Symbolic Numbers

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing:
but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.—Proverbs 25:2


David Rice

The mind of God is higher and grander than we can ever fathom. But God is pleased to reveal himself, in part, through his written word, the Bible. There God expresses himself on many levels. There are direct statements of his majesty and grandeur, covenant promises which outline his Plan of the Ages, prophecies, types, apocalyptic visions, doctrinal treatises, historical records of Godly men and of his son Jesus. Frequently these are interlaced with symbols—materials, colors, dimensions, quantities, trees, animals, locations, cities—which combine concepts to form pictures of the spiritual lessons. When we see linen, we think of righteousness; when we see blue, we think of faithfulness; fig trees, Israel; mountains, kingdoms, etc.

Numbers are among the most conspicuous and ubiquitous symbols in Scripture. Sometimes they disclose, and frequently they augment, the meaning of a type or figure. For example, it is commonly appreciated that the ark which saved Noah and his family represents salvation in Christ, following the lead of Peter’s comments in 1 Peter 3:20,21. Then we note the dimensions of the ark which enhance the picture. It was thirty cubits tall and three-hundred cubits long, and the root number, three, is the number of the atonement. It was fifty cubits wide, and the root number, five, is the number for the new creation which helps Christ reconcile the world. The perimeter of the ark measures seven-hundred cubits, a reminder of the seven thousand years of God’s plan which brings redemption to the world.


The chief of all symbolic numbers in the Bible is seven. As shown in the accompanying article devoted to it, this number is used of all the merciful purposes of God toward his earthly creation and his new creation. Perhaps the next most widely familiar symbolic numbers are six, ten, and twelve. Six represents things incomplete or imperfect, being one shy of the perfect number seven. Ten represents wholeness or completeness of earthly things, as the ten toes of the image represent earthly Gentile governments. Twelve represents wholeness or completeness of spiritual things, as the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel in Revelation, expressed even more intensely as 12´12,000, or 144,000, the number of the church.

These three numbers are related to one another as being each derived from the chief number, seven. Seven cannot be divided into whole number parts. But it can be broken down into pairs of additive factors: one and six, two and five, three and four. Multiplying each pair together yields the numbers six, ten, and twelve. We suspect these are not coincidental results but express a relationship the divine mind intends between these foundational symbolic numbers.

It is interesting to note that these three numbers are also the base numbers of the counting systems most used among men (augmenting six tenfold to sixty). The ancient Babylonians used a base-sixty numbering system (still used in measuring minutes, hours, and degrees of a circle). Common usage today is a base-ten system evidently derived from the ten fingers on two hands. Some systems of metrics use a base-twelve system because it is a relatively small number evenly divisible by two, three, and four: thus twelve inches to the foot, and twelve points to the pica. (Base-sixty adds divisibility by 5, 6, 10, 12.)

Two, Three, Four, Five

The lower numbers, being foundational to all the higher numbers, may carry symbolisms which we would not expect of larger numbers. We have never heard anyone ask, for example, the meaning of a number like 271. But smaller numbers, when used conspicuously, do seem to be symbolic.

We begin with the number three because it is used so frequently. It appears conspicuously respecting our Lord’s sacrifice and redemptive work. Jesus was three days in the grave, the price of his betrayal was thirty pieces of silver; he was anointed for his death with three-hundred pence worth of spikenard; and at Pentecost when his sacrifice was applied to the church, the number of believers swelled to three thousand persons.

In each case these references are apparently significant, judged by their repetitious use. The three days in the grave are specifically prophesied (John 2:19) and linked with the type of Jonah (Matthew 12:39,40). The price of betrayal was predicted in Zechariah 11:12, “so they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.” The spikenard Mary used on Jesus as he sat at their table was referred to in Song of Solomon 1:12, “While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof,” and its specified value therefore the more prominent. The three thousand enlivened through the spirit at Pentecost have their counterpart in the three thousand who died at the giving of the law (Exodus 32:28). “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

This grouping—3, 30, 300, and 3,000—is even more striking when we recognize the same sequence in one of the Old Testament narratives, specifically an experience of Samson. Samson had a riddle which challenged his adversaries for three days (Judges 14:14). The reward for its solution was thirty changes of garments (verse 13). The punishment on his enemies involved three-hundred foxes (Judges 15:4), and Samson was apprehended by three thousand of his fellows (Judges 15:11).

