You may notice that there are some numbers that show up again and again in the Bible. Many believe this isn’t by mistake but by design. Biblical numerology is the study of numbers in the Bible. It relates particularly to the meaning of numbers, both literal and symbolic. The Bible seems to use numbers in patterns and those numbers teach a spiritual truth. There are some who consider these numbers to be extremely important and believe they can reveal knowledge of the future. However, conservative scholars remain cautious about assigning too much importance to numbers in the Bible, as this has led some groups to mystical and theological extremes, believing they can uncover hidden information. This begins to delve into the realm of divination, the practice of seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means and this is dangerous territory. These numbers can be studied, but we shouldn’t overemphasis their significance. Here are seven of the most common numbers in the Bible and what they mean according to biblical scholars:
The number one in the Bible is very significant, as it represents unity and denotes absolute singleness. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The number one is recognized as God’s number and Scripture denies existence of another God. God Himself is the one true God. The first commandment says “Thou shalt have no other Gods.” From this, we know that in every occurrence number one represents One God and says another God can’t exist.
We know that three is the number of the Trinity and it represents wholeness. In addition, the number three seems to represent sanctity. Samuel is called by the Lord three times before he realizes it and answers. Satan tempts Jesus three times before giving up. It is on the third day of creation that Earth is made. Jesus raised three people from the dead, Lazarus, a widow’s son, and the daughter of a man named Jairus. We also know from Scripture that there are three angels named in the Bible: Michael, Gabriel and Lucifer. Jesus was about 33 when he died. He was set up on the cross at the third hour on the third day. He rose from the dead on the third day.
Another number repeated in the Bible is four, which is the number of creation. Earth has four seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. There are four primary directions: North, South, East, West. There are four earthly kingdoms (Daniel 7:3).
The number six is thought to be the number of man: Man was created on the 6th day; man labors six days only. The work week is missing something until God decides to set aside another day on which no work is to be done, but rest must be taken in honor of God resting from His great work. Another example of the Bible using a number to signify something is the number 666, the number of the Antichrist in Revelation chapter 13. This number implies imperfection. Seven typically represents completeness or perfection. Six, being on short of seven, can denote something incomplete or flawed in God’s eyes, and it can be associated with God’s enemies (1 Chronicles 20:6; Daniel 3:1).
As previously mentioned, the number seven is often used to represent the idea of completeness. For instance, the Israelites were commanded by God to march around Jericho for seven successive days and to march around seven times on the seventh day (Joshua 6:15). The Bible contains many similar examples of such a use of the number seven (Leviticus 4:5; 35:8; 26:18; Psalm 119:164; Revelation 1:20; 13:1; 17:10). When Jesus told Peter that he should forgive his brother “not, up to seven times, but, up to seventy-seven times,” the repetition of seven conveyed the thought of “without limit” (Matthew 18:21,22).
This numbers also seems to represents a complete, divine arrangement. For example, the vision of heaven given to the apostle John included a city with “twelve foundation stones, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles” (Revelation 21:14; Genesis 49:28). Multiples of 12 can have similar meaning. Revelation incorporates multiple uses of 12. After the Tribulation begins, Christians will have already been raptured to Heaven to spare them the horrors. Also, 144,000 people, 12,000 from each tribe of Israel, will be converted to Christianity and die as martyrs under the reign of the Antichrist. The New Jerusalem, the city of Heaven, is described as having walls 144 cubits thick, symbolic of the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles.
Daniel is also concerned with the time of the end, and Daniel has 12 chapters. Daniel 12:2 says, “Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.” One plus three plus three plus five equals twelve. When Jesus feeds the 5,000, his disciples pick up 12 baskets full of leftovers afterward.
The number 40 is often understood as the number of probation or trial. For example, the Israelites wandered for 40 years (Deuteronomy 8:2-5); Moses was on the mount for 40 days (Exodus 24:18); 40 days were involved in the story of Jonah and Nineveh (Jonah 3:4). Jesus was tempted for 40 days (Matthew 4:2); there were 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3).
How much emphasis should be placed on these numbers, or whether or not these numbers really do have significance, is still debated in many circles. While it’s ok to observe these patterns, people should stay away from placing too much significance on biblical numerology, trying to find a special meaning behind every number in the Bible. God does not call us to search for secret meanings, hidden messages and codes in the Bible. God’s Word alone reveals the truth that we need.