Some people, mainly associated with New Age teachings, believe there is spiritual significance to numbers in the Bible that lies hidden behind their literal meaning. Theoretically, readers can unlock the full importance of numbers through the connection of the mind, body, and spirit, as the New Age movement defines the terms. For example, one number that people often ask about is 222.
As a three-digit number, 222 doesn’t appear in the Bible’s inspired text and, therefore, has no meaning in the book. However, three consecutive twos appear in numbers like 22,200. They also appear in chapter and verse divisions, which are not original to the biblical text, such as Acts 2:22 or 22:2.
Do numbers have “hidden” meanings in the Bible? Do literal numbers have a secondary spiritual significance? What numbers in the Bible are closest to 222? Where do three consecutive twos appear in larger numbers? What do they reference? Who made the Bible’s chapter and verse divisions? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
The Supposed “Hidden” Meaning of Numbers in the Bible
The orthodox way to understand numbers is the Bible is literal unless the context or genre suggests a symbolic or figurative interpretation. For example, the number 220 in Ezra 8:20 (see below) refers to a literal amount of servants in the temple.
There is no additional spiritual significance to the number hidden under, within, or behind its straightforward meaning, despite the suggestions of some teachings in the New Age movement.
An example of a non-literal meaning of a number is the phrase the “four corners of the earth” (i.e., Isa. 11:12; Rev. 7:1). The imagery may come from the four points of a compass — north, east, south, and west. Bible scholars generally agree that the phrase means “worldwide” or “global.”
However, the meaning of “global” isn’t hidden. “Global” is the plain meaning. The phrase is a figure of speech that the author doesn’t intend to be literal. Ezra intends for readers to understand the number 220 literally and seek no other meaning.
What numbers are closest to 222 in the Bible?
As a three-digit number, 222 never appears in the Old or New Testaments in the original manuscripts of the Bible or the numerous modern-language translations available today.
The Bible can’t assign a meaning to a number that it doesn’t contain or imply. Therefore, no reader or teacher can make such a suggestion because they can’t interpret and apply what doesn’t exist in the text.
The closest number to 222 that appears in the Bible is 220, which appears twice in the section of historical books in the Old Testament.
220 in the book of 1 Chronicles
The topic in 1 Chronicles 15 is the Ark of the Covenant being returned to Jerusalem. The beginning of the chapter lists the Israelites that carried the ark home, which included families from the tribe of Levi (v. 4-9). 1 Chronicles 15:6 mentions that one family line contained 220 men: “of the sons of Merari, Asaiah the chief, with 220 of his brothers” (ESV). There is no hidden meaning to 220 in the verse.
220 in the story of Ezra
After the exile, Ezra couldn’t find Levites to help with the return trip to Jerusalem, so he summoned the assistance of Iddo, chief of the temple servants (Ezra 8:15-17). With Iddo’s help, 38 Levites arose to help. Ezra 8:20 adds that there were also “220 of the temple servants, whom David and his officials had set apart to attend the Levites” (ESV). There is no hidden meaning to 220 in the verse.
Three consecutive twos in larger numbers
The book of Numbers contains three consecutive two as part of figures much larger than 222. Such occurrences aren’t the same number any more than 1 and 1,000,000 are. However, some New Age teachings may rationalize the appearance of three consecutive twos, so it’s essential to under their contexts and meanings.
Three straight twos in Numbers 3
Numbers in the fourth book of the Bible, following Leviticus and preceding Deuteronomy. The title “Numbers” comes from the census reports contained in the book. The first ten chapters of Numbers counts and arranges the Israelites around the tabernacle.
Then, God tells Moses to count the firstborn Israelite males at least a month old (Num. 3:40-41). Numbers 3:43 contains the total: “And all the firstborn males, according to the number of names, from a month old and upward as listed were 22,273.”
Three straight twos in Numbers 26
The last 11 chapters of Numbers (26-36) describe the second generation of Israelites after the Exodus and their recommitment to God. Chapter 26 records a census of second-generation males 20 years or older. Numbers 26:12-14 record the descendants of Simeon. Verse 14 contains three consecutive twos: “These are the clans of the Simeonites, 22,200” (ESV).
2:22 in Chapter and Verse Divisions
It’s important to understand that chapter and verse divisions aren’t original to the Bible. For example, none of the writers — Moses, David, Luke, Paul, or anyone else — wrote “Chapter 1” or “verse three.”
In the ancient world, people like scholars, scribes, and readers commonly inserted chapter and verse divisions into books to make locating and referencing their content more accessible.
Many people made attempts to divide the Bible into chapters and verses. Unfortunately, most efforts resulted in arrangements too complex to help most readers.
For example, one attempt divided the Gospel of Matthew into over 100 chapters. In modern Bibles, Matthew contains 28 chapters. Another attempt assigned a verse to every phrase of the Bible, which proved unhelpful and difficult to read.
The chapter and verse divisions in modern Bibles are the work of Stephen Langton (1150-1228 A.D.). Langston was a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church in England.
Part of the reason why Langton’s arrangement became commonplace was that its easy to use. In essence, many people thought his chapter and verse lengths were helpful, not complex or distracting.
Another reason many adopted his arrangement may have been because, as a leader in the Catholic church in England, he was in a position to implement its use.
In Orthodox Christianity, chapter and verse numbers aren’t considered inspired. Furthermore, no reputable scholar believes they have hidden meanings either.
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