This is not simply a repetition of numbers; the themes involved have to do with the atonement brought to us by Christ during the Gospel age. The riddle posed by Samson—“Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness” (Judges 14:14) —referred to a slain lion which bees had used to contain a reservoir of honey. The lion represents our Lord Jesus, the “Lion of the tribe of Juda” (Revelation 5:5), from whose death we have redemption and the sweet call of the divine nature pictured by the honey. The thirty changes of garments represent the justification all may receive who identify and accept their Savior. The two subsequent narratives refer to other judgments during the Gospel age, and the theme is extended in Revelation where the judgments during this first age of redemption frequently involve the number three. (Compare for example trumpets one through four where a “third part” was affected in each case.)

When Abraham viewed Moriah afar off where Isaac was to be offered, it was on “the third day” (Genesis 22:4). The Letter of the Law, symbolic of the later Spirit of the Law, was received by Israel on “the third day” and even on “the third month” (Exodus 19:11,1). Offerings under the law were to be fully consumed by “the third day” (Leviticus 7:17; 19:6). Defiled ones were sprinkled on “the third day” (Numbers 19:19). All these examples have something to do with atonement or reconciliation.

But why three? It is good to recognize a common theme in the use of a number, but the deeper question is why a particular number is appropriate for the theme. In this case, perhaps three is used because there are three parties to the atonement: God, man, and Jesus our redeemer. “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Two. Let us now consider the number two. A conspicuous use of this number is in Revelation 11:3, which describes two witnesses which prophesy in a mournful condition for 1,260 days, fulfilled as years. Brethren commonly recognize these as the Old and New Testaments which are witnesses of God and his purposes. During the reign of Papacy their testimony was subdued through the oppression of the Man of Sin.

These two parts of Scripture are represented in Zechariah 4:3 as two olive trees, reservoirs of oil which are drained through golden pipes to a lampstand of seven branches. This shows how the church receives enlightenment of the truth through the spirit from the Scriptures.

The same thought is conveyed by the two swords the Lord asked his disciples to carry (Luke 22:38), two silver trumpets used by the priests (Numbers 10:2), two stacks of shewbread, and two lampstands (Revelation 11:4; Zechariah 4:14).

Even the Mount of Olives is prophetically split into two parts, representing the earthly and spiritual parts of God’s kingdom. These parallel the Old Testament earthly hopes and promises and the New Testament spiritual hopes and promises. They also parallel Moses and Elijah appearing on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Paul, when speaking of the Christian’s armor, mentions “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). In the Marshall Diaglott a footnote to the word “which” says “Neuter, agreeing with pneuma [spirit], not feminine to agree with maxaira [sword].” Paul means the “spirit” is “the word of God” (symbolized by the sword). The text equates “spirit” and “word”—and as the former is represented by oil and the latter by water (Ephesians 5:26), the two are really like two sides of the same coin. {Footnote: This may help explain Revelation 19:10, “the testimony of Jesus [Revelation] is the spirit of prophecy,” and Hebrews 10:15, “The holy spirit also is a witness to us: for … he [it, the Scripture] had said …”}

Two, then, is a number for the spirit, the truth, because it comes to us from two reservoirs in the Scriptures. Just as the number three was expressed in different orders of magnitude—3, 30, 300, and 3,000—so with this symbol. The Scriptures speak of 2, 20, 200, and 2,000—all related to the same theme.

