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Law and the Number Five

Design in God's Word 

When God creates, He weaves into His creation intricate details and complex patterns that testify of His greatness. He “made everything beautiful in his time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Man is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Of His creation, the psalmist says, “O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.” (Psalm 104:24). Of God’s word, the psalmist testifies, “I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad.” (Psalm 119:96). 

God’s word contains many divine patterns. They demonstrate the hand of God. Some themes, such as blood redemption and the kingdom of God, run the length of scripture. God often uses patterns of objects, colors, words and events to demonstrate His handiwork. Only God could bring together 66 books written by 40 human authors over 1600 years into such perfect unity.

Design in Biblical Numbers 

Often God leaves His mark by His use of numbers in scripture. The number one indicates unity and two indicates division. Three, being the number of the trinity, indicates perfection of being while seven indicates a perfect work. Add three and seven together and you get ten, a number of completion or fullness. Man was created on the sixth day and is symbolized by that number. Forty indicates a time of testing or proving.

The symbolic meaning of some numbers is easy to determine. Others are the source of controversy. Five is one of the controversial numbers. Some say it symbolizes grace while others point to its connection with death. In order to simplify and pass over this part of the discussion, I will give you my conclusion on this matter. The number five symbolizes death in scripture. I do not deny some arguments to the contrary. I just give you my conclusion without all the reasons.

Death and the Law 

Yet death is connected to other themes in scripture. It is the ultimate punishment man can give to man. Therefore, it is related to judgment, punishment and condemnation. This, in turn, connect the entire theme to the law. In 2 Corinthians, chapter three, the law is called the “ministration of death” (v.7) and the “ministration of condemnation” (v.9). In Romans 7:10, Paul says, “And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.” 

The law curses all who do not obey it in entirety. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” (Galatians 3:10). Christ became this curse on the cross in order to redeem us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13).

The Number Five in the Law 

As such, the number five not only deals with death but it also identifies the law. In fact, the number five is found woven into the entire law, especially in the tabernacle, the priesthood and the sacrifices. Consider the following evidences of the relation of the number five to the structure of the law. 

  1. The Law of Moses has five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
  2. The heart of the law is in the Ten Commandments, which are written on two tables of stone. Ten divided by two leaves five commandments for each of the two tables of stone. That double five, or five by five, pattern will be seen again.
  3. The giving of the Ten Commandments is recorded two times in the Bible: Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The second time is found in the fifth book of the law (Deuteronomy) and in the fifth chapter of that book. Again we see the five by five pattern.
  4. The outer fence surrounding the court of the tabernacle was five cubits high (Exodus 27:18).
  5. The first piece of furniture an Israelite approached when coming to the tabernacle was the brazen altar where animal sacrifices were offered. This was a place of death and judgment (brass is a symbol of judgment in the Bible). The brazen altar was five cubits by five cubits (Exodus 27:1). Once again we see the five by five pattern.
  6. The sides of the tabernacle were reinforced by five bars on each side (Exodus 26:26-27).  
  7. The inner covering of the tabernacle was composed of five curtains which were attached to five other curtains for a total of ten curtains (Exodus 26:3). Notice the double five pattern.
  8. The front entrance of the tabernacle was made up of five pillars (Exodus 26:36-37).
  9. There were five original priests: Aaron and his four sons (Exodus 28:1).  
  10. The garments of the priests were made up of five different materials: gold, blue, purple, scarlet and linen (Exodus 28:6).
  11. Leviticus (in the first five chapters) describes the five major offerings of the law: burnt, meat, peace, sin and trespass.
  12. The Old Testament mentions five different animals to be used in sacrifices: cows, goats, sheep, turtledoves and pigeons (see Genesis 15:9.
  13. The first created animals that could be used for sacrifice (the birds) were created on the fifth day of creation (Genesis 1:26).
  14. Although the tabernacle had seven pieces of furniture, only five of them were actually inside the tabernacle.
  15. Although the priests wore seven pieces of special clothing (Exodus 29:5-6), only five of them were actually worn about their body [the other two were placed on top of their head].
  16. Those who study and accept the seven dispensations as commonly taught may remember that the fifth dispensation is that of the law.

Are all of these fives a mere coincidence? Hardly. They are another indication of the wonderful design of God as found in His holy word. They prove once again the presence of the divine in the holy scriptures.