top of page
  • Writer's pictureBen Hellman

Biblical Numerology for the win!

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

Mel Brooks as Moses with these fifteen... TEN commandments. History of the World, Part 1, 1981

“How much do you pay for oil a month?”

“Not sure.”

“What do you mean you’re not sure?”

“It’s on a spreadsheet. I can tell you later.”

“How many days till your vacation?”

“Don’t know.”

“How can you not know that?”

“Someone will tell me the day before.”

“How many miles on the car, sir?”

“Let me check.”

“Just an estimate.”

“A million?”

I’ve never been good with numbers. It is difficult for me to remember them or to report them correctly without looking directly at them (and it took me a lot of years to even learn to do that right.) I would only know that this is notably strange by the looks on people’s faces who know better when I accidentally inflate numbers, for instance, when I say twelve thousand when I mean twelve hundred.

Luckily, the Bible has an answer: symbolic numerology!

The writers of the Bible had specific numbers they returned to again and again to communicate particular ideas and this immediately appeals to me because numbers to me are abstract notions attached to nothing. The biblical numbers are also abstract, but they are attached to concepts I can appreciate, envision and understand.

Forty days and forty nights = a good long time.

Twelve brothers = impressive family

One thousand = happily ever after/they are totally screwed

Again, these numbers are thought to be approximate. Moses meets a certain number of women drawing water from a well. It’s more than two. It’s more than three. It’s not quite so many as twelve. Seven is a good round estimate. Who cares if it’s six or eight? Jacob’s descendants heading to meet Joseph number seventy, but again, it’s approximately seventy. It’s just an impressive group. What, are you planning seats at a wedding reception?

So the next time I get asked a question that requires a number, I just have to choose one of a set of numbers I’ve memorized and throw it out with confidence. It will be very meaningful for the person who wants to hear a number and I’ll have responded with basically how I feel about the approximate number.

“How many students are at your school?”

“A thousand.”

“How many weeks until break is over?”


“How many days do you get for Christmas this year?”


“You guys are lucky!”

“Sure are!”

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All



Benjamin Hellman's Blog

bottom of page