The Psalms

(From the Fourth Pentateuch of the Old Testament: Volume 3 of the Numerical Bible)

F. W. Grant.


Appendix 3.

The Numerals in Relation to the Six Days' Work

In its relation to nature the symbolism of numbers is a matter of the deepest interest. If it has, as we have seen, its roots in nature, and at the very basis of all arithmetic there is such a testimony to Christ as, I may venture to say, has been proved to exist, then it is hardly possible to believe that it ends with this, or that this is other than just a beginning of what must extend indefinitely throughout nature. Moreover to pursue such an investigation need not be alarming to those who most fear imagination. A bubble is not capable of being stretched very far, as every body knows; and the attempt to stretch it most surely ends in revealing its nature. The safe-guard as to imagination is to test it in every direction, and there is no test more severe than a mathematical one.

I propose, then, briefly to take up the six days' work as given in the first chapter of Genesis, to test the numerical structure more closely than has been done hitherto, with regard to the natural facts themselves. This has, as may be easily realized, its peculiar difficulties, — most of all, perhaps, in this, that the symbolism of the numbers gives us rather a moral than a physical vocabulary by which to interpret. I have been content therefore generally hitherto to apply it to the typical meaning which in all the six days' work is double, and affords a secure enough basis for application, especially as a concurrent natural one more or less appears.

But there is another thing to be taken into account also, as yet has not been done. The days being expressly announced in order from the first to the seventh, these numbers must of course, remain for interpretation, as I have elsewhere used them. But besides this, it has been very generally noticed that the six days run into two parallel divisions, according both to subject and mode of arrangement: thus —
1st day — Light. (1) 4th day — Lights.
2nd day — Waters dividing (2) 5th day — Waters producing.
3rd day — Dry Land and vegetation. (3) 6th day — Dry land producing, and man.

Here is an evident parallelism which must divide the 6 days into two parts, and give to the second part a second series of numbers also, as I have indicated. Both must find their place in the interpretation.

Dana in his well-known "Geology" remarks —

"In this succession we observe not merely an order of events, like that deduced from science; there is system in the arrangement, and a far-reaching prophecy, to which philosophy could not have attained, however instructed.

"The account recognizes in creation two great eras, each of three days, — an Inorganic and an Organic.

"The last day of each era, included one work typical of the era, and another related to it in essential points, but also prophetic of the future. Vegetation, while for physical reasons a part of the creation of the third day, was also prophetic of the future organic era in which the progress of life was the grand characteristic. The record thus agrees with the fundamental principle in history, that the character of an age has its beginnings within the age preceding. So again, Man, while like other Mammals in structure, … was endowed with a spiritual nature, which looked forward to another era, that of spiritual existence."

Thus we have three great divisions, — including the Sabbath as a third: let us characterize them each numerically: —

1. (Gen. 1:1-13): The reign of the inorganic.

I do not say more than the reign, because of that with which it closes, the introduction of vegetable life. But how does the inorganic bear its numerical stamp? Plainly, because it is of simple, uniform constitution, not differentiated into organs. Thus Dana as a physicist has characterized it by what agrees fully with the numerical division.

But the second division will not be classed numerically as the "reign of the organic;" and this certainly would not characterize it in any proper way. "The progress of life" says Dana," was its grand characteristic." We can express it more fully and precisely every way, and numerically, as —

2. (Gen. 1:14-31): The two-fold, active life, in progress towards the discernment characterizing man.

"Two-fold" — not like the plant, but with life and soul; and thus "active" — the moving creature; this crowned finally, (not by evolution, but according to the plan and by the creative power of God,) with the "discernment" which is not the mere intuitive instinct of the beast, but the discriminating knowledge of the human spirit.

The third division, which consists of the seventh day alone, is simple:

3. (Gen. 2:1-3): The Sanctification of the Sabbath of rest.

The numerical structure in each case seems to seize upon the central character, and define it sufficiently for its purpose. But let us go on now to the smaller divisions.

