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The Gift of Numbers

by David G. Duggan ©
Special to Virtueonline
June 8, 2022

Numbers are important in Biblical time. The seven days of creation, the seven times a person should forgive his brother, and the seven churches of the Revelation. The two persons in the garden and the two of each animal packed into Noah's ark. The 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 disciples, the 40 days of the flood, the 40 years of wandering in the desert, the 40 lashes given Paul.

Fifty is an outlier. More commonly associated with dimensions of structures or numbers of ornaments, 50 was the Jubilee year when debts were to be forgiven. A man could expect to live to see one of those events when the slate was wiped clean.

Since the ancient Israelites didn't have a base-ten numbering system, it isn't clear that they viewed 50 as five-times-ten, or half-a-hundred. More likely, they viewed it as seven squared plus one. A square number was particularly important: the number magnified by itself.

God chose to have His Holy Spirit descend on the Apostles on the 50th day after the Resurrection. So, 50 has come to be known as the number of the Holy Spirit. But the feast bears a Greek name: Pentecost, and it is the only feast celebrated by both Christians and Jews. Jews celebrate the giving of the Torah on the 50th day after Passover, and it is the most important day in their history. In that 50-day span, Orthodox Jews neither shave nor have their hair cut, so the day is one of renewal.

In the cycle of life, a man could expect to see 50 renewals, when he is as if reborn. The birth of the Jews as God's people who received the Book of the Law becomes the birth of the Church as transmission belt of His Holy Spirit, not contained in the upper room, but spread out like the fire that descended on those witnesses to the Resurrection 2,000 years ago.

David Duggan is a retired attorney living in Chicago. He writes occasional devotionals for VOL

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