The Number Seven in Scripture
I have, however, become convinced concerning the idea of the number seven signifying fulfillment or completeness, based on the consistent way that the biblical authors use seven and multiples of seven. G.K. Beale notes, “The idea of completeness [for the number seven in the Bible] originates from the creation account in Genesis 1, where six days of creation are followed by the consummate seventh day of God’s rest… Sometimes seven is both literal and figurative (e.g., in Leviticus 4-16 ‘sprinkling seven times’ is both a literal action and a figurative representation of a complete, effective act). Other times it is purely figurative for completeness (e.g., Lev 26:18-28: God will punish Israel ‘seven times’ [or ‘sevenfold’] if they do not repent– not seven distinct punishments but a complete chastisement)” [Beale, The Book of Revelation, 186 (emphasis added)]. Seven and a multiple of seven are used in the prophecy given in Dan 9:24ff. (where “seventy weeks” = “seventy sevens”), a passage pointing to the fulfillment of several spiritual realities. By the New Testament era, “seven” had become synonymous for completeness to the extent that when Simon Peter strove to imagine the number of times he must forgive someone in order to be considered completely forgiving, he came up with “seven times” (notice that Jesus also corrects Peter using a figurative multiple of seven: “seventy times seven” Matt 18:21-22).
Acknowledgement that the Bible uses "seven" as indicative of fulfillment or completeness can help in recognizing aspects of what the Holy Spirit is communicating in specific passages: as in the Book of Revelation, in which multiple sequences of seven are found.
Labels: Bible study