Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance
by E.W. Bullinger
We have seen that three signifies Divine perfection.
Now the number four is made up of three and one (3+1=4), and it denotes, therefore, and marks that which follows the revelation of God, namely, His creative works. He is known by the things that are seen. Hence the written revelation commences with the words, "In-the-beginning God CREATED." Creation is therefore the next thing—the fourth thing, and the number four always has reference to all that is created. It is emphatically the number of Creation; of man in his relation to the world as created; while six is the number of man in his opposition to and independence of God. It is the number of things that have a beginning, of things that are made, of material things, and matter itself. It is the number of material completeness. Hence it is the world number, and especially the "city" number.
The fourth day saw the material creation finished (for on the fifth and sixth days it was only the furnishing and peopling of the earth with living creatures). The sun, moon, and stars completed the work, and they were to give light upon the earth which had been created, and to rule over the day and over the night (Gen 1:14-19).
Four is the number of the great elements—earth, air, fire, and water.
Four are the regions of the earth—north, south, east, and west.
Four are the divisions of the day—morning, noon, evening, and midnight. Or in our Lord's words, when He speaks of His coming at evening, midnight, cock-crowing, or in the morning (Mark 13:35). We are never to put off His coming in our minds beyond tomorrow morning.
Four are the seasons of the year—spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
Four are the great variations of the lunar phases.
In Genesis 2:10, 11, the one river of Paradise was parted, and became into four heads, and "the fourth river is Euphrates." Here, as so often elsewhere, the four is made up of 3 + 1. For three of these rivers are now unnamed, while one is still known by its original name "Euphrates."
Four marks division also. For the river was "parted." It is the first number which is not a "prime," the first which can be divided. It is the first square number also, and therefore it marks a kind of completeness as well, which we have called material completeness.
In the next chapter (Gen 3:22-24) the cherubim are first mentioned. These are four, and they have to do with creation always. They are first seen here, keeping, i.e., guarding (Gen 2:15), the Tree of Life, and thus preserving the blessed hope of immortality for creation. They are next seen in connection with atonement, showing the only ground on which creation could hope for the end of its groaning. They are seen on the veil and on the mercy-seat, binding up the hope of creation with Him who is called "the Hope of Israel." So that there is no hope for a groaning creation apart from atonement, apart from Christ, or apart from Israel. In the Apocalypse the same four cherubim are called Swa, "the living creatures" (Rev 4). These announce the Coming One; these sing of creation and of Him who created all things, and for whose pleasure they were created (Rev 4:11). Whenever they speak it is in connection with the earth. These call forth and announce the judgments or plagues (Rev 6) which issue on the ejection of the Usurper from the earth, and the destruction of them which destroy the earth, and in the exaltation and enthronement of Him when all the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of our Lord and His anointed, and when the LORD God omnipotent reigneth.
Hence it was that these four cherubic forms were placed in the Signs of the Zodiac, and so placed that they divide it into four equal parts, thus uniting in one the twelve signs which set forth the blessed hope of a groaning creation, which waits for the Promised Seed of the woman to come and crush the serpent's head and bring in universal blessing.*
* See The Witness of the Stars, by the same author.
They are the four heads of animal creation: the lion, of wild beasts; the ox, of tame beasts; the eagle, of birds; and man the head of all. Again we have the four divided into 3 + 1: three animal, and one human.
They mark the purpose of God from the moment the curse was pronounced, and are the pledge that it will one day be removed.
Other characteristics mark the cherubim off from all else. They are not Divine, for they are never worshiped, and all likeness of God was forbidden; moreover the God-head is presented at the same time with them, for they are connected with His throne. They are distinguished from angels, and they are never dismissed on errands. They are distinguished from the Church in Revelation 5:9, 10, a passage which is supposed to prove their identity with it; for in verse 9, the word "us" should be omitted, with Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Westcott and Hort, and the RV; and the words "us" and "we" in verse 10, should be "them" and "they" (with all the textual and ancient authorities), the verses reading as in RV:—"Thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with Thy blood, men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation,* and madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon the earth."
* Note the four-fold description.
The fact, therefore, of the living creatures being four (and no other number) marks them as connected with Creation, and as a symbolical representation that its hope of deliverance from the curse is bound up with the blood-shedding of the coming Redeemer.
THE FOUR-FOLD DIVISION OF MANKIND
In Genesis 10, "the generations of the sons of Noah" are comprised in a four-fold description. However the order may be varied, the number is preserved:Verse 5. lands, tongues, families, nations
Verse 20. families, tongues, countries, nations
Verse 31. families, tongues, lands, nations
In Revelation there are seven similar descriptions, and though no two are alike, yet the number four is preserved. See Revelation 5:9, 7:9, 10:11, 11:9, 13:7,* 14:6, 17:15.
* In Rev 13:7, the AV gives only three; but the RV, with G., L., T., Tr., A., W. & H., give kai laon (kai laon), people, thus making four.
The three in Genesis, and seven in Revelation make ten such descriptions in all, which is the number of ordinal perfection.
THE GREAT PROPHETIC WORLD-POWERS
are four, and these are divided into 3 + 1, where the one stands out in great and marked contrast to the other three. The first three wild beasts are named (lion, bear, leopard); while the fourth is only described and not named (7:7,23).
So in the image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, three are metals; one is a mixture of metal and mire!
In Daniel 7:2, 3 we read, "The FOUR winds of the heaven STROVE upon the great sea, and FOUR beasts came up from the sea DIVERSE one from another." Such is the history of man's power in the world—strife and division!
No sooner are mankind divided in Genesis 10, than Abraham is called out from them to walk with God (Gen 11, 12). But he soon finds it to be a world of strife and enmity, for Genesis 14 opens with the names of four kings, and "these made war" with five others which are named afterwards.
THE FOURTH BOOK
of the Bible is Numbers. In Hebrew it is called B'Midbar, i.e., the Wilderness. The gematria of B'Midbar is 248 (4x62).
It relates to the earth, which is a wilderness compared with Heaven; and to our pilgrimage through it. It tells of Meribah and striving (20:13), and records the history of the murmurings, rebellions, and wanderings.
THE FOURTH BOOK OF THE PSALMS
is the Book of the Wilderness. The first Psalm is the "Prayer of Moses, the man of God,"—the man of the wilderness. All the illustrations and metaphors, etc., are drawn from the earth, and this fourth book sets forth Jehovah's counsels and purposes in relation to the earth. (See Psalms 90-106.)
In the First Book of the Psalms (1-41), the fourth Psalm has to do with earth.* It tells how there is nothing satisfying in it; that apart from God there can be no real prosperity in the earth.
* The first Psalm speaks of Genesis and the counsels of God for man. The second tells of Exodus and deliverance from the hand of the enemy. The third tells of Leviticus—of Salvation being of the Lord, and how His blessing can be upon His people.
"Many there be that say, Who will show us any good?
LORD, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us.
Thou hast put gladness in my heart
More than they have when their corn and their wine are increased." (Psa 4:6,7, RV)
We may note also the fourth Psalms of the other Books of the Psalms, viz:—Psalm 45 (the fourth of the second book), Psalm 76 (the fourth of the third book), Psalm 93 (the fourth of the fourth book), and Psalm 110 (the fourth of the fifth book). All these tell of Dominion in the earth, and they speak of the coming reign of earth's rightful King and Lord.
The Fourth Commandment is the first that refers to the earth.
The fourth clause of the Lord's Prayer is the first that mentions the earth.
FOUR IN CONTRAST WITH SEVEN
Seven stamps everything with spiritual perfection, for it is the number of heaven, and stands therefore in contrast to the earth. Hence, when in Revelation 5:12 the heavenly multitudes praise, they praise with a seven-fold blessing, and say:
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive (1) power, and (2) riches, and (3) wisdom, and (4) strength, and (5) honour, and (6) glory, and (7) blessing."
Whereas in v. 13, when the created earthly beings praise,— the creatures that are "on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them"—when these join in their ascription, it is only four-fold:—(1) "blessing, and (2) honour, and (3) glory, and (4) power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
THE DEATH AND LIFE OF CHRIST
are set forth by a four-fold type and record.
His death. the four great offerings (Psa 40:6).*
a. "Sacrifice [peace offering], and offering [meal offering], Thou wouldest not:a. Burnt offering and sin offering hast Thou not required.
b. Mine ears hast Thou opened.
b. Then said I, Lo, I come," etc.
* Here the alternate structure shows that "b" and "b" relate to the obedience of Christ as the fifth great offering to which the four pointed.
In the four Gospels we have the record of His life and obedience unto death. These are divided into 3 + 1, the three being similar, and hence called "Synoptic"; while the fourth stands out alone, written after the Churches had all failed, and presenting Christ not merely as offered and rejected by Israel, but as the one and only centre of union and unity after His rejection, and in the midst of all the failure, confusion, and corruption.
THE SEVEN PARABLES OF MATTHEW 13
are divided into four and three; and while the three are spoken inside the house (v 36) to the disciples, and reveal esoteric (or inner explanatory) truth, the four relate to exoteric truth, and concern the outward aspect of things in relation to the world, and hence were spoken outside the house (v 1).
But it is as composed of
Three PLUS one
that we see the most marked illustrations of the ideal significance of the number four, the "one" marking an election out of the earth.
Of the four great offerings, three were connected with blood and life; while one was meal.
The meal offering (Lev 2) was either baked in three ways (oven, flat-plate, or frying-pan); or not at all.
The sin offering (Lev 4) was offered for three classes of individuals—
- The Priest that is anointed (v 3),
- The Ruler (v 22),
- The Common person (v 27)—
or for the whole congregation as one (v 13).
The materials of the Tabernacle were four, three being metals (gold, silver, brass); and one non-metal (wood).
The coverings of the Tabernacle were four,—three animal (goats' hair, rams' skins, and badger skins*); and one vegetable (fine linen).The ornamentations of the curtains were four, three being colours (blue, purple and scarlet); while one was a pattern (the cherubim).
* No badgers were ever found so far south as Palestine. The word #$xata (Tachash) is a word of uncertain meaning, but it refers to an animal the skins of which were used (Exo 25:5, 26:14; Num 4:6,8, etc.). The ancient versions understand it as a colour (the LXX, Chald., and Syr., as red, Arabic, black). It was probably the red or dark skins of the larger sacrificial animals; the two smaller animals are named as being goats and rams.
The Priests and Levites were of four orders or persons: one was Aaron and his sons (Aaronites); the three were the sons of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (Levites).
The Manna (Exo 16:14,31) has a four-fold description, three referring to sight or appearance (small, white, round); and one to taste (sweet).
Of the four prohibited or unclean animals, three chewed the cud, but did not divide the hoof (camel, hare, and coney); while one divided the hoof, but did not chew the cud (the swine); and thus the swine stands out in marked contrast to the other three.
Of the four Houses of God (i.e., erected by Divine plan) in the earth, three were, or will be, material, viz., the Tabernacle, the Temple (Solomon's), and Ezekiel's; whilst the one is a Spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5).
Four houses were built by Solomon; three were for himself,—his own house (1 Kings 7:1), the house of the forest of Lebanon (v 2), the house for Pharaoh's daughter (v 8); while one was the House of the LORD (1 Kings 6:37).
God's four sore judgments in the earth (Eze 14:21): three are inanimate (the sword, famine, and pestilence); while one is animate (the noisome beast).
In Jeremiah 15:3, they are still four, but three are animate (dogs, fowls, and beasts), and one is inanimate (the sword).
Of the four kinds of flesh in 1 Corinthians 15:39, three are animals (beasts, birds, and fishes); while one is human (man).
The four glories of 1 Corinthians 15:40, 41: three are celestial and are detailed (the sun, moon, and stars); while one is not detailed and is terrestrial.
The body is sown and raised (1 Cor 15:42-44) in three ways that relate to corruptibility:
- sown "in corruption, raised in incorruption";
- sown "in dishonour, raised in glory";
- sown "in weakness, raised in power";
while in the one, "it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body."
In the parable of the sower (Matt 13) the kinds of soil are four; but three are characterised as being all alike in contrast to the one (viz., the wayside, the stony ground, and the thorns). These are all unprepared! while the one is good because it is prepared! The essence of the parable lies in this. It reduces the four soils to two, and confirms what is said of the two religions on pp. 96, 97.
In the Lost Son's welcome (Luke 15), three things were material (the robe, the ring, and the shoes); while one was moral (the kiss).
"The Seventy" went forth with a four-fold prohibition (Luke 10:4), of which three related to matters (carry no purse, no scrip, no shoes); while one related to action ("salute no man by the way").
God's four-fold witness in the earth (Heb 2:4): three are impersonal (signs, wonders, and miracles), and one personal (the gifts of the Holy Ghost).
FOURS OF PERSONS
The four of the Book of Job:—
- Zophar (friends)
- Elihu (mediator)
The children of Lamech:—
- Tubal-Cain (sons)
- Naamah (daughters)
The four bound with brass:—
- Samson (Judg 16:21) [not liberated]
- Jehoiachim (2 Chron 36:6) [not liberated]
- Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:7; Jer 52:11, 39:7) [not liberated]
- Manasseh (2 Chron 33:11) [liberated]
The four whose names were changed:—
- Abram (Gen 27:5) [in blessing]
- Sarai (Gen 27:15) [in blessing]
- Jacob (35:10, 37:28) [in blessing]
- Pashur (Jer 20:3) [in judgment]
Four Prophetesses of the Old Testament:—
- Miriam (Exo 15:20) [good]
- Deborah (Judg 4:4) [good]
- Huldah (2 Kings 22:14) [good]
- Noadiah (Neh 6:14) [bad]
The four "children" of the Book of Daniel:—
- Daniel [alone]
- Shadrach [together]
- Meshach [together]
- Abednego [together]
The four in the furnace:
- Shadrach [human]
- Meshach [human]
- Abednego [human]
- The son of God, Spiritual.*
* There is no article. It is literally "a son of God," i.e. an angel/prophet/messenger.
The four kings named in Daniel:—
- Nebuchadnezzar (1-4) [the first of Babylon]
- Belshazzar (5) [the last of Babylon]
- Darius (6) "the Median" (5:31)
- Cyrus (6:28, 10:1) "the Persian"
The four women in the Lord's genealogy (Matt 1):—
- Thamar (Gen 38:27, &c.; Matt 1:3)
- Rahab (Ruth 4:20; Matt 1:5)
- Ruth (Ruth 4:13,14; Matt 1:5)
- Wife of Uriah (2 Sam 12:24; Matt 1:6)
Four names of Satan in Revelation 20:2:—
- The Dragon [rebellious and apostate]
- The Old Serpent [seductive]
- The Devil [accusing]
- Satan [personal]
The four-fold witness to show Nature's inability to find wisdom (Job 28:7,8):—
- The fowl.
- The vulture's eye.
- The lion's whelps.
- The fierce lion.
Four things "little and wise" (Prov 30:24-28):—
- The ant.
- The coney.
- The locust.
- The spider.
The brazen altar which displayed the Divine judgment is four sided, and had four horns. So with the golden altar.
The camp was four-square.
The rainbow, which has special reference to the earth and its judgment, is mentioned four times,—twice in the Old Testament (Gen 9 and Eze 1:28) and twice in the New Testament (Rev 4:3, 10:1).
The fulness of material blessing in the earth is described in Isaiah 60:17:—
- For brass I will bring gold.
- For iron I will bring silver.
- For wood I will bring brass.
- For stones I will bring iron.
The sphere of suffering is four-fold in 2 Corinthians 4:8, 9:—
- Troubled, but not distressed.
- Perplexed, but not in despair.
- Persecuted, but not forsaken.
- Cast down, but not destroyed.
The prophecy of Zechariah which has special reference to the earth:—
- In Chapter 1 we have the four horns or Gentile powers, and the four carpenters to fray them.
- In chapter 4 we have the four chariots with horses of four colours, signifying the spirits of the heavens acting for God in the midst of the four Gentile powers.
This is too large a subject to enter on here, but it is most significant that we get the number four in its concentrated form in connection with q#&em@ed@a, DAMASCUS, which is the oldest city in the world. The number of its name is 444: thus—
d = 4 444 m = 40 # = 300 q = 100
The name occurs 39 times, i.e., 3 x 13, for the significance of which see under the number 13.
WORDS THAT OCCUR FOUR TIMES
partake also the same significance. We give a few from the commencement of the alphabet, and a careful study of them and others will bring out much interesting and instructive information:
- hdb) (aveh-dah), "lost thing," Exo 22:9; Lev 6:3,4; Deut 22:3
- hbg (gah-vah), "high-look or proud," Psa 101:5; Prov 16:5; Eccl 7:8; Eze 31:3
- hng (gin-nah), "garden," Esth 1:5, 7:7,8; Song 6:11
- lgd (dah-gal), "banners," Psa 20:6; Song 5:10, 6:4,10
- Kd (dack), "oppressed or afflicted," Psa 9:9, 10:18, 74:21; Prov 26:28
- hbrx (chah-rah-vah), "dry land," 8 times (2x4)
- #rx (cheh-resh), "craftsmen," Josh 2:1 ("secretly," i.e. as craftsmen), 1 Chron 4:14, marg.; Neh 11:35; Isa 3:3 ("cunning")
- trk#m (mas-koh-reth), "wages," Gen 19:15, 31:7,41; "reward," Ruth 2:12.*
* But "gift" occurs five times.
- xsn (nah-sach), "plucked," Deut 28:63; "pluck," Psa 52:7; "rooted out," Prov 2:22; "destroy," 15:25
- rcn (neh-tzer), "branch," Isa 11:1, 14:19, 60:21; Dan 11:7
- )#n (nah-shah), "to be in debt," 1 Sam 22:2; Neh 5:7; Psa 89:22; Isa 24:2
- agnoia (agnoia), "ignorance," Acts 3:17, 17:30; Eph 4:18; 1 Peter 1:14
- agrupnew (agrupneo), "watch," Mark 13:33; Luke 21:36; Eph 6:18; Heb 13:17
- aition (aition), "fault," Luke 23:4,14,22; Acts 19:40
- amnoV (amnos), "Lamb," John 1:29,36; Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 1:19
- anqoV (anthos), "flower," James 1:10,11; 1 Peter 1:24 (twice)
- asthr (asteer), "star," 24 times (4x6)*
* The two words together 28 times (4x7).
- astron (astron), star," Luke 21:25; Acts 7:43, 27:20; Heb 11:12*
- apostolh (apostolee), "apostleship," Acts 1:25; Rom 1:5; 1 Cor 9:2; Gal 2:8
ADDITIONAL MISCELLANEOUS ILLUSTRATIONS
Four times "Eve" mentioned in the Bible by name:—
- Genesis 3:20
- Genesis 4:1
- 2 Corinthians 11:3
- 1 Timothy 2:13