Some Bible readers interpret many numbers symbolically. Certainly some numbers occur with sufficient frequency that they seem to have meaning beyond their numerical value. For example, the number 7 occurs frequently, especially in the book of Revelation, and appears to indicate completeness of some kind. Also the number 12 occurs often (e.g., 12 tribes, 12 apostles), usually in connection with Israel.

Many people note these two relatively clear examples and extrapolate to include many, or even all, numbers in scripture. However, there is no biblical justification for this and most interpretations of the symbolism of numbers are highly subjective. The usual evidence for the supposed meaning of a number consists of listing a handful of verses where it occurs and drawing a common thread. Rarely are the interpretations convincing (to me).

E.W.Bullinger (in Number in Scripture) suggested that 10 was the number of divine perfection. The “evidence” for this is that there are 10 commandments (Exodus 20:1-17); there were 10 plagues on Egypt; and so on. But there are 159 verses in the ESV which use the number 10, and only a small number can be interpreted in this way.

Most likely, the biblical meaning of 10 is the same as its meaning everywhere else. It’s the number after 9.

Further reading: Davis, J.J. Biblical numerology, Baker Book House, 1968.

Tagged with →  
Share →