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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

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.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]


1. Notation . The decimal scale of notation was used by the Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and, so far as we know, by the other nations mentioned in the Bible, i.e . they reckoned by units, tens, hundreds, etc.

2. Variety and range of numerical terminology . The Heb. language expressed the integers from one to any amount by words denoting units, tens, a hundred, two hundred, a thousand, two thousand, ten thousand, twenty thousand, and by combinations of these words. Thus the highest number expressed by a single word is twenty thousand, the word used meaning double ten thousand. The word ‘millions’ in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] of   Genesis 24:60 is a mistranslation; it should be ‘ten thousands’ as in RV [Note: Revised Version.] . The number referred to in this verse,’ thousands of ten thousands,’ for the descendants hoped for from Rebekah, and the number of the angels in   Daniel 7:10 ,   Revelation 5:11 , ‘thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him,’ if taken literally, would be the largest numbers mentioned in the Bible, but they are merely rhetorical phrases for countless, indefinitely large numbers. In   Revelation 7:9 the redeemed are ‘a great multitude which no man could number’ (cf.   Genesis 13:16 ) the nearest approach which the Bible makes to the mathematical idea of infinity.

The largest literal number in the Bible is the number of Israelites fit for warlike service, ascertained by David’s census as 1,100,000, in addition to the men of Judah 470,000 ( 1 Chronicles 21:6 ). In   2 Samuel 24:9 , however, the numbers are 800,000 and 500,000 respectively. Close to this comes the army of Zerah (  2 Chronicles 14:9 ), ‘a thousand thousand,’ i.e . 1,000,000; and in   2 Chronicles 17:12 ff., Jehoshaphat has an army in five divisions, of 300,000, 280,000, 200,000, 200,000, 180,000 respectively. The number of fighting men amongst the Israelites is given in   Numbers 2:32 as 603,550; and later on in   Numbers 26:51 as 601,730.

Hebrew also possessed a few special forms for the ordinals, first, second, etc., and to denote ‘seven times,’ etc.; in other cases, especially for the higher numbers, the cardinals are used. There are also a few words for fractions, ‘a third,’ ‘a quarter.”

The Biblical Greek calls for no special comment; the writers had at their disposal the ordinary resources of Hellenistic Greek. We may, however, call attention to the disputed rendering in  Matthew 18:22 , where RV [Note: Revised Version.] has ‘seventy times seven,’ RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ‘seventy times and seven.’

3. Symbols . In the Heb. text of the OT, and also for the most part in the Gr. text of the NT, numbers are denoted by words. This method is also the only one used in the two ancient Heb. inscriptions the Moabite Stone (rather later than Ahab), and the Siloam inscription (usually ascribed to the time of Hezekiah). As the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Phœnicians used figures as well as words to denote numbers, it is possible that the Israelites also had arithmetical figures; but at present there is no positive evidence of such a usage.

In later times the Jews used consonants as numerical signs; the units from one to nine were denoted by the first nine letters, the tens from ten to ninety by the next nine, and the hundreds from one hundred to four hundred by the remaining four letters. Other numbers were denoted by combinations of letters. A curious feature of this system is that the natural combination for 15, viz. Yod = 10, =  Hebrews 5:1-14 , was not used because’ Yod, He ,’ or Yah was a form of the sacred name Yahweh , which might not be pronounced; accordingly Teth = 9 and Waw = 6 were substituted. This system is still commonly used to number the chapters and verses in Heb. Bibles. A similar system was also used by the Greeks, and is occasionally found in the NT; thus the Number of the Beast, 666, in   Revelation 13:18 , is written by means of three letters.

4. Arithmetic . There is no evidence of proficiency in arithmetic beyond the simplest operations, but we have examples of addition in connexion with the census in the wilderness, the numbers of the separate tribes being given first and then the total (  Numbers 1:22 ff;   Numbers 26:7 ff.); subtraction is referred to in   Leviticus 27:18; an instance of multiplication is   Leviticus 25:8;   Leviticus 25:7 × 7 = 49; and   Leviticus 25:50 implies a kind of rule of three sum.

5. Round Numbers . As in other languages, ‘round numbers,’ exact tens, hundreds, thousands, etc., must often have been used by the Israelites, on the understanding that they were only approximately accurate; and in the same way smaller numbers were sometimes used indefinitely for ‘a few’; cf. our ‘half a dozen.’ For Instance, the exact ten thousands of Jehoshaphat’s armies given above are doubtless round numbers. Again, in   Leviticus 26:8 , ‘five of you shall chase a hundred,’ merely means, ‘a handful of you shall put to flight many times your own number.’ This indefinite use of a small number is specially common where two consecutive units are given as alternatives, e.g .   Isaiah 17:6 , ‘two or three,’ ‘four or five.’ A variety of this idiom is the use of two consecutive units to Introduce emphatically the higher of the two; e.g .   Proverbs 30:21 ‘For three things the earth doth tremble, and for four which it cannot bear’; then four things are enumerated. In addition to hundreds and thousands and ten thousands, the most common number used in this approximate way is ‘forty’: people constantly live or reign for ‘forty years’ or multiples of forty years. It is a matter of opinion how far the numerous ‘sevens,’ ‘tens,’ and ‘twelves’ were originally intended as exact numbers. Probably, however, in many cases what were originally round numbers were taken afterwards to be exact. For instance, David’s reign is given as 40 years,   2 Samuel 5:4; in the next verse this period is explained as made up of 7 1 / 2 years at Hebron and 33 at Jerusalem an explanation which implies that, apart from some odd months, the 40 years were the actual length of the reign. There are some indications, too. that the various 40’s and 80’s were added in with other numbers to obtain a continuous chronology. Again, in   Numbers 3:39 the census gives 22,000 Levites, which one would naturally understand as a round number; but in   Numbers 3:43-51 it is taken as an exact number, inasmuch as it is ordained that because the 22,273 firstborn exceed the Levites by 273, redemption-money shall be paid for the surplus.

In view of the references to captains of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens in  Deuteronomy 1:15 , it has been suggested that these terms are sometimes not numerals, but names corresponding to our regiment, company, squad, etc., and denoting bodies of men whose numbers varied. ‘ Thousand ’ especially has been held to be a term denoting ‘tribe’ or ‘clan’ (see   Judges 6:15 ,   1 Samuel 10:19 ); so that ‘a thousand’ might contain comparatively few men. This view has been applied to make the census in the Bk. of Numbers more credible by reducing the total amounts; but it is clear that the narrative as it stands intends ‘thousand’ to be a numeral, and does not use the word for a ‘clan.’

6. Accuracy of numbers . Without attempting an exhaustive consideration of the accuracy of numbers as given by the original authors, we may point out that we should not expect a large measure of mathematical accuracy even in original numbers. Often, as we have seen, they are apparently given as round numbers. Moreover, in the case of large numbers they would seldom be ascertained by careful enumeration. The numbers of armies especially hostile armies of slain, and so forth, would usually he given on a rough estimate; and such estimates are seldom accurate, but for the most part exaggerated. Moreover, primitive historical criticism revelled in constructing hypothetical statistics on the slightest data, or, to put the matter less prosaically, the Oriental imagination loved to play with figures, the larger the better.

But apart from any question as to the accuracy of the original figures, the transmission of the text by repeated copying for hundreds and thousands of years introduces a large element of uncertainty. If we assume that numbers were denoted by figures in early times, figures are far more easily altered, omitted, or added than words; but, as we have seen, we have at present no strong ground for such an assumption. But even when words are used, the words denoting numbers in Hebrew are easily confused with each other, as in English. Just as ‘eight’ and ‘eighty’ differ only by a single letter; so in Hebrew, especially in the older style of writing, the addition of a single letter would make ‘three’ into ‘thirty, etc. etc. And, again, in copying numerals the scribe is not kept right by the context as he is with other words. It was quite possible, too, for a scribe to have views of his own as to what was probable in the way of numbers, and to correct what he considered erroneous.

A comparison of the various manuscripts, versions, etc., in which our books have been preserved, shows that numbers are specially subject to alteration, and that in very many cases we are quite uncertain as to what numbers were given in the original text, notably where the numbers are large. Even where the number of a body of men, the length of a period, etc., are given twice over or oftener in different passages of the Bible itself, the numbers are often different; those in Chronicles, for instance, sometimes differ from those in Samuel and Kings, as in the case of David’s census mentioned above. Then, as regards manuscripts, etc., we may take one or two striking instances. The chief authorities for the text of the Pentateuch are the Heb. text in Jewish MSS, the Hebrew text in Samaritan MSS, and the Greek translation, the Septuagint. Now the numbers connected with the ages of the patriarchs are largely different in these three authorities; e.g . in the Jewish text Methuselah lives to the age of 969, and is the longest lived of the patriarchs; in the Samaritan he lives only to be 720, and is surpassed by many of the other patriarchs; and the interval from the Creation to the Flood is 2262 years in the Septuagint, 1656 in the Jewish text, 1307 in the Samaritan text. Again, the number of persons on board the ship on which St. Paul was shipwrecked is given in some MSS as 276, and in others as 76 (  Acts 27:37 ); and similarly the number of the Beast is variously given as 666 and as 616 (  Revelation 13:18 ).

The probability that many mistakes in numbers have been introduced into the Bible by copyists in the course of the transmission of the text has long been admitted. For instance, in the fifth edition of Horne’s Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures , published in 1825, a thoroughly old-fashioned apologetic work, we are told that ‘Chronological differences,’ i.e . discrepancies, ‘do undoubtedly exist in the Scriptures.… Differences in chronology do not imply that the sacred historians were mistaken, but they arise from the mistakes of transcribers or expositors’; and again, ‘It is reasonable to make abatements, and not always to insist rigorously on precise numbers, in adjusting the accounts of scriptural chronology’ (i. 550 f.).

7. Favourite numbers and their symbolism . Naturally the units, and after them some of the even tens, hundreds, and thousands, were most frequently in use, and came to have special associations and significance, and a fraction would in some measure share the importance of its corresponding unit, e.g . where ‘four’ occurred often we should also expect to meet with a ‘fourth.’

One , suggesting the idea of uniqueness, self-sufficiency, and indivisibility, is specially emphasized in relation to the Divine Unity: ‘Jahweh our God, Jahweh is one’ (  Deuteronomy 6:4 ); and similarly   Ephesians 4:5 f. ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father’; and other Like passages.

