Did you know, the number one hundred and twenty (120) was formerly known as “one hundred” in Germanic languages? Six score (twenty times six) was considered to be the “long hundred” or “great hundred”, whereas, 100 (five score) was the “short hundred”. Rather confusing if you ask me!
In science, 120 is the atomic number of Unbinilium, of which many people, including myself, have not heard. This is because it is a hypothetical element, an element yet to be discovered. Scientists apparently know of its existence but have not yet “found” it.
In basketball, the hoop is required to be 120 inches off the ground; that is ten foot. In China, dialling 120 gets you through to emergency services. In Israel, the government or Knesset has 120 seats.
The number 120 appears at least twelve times in the Bible. Some theologians say it is a symbol of a divine waiting time. This idea is taken from Genesis 6 where God talks about the wickedness in the world. Genesis 6:3 (NET) states, “So the Lord said, ‘My spirit will not remain in humankind indefinitely, since they are mortal. They will remain for 120 more years.’” God had seen how sinful his world was becoming and gave his people 120 years to repent until he destroyed the world with a flood.
Moses, a man who did a lot of divine waiting during his lifetime, died at the age of 120. This is recorded in the book of Deuteronomy. Chapter thirty-one explains how Moses appointed Joshua as his successor. He began by saying “Today I am a hundred and twenty years old. I am no longer able to get about, and the Lord has said to me, ‘You will not cross the Jordan.’” (Deuteronomy 31:2 NET)
The following chapters record Moses preparing for his death. He makes sure the Israelites have what they need in order to continue without him. His death is eventually documented in Deuteronomy 34:7 (NET): “Moses was 120 years old when he died, but his eye was not dull nor had his vitality departed.” He died and was buried in Moab after viewing the Promised Land from the top of Mount Nebo. To this day, no one knows where he was buried.
The number 120 frequently crops up as an amount of money or weight. The prices of items mean little to us today unless we have a good understanding of ancient money and how it compares to today’s prices. Nonetheless, the writers of the Bible felt it important to record these:
There are also accounts of groups of people that total 120:
It is thought that Jesus had a total of 120 disciples, including the apostles. Acts 1:15 (NIV) states, “In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty).” These people were gathered for the election of a new apostle to take Judas’ place. From the crowd, two people were nominated: Joseph (also known as Justus) and Matthias. After praying and casting lots, Matthias was elected to be the twelfth disciple.
Mary of Jesus of Ágreda (1602-1665) claimed she saw in a vision that 120 disciples were present during the Ascension of Jesus. Presumably, these are the same people quoted in the Acts of the Apostles.
In the Jewish Talmud, it is stated that Noah had 120 years to build the ark – another example of divine waiting.
My final fact for you is the word “king” is apparently written 120 times in the New Testament.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon