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"Typological Numbers: Taking a Count of the Bible," by Maureen A. Tilley (Bible Review, December 1992?, 48-9).
"In the ancient world, numbers . . . were sacred, clues to the nature of the universe."
  • "the prime sacred number"
  • "the number of the 'planets' (five visible planets plus the sun and the moon)."
  • by 2300 BCE, 7-day phases of the moon gave rise to seven-day week in Mesopotamia
  • 7, 7th, 7-fold appear 650 times in the Catholic canon of the Bible
  • seventh day especially dear to the Jews--"the Sabbath . . . set Jews apart from their neighbors"
- "When they heard 'seven,' they did not perceive the numeral for 6 + 1 but instead sensed the power of the divine in the story."
- Christians are told to forgive each other "not seven times, but seventy times seven" (Mt 18:21-22).
  • 7 colors in the rainbow (?)
  • 12 & 12th appear 247 times in the Bible.
  • 12 = 3 x 4, "so, in a sense, it participated in the sacred power of seven."
* "a convenient factor in Sumerian and Babylonian numerical systems based on the number 60. Mesopotamians developed 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 months, 12 hours of the day and 12 hours of the night. For these people, 12 indicated a felicitous sense of the whole. Among the Greeks, the number of the divinities was complete at 12, and the 12 labors of Hercules were tantamount to all a person could be expected to do. Twelve was a number indicating a full complement, all that is necessary, the human and the divine."
  • 12 tribes of Israel (therefore, sacred objects frequently came in twelves: stones, pillars, springs, censors)
  • "Twelve thousand, a great multiple, represents all Israel. . . . Given the Hebrew preference for concrete numbers rather than abstract words, such as 'many' or 'multitudes,' the number should not be taken as an exact enumeration but as an expression of the full complement."
  • 12 apostles symbolize the begining of 12 new tribes--Christians think of themselves as the new Israel.
  • ". . . the members of this 'new Israel' number not 12,000 total, but 12,000 for each tribe, the 144,000 who are saved in Revelation 7:5-8. This number must be recognized as a literary device to indicate not only the full complement of the saved but also a claim of the Christian supersession of Israel."
  • 40 & 40th appear 120 times in the Bible.
"As the product of four times ten, it took on the qualities of stability (represented by four--the legs of a table, the corners of the earth) prolonged and fulfilled (represented by ten, a complete number). It was therefore a number of tense and anxious waiting and of fulfillment. Seven forties was the span of pregnancy's days. For 40 nights of every year the Pleiades, familiar guiding stars, disappeared, provoking wonder and fear.
  • "In the Bible as well, 40 served as the number of fulfillment. The completion of a full life was 40 years, and old age was considered double 40 (Acts 4:22, Psalm 90:1)."
- 40 days of rain in the flood; Moses spent 40 days on Mt. Sinai; the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years; Jonah foretold that Nineveh would be destroyed after 40 days; Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness.
- "In all these uses, the precise count of 40 mattered less than indicating to the audience a good long time, more than a month (30 days) or a generation (30 years). . . . The emphasis is not on a specific time but on time enough for a change."
Conclusion: "A literal interpretation of numbers in the Bible impoverishes it, but a careful comparison of texts allows us to read between the lines, or between the figures, if you will, to experience the richness of the text."

Mystical meanings in a deck of cards

A One God.
2 Two parts of the Bible: Old Testament and New Testament.
3 Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
4 Four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.
5 Five wise virgins.
6 Six days to create the Heavens and the Earth.
7 7th day (Saturday!): The OT day of rest.
8 Noah, his wife, three sons, and their three wives.
9 Nine lepers cleansed from leprosy who did not thank Jesus (!).
10 Ten commandments.
Jack Satan.
Queen Virgin Mary.
King Jesus.
365 dots Days of the year
52 cards 52 weeks of the year
4 suits Four seasons.
13 cards per suit. 13 weeks in each season.

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob

It seems as though the author of Genesis may have been interested in numbers. The three ages are all the result of a square (5x5, 6x6, 7x7) being multiplied by a prime number (7, 5, 3). In each case, the sum of the factors adds up to 17. This suggests that the ages give are symbolic--though the text does not say what the symbolism means., "How did Abraham live to 175?"
Abraham is said to have lived to age 175
175 = 5 x 5 x 7
5 + 5 + 7 = 17
Isaac is said to have lived to age 180
180 = 6 x 6 x 5
6 + 6 + 5 = 17
Jacob is said to have lived to age 147
147 = 7 x 7 x 3
7 + 7 + 3 = 17

Suggested interpretation of the number 17.