Can we attach any significance to certain numbers in the Bible? (Part 2)


In the last Q&A, we discussed the significance of numbers 1 to 6 in the Bible. In this Q&A, we will continue with pointing out the biblical importance for numbers 7 and 10.

Number 7 belongs to the most important numbers in the Bible.

It stands for completion and perfection, and it is generally understood and recognized in this way.

As we already mentioned in the previous Q&A, the number 6 can refer to something which lacks completion. For instance, God’s re-creation week was only completed on the seventh day with the institution of the Sabbath. Jericho was destroyed on the seventh day, after the Israelites had marched around the city for six days. Man was given six “days” of 1,000 years each to rule himself, but God will begin His rule over man and this earth with the Millennium (the seventh “day” of 1,000 years). In Old Testament times, individual debts were cancelled every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:1).

God also gave us the seven Days of Unleavened Bread, during which no leavened products (symbolic for sin) are to be consumed, as well as the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles (symbolizing the Millennium); and God has made holy seven annual Feast Days (First and Last Days of Unleavened Bread; Pentecost; Feast of Trumpets; Day of Atonement; First Day of Feast of Tabernacles; Last Great Day).

The very first sentence in the Bible (Genesis 1:1) contains seven words in the Hebrew, showing that God’s initial physical creation of the heavens and the earth was perfect. The earth was not created in a state of confusion and destruction, but the earth became void and empty because of Satan’s rebellion against God.  

When reviewing Christ’s last sayings on the cross, as related to us by the four gospel writers, we find that He made important pronouncements on seven occasions (Luke 23:34; Luke 23:43; John 19:26; Matthew 27:46; John 19:28; John 19:30; and Luke 23:46). These sayings show that Christ had finished or completed the work which the Father had given Him to do, while He was a human being on this earth.

We also find that the book of John recorded seven miracles by Jesus Christ during His life as a human being (John 2:1-11; John 4:46-54; John 5:1-9; John 6:1-14; John 6:15-21; John 9:1-12; John 11:1-16, 25-26, 41). John recorded those miracles as sufficient, complete and perfect evidence for us to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, leading to eternal life (John 20:30-31).

Jesus identified Himself in the book of John as the “I am” (John 8:58-59)—the YHWH or God of the Old Testament—and He describes in seven ways how this applied to Him. He said: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35); “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5); “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7); “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14); “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25); “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6); and “I am the true vine” (John 15:1). Unless we are close to Jesus Christ, accept Him as our personal Savior and are part of His Body, the Church, which is a spiritual organism, we will not inherit eternal life and salvation.

The perfect armor of God consists of seven parts, namely truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer (Ephesians 6:14-18). It is this godly armor which helps us to fight against Satan and his demons.

The Church of God consists of seven church eras, as described in chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation. Also, we read that the first deacons who were ordained in the New Testament Church were seven  men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:1-3).

The book of Revelation speaks of seven seals, containing prophetic events; of seven trumpets; and of the seven last plagues.

The physical nourishment in the Promised Land was described as consisting of seven parts, namely wheat, barley, vines, fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey (Deuteronomy 8:8). Likewise, God lists seven physical gifts for ancient and modern Israel, namely grain, new wine, oil, silver, gold, wool and linen (Hosea 2:8-9). In Matthew 15:36-37, Christ multiplied seven loaves of bread to feed 4,000 men, besides women and children, and after they had eaten, seven large baskets full of the fragments were left. All of this shows that God’s gifts are good and complete.

God reveals seven names of those who wrote the book of Psalms. Most were written by David (including Psalm 1-41; 51-59; 61-65; 67-70; 86; 101; 103; 108-110; 122; 124; 131; 133; 138-145), but other identified authors are the sons of Korah (Psalm 42; 44-49; 84-85; 87), Asaph (Psalm 50; 73-83), Heman (Psalm 88) , Ethan (Psalm 89), Moses (Psalm 90)  and Solomon (Psalm 72). All the psalms (as well as all the other passages in the Bible) are inspired of God, regardless as to who the human author might have been.

Seven men (identified by name) are called “man of God” in the Old Testament, namely Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1); David (2 Chronicles 8:14); Samuel (1 Samuel 9:6); Shemaiah (1. Kings 12:22); Elijah (1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 1:9); Elisha (2 Kings 4:7); and Igdaliah (Jeremiah 35:4). There are other men mentioned who are also called “man of God” (compare 1 Kings 13:1; 1 Kings 20:28; 2 Kings 23:17), but they are not identified by name. In the New Testament, Timothy is identified one time as a man of God (1 Timothy 6:11), but every true Christian is also referred to as “man of God” (2 Timothy 3:17).

Seven pairs of clean animals survived the Flood in Noah’s ark, to keep the species alive (Genesis 7:2-3). We also read in the New Testament that seven miracles were performed by Christ on the Sabbath. Seven demons were cast out of Mary Magdalene by Jesus (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2), as He had cast out seven nations from the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 15:1). All of this shows Christ’s complete and perfect dealing with men, both from a physical and also a spiritual standpoint.

We read of seven things which spiritually defile a man (Matthew 15:19; namely: evil thoughts; murders; adulteries; fornications; thefts; false witness; and blasphemies); and there are seven things which are an abomination in God’s eyes (Proverbs 6:16; namely: a proud look; a lying tongue; hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that devises wicked plans; feet that are swift in running to evil; a false witness who speaks lies; and one who sows discord among brethren).

