In this article, we will continue our series on numbers with the Biblical meaning of the number 3. So, grab your Bible and let’s dive in…
The number three is widely represented in the Bible. Many significant events are connected to it, and most Christians know that it bears some significance, if only because we find it mentioned so often in literal and symbolic contexts.
And it’s interesting to note we even use the number three consistently in the modern world. Think of sayings like,
“the third time’s the charm.” and “three’s a crowd.”
Then there are stories like The Three Little Pigs or Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It’s almost as if humanity as a whole understands that the number 3 is important.
So, what does the number 3 mean in the Bible, and how can you use that knowledge and understanding in your Bible study and spiritual growth? Well, let’s find out!!
Number 3 In The Bible: A look At The Hebrew
From Biblical times, Israel attached strong symbolic meaning to numbers. This symbolism even moves into the Hebrew alphabet, where each letter and character has a number and meaning attached to it. We have gone over other numbers looking at the pictograph in Hebrew as well, and we are gonna do it again with 3!
The third letter in the Hebrew alphabet is Gimel or Gimmel, which is closely associated with the symbol of a camel.
The literal meaning of the word “gimel” or “gimmel” is “justified repayment.” It means to give someone something as either a punishment or a reward.
Note that, even as a punishment, the purpose of the giving is to reform the person, not have vengeance on them. It’s about forming someone on their path to their divine purpose or call.
There is even connections made that gimmel, being the third in succession, represents the Holy Spirit. Aleph and Bet together equal gimmel. Just like the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
The Biblical Meaning Of The Number 3
In this section, we will look into things we have seen in scripture that connect to the number 3 and what that means for us. It’s really neat when you start digging, and you see these crazy connections and similarities. God is amazing with the way He speaks to us.
3 in the Bible: Partial Completion And Foundation For A Greater Purpose
Based on the law of first mention, we can look at the first time that the number three was mentioned in the Bible: The third day of creation.
Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. – Genesis 1:9-10 NKJV
On the third day, God created the dry land, the seas, plants, and trees. He completed the world in which He planned to let humans live. You could look at it as a partial completion, a preparation of something for His greater purpose.
Everywhere we look in the Bible, we can see the number three being used within this context:
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:12 NKJV
- God created the world we are to live in and rule over on the third day
- Noah had three sons that went on the Ark with him with the purpose of multiplying and repopulating the earth, bringing it into obedience to God.
- Three visitors came to Abraham in Genesis 18:2. God also announced to Abraham that he would have a son, laying the foundation for God’s entire redemptive plan.
- Israel was founded on the lives of the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which brought God’s people into existence.
- Jonah spent three full days in the belly of the fish (Jonah 1:17). That was how long it took for Jonah to decide he should start praying for God’s help and forgiveness and to declare his willingness to complete his purpose.
- The wise men (magi) brought Jesus three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It was a gift that symbolized the three stations or forms of Jesus’ existence: King, God, and mortal man, completed in the person of Jesus.
- Satan tempted Jesus with three different temptations, all of which Jesus answered by quoting scripture, completing His fast, and launching His earthly ministry.
- Jesus went away to pray in the garden of Gethsemane three times (Matthew 26). He completed His final trial before submitting Himself to the suffering and death that was to come.
- Jesus was resurrected after three days. It’s a sign that the time of His death was complete, which is emphasized even more by the fact that Jews believe in waiting three days to be sure that a person is truly deceased.
- In Revelation 14:6-16 we can see that three angels are announcing different things, signifying three stages of history upon its completion. The first angel announced that all the earth should worship God. The second angel announced that Babylon had fallen. The third angel told the world that everyone who worshiped the beast would receive God’s wrath.
- Of course, the Trinity (though never directly mentioned as such in the Bible) shows that God, revealing Himself as three Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), is One complete God.
These are just a few of the examples where the number three symbolizes completeness in some form.
