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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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This word is used to express the number 6+1. The Lexicons generally, both ancient and modern, also assign to the word and its derivatives the further office of a round or indefinite number, to express a small number, in the sense of several (as we use ten or a dozen). It appears to us possible to resolve the passages quoted in support of this view into the idea of sufficiency, satisfaction, fullness, completeness, perfection, abundance, etc. intimated in the Hebrew root, from which the numeral in question is derived. For instance, , 'The barren hath born seven,' that is, hath been blessed with an ample family; , 'Better to thee than seven sons,' i.e. an abundance of them; , 'There are seven abominations in his heart,' i.e. completeness of depravity. Thus also the phrase, 'To flee seven ways' (), denotes a total overthrow; to 'punish seven times' (), to punish completely; 'Six and seven troubles,' a very great and entire calamity (); 'Give a portion to seven, also to eight,' be not only duly liberal, but abundant; 'Silver purified seven times,' perfectly purified (). The word is used in the New Testament to express the same idea of abundance or completeness. Thus 'the seven spirits before the throne' would seem to be a periphrasis of perfection, denoting the Holy Spirit (). It is most likely that the idea of sufficiency and completeness became originally associated with the number seven, from the Creator having finished, completed, or made sufficient, all his work on the seventh day; and that hence also it was adopted as a sacred number, or a number chiefly employed in religious concerns, in order to remind mankind of the creation and its true author. Thus there were seven offerings in making a covenant (); seven lamps in the golden candlestick (); the blood was sprinkled seven times (); every seventh year was sabbatical, seven sabbaths of years in the jubilee (); seven trumpets, seven priests that sounded them seven days round Jericho, seven lamps, seven seals, etc. etc. Seven was considered a fortunate number among the Persians (; ). Cicero calls it the knot and cement of all things, as being that by which the natural and spiritual world are comprehended in one idea. Nor is this subject devoid of practical utility. The references which occur in the patriarchal history to the number seven, as denoting a week or period of seven days, sufficiency, etc. and a sacred number, afford a minute, indirect, but not an inconsiderable argument, that the institution of the Sabbath was both established and observed from the commencement; and not, as Paley thinks, during the wandering in the wilderness: an argument abundantly confirmed by the regard to the seventh day, which has prevailed too far and wide among various nations, to be attributed to their comparatively late intercourse with the Jews.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Seven'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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