On the other hand, God lists seven spiritual gifts which we can use for the benefit of others (Romans 12:6-8; namely: prophecy or inspired speaking; ministry or ministering to or helping others; teaching; exhortation; giving; diligent leading; cheerful mercy) and there are seven points showing unity in the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:4-6; namely: one body; one spirit; one hope; one Lord; one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all).

We can be sure that God’s Word is always true, as it has been purified seven times (Psalm 12:6), and the Psalmist praised God seven times a day (Psalm 119:164). This is not to say that we need to carefully count the times in order to cease praising God when we have done so seven times—rather, it expresses completion and perfection in that we always have to be in a prayerful and thankful attitude. We have to forgive our brother not just seven times, but up to seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22)—that is, always, when the brother who sins against us repents and asks for our forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4).

The righteous may fall seven times (so it may appear that he has been thoroughly defeated), but he will rise again every time (Proverbs 24:16), because God will raise him up.

The biblical number 10 is also of great significance.

This number stands for godly judgment.

For instance, God gave us the law of the Ten Commandments, which is still in force and effect today, and it is by that law that we will be judged. God also asked us to pay Him the tithe –ten percent of our increase – and we will be judged as to how diligent we are in fulfilling His command.

We find in Daniel 1:12-15 that Daniel and his three friends were tested for ten days to see whether their refusal to eat meat – i.e. unclean meat or meat sacrificed to idols — would harm them in any way, and the judgment was that it did not; further, the king of Babylon examined them in “matters of wisdom and understanding” and judged that they were ten times better than all his magicians and astrologers (Daniel 1:20).

God brought judgment upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians and their false religion, by striking them with ten plagues—the tenth plague was the death of every Egyptian firstborn. God told Abram that He would not destroy Sodom if ten righteous were to be found in it (Genesis 18:32), but Sodom was judged of lacking even ten righteous people. We also read that during God’s judgment, only ten out of one hundred people will be left in the cities of Israel (Amos 5:3).

There are ten generations from Adam to Noah (Genesis 5), and God judged the world at the time of Noah when He destroyed it in a Flood. There are also ten generations from Shem (one of Noah’s sons) to Abram (Genesis 11); we do not read about anyone after Shem and before Abram who was called in this life for salvation. But even though Abram was to become a chosen vessel in the service of God, that does not mean that he was perfect. After having resided for ten years in Canaan, he and his wife Sarai concluded that they had to produce offspring through Sarai’s handmaid Hagar, lacking the faith that God could fulfill His promise to give Abram and Sarai a son (Genesis 16:3-4).

In later generations, Jacob deceived his father Isaac and was subsequently deceived ten times by his uncle Laban (Genesis 31:7, 41), showing the righteous judgments of God.

At the time of Moses, the children of Israel rebelled ten times against God in the wilderness (Numbers 14:22), judging themselves as unworthy to enter the Promised Land (verse 23).

When Christ was here on earth, He cleansed ten lepers, but only one returned and thanked and gave glory to God, and he was a Samaritan (Luke 17:11-18). While he was judged as having been “saved by faith,” (verse 19, New Jerusalem Bible and New American Bible), the others were not described in this way.

In His famous parables about the talents or the minas, the number 10 plays again a dominant role. In Matthew 25, the kingdom of heaven is compared with a man who gives talents to three servants—one receives ten talents, one two talents, and the third one receives one talent. The man expected his servants to trade with the talents, and while the first two doubled their talents, the third one did not do anything with his talent, but hid it in the ground.  When the master returned, he rewarded the first two servants equally, but decided to take the one talent from the lazy servant and give it to the one who had been given ten talents at the outset. His achievement—to double the ten talents—was judged to be worthy of a greater reward than the achievement of the one who had been given five talents and who had gained five more.

In the parable in Luke 19—the parable of the minas—we are introduced to ten servants. Each one receives one mina, and during the master’s absence, nine trade with the money and achieve different results, but the lazy servant hides the money in the ground. At his return, the master rewards his servants in proportion to their achievements, and he takes away the mina from the lazy servant and gives it to the servant who has gained ten minas. He judged the one who traded the most as being most competent to receive an additional reward.

We read about ten virgins in the end time—five of them are being judged as being foolish, and five as being wise. The five foolish ones are not too concerned with using the Holy Spirit that had been given to them, while the five wise virgins—even though they also fell asleep—had still enough Holy Spirit within them to be able to prepare and make themselves ready for their Master’s return. The church in Smyrna was to be tested for ten days, but if they were judged to be faithful, they would inherit eternal life (Revelation 2:10).

We are warned in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that according to God’s righteous judgment, ten categories of unrighteous people will not inherit the Kingdom of God—fornicators; idolaters; adulterers; homosexuals; sodomites; thieves; covetous; drunkards; revilers; and extortioners. On the other hand, we are told that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and ten things are listed to emphasize this fact: Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing can separate us from God. God’s judgment is on us today (1 Peter 4:17), and if we live worthy of our calling, we will be judged worthy of eternal life in His Kingdom.

In the next and final installment of this series, we will discuss the symbolic meaning of numbers 12 and 40.

(To Be Continued)

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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