The number seven is the fourth prime number (after two, three and five) but is also known as a lucky prime, a happy number and a safe prime. It is a number that has certain significances in mathematics – if only anyone but mathematicians could understand them! For us simple folk, we know that a heptagon is a shape with seven sides, and those interested in probability, the number seven has a 6 in 36 chance of being rolled (1/6) with two dice, which is the greatest of any of the possible numbers.
In Classical Antiquity, the number seven appears many times, for instance, the seven deadly sins, which in Christianity we call the cardinal sins. There are seven wonders of the ancient world and Seven Hills of Rome and Istanbul. According to legend, there were seven kings of Rome, beginning with Romulus who founded the city in 753 BC. There are seven days of the week, seven colours in the rainbow, seven seas, seven continents, and the list goes on.
In the Bible, the number seven is reportedly used 735 times, 54 of which are in Revelation. If we were to include words such as “sevenfold” and “seventh”, the total becomes 860 references. Already it appears the number seven must have some importance in scripture.
It is believed the number seven represents completeness and perfection. God rested on the seventh day when he was happy with the world he had created, which is why we have seven days in a week, the seventh day being the Sabbath – the day God rested. In the Book of Genesis, the word “created” is used seven times when describing God’s work and, according to some Jewish traditions, God created Adam on the first day of Tishri, the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar (if you are interested, this equates to 26thSeptember 3760 BC).
Originally, the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, were divided into seven sections. These were the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, the Gospels (and Acts), the General Epistles, the Epistles of Paul, and the book of Revelation.
In the Gospels, Jesus is recorded performing miracles seven times on the Sabbath:
In the book of Hebrews written by the apostle Paul, he uses seven different titles for Christ:
Let’s look at a handful of examples where the number seven is actually used:
Just by looking at theses example we can see that the number seven is important, although its connection to completeness and perfection is never actually mentioned in the Bible, that has been inferred at a later date.
Since there are so many instances of the number seven, I cannot mention them all but I will leave you with a few more important examples:
In mathematics, the number six is important for all sorts of reasons, the simplest being it is the only number that is both the sum and the product of three consecutive positive numbers (1+2+3=6; 1x2x3=6). It is the smallest perfect number and Granville number – which would need an entire essay to try and explain – as well as a congruent number, a unitary perfect number, a primary pseudo perfect number, a harmonic divisor number and a superior highly composite number. I am not a mathematician so I have no idea what any of that means but it sounds important.
The number six can be represented by the Greek prefix Hex and the Latin prefix Sex, therefore, we have words to describe things that can be grouped in sixes: a hexagon is a shape with six sides; a sextet is a group of six musicians; and a group of six babies delivered in one birth are sextuplets. There is even a term called “sexy numbers” that refers to prime numbers that are six digits away from each other, for instance 5 and 11 … who knew?
A standard guitar has six strings and most woodwind instruments have six basic holes or keys. The Star of David has six points. The cells of a beehive are six sided (hexagonal). Six is the atomic number of carbon. Insects have six legs. There are six sides of a cube. As you can see, there are lots of instances of the number six in our lives, but what about in the Bible?
According to Genesis, God created man on the sixth day. Some scholars claim that the number six represents human weakness and sin, which is why man was subjected to six days labour and only one day of rest. Similarly, in Exodus 21:2, the law states, “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything.” (NIV) This is also comparable to Leviticus 25:3-4 (NIV): For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.”
The number six is also representative of Satan. In Revelation 13:18, the number of “the beast” is recorded as 666. One source states this symbolises the best system mankind could produce under the influence of Satan. They claim that Satan influences three areas of human life: economic, religious and governmental. When 666 is multiplied by 7 it equals 4662, which depicts man's total imperfection under the devil. When the digitals are added, 4 + 6 + 6 + 2 = 18; and 18 divided by 3 is 6.
There are a number of instances the number six or groups of six are mentioned in the Bible. Here are a few:
It is difficult to determine whether there is any significance in the use of the number six in the Bible. Some may be connected to the number of days in the creation story and others the number of the devil, but it is unlikely that these entire instances relate to one or the other. What do you think?