There were two olives trees. Samson, who pictures the church, had a service of twenty years, representing the age of the spirit (Judges 15:20), the Gospel age. This was also the length of time the ark of the covenant was captive in Philistine lands, representing the church through the age captive to her enemies (1 Samuel 7:2). The distance to shore in John 21:8, representing the length of the Gospel age, was two-hundred cubits. The distance between the priests who took the ark into the Jordan River, and the rest of Israel which followed, was two thousand cubits, representing the age of the spirit which separates the atonement of the church at Pentecost, and the deliverance of the world in the kingdom (Joshua 3:4).

An even greater magnitude appears in Revelation 9:16. “The number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.” This army appears in trumpet six and represents the judgment of Scripture, exhibited during the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Wars, which ravaged Papacy’s hold on Europe (compare Revelation 11:5 and 13:10).

Two and Three. These two numbers, as we have seen, represent the spirit, specially as it relates to the truth, and the atonement. Often the holy spirit is represented by oil, and truth by water. The atonement is represented sometimes by the blood of Christ, sometimes by wine which Christ used to represent his blood. These four symbols are matched variously in different pictures which show these two essential components—spirit and atonement—as the fundamental elements through which the church is healed, developed, nurtured, as the future bride of Christ.

First, we recall the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan represents our Lord Jesus who, unlike those appointed under the law (the Priest and Levite of the parable), had a heart of compassion for the wounded victim. He applied to the wounds “oil and wine”—the holy spirit and redemption—carried him to an inn for his care, provided two pence for this care, and promised whatever more was necessary at his return (Luke 10:34,35). So our Lord gives to our need, provides for our care, and  returns at the end of the age to give more as necessary.

Second, we recall Jesus’ last experience on the cross, following his passing into the deep sleep of death. A soldier, checking his condition, opened his side with a spear and “forthwith came there out blood and water.” This experience of the second Adam parallels the experience of the first Adam, who passed into a deep sleep and had his side opened, from which came his bride Eve. In Jesus’ case the opening of his side, through his ribs, allowed blood and water—redemption and the spirit of truth—to issue forth to redeem and develop the church, his future bride (John 19:34; Genesis 2:21-23; 1 Corinthians 15:45-47).

In both cases the spirit and redemption are highlighted as the two ingredients through which the church is developed. These elements are represented numerically in two other episodes.

First, the wedding at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. There were six waterpots, representing the members of the church who are presently imperfect. The waterpots were of stone, illustrating Jesus’ words at another time: “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matthew 3:9). The pots were filled with water as we are filled with the spirit of truth, and out of these same pots the guests at the wedding drew out wonderful wine, as the world will receive through the church. The church will be Christ’s agent for distributing the blessings of redemption in the kingdom. Notice the capacity of these waterpots. They held “two or three firkins apiece” (John 2:6). So the church must presently receive what is represented by two and three—the spirit and the blood—before they can pass on these blessings to the world.

Second, in the first two narratives in the book of Acts when the Gospel age call of the church began in earnest, the numbers received into the body of believers is significant. On the day of Pentecost the believers swelled to “about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). After the next episode the number swelled to “about five thousand,” augmented by two thousand more (Acts 4:4). These numbers—three thousand and two thousand in dramatic consecutive events—picture redemption and the spirit which develop the church.

Five. This number represents the church, the new creation. We introduce it here because the reason this number is used for the new creation is intimated in the record just mentioned. The aggregate number five thousand is specified, being the sum of the initial three thousand and later two thousand. Five represents the church because it depends on the two elements indispensable for its development, the spirit (two) and blood (three).

Here are several instances where five is symbolic of the new creation:

1. Matthew 25, five wise virgins represent the church, the corresponding five foolish virgins the great company.

2. When Christ fed the multitude in John 6 and gathered up twelve baskets of fragments, it represented the feeding of the church early in the age, with the residue contained in the teachings of the twelve apostles. The number reported was five thousand.

3. In the time of Joseph the grain stored up to later rescue the world pictures the church which Jesus is gathering for the later rescue of the world. The proportion of grain stored was one part in five (Genesis 41:34).