Two . There were two great lights; men frequently had two wives (Lamech, Jacob, Elkanah); two sons (Abraham, Isaac, Joseph); two daughters (Lot, Laban, Saul). Or again, where a man had one wife, there was a natural couple; and so with animals; in one account of the Flood they go in ‘two by two.’ Two men often went together, e.g . Joshua’s spies (  Joshua 2:1 ); and the Twelve and the Seventy went out by twos. The fact that men have two eyes, hands, etc., also gave a special currency to the number. Two objects or animals are often required for ritual purposes ( e.g .   Leviticus 14:22 ). There were two tables of stone. Similarly, a half would be a familiar fraction; it is most common in ‘the half tribe of Manasseh.’

As sets of two were common in nature and in human society, so in a somewhat less degree were sets of three, and in a continuously lessening degree sets of four, five, etc. etc. In each case we shall refer only to striking examples.

Three . Three is common in periods; e.g . David is offered a choice between three days’ pestilence, three months’ defeat, and three years’ famine (  1 Chronicles 21:12;   2 Samuel 24:18 has seven years); Christ is ‘three days and three nights’ in the tomb (  Matthew 12:40 , cf.   John 2:19 ).

Deities often occur in groups of three, sometimes father, mother, and child; e.g . the Egyptian Osiris, Isis, and Horus. There are also the Babylonian triads, e.g . Bel, Anu, and Ea. Division into three is common; an attacking army is often divided into three parts, e.g . Gideon’s (  Judges 7:16; cf. also   Revelation 8:10;   Revelation 8:12 ).

Four . The square, as the simplest plane figure, suggests four, and is a common shape for altars, rooms, etc.; hence four corners, pillars, the four winds, the four quarters of the earth, N., S., E., W. Irenæus argues that there must be four canonical Gospels because there are four cherubim, four winds, and four quarters of the earth.

Five, Ten , and multiples obtain their currency through the habit of reckoning in tens, which again is probably derived from counting on the ten fingers. The fraction tenth is conspicuous as the tithe; and fifth and tenth parts of measures occur in the ritual.

Six, Twelve , and multiples are specially frequent in reference to time: 12 months, and its half, six months, 12 hours, sixth hour, etc., partly in connexion with the 12 signs of the Zodiac, and the approximate division of the solar year into 12 lunar months. It is suggested that the number 12 for the tribes of Israel was fixed by the Zodiac; in the lists the number 12 is obtained only by omitting Levi or Dan, or by substituting Joseph for Ephraim and Manasseh. When the number 12 was established for the tribes, its currency and that of its multiples were thus further extended; e.g . the 12 Apostles, the 144,000 of the Apocalypse, etc.

Seven and multiples. A specially sacred character is popularly ascribed to the number seven; and although the Bible does not expressly endorse this idea, yet it is supported by the frequent occurrence of the number in the ritual, the sacred seventh day, the Sabbath; the sacred seventh year, the Sabbatical year; the Jubilee year, the year following seven times seven years; the seven-branched candlestick; sevenfold sprinkling (  Leviticus 4:6 etc.); seven lambs offered (  Numbers 28:11 ff.); forgiveness till 70 times 7 (  Matthew 18:22 ); the seven churches of Asia; seven angels; seven stars, etc.; fourteen generations (  Matthew 1:17 ); 70 descendants of Jacob (  Exodus 1:5 ); 70 years’ captivity, etc. (  Jeremiah 25:11 ,   Daniel 9:2 ,   Zechariah 7:5 ); 70 missioners (  Luke 10:1 ). A similar use of ‘seven’ is found in the Egyptian, Assyrian, and Persian religions, and is often derived from astral worship of the seven heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, and the five planets known to the ancients. It is also connected with the seven-day week as roughly a quarter of the lunar month, seven being the nearest integer to the quarter of 29 1 /2. The Pleiades also were thought of as seven (cf.   Amos 5:8 ).

Eight . There were eight persons in the ark; a boy was circumcised on the eighth day. Ezekiel’s ritual has a certain predilection for the number eight.

Forty . This number apparently owes its vogue to the view that 40 was the approximate or perhaps average length of a generation; at least this is a common view. It is a little difficult to reconcile with the well-known Oriental custom of early marriage. The number might perhaps be obtained by taking the average of the years of a man’s age at which his children were born, though such an explanation does not appear very probable. Or the use of 40 for a generation might be a relic of the period when the youngest born succeeded to the family tent and sacra . At any rate 40 is well established as a moderate round number between ‘a few’ and ‘a very great many.’ Thus, in addition to the numerous reigns, oppressions, and deliverances of 40, 80 years, etc., Isaac and Esau marry at the age of 40; there are 40 years of the wandering; Ezekiel’s 40 years’ captivity (  Ezekiel 29:11 ); 40 days was the period Moses spent in the Mount, Elijah and Christ fasted in the wilderness, etc.

A certain mystical value is attached to numbers in later Jewish and Christian philosophy and superstition, perhaps due partly to the ideas suggested by the relations of numbers to each other, and to the practical power of arithmetic; the symbols which aided men so effectually seemed to have some inherent force of their own. Or, again, if ‘seven’ is sacred, to pronounce a formula seven times must be more effective than to pronounce it six or eight times.

Great importance is attached to numbers in the mediæval Jewish mystical system, the Kabbala . There are ten sephiroth or primary emanations from God, one original sephira , and three derivative triads; there are twelve channels of Divine grace; 613 commandments, etc.

8. Gematria , a Hebraized form of the Greek geometria , used to mean ‘reckoning by numbers,’ was a late development of which there are traces in the OT. It consisted in indicating a word by means of the number which would be obtained by adding together the numerical values of the consonants of the word. Thus in   Genesis 14:14 Abraham has 318 ‘trained servants,’ 318 is the sum of the consonants of the name of Abraham’s steward Eliezer in its original Hebrew form. The number is apparently constructed from the name.

The Apocalyptic number of the Beast is often explained by Gematria, and 666 has been discovered to be the sum of the numerical values of the letters of some form or other of a large number of names written either in Hebrew, or Greek, or Latin. Thus the Beast has been identified with hundreds of persons, e.g . Mohammed, Luther, the Pope, Napoleon i., Napoleon iii. etc., each of whom was specially obnoxious to the ingenious identifier. Probably by a little careful manipulation, any name in some form or other, in Hebrew, Greek, or Latin, could be made by Gematria to yield 666. The two favourite explanations are Lateinos = Latinus (the Roman Empire or Emperor), and Nero CÅ“sar . The latter has the special advantage that it accounts not only for 666, but also for the various reading 616 mentioned above; as Neron CÅ“sar it gives 666, and as Nero CÅ“sar , 616.

W. H. Bennett.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [3]

A — 1: Ἀριθμός (Strong'S #706 — Noun Masculine — arithmos — ar-ith-mos' )

number, "a number" (Eng., "arithmetic," etc.), occurs in  Luke 22:3;  John 6:10;  Romans 9:27; elsewhere five times in Acts, ten times in the Apocalypse.

A — 2: Ὄχλος (Strong'S #3793 — Noun Masculine — ochlos — okh'-los )

"a multitude," is translated "number" in  Luke 6:17 , RV (AV, "multitude"); in  Mark 10:46;  Acts 1:15 the renderings are reversed. See Common , Company , Crowd Multitude People.

B — 1: Ἀριθμέω (Strong'S #705 — Verb — arithmeo — ar-ith-meh'-o )

akin to A, is found in  Matthew 10:30;  Luke 12:7;  Revelation 7:9 .

B — 2: Καταριθμέω (Strong'S #2674 — Verb — katgarithmeo — kat-ar-ith-meh'-o )

"to number" or "count among" (kata, and No. 1), is used in  Acts 1:17 .

B — 3: Ἐγκρίνω (Strong'S #1469 — Verb — enkrino — eng-kree'-no )

"to reckon among" (en, "in," krino, "to judge or reckon"), is translated "to number ... (ourselves) with" in  2—Corinthians 10:12 (RV marg., "to judge ourselves among or ... with"), of the Apostle's dissociation of himself and his fellow missionaries from those who commended themselves.

B — 4: Συγκαταψηφίζομαι (Strong'S #4785 — Verb — sunkatapsephizo — soong-kat-aps-ay-fid'-zo )

"to vote or reckon (one) a place among" (sun, "with" or "among," kata, "down," and psephizo, "to count or vote," originally with pebbles, psephos, "a pebble"), is used of the "numbering" of Matthias with the eleven Apostles,  Acts 1:26 .

 Mark 15  1—Timothy 5:9Take Mark 5:13Rv.  Hebrews 7:23 Acts 28:23

Smith's Bible Dictionary [4]

Number. Like most Oriental nations, it is probable that the Hebrews, in their written calculations, made use of the letters of the alphabet. That they did so in post-Babylonian times, we have conclusive evidence in the Maccabaean coins, and it is highly probable, that this was the case also in earlier times. But though, on the one hand, it is certain that in all existing manuscripts of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the numerical expressions are written at length, yet, on the other, the variations in the several versions, between themselves, and from the Hebrew text, added to the evident inconsistencies in numerical statement, between certain passages of that text itself, seems to prove that some shorter mode of writing was originally in vogue, liable to be misunderstood, and, in fact, misunderstood by copyists and translators. These variations appear to have proceeded from the alphabetic method of writing numbers.

There can be little doubt, however, that some at least of the numbers mentioned in Scripture are intended to be representative, rather than determinative. Certain numbers, such as 7, 10, 40, 100, were regarded as giving the idea of completeness. Without entering into St. Augustine's theory of this usage, we may remark that, the notion of representative numbers, in certain cases, is one extremely common among eastern nations, who have a prejudice against counting their possessions accurately; that it enters largely, into many ancient systems of chronology, and that it is found in the philosophical and metaphysical speculations, not only of the Pythagorean and other ancient schools of philosophy, both Greek and Roman, but also in those of the later Jewish writers, of the Gnostics, and also of such Christian writers as St. Augustine himself.

We will proceed to give some instances of numbers used,

(a) representatively, and thus probably by design indefinitely, or,

(b) definitely, but, as we may say, preferentially, that is, because some meaning, (which we do not, in all cases, understand), was attached to them.

Seven as denoting either plurality or completeness, perhaps because seven days completed the week is so frequent, as to make a selection only, of instances necessary, for example, Seven Fold ,  Genesis 4:24; Seven Times , that is, completely,  Leviticus 26:24;  Psalms 12:6; Seven, (That Is, Many), Ways, (28:25 ).

