Numbers in Scripture

By Karen Thompson
Fourth in Four-Part Series

For the last post in this four-part series about numbers in Scripture, I thought I would share something a little bit different. I want to talk about a number that is significant and yet is left out of Bullinger’s book, Number in Scripture. The number I want to emphasize is 3 ½. It’s an odd number that pops up in a lot of important places.

“Temple of Time and the Number 3 ½”

The other thing I wanted to look at is the first temple made out of tent material. The temple tent is filled with numbers significant to the Jewish people, and it also has the number 3 ½ in it. Let’s start by looking at the beginning of Revelation chapter 11; it’s the chapter that tells us about the two witnesses. But I don’t really want to study them in-depth, just enough to open the topic of the temple tent. In the beginning verses, the apostle John is given instructions by an angel to measure three things.

Rev. 11:1–2 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

First of all, I need to interject something about the temple. As you already know, there is presently no temple in Jerusalem. The Romans burned it down in 70 A.D. But because of this verse and others like it, it is believed at some point the Jewish people will have opportunity to rebuild the temple. In fact, they already have everything they need to furnish the temple. All they need is the temple. And they have no doubt the opportunity will come to build it.

So let’s start by looking at verse one. An angel told John to measure the temple, the altar in the temple, and lastly, he is told to measure the people that worship inside the temple. He was instructed to not measure the temple court because it would be given to the Gentiles. The reason why the temple court will be given to the Gentiles is in the last part of verse three: “and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.” (See also Daniel 7:25.)

What this is referring to is when Antichrist invades Jerusalem in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week (a week of seven years). The Gentiles, who are Antichrist and his army, will have control of Jerusalem for 42 months, which is another way of saying 3 ½ years. But all the while that Jerusalem is under the control of the Gentiles, Antichrist and his soldiers will not be able to access the temple, the altar, or the people inside the temple. That’s what the measuring was about. When Antichrist invades Jerusalem, that’s when the two witnesses show up. Let’s look at the first verse that talks about them.

And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth (Rev. 11:3).

After the angel told John to measure the temple, the altar, and the people who worship in the temple, he immediately began talking about two witnesses. John abruptly writes, “I will give power unto my two witnesses.” That is our introduction to two people who are called “the witnesses.” The first two things we learn about the two witnesses is that God calls them “My witnesses” and He has given them power.

The next two things we learn about the two witnesses is in the phrase, “and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days….” First, the two witnesses will prophesy. That means they will be prophets sent from God. The other thing we learn is that the length of their prophetic ministry will be 1,260 days. Using the Jewish calendar of 30-day months and 360 days per year, 1,260 days come to exactly 3 ½ years—the last half of Daniel’s 70th week.

So far, we see the number 3 ½ in two places. First, we see the Gentiles, or Antichrist, will have possession of Jerusalem for 3 ½ years. And we learn the length of time the two witnesses will minister will be 3 ½ years.

The Witnesses Wear Sackcloth

The last thing we learn about the two witnesses in verse three is that they will be clothed in sackcloth. Sackcloth is a garment made of coarse fabric, usually black goat’s hair. In the Old Testament, it was worn by those who were in mourning. (For two examples, see Genesis 37:34 and 2 Samuel 3:31.) The two witnesses will wear sackcloth, black goat’s hair, because they will minister during a time of great mourning for the Jewish people.

The Temple of Time

While studying this chapter, I couldn’t help but notice how abruptly John changed the subject. First we’re reading about John measuring the temple and then without notice, the subject abruptly changed to the two witnesses prophesying for 1,260 days. There is no segue between topics. At first, I just chalked it up to bad writing skills, but then I came to learn that there is a fascinating connection between measuring the temple and the two witnesses.

One day, I read an article online about the temple coverings and their measurements. This article was about God’s specific measurements for the temple materials and how they related to time. Those who studied this subject were astonished to discover that the measurements of the temple tent represented time in days, months, years, and seasons. In essence, its specific measurements made it a “temple of time.”

They discovered that the dimensions of the materials used for the temple had significance. They found significant dates in Israel’s history to correspond with the dimensions of the temple. The temple measurements served as a sort of clock of Israel’s history and her future. There is much to say about the different temple materials and their measurements, but I only want to focus on the measurements for the temple curtains.

As an example of curtain measurements relating to time, one single curtain panel was 30 cubits by four cubits; these measurements correspond to 30 days in a month and/or four seasons in a year. The people who studied the measurements discovered that the dimensions of the temple curtains had corresponding numbers in Bible prophecy. For instance, the measurements of the curtains represented the length of time the two witnesses would minister. There were four curtains in the temple. The first two tent curtains represented one seven-year period, and the other two curtains represented a divided seven-year period of three and one-half years and three and one-half years.

The four curtains for the temple were made from four different materials. Exodus chapter 26 talks about the first curtain being made of fine twined linen in colors of blue, purple, and scarlet with cherubims embroidered on it. The other three curtains were made of rams’ skins dyed red, and badger skins, and goat hair. I want to focus your attention on the dimensions for the curtain made of goat’s hair.

And make curtains of goats’ hair to be a [second] covering over the tabernacle; eleven curtains shall you make. One curtain shall be thirty cubits long and four cubits wide; and the eleven curtains shall all measure the same. You shall join together five curtains by themselves and six curtains by themselves, and shall double over the sixth curtain in the front of the tabernacle [to make a closed door]. And make fifty loops on the edge of the outmost curtain in the one set and fifty loops on the edge of the outmost curtain in the second set. You shall make fifty clasps of bronze and put the clasps into the loops and couple the tent together, that it may be one whole. The surplus that remains of the tent curtains, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. And the cubit on the one side and the cubit on the other side of what remains in the length of the curtains of the tent shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on this side and that side, to cover it. (Exo. 26:7–13 Amp.)