4. The Lord’s share of the goods collected by the Israelites in Numbers 31:27-31 may represent the Lord’s elect. It was one part out of fifty, or out of five hundred, depending on circumstances.

5. The “tabernacle” described in Exodus 26:1-5 represents Christ and his church, which together compose the new creation. This curtain was comprised of two parts (as the church is shown in two loaves at Pentecost, cf. Romans 4:16). Each was composed of five strips, with fifty gold taches connecting the two main parts.

6. The entrance to the holy of the tabernacle, opening the heavenly call to the saints of God, was marked with five posts supporting the door (Exodus 26:27).

7. Ezekiel’s temple, which represents the church in glory, has measures which are generally commensurate with lengths of five cubits (Ezekiel 40 and 41).

As with the 2, 20, 200, and 2,000, and 3, 30, 300, and 3,000, this number also appears in various orders of magnitude: 5, 50, 500, and 5,000.

Four. This number, as with forty (see Testing and Probation, p. 11), refers to the concept of judgment or righteousness.

1. At the entrance of the most holy of the Tabernacle, the time of judgment of the church, appear four posts.

2. At the second feeding of the multitudes by Jesus, representing the time of harvest and judgment closing the Gospel age, the number reported was four thousand.

3. The forty years in the wilderness represent the Gospel age period of testing, trial, development.

4. The same is represented in the four hundred years of Genesis 15:13 which describes the period of the affliction of the seed of Abraham, representing the Gospel age affliction of the church. This period began with the mocking of Isaac (at the age of five) by Ishmael, a picture of the early affliction of the church by the Jewish authorities, and ends at the Exodus, a picture of the deliverance of God’s people at the end of the Gospel age. These four hundred years, if multiplied by the 360 days in a prophetic year, yield 144,000, the number of the church in Revelation, showing the fruitage to be developed during the testing period of the Gospel age.

With this number we also have the different orders of magnitude expressing the symbol: 4, 40, 400, and 4,000.

It is noteworthy that of the dated visions of Jeremiah in chapters 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 36, three are dated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, and three in the fourth year of Zedekiah —all six judgments are in a year four. When the seven times of punishment on Israel was represented in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the expression “seven times” appeared four times in the narrative, and four times in the warning by Moses (Daniel 4; Leviticus 26). These judgments were fulfilled by four Gentile kingdoms dominating Israel during the 2,520 years of their national punishment. In all these uses, four is linked to the concept of trial, testing, probation, judgment.


Ignoring the number one, this accounts for all the single digit numbers except eight and nine. These illustrate the question we often face with symbols: determining which aspect of the matter carries the symbolism. Is the point of eight, for example, two fours, accentuating judgment, or two times two times two, expressing the core thought of two? Both are reasonable options, but probably the meaning is conveyed more correctly by observing that eight is the next number after seven, just as the meaning of six relates to it being one less than the perfect seven.

The first use of eight uniquely is in Genesis 17:12 which marks it as the day of circumcision for a newborn male child. Following the first week of life, this marks the child with the sign of the covenant given Abraham.

In Leviticus 9:1 the eighth day marks the entrance of the priesthood into their official duties, following the seven days of consecration described in the previous chapter. From this standpoint, it marks what follows after a previous week. In the case of the priesthood, it shows the church entering its priestly duties during the millennium, following the seven stages of the church.

The same use is shown in Ezekiel 43:18-27 which describes the consecration of the altar the people of the land (the world of mankind) will use for their offerings in the kingdom. To prepare this altar, a bullock for a sin offering was first offered. Then for seven consecutive days, a goat was offered, evidently picturing the church during the seven stages of the Gospel age. Following this, “upon the eighth day, and so forward,” God would accept the offerings of the people. This represents the kingdom which follows the seven stages of the church (verse 27).

The Feast of Tabernacles also represents the kingdom (Zechariah 14:16). After seven days of remembrance of God’s care in the wilderness, the special celebration was on the eighth day: “Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you” (Leviticus 23:36). That eighth day, following the remembrance of the seven stages of the Gospel age, brings us into the millennium.

