Q: #313. What is the significance of the number 3 (three) in the Bible?
By: Steve Shirley
A: First off, let me begin by saying that I think we need to be careful about searching for hidden messages, meanings, or codes in certain significant numbers in the Bible. If you put the word "Numerology" in a Google search, what you get for a definition is: "The branch of knowledge that deals with the occult significance of numbers." Hence, "numerology" is associated with such things as the occult, the paranormal, astrology, paganism, divination, and wiccans." But, if we put "Biblical" in front of "numerology" ("Biblical Numerology"), this is then supposed to make searching for the significance of number meanings in the Bible acceptable.
Now, I am not saying that there isn't some significance to certain numbers in the Bible, all I am saying is that we should be careful about trying to interpret what these meanings are. Ultimately, I believe God did have reasons for using certain numbers over and over in the Bible, but only He may know the true reasons. Having said this, I do think it is fascinating to see how many times certain key numbers are used over and over in the Bible. In six studies, we will be looking at how six of what I believe are the most key numbers in the Bible are used: 3, 6, 7, 10, 12, 40.
We begin with the number "3." Those who assign meaning to this number generally say that it is one of 4 numbers, along with 7, 10, and 12, that symbolize perfection or completion. It is truly astounding to me how many times this number is used in a significant way in the Bible. I will list 33 here, but there are MANY more.
There is a triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (1 Jn 5:7)(Mt 28:19) (See: The Trinity).
God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.
The Hebrew Bible is divided into three parts: the Torah ("teaching" or "law"), the Nevi'im ("prophets"), and the Ketuvim ("writings").
Time is divided into the past, present, and future.
Three sons of Adam are mentioned by name: Abel, Cain, Seth (Gen 4:1-2,25).
All men are descended from the 3 sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, Japheth (Gen 9:18-19).
There were 3 patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob/Israel.
Three major feasts were to be celebrated: The Feast Of Unleavened Bread, The Feast Of Weeks (Harvest), The Feast Of Ingathering (Ex 23:14-16)(Ex 34:18-23)(Deut 16:16).
Three items were contained in the Ark Of The Covenant: A pot of manna, Aaron's rod that had budded, and the 10 Commandments (Heb 9:4)(Ex 16:32-34)(Ex 25:16)(Num 17:4-10).
Both the Tabernacle and Temple were divided into 3 sections: The Outer Court, the Holy Place, and the Holy Of Holies (Ex 26:33)(Ex 27:9).
God told Isaiah to walk naked for 3 years as a sign against Egypt and Ethiopia (Isa 20:1-4).
Three men were in the fiery furnace when a 4th man showed up, who most believe was a pre-incarnate Jesus (Dan 3:23-25).
Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of the "great fish" (Jon 1:17)(Mt 12:40). When God released Him, he spent 3 days walking across Nineveh warning the people to repent (Jon 3:3).
Daniel prayed 3 times a day (Dan 6:10.13). Paul was blinded for 3 days by Jesus (Acts 9:9), prayed 3 times for his "thorn in the flesh" to be removed (2 Cor 12:7-9), and was stranded on the island of Malta after his shipwreck for 3 months (Acts 28:11).
Elijah stretched out his body over the widow's dead son 3 times, and he returned to life (1 Kin 17:21-22.)
Moses was hidden by his mother for 3 months (Ex 2:1,3)(Acts 7:20)(Heb 11:23).
Three men appeared to Abraham (2 angels and what is believed to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus) (Gen Ch. 18).
The New Jerusalem will be surrounded by a great wall with 3 gates on each of 4 sides (Rev 21:13).
God brought a famine for 3 years while David was king (2 Sam 21:1).
God showed Peter in a vision 3 times that Gentiles would now be accepted (Acts 10:9-16).
Left over meat from a vow or voluntary sacrifice had to be destroyed (burned with fire) on the third day (Lev 7:16-17)(Lev 19:5-7).
Upon entering the Promised Land, if a fruit tree was planted, it's fruit was considered unclean for 3 years (Lev 19:23).
*** Look at how many times the number "3" is associated with important events in Jesus' life on Earth.
Jesus' earthly ministry was 3 years (See: Q: #180 - Point #4)(Lk 13:6-9: maybe?).
He was tempted 3 times in the wilderness by Satan (Mt 4:1-11)(Lk 4:1-13).
He went missing from His parents for 3 days when He was 12 years old (Lk 2:41-50).
He had an inner circle of 3 men: Peter, James, and John (Mt 17:1)(Mk 9:2)(Lk 9:28)(Mk 5:37)(Lk 8:51)(Mt 23:37)(Mk 14:33).
The sign over His head on the cross was written in 3 languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Latin (Lk 23:38)(Jn 19:20).
He was resurrected on the third day (Mt 16:21)(Mk 8:31)(Lk 9:22)(Mt 17:22-23)(Lk 13:32)(Jn 2:19)(Mk 10:33-34)(Mt 27:63)(Lk 24:6-7)(1 Cor 15:3-4).
He was crucified at the third hour (Roman time) (Mk 15:25).
He predicted Peter would deny Him 3 times (Mt 26:34)(Mk 14:30)(Lk 22:34)(Jn 13:38). Peter then denied Jesus 3 times (Mt 26:69-75)(Mk 14:66-72)(Lk 22:54-62). Later, Jesus restored Peter by asking him if he loved Him 3 times (Jn 21:15-17).
He raised 3 people from the dead (Lk 7:11-15)(Lk 8:41-42,49-56)(Jn 11:1-44).
He prayed to the Father 3 times in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-46)(Mk 14:32-42).
Jesus is: 1. The Way, 2. The Truth, 3. The Life (Jn 14:6).