Numbers in the Bible
(This is not original with me, nor do I even know who compiled it, but it was something I got from another minister who got it from another minister who used it for a Bible Prophecy Seminar handout.)
Many of the numbers in the Bible have deeper prophetic or spiritual significance. Both in the Old and New Testaments, numbers reveal hidden concepts and meanings that commonly escape the casual reader. And throughout history, men with great minds, like Augustine, Isaac Newton, and Leonardo Da Vinci, showed more than just a passing curiosity regarding the importance of biblical numbers. Once more, Jesus said, “The very hairs of your head are numbered” (Matthew 10:30). So obviously, Bible numbers should be carefully considered.
At least 12 numbers in the Bible stand out in this regard: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 40, 50, and 70. In order to express this truth, one or two biblical examples have been given below. However, much more can be said on this subject, so these examples serve merely as an introduction and are not exhaustive by any means.
1 – Represents absolute singleness and unity (Ephesians 4:4–6; John 17:21, 22.)
2 – Represents the truth of God’s Word; for example, the law and prophets (John 1:45), two or three witnesses (2 Corinthians 13:1), and a sword with two edges (Hebrews 4:12). See Mark 6:7 and Revelation 11:3. It is also used 21 times in the books of Daniel and Revelation.
3 – Represents the Godhead/Trinity. The angels cry “Holy” three times to the triune God (Isaiah 6:3). See also Matthew 28:19 and 1 John 5:7, 8.
3 ½ – Represents rejection and apostasy. It is the dissection of seven, the perfect number. For 3-½ years, Elijah fled from persecution. Jesus was crucified at the end of a 3-½ year period. Stephen was the first Christian martyr, stoned at the end of 3-½ years of the apostles preaching amid persecution. There were 3-½ prophetic years when the church went underground during the Dark Ages, from 538 to 1798.
4 – Represents universal truth, as in the four directions (north, south, east, west) and the four winds (Matthew 24:31; Revelation 7:1; Revelation 20:8). In acts 10:11, a sheet with four corners symbolizes the gospel going to all the gentiles.
5 – Represents teaching. First, there are the five books of Moses. Second, Jesus taught about the five wise virgins and used five barley loaves used to feed the 5,000.
6 – Represents the worship of man, and is the number of man, signifying his rebellion, imperfection, works, and disobedience. It is used 273 times in the Bible, including its derivatives (e.g, sixth) and another 91 times as “threescore” or “60.” Man was created on the sixth day (Genesis 1:26, 31). See also Exodus 31:15 and Daniel 3:1.
The number is especially significant in the book Revelation, as “666” identifies the beast. “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (Revelation 13:18).
7 – Represents perfection, and is the sign of God, divine worship, completions, obedience, and rest. The “prince” of Bible numbers, it is used 562 times, including its derivatives (e.g., seventh, sevens). (See Genesis 2:1–4, Psalm 119:164, and Exodus 20:8–11 for just a few of the examples.)
The number seven is also the most common in biblical prophecy, occurring 42 times in Daniel and Revelation alone. In Revelation there are seven churches, seven spirits, seven golden candlesticks, seven stars, seven lamps, seven seals, seven horns, seven eyes, seven angels, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven thousand slain in a great earthquake, seven heads, seven crowns, seven last plagues, seven golden vials, seven mountains, and seven kings.
10 – Represents law and restoration. Of course, this includes the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20. See also Matthew 25:1 (ten virgins); Luke 17:17 (ten lepers); Luke 15:8 (healing, ten silver coins).
12 – Represents the church and God’s authority. Jesus had 12 disciples, and there were 12 tribes of Israel. In Revelation 12:1, the 24 elders and 144,000 are multiples of 12. The New Jerusalem city has 12 foundations, 12 gates 12 thousand furlongs, a tree with 12 kinds of fruit 12 times a year eaten by 12 times 12,000 or the 144,000. (See Revelation 21.)
40 – Represents a generation and times of testing. It rained for 40 days during the flood. Moses spent 40 years in the desert, as did the children of Israel. Jesus fasted for 40 days.
50 – Represents power and celebration. The Jubilee came after the 49th year (Leviticus 25:10), and Pentecost occurred 50 days after Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2).
70 – Represents human leadership and judgment. Moses appointed 70 elders (Exodus 24:1); The Sanhedrin was made up of 70 men. Jesus chose 70 disciples (Luke 10:1). Jesus told Peter to forgive 70 times 7.
666 – As mentioned, six represents the number of man; 666 represents the kingdom of man in opposition to God. 666 is a “triangular number,” as 36 is both its square and a triangular number (12 + 12+ 12 = 36). Moreover, 222 times 3 equals 666. Thus, 666 also symbolizes a counterfeit trinity. Some are very superstitious about the number 666 and have refused phone numbers, license plates, and credit cards containing it. This phobia is known as hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia. But we don’t have to be afraid of the number 666 itself. It is simply a natural number that follows 665 and proceeds 667. However, Revelation says, “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred and sixty-six” (Revelation 13:18).
144,000 – Represents the last-day apostles. As Jesus had 12 leaders who shared the gospel at the time of His first coming, an army of 12 times 12,000 will be baptized in the Spirit to prepare the world for the second coming of Christ. Another interesting clue related to the 144,000 is found in 1 Chronicles 27: David’s army was comprised of 12 sets of 24,000, totaling 288,000; that was two armies of 144,000 who would alternate their service throughout the year. In 1 Chronicles 25, a literal group of “24 times 12” ( 288) Levities led in praise music of the temple (one for the day, one for the night) — half of 288 is 144.