “The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” Genesis 2:24 reads, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Paul said in Acts 17:26, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.”
Two, as opposed to number one, marks difference and/or contrast. We have light versus darkness, good and evil, male and female, God and Satan, Heaven and Hell, the saved and the lost, God and man, the Old Testament and the New the “old man” and the “new man,” the two thieves on the crosses, Christ and Antithrist, and so on. One fitting verse for this number might be Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. . . . You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Three is the number for perfection. God is in three Persons (the Trinity): Father Son, and Holy Spirit. God’s three encompassing attributes are His omnipotence (being all-powerful), omniscience (being all-knowing), and omnipresence (being everywhere present). Man, made in the image of God, is composed of body, soul, and spirit. God’s earth is also composed of three elements: solids, liquids, and gasses. Our Lord ministered on the earth three years during His earthly stay. He rose from the dead on the third day. Blessings and admonitions in Scripture (e.g., Numbers 6:24‒26; Matthew 28:19) are often stated as threefold in number. In that final City of perfection for eternity, the three measurements—height, length, and breadth—are perfectly equal (Revelation 21:16).
Four speaks of man in relation to the world. The number is often used in the prophecies and in the book of Revelation: four great world powers, four beasts, four horns, four angels, four winds, four corners. Also, there are four Gospels, each showing in its unique way Christ, the Savior of the world.
Five shows redemption and God’s grace. Israel left Egypt five in rank (Exodus 13:18). Anointing oil was pure and composed of five parts (Exodus 30:23‒25). David fought Goliath with five smooth stones, delivering his people (1 Samuel 17:40). In Daniel 2, the fifth kingdom (the stone cut out without hands) destroys the four previous kingdoms, resulting in glory and grace.
Six is the number for man and for the manifestation of evil. Most people know the significance of 666, the mark of the Beast. This is a combination of 6 (fleshly pride), 6 (dominion), and 6 (Satanic influence), an opposition to the Trinity. Also, God created man on the sixth day, our Lord underwent six unfair trials, and darkness came upon the earth during the sixth hour of the Crucifixion.
Seven also represents perfection. God rested on the seventh day after a complete and perfect week of creation. The book of Acts mentions seven deacons appointed to the early New Testament church. The book of Revelation tells about seven churches, seven candlesticks, seven stars, seven lamps, seven angels, seven spirits, and seven seals.
Other significant numbers in Scripture are ten (as in the Ten Commandments); twelve (twelve tribes, twelve apostles, twelve foundations of heavenly Jerusalem, twelve gates, twelve pearls, twelve angels), showing governmental perfection under God; and forty, showing testings and trials (as in the forty-year wilderness wanderings of God’s people), the forty clays of Jonah and Nineveh, and the temptation of Jesus being forty days long.
Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.