Math in the Bible
We don't often realize it or think about it, but math is found throughout the Bible. From the very first chapter of Genesis to the very last chapter of Revelation, numbers play an important role in God's eternal plan. Counting and recounting, cycles and organizational patterns, adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing, computing geometric equations and logging building materials, all contribute significantly to the biblical narrative.
Beginning at the dawn of creation, God counts off the initial 7 days, establishing a 7-day weekly cycle. When God placed the sun, moon, and stars, He declared that they would provide cyclical patterns for days, weeks, seasons, and years. Even specific constellations are mentioned in the book of Job, one of the earliest books of the Old Testament. God asks Job if he can guide the "the Great Bear" across the sky, or lead the procession of the zodiac. Does he "know the ordinances of the heavens?" The movements of the celestial sphere are all based on precise mathematical calculations. In the Psalms (147:4) and in Isaiah (40:26), we are told that God counts the number of the stars, He knows them all by name, and He leads them in their mathematical patterns. God knows all the astronomical knowledge that we are just starting to glimpse. We have only begun to scratch the surface of the astounding wonder and magnitude of the universe.
After God had called Abraham, promising to make of him a great nation that would bless the entire world, He told Abraham to look up at the stars and try to count them. Impossible. But not for God. He asked him if he could number the grains of sand on the shores of the world. Again, impossible. But God knows. Jesus told us that the very hairs on our heads are numbered by the God of numerical marvels and genius. Jesus also said that God knows and sees when each sparrow falls to the ground. Do you know how many sparrows there are in the world?? They are on every continent but Antarctica. Sparrows have been found 14,000 feet up in the Himalayas and 2,000 feet down in the mines of England. God sees and knows them all. These mind-stretching numbers of stars and grains of sand and sparrows are purposely used for our benefit: that we might confidently trust in the God who holds our lives in His hand, who guides our steps, and who is intimately concerned for us.
The points of a compass set up a mathematical x/y-axis grid. The organizational layout God commanded for the people of Israel when they came out of Egypt is based on those compass points. The tabernacle was in the center of the axis, at 0, with all the tribes camping around it in different quadrants. They were to camp in a particular pattern; and when they pulled up camp to set off on their journey again, there was a particular, systematic way it was to be done. There is design and order and sequence not only in what God made but also in all God commanded. The conduct of their lives revolved around mathematical concepts that contained spiritual implications.
When Moses collected materials for the tabernacle, the people brought so much of all the various things that were needed that they had to be told to stop. As those gifts of fabric, jewels, gold and silver, etc. were refashioned into the tabernacle and its furnishings, all the measurements were very precise; the number of clasps, exact. Everything was made according to a heavenly blueprint.
When David collected lumber, stones, bronze, even iron for nails, we can only imagine the storing and cataloging of the "abundant preparations" he made, as well as the managerial layers needed for all the workers. David told his son Solomon that he "took much trouble" in gathering all that would be needed. The gold and silver was all counted, even to one hundred thousand on up to one million talents! Then David proceeded to appoint scores of musicians, singers, gatekeepers, priests, treasurers, guards, and military divisions with their leaders—all numbered, some in the thousands and tens of thousands, and all ordered in ranks and rotation.
As the tabernacle had been built from architectural designs, so also Solomon built the temple from his father's architectural plan. Solomon far exceeded David in numerical extravagance. The number of workers he employed, the managers over them, the amount of lumber and stone and precious metals is staggering. Among his building projects, we are given a very clear computation of the circumference of a circle.
On and on, the numbers and calculations march through the Scriptures. So fascinating is the study of biblical numbering, that a whole series of volumes has been written about it entitled The Numerical Bible. Does God understand math? Does God use math? Oh, my, YES! From the hugest of the huge to the smallest of the small (all mathematical concepts and comparisons), He is not only intimately acquainted with it all but has designed and ordered it all into existence. All that is operates on mathematical equations, and God knows the secrets of them all.
As you read Scripture with your children (You are reading Scripture to your children, aren't you? Just a friendly reminder of its paramount importance, so that the souls of your children would not starve from lack of the water and bread of Life.), help them to keep their ears open to numbers and mathematical principles and concepts. Next time you walk on the beach, try to count the grains of sand you can hold just in the palm of your hand. As you help them put their folded laundry away, discuss order and categorizing—just like Moses and David and Solomon. As you establish routines and schedules, show your children that God ordained regular routines and schedules from the very beginning, like the rising and setting of the sun. Help them see the wonder of God in the math all around them, how mathematical concepts can help us order our days, and how God uses math to help us understand His complete knowledge of us as well as His personal care for us.