The Meaning and Significance of Number 3 in the Bible
As stated in this Crosswalk article, “Three, shelosh[f.], sheloshah [m.] means harmony, new life, and completeness.”
Three tends to represent completeness. We see this in the most obvious example of the Trinity: one God, three persons.
Whenever we encounter something in Scripture repeated three times in a row, for instance, the word “holy,” it can, as stated in the article above, describe the intensity of something. So if God is holy, holy, holy, he is the completeness of holiness.
The article lists a number of ways we encounter the number three. We’ll highlight three of them below:
“God says something 3 times: We see God repeating a phrase three times in several places in Scripture. Jesus goes back to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane three times (Matthew 26:4). God calls the prophet Samuel thrice (1 Samuel 3:8). Jesus repeats the phrase “feed my sheep” to Peter three times (John 21:15-17).”
In all of these instances, whether the passage meant it literally or figuratively, the emphasis on three wants to draw the reader’s eye to the importance of the events. Jesus prays fervently in Gethsemane, God emphatically calls Samuel in his service, and the thrice repetition to Peter reminds Peter of his thrice denial of Christ.
“The third day: We can’t talk three without talking about how Jesus rose after three days (1 Corinthians 15:4). In Jewish culture, three days past the time of death indicated they were truly dead. Therefore, Jesus truly conquered death by not rising until the third day.”
God didn’t arbitrarily choose the number three for the number of days in the tomb. This meant something in Jewish folklore, and also showed the intensity of the miracle.
“Three patriarchs: In Scripture, we have three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 22:32). These were the fathers of the Israelite nation, God’s people.”
It’s common to see the phrase “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” in the Old Testament. One may wonder why people didn’t continue on in names, “Judah, Perez, Hezron, Ram…” The Israelites had three patriarchs for a very specific reason.
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