Symbolic meanings of numbers in the scriptures

In my booklet ‘Reading the Preston Temple’ I comment on the symbolic meaning of certain numbers.  Some people have expressed an interest in the symbolic meaning of numbers found in the  scriptures so I thought I would share some thoughts on some significant numbers.


1 – God, Unity

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: (Deut 6:4)

2 –  symbolizes witness and support.

  • Two witnesses establish truth (Matthew 26:60).
  • The disciples were sent two by two (Luke 10:1).
  • The Ten Commandments were inscribed on two tablets of stone.
  • The Old and New Testament

3 –  Signifies completion or perfection, and unity.

  • Three is the number of Personages in the Godhead.
  • Many significant events in the Bible happened “on the third day” (Hosea 6:2).
  • Jesus’ earthly ministry lasted three years
  • This number operates as a “sign-post” in Scripture study for the reader to “pay attention” to the significance of the next event (eg Jesus spoke 3 times to the Nephites at Bountiful before they recognised his voice)

 4  Relates to the earth.

  • Earth has four seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall.
  • There are four primary directions: north, south, east, west.
  • The four corners of the earth
  • Four earthly kingdoms (Daniel 7:3).
  • Parable with four types of soil (Matthew 13).
  • Four lunar phases

 5 – A number associated with grace

  • Five kinds of animals were sacrificed under the Old Covenant Law of sacrifice: goats, sheep, cattle, pigeons and doves
  • Samuel the Lamanite prophesied that Jesus would be born in 5 years
  • David chose 5 stones for his sling (indicating his reliance on the grace of God)

 6 – imperfection, opposition to God

  • It falls short of 7
  • The mark of the Beast is 666.
  • Goliath was 6 foot 6 inches tall and wore 6 pieces of armour.

7Refers to perfection or completeness.

  • On the seventh day God rested after completing the creation (Genesis 2:2).
  • Jesus taught Peter to forgive 70 times seven (Matthew 18:22).
  • 7 days in a week
  • In Hebrew seven is shevah (shebah) from the root shava, meaning “to be full.”
  • It took Solomon seven years to build the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • There are multiple sevens in the Book of Revelation

 8 – new beginnings, rebirth, resurrection

  • Eight people survived the flood (Genesis 7:13, 23).
  • Circumcision took place on the eighth day (Genesis 17:12).
  • Aaron and his sons were consecrated on the 8th day
  • Jesus was resurrected on the day following the 7th day
  • Children are baptised at 8
  • 8 Jaredite barges
  • Lehis’s family wandered in the wilderness for 8 years before sailing for the promised land
  • Alma the Elder and his converts travelled 8 days into the wilderness to escape King Noah.

12– Relates to divine government, priesthood authority

  • The 12 tribes of Israel.
  • The 12 apostles
  • Baptismal fonts resting on the back of 12 oxen

30 associated with mourning and sorrow.

  • Aaron’s death was mourned for 30 days (Numbers 20:29).
  • Moses’ death was mourned for 30 days (Deuteronomy 34:8).
  • 30 pieces of silver

40  A number associated with testing and trials.

  • During the flood it rained 40 days (Genesis 7:4).
  • Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years (Numbers 14:33).
  • Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days before being tempted(Matthew 4:2).
  • 40 years to build the Salt Lake Temple.

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