Quick & Easy Overview of Number Symbolism in the Bible

Get a free printable of the infographic!

Have you ever noticed how certain numbers sure do seem to show up a lot in the Bible? Well, there is a very good reason. In the ancient culture of these texts, the rhetorical use of numbers was accepted cultural convention. Using extremely large numbers of soldiers, for example, was a hyperbolic way of communicating the strength of a king’s army or kingdom. And certain numbers had specific concepts associated with them.

Familiarity with the concept of number symbolism will help you notice important ideas conveyed in the biblical text.

However, I want to caution you: Be sure to consider the context (literary genre as well as the general context of the particular passage) before assuming a number is used symbolically rather than literally. You can check the notes in a good study Bible or commentary to help you assess the deeper meaning (if any) of a particular number in a particular passage of Scripture.

I’ve made you an infographic cheat sheet of some of the most common numbers. Again, these numbers are not always symbolic but being aware that they can be communicating additional ideas will help you get the intended message from the text.

The infographic is really long, so I’m not sure how it will work on mobile devices.

However, you can get a free copy that is designed to print on letter-sized paper if you click on the image of the infographic (or click the button below it). The printable is actually nicer as I was able to create it using my InDesign software rather than Photoshop.

I hope this information is helpful to you as you study the Word. If it is, please consider sharing this post with your friends and social media networks.

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Send me that Infographic!

FYI, if you want to look up the passages mentioned in the graphic, I recommend using BibleGateway.com! It makes it super easy and fast to find a specific passage or look at multiple passages.

Number Symbolism Actual Graphic

You made it through that long image!

I hope you learned something helpful. If you want to look up the passages mentioned in the graphic, I recommend using BibleGateway.com! It makes it super easy and fast to find a specific passage or look at multiple passages.

I listed my sources but wasn’t sure how to make an active link inside the graphic itself. If you’re interested in those here are active links:

Dr. Bob Utley (http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/special_topics/symbolic_numbers.html)

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (ISBN: 978-0-8054-2836-0)

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (ISBN: 978-0-3104-3158-9)

NIV Bible Commentary (978-0-310-22020-6)

Get a printable version!

Send me that Infographic!

Question: What would you add or change to the infographic? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Pete A.

    Lots of “meat.” Good information. Will have to get that Infographic, but as you know I’ve been slowed up just a wee bit from getting to the library where I have to download or print it. I’ll get there yet, God willing.
    Noticed you mentioned that “40” was sometimes just used to mean “many” or “a lot.” My college-days memory is trying to tell me that’s also true of “10” – that both were often used colloquially, the way we often tell our kids “I’ve told you that a hundred times! Or, “a thousand.” Or, “a million.” (Like the number of well-done blogs you’ve written, right?)☺😉

    • You’re too kind! Yep, anytime you see those numbers like 7, 10 (or multiples of those) it is conveying the idea of completely. Just like in your example of our parental comment ” I’ve told you a hundred times” is not a literal number but figuratively is saying, “I’ve told you this enough times that I shouldn’t have to tell you again.”

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