Bible Numbers - Part 1

man thinking


The number 1 has for its fundamental idea the exclusion of difference.

  1. It excludes any other: “The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deut. 6:4.) “In that day there shall be one Lord, and His name one.” (Zech. 14:9.) It speaks, thus of:

    1. sufficiency which needs no other; of power, omnipotence
    2. independency, which admits no other

    And from both these thoughts, of what abides, is perpetual, eternal.

  2. It excludes external difference, and speaks of:

    1. identity, identification
    2. concord, peace
  3. It excludes internal difference: “The dream is one” (Gen. 41:25), and speaks of:

    1. 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 though of it, personality; in the lowest, of life, which is the basis of all that is truly individuality.
  4. As an ordinal number, the first, the beginning:

    1. In the highest way, true of God as Creator, Life-Giver, Father, Source of all
    2. Headship
    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 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.” (cf. Eccl. 4:9-12.)

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 Savior, 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, sold 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 is manifested, 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:

  1. Glory, which is indeed, with God, but the manifestation of Himself.
  2. Possession, portion, dwelling-place: heaven as the sanctuary and dwelling-place of God. Worship and praise, the sanctuary-work.
  3. Fruit manifests the tree
  4. 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! yield to another. In Scripture, it divides either as 3 plus 1, the numbers of manifestation and creative sovereignty, or as 2x2, true division, and signifying 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. 4 and 5) 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 parts, and there are just five 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 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, dependant power. His hand is the instrument of it, as the vice-regent 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, through 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 of 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 responsibly.

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