The account of the original creation of the heavens and earth shows itself by the structure to be but an introduction, however necessary as that, to the six days' work. It does not belong to that work, yet cannot form a section apart, without throwing the rest of the chapter into disorder. It must come in with the first day, and there is most suited to the spiritual meaning as making the work of the first day a beginning of restoration; thus: —
1. (vers. 1-5): Introduction and first day: light.
(1) Original creation.
(2) The earth as it were in dissolution: darkness upon a deep.
(3) Restoration beginning with Light.

The stamp of the God of resurrection is clearly upon this history at the beginning, and it is repeated every day in the common daily cycle as it is recorded, the "evening and the morning" being the day. Notice that the beginning of the first day is not before the light, but with it, or it could not begin with evening: for evening implies already light. But the light strangely comes only to fade and darken into night, through this to reach its morning by a new birth as it were, when (for that day, of course) the darkness is wholly past. How earnest is God to impress us with these spiritual lessons! Faith in all times has had to learn the ruin of the creature and the sole sufficiency of God; and that is what resurrection teaches. It is the end seen from the beginning: the final lesson written on the first page of the book.

We are here too much at the beginning of things to reason as to them in their physical aspect, which is what we are just now concerned with. Why light should be the first thing in physical restoration we may have no means of knowing, while the spiritual meaning is clear enough. If there is indeed that deep sympathy in the natural with the spiritual, upon which all our belief in analogy is based, then we have in this what may commend the history as true in such respect, and suggest a means of insight even into nature itself, which has had at present (as I think) no advocates. It may not the less merit consideration.

"Light," it will be seen, comes under two numbers, 1 and 3, and does not seem as if it could be spared from either. The meanings of the numbers can in fact each be given in terms of the other with reference to it: for "that which doth make manifest is light," and it is thus a source of knowledge. This may justify its double place according to the spiritual meaning, and so justify it really; for the spiritual is that which governs everywhere in Scripture. Yet it must also be a canon of all true interpretation that no spiritual interpretation can set aside the text which it interprets, and the text here is physical. Plainly then light as making manifest would seem as yet not to be called for, when there were no eyes yet to be blessed by it, as there are not till the fifth day.

When we remember, however, that light is not merely what we call by that name, but in fact a trinity of light, heat, and actinism, or power for chemical change, for this, if we cannot trace it, we can easily infer a meaning in connection with the next step in the preparation of the earth to be the home of life, the making of the expanse or firmament.

Thus a physical meaning may well underlie the spiritual one, and light in its triune character answer to the third place in which we find it here as an active agent in the restoration just beginning.

But we must go on to the second day, in which we find the formation of the expanse by which the waters are divided. Two is the number both of progress and increase (and so of expansion), and also of division and thus the numerical stamp is fully upon the second day.

All this seems at first sight to be purely phenomenal; but, if we consider it more deeply, does it not point to some adjustment, if no more, of those laws of the expansion and diffusion of gases, which are among the most remarkable and important for the needs of every living and breathing thing? While the division of the waters is of course that which provides for the water-supply of the dry land next to come into existence. This is all obvious enough to be perhaps even common place as a suggestion; but if so, does it not show that the numerical structure, which emphasizes just such central points as these, has a real physical as well as spiritual significance?

Upon the third day, the earth is separated from the waters, and we have the beginning of organic life in the plant, the link with the next division. Both these things bear upon them very plainly the numerical stamp.

As to the earth, it is the habitable earth, man's future dwelling-place, set apart from the waters which had ingulfed it, and thus in true resurrection. The number of its section — of the day itself — is fully set upon it.

Then as to the vegetable life, three is the number of specialization, of setting apart for specific purpose, which organization so fully exemplifies. Besides which, as I have elsewhere shown,* there are three organic kingdoms in nature, of which the vegetable stands third; man, by virtue of the spirit with which he is endowed, standing first and the animal, the mere "living soul," the second. The vegetable occupies the third place among these as the great transformer of the inorganic into the organic; while the animal reduces again the organic to the inorganic. The vegetable is the producer, as the animal is the consumer.