These curtains were to go in front of the holy place. They were instructed to create 11 curtain panels, and they were all to be 30 cubits in length and four cubits wide. Five of these curtain panels were sown together and the other six curtain panels were sown together, creating two curtains—one curtain made of five panels and the other curtain made of six panels. These two curtains were then fastened together with buttons and loops to form the second covering which was made of goat’s hair. The total square cubit amount of material used in this covering is 1,320 (11 x 4 x 30 = 1,320).

Here is the interesting part. The curtain made with six panels sown together was to have its sixth panel folded back. In other words, 60 cubits were to be folded back. The practical purpose of sewing the curtain back was to make an extra thick covering so that it prevented possible onlookers from being able to see inside when the priest entered. The spiritual aspect of the sixth curtain being folded back reveals a number that corresponds with John’s prophecy about the two witnesses. The dimension for just one panel was four cubits wide and 30 cubits long making it 120 square cubits. When that panel was folded back, the square cubit size became 60. This changed the total square cubit size of that curtain to be 4 cubits wide, times 30 cubits long, times 10 ½ panels, totaling 1,260 square cubits (4 x 30 x 10.5 = 1,260). The total square cubits of the covering made of goat’s hair was 1,260. That is the exact number of days the two witnesses will prophesy in Jerusalem wearing sack cloth made of goat’s hair! As you know, 1,260 is just another way of saying 3 ½ years.

Other Places the Number 3 ½ Shows Up

The number 3 ½ showing up in the temple-tent measurements for the curtain made out of goat’s hair is fascinating, to say the least. But there are other places where the number 3 ½ shows up that are just as fascinating. In fact, there are events in Israel’s history that involve the number 3 ½ that correspond with events in Revelation that also involve the number 3 ½.

The Two Witnesses and 3 ½

Revelation 11:11–13 tells us that after the two witnesses have been ministering for 3 ½ years, Antichrist is able to kill them. He doesn’t bother to bury them and leaves their bodies lying out in the streets. But after 3 ½ days, the two witnesses rise from the dead and are raptured up to heaven.

Jesus and 3 ½

Did you know the precise length of Jesus’ ministry was also for 3 ½ years? And as you know, He was killed at the end of His ministry, as well. And after three days, He rose from the grave and ascended to heaven. (If you’d like to read how they came to the conclusion about Jesus’ length of ministry, click here.)

The Two Witnesses Stopped the Rain for 3 ½ Years

During the course of their ministry, the two witnesses will stop it from raining for 3 ½ years: “These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy…” (Rev. 11:6).

 Elijah Stopped the Rain for 3 ½ Years

In James 5:16–18, it says when Elijah prayed, the rain didn’t fall for 3 ½ years: “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.” (What is interesting is that some eschatologists believe Elijah will be one of the two witnesses.)

After Antichrist Invades Jerusalem, the Jewish People Will Flee the City and Stay in the Wilderness for 3 ½ Years

Revelation 12:6 tells us that when Antichrist invades Jerusalem, half the city will flee into the wilderness and will stay there for 3 ½ years: “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.”

After Antiochus Epiphanes Invaded Jerusalem, the Jewish People Fled the City and Stayed in the Wilderness for 3 ½ Years

At one point in their history, Israel and the Jewish people were under the control of the Grecian Seleucid Empire. One of their kings, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (215–164 BC), tried to force the Jewish people to give up their Jewish culture and heritage and adopt Grecian culture and heritage. He tried to force upon them the worship of Greek gods. When he invaded Jerusalem, many fled the city and hid in the wilderness. His invasion set off the Maccabean Revolt (167–160 BC). They stayed in the wilderness for 3 ½ years, as well.

Jewish People Will Get Control of Jerusalem From Antichrist After 3 ½ Years

At the end of 3 ½ years, the Jewish people will be able to wrestle control of Jerusalem away from Antichrist. In Daniel 11:44–45, we are told he gets bad news and goes forth in fury to destroy. It doesn’t say it outright in Daniel, but the bad news is that he has lost control of Jerusalem. The site where he sets up camp tells us that Jerusalem is, indeed, the origin of his bad news. He sets up camp between the Mediterranean Sea and the holy mountain (which is Jerusalem). This takes place at the end of Daniel’s 70th week.

Maccabees Got Control of Jerusalem and the Temple Back After 3 ½ Years

When Antiochus Epiphanes invaded Jerusalem, those that fled started the Maccabean Revolt. Antiochus Epiphanes did great harm and damage to the Jewish people. In fact, he is mentioned in Daniel 11:21 as the “vile person.” Jewish historian Josephus wrote in his book, “The Wars of the Jews,” that the sanctuary remained desolate for 3 ½ years. After 3 ½ years, the Maccabees invaded Jerusalem, fought the Greeks and won. They reclaimed the city and immediately went to work restoring and cleansing the temple.

 As you can see, the number 3 ½ is repeated in significant events.


A little email broke out of his pen, but he didn’t know where to go. A wise man just happened along. The little email asked him, “Sir, which way should I go?” The wise man said, “Forward! All emails should be forwarded along.”

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