Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Number SEVEN





From the Seven Days of Genesis to the Seven Seals of Revelation, Scripture is saturated with the Number Seven. Essentially all Biblical scholars, regardless of their stance regarding the meaning of numbers in Scripture, have recognized its special symbolic significance. Simply stated, it is impossible to miss. God laid the foundation of its meaning when He introduced this number in the context of His finished Work of Creation (Gen 2:2f):


And on the seventh day God
ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

God introduced the Number Seven as a symbol of the completion of His initial creative act. But the work that He ended on the Seventh Day in the First Book was really just the beginning of the Biblical revelation of all history that He consummated in the Last Book. And it is here that we see the Divine consistency of the Number Seven as a Biblical symbol; God used it with exactly the same meaning when He revealed the end of time, described as the completion of the "mystery of God," in Revelation 10:5ff:


And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer: But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.

The word translated as finished is the Greek teléo, which generally means to bring to a close, to complete, to end, to fulfill. This word appears again in Revelation 15:1 which explicitly states the reason for seven angels with seven plagues:


And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; because in them is filled up (teléo) the wrath of God.

This verse displays a double emphasis on temporal consummation; the word translated as last is eschatos, whence eschatology, the study of the end times. God reiterated its connection with the Number Seven a third time in Revelation 16:17:


And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.

This is characteristic of the Bible; most symbols are clearly defined in the text and used quite consistently from Genesis to Revelation. The Number Seven, the numerical symbol of Fullness, Completion, and Perfection, is a prime example of this consistency, as illustrated by this entry from the Tyndale Bible Dictionary This link takes you off the Bible Wheel site and opens a new window (emphasis added):


In Scripture, seven symbolizes completeness or perfection. On the seventh day God rested from his labors and creation is finished (Gn 2:2). Pharaoh in his dream saw seven cattle coming from the Nile (41:2). Samson’s sacred Nazirite locks were braided in seven plaits (Jgs 16:13). Seven devils left Mary of Magdala, signifying the totality of her previous possession by Satan (Lk 8:2); "seven other devils" will enter the purified but vacant life of a person (Mt 12:45). However, on the positive side, there were the seven spirits of God (Rv 3:1). In the seventh year the Hebrew slave was to be freed (Ex 21:2), having completed his time of captivity and service. Every seventh year was a sabbatical year (Lv 25:4). Seven times seven reiterates the sense of completeness. In the Year of Jubilee (at the completion of 7 x 7 years = the 50th year), all land is freed and returns to the original owners (Lv 25:10). Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, is seven times seven days after Passover. "Seventy," which is literally "sevens" in Hebrew, strengthens the concept of perfection. There are 70 elders (Ex 24:1) in Israel. Israel was exiled to Babylon for 70 years (Jer 25:12) to complete its punishment. "Seventy times seven" (Mt 18:22) reiterates this still further. The Lord was not giving Peter a mathematical number of times that he should forgive another person, but rather was insisting on limitless forgiveness for a brother’s sin.


With this understanding, we can now see the Number Seven as a fourth independent symbol declaring of the completion and perfection of the whole Bible displayed in the sevenfold symmetry of the Canon Wheel. After clearly defining the meaning of the Number Seven throughout the text of Scripture, God then plainly applied it to the design of its large-scale structure. Thus we see that God took four independent yet harmonious symbols and forged them in the furnace of His Infinite Wisdom into a single multifaceted compound symbol declaring with one voice the Divine Perfection of His Holy Word! This is the overwhelming wonder of it all; the symbols God embedded in the design of His Word continue to build one upon the other, endlessly and effortlessly amplifying their mutually coherent implications. Each independent thread in this Divine Tapestry strengthens every other thread until they unite to form an absolutely unbreakable cord.


This complex simplicity and unity in diversity is the hallmark of Divine Wisdom. The Bible Wheel – the Seal of God’s Word – is an exceedingly dense compound of four heterogeneous elements that burns like the nuclear furnace of the sun. And just as the four symbols are mutually integrated, so also each symbol carries multiple symbolic overtones within itself. We saw this with the Alpha Omega which bears the ideas of the beginning and end, eternity, everything created, the Word of God, and God Himself. The Number Seven carries a corresponding depth of composite meaning within itself, as we shall presently see. 



No comments:

Post a Comment