The Spiritual Meaning of Numbers
When I first began to study the spiritual meaning of the numbers in scripture, I didn’t realize just how important they were. Since then, I now recognize that they are extremely important in helping us to understand truth.
Why numbers? Because they are a universal language, a language that is the same in any country. Though the number may be spoken in a different tongue, two in this country is two in every country.
There are numbers in the very first chapter of the Bible, and it is saturated with numbers throughout. Once we discover their spiritual meaning, it opens up an understanding we would not otherwise have.
Numbers in scripture often lead to patterns which show the intelligence and logic of our Creator. If there is any doubt that the Bible was inspired by God, one need only consider the numbers and patterns to dispel that doubt.
It would take several lifetimes to consider all the numbers and patterns found in scripture for such is the wisdom of our heavenly Father. At this time, we must be satisfied with merely a glimpse of their divine meaning.
Once we understand the spiritual meaning of a number, it holds true through the entire Bible. This is also true of the patterns they establish.
One of the most fascinating things about the numbers and patterns is their ability to tie the Old and New Testaments together. Patterns in the Old Testament are often considered “types” or “shadows,” which means that when we consider various objects or events in the Old Testament, they point to and enhance the spiritual realities in the New Testament.
The book that started me on the path to considering the spiritual meaning of numbers is called Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance, written by E.W. Bullinger who lived from 1837 to 1913. I often quote from the online version of this book. By no means is this book an exhaustive work and Bullinger himself states this. It is, however, a great reference that has endured the test of time. Other books that are excellent study sources are Dr. Stephen Jones’ work, The Biblical Meaning of Numbers from One to Forty and Ed Vallowe’s work, Biblical Mathematics: Keys to Scripture Numerics.
Now, let’s consider an example of the spiritual meaning of numbers and the patterns they produce. We’ll look at a subject that is familiar with almost everyone—the Ten Commandments, recorded in Exodus, Chapter 20.
Exodus 20:1-5, 7-8, 12-17 (ESV)
1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 "You shall have no other gods before me. (1) 4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them… (2) 7 "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain (3). 8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (4)… 12 "Honor your father and your mother (5), that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13 "You shall not murder (6). 14 "You shall not commit adultery (7). 15 "You shall not steal (8). 16 "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (9). 17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's" (10).
Exodus 31:18 (ESV)
18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.
Deuteronomy 5:22 (ESV)
22 "These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me.
Since there are Ten Commandments, let’s look at the spiritual meaning of this number. From Bullinger’s Number in Scripture:
“It has been already pointed out that ten is one of the perfect numbers, and signifies the perfection of Divine order, commencing, as it does, an altogether new series of numbers. The first decade is the representative of the whole numeral system, and originates the system of calculation called "decimals," because the whole system of numeration consists of so many tens, of which the first is a type of the whole.
“Completeness of order, marking the entire round of anything, is, therefore, the ever-present signification of the number ten. It implies that nothing is wanting; that the number and order are perfect; that the whole cycle is complete.”
What do we read? “Completeness of order, marking the entire round of anything, is, therefore, the ever-present signification of the number ten. It implies that nothing is wanting; that the number and order are perfect; that the whole cycle is complete.” Immediately, this tells us why there are Ten Commandments and not more or less. Within these Ten Commandments we find nothing lacking, a completeness of order, a perfection if you will, that cannot be marred by human hands. For this reason we read in Deuteronomy 5:22, “And He added no more” (ESV).
Now, note that Moses stated, “And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me.” Why two tablets? Because the spiritual meaning of two is “witness,” which is what the word “testimony” means. So we read, “He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony (witness).”
Now, let’s consider the commandments themselves. Close examination reveals that the first four commandments regard our relationship to our Creator. In reference to the number four, Bullinger states, “It is emphatically the number of Creation; of man in his relation to the world as created; while six is the number of man in his opposition to and independence of God. It is the number of things that have a beginning, of things that are made, of material things, and matter itself. It is the number of material completeness. Hence it is the world number, and especially the ‘city’ number.” So, when we view four as the “world number” (that is, humankind in particular), we realize why the first four commandments focus on the relationship between the creation and its Creator.
As we see, Bullinger briefly mentions the number six, stating that it is “the number of man in his opposition to and independence of God.” We have already considered the first four commandments, leaving six. So it is that each of these commandments regard our relationship with each other because our independence and opposition to our Creator is reflected in our treatment of our fellow man. John wrote in 1st John 4:20, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
Finally, let’s come back to the number two, the number of “witness.” Consider what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew, Chapter 22.
Matthew 22:37-40 (NKJV)
37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
The Ten Commandments, written on two tablets of stone, summed up in two things—“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (that is, the first four commandments) and “love your neighbor as yourself” (that is, the last six commandments). No wonder Christ said, “On these two (witness) commandments hang all the Law (1) and the Prophets (2).”
As we see, the spiritual meaning of numbers play an important part in our understanding. When considered correctly, they bring patterns to the surface and reveal much more than what is first realized.
Now it might be said that the fifth commandment, that is, “Honor your father and your mother,” could also be considered as relating to our Creator and not just to our earthly parents. If so, then the Ten Commandments are, in a sense, equally divided as five and five. According to Bullinger and Jones, five is the number which stands for “grace.” I find it interesting that we have five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot, for a total of ten in both cases. In the Bible, hands typify our “deeds” while feet typify our “walk” or “conduct” in life. Coincidence, or might our own makeup reflect the divine essence of the law of God within our being? Since ten is two fives, might this also speak of the “witness” of God’s “grace” in humankind?
As mentioned, the Bible is saturated with numbers from beginning to end and for good reason. Would this abundance of numbers be any good if they didn’t contain spiritual meaning? Of course not. So it is extremely important that we pay close attention to the numbers and their meanings and seek to understand why they are there. Believe me when I say that they are everywhere in scripture and give us incredible proof of an invisible and divine Source that is working in all the affairs of humankind. In closing, let me share a portion of Stephen Jones’ explanation of the spiritual meaning of ten.
Ten is the number of divine order being reestablished one way or another through the judgment of the law (as pictured by the Ten Commandments). In other words, it manifests the actual sentence of the law which follows the gathering and presentation of the evidence. After the Holy Spirit has revealed the evidence to expose men’s hearts (i.e., number nine), the Judge reveals the law. That is, he pronounces the sentence (i.e., number ten) according to the law.
Ten is the number that portrays that time of judgment when men either receive reward or come under divine judgment. One way or another, the law must be fulfilled and the divine order reestablished.