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Crazy — but Interesting — Hebrew Numbers

The other day I was reading Gen. 32:1–2 for worship. It states, “So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, ‘This is God’s camp.’ And he called the name of that place Mahanaim.”

The “aim” ending is the “dual form,” meaning “two camps.” Egypt is Hebrew (Mizraim) and is probably the most common dual-ending word, meaning the “two Egypts.” That is, Upper and Lower Egypt, a terminology commonly used in antiquity.

The plural form of nouns in Hebrew might best be defined as three or more, instead of two or more. That adds a little understanding to nouns meaning God or the Lord (Elohim or Adonai, both plural forms). We could easily translate the Shema (Deut. 6:4): ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lords our Gods are one (echad) Lords.” Echad is a word for “one” that is sometimes understood to be a unity of several pieces. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one (echad) flesh” (Gen. 2:24).

You all remember the difference from school between cardinal and ordinal numbers? One, two, three and first, second, third? Hebrew has the same differences, showing up in the Genesis creation record. The evening and morning combination was a “first” day. When it says “the evening and morning were a second day,” it means just like the first — a second example of the first day, equally an evening and morning. In the areas of age-dating in origins debates the Hebrew could not be worded more strongly that the days were not indefinite periods of time.

And how about inclusive versus exclusive dating? You understand that in Hebrew no child is less than one year old. Incomplete parts are counted as whole — that’s inclusive reckoning. In EXclusive reckoning, King Herod told his soldiers to slay infants that were one year old and younger. Everyone knows there’s a huge difference between one- and two-year olds.

Inclusive reckoning in Luke 3 helps us place the beginning of Christ’s ministry in A.D. 27 (Tiberius’ 15th year), fulfilling exactly the numbers of Dan. 9. And, of course, on the third day Jesus rose from the grave, even though He had been in the grave for only parts of three days.

In reference to the dual ending comments at the beginning of this article: did you know that the fourth commandment also has a word with a dual ending? And it echoes the words of Gen. 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens (shemayim) and the earth.” That is, “the two heavens and the earth.”

Two heavens? This makes Paul’s reference to a third heaven in 2 Cor. 12:2 make sense. In Jewish theology, God lives in the third heaven. So, it preexisted Gen. 1:1. What else preexisted? And how far up there did God mean by the two heavens? Was it just our galaxy that composed it? Remember, stars were created for signs and for the revealing of God’s majesty. But we can only see with the naked eye the stars of our galaxy, plus the nearby galaxy of Andromeda. Were the other galaxies created earlier?


Stan Hudson

North Pacific Union Conference creation ministries director