abraham and jacob

atombomb at sirius.com atombomb at sirius.com
Wed Jun 16 17:23:46 EDT 1999

Blessed be God.

Hi, Jim--

Regarding this--

> >Age of Abraham at death:       175= 5x5  x7
> >Age of Issac at death:       180= 6x6  x5
> >Age of Jacob at death:      147= 7x7  x3
> >Yrs Jacob was called Israel: 64=  8x8  x1
> >
> >Note the nifty sequences, up and down the columns, 1-3-5-7 and
> >5-6-7-8.  Note also that the factors of each number, (5+5+7),
> >(6+6+5), (7+7+3), and (8+8+1) in each case add up to 17.
> I don't get it.  What's the point of this?  What does it tell us about
> Abraham or Isaac or Jacob?   175 is also 1x175, or, in other words, there
> are numerous possible numerical combinations which add up to 175 (and the
> same goes for the other numbers listed above).  I just dont see how this is
> meaningful in interepreting the Hebrew Bible.

Of course you can play with numbers all day long.  That's not the
point-- the question is whether some specific kind of play with
numbers was ever used in the composition of a text-- as
peter_kirk at sil.org wrote:
> Gematria is not the same thing as the "Bible Codes", it has an
> altogether better "sound" and this hood may be worth looking under -
> especially when applied to words and short phrases rather than long
> passages. So please share with us your insights on this. Do you have
> evidence for gematria being used in the composition of the Hebrew
> Bible, rather than just in its later interpretation?

The above numbers aren't gematria, but they do seem to comprise a
deliberate numerical scheme which, moreover, is part of larger
patterns discussed by Labuschagne and others.  Whether this narrative
detail tells us anything about (the author's intentions regarding)
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or whether this detail is only the
intersection in their story of another string of data, is a question
that needs to be asked on its own merits.  

I wouldn't be so hasty to dismiss it, though-- yes, of course, 175 is
5x35 as well as 5x5x7.  It is also 25x7.  That's one of the things
that makes this kind of study frustrating-- which set of numbers
should you use?  Were there rules, for example, that only prime
factors should be used, as here?  And are such devices purely
mnemonic, or do they fit into some larger pattern?  And where would we
look for the key to those patterns?  Again, are there rules?  

True, "numerous possible numerical combinations... add up to 175"--
but the set of numbers whose prime factors add up to the same prime
number is quite small, and probably have other interesting
relationships as well.  The occurrence of two such numbers, even
together, is probably only coincidental, unless it can be shown to be
part of a larger pattern.  But the occurrence of four in a row, for
the most important figures in the book-- this invites examination.

You say you don't see how it is meaningful in interpreting the hebrew
bible.  I don't see how it is meaningful, myself-- not yet-- but only
because I don't understand, or even see, the pattern as a whole (if
there indeed is one beyond those I've mentioned); not because it is
simply impossible that the sages could have used such patterns (for
they obviously did-- they are actually present in the text itself) or
that such patterns could be in some way meaningful.  All I have
suggested is that we have to allow that the sages might have had a
little serious play of their own.  As with everything else in the
bible, it is our task to learn to play with them, not to make up our
own rules, and not to tell them they can't have played as they did.  A
book like the bible is unquestionably always going to be subtler than
we are-- and I'm not even mentioning mysticism!


John Burnett, MA (OT)

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