Friday, March 11, 2011

Scriptural Number Symbolism

One of the Jewish rules for interpreting scripture is that if you want to know the highest definition of a word, you should pay attention to its first usage in the Torah. That is the rule that Bullinger is using here to understand the symbolic meaning of numbers.

One is associated with Deity (Gen 1:3,4). "God is light" (1 John 1:5).

Two is associated with Separation and Division (Gen 1:6-8), though afterwards it is associated with union in testimony (Deut 17:6; Rev 11:3).

Three is associated with resurrection in Genesis 1:9, when the earth rises up out of and above the waters; and fruit arises out of the earth.

Four is associated with the earth when (Gen 1:14-19) the Sun and Moon were established as light-holders, to "give light upon the Earth."

Five is associated with grace, in the gift of life, in the creation of living creatures; and in the production of life out of the waters of the great deep.

Six is associated with the creation of Man (Gen 1:26-31). Man was created on the sixth day; and hence six is man's "Hall-mark"; and, with its multiples, is stamped upon all that characterizes man as falling short of God; or in opposition to or defiance of God. Goliath was six cubits high; his spear's head weighed 600 shekels of iron; and he had six pieces of armour enumerated. Nebuchadnezzar was similarly marked. His image was 60 cubits high, and six cubits wide, while six instruments of music called for its universal worship. The Beast is marked by the threefold combination of 666 (Rev 13).

Seven is associated with Divine Blessing and Rest (Gen 2:1-3), and is thus the mark of the Spirit of God as "the author and giver of life," and blessing, and rest. Hence it is that this number is so frequent in Scripture, as being the "Hall-mark" of the Spirit's authorship of "the Word of life."

Eight is a new first and, like the Number Three, is associated with newness, especially in resurrection, which took place on "the first day of the week." It first occurs in Genesis 5:4 in the number of the years of Adam, the end of the first man. "The second man" began his resurrection life on the eighth day. Hence the association of the number with resurrection.

Nine occurs first in Leviticus 25:22, and is used of the end of full time. Inasmuch as the fulness of time issues in judgment for good or evil, so nine becomes the symbol or hall-mark of all that stands connected with judgment.

Ten is the great cardinal number, completing one order and commencing a new one. Hence it is used of ordinal perfection, and is so used in its first occurrence in Genesis 24:55.

Twelve is associated with service, rule, and Government. "Twelve years they served" (Gen 14:4). Henceforth we find 12 and its multiples connected with Government both in heaven and on earth. It is the factor in the heavenly Signs, Constellations, and Measurements. It is the factor in all earthly enumerations that have to do with government.

Thirteen first occurs in Genesis 14:4 also, "Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer and the thirteenth year they rebelled." So that ever after, in Scripture, the Number 13, and every multiple of it, is associated with rebellion, apostacy, and disintegration. It is universally a number of evil omen: but those who go back for the origin of anything never go back far enough. They go back, in their own imagination, to the Twelve Apostles and our Lord as making 13; but the first occurrence of the number takes us back to the Divine usage of the Word, Genesis 14:4.


  1. Thanks for this. I really enjoyed this post.

    Question about it.

    Often I see events or meaning correlating with numbers that don't quite agree with the usual meanings of the number. For example 6. You pointed out many meanings that I also saw in the scripture and other meanings I have heard previously. Yet so much happened on April 6th, Birth of Christ, Organization of the church.

    Sometimes I'm not sure what meaning to take from the numbers when some of them have such diverse meanings. Like 6. Some big events seem inconsistent with the numbers meaning. However I think the numbers are important.

    Finally getting to my question: What do you see as the best way to gain value or meaning from numbers used in scripture? I'm very interested in this. If a blog isn't the place I'd love an e-mail.

  2. Taylor, I have been driving myself bats trying to remember the name of a book I have somewhere on this topic that I could recommend. All I can remember is the name of the man the author expressed appreciation to----Ivan Panin. His work is remarkable, and there is quite a bit on the the internet if you Google his name.

    If I come up with the name of the book I'm thinking of, I'll be happy to email it to you.

  3. Vernon Jenkins also has a lot to do with numbers, words, and their symbolic meanings at: