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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

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Numbers, the Book of
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After the captivity the Hebrew used the alphabet letters for numbers, 'Αleph ( א ) equalling 1; Βet[h] ( ב ) equalling 2, etc.; Υod[h] ( י ) equalling 10; Qoph ( ק ) equalling 100, etc. The final letters expressed 500 to 900; 'Αleph ( א ) + a line over it equalling 1000. Our manuscripts all write numbers at full length. But the variations make it likely that letters (which copyists could so easily mistake) originally were written for numbers: compare 2 Kings 24:8 with 2 Chronicles 36:9; Isaiah 7:8, where 65 is in one reading, 16 and 5 in another. 1 Samuel 6:19 has 50,070, but Syriac and Arabic 5070 (1 Kings 4:26 with 2 Chronicles 9:25). Numbers also have often a symbolical rather than a mere arithmetical value. But straining is to be avoided, and subtle trifling. The author's sense, history, the context, and the general analogy of the Scripture scheme as a whole are to be examined, in order to decide whether a figure is employed in a merely ordinary sense, or in an ordinary and symbolical, or in an exclusively symbolical sense.

Zechariah and Daniel dwell upon seven; Daniel and Revelation use several numbers to "characterize periods", rather than indicate arithmetical duration. Science reveals in crystallization and chemical combinations what an important part number plays in the proportion of combining molecules of organic and inorganic life.

Two notes "intensification" (Genesis 41:32), "requital in full" (Job 42:10; Jeremiah 16:18; Isaiah 61:7; Revelation 18:6); the proportions of the temple were double those of the tabernacle; two especially symbolizes "testimony" (Zechariah 4:11; Zechariah 11:7; Isaiah 8:2; Revelation 11:3), two tables of the testimony (Exodus 31:18), two cherubim over the ark of the testimony. God is His own witness; but that witness is twofold, "His word and His oath" (Hebrews 6:13; Hebrews 6:17), "Himself and His Son" (John 8:18).

Three, like seven, is "a divine number". The Trinity (Revelation 1:4; Revelation 4:8); three great feasts (Exodus 23:14-17; Deuteronomy 16:16); the threefold blessing (Numbers 6:14; Numbers 6:24); the thrice holy (Isaiah 6:3); the three hours of prayer (Daniel 6:10; Psalms 55:17); the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2). Christ is "the Way, the Truth, the Life," "Prophet, Priest, and King." The threefold theophany (Genesis 18:2; 1 Samuel 3:4; 1 Samuel 3:6; 1 Samuel 3:8; Acts 10:16).

The number 3 1/2, one-half of 7, is "a period of evil cut short", shortened for the elect's sake (Matthew 24:22; James 5:17, three years' and a half drought in Israel; Luke 4:25; Revelation 11:2-3; Revelation 11:9; Revelation 12:6). Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7, time, times, and a half, 1,260 days, three days and a half. The 42 months (30 days in each) answer to the 1,260 days; three years and a half equals 1,260 days (360 in each year). Probably the 1,260 years of the papal rule date from A.D. 754, when his temporal power began, and end 2014. (See ANTICHRIST.)

At the close of spurious Christianity's long rule open antichristianity and persecution will prevail for the three years and a half before the millennium. Witnessing churches will be followed by witnessing individuals, even as the apostate church will give place to the personal man of sin (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 11:2-3). The 2,300 (Daniel 8:14) years may date from Alexander's conquests (323 B.C.), and end about the same time as the 1,260, namely, 1977. The 1,290 (Daniel 12:11-12) and 1,335 days correspond to 1290, during which Antiochus Epiphanes profaned the temple, from the month Ijar, 145th year of the era of the Seleucidae, to Judas Maccabeus' restoration of worship, the 25th day of the ninth month Chisleu, 148th year (1 Maccabees 1:54; 1 Maccabees 4:52-56); in 45 days more Antiochus died, ending the Jews' calamities; in all 1,335. Again, 1,260, 1,290 and 1,335 may be counted from Mahomet's retirement to the cave, A.D. 606-610, and his flight from Mecca, 622: these figures added may mark the closing epochs of Mahometan power.

Again, the 2,300 may be the years between 480 B.C., the time of Xerxes' invasion of Greece (Daniel 11:2), and A.D. 1820, when Ali Pasha cast off the yoke of the Porte and precipitated the Greek revolution. Thirdly, the 2,300 may date from Antichrist's profanation (Daniel 9:27). After the 1,260 days Jesus in person will deliver the Jews; during the 30 more their consciences are awakened to penitent faith, making 1,290; in 45 more Israel's outcasts are gathered, and the united blessing descends. These all are conjectures. Evidently these numbers symbolize the long "Gentile times" from the overthrow of Judah's kingdom by Babylon, and of Jerusalem by Titus, down to the restoration of the theocracy in Him "whose right it is" (Ezekiel 21:27). The seven times of Israel's punishment (Leviticus 26:18; Leviticus 26:21-24) are the times of the Gentile monarchies; the seven times of antichrist's tyranny in the Holy Land will be the recapitulation and open consummation of what is as yet "the mystery of iniquity."

