Including this one, I have now written a score of articles about numbers in the Bible. A “score”, of course, is another way of saying twenty. We use the term 20/20 to denote perfect vision, although what this actually means is that you are capable of seeing something clearly at a distance of twenty feet.
Twenty is the atomic number of calcium, an essential element for our health. It is the international dialling code (+20) for Egypt. There are twenty possible moves at the beginning of a game of Chess, and you’ve no doubt heard of or even played the game Twenty Questions.
In Hebrew numerals (gematria), the letter kaph represents the number twenty. It is written as a palm shape or open hand, which people have attributed the meaning of redemption. The hand shape has been interpreted in two ways: one, giving freely or freedom, and two, covering up sin. In the Bible, the number twenty has also become associated with a complete waiting period.
Genesis 31 tells us Jacob had to wait twenty years to be freed from the control of Laban and receive his wife and property. “I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks… It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times.” (Genesis 31:38, 41, NIV)
In the book of Judges, the Israelites waited twenty years to be freed from the oppression of King Jabin of Canaan. Through Deborah and Barak, God saved his people from this bondage. “Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.” (Judges 4:3, NIV)
As recorded in 1 Samuel, the Philistines overcame the Israelites and took the Ark of the Covenant back to their land. As a result, they suffered severe consequences from God, which urged them to return the Ark to the Israelites, where it ended up in the city of Kirjath Jearim. The people of Israel had to wait another twenty years until the Ark could be moved again. “The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time--twenty years in all.” (1 Samuel 7:2, NIV)
King Solomon had to wait twenty years until both the Temple and his own home were fully constructed. The Temple took a total of seven years, and his home took a further thirteen. “At the end of twenty years, during which Solomon built these two buildings—the temple of the Lord and the royal palace…” (1 Kings 9:10, NIV) As a way of thanks to Hiram, the king of Tyre for his support with the lengthy project, Solomon gifted him twenty towns. “King Solomon gave twenty towns in Galilee to Hiram king of Tyre, because Hiram had supplied him with all the cedar and juniper and gold he wanted.”
It is thought the number twenty appears 288 times in the Bible, however, not all of these are in relation to waiting. Here are some other examples I have found:
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon