The number 3 in the Bible
You may know expressions such as: “Three times is ship’s law” or “All good comes in three.” Exactly where these expressions come from is uncertain, but the number three plays a major role. And that has to do with the special position of the number three in the Bible.
The number three is often associated with fullness, just like the numbers seven and twelve. The number is a sign of completeness. People often think of the trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This concept does not occur in the Bible itself, but there are texts that call “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Ghost.” Spirit ”( Matthew 28:19 ).
The number three also means that something is reinforced. If something happens three times or in three, something special is going on. For example, Noah lets a pigeon fly out three times to see if the earth is dry again ( Genesis 8: 8-12 ). And three men visit Abraham to tell him that he and Sarah will have a son. Sara then bakes bread of three sizes of fine flour: so their hospitality knows no limits ( Genesis 18: 1-15 ). So you could say that three is the superlative: not big or bigger, but biggest.
The number three also plays a role in other stories:
– The donor and the baker dream about three grape vines and three baskets of bread. In three days they will both get a high place: back at the court, or hanged on a stake ( Genesis 40: 9-19 ).
– Balaam beats his ass three times . He is not just angry, but really furious. At the same time his donkey appears to see an angel on the road three times ( Numbers 22: 21-35 ).
– David makes three prostrations to his friend Jonathan, as they say goodbye to each other, a sign of true respect for him ( 1 Samuel 20:41 ).
– The city of Nineveh is so big that you need three days to get through it. However, Jonah does not go further than one day trip. So even after being in the belly of a fish for three days ( Jonah 2: 1 ), he does not really want to do his best to tell God’s message to the inhabitants ( Jonah 3: 3-4 ).
– Peter says three times that he does not know Jesus ( Matthew 26:75 ). But after Jesus’ resurrection, he also says three times that he loves Jesus ( John 21: 15-17 ).
As you can see from all these examples, you come across the number three throughout the Bible. A sign of great – greater – greatest, of fullness and completeness. The well-known words ‘Faith, hope and love’ also come with the three of them ( 1 Corinthians 13:13 ) and most of these three are the last ones, love. All good things come in three. Not big or bigger, but biggest: it’s about love.