Numerical Structure of the Bible
I have elsewhere related how, some fifteen years ago, the
Lord led me into the discovery of a numerical structure everywhere pervading
Scripture. I do not need to repeat this here, nor to give proof of the
existence of such, as I have there given it. I now call Scripture in general to
the proof of it. Believing assuredly that it has pleased God so to write His
Word, apology would be entirely out of place for the present attempt to exhibit
this in the Word for the practical help of His people. "I believed, and
therefore have I spoken;" and I speak not hesitatingly, but with the assured
conviction of the truth of what I speak.
But what is meant by "numerical structure"? It is this: That if, for example, in the Pentateuch we find plainly a series of five books; that is five divisions of Moses' whole work, this fivefold division has a meaning intimately connected with the subjects of the books themselves. The numerals of Scripture all students of it believe to have (in many cases at least,) definite meaning - as, for instance, in the number 7 we have "completeness." The view that I am advocating simply applies this symbolism to such a series as we have here, and affirms that Genesis, which stands first among these, has for its special line of truth what would be suggested by the number 1; Exodus, similarly, a line of truth connected with the number 2; Leviticus, with number 3; Numbers, with 4; Deuteronomy, with 5. To take of these, perhaps the simplest, the number 4 stands as the number of the world, and the symbol for "weakness" (which may come out in failure), "trial," "experience;" and so the book of Numbers will be found to be characterized by these thoughts. It is, in fact, the testing and failure of Israel in the wilderness - the type of our own pathway of trial in the world; and the characters implied in the number are found in it throughout.
Now this is not only true of the books as a whole. Each one, we find, when we come to examine it, readily parting into similar divisions, and these again into subdivisions, and so to be divided again and again; and in the case of each division, whether smaller or larger, the same rule applies. The number of each in its series is an indication of the line of truth contained in the division to which it is attached. Of course it is not meant that these divisions are distinctly given us with their corresponding numbers. Had it been so, the numerical structure would not have needed proof today. We have to discover these divisions in most cases for ourselves; but when we have discovered them we shall find that their numerical place is the sure indication of what is contained in them, and gives us the point of view from which to see them aright.
If this is true, its exceeding importance ought to be plain at once. God has not wrought all this into the web and woof of Scripture to be a mere wonder - a matter of curious inquiry only, but for deepest, truest blessing to all His own. If it be only there, then it is there for a purpose worthy of Himself, and cannot be overlooked or rejected without serious loss. Nor does the fact of its having been hidden up to the present time affect the importance of it. How long was the great doctrine of justification by faith hidden from the mass of Christians? For all such things, we have but to blame our own careless unbelieving reading of God's inspired Word. Let us bless Him for His grace, and not refuse His present mercy.
Another objection will doubtless be, that this numerical system is too artificial - too mechanical - seems to make the interpretation of Scripture too independent of the Spirit of God to be of Him. The perfectly sufficient answer to this would be that it is there; and being there, it must be of Him, of course. God's ways are often strange enough to us, and we misjudge strangely. Who would have thought that the alphabetic psalms would be worthy of the Spirit of God to write? Probably no one, if He had not confessedly done so. And these alphabetic psalms are but the indication of that very numerical structure which in the hundred and nineteenth stamps it every where with that number 8, which reveals easily one of its main features.
If it has pleased God to give us helps to the consistent interpretation of His blessed Word, it is no wonder if they should be something that we might call unspiritual. The more easily they strike the eye, the better for the purpose. If they are to conduct to the spiritual meaning, they must not be as hidden as the meaning, surely. And in fact, the divisions are often to be discerned without any difficulty, where their meaning is nevertheless hard enough to discern. For it is here that the need of spiritual judgment is still found; and without God, we shall go widely astray.
The fact remains: the numbers are there. Let criticism do its work thoroughly, and prove if they are not. Let it be as severe as the subject demands, and let the pretension be exposed, if it be merely that. Certainly it ought to be easily disproved if untrue, for never did a system submit itself to more rigorous test than does the present one. In the book of Genesis alone there are over two hundred divisions. The numerals must in all these cases characterize plainly the divisions; they must elucidate the spiritual meaning of each part; they must harmonize with one another so as to make the interpretation of the whole harmonious; and they must bring out the teaching of the book as really one from end to end. These demands are neither few nor small. If they are met in even any tolerable way, then it is useless to deny the truth of what meets them. No human ingenuity could accomplish such a result.