3 in the Bible: A Strong Emphasis
Whenever God said something that He repeated three times, it was to indicate the severity of the statement. This doesn’t do it justice, but it can almost be like in English when you use an exclamation point. It creates an emphasis of the importance you are trying to convey. There are plenty of examples from the Bible, including:
- Isaiah 6:3 says, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” The three repetitions mean that God is entirely holy, as is emphasized by the last statement that His glory fills the whole earth. A full and complete holiness that is undeniable and stands firm. Hallelujah!
- Jeremiah 22:29: “O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD!” It’s a cry for the whole land to hear God’s words and the prophecy that is to be proclaimed. It’s similar to how you would keep calling someone’s name until you have their undivided attention, meaning you have something important to say. It’s a particular emphasis but also symbolizes completeness.
- In Revelation 8:13, an angel says, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth….” Yet again, it means two things:
- It emphasizes that the woe is definite. It’s inescapable, and there is no denying it will happen.
- It indicates its completeness. The angel proclaimed complete and utter woe to all the inhabitants of the earth, meaning that everyone would suffer.
- It emphasizes that the woe is definite. It’s inescapable, and there is no denying it will happen.
- Revelation 4:8 is similar to what we mentioned in Isaiah 6:3. It tells us about the four living creatures who move before the throne of God, and they are constantly saying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” Again, it’s as if the Bible closes with the statement that God is wholly, entirely, and undeniably holy.
The Redemption Of Peter
As another example of how we can interpret the meaning of the number three in the Bible, let’s look at the fall and redemption of Simon Peter.
Before Jesus was crucified, Peter was being Peter and proclaiming how he was willing to lay down his life for Jesus, and Jesus said that Peter would deny Him three times throughout that night.
Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times – John 13:38 NKJV
We all know what happened – Peter denied Jesus three times during His trial. The three statements of “I do not know Him” symbolize a complete denial, showing that even those closest to Jesus had abandoned Him entirely.
Peter, of course, ran away crying and disappointed with how he had failed Jesus.
Now we fast forward to after Jesus’ resurrection. He appeared to His disciples a few times, though He did not walk with them as He had before, and we never see Him interacting directly with Peter. Imagine how the one Jesus once called the rock upon whom He would build His church must have felt. But Jesus haden’t forgotten Peter…
But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” – Mark 16:6-7 NKJV (emphesis added)
Now, in John 21, we see how Peter and the others went fishing and caught nothing. Jesus, whom they did not recognize, replayed the scene where He initially called Peter by telling them to cast the nets on the other side, causing a catch so great that they could not haul it all in. Suddenly Peter recognized Jesus.
After this, we see that Jesus asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” To which Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” But what is exceptionally significant about this is that Jesus asks him three times, and Peter confesses his love for Jesus three times.
A statement of complete love to counter a complete denial, followed by a complete restoration of Peter’s calling, forming the birth and foundation of the church that would go on to spread the gospel and proclaim the Kingdom of the Living God to all the nations.
What Does 3 Mean In The Bible?
As we wrap up this article, lets clearly look at the Biblical, spiritual, and prophetic meaning behind 3 in the Bible.
Three can symbolize:
- God’s perfect design – (2 Cor. 12:2)
- Completion – (Hosea 6:2)
- Resurrection – (Matthew 12:40)
- Justified Repayment and Divine Purpose – (Gimmel in the Hebrew Alphabet)
- The Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
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The number three indicates that something is complete, though it does not mean it’s over. It’s usually an indication that something is whole, perfect, undeniable, and complete, but there’s more to come: a greater purpose. Wherever you see the number three in the Bible, try to see what God is emphasizing, and take courage in the fact that God’s perfect will is complete.
Melissa is a passionate minister, speaker and an ongoing learner of the Bible. She has been involved in church and vocational ministry for over 18 years. And is the founder of Think About Such Things. She has the heart to equip the saints by helping them get into the Word of God and fall more in love with Jesus. She also enjoys family, cooking, and reading.
She has spoken in churches in California, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico and has been featured in Guidepost Magazine and All Recipes Magazine. Read More…