The three and a half during which the two witnesses prophesy in sackcloth is the sacred seven halved, for the antichristian world powers' time is broken at best, and is followed immediately by judgment on them. It answers to the three years and a half of Christ's witness for the truth, when the Jews disowned and the God-opposed world power crucified Him (Daniel 9:27). He died in the midst of the last of the 70 weeks; the three and a half which seemed the world's triumph over Him was immediately followed by their defeat in His resurrection (John 12:31). The world powers never reach the sacred fullness of seven times 360, i.e. 2,520, though they approach it in the 2,300 (Daniel 8:14). The 42 months answer to Israel's 42 sojournings in the desert (Numbers 33:1-50), contrasted with the sabbatic rest of Canaan. Three and a half represents "the church's time of toil, pilgrimage, persecution". Three and a half is "the antagonism to seven".

Four symbolizes "worldwide extension". The four winds and quarters of the earth (Revelation 7:1; Daniel 7:2). The four living creatures or cherubim with four wings and four faces (Ezekiel 1:5, etc.; Revelation 4:6, in contrast to the four beasts, Daniel 7; Daniel 2:40 the four kingdoms); Eden's four streams (Genesis 2:10; Ezekiel 40:47). Four expresses "the spread of God's kingdom over the earth". As Christ's seamless vest marks its unity, so the rending of the outer garment into four by the four Roman soldiers symbolizes its ultimate worldwide extension (John 19:23-24). The numbers especially symbolical are 3, 4, 7, 10, 12, 40; 6 is so because coming short of the "sacred" 7, 8 as coming after 7 and introducing "a new series or era".

Three and a half is seven broken in two. The Bible begins with seven days, and ends with a succession of sevens. Seven represents "rest and release from toil", also "a divine work", in judgment or mercy or revelation (Genesis 4:24; Genesis 41:3; Genesis 41:7; Matthew 18:22; Exodus 7:25). Leviticus 26:18, "I will punish you seven times more for your sins," Leviticus 26:21-24; Leviticus 26:28; Isaiah 4:1; Isaiah 11:15; 2 Samuel 24:13. Daniel 4:16; Daniel 4:25, "seven times shall pass over thee" (Nebuchadnezzar). Revelation 15:1, "the seven last plagues." "divine fullness and completeness" is the thing signified; as Revelation 1:4, "the seven spirits ... before His throne" are "the one Holy Spirit in His manifold fullness"; Isaiah 11:2-3 corresponds.

So in offerings and divine rites: Leviticus 12:2; Leviticus 12:5; Leviticus 13:4; Leviticus 13:6; Leviticus 13:21-26; Leviticus 13:31; Leviticus 13:33; Leviticus 13:50; Leviticus 13:54; Leviticus 14:7-8; Leviticus 14:9; Leviticus 14:16; Leviticus 14:27; Leviticus 14:38; Leviticus 14:51; Leviticus 15:13; Leviticus 15:19; Leviticus 15:28; Leviticus 16:14; Leviticus 16:19; Numbers 12:14; 2 Kings 5:10; 2 Kings 5:14. The seven days' grace (Genesis 7:1-10); and at the taking of Jericho (Joshua 5:13-6:20); the antitype, spiritual Babylon, shall fall at the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:13; Revelation 11:15; Revelation 14:8). The sevenfold candlestick (Exodus 25:37), the seven churches corresponding (Revelation 1:12; Revelation 1:20), the seven deacons (Acts 6), the sevenfold ministry (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12). Seven prayers are given in full in the Old Testament. (See PRAYER.) Seven petitions of the Lord's prayer in the New Testament. The seven beatitudes (Matthew 5; Psalms 12:7). Satan mimics the "divine" seven (Proverbs 6:16; Proverbs 26:25): Mary Magdalene's seven devils (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2); the unclean spirit returning with seven (Matthew 12:45); the seven Canaanite nations subdued by Israel (Deuteronomy 7:1; Acts 13:19); the dragon with seven heads and seven crowns (Revelation 12:3; Numbers 23:1).

Eight begins a new era and life after the seven has been completed (Exodus 22:30; Leviticus 9:1; Leviticus 22:27). Lepers are reinstated on the eighth day (Leviticus 14:10; Leviticus 15:13; Leviticus 15:29). Circumcision on the eighth day begins a new life in the covenant. The eighth day after the seven of the feast of tabernacles (Leviticus 23:36). From the eighth day, when the firstfruit sheaf was waved, the seven sevens were counted; and on the 50th day or "Pentecost" (the eighth day after seven) a new era began (Leviticus 23:11; Leviticus 23:15-16; Acts 2:1). Leviticus 25:8-9, type of the eternal sabbath, the new era of a regenerated world (Romans 8:21; Isaiah 61:1; Acts 3:21); the Lord's day, the eighth after the seventh, ushers in the new Christian era. The eight saved souls left the ark on the eighth day, after the last seven of anxious waiting, the representative heads of regenerated mankind. Of man in his fallen state Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 1:15) writes, "that which is crooked cannot be made straight," but what is "impossible with man is possible with God" (Luke 18:27); at Messiah's coming "the crooked shall be made straight" (Isaiah 40:4); "that which is wanting (compare Daniel 5:27) cannot be numbered," i.e. what is wholly wanting, man's state, cannot be numbered, but believers are "complete in Christ" (Colossians 2:10).