Ten as a preferential number is exemplified, in the Ten Commandments, and the law of tithe.

Seventy , as compounded of 7 X 10, appears frequently, for example, Seventy Fold ,  Genesis 4:24;  Matthew 18:22. Its definite use appears in the offerings of 70 Shekels ,  Numbers 7:13;  Numbers 7:19; ff,; The 70 Elders ,  Numbers 11:16; 70 Years Of Captivity ,  Jeremiah 25:11.

Five appears in the table of punishments, of legal requirements,  Exodus 22:1;  Leviticus 5:16;  Leviticus 22:14;  Leviticus 27:15;  Numbers 5:7;  Numbers 18:16, and in the Five Empires Of Daniel.  Daniel 2:1.

Four is used in reference to the 4 Winds ,  Daniel 7:2, and the so-called 4 Corners Of The Earth ; the creatures, each with 4 Wings and 4 Faces , of Ezekiel,  Ezekiel 1:5; ff.; 4 Rivers Of Paradise ,  Genesis 2:10; 4 Beasts ,  Daniel 7:1 and  Revelation 4:6; the 4 Equal-Sided Temple-Chamber ,  Ezekiel 40:47.

Three was regarded, by both the Jews, and other nations, as a specially complete and mystic number.

Twelve (3X4) appears in the 12 Tribes , the 12 Stones in the high priest's breastplate, the 12 apostles, the 12 Foundation Stones , and the 12 Gates .  Revelation 21:19-21.

Lastly, the mystic number 666 .  Revelation 13:18.

King James Dictionary [5]

NUM'BER, n. Probably the radical sense is to speak, name or tell, as our word tell, in the other dialects, is to number. Number may be allied to name, as the Spaniards use nombre for name, and the French word written with the same letters, is number.

1. The designation of a unit reference to other units, or in reckoning, counting, enumerating as, one is the first number a simple number. 2. An assemblage of two or more units. Two is a number composed of one and one added. Five and three added make the number eight. Number may be applied to any collection or multitude of units or individuals, and therefore is indefinite, unless defined by other words or by figures or signs of definite signification. Hence, 3. More than one many.

Ladies are always of great use to the party they espouse, and never fail to win over numbers.

4. Multitude.

Number itself importeth not much in armies, where the men are of weak courage.

5. In poetry, measure the order and quantity of syllables constituting feet, which render verse musical to the ear. The harmony of verse consists in the proper distribution of the long and short syllables, with suitable pauses. In oratory, a judicious disposition of words, syllables and cadences constitutes a kind of measure resembling poetic numbers. 6. Poetry verse.

I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.

Here the first word numbers may be taken for poetry or verse, and the second for measure.

Yet shoud the Muses bid my numbers roll.

7. In grammar, the difference of termination or form of a word, to express unity or plurality. The termination which denotes one or an individual, is the singular number the termination that denotes two or more individuals or units, constitues the plural number. Hence we say, a noun, an adjective, a pronoun or a verb is in the singular or the plural number. 8. In mathematics, number is variously distinguished. cardinal numbers are those which express the amount of units as Ordinal numbers are those which express order as first, second, third, fourth, &c.

Determinate number, is that referred to a given unit, as a ternary or three an indeterminate number, is referred to unity in general, and called quantity.

Homogeneal numbers, are those referred to the same units those referred to different units are termed heterogeneal.

Whole numbers, are called integers.

A rational number, is one commensurable with unity. A number incommensurable with unity, is termed irrational or surd.

A prime or primitive number, is divisible only by unity as three, five, seven, &c.

A perfect number, is that whose aliquot parts added together, make the whole number, as 28, whose aliquot parts, 14. 7. 4. 2. 1. make the number 28.

An imperfect number, is that whose aliquot parts added together, make more or less than the number. This is abundant or defedtive abundant, as 12, whose aliquot parts, 6. 4. 3. 2. 1. make 16 or defective, as 16 whose aliquot parts, 8. 4. 2. 1. make 15 only.

A square number, is the product of a number multiplied by itself as, 16 is the square number of four.

A cubic number, is the product of a square number by its root as, 27 is the product of the square number 9 by its root 3.

Golden number, the cycle of the moon, or revolution of 19 years, in which time the conjunctions, oppositions and other aspects of the moon are nearly the same as they were on the same days of the month 19 years before.


1. To count to reckon to ascertain the units of any sum, collection or multitude.

If a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.  Genesis 8 .

2. To reckon as one of a collection or multitude.

He was numbered with the transgressors.  Isaiah 53 .

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [6]

A characteristic of languages in general is that they often use numbers in their idioms and figures of speech (cf. English: ‘two or three’, ‘by the dozen’, ‘a thousand times’). So it is with the languages of the Bible ( Genesis 31:7;  Leviticus 26:8;  Amos 1:3;  1 Corinthians 14:19;  Revelation 5:11). Other numbers seem to have been used as round figures, particularly the number forty ( Judges 3:11;  Judges 5:31;  Judges 8:28;  1 Samuel 4:18;  1 Samuel 17:16;  Jonah 3:4;  Acts 1:3;  Acts 7:23;  Acts 7:30;  Acts 7:36).

Modern research has still not discovered the full meaning of words that the ancient Hebrews used in counting and classifying large numbers of people. When more is known, it may help to explain some of the puzzling statistics recorded in the Old Testament (e.g.  1 Kings 20:29-30;  2 Kings 19:35).

In some cases numbers were used symbolically, especially where teaching was given through visions, as in the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah and Revelation. The number seven was a significant number in Hebrew symbolism. Much of the Hebrew social, cultural and religious system was from the beginning based on a unit of seven ( Exodus 20:8-11; see Seven ). The number ten was common. It was a natural unit for counting and helped produce a simple decimal system ( Exodus 18:21;  Exodus 26:1;  Exodus 26:16;  Exodus 27:12;  Exodus 34:28;  Leviticus 5:11;  Leviticus 6:20;  Leviticus 27:32). The number twelve most likely gained its biblical significance from the fact that Israel was built upon twelve tribes ( Exodus 28:21;  Numbers 1:44;  Numbers 7:84-87;  Joshua 4:8;  Matthew 10:1-2;  Revelation 21:12;  Revelation 21:14).

Webster's Dictionary [7]

(1): ( n.) That which is regulated by count; poetic measure, as divisions of time or number of syllables; hence, poetry, verse; - chiefly used in the plural.

(2): ( n.) To give or apply a number or numbers to; to assign the place of in a series by order of number; to designate the place of by a number or numeral; as, to number the houses in a street, or the apartments in a building.

(3): ( n.) To reckon as one of a collection or multitude.

(4): ( n.) To count; to reckon; to ascertain the units of; to enumerate.

(5): ( n.) The state or quality of being numerable or countable.

(6): ( n.) The measure of the relation between quantities or things of the same kind; that abstract species of quantity which is capable of being expressed by figures; numerical value.

(7): ( n.) The distinction of objects, as one, or more than one (in some languages, as one, or two, or more than two), expressed (usually) by a difference in the form of a word; thus, the singular number and the plural number are the names of the forms of a word indicating the objects denoted or referred to by the word as one, or as more than one.

(8): ( n.) To amount; to equal in number; to contain; to consist of; as, the army numbers fifty thousand.

(9): ( n.) Quantity, regarded as made up of an aggregate of separate things.

(10): ( n.) Numerousness; multitude.

(11): ( n.) A numeral; a word or character denoting a number; as, to put a number on a door.

(12): ( n.) A collection of many individuals; a numerous assemblage; a multitude; many.

(13): ( n.) That which admits of being counted or reckoned; a unit, or an aggregate of units; a numerable aggregate or collection of individuals; an assemblage made up of distinct things expressible by figures.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

 Isaiah 65:11 . See Gad 3.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [9]

num´bẽr  :

I. Number And Arithmetic

II. Notation Of Numbers

1. By Words

2. By Signs

3. By Letters

III. Numbers In Old Testament History

IV. Round Numbers

V. Significant Numbers

1. Seven and Its Multiples

(1) Ritual Use of Seven

(2) Historical Use of Seven

(3) Didactic or Literary Use of Seven

(4) Apocalyptic Use of Seven

2. The Number Three

3. The Number Four

4. The Number Ten

5. The Number Twelve

6. Other Significant Numbers

VI. Gematria


I. Number and Arithmetic.

The system of counting followed by the Hebrews and the Semites generally was the decimal system, which seems to have been suggested by the use of the ten fingers. Hebrew had separate words only for the first nine units and for ten and its multiples. Of the sexagesimal system, which seems to have been introduced into Babylonia by the Sumerians and which, through its development there, has influenced the measurement of time and space in the western civilized world even to the present day; there is no direct trace in the Bible, although, as will be shown later, there are some possible echoes. The highest number in the Bible described by a single word  Isaiah 10,000 ( ribbō or ribbō' , muriás ). The Egyptians, on the other hand, had separate words for 100,000,1,000,000,10,000,000. The highest numbers referred to in any way in the Bible are: "a thousand thousand" (  1 Chronicles 22:14;  2 Chronicles 14:9 ); "thousands of thousands" ( Daniel 7:10;  Revelation 5:11 ); "thousands of ten thousands" ( Genesis 24:60 ); "ten thousand times ten thousand" ( Daniel 7:10;  Revelation 5:11 ); and twice that figure ( Revelation 9:16 ). The excessively high numbers met with in some oriental systems (compare Lubbock, The Decimal System, 17 ff) have no parallels in Hebrew. Fractions were not unknown. We find 1/3 ( 2 Samuel 18:2 , etc.); 1/2 ( Exodus 25:10 ,  Exodus 25:17 , etc.); 1/4 ( 1 Samuel 9:8 ); 1/5 ( Genesis 47:24 ); 1/6 ( Ezekiel 46:14 ); 1/10 ( Exodus 16:36 ); 2/10 ( Leviticus 23:13 ); 3/10 ( Leviticus 14:10 ), and 1/100 ( Nehemiah 5:11 ). Three other fractions are less definitely expressed: 2/3 by "a double portion," literally, "a double mouthful" by ( Deuteronomy 21:17;  2 Kings 2:9;  Zechariah 13:8 ); 4/5 by "four parts" ( Genesis 47:24 ), and 9/10 by "nine parts" ( Nehemiah 11:1 ). Only the simplest rules of arithmetic can be illustrated from the Old Testament. There are examples of addition (Gen 5:3-31; Nu 1:20-46); subtraction ( Genesis 18:28 ff); multiplication (  Leviticus 25:8;  Numbers 3:46 ff), and division (  Numbers 31:27 ff). In   Leviticus 25:50 ff is what has been said to imply a kind of rule-of-three sum. The old Babylonians had tables of squares and cubes intended no doubt to facilitate the measurement of land (Sayce, Assyria, Its Princes, Priests, and People, 118; Bezold, Ninive und Babylon, 90, 92); and it can scarcely be doubted that the same need led to similar results among the Israelites, but at present there is no evidence. Old Hebrew arithmetic and mathematics as known to us are of the most elementary kind (Nowack, HA, I, 298).

