400 and 430: The Importance of Numbers in the Bible
Did you know the sun is 400 times the size of the moon? It is also 400 times further than us from the moon, which is why it does not look much bigger.
In the Mayan calendars, a year lasted 400 days. In France, the idiom faire les quatre cents coupstranslates as “to make the 400 blows”. This apparently means “to cause trouble in every possible way.”
The number 400 appears approximately twenty times in the Bible and has had several meanings attributed to it. The Mayans used it as a way of expressing inexpressible amounts, the same way we might use “thousands”, “millions” or “a thousand million billion” when telling someone there was a lot of something. Theobald of Langres (12thcentury AD), on the other hand, attributes the number to human fragility.
Some scholars maintain that because 400 is the result of 8 x 50, it is a divine number denoting a perfect period of time. There is some evidence to support this in the Bible, for example:
There are other verses containing the number 400 that are worthy of note. Abraham’s wife Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age at death is recorded. She was 127 when she died and Abraham spent 400 shekels on a cave in which to bury her.
When Jacob returned to his homeland, his brother Esau sent 400 men to meet him. Jacob thought he was going to be killed because of the things he had done to his brother in the past, however, after sending a gift ahead of him, the brothers met amicably.
There are plenty of other occasions when groups of 400 men or women are mentioned:
Twice, a measurement of 400 cubits is recorded, however, as you will see, despite being in different books on the Bible, the verses are about the same thing:
Similarly, a description of Solomon’s palace featuring a decoration of 400 hundred pomegranates is also mentioned twice:
Finally, in the dedication of the Temple, the people of Israel offered 400 males lambs amongst other animals to God:
Let’s move on briefly to the number 430. Why is this number worth mentioning? Whilst in Genesis 15:13 the Lord said the Israelites would spend 400 years in slavery, other evidence in the Bible suggests they were in Egypt for a total of 430 years. Exodus 12 states:
There are two other records of the number 430 in the Bible:
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon