View Full Version : Numeric Repetition in the Bible
January 12th 2004, 01:39 PM
One thing that has always fascinated me- the way certain numbers are constantly repeated in the Bible. There's 40 (as in days of the Flood, years in the wilderness, days Jesus spent fasting, etc.), 12 (tribes of Israel, disciples, etc), 7 (days in creation, marches around Jericho), and 10 (plagues, commandments, 1/10 of one's income is a tithe).
Anybody have any clue why this is? Why, for example, are 13, 27, 5 and 31 used seldom to never in the Bible? The repeated numbers are repeated often in very prominent events. To show a connection between these events? What do ya think?
I heard them called "ceremonial numbers" before, I'm just looking for a little explanation on why all the repetition.
January 14th 2004, 12:14 PM
Bump! Anybody know anything on this one?
January 14th 2004, 01:39 PM
Hello Amazing Rando,
It is interesting that you ask this question just as I begin my posting to this board. I have studied the use of numeric symbolism in Scripture in some depth for years.
Throughout most of Christian history, the study of the symbolic use of number in Scripture was a standard part of the larger study of Typology. It fell into disuse only recently with the rise of rationalism and the corresponding decline of respect for the Bible as God's Word.
The topic is, of course, much to large for a single post. Let me therefore give my understanding of one universally recognized symbolic number - the Number 7.
Patterns based on the Number 7 are found throughout Scripture, from the Seven Days of Genesis to the Seven Seals of Revelation. Its symbolic power is universally recognized as signifying such ideas as Fullness, Completion, and Perfection. We see this explicitly in Rev 15.1:
And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the SEVEN last plagues; for in them is FILLED UP the wrath of God.
But there is another meaning revealed in Genesis 21, which also demonstrates how the Bible serves as its own etymological dictionary. We read (vs. 27f):
And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a COVENANT. 28 And Abraham set SEVEN ewe lambs of the flock by themselves. 29 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these SEVEN ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves? 30 And he said, For these SEVEN ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well. 31 Wherefore he called that place BEERSHEBA; because there they SWARE both of them.
The key here is found in the Hebrew words translated as SWEAR (Shaba) and SEVEN (Sheba) ... they are PUNS! They look identical in Hebrew, the only diference is in vowel points (which were not written in the original docs).
What then does this teach us? Why did God mark his word with the Number Seven? The answer is found in the conflated set of Biblical symbols found associated with this number.
Simply stated, God marked the Bible with the Number Seven as a symbolic way of reiterating that it is the fullness of His Word, the complete revelation of His Covenant, His Vow, the perfection of His Promise to us.
I discuss this in greater depth in my article "Seven and Scripture" found on my site:
This then relates to my primary work, which is the supernatural structure of Scripture revealed when it is represented in the form of a wheel. The seven canonical divisions then exhibit radial and bilateral symmetry that is isomorphic to the tri-radiant cruciform halo used in traditional Christian iconography as the Sign of Deity. I give an introduction to this study in this post:
Hope that helps!
January 21st 2004, 08:19 PM
Hummm .... no response. That's odd.
Here's an article for the online Catholic Encylcolpedia New Advent which discusses this question. Note that it explains the use of the word Shaba (Seven) in exactly the same way as I did in the previous post (highlighted in bold below).
No attentive reader of the Old Testament can fail to notice that a certain sacredness seems to attach to particular numbers, for example, seven, forty, twelve, etc. It is not merely the frequent recurrence of these numbers, but their ritual or ceremonial use which is so significant. Take, for example, the swearing of Abraham (Gen., xxi, 28 sqq.) after setting apart (for sacrifice) seven ewe lambs, especially when we remember the etymological connexion of the word nishba, to take an oath, with sheba seven. Traces of the same mystical employment of numbers lie much upon the surface of the New Testament also, particularly in the Apocalypse. Even so early a writer as St. Irenaeus (Haer., V, xxx) does not hesitate to explain the number of the beast 666 (Apoc., xiii, 18) by the word "Lateinos" since the numerical value of its constituent [Greek] letters yields the same total (30+1+330+5+10+50+70+200=666); while sober critics of our own day are inclined to solve the mystery upon the same principles by simply substituting for Latinus the words Nero Caesar written in Hebrew characters which give the same result. Of the ultimate origin of the mystical significance attached to numbers something will be said under "Symbolism."
January 26th 2004, 01:02 AM
Hello randy and mr Wheel,
You did no better than those ancients. Their efforts at giving a simple and rational reason for this most obvious, and obviously intentional use of these numbers, particularly 7 was gooble-de-gook.
Yes, it is OBVIOUS that 7 is symbolic... of what? Specifically... that was the question.
Yes, scripture over emphasizes the importance of 7, even taunting us with puns and in seemingly inconsequential ways,...again... Why?
Yes, "No attentive reader of the Old Testament can fail to notice" ... But why?
Yes,.. agreed..." God marked the Bible with the Number Seven"... WHY!
If this were not scripture, but some academic works, a critic would be focused on the why. If he was worth reading, he would have to convince us that he really had a clue to what this was all about.
If this were intercepted enemy communications, the literal text of the message would be suspect UNTIL the code breakers could come up with a theory which implied something very important about this strange but obvious occurrence. Yes?
I love what you have done with the wheel. I love your enthusiastic effort and intuitive sense that this mystety of 7, et al, needs a serious hypothesis. I love that you see relationships even in the structure and correspondences between Isaiah and every other book in the bible.
But why? Even if those scoffers that have attacked your idea were right, meaning even if the correspondences you point out are not 100 % statistically evident... the real question remains.. Why?
Now here is the way I see it...
If I just up and tell people (for I have the answer), I will need to convince them that I am right, won't I? Well, what's it for me?
What did your computer cost you? How do you pay to maintain that website you have, for just the same reason? Telling fromt
e roof top. What is your time worth? How frustrated are you, and how overwrought is your wife(?) and/or all those special people who think you are obsessiing over this insight of yours?
Do you see ehat I mean? I mean that I will tell you,... but I am not too eager to cast these pearls of great value, after I went and purchased this whole field with my time and labor,... no, I don'twish to stand before an audience which intends to judge me, find me arrogant for such audacity as to have knowledge which has been denied even the organized churches, now, for two millennium . Who... just who do I think I am....?
.. and, I am talking about "NUMBERS" as rightidea said,.. "I knew it! NUMEROLOGY!"
This is a crime thousands were burned at the stake for duting the late Middle Ages... exactly after one pious cry of "NUMEROLOGIST!"
Ever been held under unti
you almost died, though for ce tain you would? Then you can asctual feel, as I do, for those bible lovers hanging as the fkame
kicked them to death.
Here is my deal...
Let's have Robin, Rightidea, all scoffers, ...all experts who wish to evaluate my premises,.. let them speak now... "How do you people explain this?" Go first.
Oscam said the best answer will be the knife which cuts best through all the many many passages where these numbers come up.
Yes, one passage is a taunting pun... ready for just this scripture battle, a mini-armeggedon...huh? But puns are NOT the answer to Why? I don't think so.
PS Wisdom is brief. I don't have your problem of a long complicated and mathematical explanation. The simple people will understand, it is simple, but that is why these wise people will be confounded to disprove me... its toooooo simple, and simply true.
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