Bible Quizzes for Smart People X
Bill Long 1/1/07
By The Numbers
I thought I would present one quiz which was all, or largely, based on biblical numbers. The numbers I select here are of significance; I am not just selecting them because they are "there." I won't choose the most obvious ones, such as Christ's resurrection on the 3rd day, or the most obscure and least important ones, such as the number of curtains in the wilderness tabernacle (Ex. 25-40) or the dimensions of the restored temple as perceived by Ezekiel (Ez. 40-48). But everything else is "up for grabs." See how you do on these numbers, many of which need little or no commentary.
1. "One hundred forty-four thousand..."
I don't think we use this number much in our popular speech to signify much of anything, though those who are consumed with aspects of Biblical prophecy feel that they need to understand it. Where does it appear, and in which context?
2. "A hundred fifty-three of them."
The presence of this number, in the passage where it appears, has fueled speculation about its "deep" meaning. My professor in seminary, when asked about a possible significance of it, dryly suggested that the text says "one hundred fifty-three" (fish) because that's how many there were.
3. "Nine hundred sixty-nine years..."
This is not the length of time it takes you to get wait in line in your local DMV to renew your driver's license. It refers to something or someone else. What is it?
4. "Seventy times seven" or "seventy-seven times."
Different ancient texts read the numbers differently. It is easy for these numbers to be confused in the ancient language. An important theological significance attaches to these numbers. What is that significance, who speaks these words, and where is the text found?
5. "A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand..."
Actually, my favorite biblical quotation referring to a number also refers to 1,000 but I decided to quiz you on the above quotation. Oh, my favorite one? When Samson gleefully says, after kicking Philistine butt,
"With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps,/
With the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men," Jud. 15:16.
Something about jawbones of asses being flung around both creates a vivid picture for me and excites in me the risibilities. But, where is the "serious" quotation from? It is meant to be a word of encouragement to beleaguered saints.
6. "He reigned 55 years in Jerusalem."
This is, I think, the record length for a monarch in ancient Israel. I believe I had this number "on the brain" because I recently went to the movie Queen (reviewed here), which tells about the Tony Blair/Queen Elizabeth relationship in the week following Princess Di's death around Labor Day 1997. Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne of England now since 1952--almost 55 years. She is "gunning" for Victoria, I bet, who holds the English record at 64 years. Are you counting the days? By the way, did you realize that the longest-serving college president in American history was Eliphalet Nott, president of Union College (NY) from 1804-66 (62 years). Just think, if you were a staff member who came on after Nott had served, say, 20 years, and you had a conflict with him. You might have thought, 'Well, I can wait this guy out..." Forty years later, you are dead and Nott still presides over Union. Oh, who is the monarch from Ancient Israel to whom this passage refers?
7. "five smooth stones"
I seem to recall seeing these words as the title of a devotional work from our own day but, as is usual, it is taken from some words in the Bible. These five smooth stones were very important in the context of the story. Which story is it?
8. "six hundred sixty-six." Other texts have "six hundred sixteen."
Yep, this is the number of the beast. Christians have, for years, wasted countless hours speculating on who this could be. When I was in college and seminary the outlandish suggestions included Henry Kissinger and Anwar Sadat. It really is a waste of time to speculate on this, for the genre of the work which has this quotation doesn't really encourage us to think about literal readings. Where is it found?
9. "Twelve baskets full."
This is not the average number of buckets made per game by Michael Jordan during his illustrious NBA career, but it stands for something else, of even greater significance. What is it, and where is this passage found?
10. "On the third day there was a wedding.."
I bet you thought I was going to talk about Jesus' resurrection, but I wasn't. So, where does this appear?
11. "Then after 14 years I went up again to Jerusalem."
Establishing biblical chronologies is one of the things that takes scholars entirely too much time. But there is a good reason for it. You want to make sure you can establish a timeline, because if you can do that, perhaps you can come up with a chronology of writings and then, ultimatley, a sense of how the early Christian movement developed. This reference is one of the texts that simultaneously provides light and darkness to scholars. Where does it appear?
12. "Six cubits and a span." Other texts have "four cubits and a span."
No comment. Just tell me.