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The symbolic use of numbers in Scripture

There is a conventional use of numbers found in the Bible. They can also have symbolic significance rather than just a mathematical value. But not every number (1 through 144,000) is given significance in the Scripture and we should be careful not assigning something to them unless there is a pattern of usage. When they are repeated and used for important places, events and things, then it becomes significant (such as the numbers 12 and 40).

For example the first mention of the number 7 after the 7 days in creation is when God told Noah to gather the animals in the ark, he was told to take 7 of every clean animal, 2 of the unclean. God gave them seven more days before the rains came (Gen.7). The number 7 is used as a commemoration of the creation account and on the 7th day God rested.

Gen.4:15. To be avenged seven-fold is to be avenged fully a complete measure.

(the rabbis believed this mean 7 generations would pass before he would be killed) God protected him by marking him so that no one else will take justice.

The Babylonians regarded 7 as the number of totality, of completeness. They built the 7-storied towers of Babylonia represented the universe. Seven was the expression of the highest power, the tower of Babel, a ziggarut.

Seven years of famine (Gen 41:46-57) the 7 years of plenty (Gen. 42:28) Seven is often the number of completion.

Jacob's 7 years' service for Rachel (Gen. 29:20; compare Gen. 29:27), and his bowing down 7 times to Esau (Gen. 33:3). Joshuas 7 days' march of the 7 priests blowing 7 trumpets round the walls of Jericho; the 7-fold march on the 7th day (Neh. 9:6); the 7 sons of Jesse (Ps. 21:6), the 7 sons of Saul (Ps. 78:33), and the 7 sons of Job (Job 1:2; compare Job 42:13); The leprous Naaman was ordered to bathe 7 times in the Jordan (2 Kings 6:15). In cases of real or suspected uncleanness through leprosy, or the presence of a corpse, or for other reasons, 7 days' seclusion was necessary (Lev. 12:2, etc.). An animal must be 7 days old before it could be offered in sacrifice (Ex. 22:30).

There are 7 parables of the Kingdom in Mt 13:1-58; the 7 woes pronounced on the Pharisees (Mt 23:13,15-16,23,25,27,29).

John uses numbers in his gospel and epistles consistently, with the number 7 (7 signs- 7 discourses) which stands for the number of completion (God rested from his work on the 7th day, we are told in Genesis. There are 7 I Am statements by Jesus in the Fourth Gospel of John.

Rev 1:4 to the seven churches which are in Asia:

Rev 1:4 The seven Spirits who are before His throne,

Rev 1:12 seven golden lampstands,

Rev 1:16 In His right hand seven stars,

Rev 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.

Rev 5:1 And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.

Rev 5:6 in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes

Rev 8:2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.

Rev 10:3 seven thunders

a lamb with 7 horns and 7 eyes (Rev. 7:7);

Rev 11:13In the earthquake seven thousand men were killed,

Rev 12:3 fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns,

Rev 15:1 seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.

Rev 15:7 seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God

So there is significance attached to certain numbers but not all.

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