We’ve made it to one hundred! Also known as five score in medieval contexts, there is so much I could tell you about this first three-digit whole number. There are almost one hundred references to the number in the Bible and I have tried to condense all the important examples in this article.
In science, one hundred is the atomic number of fermium. Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius or centigrade. The Karman line, which separates the Earth’s atmosphere from the rest of space, lies at one hundred kilometres above sea level.
In the United States of America, there are one hundred senators in congress at one time. The $100 bill is known as the “Benjamin” because it features a portrait of founding father Benjamin Franklin. A €100 banknote features the image of a Rococo gateway on one side and a Baroque bridge on the reverse.
A devout Jew is expected to say at least one hundred blessings per day. In Islam, the Koran states that men and women who commit adultery will receive one hundred lashes of a whip. In Greek mythology, the giant Argus had one hundred eyes. He could sleep with fifty eyes open, allowing him to keep an eye on whatever he was charged to guard.
The fourteen epistles written by Paul have in total one hundred chapters. The apocryphal book of Barnabas claims Adam and Eve cried for one hundred days in repentance of their sins.
There are one hundred years in a century and when someone reaches their 100th birthday they become a centenarian. In the Bible, there are records of events that occurred to two people who were one hundred years old – Shem and Abraham:
As you can see, the above examples are from the book of Genesis. There are two more mentions of the number one hundred in this book:
Initially, I was not expecting to find so many mentions of the number one hundred in the Bible, however, when I turned to Exodus and started noting them down, I soon gave up! From chapter 25, the book of Exodus records God’s precise instruction for the construction of the Tabernacle. The courtyard of the Tabernacle (Exodus 27) was to be 100 cubits long on the north and south sides. This information is repeated in Exodus 38 when the Israelites start the building work.
Exodus 38:25-27 records the cost of the building materials used to construct the Tabernacle. The silver obtained from the people in the community weighed 100 talents. “The 100 talents of silver were used to cast the bases for the sanctuary and for the curtain--100 bases from the 100 talents, one talent for each base.” (38:25 NIV)
Later on in the Old Testament in the book of Ezekiel chapters 40-42, we are told the of Ezekiel’s vision for the restoration of the Temple. This includes a number of measurements. The outer court was 100 cubits on the east and north side. The distance between the north gate of the outer court and the north gate of the inner court was 100 cubits. The same measurements were given for the south gates. The measurement of the court was 100x100 cubits. The temple was 100 cubits long as was its court. The building at the rear of the temple was also 100 cubits in length. The rooms for the priests were in a building that was 100 cubits long. The inner passage was the same length.
Other verses from the Old Testament that mention measurements or weight include:
There are quite a few times the number one hundred is used in relation to a group of people:
Other examples of one hundred in the Old Testament include:
In the New Testament, Jesus occasionally refers to one hundred items in his parables. In the parable of the sower, which is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, he says “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:8; Mark 4:8; Luke 8:8) This seed refers to someone who hears the word of God and understands it.
In Matthew 18 and Luke 15, Jesus tells the parable of the wandering sheep.
Later in the same chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells Peter the parable of the unmerciful servant. The servant’s master had forgiven him of all his debts but the servant would not do likewise to those who owed him money. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.” (Matthew 18:28 NIV)
In Matthew 19 and Mark 10, Jesus is asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” During his explanation, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:29-31 NIV)
The remaining two examples of the number one hundred in the New Testament come from the book of Romans and Revelation:
With so many examples in the Bible, theologians have been quick to assume the number one hundred holds a special meaning. Once again, it could be a rough estimate, particularly in relation to a number of people and, therefore, represent a large amount. The precise measurements recorded in Exodus and Ezekiel suggest otherwise.
Some writers have proposed one hundred represents wholeness, whereas other Christian literature uses the number as a symbol of celestial beatitude. Saint Augustine, on the other hand, associates the number with martyrdom.
The meaning may derive from the nineteenth letter of the Semitic alphabet. Qoph or qop has a numerical value of 100. In an ancient Jewish interpretation of the book of Genesis, Sarah is described as “Qof years of age.” There are various other meanings of this letter, which include “sun”, “revolution”, “circle” and “horizon.” It can also mean “time” as in the complete orbit of the Earth around the sun. In some ways, this links with other ideas about the number one hundred representing wholeness or completeness.
In other words, the number one hundred was a nice “round number” for the writers of the Bible to use. The measurements of the Temple and Tabernacle may be correct but the reason for building things 100 cubits long may have been due to simplicity and ease rather than divine meaning. Quite often, when the length of something was 100 cubits, the width was exactly half.
When I first started writing about numbers in the Bible, people asked how high I would go. I did not expect to go up to one hundred but here we are. I am not going to continue to write about each successive number, however, there are a few more I would like to look at. My next number will be 120.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon