Bible: Number 7 in Holy Scriptures

Introduction

The number 7 is definitely important in the Holy Scriptures, it is the symbol of GOD and of His perfection and completeness. Since the story of the creation with which the Book of Genesis opens, we notice how the seventh day (the day of rest) is charged with divine blessing, eternally assigned as a seal to the creation itself.

Seven is one of the numbers that holds the most meaning and “power” in the Abrahamic religions and in Jewish tradition represents creation, good fortune and blessing. A Hebrew word for good fortune, “gad,” equals seven in gematria. Another Hebrew word for good fortune, “mazal,” which is the number composed of the two “sevens,” 77.
In addition to Creation and the exalted status of the Sabbath, the seventh day, there are seven laws of Noah and the seven Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Several Jewish holidays last seven days and priestly ordination lasts seven days. The Land of Israel could lie fallow one year out of seven, and the Menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem has seven “arms.” The prophet Zechariah describes a strange heavenly stone with seven eyes (chapter 4). All this emphasis on the number seven continues post-biblically with the seven wedding blessings, seven circuits performed on the groom, and the seven days of mourning after the death of a close relative. Esoteric events, prayers, and observances involving multiples of seven are also very common. Both natural (gold) and supernatural (angels) entities are often grouped by sects (I Enoch 20; II Enoch 19).
The first verse of the Torah consists of seven words, and seven is the recurring number in Pharaoh’s divinatory dreams in Genesis. The walls of Jericho fall after the Israelites surround them seven times. In the Zohar, the seven lower sefirot are those aspects of GOD that are present in the asiyah, our world of action. Seven is also the preferred number in spells, magic squares, amulets and the like (Genesis 7:2; I Kings 18:43; Deuteronomy 16:9; Pesahim 54a; Sotah 10b).

The Number 7

In Egypt there were, in Joseph’s time, seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine.
When Jericho was conquered by the Israelites after the exodus, the people and seven priests, carrying seven trumpets, marched around the city for seven consecutive days; on the seventh day they marched around the city seven times.
Every seven years the land in Palestine was not to be cultivated (the seventh year was called a “Sabbatical year” because the land was allowed to rest), and after seven cycles of seven years, the fiftieth year was a Jubilee.
Naaman, general of the king of Syria, who went to consult the prophet Elisha because he was sick with leprosy, was sent by him to bathe in the river Jordan seven times. It took Solomon seven years to build the temple to the LORD, and at its inauguration, he called a festival that lasted seven days.
In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, everything takes place around this number: seven churches, seven candlesticks, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls, seven stars, seven spirits… The very number of the Antichrist, 666, reminds the reader, by contrast, of the importance of the divine signature: where it is absent, there is the maximum of imperfection (the number 6 recalls the days of creation without GOD’s blessing).

It is therefore universally recognized that the number seven recurs in the Bible in a very special way and more frequently than any other number.

Numerology & Religion

In the first numbering systems, aimed at calculating in base 60, the number seven is the first number for which it is not possible to divide in exact parts the base of the numbering system.

  • Seven were the plagues of Egypt according to a new interpretation translating “plague” in “blows” from Hebrew, some verses report only seven “blows” maybe remembering the most significant ones, but anyway there are ten “plagues” (blows, punishments) in the Bible.
  • Seven are the virtues: 3 theological (faith, hope, charity) and 4 cardinal (justice, temperance, prudence, fortitude).
  • Seven are the deadly sins: gluttony, sloth, pride, avarice, envy, anger and lust.
  • Seven are the arms of the Jewish candelabra Menorah.
  • Seven are the fundamental attributes of GOD: life, knowledge, power, will, hearing, sight and speech.
  • Seven are the gifts of the Holy Spirit of GOD in Christianity: wisdom, intellect, counsel, fortitude, science, piety and fear of GOD.
  • Seven are the main Archangels of Christianity (in Catholicism 4, including Uriel that is never mentioned): Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raguel, Zedkiel, Jophiel.
  • Seven are the books of Heptateuch in the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges.
  • Seven were the plagues of Egypt according to a new interpretation translating “plague” in “blows” from Hebrew, some verses report only seven “blows” maybe remembering the most significant ones, but anyway there are ten “plagues” (blows, punishments) in the Bible.
  • Seven are the Sacraments of Roman Catholic Christianity: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, Marriage.
  • Seven churches in Asia are the dedicatees of John’s Revelation (Rev1:4). These churches are the recipients of 7 letters (contained in chapters 2 and 3), and they are: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
  • Seven are the Seals whose breaking will announce the end of the world, followed by the sound of 7 trumpets played by 7 Angels, then by the 7 Bearers and finally by the pouring out of the 7 Cups of God’s wrath (John, Revelation).
  • Seven are the works of corporal mercy and as many are the works of spiritual mercy.
  • Seven are the pains of Mary.