The number five occurs numerous times throughout our everyday lives and we probably do not even register it. We have five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot. We have five senses: smell, touch, taste, sight and hearing. There are five rings in the Olympic logo and five players in a basketball team. The number five was Coco Chanel’s lucky number, hence Chanel No.5.
The number five is reportedly mentioned 318 times in the Bible and, according to some interpretations, the Bible states there are five big mysteries in the world: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the Creation and the Redemption.
The first five books of the Old Testament are labelled the Pentateuch, and some people refer to the first five books of the New Testament as the New Testament Pentateuch.Although there are only four gospels, the fifth book, the Book of Acts, also discusses the teachings of Jesus.
The Psalms can be divided into five sections, mimicking the five-fold division of the Pentateuch. The Book of Lamentations, written by Jeremiah, has five chapters. There are five books of the Bible that only have one chapter: Obadiah, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John and Jude.
The Apostle John wrote five books: the Gospel of John, the three Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation. Likewise, it is believed that Moses wrote the five books that make up the Pentateuch.
According to tradition, Jesus Christ received five wounds during his Crucifixion. The Flagellation of Christ, the Crown of Thorns, causes these wounds, as well as the nails in his hands, the nails through his feet, and the lance that pierced his side to prove he was dead.
Some believe the number five represents God’s Grace, which is what the fifth book of the Bible Deuteronomy focuses upon. As a result, there could be a significance behind the number’s usage throughout the Bible, however, since there are so many occurrences, it is likely many of these are coincidences. I have not searched for all 318 incidences of the number five but here are a few more examples over and above the ones I have already mentioned:
There are also multiples of five that occur frequently throughout scripture.
Are these examples significant or do you think they are coincidences? I would be interested to hear what you think. Also, can you think of any other examples worth mentioning?
There are lots of instances of groups of four in our everyday lives, for instance, classical elements (earth, air, fire, water); suits in a deck of cards; members of The Beatles; Ninja Turtles… (children will know who they are).
Some theologians claim that the number four is associated with creation. As is believed, God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. These theologians, however, consider the fourth day of creation to be one of the most important.
“And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.” – Genesis 1:14-19 (NIV)
The fourth day of creation is the day God completed the material universe. By creating the sun to divide the day and night, He also invented a way to record time. There are 24 hours in a day – a number that is divisible by four – and four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter.
Continuing on the lines of creation, the fourth of the Ten Commandments mentioned in Exodus 20:9-11 is to remember to keep God’s holy Sabbath day – the day he rested after creating world during the previous six days.
There are many more examples of the number four appearing in the Bible that do not have a direct correlation with the creation story. Whether these instances are significant due to the importance of the number four at the beginning of the world or just mere coincidence is debatable. Here are a handful of examples I have found:
Undoubtedly, I have missed many examples. Can you think of some? What do you think the significance of the number four is in the Bible if any?
Those who know me well know I like a good joke. Every now and then when I have a moment to spare, I text my friend Hazel and have an odd but entertaining conversation. It usually starts by one of us making a pun and the other responding with another pun and so on until one of us gives up. We've lasted over an hour before now and our most recent conversation was highly amusing. I thought I would share with you a few snippets of our conversation.
It began when Hazel shared a joke she had read in a magazine: "Old accountants never die, they just lose their balance." To which I replied, "Old cleaners never die, they just need a polish."
Here are the rest; some you may have heard and some are our original creations. Enjoy!
Old actors never die, they just drop apart.
Old mathematicians never die, they just lose some of their functions
Old professors never die, they just lose their faculties
Old archers never die, they just bow and quiver.
Old doctors never die, they just lose their patience
Old snooker players never die, they're just having a break
Old architects never die, they just lose their structures.
Old bankers never die, they just lose interest.
Old basketball players never die, they just go on dribbling.
Old beekeepers never die, they just buzz off.
Old bookkeepers never die, they just lose their figures.
Old cashiers never die, they just check out.
Old chauffeurs never die, they just lose their drive.
Old cleaning people never die, they just kick the bucket.
Old cooks never die, they just get deranged.
Old farmers never die, they just go to seed.
Old mechanics never die, they just retire.
Old hackers never die, they just go to bits.
Old horticulturists never die, they just go to pot.
Old limbo dancers never die, they just go under.
Old milkmaids never die, they just lose their whey.
Old pacifists never die, they just go to peaces.
