F o u r

4 - Four - 4

By Andrew Harris 2 March 1999 ©

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We have seen that three represents divine perfection, with special reference to the triune Godhead. The father, one in sovereignty, the Son the second person who was made incarnate and the Spirit the third person of the Godhead. Four is three plus one, and it denotes therefore that which follows the revelation of the three in one God, namely His creative works. God is known by the things which he created.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Romans 1:20

The Bible is the written account of God revealing Himself to mankind. Hence the Bible starts with the words:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Genesis 1:1

Creation is the next thing after the Godhead, and the number four always refers to all that is created. Four is the number of all things that have a beginning, all things that are made, of material things and of matter itself. For examples of this we have the four cardinal directions, north, south, east and west. Four seasons of the year, spring, summer, autumn and winter. Four dimensions contain all we can experience; length, width, height and time. Note here that the fourth dimension, time, is separated from the rest in that we only have a limited movement through time compared to the other dimensions. So four is clearly shown to be the number of the natural creation and composed of three plus one.

The Fourth Verse of the Bible

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Genesis 1:4

This is the first time God looked at what He did and deemed it Good. In other words in verse four God first approves of the creation. It may also be noted that since 4 is also 2 x 2 or 2 + 2 we also have the theme of division represented here in verse four. I dividing the light from the darkness God establishes cycles, and ever changing sameness that is one of the great themes of the natural world. Thus not only does God approve of the creation for the first time in verse four, but we also have the first mention of the cycles that form the dynamic nature of the creation.

The Fourth Chapter

In chapter one of Genesis we see that the Lord commanded the creatures to multiply and bring forth abundantly. In chapter four we see that Adam and Eve had their first children.

1And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. 2And she again bare his brother Abel...

Genesis 4:1-2

Thus the pattern of natural (as opposed to spiritual) life is established. Further we see Cain and Abel offering the fruit of the ground and the increase of the flocks to the Lord.

2...And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.

Genesis 4:2-3

Then Cain slays Abel out of jealousy, God exiles him, and then his descendants are listed to the sixth (the number of man) generation. Finally we have Adam and Eve's third son Seth, then his son Enos. Thus chapter four makes a rather pointed comment on human nature, and establishes patterns for the nations and ages to follow. Chapter four deals extensively with the creation, and how we fared after being cut off from fellowship with God.

The Fourth Toldoth Division

The fourth division begins with:

9These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. 10And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.

Genesis 6:9-12

Thus we see that God looked upon the earth and saw how mankind had corrupted themselves. This division contains: Noah contrasted against the evil of the world, the ark, the flood, after the flood, the three sons of Noah. Unlike Adam, Noah obeyed the voice of the Lord.

5And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him. 6And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth.

Genesis 7:5-6

The Hebrew word translated as world, means literally, the earth or the ground. There is considerable debate in Christian circles about whether the flood covered the whole globe or just the local area. Whatever the case it was certainly a judgment against the earth. With this in mind it is interesting to note that this division starts in verse nine (the number of judgment) of chapter six, and it finishes at the end of chapter nine.

The Fourth Book

The fourth book of the bible is the book of Numbers. The name of this book in the Hebrew is Bemidbar which means "the wilderness". Thus the title of the fourth book speaks of the Creation. The subject matter of the book deals with the years the people spent in the wilderness before coming into the promised land. It tells us of many of the rebellions and disobedience of the children of israel and Gods punishments. It thus is a book that primarily talks about the frailties of the creation in being able to obey God. But its central story is also a type for the change that receiving the Holy Spirit makes in a persons life. Early in the book we have the 12 spies sent into the promised land. The people hear but fear to enter in. God judges them and they all die in the wilderness, The next generation grows up and they are eager to accept the promises of God and enter the promised land. Thus we see a contrast between the early generation of unbelievers, replaced by those ready to believe.

The Four Rivers

We read in Genesis that the river that flowed out of the garden of Eden divided into four rivers.

10And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. 11The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. 13And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. 14And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

Genesis 2:10-14

It would appear this passage is highly symbolic, perhaps meant to show that Eden was a type or a symbol of the whole creation. I say this because one of the rivers can be identified as probably the Nile and another as probably the Euphrates. Two of the four rivers that cannot share the same littoral source. Thus the four rivers encompassed the whole known world of the Hebrews at the time of Moses. This would be a powerful symbol to link the garden of Eden with the whole world.

It is also interesting to look at the names of the four rivers and their original Hebrew meanings.

@wvyP (pee-shone’ - KJV Pison) - this word means "increase". However the word is derived from a more fundamental root word which means "to spring about, to frisk, to be scattered, be spread, or figuratively to act proudly". Thus we get an image of a river that spreads into a wide river or delta. It is from this idea of spreading, comes the figurative meaning. From spreading we get broad minded, cosmopolitan or sophisticated, and from thence, pride. Thus figuratively this river could mean pride, while littorally we get a picture of a broad delta or river plain.

@wjyGI (ghee-khone’ - KJV Gihon) - means "bursting forth" and comes from a word meaning to burst forth, draw forth or break forth. We get an idea of a river that flooded its banks, perhaps often and perhaps violently. The word that is translated in the king James Bible as Ethiopia is Cush. Cush was a grand son of Noah and his name means black, so it would seem likely that he was dark skinned. His descendants lived in Africa and the lands they lives in are referred to a Cush. Thus it is possible that this river is the Nile.

lqDji (khid-deh’-kel - KJV Hiddekel) - this is probably a foreign word that has been adopted into Hebrew, but it is known to mean "rapid, quick or sudden". Thus we have an image of a fast flowing river. This river is usually reckoned to be the Tigris river.

tr;P] - (per-awth - KJV translates this as the Euphrates) - meaning "Fruitfulness", we get a picture of a river that brings increase, or prosperity or possibly a river that floods periodically, either with the spring run off from the mountains or the winter rains. This flooding most likely would bring fertile silt down the river and provide a rich soil for crops within its flood plains. However this word is derived from a word meaning to break forth (not the same word as mentioned for the Gihon) or break out, but often with destructive consequences or results. Thus figuratively the Hebrew name for this river could be destruction.

Name Literal Meaningcp.gif Figurative Meaning





bursting forth

brings forth







If we read the third column down we get a rather interesting message from the names of these rivers. Perhaps this is the real symbolic meaning of the garden of Eden and perhaps the sum total of the message from the creation itself. However you will notice that to arrive at this message we have to take certain readings rather than others, the sceptic will argue that this is too contrived, but I find it an interesting "coincidence" that this can be found at all, considering the Hebrew language it was originally written in around 3000 years ago has been lost and recovered, and many word meanings can shift in such a long time. English did not exist so long ago.

Where to go from here

The symbolism of the number five.

Symbolic meanings of the numbers.

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