Q&R with Greg Albrecht – “Is there any significance to numbers used in the Bible?”
In my former church, I was taught a lot about the significance of certain numbers—seven, twelve and so on—and their importance in the unfolding of God’s ongoing work with man. Is there really any essential God-purposed meaning to the occurrence and recurrence of particular numbers in the Bible?
I believe that there are times when specific numbers used in the Bible have special significance, and that obviously those numbers are used by God’s inspiration. Several factors to keep in mind to maintain a balanced perspective:
- 1. Not all numbers used in the Bible have a special significance. The context of the passage under question can help us determine any special meaning.
- 2. Numbers like six, seven, twelve, and forty that often have significance in one context in which they are used do not always have that same significance, in every part of the Bible. The context usually determines any added meaning.
- 3. Events and teachings in the Bible do not generally depend upon the use of a number which may have significance. The number, if it has any significance, may add an additional layer of meaning but never gives primary meaning. Put another way, the message of the Bible, and of the gospel in particular, can be understood perfectly without resorting to the interpretation and meaning of numbers.
- 4. Therefore, at the very best, the whole study of the significance of numbers in the Bible is an extra, a “fringe benefit.” At the worst, numerology can take us into esoteric and bizarre beliefs far from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any study of the significance of numbers must be approached in a balanced manner, such a study must always be seen as a minor emphasis, and never assume primary significance.
It is easy to obsess over numerology and in the process miss the meaning of any passage, and especially the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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