23 - Twenty Three - 23
By Andrew Harris 4 May 2000 ©
Twenty three repeatedly occurs where the scripture is talking about prosperity, abundance, plenty or wealth. The prosperity can be in a physical or financial sense, or in a spiritual sense. It might be representing the wealth and prosperity acquired through diligent work or it might be the prosperity of divine grace, a free gift. More specifically the number twenty three is often associated in scripture with life, prosperous life, abundant life, fruitful life.
The 23 verse of the Bible
The twenty third verse of Genesis 1, brings the fifth 'day' of creation to a close. This is the first day in which living creatures have been created, and the first day in which we see the command to be fruitful and multiply. The full text of the fifth 'day' is as follows:
20And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 21And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 22And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. 23And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
Here wee see God has created life to fill the sea and to multiply in the earth. In all this is a commandment for life to prosper, and indeed the more we learn about our amazing planet the more places we find life. Virtually every conceivable niech which could support life, does. Indeed many places that had been though too extreme for life, have since been found to be teeming with it. Life has indeed fulfilled Gods command to be fruitful and multiply. Here in this passage that closes in verse 23 we see life in abundance, teeming, thriving, prosperous life.
The 23rd Chapter
Chapter 23 of Genesis is particularly interesting in the light of Genesis 1:23. This chapter deals not with teeming thriving life, but rather death. The entire chapter is devoted to the death and burial arrangements for Abraham's wife, Sarah. In a natural sense there must always be death for their to be life. Herbivores and carnivores all live by eating other (once) living things. The older generation must pass away so that the resources are there to support a new generation of life. Death is like the other side of the coin of life. Also death can be seen as the total lack of prosperity of any kind. Thus death could be regarded as the opposite of abundant life. However in a spiritual sense, there does not have to be any death. We are promised that in the Kingdom of God we have abundant life and there shall be no more death. However with the former in mind there will be no surprise that 23 is also some times associated with death. In fact some have regarded the main interpretation of 23 to be death. However I am convinced that its primary interpretation should be prosperity.
The 23rd Psalm
The most famous of all the psalms is probably the best example of the significance of the number 23.
1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
The psalm starts out with prosperity. Those who look to the Lord, who welcome Him as their shepherd will never want for anything. Verse four is the only one to mention death and then only in the context that the person who God shepherds need not fear death.
Genesis 39 and 40
Both of these chapters contain exactly 23 verses. They are the first chapters in the Bible to do so. Genesis 39 is the story of Joseph's captivity in the land of Egypt. He rises in the service of Potiphar until the masters wife lies and has Him thrown in the dungeon. The last few verses then relate that he became the "ruler" of the dungeon, second only to the appointed keeper. Thus the final few verses deal with prosperity, albeit under otherwise adverse conditions.
21But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. 23The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.
Chapter 40 deals with the baker and the butler. Both of these were thrown in the dungeon, they each had a dream. They went to Joseph, who was given the interpretation to their dreams. Then Pharaoh summons them both from the dungeon, and according to Joseph's words the Baker is hanged and the butler restored. Thus the final verses speak of a restoration to prosperity for the butler but also of a fulfillment of the interpretation of the dreams, which God gave them. This fulfillment of the dreams is part of Gods plan to grant Pharaoh a dream, then have the butler tell Pharaoh that Joseph can interpret it. Which would lead to Joseph being made a ruler in the kingdom, second only to Pharaoh himself. Thus not only is the butler restored to prosperity but it is part of a larger plan to restore Joseph to prosperity greater than any which has gone before.
20And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. 21And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand: 22But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.