Biblical numerology – What is it?

Biblical numerology is the study of numbers within the Bible. A wide variety of studies exist with interpretations focusing on the most commonly used numbers. Among those who study biblical numerology, the most common numbers investigated include 3, 7, 12, and 40 due to their frequent use in significant accounts.

The number seven is found through the early portions of Genesis. There are seven days of creation, for example; and the seventh day called the Sabbath is considered holy. The sevenfold spirit of God is mentioned in the Bible, likely in reference to completion in connection with the completed days of creation. Seven is also a common literary device in Revelation, the Bible's final book, where we find seven letters to seven churches, and seven years of Tribulation, among other occurrences.

The number three is also significant in a number of passages. Jonah was in the belly of the great fish three days just as Jesus was dead for three days prior to His resurrection. The use of three of the same words or variations of three is also common, such as faith, hope, and love in 1 Corinthians 13. The Transfiguration of Jesus also includes three people—Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Jesus had three inner circle disciples—Peter, James, and John. Jesus also experienced three temptations from Satan in the wilderness.

The number 12 is also often used. There were 12 sons of Jacob who became the 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus would later have 12 disciples. The Book of Revelation includes 24 elders (12 x 2) that some interpret as representing Israel and the Church.

The number 40 is significant in Scripture. The Flood during Noah's time lasted 40 days. The Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus fasted for 40 days (as did Moses—twice—and Elijah).

Other numbers could also be mentioned. For example, the number 10 is frequent, especially in the 10 plagues of Egypt during the time of Moses. Multiples of seven are frequently found, especially in Revelation, such as the 144,000 Jews who spread the Gospel message in the last days. Also in Revelation are two witnesses of importance (Revelation 11) and the number of the Beast—666.

While the intentional use of some of these numbers as a literary device is undeniable, not all agree on the purpose of the numerical patterns. Conservative scholars note that extra-biblical literature also uses many similar numbers for literary purposes, indicating that much care should be used in determining the particular reason a number is used. The Scripture is clear, however, that God's Word does not intend to communicate secret messages but is designed to instruct, inform, and to equip people to live for Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Ephesians 4:11-12).

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