Other references

Old Testament

  • Seven Hebrew words of Bereishit 1:1 / Genesis 1:1 (28 letters).
  • The number seven in the seven days of Creation is typological and the number seven appears commonly elsewhere in the Bible. These include:
    • Seven days of Creation (Genesis 1) e.g., GOD rested on and sanctified the seventh day (Sabbath)
    • Anyone who dares to kill Cain ‘will suffer vengeance seven times over’ (Genesis 4:15)
    • Lamech in his “Song of the Sword” claims that ‘if Cain shall be avenged sevenfold’, he himself shall be ‘seventy-sevenfold’ (Genesis 4:24)
    • Noah is commanded to bring seven pairs of every clean animal onto the ark (Genesis 7:2)
    • Seven years of plenty and seven years of famine in Pharaoh’s dream (Genesis 41)
    • In regards to the sin sacrifice, the anointed priest was to sprinkle the bullock’s blood seven times before the lord (Leviticus 4:6)
    • Seven days of the feast of Passover (Exodus 13:3–10)
    • Seven-day week and the pattern concerning distribution and use of manna (Exodus 16)
    • The Menorah (Hebrew: מנורה‎‎), is a seven-branched candelabrum lit by olive oil in the Tabernacle and the Temple in Jerusalem (Exodus 25)
    • Seven year cycle around the years of Jubilee (Leviticus 25)
    • Jericho’s walls fall on the seventh day after seven priests with seven trumpets march around the city seven times (Joshua 6:8)
    • King David had seven older brothers (1 Samuel 16)
    • The child sneezed seven times after Elisha raised him from the dead (2 Kings 4:35)
    • Seven things that are detestable to the LORD (Proverbs 6:16–19)
    • Seven Pillars of the House of Wisdom (Proverbs 9:1)
    • The woman with seven sons in 2 Maccabees.

    New Testament

    • Seven loaves multiplied into seven basketfuls of surplus (Matthew 15:32–37)
    • Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive those who sinned against him up to 7 times; Jesus responded by saying to forgive them ‘seventy times seven times’, remembering so the curse of Cain and the song of Lamech in Genesis 4.
    • Seven demons were driven out of Mary Magdelene. (Luke 8:2).
    • The seven last sayings of Jesus on the cross.
    • Seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom (Acts 6:3)
    • In the Book of Revelation, seven is a central figure of quantities: Seven Spirits of GOD, Seven Churches (to which the book is addressed);
    • Seven of the following appear in Revelation: golden lampstands(1:12), stars(1:16), torches of fire(4:5) Seven Seals(5:1), angels and their trumpets(8:2), last plagues(15:1), golden bowls(15:7), thunders(10:3), horns and eyes(5:6), diadems(12:3) and kings(17:10). 

    Other sevens in Christian knowledge and practice include:

    • The Seven Corporal Acts of Mercy and Seven Spiritual Acts of Mercy of Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other traditions
    • The Seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride
    • Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
    • The Seven Joys of the Virgin Mary, of Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other traditions
    • The Seven Sacraments in the Catholic faith (though some traditions assign a different number)
    • The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary, of Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other traditions
    • There are seven suicides mentioned in the Bible (OT and NT).
    • The seven terraces of Mount Purgatory (one per deadly sin)
    • The Seven Virtues: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness, patience, and humility
    • In the genealogy in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is 77th in a direct line
    • The number of heads of the three beasts (7 × 10 × 7 + 7 × 10 × 10 + 7 × 10 = 1260) of the Book of Revelation, and the seven seals

Conclusions

The number seven in the Bible represents divine perfection, totality or completion and is mentioned at least 490 times. GOD created mankind and beasts on the sixth day and so six is a number that represents mankind and also represents created things. Even the number 666 mentioned in the Bible where the number of the beast is also called the number of man (Rev 13:18) so just as six is symbolic or representative of mankind, and seven is symbolic of GOD’s work and just as six falls short of seven by one number, so man will always fall short of GOD’s standard (Rom 3:23)

 


References

  • Collins, Adela Yarbro. Numerical symbolism in Jewish and early Christian apocalyptic literature. De Gruyter, 2016.
  • D.S. Russell. “Countdown: Arithmetic and Anagram in Early Biblical Interpretation”. The Expository Times 1993.
  • Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers, Oxford University Press, 1993, pg. 158.
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