II. Notation of Numbers.

1. By Words:

No special signs for the expression of numbers in writing can be proved to have been in use among the Hebrews before the exile. The Siloam Inscription, which is probably the oldest specimen of Hebrew writing extant (with the exception of the ostraca of Samaria, and perhaps a seal or two and the obscure Gezer tablet), has the numbers written in full. The words used there for 3,200,1,000 are written as words without any abbreviation. The earlier text of the Moabite Stone which practically illustrates Hebrew usage has the  Numbers 30,40 ,  50,100 ,  200,7,000 written out in the same way.

2. By Signs:

After the exile some of the Jews at any rate employed signs such as were current among the Egyptians, the Arameans, and the Phoenicians - an upright line for 1, two such lines for 2, three for 3, and so on, and special signs for 10,20, 100. It had been conjectured that these or similar signs were known to the Jews, but actual proof was not forthcoming until the discovery of Jewish papyri at Assuan and Elephantine in 1904,1907. In these texts, ranging from 494 to circa 400 BC, the dates are stated, not in words, but in figures of the kind described. We have therefore clear evidence that numerical signs were used by members of a Jewish colony in Upper Egypt in the 5th century BC. Now, as the existence of this colony can be traced before 525 BC, it is probable that they used this method of notation also in the preceding century. Conjecture indeed may go as far as its beginning, for it is known that there were Jews in Pathros, that is Upper Egypt, in the last days of Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 44:1 ,  Jeremiah 44:15 ). Some of the first Jewish settlers in Elephantine may have known the prophet and some of them may have come from Jerusalem, bringing these signs with them. At present, however, that is pure hypothesis.

3. By Letters:

In the notation of the chapters and verses of the Hebrew Bible and in the expression of dates in Hebrew books the consonants of the Hebrew alphabet are employed for figures, i.e. the first ten for 1-10, combinations of these for 11-19, the following eight for 20-90, and the remainder for 100,200, 300,400. The letters of the Greek alphabet were used in the same way. The antiquity of this kind of numerical notation cannot at present be ascertained. It is found on Jewish coins which have been dated in the reign of the Maccabean Simon (143-135 BC), but some scholars refer them to a much later period. All students of the Talmud are familiar with this way of numbering the pages, or rather the leaves, but its use there is no proof of early date. The numerical use of the Greek letters can be abundantly illustrated. It is met with in many Greek papyri, some of them from the 3century Bc ( Hibeh Papyri ,   Numbers 40-43 , etc.); on several coins of Herod the Great, and in some manuscripts of the New Testament, for instance, a papyrus fragment of Mt ( Oxyrhynchus Pap ., 2) where 14 is three times represented by iōta - delta ( ρ Ο2 Ιπ - Δ ) with a line above the letters, and some codices of   Revelation 13:18 where 666 is given by the three letters " chi " " xi " " vau " (or digaroma ). It is possible that two of these methods may have been employed side by side in some cases, as in the Punic Sacrificial Tablet of Marseilles, where (l. 6) 150 is expressed first in words, and then by figures.

III. Numbers in Old Testament History.

Students of the historical books of the Old Testament have long been perplexed by the high numbers which are met with in many passages, for example, the number ascribed to the Israelites at the exodus ( Exodus 12:37;  Numbers 11:21 ), and on two occasions during the sojourn in the wilderness (Nu 1; 26) - more than 600,000 adult males, which means a total of two or three millions; the result of David's census 1,300,000 men ( 2 Samuel 24:9 ) or 1, 570,000 ( 1 Chronicles 21:5 ), and the slaughter of half a million in a battle between Judah and Israel ( 2 Chronicles 13:17 ). There are many other illustrations in the Books of Chronicles and elsewhere. That some of these high figures are incorrect is beyond reasonable doubt, and is not in the least surprising, for there is ample evidence that the numbers in ancient documents were exceptionally liable to corruption. One of the best known instances is the variation of 1, 466 years between the Hebrew text and the Septuagint (text of Codex Vaticanus) as to the interval from the creation of Adam to the birth of Abram. Other striking cases are  1 Samuel 6:19 , where 50, 070 ought probably to be 70 (Josephus, Ant. , VI, i, 4);  2 Samuel 15:7 , where 40 years ought to be 4 years; the confusion of 76 and 276 in the manuscripts of  Acts 27:37 , and of 616 and 666 in those of  Revelation 13:18 . Hebrew manuscripts furnish some instructive variations. One of them, number 109 of Kennicott, reads ( Numbers 1:23 ) 1, 050 for 50,000; 50 for 50,000 ( Numbers 2:6 ), and 100 for 100,000 ( Numbers 2:16 ). It is easy to see how mistakes may have originated in many cases. The Hebrew numerals for 30, etc., are the plurals of the units, so that the former, as written, differ from the latter only by the addition of the two Hebrew letters yōdh י and mēm מ composing the syllable - ı̄m . Now as the mēm was often omitted, 3 and 30, 4 and 40, etc., could readily be confused. If signs or letters of the alphabet were made use of, instead of abbreviated words, there would be quite as much room for misunderstanding and error on the part of copyists. The high numbers above referred to as found in Ex and Nu have been ingeniously accounted for by Professor Flinders Petrie (Researches in Sinai) in a wholly different way. By understanding 'eleph not as "thousand," but as "family" or "tent," he reduces the number to 5, 550 for the first census, and 5, 730 for the second. This figure, however, seems too low, and the method of interpretation, though not impossible, is open to criticism. It is generally admitted that the number as usually read is too high, but the original number has not yet been certainly discovered. When, however, full allowance has been made for the intrusion of numerical errors into the Hebrew text, it is difficult to resist the belief that, in the Books of Chronicles, at any rate, there is a marked tendency to exaggeration in this respect. The huge armies again and again ascribed to the little kingdoms of Judah and Israel cannot be reconciled with some of the facts revealed by recent research; with the following, for instance: The army which met the Assyrians at Karkar in 854 Bc and which represented 11 states and tribes inclusive of Israel and the kingdom of Damascus, cannot have numbered at the most more than about 75,000 or 80,000 men ( HDB , 1909, 65b), and the Assyrian king who reports the battle reckons the whole levy of his country at only 102,000 (Der alte Orient, XI, i, 14, note). In view of these figures it is not conceivable that the armies of Israel or Judah could number a million, or even half a million. The contingent from the larger kingdom contributed on the occasion mentioned above consisted of only 10,000 men and 2,000 chariots ( HDB , ib). The safest conclusion, therefore, seems to be that, while many of the questionable numbers in the present text of the Old Testament are due to copyists, there is a residuum which cannot be so accounted for.

IV. Round Numbers.

The use of definite numerical expressions in an indefinite sense, that is, as round numbers, which is met with in many languages, seems to have been very prevalent in Western Asia from early times to the present day. Sir W. Ramsay (Thousand and One Churches, 6) remarks that the modern Turks have 4 typical numbers which are often used in proper names with little or no reference to their exact numerical force - 3,7, 40,1, 001. The Lycaonian district which gives the book its name is called Bin Bir Kilisse, "The Thousand and One Churches," although the actual number in the valley is only 28. The modern Persians use 40 in just the same way. "Forty years" with them often means "many years" (Brugsch, cited by Konig, Stilistik, 55). This lax use of numbers, as we think, was probably very frequent among the Israelites and their neighbors. The inscription on the Moabite Stone supplies a very instructive example. The Israelite occupation of Medeba by Omri and his son for half the reign of the latter is there reckoned (II.7 f) at 40 years. As, according to  1 Kings 16:23 ,  1 Kings 16:29 , the period extended to only 23 years at the most, the number 40 must have been used very freely by Mesha's scribe as a round number. It is probably often used in that way in the Bible where it is remarkably frequent, especially in reference to periods of days or years. The 40 days of the Flood ( Genesis 7:4 ,  Genesis 7:17 ), the arrangement of the life of Moses in three periods of 40 years each ( Acts 7:23;  Exodus 7:7;  Deuteronomy 34:7 ), the 40 years' rule or reign of Eli ( 1 Samuel 4:18 ), of Saul ( Acts 13:21; compare Josephus, Ant. , VI, xiv, 9), of David ( 1 Kings 2:11 ), of Solomon ( 1 Kings 11:42 ) and of Jehoash ( 2 Kings 12:1 ), the 40 or 80 years of rest ( Judges 3:11 ,  Judges 3:30;  Judges 5:31;  Judges 8:28 ), the 40 years of Philistine oppression ( Judges 13:1 ), the 40 days' challenge of Goliath ( 1 Samuel 17:16 ), the 40 days' fast of Moses ( Exodus 34:28 ), Elijah ( 1 Kings 19:8 ), and Jesus ( Matthew 4:2 and parallel), the 40 days before the destruction of Nineveh (  Jonah 3:4 ), and the 40 days before the Ascension ( Acts 1:3 ), all suggest conventional use, or the influence of that use, for it can hardly be supposed that the number in each of these cases, and in others which might be mentioned, was exactly 40. How it came to be so used is not quite certain, but it may have originated, partly at any rate, in the idea that 40 years constituted a generation or the period at the end of which a man attains maturity, an idea common, it would seem, to the Greeks, the Israelites, and the Arabs. The period of 40 years in the wilderness in the course of which the old Israel died out and a new Israel took its place was a generation ( Numbers 32:13 , etc.). The rabbis long afterward regarded 40 years as the age of understanding, the age when a man reaches his intellectual prime (Ab, v, addendum). In the Koran (Sura 46) a man is said to attain his strength when he attains to 40 years, and it was at that age, according to tradition, that Muhammad came forward as a prophet. In this way perhaps 40 came to be used as a round number for an indefinite period with a suggestion of completeness, and then was extended in course of time to things as well as Seasons.

Other round numbers are: (1) some of the higher numbers; (2) several numerical phrases. Under (1) come the following numbers. One hundred, often of course to be understood literally, but evidently a round number in  Genesis 26:12;  Leviticus 26:8;  2 Samuel 24:3;  Ecclesiastes 8:12;  Matthew 19:29 and parallel. A thousand (thousands), very often a literal number, but in not a few cases indefinite, e.g.   Exodus 20:6 parallel   Deuteronomy 5:10;  Deuteronomy 7:9;  1 Samuel 18:7;  Psalm 50:10;  Psalm 90:4;  Psalm 105:8;  Isaiah 60:22 , etc. Ten thousand (Hebrew ribbō , ribbōth , rebhābhāh  ; Greek muriás , múrioi ) is also used as a round number as in  Leviticus 26:8;  Deuteronomy 32:30;  Song of Solomon 5:10;  Micah 6:7 . The yet higher figures, thousands of thousands, etc., are, in almost all cases, distinctly hyperbolical round numbers, the most remarkable examples occurring in the apocalyptic books ( Daniel 7:10;  Revelation 5:11;  Revelation 9:16; Ethiopic Enoch 40:1). (2) The second group, numerical phrases, consists of a number of expressions in which numbers are used roundly, in some cases to express the idea of fewness. One or two, etc.: "a day or two" ( Exodus 21:21 ), "an heap, two heaps" ( Judges 15:16 the Revised Version margin), "one of a city, and two of a family" (  Jeremiah 3:14 ), "not once, nor twice," that is "several times" ( 2 Kings 6:10 ). Two or three: "Two or three berries in the (topmost) bough" ( Isaiah 17:6; compare  Hosea 6:2 ), "Where two or three are gathered together in my name," etc. ( Matthew 18:20 ). Konig refers to Assyrian, Syrian, and Arabic parallels. Three or four: the most noteworthy example is the formula which occurs 8 times in  Amos 1:3 ,  Amos 1:6 ,  Amos 1:9 ,  Amos 1:11 ,  Amos 1:13;  Amos 2:1 ,  Amos 2:4 ,  Amos 2:6 , "for three transgressions ... yea for four." That the numbers here are round numbers is evident from the fact that the sins enumerated are in most cases neither 3 nor 4. In  Proverbs 30:15 ,  Proverbs 30:18 ,  Proverbs 30:21 ,  Proverbs 30:29 , on the other hand, where we have the same rhetorical device, climax ad majus, 4 is followed by four statements and is therefore to be taken literally. Again, Konig (same place) points to classical and Arabic parallels. Four or five: "Four or five in the outmost branches of a fruitful tree" ( Isaiah 17:6 ). Five or six: "Thou shouldest have smitten (Syria) five or six times" ( 2 Kings 13:19 ), an idiom met with also in Tell el-Amarna Letters (Konig, ib). Six and seven: "He will deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee" ( Job 5:19 ). Seven and eight: "Seven shepherds, and eight principal men" ( Micah 5:5 ), that is, "enough and more than enough" (Cheyne); "Give a portion to seven, yea, even unto eight" ( Ecclesiastes 11:2 ). In one remarkable phrase which occurs (with slight variations of form) 24 times in the Old Testament, two Hebrew words, meaning respectively "yesterday" and "third," are mostly used so as together to express the idea of vague reference to the past. the Revised Version (British and American) renders in a variety of ways: "beforetime" ( Genesis 31:2 , etc.), "aforetime" ( Joshua 4:18 ), "heretofore" ( Exodus 4:10 , etc.), "in time (or "times") past" ( Deuteronomy 19:4 ,  Deuteronomy 19:6;  2 Samuel 3:17 , etc.).

V. Significant Numbers.

Numerical symbolism, that is, the use of numbers not merely, if at all, with their literal numerical value, or as round numbers, but with symbolic significance, sacred or otherwise, was widespread in the ancient East, especially in Babylonia and regions more or less influenced by Babylonian culture which, to a certain extent, included Canaan. It must also be remembered that the ancestors of the Israelites are said to have been of Babylonian origin and may therefore have transmitted to their descendants the germs at least of numerical symbolism as developed in Babylonia in the age of Hammurabi. Be that as it may, the presence of this use of numbers in the Bible, and that on a large scale, cannot reasonably be doubted, although some writers have gone too far in their speculations on the subject. The numbers which are unmistakably used with more or less symbolic meaning are 7 and its multiples, and 3,4, 10,12.

1. Seven and Its Multiples:

By far the most prominent of these is the number 7, which is referred to in one way or another in nearly 600 passages in the Bible, as well as in many passages in the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha, and later Jewish literature. Of course the number has its usual numerical force in many of these places, but even there not seldom with a glance at its symbolic significance. For the determination of the latter we are not assigned to conjecture. There is clear evidence in the cuneiform texts, which are our earliest authorities, that the Babylonians regarded 7 as the number of totality, of completeness. The Sumerians, from whom the Semitic Babylonians seem to have borrowed the idea, equated 7 and "all." The 7-storied towers of Babylonia represented the universe. Seven was the expression of the highest power, the greatest conceivable fullness of force, and therefore was early pressed into the service of religion. It is found in reference to ritual in the age of Gudea, that is perhaps about the middle of the 3millennium BC. "Seven gods" at the end of an enumeration meant "all the gods" (for these facts and the cuneiform evidence compare Hehn, Siebenzahl und Sabbath bei den Babyloniern und im Altes Testament, 4 ff). How 7 came to be used in this way can only be glanced at here. The view connecting it with the gods of the 7 planets, which used to be in great favor and still has its advocates, seems to lack ancient proof. Hehn (op. cit., 44 ff) has shown that the number acquired its symbolic meaning long before the earliest time for which that reference can be demonstrated. As this sacred or symbolic use of 7 was not peculiar to the Babylonians and their teachers and neighbors, but was more or less known also in India and China, in classical lands, and among the Celts and the Germans, it probably originated in some fact of common observation, perhaps in the four lunar phases each of which comprises 7 days and a fraction. Conspicuous groups of stars may have helped to deepen the impression, and the fact that 7 is made up of two significant numbers, each, as will be shown, also suggestive of completeness - 3,4 - may have been early noticed and taken into account. The Biblical use of 7 may be conveniently considered under 4 heads: (1) ritual use; (2) historical use; (3) didactic or literary use; (4) apocalyptic use.

(1) Ritual Use of Seven.

The number 7 plays a conspicuous part in a multitude of passages giving rules for worship or purification, or recording ritual actions. The 7th day of the week was holy (see Sabbath ). There were 7 days of unleavened bread ( Exodus 34:18 , etc.), and 7 days of the Feast of Tabernacles ( Leviticus 23:34 ). The 7th year was the sabbatical year ( Exodus 21:2 , etc.). The Moabite Balak built Balaam on three occasions 7 altars and provided in each case 7 bullocks and 7 rams ( Numbers 23:1 ,  Numbers 23:14 ,  Numbers 23:29 ). The Mosaic law prescribed 7 he-lambs for several festal offerings ( Numbers 28:11 ,  Numbers 28:19 ,  Numbers 28:27 , etc.). The 7-fold sprinkling of blood is enjoined in the ritual of the Day of Atonement ( Leviticus 16:14 ,  Leviticus 16:19 ), and elsewhere. Seven-fold sprinkling is also repeatedly mentioned in the rules for the purification of the leper and the leprous house ( Leviticus 14:7 ,  Leviticus 14:16 ,  Leviticus 14:27 ,  Leviticus 14:51 ). The leprous Naaman was ordered to bathe 7 times in the Jordan ( 2 Kings 5:10 ). In cases of real or suspected uncleanness through leprosy, or the presence of a corpse, or for other reasons, 7 days' seclusion was necessary ( Leviticus 12:2 , etc.). Circumcision took place after 7 days ( Leviticus 12:3 ). An animal must be 7 days old before it could be offered in sacrifice ( Exodus 22:30 ). Three periods of 7 days each are mentioned in the rules for the consecration of priests ( Exodus 29:30 ,  Exodus 29:35 ,  Exodus 29:37 ). An oath seems to have been in the first instance by 7 holy things ( Genesis 21:29 ff and the Hebrew word for "swear"). The number 7 also entered into the structure of sacred objects, for instance the candlestick or lamp-stand in the tabernacle and the second temple each of which had 7 lights (  Numbers 8:2;  Zechariah 4:2 ). Many other instances of the ritual use of 7 in the Old Testament and many instructive parallels from Babylonian texts could be given.

(2) Historical Use of Seven.

The number 7 also figures prominently in a large number of passages which occur in historical narrative, in a way which reminds us of its symbolic significance. The following are some of the most remarkable: Jacob's 7 years' service for Rachel ( Genesis 29:20; compare  Genesis 29:27 f), and his bowing down 7 times to Esau (  Genesis 33:3 ); the 7 years of plenty, and the 7 years of famine ( Genesis 41:53 f); Samson's 7 days' marriage feast (  Judges 14:12 ff; compare   Genesis 29:27 ), 7 locks of hair ( Judges 16:19 ), and the 7 withes with which he was bound ( Judges 16:7 f); the 7 daughters of Jethro (  Exodus 2:16 ), the 7 sons of Jesse ( 1 Samuel 16:10 ), the 7 sons of Saul ( 2 Samuel 21:6 ), and the 7 sons of Job ( Job 1:2; compare  Job 42:13 ); the 7 days' march of the 7 priests blowing 7 trumpets round the walls of Jericho, and the 7-fold march on the 7th day ( Joshua 6:8 ff); the 7 ascents of Elijah's servant to the top of Carmel (  1 Kings 18:43 f); the 7 sneezes of the Shunammitish woman's son (  2 Kings 4:35 ); the heating of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace 7 times more than it was wont to be heated ( Daniel 8:19 ), and the king's madness for 7 times or years ( Daniel 4:16 ,  Daniel 4:23 ,  Daniel 4:25 ,  Daniel 4:32 ); Anna's 7 years of wedded life ( Luke 2:36 ); the 7 loaves of the 4,000 ( Matthew 15:34-36 parallel) and the 7 baskets full of fragments (  Matthew 15:37 parallel); the 7 brothers in the conundrum of the Sadducees (  Matthew 22:25 parallel); the 7 demons cast out of Mary Magdalene (  Mark 16:9 parallel   Luke 8:2 ); the 7 ministers in the church at Jerusalem ( Acts 6:3 ff), and the 7 sons of Sceva (  Acts 19:14 , but the Western text represents them as only 2). The number must no doubt be understood literally in many of these passages, but even then its symbolic meaning is probably hinted at by the historian. When a man was said to have had 7 sons or daughters, or an action was reported as done or to be done 7 times, whether by design or accident, the number was noted, and its symbolic force remembered. It cannot indeed be regarded in all these cases as a sacred number, but its association with sacred matters which was kept alive among the Jews by the institution of the Sabbath, was seldom, if ever, entirely overlooked.

(3) Didactic or Literary Use of Seven.

The symbolic use of 7 naturally led to its employment by poets and teachers for the vivid expression of multitude or intensity. This use is sometimes evident, and sometimes latent. (a) Evident examples are the 7-fold curse predicted for the murderer of Cain ( Genesis 4:15 ); fleeing 7 ways ( Deuteronomy 28:7 ,  Deuteronomy 28:25 ); deliverance from 7 troubles ( Job 5:19 ); praise of God 7 times a day ( Psalm 119:164 ); 7 abominations ( Proverbs 26:25; compare  Proverbs 6:16 ); silver purified 7 times, that is, thoroughly purified ( Psalm 12:6 ); 7-fold sin; 7-fold repentance, and 7-fold forgiveness ( Luke 17:4; compare  Matthew 18:21 ); 7 evil spirits ( Matthew 12:45 parallel   Luke 11:26 ). The last of these, as well as the previous reference to the 7 demons cast out of Mary Magdalene reminds us of the 7 spirits of Beliar (Testament to the Twelve Patriarchs, Reuben  Job 2:1-13 and 3) and of the 7 evil spirits so often referred to in Babylonian exorcisms (compare Hehn, op. cit., 26 ff), but it is not safe to connect our Lord's words with either. The Babylonian belief may indeed have influenced popular ideas to some extent, but there is no need to find a trace of it in the Gospels. The 7 demons of the latter are sufficiently accounted for by the common symbolic use of 7. For other passages which come under this head compare   Deuteronomy 28:7 ,  Deuteronomy 28:25; Rth 4:15;  1 Samuel 2:5;  Psalm 79:12 . (b) Examples of latent use of the number 7, of what Zockler (RE3, "Sieben") calls "latent heptads," are not infrequent. The 7-fold use of the expression "the voice of Yahweh " in  Psalm 29:1-11 , which has caused it to be named "The Psalm of the Seven Thunders," and the 7 epithets of the Divine Spirit in  Isaiah 11:2 , cannot be accidental. In both cases the number is intended to point at full-summed completeness. In the New Testament we have the 7 beatitudes of character ( Matthew 5:3-9 ); the 7 petitions of the Paternoster ( Matthew 6:9 f); the 7 parables of the Kingdom in Mt 13; the 7 woes pronounced on the Pharisees (  Matthew 28:13 ,  Matthew 28:15 ,  Matthew 28:16 , 23, 25, 27, 29), perhaps the 7 sayings of Jesus, beginning with "I am" ( egṓ eimi ) in the Fourth Gospel ( John 6:35;  John 8:12;  John 10:7 ,  John 10:11;  John 11:25;  John 14:6;  John 15:1 ), and the 7 disciples at the Lake after the Resurrection ( John 21:2 ). Several groups of 7 are found in the Epistles and in Revelation: 7 forms of suffering ( Romans 8:35 ); 7 gifts or charismata ( Romans 12:6-9 ); 7 attributes of the wisdom that is from above ( James 3:17 ); 7 graces to be added to faith ( 2 Peter 1:5 ff); two doxologies each containing 7 words of praise (  Revelation 5:12;  Revelation 7:12 ), and 7 classes of men ( Revelation 6:15 ). Other supposed instances of 7-fold grouping in the Fourth Gospel are pointed out by E.A. Abbott (Johannine Grammar, 2624 ff), but are of uncertain value.

(4) Apocalyptic Use of Seven.

As might be expected, 7 figures greatly in apocalyptic literature, although it is singularly absent from the apocalyptic portion of Daniel. Later works of this kind, however - the writings bearing the name of Enoch, the Testaments of Reuben and Levi, 2 Esd, etc. - supply many illustrations. The doctrine of the 7 heavens which is developed in the Slavonic Enoch and elsewhere and may have been in the first instance of Babylonian origin is not directly alluded to in the Bible, but probably underlies the apostle's reference to the third heaven ( 2 Corinthians 12:2 ). In the one apocalyptic writing in the New Testament, 7 is employed with amazing frequency. We read of 7 churches ( Revelation 1:4 , etc.); 7 golden candlesticks ( Revelation 1:12 , etc.); 7 stars ( Revelation 1:16 ); 7 angels of the churches ( Revelation 1:20 ); 7 lamps of fire ( Revelation 4:5 ); 7 spirits of God ( Revelation 1:4;  Revelation 3:1;  Revelation 4:5 ); a book with 7 seals ( Revelation 5:1 ); a lamb with 7 horns and 7 eyes ( Revelation 5:6 ); 7 angels with 7 trumpets ( Revelation 8:2 ); 7 thunders ( Revelation 10:3 ); a dragon with 7 heads and 7 diadems ( Revelation 13:3 ); a beast with 7 heads ( Revelation 18:1 ); 7 angels having the 7 last plagues ( Revelation 15:1 ); and 7 golden bowls of the wrath of God ( Revelation 15:7 ) and a scarlet-colored beast with 7 heads ( Revelation 17:3 ) which are 7 mountains ( Revelation 17:9 ) and 7 kings ( Revelation 17:10 ). The writer, whoever he was, must have had his imagination saturated with the numerical symbolism which had been cultivated in Western Asia for millenniums. There cannot be a shadow of doubt that 7 for him expressed fullness, completeness. As this inquiry will have shown, the significance of the number is practically the same throughout the Bible. Although a little of it may have been rubbed off in the course of ages, the main idea suggested by 7 was never quite lost sight of in Biblical times, and the number is still used in the life and song of the Holy Land and Arabia with at least an echo of its ancient meaning.

The significance of 7 extends to its multiples. Fourteen, or twice 7, is possibly symbolic in some cases. The stress laid in the Old Testament on the 14th of the month as the day of the Passover ( Exodus 12:6 and   Exodus 12:16 other places), and the regulation that 14 lambs were to be offered on each of the 7 days of the Feast of Tabernacles (  Numbers 29:13 ,  Numbers 29:15 ) hint at design in the selection of the number, especially in view of the fact that 7 and 7 occur repeatedly in cuneiform literature - in magical and liturgical texts, and in the formula so often used in the Am Tab: "7 and 7 times at the feet of the king my lord ... I prostrate myself." The arrangement of the generations from Abraham to Christ in three groups of 14 each ( Matthew 1:17 ) is probably intentional, so far as the number in each group is concerned. It is doubtful whether the number has any symbolic force in  Acts 27:27;  2 Corinthians 12:2;  Galatians 2:1 . Of course it must be remembered that both the Hebrew and Greek words for 14 ( 'arbā‛āh ‛āsār  ; dekatéssares ) suggest that it is made up of 10 and 4, but constant use of 7 in the sense above defined will have influenced the application of its double, at least in some cases.

Forty-nine, or 7 10 7, occurs in two regulations of the Law. The second of the three great festivals took place on the 50th day after one of the days of unleavened bread ( Leviticus 23:15 ff), that is, after an interval of 7 X 7 days; and two years of Jubilee were separated by 7 X 7 years (  Leviticus 25:8 ff). The combination is met with also in one of the so-called Penitential Psalms of Babylonia: "Although my sins are 7 times 7, forgive me my sins."

Seven multiplied by ten, or 70, was a very strong expression of multitude which is met with in a large number of passages in the Old Testament. It occurs of persons: the 70 descendants of Jacob ( Exodus 15;  Deuteronomy 10:22 ); the 70 elders of Israel ( Exodus 24:1 ,  Exodus 24:9;  Numbers 11:16 ,  Numbers 11:24 f); the 70 kings ill treated by Adoni-bezek (  Judges 1:7 ); the 70 sons of Gideon ( Judges 8:30;  Judges 9:2 ); the 70 descendants of Abdon who rode on 70 asscolts ( Judges 12:14 ); the 70 sons of Ahab ( 2 Kings 10:1 ,  2 Kings 10:6 f); and the 70 idolatrous elders seen by Ezekiel (  Ezekiel 8:11 ). It is also used of periods: 70 days of Egyptian mourning for Jacob ( Genesis 50:3 ); 70 years of trial ( Isaiah 23:15 ,  Isaiah 23:17;  Jeremiah 25:11 f;   Daniel 9:2;  Zechariah 1:12;  Zechariah 7:5 ); the 70 weeks of Daniel ( Daniel 9:24 ); and the 70 years of human life ( Psalm 90:10 ). Other noticeable uses of 70 are the 70 palm trees of Elim ( Exodus 15:27 parallel   Numbers 33:9 ); the offering of 70 bullocks in the time of Hezekiah ( 2 Chronicles 29:32 ), and the offering by the heads of the tribes of 12 silver bowls each of 70 shekels ( Numbers 7:13 ff). In the New Testament we have the 70 apostles (  Luke 10:1 ,  Luke 10:17 ), but the number is uncertain with Codices Vaticanus and Bezae and some versions reading 72, which is the product, not of 7 and 10, but of 6 and 12. Significant seventies are also met with outside of the Bible. The most noteworthy are the Jewish belief that there were 70 nations outside Israel, with 70 languages, under the care of 70 angels, based perhaps on the list in Gen 10; the Sanhedrin of about 70 members; the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek by Septuagint (more exactly 72), and the 70 members of a family in one of the Aramaic texts of Sendschirli. This abundant use of 70 must have been largely due to the fact that it was regarded as an intensified 7.

Seventy and seven , or 77, a combination found in the words of Lamech (  Genesis 4:24 ); the number of the princes and elders of Succoth ( Judges 8:14 ); and the number of lambs in a memorable sacrifice ( Ezra 8:35 ), would appeal in the same way to the oriental fancy.

