Number is the rendering in the A. V. of several Hebrew words, but especially of מָנָה and סָפִר; Gr. ἀριθμός 1. Mode of Expressing Numbers. — We know very little of the arithmetic of the Hebrews, save that their trades and public service required some skill at least in numeration (Le 25:27,50; Mt 18:23 sq.), and that large sums are sometimes mentioned which could only be obtained by addition and subtraction. Indeed, they seem to have been somewhat versed even in fractions (Gesenius, Lehrgeb. p. 704). After the captivity the Jews used letters to express numbers, as on the socalled "Samaritan coins" (Eckhel, Doctr. Numbers vol. i, c. iii, p. 468; Gesenius, Lehrgeb. p. 24 sq.); and they had probably done so in earlier ages, since the Greeks, who received their alphabet from the Phoenicians, always practiced the same method (Faber, Progr. Literas alim pro. vocib. in num. a script. V. T.
esse adhibitas [Onoldi. 1775]). Yet it has been thought that the Hebrews sometimes used distinct characters for numbers, .as such are actually found on Phoenician coins (Swinton, in the Philosoph. Tranis. 1, 791 sq.) and in the Palmyrene inscriptions (ibid. 48:11, p. 721, 728 sq., 741; Gesenius, Monument. Photn. p. 85 sq.; Hoffmann, Gramm. Syr. p. 83; comp. Des Vignoles, Chron. de l'Histoire Sainte, vol. i, § 29; Wahl, Gesch. d. Morg. Sprachen, p. 537; Movers, Chron. p. 54, 61). But the analogies adduced do not prove the use of such characters before the captivity; the letters of the alphabet served the purpose sufficiently well; and the instance of the Greeks is an indirect proof that the Phoenicians had at first no figures. It is by this use of letters to express numbers, and by the interchange in copying of one with another (as ג, ז, and ו, etc.), that we can best explain some of the too vast numbers in the earliest books of Scripture, as well as the discrepancies in some of the statements (Cappelli, Crit. Sacra, 1:102 sq., ed. Vogel); for instance, in the length of the threatened famine (2Sa 24:13, and 1Ch 21:12), and in the age of Ahaziah at his accession (2Ch 22:2. And 2Ki 8:26). Yet great prudence is requisite in applying this principle to details. (See Eichhorn, Einl. ins. A. T. 1:289 sq.; Gesenius, Gesch. d. Heb. Spr. p. 174 sq.; Movers, ut sup. p. 60 sq.) Nor is it always easy to explain even thus the great number of people given in some of the enumerations without supposing a tendency to exaggeration in some copyist. It is not necessary, however, to suppose any error in the 600,000 men who went out of Egypt (Ex 12:37), or the 603,550 who were numbered before Sinai (Ex 30:12). But the statement that there were 1,300,000 fighting men in Israel and Judah in the time of David (2Sa 24:9) seems very strange. This would require at the least a population of four millions in Palestine, or more than ten thousand to each square mile. Of the same nature are the 1,160,000 men in the army of Jehoshaphat (2Ch 17:14), besides the garrisons in walled cities. In these and a few other instances we must suppose a corruption of the letters representing the numbers, such as often occurred in the early Roman history (Movers, Chron. p. 269; comp. Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, 2:78, 2d ed.). See Macdougal, Numbers of the Bible (Lond. 1840).
2. Sacred Numbers. — The frequent and significant use of certain numbers in the Scriptures demands notice. See Bahr, Symbol. 1:128 sq.; Kurtz, in the Studien u. Krit. (1844), p. 315 sq.; and on the symbolical use of Biblical numbers, see ibid. 1842; 2:80 sq.; Jahrb. fur deutsche Theologie (1864), vol. 2.