This can be a little confusing. We often think of the millennium as the seventh day because it is the seventh millennium from Adam. This is a correct perspective, but it is not the one identified here. In these texts the seven preceding days refer to the Gospel age, and day eight is the kingdom. This perspective is consistent with relating seven to the church, and eight with the world. Seven pertains to the spiritual, eight to the earthly. Micah 5:5, for example, refers to “Seven shepherds [an idiom meaning kings] and eight princes.” The shepherds represent the church who will reign from heaven, the princes represent the ancient worthies who will govern on earth.

The same thought is expressed in Ezekiel by the “seven steps” of Ezekiel 40:26 and “eight steps” of verse 31. By these means—the church and the ancient worthies—the world will be able to approach the Sanctuary of God for worship, praise, and thanksgiving. The coupling of these two agencies—represented by the sum of the symbolic seven and eight—is the means by which Israel and the world will be delivered—thus the composite number fifteen representing deliverance (see the article “Deliverance” beginning on page 7).

In Micah 5:5, when the “Assyrian” threat against Israel is answered by the intervention of the church (seven) and the ancient worthies (eight), their rescue is represented by the fifteen years Hezekiah’s life was extended when he faced the very threat which was the prophetic backdrop of Micah’s prophecy (Isaiah 38:5,6).

When King David, representing our Lord Jesus, had put down the rebellion of Absalom, he invited those who embraced his authority to join him back in Jerusalem to dine at his table. But one of his close supporters, Barzillai, declined the generous offer, preferring to remain on the other side of Jordan, explaining that he was “fourscore years old” (2 Samuel 19:35). David’s offer represents the gracious invitation to the heavenly calling, to join the administration of the new ruler. It was declined by noble Barzillai who represents the faithful of the previous age. His age, eighty, links him symbolically with the earthly class rather than the spiritual.

David’s men were numbered in two parts: those of Israel and those closer to him, of Judah. The former were 800,000 strong, the latter 500,000 (2 Samuel 24:9). Perhaps these represent the two classes which will support Jesus in the kingdom—the ancient worthies and the church, respectively.


It seems that any meaning intended in nine rests upon its construction, namely three times three. It would represent a class atoned for, or in need of atonement; its double, eighteen, is used to represent the world in need of atonement in at least three places. In Luke 13:4 eighteen men perished at the Tower of Siloam, whom Jesus used as an example of people suffering calamities in common with the condemned race. Seven verses later Jesus healed a woman bound by Satan with an infirmity eighteen years, part of the general curse which came from Satan’s deceptions (Luke 13:11-16). Ezekiel used the same number, multiplied by a thousand, as the circuit measure of the city representing the earthly kingdom (Ezekiel 48:35), when mankind is rescued from this curse.

Nine, by itself, appears only once in the New Testament (Luke 17:17), specified as the count of lepers who did not return to give thanks, similar to mankind under the curse without a mind to regard God. In the form of nine-hundred, it appears conspicuously in Judges 4:3 as the count of iron chariots supporting Jabin, king of Canaan, which represents the Gentile powers who rule and oppress God’s people. Both cases link the number with those under the curse awaiting redemption.

Composite Numbers

We introduced this concept to some extent with comments about five, fifteen, nine, and eighteen. By composite numbers we mean those whose meaning is drawn from the composition of the number—as for example five being the sum of two and three, or fifteen being the sum of seven and eight. We will consider three fresh examples.

Eleven. This number, and its meaningful composition, is exhibited in the second covering of the tabernacle, the curtain of goat hair. This immediately overlays the linen curtain (termed the tabernacle proper), which as we noted earlier was composed of two parts of five strips each, showing two parts of the new creation.

