By Karen Thompson
First in Four-Part Series
“The Significance of Numbers in the Bible”
My introduction to the importance of numbers in Scripture came about by way of an experience that was… how do I put it? Very odd. And unusual. I had just gotten back from attending meetings at the First Assembly of God Church in Fargo, North Dakota. They had a special speaker named Sergio Scataglini from Argentina. He was there to talk about the revival that was taking place in his nation. I had heard about the meetings from someone who told me some people were traveling to Fargo to attend them. I had no intention of going, so I was surprised when the Lord told me He wanted to go too. So in obedience, I went to the meetings. Sergio shared his testimony on how the revival started and all what the Lord was doing in the people. It was all very exciting.
The meetings were good, but nothing earth shattering happened while I was there. However, there was one thing. The Lord spoke to me about dying to self, how I was to come to the end of myself, and how all my works and striving must come to an end. It was a time of commitment to the Lord, where I yielded myself to Him in a bigger way. So that was that. And I went home.
When I got back, I opened up an email wishing me a belated St. Patrick’s Day. That’s when I realized the meetings in Fargo took place on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. In my family, St. Patrick’s Day has significance. My oldest sister was killed in a car wreck and was buried on St. Patrick’s Day. Years later, my father died of a heart attack and, oddly enough, was also buried on St. Patrick’s Day. It suddenly occurred to me that I received instructions from the Lord that I was to die to self and to “come to the end of myself” on St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t know why, but I instinctively picked up a calculator and figured out the number of years between each occurrence. After my sister was buried on St. Patrick’s Day, my father was buried on St. Patrick’s Day nine years later. And nine years after my father was buried on St. Patrick’s Day, the Lord asked me to die to self, to come to the end of myself on St. Patrick’s Day.
I felt this was more than a coincidence and sensed the Lord wanted me to see something. I was drawn to the fact that it was nine years between these intervening St. Patrick’s Days. Was there significance to the number nine somehow? At this point, I was completely unaware of the importance of numbers in the Bible. The thought wouldn’t leave me. So I asked the Lord, “Is there significance to the number nine?” His answer surprised me: “It’s not so much the number nine as it is the combination of six and three.” That’s all He said. That inspired me to go to a Christian bookstore and see if there was a book about numbers in the Bible. The clerk said there was a book by E. W. Bullinger called Numbers in Scripture. I purchased it. It was an in-depth study on numbers in the Bible. It was very informative. I read the introduction and then quickly turned to the chapters featuring the numbers six and three.
The number six, I learned, was the number for man because he was created on the sixth day. Bullinger said, “It is certain that man was created on the sixth day, and thus he has the number six impressed upon him. Moreover, six days were appointed to him for his labour; while one day is associated in sovereignty with the Lord God, as His rest.” That was interesting. Man’s labor ceases on the sixth day. When I looked up the number three, I learned it meant something that was complete or divine. I translated all that to mean that my laboring to strive, or my works, was to come to a complete end.
Thus began my pursuit to understand the significance of numbers in the Bible. From Bullinger’s book, I learned that numbers and patterns are imprinted on all of God’s creation. He wrote his book in two sections. The first section is devoted to numbers we see in the work of His creation. The second section is devoted to the study of numbers used in significance in the Bible.
Bullinger made his case: when you look at all what God created, there is evidence that numbers are present not by chance, but by design. Numbers are not only significant in creation but also in the Bible. He said, “When we see the same design in each; the same laws at work; the same mysterious principles being carried out in each, the conviction is overwhelming that we have the same great Designer, the same Author; and we see the same Hand, the same seal stamped on all His works, and the same signature or autograph, as it were, upon every page of His Word.”
Bullinger demonstrated how certain numbers have specific significance attached to them because they are always associated with a particular activity or characteristic. Though all the numbers have significance, he said there are four numbers that are perfect: three, seven, ten, and twelve. According to Bullinger, the number three signifies divine perfection. The number seven signifies spiritual perfection. The number ten signifies ordinal perfection, and lastly, the number twelve signifies governmental perfection.
This series will only deal with the significance of numbers in the Bible and not in creation. I’ll focus on the numbers three, four, seven, twelve, two, and three and one-half. In this post, I’ll focus on numbers three, four, and twelve.
Before we start, it should be noted that when you bring up the subject of numbers in the Bible, there are some who become alarmed thinking you’re talking about numerology and the occult. There is absolutely no connection between the study of numbers in the Bible and the occult practice of numerology. They are two different subjects. Those who try to make this connection have never studied the significance of numbers in the Bible nor, I suspect, do they know anything about numerology.
