How to Study the Bible, by Watchman Nee


Many numbers in the Bible have significance. The following are some examples.

One signifies the one unique God.

Two signifies fellowship.

Three also signifies God because He is triune. One refers to God’s unity, and three refers to God’s completion.

Four is the first number that is built upon three. It is three plus one. Hence, four is the number of creation. Everything that relates to the creature is four in number. For example, there are four corners of the earth, four seasons, four winds, and four rivers that flow from the garden of Eden. The image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream has four sections. Four beasts come out of the sea. The living creatures that represent all creation are four in number. The Lord Jesus’ life on earth is recorded in four Gospels. Everything that is produced from God is four in number.

Five is the number of man’s separation. The left hand has five fingers. So does the right hand. Of the ten virgins five are foolish and five wise. Five also signifies human responsibility before God. The ear is one of the five organs, the thumb is one of the five fingers, and the big toe is one of the five toes. Applying the blood to the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot signifies man’s separation to bear responsibility before God.

Six is man’s number. Man was created on the sixth day. Seven is the number of perfection. Six is less than seven. This means that what man does can never match what God does.

Seven is the number of perfection. This perfection refers to the present temporary perfection; it is not eternal perfection. Three is the number of God. Four is the number of the creature. The sum of the Creator with the creature is perfection. God plus man equals perfection. But this is only three plus four; it is a temporary perfection. Everything temporal in the Bible is signified by seven. For example, there are seven days to a week, seven parables in Matthew 13, seven churches in Revelation, seven lampstands, seven messengers, seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls. All these refer to temporal perfection rather than perfection in eternity.

Eight is the number of resurrection. Seven is a cycle. Eight is the first number after seven. The Lord Jesus resurrected on the eighth day. Hence, eight is the number of resurrection.

Nine is three times three, a multiplicity of God’s number. God’s testimony is not only God’s word but God’s speaking to us.

Ten signifies human perfection. The human number is completed at ten. For example, there are ten fingers to the hands and ten toes to the feet.

Eleven does not have much significance in the Bible.

Twelve is also a number for perfection, but this perfection refers to the perfection in eternity. There are two numbers for perfection: seven and twelve. Seven is divine perfection and has to do with today. Twelve is also divine perfection, but it has to do with eternity. The interesting thing is that in the new heaven and new earth, the number seven will be gone. The New Jerusalem has twelve gates, twelve foundations, the names of the twelve apostles, twelve kinds of precious stones, and twelve pearls. The wall of the city was a hundred and forty-four cubits, which is twelve times twelve. All these will remain forever. Thus, twelve signifies eternal perfection. Why is seven temporal perfection and twelve eternal perfection? Three plus four is simply God plus man, the Creator plus the creature. But three times four is the Creator multiplied by the creature. This means that the two are mingled together. There is a difference between addition and multiplication. In multiplication, God and man are no longer separate. It is a oneness between the creating God and the created beings. Such a oneness is eternal. Hence, the perfection signified by twelve is an eternal perfection.

(How to Study the Bible, Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)