Let it be remembered, however, that, from the immensity of Scripture, no complete success is or can be claimed for what is but a beginning-a first survey of a field so vast and new. It should be no cause for disappointment here if the faithful investigator of divine truth according to this method should soon outgrow his primer, and subsequent attempts - if the near coming of the Lord should yet leave time for them,- soon supersede the present. God would ever lead us on: to be with God is to be led on.
The use of the numerical structure is not simply as an aid to interpretation, though for the child of God that is its great use. It confronts the deniers of the complete inspiration of God's book, and much more the rationalist and the infidel, with an argument they can never meet. It shows the one mind of the Spirit in all these various writings of so many men of so many generations. The Pentateuch it demonstrates, instead of being the piece of literary forgery so commonly now imagined, to have given shape to the whole volume of inspiration; while the same delicate tracery is found every where in it, declaring the hand whose workmanship it is. Its almost mathematical precision, easily to be discerned substantially by the most unspiritual, challenges the infidel to account for what he cannot conceive to have been done by the contrivance and connivance of man. The very fact that there is nothing spiritual upon the surface will enable it to be looked at outside of all the questions with which every thing else is sure to be mixed up. Here is a simple easy problem, which is as open to the unlearned as to the learned to all classes at once. Yet, settle it as it must be settled, you are brought face to face with God. It is the finger of God. This simple enumeration this babe's arithmetic is a web that Goliath's sword can never pierce, and whose meshes will hold powerless the stoutest champions of unbelief. Try it, gentlemen! Learn how God has mocked all your philosophy with the mere enumeration of 1, 2, 3! To despise it will be safer for your pride, but in result your real suicide. The child will understand enough to laugh at you: the most ignorant will be sheltered from your grosser ignorance.
Nor can you afford to despise it, when you remember how all the natural sciences in the present day are ranging themselves under arithmetical law; when, as Herschel says, every law of nature tends to express itself in terms of arithmetic; while astronomy preaches it to you from the starry spheres, the plants in the arrangement of their leaves and the division of their flowers, the animal kingdom shows its partiality among its different tribes for different numbers, the crystal talks mathematics to you from the window-pane. Why should not a law of numbers pervade Scripture also, and link God's work and His Word together; or show His Word also to be His work? And remember, nothing more simply expresses mind than these arithmetical series. I find a dozen stones in a line exactly three inches apart, and I say this is the work of mind. And the Eternal Mind would thus make itself manifest to the minds of His creatures.
Every sound that wakes our hearing has its arithmetical law; every ripple of light no less. Seven notes make all our music; and God's Word is musical with this numerical impress, which tells every where of a Master's hand, that can alone unite all discords into harmony. See how in the.events pictured in the closing book of Scripture God's sevens ring their chime throughout. They are celebrating before it comes the victory of God and good in the strife now nearing its end. They are meant to cheer amid it those drooping in the heat and toil of the day. Measured are the hours as they go by; measured all that remains; measured is the cup of sorrow; "sufficient" - not too great - "is the evil" of the day.
And "I am not mad, most noble Festus," when I affirm that the Scripture science of numbers is able to put meaning into all chronology, and to interpret largely nature in every department of it. It is only saying that where things are, they will speak; and that all things are full of reason, infinitely fuller than any mere disciple of reason can ever know. But my point now is Scripture, and Scripture must be the key to all the rest.
There is one thing that makes all this solemn yet joyful to the saint: the assurance that it seems to give that the end is nigh at hand. The very power of demonstration that is in this numerical system seems to mark it as a closing testimony; faith almost coming to an end, God coming face to face with man. Here it becomes us not to go too far in assumption. His ways are not as our ways. But in any case, the end cannot be far.