Let’s first look at the number three. According to Bullinger, it’s the number for divine perfection and it’s the number for the Trinity. He pointed out how the number three is stamped on the first chapter of Revelation, the introduction to the apocalypse. Let’s go through the verses where there is a divine three involved.
Verse 1: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” This revelation is divinely “given,” “sent,” and “signified.”
Verse 2: “Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” John bare record of the “divine word of God,” the “divine witness” (the testimony of Jesus Christ), and the “divine vision” (all things that he saw).
Verse 3: “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” The divine blessing is threefold on the “reader,” the “hearer,” and “the keeper of the record.”
Verses 4 and 8: “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne … I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” The divine Being is seen in three tenses: “which was,” “which is,” and “which is to come.”
Verse 5: “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” Jesus is called “the faithful witness,” “the first begotten from the dead,” and “the prince of the kings of the earth.”
Verse 5 & 6: “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” His people are divinely “loved,” “cleansed,” and “crowned.”
Verses 17 & 18: “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” Christ is presented as “the first and the last,” (divinely eternal) “the dead and then alive,” (divinely living) and “all powerful” (having the keys of hell and death, divinely powerful).
Verse 19: “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter…” The divine revelation covered “the things which thou hast seen,” “which are,” and “which shall be after these things.”
The number four is an important number in Revelation. It signifies the works of God, which is His creation. Bullinger revealed how the number four is imprinted on creation. There are four elements: earth, fire, air, water. There are four directions: east, west, north, south. There are four divisions of the day: morning, noon, evening, midnight. There are four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter.
And, interestingly enough, I’ve noticed the kingdom of man is divided into four categories. In Genesis chapter 10, the families that descended from Noah and his sons were classified into four different categories: lands, tongue, family, nation. Genesis 10:5 says, “By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.” (See also Gen. 10:20, 31.)
This same four-fold division of the kingdom of man is noted in Revelation: kindred, tongue, people, nation. Revelation 5:9 says, “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” (See also Rev. 7:9, 10:11, 11:9, 17:15.) I think it’s interesting that this four-fold classification of the kingdom of men can only be found in the first book of the Bible and the last book of the Bible: Genesis and Revelation.
Lastly, I want to point out an interesting thing about the seven seals (Rev. 6), the seven trumpet judgments (Rev. 8 & 9), and the seven bowl judgments (Rev. 16). What is interesting is that they all have something in common. Just like the Lord divided my nine intervening years between my St. Patrick’s Days into the numbers six and three, we find the same thing with the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. They are all divided into sets of four and three. The first four seals, the first four trumpet judgments, and the first four bowl judgments are all the same in kind—dreadful events that happen on earth. But the last three seals, the last three trumpet judgments, and the last three bowls are different than the first four. As already noted, the number four is associated with God’s earthly creation. And the number three is one of four perfect numbers (three, seven, ten, and twelve), which denotes divine perfection or completion. Four and three add up to seven, which denotes spiritual perfection, fulfillment.
Now let’s move on to the number 12. When you see the number 12 in scripture, it signifies perfection in government. You will see 12, or a multiple of 12, in things that have to do with rule and/or government. Here are examples of the number 12 connected with rule and government:
- There were 12 sons of Israel, through which came the 12 tribes and 12 tribal leaders.
- When Solomon’s temple was dedicated, there were 120 priests blowing 120 trumpets: 120 being a multiple of 12. (2 Chron. 5:12)
- There were 12 stones in the high priest’s breastplate.
- There were 12 apostles.
- There were 12 stars in the crown of the sun-clothed woman, which represented the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev. 12:1).
- There will be 12 thousand from each tribe of Israel that will be sealed by God, totaling 144,000 a multiple of 12 (Rev. 7:1–4).
- There are 24 elders with their 24 crowns sitting on their 24 thrones, all multiples of 12 (Rev. 4:4).
- The new Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, will have 12 foundations and 12 gates (Rev. 21:12–21).
- New Jerusalem will be laid out foursquare where the length and breadth are the same: 12 thousand furlongs, a multiple of 12 (Rev. 21:16).
- The fruit of the tree of life in new Jerusalem will bare 12 kinds of fruits (Rev. 22:2).
Can you see now how significant numbers are in the Bible? I hope these small glimpses into the meaning of the numbers three, four, and twelve opens up a whole new area of study for you. E.M. Bullinger’s book, Numbers in Scripture, is still available for purchase. However, the copyright on this book has long run out so it has been made available for anyone to read online. Here is the link:
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