{*"Spiritual Law in the Natural World," p. 99.}

Another thing which is specially noticed in the account, and which would seem to come under this number is the phenomenon of reproduction. All living things must of course reproduce themselves, if life is to continue on the earth; for as a fact death comes in with life. Thus "its seed in itself" is characteristic.

Thus the numerical structure is justified all round: for these matters to which it directs our thoughts are not points of slight importance, but which have direct and essential relation to the account before us, which is in fact that of the preparation of the earth for man. Let this be duly weighed, and the argument for the symbolism of the numbers will be convincing.

But we have not closed the account of the third day: we have yet to consider numerically these two divisions of it as such.

The first seems to refer to the gathering together of the waters into one place, by which in fact the dry land was laid bare. It naturally raises the question whether the land was elevated, or by the opening of interior receptacles in the earth the waters were drained off: a point which it certainly is not for us to take up here. The word of the Creator seems to imply action upon the waters, rather than upon the land; but of the import of the whole question we have too little knowledge to venture anything.

As to the second, we have not the same clue in the language; but growth, which is characteristic of the living thing, comes under the number; and if the transforming power of the cell is the fundamental thing in it, there must be growth as the immediate consequence of this, and for anything beyond the mere cell-unit. The cell must be reproduced; and the addition of material is followed by division in order to effect this. If tissue is to be formed, this is done by transformation once more of the newly formed living matter into it; in which that which has begun to live gives up its life, the protoplasm or bioplasm as it has been variously called "dies into" — so Dr. Beale expresses it — the formed material of the tissue, membrane or bone or muscle.

So hard does death follow upon life! and yet so really also does it minister to it. Weighty lessons to reach so early in our Nature primer!

But notice how in "growth," "addition," "division," "death," we are taking up the ideas expressed under the number two of the subdivision; and notice that as "transformation" and "reproduction" are the inherent powers of organic life, "growth," "division," "death" are modes of their accomplishment. Thus the numbers appear throughout; and while that of the division gives the governing principle, the modes are given in the subdivision! Is this system or what is it? Aye, what? For the first subdivision of this third day follows the same rule: gathering of the waters into one place is just the mode by which the dry land is produced! I leave to the reader to decide what all this may mean or not mean.

But we have only reached half-way through the six days' work, and in the second division the numerals are doubled, as we have seen. In this way they are more exacting in their requirements, but if intended as helps and verification of interpretation there must be more than compensation in the result attained. Let us go on then carefully and hopefully to consider what is still before us.

Here though life in its progress is, as we have seen, the great theme of the division, we have yet an introduction which does not take up this, though it is a preparation for it. The fourth day with its "lights" is here the analogue of the "light" of the first. These two numbers, then, 4 and 1, are what we have to consider in reference to this day.

The number 1 speaks naturally, as in the former case, of light upon the earth as the great subject: and this is plainly stated to be so: "God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth."

The number 4 is that of the earth, eminently of matter, as passive, recipient, thus would remind us of the bodies to which the light is attached, making them "luminaries." Thus both numbers are significant and point together to what no one can fail to see to be the central feature of the fourth day.

But the number 1 is the number of rule also; and here sun. and moon are especially appointed to be respectively the rulers of the day and of the night. As the result, upon these now depend the alternations of light and of darkness, and the seasons — here first named. Four, let us remember, is the number that speaks of transitoriness and change, which naturally point here to the "seasons." But the seasons are dependent upon the rule of sun and moon: so that the 4 and the 1 come for the second time together. Surely there is some meaning in all this.

These changing seasons, while they affect all living things, have yet plainly their chief significance for God's responsible creature, man, so soon now to appear upon the scene, and thus the word "signs" precedes "seasons" in the command given. The earth being dependent upon heaven in the way it is, it could not but be that man would seek the significance of all appearances in sun and moon; with which the stars would soon. come to be conjoined. By all these he would learn his littleness and his dependence, as we find in an exaggerated form and turned to evil, as he turned away from God, in his wide-spread worship of the heavenly bodies. Their power for evil shows their power for good; upon which it is not here for me to dwell. It is enough here to point out how plainly all this heralds the near approach of man, and the tender interest shown by God in His creature. Purpose of love is read in the Scripture physics from the beginning; and the book of Scripture opens for us the book of Nature with lessons for the heart.

