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.
7– Refers 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.