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ISBE: FOUR
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Four

FOUR [ISBE]

FOUR - for ('arba`; tessares): "Four" (cardinal number) was a sacred and complete number with the Hebrews, as well as with several other peoples. It occurs very frequently in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

(1) It indicates completeness. We have the four rivers of Paradise (Gen 2:10); the four winds of heaven (Ezek 37:9; Dan 7:2; 8:8; 11:4; Zec 6:5, the Revised Version, margin "spirits"; 2 Esdras 13:5); "the four winds" (Mt 24:31; Mk 13:27); "the four corners of the earth" (Isa 11:12; Rev 7:1; 20:8, the King James Version "quarters"); "the four corners of the house" (Job 1:19); Jephthah's daughter was bewailed four days a year (Jdg 11:40); "four cities" are several times mentioned in Josh in the allotment of inheritances (19:7; 21:18, etc.); Nehemiah's enemies sent to him "four times" (Neh 6:4); "four kinds" (the Revised Version, margin "families" of destroyers were threatened, Jer 15:3); Yahweh's "four sore judgments" (Ezek 14:21); "four generations" were seen by Job (42:16).

(2) "Four" is frequent in prophetic visions: Daniel saw "four .... beasts" arise, representing four kings (7:3,17); "four notable horns" (8:8,22; compare 2 Esdras 11:39); "four gates" (2 Esdras 3:19; four wings, 12:2 the King James Version); "four horns" were seen by Zechariah, as the powers that had scattered Israel, and "four smiths" (Revised Version) as powers that would cast the four horns down (1:18-21); "four chariots and .... horses" represented the "four spirits," the King James Version and the Revised Version, margin (better than "winds"), that went "forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth" (Zech 6:1-5); in the visions of Ezekiel, "four living creatures," each with four faces, four wings, etc., were the bearers of the throne of God (1:5 f,23); so, in the visions of John there were "four living creatures" before and around the throne (Rev 4:6; 5:6,8,14; 6:1; 15:7; 19:4); John saw "four angels" of destruction loosed for their work (Rev 9:14 f).

(3) "Four" occurs frequently in the measurements of the sacred buildings, etc. (a) of the tabernacle (Ex 25; 26; 27; 28:17; 36, etc.); (b) of Solomon's temple (1 Ki 7:2, etc.; 1 Ch 9:24); (c) of Ezekiel's temple (Ezek 40:41; 41:5; 42:20; 43:14, etc.).

(4) "Four" is used as an alternative with "three" (Prov 30:15,18,21,24,29); we have "three or four" (2 Esdras 16:29,31); "the third and .... the fourth generation" (Ex 20:5; 34:7; Nu 14:18; Dt 5:9).

(5) Ten times four, or forty is also a special and sacred number, e.g. forty years did Israel eat manna (Ex 16:35); forty years in the wilderness (Nu 14:33; 32:13); "the land had rest forty years" (Jdg 3:11; 5:31); Israel was delivered unto the hands of the Philistines for forty years (Jdg 13:1); Eli judged Israel forty years (1 Sam 4:18); Moses was forty years old when he visited his brethren (Acts 7:23); the flood continued for "forty days and forty nights" (Gen 7:4); Moses was in the Mount "forty days and forty nights" (Ex 24:18; 34:28; Dt 9:9); Jesus fasted in the desert forty days and nights (Mt 4:2, etc.); He remained with His disciples forty days after His resurrection (Acts 1:3).

(6) Fourscore is also frequent (shemonim) (Ex 7:7; Jdg 3:30; Jer 41:5, etc.; ogdoekonta, Lk 2:37; 16:7).

(7) Four hundred represents a large number, e.g. the years of the oppression in Egypt (Gen 15:13); Esau's company (Gen 33:1); the men with David (1 Sam 22:2; 25:13; 30:10,17); the prophets of Baal "four hundred and fifty," of Asherah, "four hundred" (1 Ki 18:19,22); the prophets of Israel (1 Ki 22:6). Four thousand represents a larger number, e.g. the musicians and porters of Solomon's temple (1 Ch 23:5); the stalls for horses in Solomon's stables (2 Ch 9:25); the Assassins who made insurrection under an Egyptian (Acts 21:38); Christ fed "four thousand men, besides women and children" (Mt 15:38). Four hundred thousand represents a very large number, e.g. the congregation of Israel that gathered at Mizpah, "four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword" (Jdg 20:2,17); Abijah's army (2 Ch 13:3; Jeroboam's, twice that number).

(8) The fourth part also frequently occurs (Ex 29:40; Lev 23:13; Nu 23:10; Rev 6:8, etc.).

W. L. Walker


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