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Faith by the Numbers
By Susan Hines-Brigger

Q U I C K S C A N

Biblical Numerology
Do the Math
For Teens: Count Your Blessings
For Kids: Favorite Numbers?

When you’re pregnant, numbers become really important to you. People constantly ask you questions like: How many weeks/ months? When’s your due date? Is this your first? How old are your other children? And the list goes on. In fact, even when you go into labor, it’s all about the numbers: How far apart are your contractions? How many centimeters are you dilated?

And I should know. As I sit here writing this column, I am very aware—and feeling it—that I am in my 35th week of pregnancy with my third child. That means I only have 41 days or a little less than six weeks left—not that I’m counting.

Yes, these days numbers are very significant to me.

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Biblical Numerology

Maybe it’s because we are so inundated with numbers that we often fail to recognize the significance they can have. For instance, stop and think about all the numbers you have to carry around in your head: phone numbers, cell phone numbers, birthdays, anniversaries, ages, ATM pin numbers, account numbers—and the list goes on. But sometimes certain numbers take on a greater significance, like milestone birthdays or anniversaries.

One place where many—if not most—numbers matter a lot is in the Bible. Now I must confess that I was not always aware of this. I guess I just always assumed that someone probably had a really good reason for designating Lent as lasting for 40 days. And it seemed totally feasible to me that Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection lasted three days.

Boy, was I wrong.

And it seemed that, once I started taking notice of this significance, it was overwhelming. Now every time I see a number in the Bible, I’m curious to know its hidden meaning.

For instance, I did not realize that the number seven means perfection; thus God created the world in seven days. Or that the number three indicates completeness, as in the Holy Trinity. And the list goes on.

Do the Math

I found it quite fun, once I discovered this hidden treasure, to go in search of answers to the significance of biblical numbers, as well as others. Here are some ideas for having fun with numbers.

¦ Sit down as a family and try to come up with numbers from the Bible or our faith that seem to have significance. Assign one number to each person and have him or her find out its meaning. They can find the answer in a book or ask a priest or teacher. Or maybe they already know. For instance, why were there 12 apostles? Seven sacraments? (Of course, there are some numbers which remain a mystery as to their symbolism, such as the 153 fish in the Gospel of John.) Give everyone a few days to find an answer and then come back together. It’s a good excuse to have a family evening together and you’ll all learn something.

¦ For one day, take note of all the things in your life that revolve around numbers from the time you glance at the numbers on your clock when you get up. Some examples might be checking prices when you’re shopping, surveying the cost of gas at local stations, counting the number of plates you need for dinner, balancing your checkbook or paying bills.

¦ Do some baking by the numbers. Here’s a fun recipe for a Bible cake that I found on the Internet. Keep the actual ingredients a secret and enlist some help from your kids or grandkids to do the detective work.

A. 1/2 cup Judges 5:25 (butter)
B. 2 cups Jeremiah 6:20 (sugar)
C. 2 tbsp. 1 Samuel 14:25 (honey)
D. 6 Jeremiah 17:11 (eggs)
E. 1-1/2 cups 1 Kings 5:2 (flour, sifted)
F. 2 tsp. Amos 4:5 (baking powder)
G. 4 tsp. 2 Chronicles 9:9 (spice, likely cinnamon)
H. A pinch of Leviticus 2:13 (salt)
I. 1/2 cup Judges 4:19 (milk)
J. 2 cups (chopped) Nahum 3:12 (figs)
K. 2 cups 1 Samuel 30:12 (raisins)
L. 2 cups (chopped) Numbers 13:23 (grapes/pomegranates, probably pomegranates)

Cream together A, B, C and the yolks of D.
Sift together E, F, G and H.
Combine the above together with I.
Add J, K and L. Add in stiffly beaten whites of D.

Bake in a well-greased, rectangular 13” x 9” pan at 325 degrees for an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Next Month: What's a Jesse Tree?

 

For Teens: Count Your Blessings

This month, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. One of the things I like about this holiday is that it reminds us to remember that for which we are thankful. To go along with this month’s theme of numbers, write as many numbers as there are people at your gathering on slips of paper and place them in a cup. Then, either before or after Thanksgiving dinner, have everyone pull a number from the cup. That person then has to identify as many things for which he or she is thankful as the number picked. For people with large families, this could be a fun game.

For Kids: Favorite Numbers?

Do you have a favorite number? If so, what is so special about that number? How about your friends or family? Ask people you know if they have a favorite number. If they do, ask them why. Mine is 15 because I was born on the 15th at 8:15 and there are 15 letters in my birth name.

 

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to Family@franciscanmedia.org.


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