But to come now to the fifth day, which is also the second of the second series: the numbers 5 and 2 are those therefore which have now to be considered in relation to the work of this day, the introduction of animal life. But two, as has elsewhere been shown,* is the number of the animal kingdom or simple "living soul," above which man is raised by his possession of spirit. The "soul" in Scripture is the seat of that emotional, appetitive, instinctive life, which needs for its full development the guidance and control of that intelligent, moral nature, which in man is joined to it. This dependent nature of the beast suits the place for which it was ordained, of subjection to man, which in the domestic animals we find them filling, and which, spite of the fall, the wild beast itself recognizes still to a large extent. The full meaning of it now we can hardly realize.

{*"Spiritual Law in the Natural World," pp. 109-113.}

The soul as the motive, emotional faculty full of the unreasoning contrasts which we find in passion; comes fully under this number two. But in its relation to instinct proper, it seems to transcend this. Instinct, within a certain range, does, as we know, the work of mind, more promptly and satisfactorily than mind itself will do it. Reason will pause, waver, get perplexed and blunder, where instinct will at a dash and almost unfailingly accomplish its end. If it were mind, it were a higher mind than man's; and yet man's mind rectifies its mistakes and rises above instinct, and into spheres into which it is impossible for this to enter. The wisdom of the beast in its lower sphere seems more divine than that of man, which has marked upon it in its readiness to err, the creatureliness which is for him so wholesome an admonition. The beast, in fact, as having no personality to distract it, acts from its own God-given nature, unperverted by the fall; and laws of nature have, as we all realize, the same character of promptness, certainty and effectiveness which we recognize in the instinct of the beast. Its Maker has (as we may reverently say) the responsibility of its actions in a way that cannot be said of man with his free personality: hence it is necessarily, what man should be freely, weakness which withal testifies of an energy beyond itself. And this is just what would be covered by the number 5, which, as 4 and 1, speaks of creature weakness allied with divine strength. This as applied to man suggests of necessity responsibility as we have elsewhere seen, while in the beast it would speak only of an energy which wrought in it beyond its own.

Thus the 5 and the 2 unite here, as previously the numbers of the fourth day, just to point out the central feature of the work accomplished. A perfect system seems to develop itself in these numbers, which should induce us to inquire more earnestly into it; and which in Moses manifests a mind beyond Moses, — is a mark of inspiration which will turn the keenest-eyed of critics most of all, as that, into the adoring worshipper.

There is more than this, one may feel sure, as to the meaning of the fifth day's work, but I do not possess the competence to utter it. Let us go on to the sixth day, which is the third of the second series: where again the numbers are manifest. Notice, throughout, that there is no possibility of manipulating any of these, no choice at all which can be exercised with regard to them. We are rigorously shut up to these and none but these. If imagination is permitted, it is restricted within the narrowest limits: and this, for the purpose we have before us, is what is most of all to be desired.

On the sixth day, as on the third, we have a double work: the earth bringing forth the living soul, as on the fifth day the water did; now the land-animal; and after this man is made in the image of God.

As to the first part of the work, the land-animal, I can, I fear, say very little to the purpose. The living soul is introduced on the fifth day, and there characterized: as such it is not distinctive here. Of the three classes "cattle" might seem to suit the number of discipline; but of the "creeping things" we do not seem to have a clearly defined idea; while "the beast of the earth," said to be the more freely moving wild beast, is not by this either much more fully defined. They are all beasts of the earth, in the sense of moving upon it, and the "cattle," put first, shows that the definitions here are not in the way of zoological classification, while the thought of relation to man is prominent if not ruling.

