I have been personally intrigued by the number, “Seventy”, as it occurs frequently in the Scriptures. What is the underlying value associated with this number? Before exploring the Scriptures, I would like to offer the definitions offered by Howard Rand in his first book of Documentary Studies.
They are: 7 – The number of spiritual perfection. A number and multiples of which occupy a large place in the Word of God as being inspired by the Holy Spirit. The multiples of this number as a rule partake of the same spiritual significance; such as, 42, 49 and 70. Then, 10 – This is the perfect number, signifying the perfection of Divine order. It implies that nothing is wanting; that the number and order are perfect; that the whole cycle is completed. And 70 – this is a combination of two perfect numbers, 7 and 10. It signifies perfect spiritual order. It numbered the years of the Babylonian captivity and the length in years of the Jewish nation (70 x 7 years = 490). It is the three score and ten years of a man’s life.
With this background of spiritual perfection, we can examine some of the occurrences of the number in the Scriptures and consider this quality of spiritual perfection in the circumstances described. So, when Jacob/Israel went into Egypt with all his wives, sons and daughters, including those that were born to Joseph in Egypt, the number was 70. Genesis 46: 27, “And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt were two souls; all of the souls of the House of Jacob that came into Egypt, were three score and ten.” We therefore conclude, that the founding family of the nation Israel was in spiritual perfection.
Exodus 15: 27 “And they came to Elim where were twelve wells of water and three score and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.” So, it would seem that there was provided a well for each of the twelve tribes and the number of palm trees giving the message that everything was still spiritually correct.
Then came that wonderful event described in Exous 24: 9 – 11, “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and SEVENTY of the elders of Israel: and they saw the God of Israel: and there were under His feet as it were the paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in His clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand: also they saw God and did eat and drink.” Again, we can say that the number 70 indicates spiritual perfection in such a momentous event.
The next mention of seventy occurs when David numbers the people against the advice of Joab, and the number of fighting men of Israel were 800,000 and of Judah, 500,000. For this sin, David was given three choices of recompense; seven years of famine, or flee three months before your enemies, or three days pestilence in your land. David looked to the mercy of God and chose the pestilence; therefore, 70,000 men died. This was a big price to pay to return to spiritual perfection with God, but presumably, it set the nation right with God so that its prosperity in the golden age might continue.
Then we refer to Daniel, the greatly loved of God who was given the vision of the seventy weeks concerning the arrival and death of the Messiah. Daniel 9 – 24, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to anoint the most holy.” If you wish, you may read the rest of the prophecy in the Book of Daniel. Certainly, the birth and death of the Messiah was bringing the people back into a right relationship with God, laying the groundwork for that wonderful saying, “You are the sons of the living God.”
Esdras, who was a contemporary with Daniel being among the captives of Babylon, went into an enterprise to write of his knowledge in books. He was given five scribes who wrote for forty days the wisdom offered by Esdras and produced two hundred and four books, most of which were to be given to the worthy and unworthy, but the last SEVENTY books were to be shown only to such as be wise among the people. Oh, to see those books to-day! Because of the blessed number, we can assume that they showed the way to reconciliation with God, information which we now have due to the ministry of Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
I will close this little trip through the Scriptures with two references from the New Testament. Luke 10: 1, “After these things, the Lord appointed another SEVENTY also and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place, whither He Himself would come.” And in verse 17 and 20, we find the following, “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through Thy name. And He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Notwithstanding this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you: but rather rejoice because your names are written in Heaven.” And we, therefore, conclude that our missionary work in its many forms has a wonderful reward to which we all should aspire.
In Matthew 18: 21 we find Peter’s famous question, “Then came Peter to Him and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but Until SEVENTY times seven.” The forgiveness “thing!” How many of you, like me, sort of quake when we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses AS WE FORGIVE THOSE THAT TRESPASS AGAINST US?” Jesus indicates that forgiveness should be endless and forthright and by attaching the number SEVENTY shows us that forgiveness is related to spiritual perfection.
Spiritual perfection is the goal we all seek and through belief in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice we can achieve it!