What is the meaning of the number 5 in the Bible?
Short answer – In the Bible, the number 5 symbolizes God’s grace, favor, and goodness towards humanity. It’s a recurring theme, appearing 318 times in Scripture, notably in the Ten Commandments‘ division and the tabernacle’s design. The 5-section division of Psalms further emphasizes this symbolism.
If you study your Bible quite deeply on your own and through different resources from others who have, it probably will not take you long to find out that there are many popular symbols in the Bible.
These are images, words, or even numbers that repeat throughout the biblical story that take on a meaning.
Yes, even some numbers in the Bible represent something specific or some concept that is important to truly understand the text.
One of these numbers is the number 5.
Within the biblical story, the number 5 takes on a special meaning by the way it is used in different contexts.
So, what does the number 5 mean in the Bible? Let’s find out.
What is the overall meaning of the number 5?
Although it wouldn’t seem like it, the number 5 appears 318 times in the Scriptures.
Therefore, it must mean something! Well, in the overall biblical context, the number 5 is a symbol of God’s grace, undeserved favor, and goodness towards humanity.
It shows how God is kind towards His people and is intentional about His relationships with us.
While there are many different times that the number 5 is used in the Bible, let’s go through some of the major ones so that we can narrow down how it is used overall and what it should mean to us in terms of God’s grace.
The Ten (5+5) Commandments
When you think of the ten commandments, you probably don’t think of the number 5. Obviously, you think of the number 10! However, 10 can be split into two sets of 5.
This may seem like we’re stretching to find a number 5 here but hear us out.
When God gives Moses the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, He is giving His people a set of rules that will help them to live a flourishing life.
He desires His people to thrive and to be holy as He is holy.
In fact, you could very much say that the Ten Commandments are a show of God’s grace towards His people.
Although many would say that God’s rules are restrictive and not favorable, they are meant to set us free in love.
God gave us rules and commands to protect us and grow us, not to make us unhappy.
This is why His giving of the Ten Commandments is a show of His grace and love towards His people.
He is telling them how to live in a way that will cause them to grow as a society and as a nation.
Now, where does the number 5 come in?
Did you know that the Ten Commandments can be split into two clear sets of 5?
The first five commandments, don’t have any other gods before the Lord, do not make any idols, do not take the Lord’s name in vain, remember the Sabbath, and honor your father and mother, are all commands that have to do with your relationship with God and His authority/appointed authority (your parents).
The last five commandments of do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness against your neighbor, and do not covet are all commands that have to do with your relationships with other people.
Think about it – didn’t Jesus say that all the law could be wrapped up in loving God and loving people?
That’s an interesting one to think about. Again, notice the two sets of five, all wrapped up in a show of God’s grace and love toward His people.
The presence of YAHWEH
Still along the lines of God’s grace, possibly one of the biggest shows of God’s grace and love towards His people was when He decided that He would live among them in the tabernacle and, later, the temple.
His very presence dwelled among the people as a show of His grace and kindness toward them.
However, in order to keep them holy, they had to make sacrifices and offerings to atone for their sins.
You guessed it, there were 5 primary types of offerings that they were commanded to give to God so that He would pour out His grace upon them for their sins.
Along with that, the tabernacle’s furniture was commanded to be anointed with holy oil, which was made of 5 parts, all of which had proportions that were multiples of 5.
The tabernacle also contained 5 curtains, 5 bars, 5 pillars, and 5 sockets, as well as an altar made of wood that was 5 cubits long and 5 cubits wide.
Again, this is a show of God’s grace as He dwelt among His people.
Possibly one of the most interesting uses of the number 5 in the Bible is found when you look at the way the book of Psalms is structured.
The book of Psalms is split up into 5 major sections.
These sections tell the story of God’s people all the way from the beginning of Israel up to the salvation that was to come through Christ.
Even though Christ hadn’t even been born yet, the structure of the Psalms themselves tells the salvation story through 5 major sections, culminating in picturing a time when the nation of Israel will be redeemed and restored by God’s grace and love for His people.
How amazing is that?
Even the structure itself shows God’s love and care.
