A way with numbers

“For three transgressions of Damascus,
and for four, I will not revoke the punishment..." (Amos 1:3)

It seems I'm not the only one who is intrigued by numbers. The more I read in the prophetic writings, the more I am struck by the significance and prophetic symbolism in the numbers they chose. This is particularly true with the books of Daniel and Revelation which I have studied in some depth, but I believe it is also true of some of the other prophets.

Take the above quote from the beginning of Amos, repeated throughout chapters 1 and 2. If you are like me, you have probably skipped over the numbers here without giving them much thought. But I suddenly have a new found respect and admiration for this "rustic" prophet. Far from being a simple farm lad, he had an ingenious grip on the prophetic symbolism of numbers. I believe there are at least three layers of meaning carefully chosen and crafted together in this phrase....

....Unfortunately I don't have enough time to fully expound them today, so you'll have to come back tomorrow if you want to know what I've discovered. ;-) If you can't wait here are some clues: Abraham. Proverbs. Completeness / Fullness.


Sorry! This is what happens when you post in a hurry! The link to Abraham is tenuous at best! What I had in mind was actually Eze 14:16,18. And as Ezekiel was some 200 years after Amos, he could not really have been building on this revelation. In my haste I misrecalled the number of righteous men for which God would spare the city when Abraham pleaded for Sodom. Although Abraham had three visitors the number which he "bargained" down to was 10 not 3. Kinda takes the wind out of my sails on this one. But hey, you don't get fresh revelation if you're not prepared to explore some new avenues... but some turn out to be blind alleys.

Three is still a significant number in the scriptures even without this link. So I may still post on it anyway.


Anna Sacha said...

hey chris!!
the same numbers 3 and 4 also occur in proverbs 30. that has always intrigued me. well! hope ur revelation helps me!

Chris HH said...

Exactly! (Or almost...) Well spotted Anna. This is the Proverbs link I was referring to. The tetrad structure of four elements, introduced as three, then four, places the emphasis on the fourth item and was apparently a popular Jewish teaching device.

anna said...

oh wow! will work on that!

Matthew said...

Could the 3 and 4 of Amos also be a reference to the numbers of heaven (3) and earth (4) and thereby God is calling upon heaven and earth as witnesses (normally 2 or 3 - also successive numbers) to hear his judgement against these nations?