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Math in the Bible

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

Math Signs

Math Signs

Math Throughout the Bible

People who read the Bible can't help but notice there are more than 150 references to math in the form of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Addition

Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith, it is impossible to please God." According to 2 Peter 1:5-7, we are commanded to add to our faith followed by a progression of other things to live effectively and according to God's plan for us.

  1. Add virtue to faith. Virtue is moral excellence.
  2. Add knowledge to virtue. Get to know God in order to do what He wants.
  3. Add self-control to knowledge. Maintain self-control which is a fruit of the Spirit.
  4. Add perseverance to self-control. Be patient in order to endure.
  5. Add godliness to perseverance. To become godly establish an intimate relationship with God.
  6. Add brotherly kindness to godliness. Be kind to everyone. Kindness is also a fruit of the Spirit.
  7. Add love to brotherly kindness. Love one another as Jesus has loved you.

These additions will keep disciples of Christ from being useless, barren, and ineffective. The additions will keep disciples of Christ in a good relationship with God and His people.

Subtraction

There is one account in Judges 7 that is an excellent example of subtraction. The Midianites had gained power over the Israelites. When they cried out to God, He told Gideon to get an army.

The Midianites had an army of 135,000, but Gideon could gather together only 32,000 fighting men. Even with that low number, God tells Gideon, "You have too many men." It is because if Israel won the war, they might think that they didn’t need God's help to win. They might believe they won by themselves. So God says to Gideon, "Tell all the men who are afraid to go back home." When Gideon does this, 22,000 of his soldiers were subtracted from the army and returned home. That left only 10,000 men to fight against all of the 135,000 Midianite soldiers.

Gideon's army drinking water from a stream

Gideon's army drinking water from a stream

Even after 22,000 have been cut from Gideon's army, God informs him that he still has too many men. So he tells Gideon to have the men drink from a stream and then to send home all the people who put their face down to the water to drink.

God promises Gideon He will give the Israelites victory with only 300 men who kept watching while they drank. Gideon gives each man a horn and a jar with a torch inside it. Around midnight, they gathered around the enemy's camp. At the same time, they blew their horns, broke their jars and shouted. When the Midianite soldiers woke up suddenly, they were confused and afraid. Thinking there were thousands of Israelite soldiers surrounding them, the Midianite army ran away. Gideon's small army of 300 soldiers won the battle against the 135,000 Midianite soldiers just as God knew they would.

Painting of Feeding of Five Thousand

Painting of Feeding of Five Thousand

Multiplication

Jesus' very first miracle involved multiplication. It was at a wedding in Cana when the wine ran out. Jesus took six barrels of water and changed it into wine. The 20-30 gallons of water were multiplied into enough wine for the wedding guests during their week-long celebration (John 2:1-11).

A very good example of multiplication in the Bible is clearly seen in the feeding of the five thousand men and the feeding of the four thousand men besides women and children. Each gospel writer recorded the feeding of the five thousand first before the feeding of the four thousand. The feeding narrative that is more familiar to readers is the feeding of the five thousand that happened in Jewish territory, according to Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:1-24.

The five small loaves of bread and two small fish were miraculously multiplied to feed all five thousand men besides women and children (Matthew 14:21). In fact, twelve baskets of fragments were collected.

The feeding of the four thousand happened in Gentile territory. The same example of multiplication exists in this story with seven basketfuls of broken pieces left over, according to Matthew 15:29-39 and Mark 8:1-9.

math-in-the-bible

Other Examples of Multiplication

When Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive, Jesus answered, "Seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22). We know seventy times seven is 490, but Jesus was teaching Peter to forgive as many times as he needed to.

When Jesus sent His disciples out on assignments, he told them to go "two by two" (Luke 10:1)

When Elisha told the widow to get jars for her little oil, it multiplied to fill all the jars the woman had collected from her neighbors. The oil did not run out until she had filled all her containers, according to 2 Kings 4:1-7.

Division

The Bible itself is divided into two parts: The Old Testament has 39 books and the New Testament has 27 books. The Old Testament is divided into the Pentateuch, the histories, wisdom writings, and the prophets. The prophets are divided into major and minor prophets.

The New Testament is divided into four gospels, history of the church, Paul's 13 books, eight general epistles, and one apocryphal book.

Division occurs early in the Bible in the Book of Genesis. After God created the days in Genesis 1, He divided time into night and day. We also know that God divided the year into four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall.

There are other examples of division in the Bible. One example of division that runs throughout the Old Testament is the division of Israel that had been one united kingdom during the reigns of King Saul, King David, and King Solomon.

After the death of Solomon, his son Rehoboam reigned differently and allowed Israel to be divided into two unequal kingdoms. Israel became the Northern Kingdom with 10 tribes. Judah became the Southern Kingdom with only two tribes. It will be very helpful to know which kingdom you are reading about when it comes to the kings, priests, and prophets in the Old Testament.

"If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end" (Mark 3:24-26).

Check It Out!

The next time you read the Bible, notice if any math is involved. Some math might be in the forms of numbers, times, ages, prices, weights, and measures.

Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which form of math uses the minus sign?
    • Addition
    • Substaction
    • Multiplication
    • Division
  2. Which form of math uses this sign (x)?
    • Addition
    • Subtraction
    • Multiplication
    • Division
  3. Which form of math uses this sign (./.)?
    • Addition
    • Subtraction
    • Multiplication
    • Division
  4. Which form of math uses the plus sign?
    • Addition
    • Subtraction
    • Multiplication
    • Division

Answer Key

  1. Substaction
  2. Multiplication
  3. Division
  4. Addition