THE NUMERALS IN SCRIPTURE
We must now look, though briefly, at the symbolical meaning of the numbers themselves. This is needful, both to relieve the reader from unnecessary dependence on the former book, and because that even the short time that has passed since the publication of that has enabled me to give a somewhat fuller account of these meanings. Some may think, indeed, that the increase of their number is a difficulty rather than a help, and that the multiplicity of the meanings given tends to destroy their definiteness. This is very far from being the case, however. However numerous they may be, there is nothing arbitrary in them, derived as they are from a certain natural meaning, which thus pervades and connects them all together. To give an example from one of the most multifarious, as it might seem; all the variety of thoughts connected with the number 1 are applications of the idea of unity, or of primacy. It is from the want of discerning this natural root of the Scripture symbolism that the interpretation of the numerals has been so various and discordant.
As there are seven notes in music, and the eighth is but the octave - the beginning again of the series in another key, so there are seven numerals which are alone fundamental in Scripture - symbolism; the number 7 being the well-known symbol of perfection, and 8 merely marking a new beginning, as the eighth day is the first of a new week. All other significant numbers derive their meaning from these, which combine in some way to produce them. The number 10 thus gets its significance from its factors, 2 and 5; 12, from 4 and 3; 40, from 6, 2, and 4; and so on for all others.
I give fully the meanings of these numbers as far as I have yet been able to ascertain them. Others will certainly be found; and here is perhaps the greatest difficulty in the way of the numerical system - that we have to work to this extent with unknown quantities. In practice, however, this is much less a difficulty than might be thought; and this argues well for the amount of knowledge which we have of them. In each number there is, as already said, a central thought, derived from some natural significance, and from which all other meanings take their rise. They are never merely arbitrary and disconnected, never fantastic. Thus, not only have we a guard against their excessive multiplication, but also the assurance that whatever remains to be discovered as to them will only make precise our former knowledge; it will but adjust the glass, and bring the object better into focus, so that what has been more dimly shall be now more clearly seen. Let us proceed now at once to the numerals.
The number 1 has for its fundamental idea the exclusion of difference.
I. It excludes another: "The Lord our God is one Lord." (Deut. vi. 4.) "In that day there shall be one Lord, and His name one." (Zech. xiv. 9.)
(1) It speaks, thus, of sufficiency, which needs no other; of power, omnipotence. (2) Of independency, which admits no other. And from both these thoughts, of what abides, is perpetual, eternal.
II. It excludes external difference. (1) Speaks of identity, identification. (2) Of concord, peace.
III. It excludes internal difference: "The dream is one." (Gen. xli. 25.) (1) Speaks, thus, of harmony of parts or attributes. Thus of consistency, congruity, and of righteousness, which is congruity with relationship. (2) Of individuality - one body, limb, branch; in the highest thought of it, personality; in the lowest, of life, which is the basis of all that is truly individuality.
IV. As an ordinal number, the first, the beginning:-
(1) In the highest way, true of God as Creator, Life-Giver, Father, Source of all.
(3) Implies precedency in thought and sovereignty in will: under which together we have counsel, election; promise, grace. (4) Birth.
Primarily, then, and very naturally, this number speaks of God; but it may be also applied to men, and may have, then, (as all numbers) an evil sense.
(1) It may speak of righteousness, as before seen; obedience, practical recognition of divine sovereignty, and so of "repentance toward God;" integrity, which is indeed "wholeness" oneness.
(2) Of independency, as disobedience, rebellion-will.
(3) I think it speaks of a single state, barrenness.
The fundamental thought is the opposite of the first number: there is now another. It speaks, therefore, of difference, division, (it is the first number which divides,) and thus often becomes symbolical of the power of evil.
In a good sense, it speaks of addition, growth, increase; so of help, confirmation, fellowship. We have this idea expressed in our word "seconding." (Comp. Eccles. iv. 9=12.) Here we have,-
(1) Confirmation in the way of testimony: "The testimony of two men is true." And the power of this confirmation depends much on the very diversity of the witnesses: take the Old and New Testament as God's great witness to man. The Second Person of the Godhead is "the True Witness" and "the Word of God."
(2) Salvation; help.
(3) Fellowship, relationship, covenant - the legal one.
(4) Dependence, humiliation, service. Here again the idea of "seconding" assists the thought.
It will be observed how these various meanings unite in Christ, the Second Person of the Godhead, the Second Man, and uniting these two natures, the divine and human, in His own person; the Saviour, humbling Himself to death to serve us.
This is the good sense; in the bad one, we have,-
(1) Difference, division, contrast, contradiction, opposition, conflict, enmity, the enemy's work. The unclean beasts were in the ark in twos; the mother of a female child was to be unclean two weeks after its birth, - double the time for the man-child.
And I may notice here how the woman herself illustrates this number, full of contrasts as she is: dependent on man, but his help-meet; the type of increase, yet through whom came sin, death, and yet, through her victorious "Seed," salvation.
(2) Death is division, separation, the last enemy; yet the death of the cross, in which the conflict between good and evil rose to its height, is once again salvation. Nowhere is there so great a contrast, such apparent contradiction, as in the cross.
3 is the symbol of cubic measure, solid measure, solidity; of fullness, realization. "Take any two dimensions, and multiply them together: what have you? A measure of surface merely. Take a third dimension; now you have more than surface: the third dimension strikes in deep below the surface, and gives you a measure of solidity. 3 stands, then, for what is solid, real, substantial, for fullness, actuality. What are length and breadth without thickness? A line that you can draw upon paper is more than that."
3 is the number of Persons in the Godhead, - of the divine fullness, therefore, - and until we reach this, God is not fully manifested. Thus it is the number of manifestation. It is that of the Spirit, who realizes in the creature the counsels of God.
"When the deep lay over the waste and desolate earth, the Spirit of God brooded upon the face of the waters. When men are born again to God, the gospel comes to them, not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost. What is sanctification-the work of the Spirit, but that in which salvation is actualized in the soul? Without the work of the Spirit, there is nothing but outside work: ` that which is born of the Spirit is spirit;' this is that third dimension which every saint has."
The sanctuary, God's dwelling-place, is a cube: ten cubits in the tabernacle; twenty in the temple; the final city, which the glory of God lightens, is a cube also:" the length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.' There the counsels of God are realized, the holiness He seeks is attained."
In the sanctuary, God manifests Himself. Resurrection too is that in which God is manifest, where all human power is prostrate in the dust: resurrection is therefore on the third day. Revival, restoration, and recovery naturally connect themselves with this.
In connection with these thoughts, we have those of -
Glory, which is indeed, with God, but the manifestation of Himself.
Possession, portion, dwelling-place: heaven as the sanctuary and dwelling-place of God. Worship and praise, the sanctuary-work.
Fruit manifests the tree.
Union, as in marriage, which is the image of sanctification, a separation to.
4 is the first number which allows of simple division, as 2 is the number which divides it. It is the symbol of weakness therefore; so of the creature in contrast with the Creator, the material that yields itself to be fashioned by the divine hand, and may, alas! to another. In Scripture, it divides either as 3 plus 1, the numbers of manifestation and creative sovereignty, or as 2 x 2, true division, and significant of evil.
4 is also the number of the four corners of the earth, of earthly completeness and universality, which has thus on it the stamp of weakness, whatever men may boast. It is the number of the four winds of heaven, the various and opposing influences of which the earth is the scene. This brings in the thought of testing and experience, which with man connects itself so constantly with failure. Practical walk in general comes under this number.
Four beasts sum up the Gentile empires, with their sovereignty over all the earth; four cherubic living ones (Rev. iv. and v.) watch over it. The fourth book of the Law - Numbers - expresses in the most vivid manner the various thoughts connected with this number.
"In the cleansing of the leper and the consecration of the priest alike, the blood is put upon three parts of man, which together manifest what he is; the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, the great toe of the right foot. By the ear, he is to receive the word of God; with the hand, to do the enjoined work; with the feet,, to walk in His blessed ways. This is evidently man in his whole responsibility.
"Each of these parts is stamped with the number 5.
"The ear is the avenue to the higher part, and there are just five such senses, by which man is connected with the scene around, the avenues of perception, by which alone he can be appealed to.
"The hand of man is that by which he moulds and fashions the natural world around him. It is the expression of active power; the four fingers with the opposing thumb, the consecrated because the governing part. These on the two hands give 10, the number of the commandments in the two tables of the law, the measure of natural responsibility.
"The foot, the expression of personal conduct, gives a similar division (much less marked, however,) and the two feet a similar 10. 5 stands thus as the number of man, exercised and responsible under the government of God."
Notice moreover how carefully man's power is characterized as creature, dependent power. His hand is the instrument of it, as the vicegerent of God in the world: no beast has, in any proper sense, a hand. Yet the power is in no way like divine power; simple, and without effort, but a co-operation of forces, in which, as he recognizes, "union is strength:" the four fingers, whose symbol is weakness, helped by the strong opposing thumb; the two hands also assisting one another.
The common scriptural division of 7 into 4 + 3 helps us to realize the present one into 4 + 1, the symbol of the creature under the government of God, this approached from the creature side: and the throne of God thus approached is encompassed with clouds and darkness. The divine ways with him give him constant and needed exercise, though the throne is there, steadfast, and towering above the clouds. 5 will be found constantly associated with this thought of exercise as under responsibility; but also with the kindred one that, under God, the way, according to its character, leads to a corresponding end. This whole lesson, Deuteronomy, the fifth book of Scripture, enforces throughout.
"The creature in relation to the almighty Creator" gives the fundamental thought.
In connection with 5, and as very near akin to it in meaning, we may take -
It is but 5 X 2, as I have already said. The ten fingers and toes are plainly so, and they give us respectively man's capacity for action and competence for an upright walk. But the measure of capacity is that of responsibility, and the measure of responsibility is that of judgment or of reward. Thus ten plagues fall upon Egypt.
The ten commandments are on the two tables of testimony, the measure, on the divine side, of man's responsibility.
In the kingdom of the ten tribes, Ephraim was set on its own responsibility, apart from the rule of the house of David.
The ten toes of the image in Nebuchadnezzar's vision enable the feet to stand firm - are what answer to the ten horns upon the fourth beast in that of the prophet; again the measure of power.
In the ten virgins of the parable, responsibility is enforced; and here they are five wise, five foolish.
The testimony here is that of the bridegroom's return.
Finally, in the tithe demanded by God in Israel, we have the whole (of whatever it might be) looked at as composed of ten parts, the measure of responsibility, of which God takes one in token of His sovereignty.
40 is, again, but 4 X 10-full testing according to the whole responsibility.
And now we may pass on to-
6 is the second number which is not a prime. Divided, its factors are 2 and 3, which easily yield the thought of the manifestation of evil, or of the enemy's work.
But evil is weakness, as again this divisibility teaches us; and as such, it must yield to God. Read in a good sense, the number of conflict brings forth from it that which speaks of sanctification and the glory of God.
6 is the number of the days of man's work-day week, the appointed time of his labour, type of his life labour, his "few and evil" days, - limited because of sin.
In its full meaning, it seems to speak of sin in its full development, limited and controlled by God, who thus glorifies Himself in the issue of it. The discipline of God for His own would come under this.
In the number of the beast, we find it in three successively higher powers of the decimal scale, - evil in its fullest activity, yet its feebleness ever apparent, and God's hand controlling it: it increases only responsibility and judgment. Its number is "the number of its name" - stamps it as what it is, and is only the "number of a man," vainly and impiously aspiring to be as God.
In the tenth psalm is the description of this "wicked one" (vv. 2-11). It is, conjointly with the preceding one, an alphabetic psalm, from which in this place exactly six letters (Mem to Tzaddi) are dropped out!
Goliath's height was six cubits; a giant of his race has six fingers and six toes.
Nebuchadnezzar's idolatrous image was sixty cubits high, six broad.
One sixth of Gog's host is spared (Ezek. xxxix. 2). That is, six parts are the measure of the host, of which God spares one in divine sovereignty.
Lastly, the darkness of the cross began at the sixth hour and ended at the ninth (3 X 3) - God fully now displayed.
Last of the series -
is the symbol of perfection; the sense, however, being sometimes evil, though prevailingly good. It is in Scripture, where divided, in general 4 + 3, numbers which speak evidently of the creature as manifesting the Creator, which, being attained, is for the creature its perfection, and for God His rest.
It often seems merely to indicate a complete view or accomplishment, as the parables of Matt. xiii. give a complete view of the kingdom of heaven: the first four, the external world-aspect; the last three, the divine mind. The seven addresses to the churches give in like manner the complete inspired Church-history. The seven seals secure the book completely. In the seven vials is "filled up the wrath of God." The seven more wicked spirits which the unclean spirit associates with himself (Matt. xii. 45) is an example of the bad sense; and the seven heads of the beast in Revelation.