First, the number seven, which was also considered holy by other ancient nations; as by the Persians, the Hindus (Bohlen, Ind. 2:247), and the early Germans (Grirmm Deutsche Rechtsalterth. p. 213 sq.). Among the Hebrews every seventh day was hallowed to the Lord, every seventh year, after the time of Moses, was accounted a Sabbath, and the seventh new moon of the year was celebrated with peculiar solemnities. Between the great feasts of the Passover' and Pentecost seven weeks intervened; the Passover itself lasted seven days, and on each day a sacrifice of seven lambs was offered. The feast of Tabernacles and the great day of Atonement also occurred in the seventh month, and the former occupied seven days. Seven days was the legal time required for many Levitical purifications, as well as for the consecration of priests. The blood of the most important sin-offerings was sprinkled seven times. Seven days was the usual time for mourning the dead, or for wedding festivities. The Jewish doctrine of later times numbered seven archangels (as the Zendavesta has seven amshaspands). In the oldest books the number seven is continually made prominent. '(See Ge 7:2 sq.; 8:10, 12; 29:27, 30; 23:3; 41:2 sq.; Ex 7:22; Nu 23:1; Jos 6:4,6,8,13,15; Jg 16:8,13,19; 1Sa 10:8; 1Sa 11:3; 1Sa 13:8; 1Ki 8:65; 1Ki 18:43; 2Ki 5:10,14. On the Samaritan reckoning of seven covenants between God and his people, see Gesenius, Carm. Samar. p. 47.) The same number is frequent in the prophetic symbols (Eze 39:9,12,14; Eze 40:22,26; Eze 43:25 sq.; 44:26; 45:21. 23, 25; Zec 3:9; Zec 4:2,10). The seventy weeks of Daniel (9:24 sq.) are well known (comp. Da 4:20,22). The number seven is also frequent in the apocryphal books of Esdras, as well as in the New Testament (comp. Mt 15:34,36 sq.; Ac 6:3; Ac 21:8; Re 1:4,12 sq.; 8:2,-6; 10:3 sq.; 11:13; 12:3; 13:1; 15:1, 6 sq.; 16:1 17:1, 3, 7, 9, 11; 21:9). The frequent use of the number seventy is of a kindred nature. The Israelites who went down into Egypt, the years of the captivity, the elders chosen by Moses to assist in judicial duties, were each seventy in number'; and at a later period there were reckoned seventy nations and as many languages on, earth (see, Bohlen, Genesis, p. 77). Philo's writings show how mysterious and significant the later philosophical Jews considered the number seven (see his Opp. 1:21 sq.; 2:5, 277 sq.); and Jerome's explanation that it had become familiar through the Jewish Sabbath is quite obvious (ad isa. 4:1). The same fact appears in the Cabalistic "Sephiroth," which some find even in the Apocalypse (1:5; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6; see also the Mishna, Pirke Aboth, v. 7 sq.; Epiphanius, De numeror. myster. p. 5). Among the Greeks, the Pythagoreans especially interwove the number seven with their speculations (see Ritter, Gesch. d. Philos. — i. 404 sq., 434), and it is well known what an important part it played in their fanciful anthropology and psychology. (On the number seven in nature, see Macrob. Somn. Scip. 1:6; Gell. 3:10; Varro, Ling. Lat. 1:255, ed. Bip.; Pliny, Hist. Nat. 2:43.) It is not difficult to see the origin of this manifold use and mysterious regard in respect to this number. There can be little doubt that, in the case of the Hebrews at least (and probably so with the heathen by tradition), it was originally derived from the Sabbatic institution of the week in Eden. According to many, however, it was taken from the supposed number of the planets, to whose movements all the phenoinena of nature and of human life were subordinated; while an additional influence, perhaps the more immediate occasion of its use, may be found in the perception that the moon, the first of the heavenly bodies carefully observed by men, changes her form at intervals of seven days. This subdivision of the lunar month was made at a very early period (Ideler, Chronolog. 1:60). This discovery of the number seven in nature, which an active fancy easily extended to many other things (Passavant, Lebeismagnetism, p. 105), must have led to attempts at a deeper interpretation of the number; yet Bahr's explaniation (Symbolik d., Jos. Cultus 1:187 sq.), that seven was composed by adding together three, the symbol of God, and four, the symbol of the world, and denoted to the ancient Hebrews the union of the two, is far too forced (see Hengstenberg, Bileam, p. 71 sq.); although Kurtz (Stud. u. Krit.  p. 346 sq.) makes many efforts to rescue this speculative interpretation. (But comp. Gedicke, Verm. Schrift. p. 32 sq.; Hammer, Wissensch. d. Orients, 2:322 sq.; Baur in the Tiibing. Zeitschrift f. Theol.  3:128 sq.). The fact that seven and seventy are used as "round numbers" (as Ge 4:24; Ps 12:6: Pr 24:16; Mt 18:21 sq.) may agree well with their supposed sanctity, but does not require such an explanation.
The next number to seven in frequency is forty in the history (as Ge 7:4,17; Ge 8:6; Ge 25:20; Ge 26:34; Ge 32:15; Ex 17:16; Nu 14:33; Nu 32:12; De 29:5). The Israelites were forty years in the desert (Ex 24:18; De 9:9); Moses spent forty days and forty nights in Sinai (Jos 14:7; Jg 3:11;
5:31; 13:1; 1Sa 4:18; 1Sa 17; 1Sa 16; 2Sa 5:4; 1Ki 11:42; Ac 13:21).; Saul, David, and Solomon each reigned forty years (1Ki 19:8; Mt 4:2; Ac 1:3). (For an arrangement of the interval between the exodus and the death of David in twelve periods of forty years each, see Ewald, Isr. Gesch. 2:370 sq.) The number likewise occurs in the language of prophecy (Eze 4:6; Eze 29:11 sq.; Jon 3:4). The frequent recurrence of the same number in the same series of events may sometimes give rise to a doubt whether we really have the historical chronology (Bruns, in *Paulus's Memorab. 7:53 sq.; Bohlen, Genesis, Introd. p. 63 sq.; Hartmann, Ver-bind. etc., p. 491; comp. Grimm, Deutsche Rechtsalterth. p. 219 sq). We may here refer to the forty stripes (De 25:2). It does not appear that forty is particularly used as a round number in the Old Testament. (For its use among the Persians, see Gesenius, Lehrgeb. p. 700; Rosenmüller, Ezech. 4:6.)