God’s unmerited favor
The number 5 denotes God’s unmerited favor.
The Bible uses the number 5 in several instances in the bible to describe this.
A good illustration is the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.
The Old Testament (also loosely referred to as the Law) was represented by the Mosaic covenant.
As we have already mentioned, the Ten Commandments were written on two tablets of stone, with each carrying 5 commandments.
This was the first hint of god’s grace that was revealed in the law. As soon as Moses descended from the mountain with the commandments in his hands, he found the children of Israel already violating it.
He was so furious that he threw the tablets down, and they shattered into pieces. God demonstrated his grace by giving Israel a second chance and giving them a second set of the tablets.
Later on, God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah that a time would come when he would write the law not on their minds and hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). Apostle Paul confirmed this prophecy when he said,
“You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Cor. 3:3
Interestingly, the heart is also divided into two chambers- the right and left chambers.
It’s almost like the tablets of Moses were a precursor of the new covenant.
The new covenant was introduced by Jesus, and as John records, while the law came through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:14).
The law of Moses was a preparation for the grace and truth that would be brought through Jesus. And there are lots of illustrations of these from the Old Testament.
For starters, Moses wrote the first books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) as a testament to the coming grace of God.
It is no wonder that the first five books of the New Testament are a demonstration of this grace of God in action.
Apostle John, who is sometimes referred to as the disciple of love, is more appropriately referred to as the apostle of grace.
This is because he wrote 5 of the books of the New Testament (The gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation), and the central theme in these books is the grace of God.
Occurrence of the number 5 in the Tabernacle
The tabernacle of Moses was a symbol of God’s grace.
It was a place where Israel would expect to encounter God’s presence.
As such, the number 5 featured greatly in the design.
For instance, the anointing oil that was to be used in the tabernacle was made out of 5 ingredients – 500 shekels of pure Myrrh, 250 shekels of sweet cinnamon, 250 shekels of sweet calamus, and 500 shekels of cassia (Exodus 30:23 – 25).
Notably, it was not just made from five ingredients, but the composition of those five ingredients was also to be multiples of five (either 250 or 500).
The repetition of the number 5 in the making of the anointing oil symbolized the grace of God that was revealed in the oil.
This oil was to be used for consecration and healing.
Whenever anyone was anointed with the oil, it was a reminder that it was God’s unmerited favor in action.
Other uses of the number 5 in the Tabernacle included 5 curtains, 5 pillars, 5 sockets, and 5 bars that were needed in the structure (Exodus 26:3, 26 – 27, 37).
In addition, the wood that was used in the Tabernacle was 5 cubits long and 5 cubits wide, and the height of the court was to be 5 cubits high (Exodus 27:1,18).
The significance of the number 5 within the Tabernacle serves as a stark reminder of God’s unmerited favor.
We see this grace at work in the liberation of Israel from a 430-year captivity, leading them into Canaan.
Through God’s grace, they not only overcame heathen nations but also inherited the promised land.
Throughout Israel’s history, the tabernacle was a symbol of God’s presence among them.
It was the place where the holy God would meet with unholy man. And since the Bible says that God is light and in him is no darkness, it is only by his grace that he would live among such sinful people.
So, even though it was still the dispensation of the law, the grace of God was at full display in the tabernacle.
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So then, the number 5 in the Bible clearly represents God’s grace and favor being poured out upon His people.
Hopefully, this inspires you as to how delicately and intricately the Bible was written and put together.
Every little part tells a grander story of redemption and love, even down to the very numbers that God used. As you read your Bible, never take the details for granted.
Take the time to look deeper because if you don’t, you may be missing out on something spectacular.
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Bulgarea Anca is a devout Christian and the founder of Bible Wings, a comprehensive resource for Christians seeking to deepen their faith and understanding of the Bible. Raised within the Christian faith, Bulgarea Anca’s spirituality was nourished by her grandparents, who were cantors in their local church. Her Christian upbringing was further solidified by her education at a Christian school. Today, she uses her in-depth knowledge of the scripture to provide insightful and meaningful content through Bible Wings.