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The Biblical Significance of the Number 5 – Part I

Updated: Mar 5

by Randy Nettles


The number 5 is commonly called the number for humanity. Human beings have five fingers on each hand, five toes on each foot, five appendages (including the head), and five major body systems. We have five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. In the Bible, the 5th chapter of the first book of Genesis lists the beginning genealogy of mankind, from Adam to Noah and his three sons.

Throughout the Bible, 5 is the number that symbolically represents grace, specifically God’s grace towards man. In Christian terms, the definition of grace is: the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessing. The word “grace” is mentioned 170 times in the King James translation of the Bible; 39 times in the Old Testament and 131 times in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the word grace can be translated as “favor” most of the time.

“The five-letter word grace means favor. But what kind of favor? For favor is of many kinds. Favor shown to the miserable, we call mercy; favor shown to the poor, we call pity; favor shown to the suffering, we call compassion; favor we show to the obstinate, we call patience: but favor shown to the unworthy, we call grace. This is favor indeed; favor which is truly Divine in its source and in its character.” {1}

In the beginning, Elohim/God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) created the heaven and the earth. This great work was done in six days and is known as Creation. On the 6th day, man was made, as well as land animals. After the temptation (from Satan) and fall of man, creation came under the curse of God and was made subject to vanity, decay, and death. Therefore man and creation had to be redeemed by God Himself. These are the five great mysteries of life:

  1. Father

  2. Son

  3. Holy Spirit

  4. Creation

  5. Redemption

If 3 is the number for the Trinity and 4 is the number for creation, then 5 is the number for redemption or Divine grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Old Testament Grace

The first mention of grace in the Bible is found in Genesis. The antediluvian epoch was a time of great evil upon the earth: “There were giants in the earth in those days: and also after that when the sons of God came unto the daughters of them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repents me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:4-8).

Of course, you know the rest of the story. God told Noah there was to be a great flood that would destroy all flesh. He told Noah to build an ark of gopherwood and to cover it inside and out with pitch (tar). God even gave the dimensions to Noah; it was to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. These dimensions are all multiples of 5. There were 5 things that were on the ark according to Genesis 6:18-21: people, birds, land animals, creeping things, and food. The only people on the ark were Noah and his wife, 3 sons – Shem, Ham, Japeth, and their 3 wives. Only by the grace of God did 8 human souls survive the great flood. 8 is the number for new beginnings.

They were on the ark for approximately 1 year. Noah lived after the flood for 350 (5x70) years. He died when he was 950 (5x190) years old. Shem was 100 (5x20) years old when they left the ark. He begat Arphaxad two years after the flood and lived 500 (5x100) more years. This was the lineage from which Abram/Abraham (the father of the Jewish nation) would be born into some 352 years later.

God told Abram to leave his family and go to a land He would show him and He would bless him. However, some of Abram’s family went with him.“Terah (Abraham’s father) took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. So the days of Terah were two hundred and five (5x41) years, and Terah died in Haran” (Genesis 11:31). Abram was 75 (5x15) years old when he departed from Haran.

For Abrams' faith, God told him He would bless him. Here are the 5 blessings God promised Abram according to Genesis 12:2-3.

  1. I will make you a great nation

  2. I will bless you and make your name great

  3. You shall be a blessing

  4. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you

  5. In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

When God confirmed the land covenant of Canaan with Abram/Abraham, He had Abram offer a sacrifice of 5 animals: a heifer of 3 years old, a she-goat of 3 years old, a ram of 3 years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon (Genesis 15:7-9).

The Bible tells us that the Lord visited Abram 5 times and on the 5th visit He changed Abram’s name. Abraham was 99 years old at this time. ”My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4-5).

“When God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, he inserted the 5th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the “heh” into the middle of Abram’s name, forever imprinting upon Abraham the quality of God’s grace. In Judaism, the “heh” is also the numeral 5, representing grace.” {2}

Abraham was 100 (5x20) years old when Isaac was born. By the grace of God, Sarah gave birth to the son of promise at the ripe old age of 90 (5x18). Sarah died at the age of 127 and Abraham was 175 (5x35) years old when he died. “And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac” (Genesis 25:11). Isaac lived to be 180 (5x36) years old.

God blessed Isaac’s son, Jacob, as well. After spending 20 years in Haran, Jacob and his wives and children returned to Canaan. God appeared again unto Jacob at Bethel and confirmed His covenant with him. “And God said unto him, your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name. And God said unto Israel, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of you, and kings shall come out of your loins: and the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to you I will give it, and to your seed after you will I give the land” (Genesis 35:10-12). Just as God changed Abram’s name during the original confirmation of the covenant, so he did with Jacob. The name Israel means “a prince who prevails with God”.

God blessed Jacob and his descendants and they became God’s chosen people. Eventually, Jacob and his family joined his son, Joseph, in Egypt. This move occurred during the 2nd year of the great famine. There were still 5 more years of the great 7-year famine to come. (Genesis 45:6). God in his infinite grace used Joseph to save his family from certain death. Jacob died at the age of 147 years. Joseph lived to be 110 years old. After several centuries, there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph or of his accomplishments. The children of Israel had multiplied and became so plentiful that the Egyptians began to fear them, so they enslaved them.

God chose Moses to lead them out of Egypt and save them from a life of slavery. Moses' life was divided into 3 equal parts of 40 (5x8) years. His life was marked by grace and new beginnings. He was 40 when he fled from Egypt (Acts 7:23). He was 80 (8x10) when he returned to Egypt to lead his people out of bondage (Acts 7:30). He was 120 (8x15) years old when he died (Deuteronomy 34:7).

It took 10 (5x2) plagues sent by God before Pharaoh relented and let the Hebrew people leave Egypt. Moses and Aaron led 600,000 (5x120,000) Hebrew men (not counting women and children) out of Egypt on Nisan 15 (5x3) 1446 BC. It is believed that the children of Israel went up by 5 in a rank or ranks (as in 50). This may have some reference to the belief that the number 5 was especially hateful to the Egyptians, in fact, it was probably the cause for this hatred.

Due to the sins and rebellion of the children of Israel, they spent 40 years wandering in the desert before they entered the Promised Land. 40 and 10 (5x2) are the main numbers involved during their wanderings and especially the events of the time they spent at Mount Sinai. Moses fasted 2 times for 40 days and 40 nights on Mt. Sinai (Elijah and Jesus also fasted for 40 days and nights during their ministry). The first time Moses fasted was when he went up to receive the 10 Commandments from God (Exodus 24:18 and Deud.9:9). Moses stayed on the mountain for 40 days and nights and neither ate bread nor drank water.

The next fast occurred after Moses came down from the mount after the people had corrupted themselves by making and worshipping a golden calf. When Moses saw the calf and the lewd dancing, his anger became hot, and he cast the tablets of stone out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain (Exodus 32:19). Moses then destroyed the calf and had the sons of Levi kill about 3000 (5x600) idolaters that day. The next day, Moses returned up the mount with two tablets of stone and a wooden ark. Once again Moses fasted for 40 days and nights, where he did neither eat bread, nor drink water (Exodus 34:1-2 and Exodus 34:28).

During these 40 days and nights, Moses pleaded with God not to destroy the children of Israel. He even asked God to forgive their grievous sin, and if not, blot his name out of the book of life. The Lord told Moses to continue their journey to the Promised Land and He would send His angel before them. However, He would not go up in their midst, for He might destroy them for their rebellious ways. “So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).

Moses then said to the Lord, “Now therefore, I pray, if I have also found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is your people. For if Your Presence (this word is sometimes translated as “face”) does not go with us, how will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth” (Exodus 33:13-16).

The Lord said to Moses, “My Presence (2nd Person of the Trinity/Jesus/Jehovah) will go with you, and I will give you rest, for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” (Exodus 33:17) This emboldened Moses enough for him to ask the Lord, “Please show me Your glory! Then he said, I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me and live.” (Exodus 33:18-20)

The Lord told Moses to stand in the cleft of a rock, while He passed by and He would cover him with His hand. After He passed by, the Lord would remove His hand, and then Moses would be able to see His back. After Moses saw the glory of God, he asked Him to pardon the Hebrew people’s iniquity and sin, and take them as His inheritance. God agreed and renewed the covenant with the children of Israel. The Lord then wrote on the tablets the ten commandments for the 2nd time. When Moses came down from Mr. Sinai with the tablets of the Law, the skin of his face shone brightly from his exposure to God’s glory. Because of Moses’ friendship and fear of God, he was able to acquire God’s grace for himself and his people; thus securing Israel’s destiny as His chosen people.

The Ten Commandments contain two sets of 5 commandments written with the finger of God. The first 5 commandments are related to our treatment and relationship with God (representing the right hand of God), and the last five concentrate on our relationship with other humans (representing the left hand of God).

The sanctuary is known as the” tabernacle” or “tabernacle of meeting” was where God dwelt among His people. “Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34) The tabernacle reflected God's grace in its use of the number 5. Its design was given directly by God to Moses and is described in Exodus 26. The tabernacle contained 5 curtains divided into 2 groups of 5 each (like the 10 commandments). Each curtain included 50 (5x10) loops and 50 clasps of gold. The altar of the tabernacle was made of acacia wood and was 5 cubits long, 5 cubits wide, and 3 cubits high (Exodus 27:1).

The tabernacle was built from boards ten cubits long made of acacia wood. The north and south sides of the tabernacle consisted of 20 (5x4) boards each. There were 3 sets of 5 bars made from acacia wood laid over the boards. The tabernacle's dimensions were all multiples of 5. “The length of the court shall be 100 (5x20) cubits, the width 50 (5x10) throughout, and the height five cubits, made of fine woven linen, and its sockets of bronze” (Exodus 27:18). The screen consisted of 5 pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold and 5 sockets of bronze for them.

By God’s grace, He allowed the Israelites to come together in the tabernacle to worship Him by offering sacrifices. God, in turn, would cover-up their sins (temporarily) through the blood of the sacrificed animals. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11).

The Holy anointing oil (Exodus 30:23-25), was used to consecrate the furniture of the tabernacle. This oil was a concoction designed by God Himself. The proportion of spices used in making the oil were all multiples of 5, which also had a hin of olive oil added to it. The 5 ingredients consisted of: liquid myrrh, 500 shekels; sweet cinnamon, 250 shekels; sweet cane, 250 shekels; cassia, 500 shekels; and a hin of oil. It was a gracious gift from the Lord to the Hebrew people.

The Holy incense that was used in conjunction with the burnt offerings was also comprised of 5 parts; 4 parts were of sweet spices and 1 part was salt. The 4 spices were stacle, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense. What a sweet, wonderful odor it must have had! The incense was to symbolize “the prayers of the saints” offered by Christ Himself (Revelation 5:8 and 8:3).

Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Old Testament known as the Torah or Pentateuch (Penta means 5). The books consist of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The first 5 chapters of the book of Leviticus describe the 5 sacrificial offerings the Israelites were to offer up to God. The offerings are:

  1. Burnt offering

  2. Sin-offering

  3. Peace offering

  4. Trespass offering

  5. Grain offering

On the day Moses had fully set up the tabernacle and had anointed and sanctified it, the princes (leaders/elders) of the tribes of Israel offered sacrifices unto the Lord according to Numbers 7:7 (seems like appropriate numbers for this chapter and verse!) They also anointed and sanctified the vessels that were used for the ceremony and the altar itself.

During the dedication offering for the anointing of the altar, each of the 12 princes brought the required animals and flour (for grain offering) necessary for their offerings unto the Lord. For the particular sacrifice of peace offerings, all of the princes brought 2 oxen, 5 rams, 5 male goats, and 5 male lambs in their first year. I believe the 15 (5x3) sheep/goats symbolically represent Jesus (Lamb of God). The Prince of Peace, Jesus, represents the number 3, and he would by the grace (5) of God be sacrificed (once and for all) so mankind could have peace with God. The 17 total animals sacrificed by each of the 12 tribes could represent a typology of Jesus’ resurrection, which made it possible for man to be redeemed with God. Jesus was resurrected on Nisan 17, AD 33. What a gracious day that was for mankind!

Randy Nettles

nettlesr@suddenlin.net

Endnotes:

{1} Number in Scripture by E.W. Bullinger, Kregal Publications pg.135

{2} Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue The “Heh” v in Abraham’s and Sarah’s Names (rabdavis.org)

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