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Bible Dictionaries
Numbers As Symbols

Morrish Bible Dictionary

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There can be little doubt that numerals are used in scripture as symbols; and by comparing the instances in which any numeral is employed the idea hidden in it may often be arrived at. The signification of some numbers is too obvious to be mistaken; that of others is less apparent. In some cases the symbolical number may be discovered where the numeral itself is not mentioned: as, for instance, under three we may class the law, the psalms, and the prophets; spirit, soul, and body, etc. A few references only are given here for each number.

ONE. Supremacy, exclusiveness. One Jehovah. Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 42:8; Zechariah 14:9 . One God and Father. 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 3:20; Mark 12:29; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:5 . "None other God but one," one Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 8:4; Ephesians 4:5 . One Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:11,13 . One mediator. 1 Timothy 2:5 . One body. 1 Corinthians 12:12,13; Ephesians 4:4 . One hope, one faith, one baptism. Ephesians 4:4,5 . One offering that has perfected for ever the sanctified. Hebrews 10:14 .

TWO. Distinctness, and hence adequate testimony and fellowship when in agreement. Two witnesses needful. Deuteronomy 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1 . Caleb and Joshua witnessed for the land. Numbers 14:6-9 . Two spies sent over Jordan. Joshua 2:1 . Two olive trees typical of two witnesses. Zechariah 4:3; Revelation 11:3,4 . God's word and His oath show the immutability of His counsel. Hebrews 6:17,18 . Two are to agree in asking. Matthew 18:19 . Two or three can be gathered to Christ's name. Matthew 18:20 .

THREE. Divine fulness or completeness, and hence perfection in testimony. God — Father, Son, and Spirit. This fulness was pleased to dwell in the Son of His love. Colossians 1:19 . Three times the voice came from heaven respecting the Lord Jesus. Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5; John 12:28 . The Lord Jesus is Prophet, Priest, and King; Son of God, Son of Man, and Son of David. Three bear witness, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, "and these three agree in one." 1 John 5:7,8 . The scriptures, comprising the law, the prophets, and the psalms, bore witness to Christ. Luke 24:44 . Faith, hope, and love are elements of christian life here. A three-fold cord is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12 ), corresponding to perfection in testimony: three also describes perfected experience. Luke 13:32; Genesis 22:4; Acts 9:9 .

FOUR. Completeness in that which is created or ordained of God. Four winds from the four quarters of the heaven. Jeremiah 49:36 . Four quarters of the earth. Revelation 20:8 . In the arranging the camp of Israel there were four standards. Numbers 10:14-25 . Ezekiel saw four living creatures, each had four faces, four wings, and four hands. Ezekiel 1:5-8 : compare the four living creatures in Revelation 4:6 .

FIVE. Human weakness in its appreciation of obligation. In the dedication of the tabernacle each prince offered for a peace offering two oxen, five rams, five he goats, and five lambs. Numbers 7:17-83 . Weakness in contrast to the power of the enemy: five should chase a hundred. Leviticus 26:8 . The disciples could only provide five barley loaves and two small fishes when the five thousand were fed. John 6:9 . Paul said he would rather speak five words to teach others than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. 1 Corinthians 14:19 . In the parable of the virgins there were five wise and five foolish. Matthew 25:2 .

SIX. Incompleteness, imperfection (one short of the perfect number seven). Solomon had six steps to his great throne, 1 Kings 10:19; but it was not elevated enough to save him from idolatry. Six hundred sixty and six talents of gold were brought him in a year, 1 Kings 10:14; yet he had to confess that all was vanity and vexation of spirit. The Jews at Cana had six water-pots for purification, John 2:6; but they expressed the insufficiency of ordinances to meet man's need. The number of the imperial beast will be six hundred sixty and six, Revelation 13:18 , being imperfect in every particular.

SEVEN. Spiritual completeness, generally in good but occasionally in evil. It is the compound of three and four, and the highest single indivisible number. Seven days in a week, every seventh day was a day of rest, every seventh year was a year of rest for the land, and every seven times seven years brought the jubilee. Creation was complete on the seventh day, God's rest being the result. There were seven lamps to the golden candlestick. Numbers 8:2; cf. Zechariah 4:2 . The blood was sprinkled before the Lord seven times. Leviticus 4:6,17; Leviticus 8:11 . The Christian is exhorted to keep the feast of seven days after the passover, which makes it a perpetual feast for him. 1 Corinthians 5:7,8 . John speaks of seven Spirits before the throne of God. Revelation 1:4 . There are seven abominations in man's heart. Proverbs 26:25 . The first beast has seven heads and ten horns. Revelation 13:1 . In the Revelation 'seven' occurs frequently; the symbol is found therein more than seven times seven. Forgiveness is to be 'seventy times seven.' Matthew 18:22 .

EIGHT. A new departure outside of, but connected with, creation-order: hence in resurrection. Circumcision was on the eighth day, when a new communion was entered into. Eight souls were saved in the ark, to commence a new world. 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5 . The new form of the future Roman empire will be the eighth. Revelation 17:11 . The resurrection-day may be called the eighth, the day after the seventh, the Jewish sabbath.

TEN. Complete ground of. human responsibility. Pharaoh was visited by ten plagues. Exodus 7 Exodus 12 The ten commandments. Exodus 34:28 . Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils to Melchisedek. Genesis 14:20 . The Israelites gave a tenth to the Levites, and they gave a tenth to the priests. Numbers 18:21,26 . Ten virgins went forth to meet the bridegroom. Matthew 25 . There were ten servants to whom the pounds were entrusted. Luke 19:13 . In the last form of the Roman empire there will be ten kings. Revelation 17:12,16 .

TWELVE. Completeness administratively, that is, in what is set forth or displayed manward. (The first most divisible of the earlier numbers.) There were twelve patriarchs, ancestors of the twelve tribes, who are commemorated in the twelve loaves on the table, the twelve stones in the breastplate and twelve names on the shoulders of the high priest; the twelve stones taken out of Jordan, and the twelve stones placed in the bed of the river; also in the woman with a crown of twelve stars. Revelation 12:1 . Through the twelve apostles the Lord fed the hungry multitudes. The twelve apostles will sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes. Matthew 19:28 . The new Jerusalem will have twelve foundations for its walls with the names of the twelve apostles; it will have twelve gates, consisting of twelve pearls, with the names of the twelve tribes inscribed, the gates will be attended by twelve angels. Revelation 21:12-21 . There are twelve hours in the day, in which the children of light may walk. John 11:9 . The flexibility of administrative perfection may be seen in:

Six-twos: Two apostles in each of the six companies sent to preach.

Two-sixes: Six loaves in each of the two rows of showbread.

Three-fours: Four rows of three names each on the breastplate.

Four- threes: Three gates on each of the four sides of the new Jerusalem.

FORTY = 10 × 4. Complete probation to bring to light good or evil. Moses was forty years in the desert, being himself tried; he was in the mount two periods of forty days, which were times of trial to the Israelites. Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28 . The spies were forty days searching the land. Numbers 13:25 . The tribes were tested forty years in the wilderness. Acts 13:18 . Goliath challenged Israel forty days. 1 Samuel 17:16 . Saul, David, Solomon, and Jehoash were each tested by a reign of forty years. Elijah's period of testing at Horeb was forty days. Nineveh was given forty days for repentance. Jonah 3:4 . The Lord Jesus was under temptation forty days. Mark 1:13 .

Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'Numbers As Symbols'. Morrish Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​mbd/​n/numbers-as-symbols.html. 1897.
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