The goat hair curtain was composed of one strip more—eleven in all—one part of five strips, joined with fifty copper taches to another part of six strips (Exodus 26:7-13). The goat hair curtain represents the justified human nature of the church which is consecrated to sacrifice in God’s service. Naturally, we remember in this connection the goat offered with the bullock on the Day of Atonement. Through these sacrifices the blood of atonement is made effective for Israel, picturing the redemption of the world. Also, Song of Solomon 4:1 says of the church, “Thy hair is as a flock of goats.” The church is also represented by Jacob receiving the birthright blessing from Isaac, supplanting Esau (natural Israel) as heir of the chief blessing. In this episode Jacob wore hairy skins of goats to claim the blessing (Genesis 27:16).

The church as a “goat,” compared to Jesus as a “bullock,” is lean by comparison, as our offering, compared to Jesus, is less rich, but nevertheless acceptable. We are dual creatures, like Christ was, but in our case the fleshly component is sinful flesh even though justified. This inherent sinfulness is represented on the Day of Pentecost by the two wave loaves being baked with leaven. In this case, it is represented by the six strips in one piece, combined with the five strips of the other piece. The six represents our sinful flesh, the five our spiritual nature. While sacrificing in the flesh we have this treasure (the new creature, five strips) in an earthly vessel (the flesh, six strips). The copper taches which join the two contribute the symbolism that our flesh is justified.

These taches join the two parts into one covering, and the aggregate eleven strips thus become symbolic of the church in the flesh during the Gospel age. Each of the component strips measured thirty by four cubits, and when laid out over the tabernacle, one strip was folded back over itself. The resulting perimeter of this aggregate curtain was thus 144 cubits—a reminder that this entire goat hair curtain represents the church, presently in training, just as the 144-cubit measure of the wall of New Jerusalem represents the church, then in glory (Revelation 21:17).

Eleven appears as eleven-hundred pieces of silver in two adjacent narratives in the book of Judges, and in only these two places in the entire Bible, making these adjacent occurrences conspicuous. In Judges 16 (verse 5) the narrative is about Samson, a picture of the Gospel age church, seven episodes of his life tracing the seven stages of the church through the age. In Judges 17 (verses 2 and 3) the narrative describes how the tribe of Dan fell into false worship from which it was not recovered—a picture of those in the Gospel age who turn away from Christ after once being washed. Conspicuously, Dan is missing from the tribes of spiritual Israel in Revelation. Both narratives pertain to the Gospel age church: Samson represents those who overcome, Dan those who do not.

Eleven appears again a pair of times in Deuteronomy 1:2,3. The first instance says the normal travel time between Horeb (Mount Sinai) and Kadesh Barnea (where the spies were sent out) was eleven days. This journey represents the Gospel age, again associating eleven with the church in the flesh. The second instance refers to the end of Moses’ career, year forty (closing the Gospel age), month eleven (closing the church in the flesh). In 1 Kings 6:38 the temple of Solomon, a picture of the church, was completed in year eleven, following the seventh month.

Thirteen. This number represents the ransom price, and its meaning comes from its composition, seven plus six. In John 3:14 Jesus likened his death on the cross to the brazen serpent in the wilderness which, looked upon, healed Israelites of their serpent bites, representing the sin which comes through Satan. What a peculiar picture of our Lord Jesus: a serpent! But Jesus is clearly seen in the application. The serpent was made of copper, showing that Jesus was a perfect man, without sin. It was on a pole, portraying Jesus on the cross as our ransom. The “serpent” evidently represents that our sins were laid upon him: “The LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). In this light the symbol is appropriate: Jesus is the perfect one who bore the penalty for our sins.

The same thought is conveyed numerically by adding six (our sins) to seven (the perfect one) producing thirteen. The number appears once in the book of Ezekiel (40:11), respecting the east gate, which would parallel the gate to the court of the tabernacle which represents our Lord Jesus, his sacrifice allowing us entrance to our faith-standing with God. The porch of the gate in Ezekiel measured thirteen cubits in length, representing that the ransom is required for the world to enter a faith relationship with God in the kingdom. Later in the same chapter Ezekiel (in vision) approached the porch of the temple itself, and found its breadth to measure eleven cubits, probably showing that the sacrifice of the church in the present time is also a prerequisite for the world to approach God in the kingdom.

The number thirteen does not appear in the New Testament, and rarely in the Old Testament. Here are some instances:

1. Ishmael was thirteen when circumcised, signifying that the Israelites will be “circumcised” when they receive redemption in Christ.

2. The series of bullocks offered during the seven day Feast of Tabernacles began with thirteen the first day, decreasing one each day to total seventy by the end of the feast. The bullocks represent the atonement sacrifice of our Lord.

3. Solomon (representing our Lord) was thirteen years constructing his house, perhaps showing that the dwelling place of our Lord, the church now and the world in the kingdom, depends upon the ransom sacrifice he gave.

4. Jeremiah, who represented Jesus, was anointed in the thirteenth year of Josiah. This anointing represents the anointing of our Lord at Jordan where he offered himself in sacrifice, and the forty years of Jeremiah’s ministry until the Babylonians burned the temple parallels the forty years following Christ’s baptism until the Romans burned the temple.

The picture of the ransom is carried forward in three instances of 130 (thirteen increased one order of magnitude). Jehoiada was 130 when he passed from the scene and his son Zechariah was stoned to death for trying to reclaim Israel, picturing the unjust death of Jesus (Matthew 23:35). Adam was 130 when Seth was born, picturing the raising of Christ from death, just as the slaying of Abel pictured the death of Christ. Jacob was 130 when his entourage entered Egypt, remaining until the Exodus. This period pictures the Gospel age, from Pentecost until the plagues of Revelation, beginning with the redemption of the church. Thus 130 is connected with the death of Jesus providing the ransom, his resurrection to use his ransom, and the day of Pentecost applying the ransom.

Seventeen. Joseph was seventeen when sold by his brothers, and was with his father an equal span after Jacob came into Egypt (Genesis 37:2; 47:28). Joseph pictures our Lord Jesus, and the explicit mention of his age when sold refers prophetically to Jesus when he was given over to the Romans by his Jewish brethren. The meaning of this number comes from the addition of seven (Jesus, the perfect one, as in the number thirteen), plus ten, the number of earthly things, representing the world Jesus came to save. Thus Jesus as the Savior is well represented by seventeen. Jubilee day was day ten of month seven. It represents the time the atonement releases men into liberty.

On the seventeenth day of the month the ark, like Jesus, saved the trusting souls within (Genesis 7:11); on the seventeenth day of the month it rested again (Genesis 8:4). The time between was exactly five months, suggesting the period of the Gospel age deliverance of the saints.

Another form of the same symbolism is expressed in seven times ten rather than seven plus ten; thus the seventy disciples of our Lord pictured the class redeemed during the Gospel age (Luke 10:1). The seventy sons of Gideon represent the same (Judges 8:30). The seventy sons of Ahab represent their counterpart, sons of the Antichrist (2 Kings 10:1). The seventeen-hundred shekels of Gideon’s spoil have a similar meaning (Judges 8:26).

Another form of the symbol is exhibited in the 153 great fish taken in the net miraculously in John 21:11—a picture of the harvest of the Gospel age, comparable to the parable of the dragnet in Matthew 13:47,48. The number 153 is the sum of the numbers from one through seventeen.

Jeremiah represented Jesus. The world, purchased by our Lord (compare Matthew 13:44), may be represented by Jeremiah’s purchase of a field in Jeremiah 32:9. The purchase price was seventeen shekels of silver. The margin of the King James Bible shows this to be broken into “seven shekels and ten pieces of silver,” a division which expresses the meaning of the number, as explained above.

When we considered the number eleven, we noted the perimeter of the goat hair curtain was 144 cubits, representing the church. The first covering, of white linen, properly termed “the tabernacle” (Exodus 26:1), had a perimeter measure of 136 cubits, which is a multiple of seventeen.

Adding and Multiplying

Multiplying a number by itself is a means of intensifying the symbol. Thus the spiritual number twelve, when squared is 144, representing the church in glory, which is the measure of the wall of New Jerusalem, and the number of the saints in Revelation (Revelation 7:4; 14:1; 21:17). The square of forty, in this case sixteen-hundred furlongs by which blood flowed from the treading of the winepress, represents the measure of final retribution for the sins of the Gospel age (Revelation 14:20). The same intensity can be expressed also by a repetition of digits—thus six stands for sin or incompleteness, 666 the famous number of the beast in Revelation 13:18, and 66 the number of the image in Daniel 3:1 (the sum of its height and width), representing an image of the 666 beast of Revelation.

As suggested above, adding (as in seven plus ten) or multiplying (as in seven times ten) are symbolically equivalent. Thus whether one uses the square of twelve, as in the 144,000 saints of Revelation, or the addition of twelve plus twelve, as in the twenty-four courses of the priesthood of Chronicles 24, the symbol is the same. In the same way, the seventy times seven years of Daniel 9, a period of grace for Israel, is represented in Genesis 4:24 by seventy plus seven.


Here are a variety of symbolisms to show the kind of diversity which can be involved in expressing concepts through symbolic numbers.

Enoch was taken at age 365 (Genesis 5:23). Enoch, the seventh from Adam, represented the church, just as Lamech, the seventh from Cain, represented Israel (Genesis 4:19-24). Enoch’s age, coincident with the days in a solar year, links Enoch with the sun, which is another symbol of the elect church (Matthew 13:43; Revelation 19:17).

The forty-two youths who taunted Godly authority, and were torn by the claws of a pair of she bears, reminds us of the system which ruled forty-two months and exercised ravaging power represented by bear-like claws (Revelation 13:2). The punishment of these youths represents a just punishment for the system of Antichrist which ravaged others previously. The 42,000 enemies overcome by Jephthah points to the termination of the forty-two months of Papal authority during the sixth phase of the church, suggested by the six-year judgeship of Jephthah (Judges 12:6,7).

The next judge, Ibzan, was from Bethlehem, reminding us of our Lord Jesus. If Jephthah’s six-year judgeship relates to the sixth period of the church, then Ibzan’s seven years which followed nicely pictures the seventh stage of the church, which began with our Lord’s return and his assumption of power. Ibzan’s prominence is noted by the thirty sons he bore which became prominent princes, thirty showing his redeemed saints during the harvest, the same as represented elsewhere by Gideon’s band of three-hundred (Judges 12:8,9; 7:22).

Ibzan was followed by Elon for ten years, suggesting the thousand-year millennium which rules the earth after the Gospel age. Abdon’s judgeship of eight years expresses the thought that this kingdom will be the “eighth” stage because it follows the seven stages of the Gospel age. The authority of that kingdom is suggested by his seventy princes that rode seventy ass colts, which were signs of power and authority. So the redeemed church will share the royal authority of the kingdom with Christ.

Segregating Digits

Ezra 2:64 tells us “The whole congregation” of Israelites returning from Babylon numbered 42,360. These returnees represent spiritual Israelites who return from Babylon during the harvest, after the tortuous forty-two months of Revelation have ended, which is otherwise given as 3½ prophetic “times” of 360 years each. This one number, 42,360, incorporates both of these features if we acknowledge a segregation of the digits: 42 and 360.

If this is an intended spiritual meaning of the text, it opens another method of analyzing large numbers. Sarah, representing the spiritual part of the Abrahamic covenant, lived to the age of 127 (12 and 7)—perhaps her age indicates those developed under the Sarah covenant are the church—twelve tribes of spiritual Israel in seven phases of the church. Abraham was 75 years old when God made his covenant with him (Genesis 12:4). Perhaps the seven represent the seven stages of the church, and the five that they are God’s new creation. Abraham’s age at death, 175 (17 and 5), similarly shows the redeemed children of Abraham who constitute the spiritual body of Christ.

The varied wisdom of God is unbounded. Probably there are still unseen treasures in the Scriptural use of numbers awaiting discovery in the next age as mankind looks into the deep things of his word. But the privilege begins with us now.