Old photographers never die, they just stop developing.
Old policemen never die, they just cop out.
Old sculptors never die, they just lose their marbles.
Old prophets never die, they just lose their vision.
Old sewage workers never die, they just waste away.
Old sailors never die, they just get a little dingy.
Old students never die, they just get degraded.
Old tanners never die, they just go into hiding.
Old teachers never die, they just lose their class.
Old upholsterers never die, they just recover
Old frogs never die, they go on until they croak
Old preachers never die, they just ramble on, and on, and on, and on...
In modern society, people tend to group things in sets of three, for instance, the Rule of Three (Latin: omne trium perfectum) in which things, whether good or bad, come in threes. The number three has been considered by mathematicians to be a perfect numeral. When three is multiplied by any number, the sum of the resulting digits will also be a multiple of three. For instance, 3 x 24 = 72, (7 + 2 = 9), 9 is divisible by three; and 3 x 5446 = 16338, (1+6+3+3+8 = 21), 21 is divisible by three. This process only occurs with the number three.
Some sources claim the number three is used 467 times in the Bible and other sources claim there are more. There are 27 books in the New Testament, which, using the process mentioned above, is a number divisible by three. It is also the result of 3 x 3 x 3 or 3 to the power of three.
Many things in the Christian faith come in sets of three, for instance, the Holy Trinity (“tri” meaning three) that is an amalgamation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Also, God is considered to have three attributes: omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. There are considered to be three Patriarchs: Abel, Enoch and Noah, and after the Great Flood, three righteous Father’s: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel)
Most significant, perhaps, were the three days Christ lay dead until his Resurrection: “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’” (Matthew 27:63, NIV) Prior to this, Jesus had prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest (Matthew 26:36-46) and, during hiscrucifixion, darkness covered the land for three hours. Matthew 27:45 (NIV) “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.”
At Christmas time, our Nativity plays usually feature three Wise Men or Magi. The Bible, however, does not state how many of magi visited the infant Jesus, however, they brought with them three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Let’s take a look at the other examples of the number three I have found:
Do you have any other Biblical examples of the number three? What do you think the significance is if any?
The number two is the smallest prime number (discounting one) and also the only even prime number. All even numbers are divisible by two, which makes it sound like a very special number. There is a famous saying “all things come in pairs,” and in the Bible, the number two represents a union or, sometimes, a division. For example, a man and woman are made one in marriage. This begins with Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:23-24:
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
The Bible is split into two testaments, the Old and the New. As we know, this divides the Bible into the events before Jesus’ birth and those that came after. The agreements or covenants God made with mankind are also divided into old and new.
There are too many mentions of the number two in the Bible to write about and most of them are insignificant. So let’s look at a few that relate to union or division:
Finally, some facts about the Bible involving the number two:
As I mentioned in my post about the significance of the 153 fish in the passage from John 21:1-9, I am interested in looking into the importance of other numbers in the Bible.
The number one, in a way, is the most important number in the Bible. As a prime number, it is only divisible by itself and yet it is needed to compose all other existing numerals. In the Bible, it symbolises unity and supremacy, the oneness of God. To quote Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (NIV)
The number one also describes the relationship between God and Jesus: “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 NIV) By Jesus making one sacrifice, albeit a considerable one, he has made forgiveness possible for all our sins. Jesus is also described as the one mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) and the one shepherd (John 10:16) – the bridge between mankind and God.
Now, it would be daft and nigh on impossible to list every instance of the number one in the Bible so I will stick to what I think are the interesting facts.
I leave you with one final fact; the Bible was the first book to be produced using a printing press, which was produced by Johann Guttenberg in 1456.
On the 13th April 2019, Gants Hill United Reformed Church hosted the Women of Faith and Power's seminar on Mental Health and Wellbeing. It was a most successful day chaired by Reverend Alexandra Guest with key speakers sharing their experiences on a range of subjects from depression and eating disorders to caring for carers. I thought you might like a synopsis of what was discussed.