The product of seven and seventy (Greek hebdomēkontákis heptá ) is met with once in the New Testament (  Matthew 18:22 ), and in the Septuagint of the above-quoted  Genesis 4:24 . Moulton, however ( Grammar of Greek New Testament Prolegomena , 98), renders in both passages 70 plus 7; contra, Allen, "Mt," ICC , 199. The number is clearly a forceful equivalent of "always."

Seven thousand in   1 Kings 19:18 parallel   Romans 11:4 may be a round number chosen on account of its embodiment of the number 7. In the Moabite Stone the number of Israelites slain at the capture of the city of Nebo by the Moabites is reckoned at 7,000.

The half of seven seems sometimes to have been regarded as significant. In   Daniel 7:25;  Daniel 9:27;  Daniel 12:7;  Luke 4:25 parallel   Luke 5:17;  Revelation 11:2;  Revelation 13:5 a period of distress is calculated at 3 1/2 years, that is, half the period of sacred completeness.

2. The Number Three:

The number three seems early to have attracted attention as the number in which beginning, middle and end are most distinctly marked, and to have been therefore regarded as symbolic of a complete and ordered whole. Abundant illustration of its use in this way in Babylonian theology, ritual and magic is given from the cuneiform texts by Hehn (op. cit., 63 ff), and the hundreds of passages in the Bible in which the number occurs include many where this special significance either lies on the surface or not far beneath it. This is owing in some degree perhaps to Babylonian influence, but will have been largely due to independent observation of common phenomena - the arithmetical fact mentioned above and familiar trios, such as heaven, earth, and sea (or "the abyss"); morning, noon and night; right, middle, and left, etc. In other words, 3 readily suggested completeness, and was often used with a glance at that meaning in daily life and daily speech. Only a selection from the great mass of Biblical examples can be given here. (1) Three is often found of persons and things sacred or secular, e.g. Noah's 3 sons (  Genesis 6:10 ); Job's 3 daughters ( Job 1:2;  Job 42:13 ) and 3 friends ( Job 2:11 ); Abraham's 3 guests ( Genesis 18:2 ); and Sarah's 3 measures of meal ( Genesis 18:6; compare  Matthew 13:33 parallel); 3 in military tactics (  Judges 7:16 ,  Judges 7:20;  Judges 9:43;  1 Samuel 11:11;  1 Samuel 13:17;  Job 1:17 ); 3 great feasts ( Exodus 23:14 ); the 3 daily prayers ( Psalm 55:17;  Daniel 6:10 ,  Daniel 6:13 ); the 3 night watches ( Judges 7:19 ); God's 3-fold call of Samuel ( 1 Samuel 3:8 ); the 3 keepers of the temple threshold ( Jeremiah 52:24 ); the 3 presidents appointed by Darius ( Daniel 6:2 ); the 3 temptations ( Matthew 4:3 ,  Matthew 4:5 f, 8 f parallel); the 3 prayers in Gethsemane (  Matthew 26:39 ,  Matthew 26:42 ,  Matthew 26:44 parallel); Peter's 3 denials (  Matthew 26:34 ,  Matthew 26:75 parallel); the Lord's 3-fold question and 3-fold charge (  John 21:15 ff); and the 3-fold vision of the sheet (  Acts 10:16 ). (2) In a very large number of passages 3 is used of periods of time: 3 days; 3 weeks; 3 months and 3 years. So in  Genesis 40:12 ,  Genesis 40:13 ,  Genesis 40:18;  Exodus 2:2;  Exodus 10:22 f;   2 Samuel 24:13;  Isaiah 20:3;  Jonah 1:17;  Matthew 15:32;  Luke 2:46;  Luke 13:7;  Acts 9:9;  2 Corinthians 12:8 . The frequent reference to the resurrection "on the 3rd day" or "after 3 days" ( Matthew 16:21;  Matthew 27:63 , etc.) may at the same time have glanced at the symbolic use of the number and at the belief common perhaps to the Jews and the Zôr oastrians that a corpse was not recognizable after 3 days (for Jewish testimony compare  John 11:39; Yebhāmōth xvi. 3; Midrash, Genesis , chapter c; Semāḥōth viii; for Persian ideas compare The Expository Times , Xviii , 536). (3) The number 3 is also used in a literary way, sometimes appearing only in the structure. Note as examples the 3-fold benediction of Israel ( Numbers 6:24 ff); the Thrice Holy of the seraphim (  Isaiah 6:3 ); the 3-fold overturn ( Ezekiel 21:27 (Hebrew 32)); the

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

is the rendering in the A. V. of several Hebrew words, but especially of מָנָה and סָפִר ; Gr. Ἀριθμός

1. Mode Of Expressing Numbers. We know very little of the arithmetic of the Hebrews, save that their trades and public service required some skill at least in numeration ( Leviticus 25:27;  Leviticus 25:50;  Matthew 18:23 sq.), and that large sums are sometimes mentioned which could only be obtained by addition and subtraction. Indeed, they seem to have been somewhat versed even in fractions (Gesenius, Lehrgeb. p. 704). After the captivity the Jews used letters to express numbers, as on the socalled "Samaritan coins" (Eckhel, Doctr. Numbers vol. i, c. iii, p. 468; Gesenius, Lehrgeb. p. 24 sq.); and they had probably done so in earlier ages, since the Greeks, who received their alphabet from the Phoenicians, always practiced the same method (Faber, Progr. Literas alim pro. vocib. in num. a script. V. T. Esse Adhibitas [Onoldi. 1775]). Yet it has been thought that the Hebrews sometimes used distinct characters for numbers, .as such are actually found on Phoenician coins (Swinton, in the Philosoph. Tranis. 1, 791 sq.) and in the Palmyrene inscriptions (ibid. 48:11, p. 721, 728 sq., 741; Gesenius, Monument. Photn. p. 85 sq.; Hoffmann, Gramm. Syr. p. 83; comp. Des Vignoles, Chron. de l'Histoire Sainte, vol. i, § 29; Wahl, Gesch. d. Morg. Sprachen, p. 537; Movers, Chron. p. 54, 61). But the analogies adduced do not prove the use of such characters before the captivity; the letters of the alphabet served the purpose sufficiently well; and the instance of the Greeks is an indirect proof that the Phoenicians had at first no figures. It is by this use of letters to express numbers, and by the interchange in copying of one with another (as ג , ז , and ו , etc.), that we can best explain some of the too vast numbers in the earliest books of Scripture, as well as the discrepancies in some of the statements (Cappelli, Crit. Sacra, 1:102 sq., ed. Vogel); for instance, in the length of the threatened famine ( 2 Samuel 24:13, and  1 Chronicles 21:12), and in the age of Ahaziah at his accession ( 2 Chronicles 22:2. And  2 Kings 8:26). Yet great prudence is requisite in applying this principle to details. (See Eichhorn, Einl. ins. A. T. 1:289 sq.; Gesenius, Gesch. d. Heb. Spr. p. 174 sq.; Movers, ut sup. p. 60 sq.) Nor is it always easy to explain even thus the great number of people given in some of the enumerations without supposing a tendency to exaggeration in some copyist. It is not necessary, however, to suppose any error in the 600,000 men who went out of Egypt ( Exodus 12:37), or the 603,550 who were numbered before Sinai ( Exodus 30:12). But the statement that there were 1,300,000 fighting men in Israel and Judah in the time of David ( 2 Samuel 24:9) seems very strange. This would require at the least a population of four millions in Palestine, or more than ten thousand to each square mile. Of the same nature are the 1,160,000 men in the army of Jehoshaphat ( 2 Chronicles 17:14), besides the garrisons in walled cities. In these and a few other instances we must suppose a corruption of the letters representing the numbers, such as often occurred in the early Roman history (Movers, Chron. p. 269; comp. Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, 2:78, 2d ed.). See Macdougal, Numbers of the Bible (Lond. 1840).

2. Sacred Numbers. The frequent and significant use of certain numbers in the Scriptures demands notice. See Bahr, Symbol. 1:128 sq.; Kurtz, in the Studien U. Krit. (1844), p. 315 sq.; and on the symbolical use of Biblical numbers, see ibid. 1842; 2:80 sq.; Jahrb. fur deutsche Theologie (1864), vol. 2.

First, the number seven, which was also considered holy by other ancient nations; as by the Persians, the Hindus (Bohlen, Ind. 2:247), and the early Germans (Grirmm Deutsche Rechtsalterth. p. 213 sq.). Among the Hebrews every seventh day was hallowed to the Lord, every seventh year, after the time of Moses, was accounted a Sabbath, and the seventh new moon of the year was celebrated with peculiar solemnities. Between the great feasts of the Passover' and Pentecost seven weeks intervened; the Passover itself lasted seven days, and on each day a sacrifice of seven lambs was offered. The feast of Tabernacles and the great day of Atonement also occurred in the seventh month, and the former occupied seven days. Seven days was the legal time required for many Levitical purifications, as well as for the consecration of priests. The blood of the most important sin-offerings was sprinkled seven times. Seven days was the usual time for mourning the dead, or for wedding festivities. The Jewish doctrine of later times numbered seven archangels (as the Zendavesta has seven amshaspands). In the oldest books the number seven is continually made prominent. (See  Genesis 7:2 sq.;  Genesis 8:10;  Genesis 8:12;  Genesis 29:27;  Genesis 29:30;  Genesis 23:3;  Genesis 41:2 sq.;  Exodus 7:22;  Numbers 23:1;  Joshua 6:4;  Joshua 6:6;  Joshua 6:8;  Joshua 6:13;  Joshua 6:15;  Judges 16:8;  Judges 16:13;  Judges 16:19;  1 Samuel 10:8;  1 Samuel 11:3;  1 Samuel 13:8;  1 Kings 8:65;  1 Kings 18:43;  2 Kings 5:10;  2 Kings 5:14. On the Samaritan reckoning of seven covenants between God and his people, see Gesenius, Carm. Samar. p. 47.) The same number is frequent in the prophetic symbols ( Ezekiel 39:9;  Ezekiel 39:12;  Ezekiel 39:14;  Ezekiel 40:22;  Ezekiel 40:26;  Ezekiel 43:25 sq.;  Ezekiel 44:26;  Ezekiel 45:21;  Ezekiel 45:23;  Ezekiel 45:25;  Zechariah 3:9;  Zechariah 4:2;  Zechariah 4:10). The seventy weeks of Daniel ( Daniel 9:24 sq.) are well known (comp.  Daniel 4:20;  Daniel 4:22). The number seven is also frequent in the apocryphal books of Esdras, as well as in the New Testament (comp.  Matthew 15:34;  Matthew 15:36 sq.;  Acts 6:3;  Acts 21:8;  Revelation 1:4;  Revelation 1:12 sq.;  Revelation 8:2-6;  Revelation 10:3 sq.;  Revelation 11:13;  Revelation 12:3;  Revelation 13:1;  Revelation 15:1;  Revelation 15:6 sq.;  Revelation 16:1;  Revelation 17:1;  Revelation 17:3;  Revelation 17:7;  Revelation 17:9;  Revelation 17:11;  Revelation 21:9). The frequent use of the number seventy is of a kindred nature. The Israelites who went down into Egypt, the years of the captivity, the elders chosen by Moses to assist in judicial duties, were each seventy in number'; and at a later period there were reckoned seventy nations and as many languages on, earth (see, Bohlen, Genesis, p. 77). Philo's writings show how mysterious and significant the later philosophical Jews considered the number seven (see his Opp. 1:21 sq.; 2:5, 277 sq.); and Jerome's explanation that it had become familiar through the Jewish Sabbath is quite obvious (ad  Isaiah 4:1). The same fact appears in the Cabalistic "Sephiroth," which some find even in the Apocalypse ( Revelation 1:5;  Revelation 3:1;  Revelation 4:5;  Revelation 5:6; see also the Mishna, Pirke Aboth, v. 7 sq.; Epiphanius, De numeror. myster. p. 5). Among the Greeks, the Pythagoreans especially interwove the number seven with their speculations (see Ritter, Gesch. d. Philos. i. 404 sq., 434), and it is well known what an important part it played in their fanciful anthropology and psychology. (On the number seven in nature, see Macrob. Somn. Scip. 1:6; Gell. 3:10; Varro, Ling. Lat. 1:255, ed. Bip.; Pliny, Hist. Nat. 2:43.) It is not difficult to see the origin of this manifold use and mysterious regard in respect to this number.