Ten represents "perfected universality". The "thousand" years (Revelation 20:2) is ten raised to the third power, i.e. the "world" (10) pervaded by the "divine" (3). The Ten Commandments contain the whole cycle of God's moral requirements. The tithe represented the whole property as belonging to God (Genesis 14:20). Genesis has the formula ten times, "these are the generations" (Genesis 2:4; Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 10:1; Genesis 11:10; Genesis 11:27; Genesis 25:12; Genesis 25:19; Genesis 36:1; Genesis 37:2). The Ten Commandments of the Decalogue logically follow; God's fingers wrote it. Our fingers are ten (Exodus 31:18; Psalms 8:1). The ten plagues were the entire round of judgments from God's hand. The tabernacle, temple, and New Jerusalem have ten as the prevailing figure in measurements.

In the New Testament, the ten lepers, ten talents, ten cities in reward for ten pounds gained, ten virgins. Antichrist too has his ten, comprising the whole cycle of the world power: ten nations opposed to Abraham's seed (Genesis 15:19); ten toes on Nebuchadnezzar's image to be stricken by the stone (Daniel 2:41); ten horns on the fourth beast (Daniel 7:7; Daniel 7:20; Daniel 7:24; Revelation 12:3; Revelation 13:1; Revelation 17:3; Revelation 17:7; Revelation 17:12, "ten kings"); ten days of Smyrna's tribulation, the complete term of the world power's persecution of the church (Revelation 2:10). In combination with 7, 10 appears in the 70 nations (Genesis 10), the 70 who went down to Egypt (Genesis 46:27), the 70 palms at Elim, the 70 elders of Israel (Exodus 24:1; Numbers 11:16), the 70 disciples, the 70 years' captivity (Jeremiah 25:11). Daniel's 70 sevens, weeks (Daniel 9:24). Seventy-fold (Genesis 4:24; Matthew 18:22).

As 3 1/2 is related to 7, so five is related to 10; 5 is "the penal number" (Exodus 22:1; Leviticus 5:16; Numbers 18:16); the fifth kingdom punishes with destruction the four world kingdoms (Daniel 2). Twelve is "the church number". The 12 tribes; 12 Elim wells; 12 stones in the high priest's breast-plate; 12 shewbread loaves; 12 patriarchs; 12 apostles; 12 foundation stones; 12 gates; 12,000 furlongs of New Jerusalem; 12 angels (Revelation 21:16-21; Revelation 12:1). Twelve squared and multiplied by 1,000, the symbol of the world divinely perfected, gives 144,000, the sealed Israelites (Revelation 7:4). The 24 elders are the 12 heads of the Old Testament and the 12 of the New Testament churches combined, "elders" is the term for ministers; the 24 courses of priests anticipate the final combination of the two, Jews and Gentiles, made one new man in Christ (Revelation 4:4). Seven times twelve is connected with the Lamb's bride.

Six is to twelve as three and a half to seven. Six symbolizes" the world given over to judgment". The judgments on the world are complete in six; by the fulfillment of seven the world kingdoms become Christ's. Hence there is a pause between the sixth and seventh seals, the sixth and seventh trumpets. As 12 is the church's number, so six (its half) symbolizes the world kingdom broken. Six, "the world number", is next to the "sacred" seven which it mimics (Revelation 13:1) but can never reach. The raising of the six from units to tens, and from tens to hundreds (666), indicates that the beast, notwithstanding his progression to higher powers, can only rise to greater ripeness for judgment. Thus, 666, the number of the beast (Revelation 13:18), the judged world power, contrasts with the 144,000 sealed and transfigured ones. (See ANTICHRIST.)

Forty symbolizes probation, punishment, chastisement, and humiliation. The 40 days' rain of the flood (Genesis 7:4; Genesis 7:12; Genesis 7:17); Moses' 40 years in Egypt, and 40 in Midian. Times of temptation and trial: 40 days on the mountain (Exodus 24:18); a second 40 after Israel's sin of the calf (Deuteronomy 9:18; Deuteronomy 9:25); 40 years in the desert wanderings (Numbers 14:34), the penal issue of the 40 days' probation in searching Canaan (Numbers 13:26; Psalms 95:10; also Judges 13:1);40 days and nights of Elijah (1 Kings 19:8); Jonah's 40 days' warning to Nineveh (Jonah 3:4); 40 days of Christ's temptation (Matthew 4:2). Also a time of probation by tranquil prosperity (Judges 3:11; Judges 5:31; Judges 8:28). Ezekiel (Ezekiel 4:4-6) lay on his right side 40 days a day for a year, which with the 390 on his left side makes the 430 of Israel's sojourn in Egypt (Exodus 12:40-41; Galatians 3:17). God will bring them back to a bondage as bad as that in Egypt, but shortened by the 40 years' sojourn in the desert for discipline. Also Ezekiel 29:11-12.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Number'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​fbd/​n/number.html. 1949.
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