As to the creation of man we can happily see more clearly. What is said of him is that he is "created in the image of God, as His likeness:" in some sort the reflection of Himself. The word "created" is very important; for it shows that the "image of God" does not refer, as many have thought, to the sovereignty man was to exercise over the earth, but that it was inherent in his very constitution. And it shows more than this: it enables us to say definitely in what it consists. For the word "created" is used as a different thing from simple "making," and implies the bringing forth of some new element of being, not involved in former production. Thus it is used in this chapter in regard to the original creation of heaven and earth, not of anything merely material afterward. It is used next of the introduction of the "living soul," soul being such a new element. And next it is used here, where in man spirit is added to soul. If this be really so, then spirit is that which is really the image of God in man.

Scripture confirms this from every side. For "God is a Spirit,'' and the "Father of spirits." (John 4:24; Heb. 12:9). Had it said "souls," the beast is also a soul; but "the spirit of man which is in him" is that by which alone human things are known (1 Cor. 11). It is the intelligent and moral part. Here then is manifestly what is necessary to the image of God; and if "we are His offspring" (Acts 17:28) then we can understand how as "Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image" (Gen. 5:3), man too can be said to be brought forth — only here it is creation, and the child is but a creature, — in the image of God.

Out of this comes indeed his capacity for the place into which he is immediately put, as the vicegerent of God upon earth: "Let us make man in our image, as our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."

The word for "have dominion" is radah, "let them tread down" or "subdue:" implying a dominion to be maintained with power, and the moulding of those subject to him to his will. Thus we find in the next chapter that Adam is put into the garden, "to dress it and to keep it;" and the mention of "cattle" in the present one implies the same thing. There was yet no existing evil; but here were plastic natures for him to mould and convert to fullest use. While the need of this would be for himself such needed discipline — if we may yet use such a word — such training by exercise, if that be fitter, as would call out in himself the vigilance and carefulness suited to one under needful trial, and liable to temptation.

These then are the main features of the sixth day's work as to man; and here it is not hard again to trace the fitness of the numbers. Three is the number of reproduction, perhaps of reflexion, and shows us man in the image and likeness of God. Six is the number of mastery and of discipline; that which springs out of his being alone in God's image, and in relation to the earth on which he is placed. Thus again the numbers have the most fitting and beautiful relation to the subject in hand.

As to the two divisions of the sixth day as such, — their relation to these first two numbers, — I can only give what suggests itself to me, and something of the mode by which I reach it, that it may be the better tested by those who put things to the test. The lack of clearness as to the first division of necessity occasions difficulty.

In the first place, it would seem likely that the two divisions, the beast of the earth and the man, are here exhibited in contrast with one another. Contrast there is necessarily, and the number 2 speaks often of this, especially where we have, as here, two as the whole measure of what is before us.

What is before us is something characteristic of the beast and of the man respectively. As we know the man best, it is natural to turn first to him; and here, if we consider how he is presented to us as one in the image of God, His offspring, we must think of this link with God as being the great contrast between man and beast. Two, the number of this section that speaks of man, may naturally, therefore, suggest fellowship, — that fellowship for which the beast is totally inapt. He can look up into the face of God, listen and respond to Him. A wondrous privilege and dignity, which has not as yet been pointed out to us, but which is based upon that which has been pointed out: that which comes first has been put first, and now we have the inference which is to be noted from it.

On the other hand, the beast's life is in this respect alone, nay, we may say, barren. He has on this account no link with eternity; he is but the beast that perishes. Neither desire nor thought in him craves anything better; and death is to him no shadow, no perplexity. Thus he fills evidently the numerical place assigned him; and I see no other way in which he could fill it. The number one as applied to him seems to point absolutely in this direction alone. The method of exclusion may be here permitted to the argument; though it only furnish as to it the smallest part.

This examination may not be unfitting as an appendix to the book of Psalms, which has in it such constant references to nature, and indeed to the first of Genesis. It should confirm us in the conviction of how important a place the numerals have in Scripture, and encourage us as to their application in the field of nature also. They are open books put into our hand by the same divine Teacher: would only that there were more to pursue their deeper study in that faith in the perfectness of all His work, which alone will give us the profit of such labor.