Many writers, from the earliest times, have called attention to the importance of the great subject of Number in Scripture. It has been dealt with, for the most part, in a fragmentary way. One has dealt with some particular number, such as “seven”; another has been content with a view of the primary numbers, and even when defining their significance, has given only one or two examples by way of illustration; another has confined himself to “symbolical numbers,” such as 10, 40, 666, etc.; another has taken up such symbolical numbers in their relation to chronology or to prophecy; another has collected examples, but has dealt little with their meaning.
There seemed, therefore, to be room, and indeed a call, for a work which would be more complete, embrace a larger area, and at the same time be free from the many fancies which all, more or less, indulge in when the mind is occupied too much with one subject. Anyone who values the importance of a particular principle will be tempted to see it where it does not exist, and if it be not there will force it in, in spite sometimes of the original text. Especially is this the case when chronology is dealt with, the greater uncertainty of dates lending itself more readily to the author’s fancy.
The greatest work on this subject, both chronological and numerical, is not free from these defects. But its value is nevertheless very great. It is by the late Dr. Milo Mahan, of New York. His work Palmoni, which was republished among his collected works, has long been out of print. It greatly increased my interest in this subject, and led me to further study, besides furnishing a number of valuable illustrations.
It is too much to hope that the present work should be free from these defects, which are inseparable from human infirmity. From one point of view it is a subject which must prove disappointing, at any rate to the author, for illustrations are continually being discovered; and yet, from another point of view, it would be blasphemy to suppose that such a work could be complete; for it would assume that the wonders of this mine could be exhausted, and that its treasures could be all explored!
I must, therefore, be content with the setting forth of general principles, and with giving a few examples from God’s Word which illustrate them, leaving others to extend the application of these principles and search out illustrations of them for themselves.
May the result of this contribution to a great subject be to stimulate the labours of Bible students; to strengthen believers in their most holy faith; and to convince doubters of the Divine perfection and inspiration of the Book of Books, to the praise and glory of God.