© 2000 Walter E. Gast
All rights reserved.
Some numbers have taken on specific meanings because of the way in which they are repeatedly used in scripture. It is wise, however, not to attach more meaning to biblical numbers than is permitted by the context of their use.
One is the number of singularity or of unity. God emphasized that He is one God to distinguish true worship from the polytheistic worship of the pagans. Jesus prayed that all Christians might be one in unity just as He is one with the Father.
Two is the number of duality. It is often used to represent the material and spiritual, or the human and divine natures of Christ.
Three is most often used as the number for the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The number four is usually used to represent the four Evangelists. It may also be used to represent the four corners of the earth or the four seasons.
Five is symbolic of the wounds Jesus received on the cross. By derivation, it is the number of sacrifice.
Six is the number of creation and the created order because God created everything in six days. Six is sometimes used as the number of imperfection, since it falls short of seven, the number of completion.
Seven is the number of perfection and rest. The number seven appears many times in scripture. God rested from creating on the seventh day. Paul lists seven gifts of the Spirit. Jesus spoke seven "words" from the cross. There are seven seals on the book of life, and seven churches listed in the Revelation.
The number eight represents regeneration or resurrection. It is for this reason that many baptismal fonts are eight-sided.
Nine is the number of mystery or the angels' number because the Bible mentions nine choirs of angels.
Ten is the number of the Ten Commandments, Ten Plagues, etc., and so is used as a number of completion.
Twelve is the number of tribes of Israel and the number of Apostles. It is often used to represent the whole church.
Thirteen is often used as the number of betrayal because there were thirteen at table for the Last Supper. This is probably the reason that thirteen is considered an "unlucky" number - why hotels do not have a thirteenth floor and some hostesses avoid entertaining thirteen guests.
Forty is used as a number for trial or testing. The Deluge lasted forty days and nights. Israel wandered for forty years in the wilderness. Moses remained on Mount Sinai for forty days. After His baptism, Jesus was tempted for forty days in the wilderness.
As ten times ten, one hundred is the number for completeness or plenitude.
One thousand is often used to represent an incalculably large number or eternity.