Bible Question:

What is the significance of some of the sacred numbers such as 3, 7, 12, and 40? A new believer asked me what the significance of the number 40 meant. I could only think of Moses' life was in segments of 40 years and the Jews wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. It rained for 40 days and forty nights. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. And Jesus was with the people for forty days after his resurrection. Are there any other exapmples and what is the significance? Is it like the number 7 which is a number of completion? Or about a season in one's life, or testing? Thanks for the response.

Bible Answer:

God does use some numbers repeatedly. We see patterns in scripture. Some of the key numbers are 3, 7, 12, and 40. The following table gives an short explanation of some of the sacred numbers

NumberA Few Comments
3Three is the number associated with God since it indicates how many persons are in the Godhead. Each person has a body, soul, and spirit. This number appears to be used about persons as a symbol of completeness.
7The number seven is repeated often in scripture. It is considered to be the number of completion or perfection. It is the number of days in the first week of creation. The Sabbath occurs on the 7th day. Seven was a common number associated with Israel’s feasts. For example, both the Feast of Tabernacles and the Day of Atonement occurred in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. Seven was also used in Daniel’s 70 weeks.
12Twelve was the number of tribes of Israel. There were twenty-four divisions of priests. The number appears numerous times in the book of Revelation. The new city of Jerusalem will have twelve foundations, and twelve gates. The Tree of Life will produce twelve different kinds of fruit. This number appears to be used in relation to the nation of Israel.
40Moses’ life can be thought of in terms of forty. He fled Egypt at the age of forty years and lived in Midian for forty years until He met God at a burning bush. His ministry to Israel lasted 40 years as Israel wandered in the desert for forty years. Saul, David, and Solomon each reigned for forty days. Jesus was in the desert for forty years. This number appears to be used in relation to trials and leaders.

Conclusion:

These different numbers are used by God repeatedly. We are not really sure about the meaning of these numbers. Scripture does not tell us.