Paul McGregor, the author of Man Up, Man Down, told us that suicide for under 48-year-olds is the biggest killer. He shared his own personal story, and from this has concluded that there is power in being vulnerable and that sharing your story can be very therapeutic. For him, his breakthrough came when he met Anne and found he could really talk to and open up to her in a most positive way. Anne has not been able to do this for others, and so reminds us to keep on looking for that person or persons with whom you can share your story. You have to understand that is okay being vulnerable but also, that when you are ill, you are not alone. When suicidal, you have tunnel vision, you believe the world is better off without you, you feel you are a burden, but by knowing you are loved and you have a purpose, you will start your road to recovery. Seeking professional advice and allowing yourself space, you can be transformed.
Karen Tullet spoke about depression and said the best way out was medication, exercise and therapy, in particularly Cognitive Behavourial Therapy (CBT), which converts negative into positive thoughts. There are many examples in the Bible of prophets having forms of depression, not least Elijah (1 Kings 19), David (2 Samuel 12:15-23), Jonah (Jonah 4:3), Job (various instance, including Job 2:9, Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:14), and Jesus himself (Luke 22:44), where he sweats blood. Karen reminded us that we have a Saviour who understands our pain. She also pointed out that as carers, we have to ensure we look after ourselves and our relationship with God by absorbing love and care, so that we emit good quality support.
Henry Townsend spoke about his own mixture of difficulties but started by offering everyone a hug, and those who did not mind their personal space being invaded in such a way felt that hugs helped. He reminded us that humans need connection, a holding space where they can feel supported and explore their vulnerabilities. His recovery came through creativity and in his metal workshop, he was able to create items of beauty. He can now train others in the use of imagination, creativity, building confidence and maintaining vision. He highlighted how helpful his dog was in offering unconditional love, always being there for him no matter his mood.
Katherine Gould and I spoke about eating disorders, and whilst I focused on my own experience of nearly twenty years in supporting people during my ministry, Katherine spoke about her work as a counsellor and the organisation Taste Life. Katherine took us through various eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. She advised that it is only when the person admits they need help that any productive work can be done. Progress is normally very slow progress and so she introduced us to organisations that can help, such as BEAT, MIND and Taste Life. My own contribution was, that as a carer or supporter, you have to be one hundred per cent committed to helping that person, being unjudgemental and offering support and love over months, even years.
Jonathan Clarke, director of Premiere Lifeline, spoke about care for the carers. The pressure on carers to take on too much and feeling embarrassed to say "I need a break," was a major concern. Many carers are exhausted because they also have full-time jobs, their own houses to look after and their own lives to lead. Another difficult issue is the stigma of a family unable to cope in caring for somebody in need. There is a strong belief that you should not show weakness and be strong for the person you care for. This often results in the carer needing as much help as the person for whom they are caring. The main message is, therefore, to look after yourself, to relax, to let off steam, to have somebody you can talk to, who can support you; and there was a role for churches in identifying when carers need help. Churches must not be afraid to confront situations, which loving families perhaps are unable to see.
The day finished with a question and answer session, which was lively and demonstrated how successful the day was.
Prayer holds in tension two thoughts; firstly, that if you ask, God will provide; secondly, we submit ourselves to God's sovereign will by saying "let your will be done". It is good to pray because it develops a relationship with God. We start to build dependence and, by praying, we are submitting ourselves to God's will. We align our thoughts with God's, so we do not ask for ourselves, we ask for those things we believe are in line with what God wants. There is something spiritual by intentionally, out of habit, praying to God on purpose and it creates an intimacy based on knowing God always wants the best for you. It builds our character, it allows us to articulate our feelings and it is a gift, which sometimes means we are changed and transformed because of our prayers. It allows us an openness to God to listen to what God wants to say to us.
There is another tension whereby God has given us free will, which means we can do what we want, and yet we know, ultimately, God is in control. We are not puppets, we make our own decisions and are accountable for the actions that we take; and yet, God is in control. We pray in this freedom and space between our free will and God's will ultimately being fulfilled.
Why pray? God demands it, Jesus gave us the Lord's Prayer as a perfect model, it brings us closer to God. It aligns our thoughts with God and it allows God, even though he knows everything about us, to be aware of our concerns. By continual prayer, we are transformed. There are too many examples of prayers being answered for us not to use this spiritual communication to talk to a loving God who cares about us.
We are happy for you to use any material found here, however, please acknowledge the source: www.gantshillurc.co.uk
Rev'd Martin Wheadon