Perfect divine accomplishment we may take as the meaning of this number in a good sense. The regular numerical series is here, therefore, complete; the next number -
simply showing that it is complete by indicating a new beginning, as the eighth day is the first of a new week. It thus speaks of what is new in contrast with the old, and thus of the new covenant, new creation. Thus circumcision was to be performed the eighth day: "the putting off the body of the flesh" (Col. ii. 11), is connected with the new creation in Christ Jesus unto good works (Eph. ii. 10).
So seven days are occupied with the consecration of the priesthood, and on the eighth day they enter on their work.
So the transfiguration on the eighth day (Luke ix. 28) begins, as it were, the new age with "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. i. 16-18.) And the eighth psalm announces His kingdom. (Comp. Heb. ii. 5-9.)
But this, like other numbers, can be applied to what is evil; and so we have -
The "seven other spirits" associated with the first "unclean spirit" making eight, and introducing the "last state" of the man into whom they enter.
So the ten horns of Daniel's fourth beast have three uprooted before the little horn, becoming, thus, eight with this; the last state of the beast being thus brought about, in which judgment falls upon the whole. And in Rev. xvii., where from another side the same things are recounted, the eighth head gives to the beast its blasphemous form, and "goes into perdition."
We have but now one other number, which it needs briefly to consider - the number -
It is, in Scripture; at least as commonly divided into 4 X 3 as 7 is into 4 + 3. The factors are the same; but whereas in the one case they are added, in the other they are multiplied. "It is only in the relation of the two numbers to one another that it differs from 7: the number of the world, and that of divine manifestation, characterize it; but these are not side by side merely. It is God manifesting Himself in the world of His creation, as 7 is, but now in active energy laying hold of and transforming it. Thus 12 is the number of manifest sovereignty, as it was exercised in Israel by the Lord in the midst of them, or as it will be exercised in the world to come."
1 and 5 are also governmental numbers; but 1 speaks simply of supremacy - of sovereign will and power, while 5 speaks of God's governmental ways. Both apply to providential as well as manifest government.
In the new Jerusalem, it is plain why the number of manifest sovereignty is everywhere apparent: - twelve gates, twelve foundations; twelve thousand furlongs its compass every way. This is its blessedness, that God here rules entirely. Upon earth, according to the Lord's promises, the twelve apostles "sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Matt. xix. 28.)
And now, looking back at this series of numbers, we can easily trace in it a connection of thought, which unites it together, and manifests also its completeness as a series. It will serve as confirmation of the meaning of the whole, and of each separate part also. The order of thought gives it a new beauty, and its fullness becomes a demonstration. It is plain that the sum of all truth is contained in it, and that we cannot go beyond it for any thing.
In the first three numbers, thus, we have God in His fullness - Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. God must, if our thoughts are right, take precedence in them of all else, and the display of Himself is what is accomplished and designed in all that follows.
We have next, in the number 4, the creature; and here the display of God in it is noted and emphasized in the Scripture division into 3 and 1 which has already come before us. The connection of the first three numbers with the fourth is here made plain to us.
Then 5 we have seen also to be 4 and 1. We start afresh with the number 4; the creature being the means of this display, and therefore the addition of the first three to 4 completes the series. 5 is thus a 4 and 1; 6, a 4 and 2; 7, a 4 and 3. There are no more divine numbers to be related to the creature number, and so the series necessarily ends with 7.
5 then, is 4 and 1: the creature in relation to the Creator, weakness to almighty strength, that is the first thought.
6 is a 4 combined with 2, the number that speaks of the strife that has come in with evil, and of deliverance from it. Thus it is the number which shows the creature as a fallen creature, and God's victory over the evil, by which He is gloriously displayed.
Thus God's work is accomplished, as in the six days every thing was made at first, and the number 7 speaks, therefore, of full accomplishment and rest. The series is complete, and it is plain that there can be no line of truth beyond or outside of it. How beautiful and conclusive a proof of what instruction God has designed for us in the numerical series itself!
Excerpted from F. W. Grant's The Numerical Bible, Volume 1 - The Pentateuch (1890)
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