Ten, the symbol of completeness (Bahr, p. 181; Hengstenberg, Authen. d. Pentat. 2:391) — but only in arithmetic, not in speculative philosophy — does not appear prominently in the Old Testament, although tithes occur at a very early period. Within the range of properly sacred use we find ten only in the number of the commandments and the measures of the Tabernacle (Ex 26:27; 1Ki 6; 1Ki 7); and the designation of the tenth day occurs in the ritual but twice (Ex 12:3; Le 16:29; comp. Ewald, Isr. Alterth. p. 364). Ten is also very often a round number. Only at a later period did the number ten assume a peculiar importance in the Jewish liturgy. It was the least number that could eat together the Paschal lamb (Josephus, War, 6:9, 3). A synagogue must be built in a city which contained ten Jews; only ten persons could repeat the church-prayer" Shema" (see Mishna, Megilla, 4:3; comp. 1:3). The Jews, then, easily found this significance of the number in the Scripture (see Mishna, Pirke Aboth, v. 1-6; comp. Philo, Opp. 1:243, 259, 532; 2:35, 183 sq., 355). The decalogue afforded an obvious parallel (see Othon. Lex. Rabbin. p. 470; Bihr, p. 182 sq.). The origin of the decimal system is evidently from the use of the fingers in counting.
Five appears chiefly in forfeitures and holy offerings (Ex 22:1; Le 5:16; Le 22:14; Le 27:15; Nu 5:7; Nu 18:16). But in conventional phrase it commonly means a group, several, after the analogy of the five fingers (Ge 18:28; Ge 45:22; 1Sa 17:40; 1Sa 21:4; 1Co 14:19). Yet even here symbolic interpreters find a deep meaning (see e.g. Kurtz, ut sup. p. 360).,
Four, although a mysterious number among the Pythagoreans (Reinhold, Gesch. d. Philos. 1:83), and although Bihr (p. 155 sq.) has sought to establish its peculiar significance, is not prominent in the Old Testament. The four winds and the four points of the compass may perhaps be connected with the supposition that the earth was four-sided, but this is not. certain, and the famous "tetragrammaton," or word of four letters (Jehovah, יהוֹה), cannot be connected with it. The form of the square does indeed appear frequently (Eze 43:16 sq.; 46:2; 48:16 sq.; Re 21:16), but we must suppose it to have been selected simply as the most regular form that could be conceived; and the same explanation applies to the cubic shape of the holiest place in the Tabernacle and in the Temple. But Bahr (p. 176 sq.) explains the square as the symbol among the Israelites both of the world and the manifestation of God; and he is followed by Keil (on Kings, p. 80 sq.) and Kurtz (p. 342 sq. 357 sq.).
The number three first reaches its full significance in the faith of the Christian Church. although in antiquity it already often occurs as the symbol of supreme divinity (Bahr, p. 146 sq.; Lobeck, Aglaophnam, p. 387; comp. Servius, ad Virg. Eclog. 8:75; Plat. Legg. 4, p. 716). It is not at all strange that it frequently occurs in ordinary life, as it expresses the simplest possible group: the middle and two sides; the beginning, middle, and end (so Dion. Hal. 3, p. 150); the vanguard, main body, and rear of an army, or the center with two wings. This threefold division of. an army was customary among the ancient Hebrews (Jg 7:16,20; Jg 9:43; 1Sa 11:11). This number is also customary in repeating calls and exclamations, for the sake of emphasis, without any religious significance (as Jer 7:4; Jer 22:29). But its use in some instances is more remarkable (see Ex 23:14; De 16:16; Nu 6:24 sq.; Isa 6:3), and the explanation in the Apocalypse (1:4) of the name Jehovah (יהוָֹה) seems to show an allusion in it to the Trinity. The three hours of prayer observed by the later Jews may have had a kindred origin. The number three also occurs often in the ancient genealogies, especially in the heads of kindred races (comp. Cain, Abel, Seth; Shem, Ham, and Japheth, etc.; see Lengerke, Ken. p. 20, Introd.). But the triangle, which in other ancient nations was so important as a symbol, is not found in Hebrew antiquity. It is generally thought to be used as a round number, meaning several, like ter in the Latin poets (in 2Co 12:8; Joh 2:19); but many commentators dissent from this view.
Twelve derives its significance in the Old Testament, not from the multiplication of three and four together (as Bahr and Kurtz suppose), nor from the twelve signs of the zodiac, but rather from the twelve heads of the tribes in Israel (Jos 4:1 sq.; Ex 28:21; 1Ki 7:25; comp. Apoc. 21:12), which is a sufficient historical ground.
On the whole, then, it appears that among the Israelites, as in other ancient nations, certain numbers assumed very early a peculiar significance, especially in religious service; but it is in vain to seek for a numerical symbolism, based on speculation, and worked out into a system. (For the use of round numbers and national numbers among the ancient Italians and others, see Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, vol. ii; among the Germans, Grimm, Deutsche Rechtsalterthumer, p. 207 sq. SEE ARITHMETIC.