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Bonus Bible Study Articles

The Meaning of Bible Numbers, Colors, Metals, and Names, by William McDonald

No verse says that the number is symbolic, but when we study these verses we often sense an implication beyond the literal meaning. This doesn’t hold true for every occurrence, but for some it can add incite.
  1. Number 1 - This suggest exclusiveness and supremacy. It’s like saying, “It’s the number 1 restaurant in New York.” The oneness of God is seen in the Hebrew creed called the Shema (“Hear”): “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4) and in the prediction of the coming kingdom: “In that day it shall be - ‘The Lord is one, and His name is one.’”

  2. Number 2 - This suggests confirming a testimony. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses...” (Deut 19:15).

  3. Number 3 - This means divine completeness or fullness, as in the three Persons of the Godhead: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19).

  4. Number 4 - This is the number of universality. There are four Gospels, four corners (directions) of the earth, four winds (Jer. 49:36 and Rev. 20:8). Four beasts comprise Gentile world rule (Dan. 7:3).

  5. Number 5 - This speaks of human weakness and dependence. The disciples could only provide 5 barley loaves to feed the 5,000 (Jn. 6:9). In Matthew 25:2, there were 5 wise and 5 foolish virgins. It also denotes our responsibility to God.

  6. Number 6 - This number is one short of 7, the number of completeness. Goliath was 6 cubits and a span tall. The best known example is 666, the number of the Beast in Revelation. Six is the number of man; he has sinned and fallen short of the glory (perfection) of God.

  7. Number 7 - Seven stands for perfection and completeness. It took 6 days to create the world and the 7th day God rested. Blood was sprinkled before the Lord 7 times in the sin offering (Lev. 4:6, 17). Our Lord gives a complete preview of the kingdom of heaven in 7 parables of Matthew 13 and a preview of our church age in 7 churches in Revelation 2-3.

  8. Number 8 - This denotes a new beginning. The world was repopulated after the flood by 8 people. A Jewish boy was circumcised on the 8th day. Christ was transfigured on the 8th day (Lk. 9:28), suggesting the coming kingdom, and He arose on the 8th day. The Lord’s Day is the eighth day, a new beginning. In Greek the numerical value of the name Jesus (Iesous) adds up to exactly 888, surely no coincidence.

  9. Number 10 - This stands for human responsibility. There are 10 commandments and we have 10 fingers and ten toes with which to do and to go. God sent 10 plagues on Egypt (Ex. 7:12) and the master entrusted money to 10 servants in the parable in Luke 19:13.

  10. Number 12 - This is the number of government, administration, and clear sovereignty. There were 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of the Lamb, 12 foundations to the New Jerusalem, with its 12 gates attended by 12 angels.

  11. Number 40 - Human responsibility (10) multiplied by universality (4) equals complete testing of humans (40). It rained 40 days and 40 nights in the Great Flood. Moses was tested in three 40-year periods of his life: in Egypt, in the desert, and in the wilderness. The Israelites were tested in the wilderness for 40 years. Both Saul and David had 40-year reigns in which they were tried. Nineveh was given 40 days to repent. Our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness lasted 40 days and 40 nights.
Colors have significance. Purple is associated (as with us) with royalty (Jud. 8:26), scarlet with sin (Isa. 1:18), white with purity and righteousness (Rev. 6:11; cf. 19:8), blue or sapphire with heaven (Ex. 24:10).

Even metals have associations. Gold is related to glory and deity. Silver speaks of redemption. Brass is a symbol of judgment and iron is strength.

One feature that has made Charles Dickens’s books so memorable for over 150 years is his marvelous choice of names for his characters. They seem to fit so well. Who can forget the names Mudstone, Steerforth, Pickwick, Chuzzlewit, Nickleby, and Uriah Heep? Bible names are memorable for a different reason. They too fit the character, but they are the actual names of real people. A sovereign God saw to it that major men and women in His Word were given meaningful names - often giving the key to their personality and character.