In the Bible, the number four signifies completeness and is a unique element in creation, the design of sacred buildings, and the prophecies of the Old and New Testaments.
Four is mentioned in some interesting passages in the Bible, both in the Old and in the New Testament. Since we know that certain numbers have special significance in the scriptures, let’s find out more about the number four and how God has woven it into His story.
The Number Four
The number four is a common and practical number that features in many parts of technology from the wheels on a typical car to the legs of a chair. From the numerous uses of the rectangle in building and design down to the number of seasons and the colors in your printer – CYMK, you’ll find “four” everywhere!
More significant than these everyday “fours” are the ones you’ll come across in reference to
Politics. Franklin D Roosevelt’s Four Fundamental Freedoms are timeless; Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear.
Pop culture has some fun references to this square number too! There are the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the “fab four” Beatles, and the four houses of Hogwarts to name but a few.
But what does the Bible have to say about the number four? And is it just coincidental that it appears so often in scripture? Let’s take a closer look.
The Number 4 in the Bible
For Christians, the number four is related to a sense of completeness. General references in the bible to the four corners of the earth and the four rivers in the Garden of Eden for example give the impression of a whole, a unit, a full picture.
The number four is an important detail in God’s plan for the sacred buildings in the scriptures. Both the Tabernacle and Solomon’s temple include numerous “fours.” Understanding the intricacy of God’s design, these “fours” that appear are deliberate and meaningful.
Some of the most interesting instances of the number four in scripture relate to prophecies both mentioned in the Old Testament and in the New.
Multiples of four are a pretty big deal in the Bible! It rained for 40 days and nights (Gen 7:12), and the Israelites remained in Egypt for 400 years (Gen 15:13) and then wandered in the desert for 40 years (Josh 5:6).
In the Bible, the number four is no accident. Let’s take a closer look at specific passages to find out more.
Significant Mentions of the Number Four in the Bible
There are specific passages that include the number four both in the Old and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, there is more variation and narrative around four. In both, specific mention of the number four is made in prophetic visions.
Significance of 4 in the Old Testament
Four represents completeness. On the fourth day of creation, God finished creating the material world with the addition of the sun and moon. After that, he added other living things, including man. Four representing completeness is then highlighted again by the four rivers in the garden (Gen 2:10), the four winds of heaven (Ezek 37:9), and the four corners of the earth (Is 11:12).
Genesis 1:17-19 ESV And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
Four is a significant value in the design of the Old Testament’s sacred buildings and their furnishings. This is mainly due to God choosing the rectangle as the shape for many of the elements in His design including the Ark of the Covenant.
- The Tabernacle (Exodus 25-28)
- Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 7:2)
- Ezekiel’s Temple (Ezekiel 40:41)
Exodus 25:12 ESV You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it.
The fourth year in a new land was a time of worship and sacrifice for Israel. Four in the following passage represents a time of worship and reflection. Israel was commanded to offer the first fruits of the trees in the land to The LORD in the fourth year. This was to be a reminder to themselves of His faithfulness and provision and was an opportunity to worship Him.
Leviticus 19:24 ESV And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord.
Four appears frequently in the prophecies of the Old Testament describing the number of creatures or beasts and their physical characteristics. Many of these prophecies are quite dramatic and have yet to be fulfilled. On that day, it’s certain that the number four will be on display in some interesting ways.
Daniel 7:17-18 ESV ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’
Ezekiel 1:5-6 ESV And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings.
Significance of 4 in the New Testament
In the New Testament, after acknowledging the four gospels, we see the multiple of four, 40 in two distinct places. Jesus was tempted in the desert for 40 days (Matt 4:1-11) and after the resurrection, he remained on earth for 40 days before His ascension (Acts 1:3).
Then, in a very significant way, four is seen in the book of Revelation as John details some of the breathtaking visions that have been revealed to him regarding the worship of The LORD and the end of the world.
Revelation 9:15 ESV So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind.
Revelation 4:6-8 ESV And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
What Does the Number Four Mean in the Bible?
The number four is used in so many ways in the Bible that it can’t have a single meaning. For many it represents completeness. From scripture, we understand that it is a number God uses in design, both in the creation and in sacred buildings. It forms part of prophetic visions of the end times. And multiples of four are woven throughout Israel’s history through to the life of the promised Messiah.