There can be little doubt that, in the case of the Hebrews at least (and probably so with the heathen by tradition), it was originally derived from the Sabbatic institution of the week in Eden. According to many, however, it was taken from the supposed number of the planets, to whose movements all the phenoinena of nature and of human life were subordinated; while an additional influence, perhaps the more immediate occasion of its use, may be found in the perception that the moon, the first of the heavenly bodies carefully observed by men, changes her form at intervals of seven days. This subdivision of the lunar month was made at a very early period (Ideler, Chronolog. 1:60). This discovery of the number seven in nature, which an active fancy easily extended to many other things (Passavant, Lebeismagnetism, p. 105), must have led to attempts at a deeper interpretation of the number; yet Bahr's explaniation (Symbolik d., Jos. Cultus 1:187 sq.), that seven was composed by adding together three, the symbol of God, and four, the symbol of the world, and denoted to the ancient Hebrews the union of the two, is far too forced (see Hengstenberg, Bileam, p. 71 sq.); although Kurtz (Stud. u. Krit. [1844] p. 346 sq.) makes many efforts to rescue this speculative interpretation. (But comp. Gedicke, Verm. Schrift. p. 32 sq.; Hammer, Wissensch. d. Orients, 2:322 sq.; Baur in the Tiibing. Zeitschrift f. Theol. [1852] 3:128 sq.). The fact that seven and seventy are used as "round numbers" (as  Genesis 4:24;  Psalms 12:6 :  Proverbs 24:16;  Matthew 18:21 sq.) may agree well with their supposed sanctity, but does not require such an explanation.

The next number to seven in frequency is forty in the history (as  Genesis 7:4;  Genesis 7:17;  Genesis 8:6;  Genesis 25:20;  Genesis 26:34;  Genesis 32:15; Exodus 17:35;  Numbers 14:33;  Numbers 32:12;  Deuteronomy 29:5). The Israelites were forty years in the desert ( Exodus 24:18;  Deuteronomy 9:9); Moses spent forty days and forty nights in Sinai ( Joshua 14:7;  Judges 3:11;  Judges 5:31;  Judges 13:1;  1 Samuel 4:18; 1 Samuel 17; 1 Samuel 16;  2 Samuel 5:4;  1 Kings 11:42;  Acts 13:21).; Saul, David, and Solomon each reigned forty years ( 1 Kings 19:8;  Matthew 4:2;  Acts 1:3). (For an arrangement of the interval between the exodus and the death of David in twelve periods of forty years each, see Ewald, Isr. Gesch. 2:370 sq.) The number likewise occurs in the language of prophecy ( Ezekiel 4:6;  Ezekiel 29:11 sq.;  Jonah 3:4). The frequent recurrence of the same number in the same series of events may sometimes give rise to a doubt whether we really have the historical chronology (Bruns, in *Paulus's Memorab. 7:53 sq.; Bohlen, Genesis, Introd. p. 63 sq.; Hartmann, Ver-Bind. etc., p. 491; comp. Grimm, Deutsche Rechtsalterth. p. 219 sq). We may here refer to the forty stripes ( Deuteronomy 25:2). It does not appear that forty is particularly used as a round number in the Old Testament. (For its use among the Persians, see Gesenius, Lehrgeb. p. 700; Rosenm Ü ller, Ezech. 4:6.)

Ten, the symbol of completeness (Bahr, p. 181; Hengstenberg, Authen. d. Pentat. 2:391) but only in arithmetic, not in speculative philosophy does not appear prominently in the Old Testament, although tithes occur at a very early period. Within the range of properly sacred use we find ten only in the number of the commandments and the measures of the Tabernacle ( Exodus 26:27; 1 Kings 6, 7); and the designation of the tenth day occurs in the ritual but twice ( Exodus 12:3;  Leviticus 16:29; comp. Ewald, Isr. Alterth. p. 364). Ten is also very often a round number. Only at a later period did the number ten assume a peculiar importance in the Jewish liturgy. It was the least number that could eat together the Paschal lamb (Josephus, War, 6:9, 3). A synagogue must be built in a city which contained ten Jews; only ten persons could repeat the church-prayer" Shema" (see Mishna, Megilla, 4:3; comp. 1:3). The Jews, then, easily found this significance of the number in the Scripture (see Mishna, Pirke Aboth, v. 1-6; comp. Philo, Opp. 1:243, 259, 532; 2:35, 183 sq., 355). The decalogue afforded an obvious parallel (see Othon. Lex. Rabbin. p. 470; Bihr, p. 182 sq.). The origin of the decimal system is evidently from the use of the fingers in counting.

Five appears chiefly in forfeitures and holy offerings ( Exodus 22:1;  Leviticus 5:16;  Leviticus 22:14;  Leviticus 27:15;  Numbers 5:7;  Numbers 18:16). But in conventional phrase it commonly means A Group, Several, after the analogy of the five fingers ( Genesis 18:28;  Genesis 43:24;  Genesis 45:22;  1 Samuel 17:40;  1 Samuel 21:4;  1 Corinthians 14:19). Yet even here symbolic interpreters find a deep meaning (see e.g. Kurtz, Ut Sup. p. 360)., Four, although a mysterious number among the Pythagoreans (Reinhold, Gesch. d. Philos. 1:83), and although Bihr (p. 155 sq.) has sought to establish its peculiar significance, is not prominent in the Old Testament. The four winds and the four points of the compass may perhaps be connected with the supposition that the earth was four-sided, but this is not. certain, and the famous "tetragrammaton," or word of four letters (Jehovah, יְהוֹה ), cannot be connected with it. The form of the square does indeed appear frequently ( Ezekiel 43:16 sq.;  Ezekiel 46:2;  Ezekiel 48:16 sq.;  Revelation 21:16), but we must suppose it to have been selected simply as the most regular form that could be conceived; and the same explanation applies to the cubic shape of the holiest place in the Tabernacle and in the Temple. But Bahr (p. 176 sq.) explains the square as the symbol among the Israelites both of the world and the manifestation of God; and he is followed by Keil (on Kings, p. 80 sq.) and Kurtz (p. 342 sq. 357 sq.).

The number three first reaches its full significance in the faith of the Christian Church. although in antiquity it already often occurs as the symbol of supreme divinity (Bahr, p. 146 sq.; Lobeck, Aglaophnam, p. 387; comp. Servius, ad Virg. Eclog. 8:75; Plat. Legg. 4, p. 716). It is not at all strange that it frequently occurs in ordinary life, as it expresses the simplest possible group: the middle and two sides; the beginning, middle, and end (so Dion. Hal. 3, p. 150); the vanguard, main body, and rear of an army, or the center with two wings. This threefold division of. an army was customary among the ancient Hebrews ( Judges 7:16;  Judges 7:20;  Judges 9:43;  1 Samuel 11:11). This number is also customary in repeating calls and exclamations, for the sake of emphasis, without any religious significance (as  Jeremiah 7:4;  Jeremiah 22:29). But its use in some instances is more remarkable (see  Exodus 23:14;  Deuteronomy 16:16;  Numbers 6:24 sq.;  Isaiah 6:3), and the explanation in the Apocalypse (1:4) of the name Jehovah ( יְהוָֹה ) seems to show an allusion in it to the Trinity. The three hours of prayer observed by the later Jews may have had a kindred origin. The number three also occurs often in the ancient genealogies, especially in the heads of kindred races (comp. Cain, Abel, Seth; Shem, Ham, and Japheth, etc.; see Lengerke, Ken. p. 20, Introd.). But the triangle, which in other ancient nations was so important as a symbol, is not found in Hebrew antiquity. It is generally thought to be used as a round number, meaning several, like ter in the Latin poets (in  2 Corinthians 12:8;  John 2:19); but many commentators dissent from this view. Twelve derives its significance in the Old Testament, not from the multiplication of three and four together (as Bahr and Kurtz suppose), nor from the twelve signs of the zodiac, but rather from the twelve heads of the tribes in Israel ( Joshua 4:1 sq.;  Exodus 28:21;  1 Kings 7:25; comp.  Revelation 21:12), which is a sufficient historical ground.

On the whole, then, it appears that among the Israelites, as in other ancient nations, certain numbers assumed very early a peculiar significance, especially in religious service; but it is in vain to seek for a numerical symbolism, based on speculation, and worked out into a system. (For the use of round numbers and national numbers among the ancient Italians and others, see Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, vol. ii; among the Germans, Grimm, Deutsche Rechtsalterthumer, p. 207 sq. (See Arithmetic).