In the visions of Emanuel Swedenborg the internal spiritual meaning of scripture was revealed to him, which he explained in multiple volumes. As part of these experiences it was shown to him the spiritual meaning behind each number. The symbolism of numbers was also explained in a book Numbers in Scripture by Bullinger, written in the 19th century. While sometimes Bullinger gets the meaning correct, in many cases he was incorrect. Swedenborg had visions over a period of 27 years, so his explanations tend to be more reliable and consistent. Number meanings are explained throughout his writings, which he always supports which examples of scripture, so I thought I would gather some of his statements in one blog entry to explain the symbolism of the most common numbers.
Speech or thought from angels of a higher order would often descend, and be represented in a series of numbers. Swedenborg acknowledged that without Divine revelation, it is hard to see the symbolism behind numbers. He stated that the symbolism of numbers "are displayed by the Lord in a clear light before the eyes of the angels, but before the eyes of men, especially of someone who does not believe that numbers in the Word have any meaning at all hidden within them, they cannot be disclosed, not only because of lack of belief but also because so many things contained in those numbers cannot be arranged into a sequence of ideas within man's mental grasp." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3306) The meaning of numbers were known to the ancients from a heavenly perception they had, but this knowledge was lost, and only the meaning of simple numbers were preserved. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6175)
In the spiritual meaning behind scripture, words are related to two basic concepts: the thought or the will, or in other words, truth and good. Even numbers and their multiples correspond to good, while odd numbers and their multiples correspond to truth (Spiritual Diary, n. 5571, Heavenly Arcana, n. 10624). However the meaning of a number, especially for higher numbers, is not easy. The meanings of composite numbers, are derived from the simple numbers from which they were composed (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5291, Apocalypse Explained, n. 430.2, 532.6). Thus a hundred or a thousand has a similar meaning to the number 10. The meaning of large prime numbers can be derived by adding two smaller numbers together. Depending on context, a number can take on the opposite meaning. Another concept is that the meaning of numbers can be determined or slightly altered by a number that precedes it, as the preceding number determines the context (Heaven and Hell, n. 263).
ONE (1) symbolizes the One God, and the truth that God is one. As one is the first, it refers to the first stage of spiritual development, which is receiving and acknowledging the truth. Thus on the first day of creation, there was light (truth).
TWO (2) symbolizes union, and thus represents what is good. Two is also the symbol of marriage between good and truth (Heavenly Arcana, n. 720). In the opposite sense, it can signify spiritual combat.
THREE (3) symbolizes what is full and complete, from beginning to end. (Apocalypse Explained, n. 532) Everything, from start to finish, has a beginning, middle, and an end, thus three signifies a full period. Three also signifies that which is holy.
FOUR (4) is similar to two, and signifies what is good and conjunction (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9103, 9767). When talking of the four quarters, it can signify all of heaven.
FIVE (5) symbolizes few or little, or that which remains. It can also signify the remnant Church, where truth resides among a few where truth has been falsified among many. This meaning is derived from 10, 100 or a 1000 which signifies many. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5291.2) The meaning of this number is not well known as it is related to a hidden secret concerning our spiritual development that was revealed to Swedenborg: "remains" are hidden truths and good stored in the inner being of our soul, which later become manifest when one is spiritually reformed later: they come into use to combat sin and temptation.
SIX (6) symbolizes spiritual combat (Heavenly Arcana, n. 730, 1963) - similar to one sense for the number 2 (Heavenly Arcana, n. 720)
SEVEN (7) is a symbol of that which is holy, and similar to the number 3 signifies that which is complete. Thus the number 7 appears often in the rituals among the Hebrews. Most people can see the meaning of this number from reading the Bible.
EIGHT (8) is similar to 2 and 4, and signifies good in every way. As it follows 7, it signifies a new beginning (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9659).
NINE (9) signifies spiritual conjunction by means of truth (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2075).
TEN (10) as a multiple of 5 symbolizes remains, the remnants of good and truth hidden with us (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1963).
TWELVE (12) symbolizes all things and all people, and is predicated of truths from good as it is 3 x 4 (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5291.2, Apocalypse Explained, n. 430). That it signifies "all people," or all those of the Lord's heavenly kingdom, can be seen from the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 disciples, and the 144,000 who are sealed in the book of Revelation. Swedenborg stated that "each tribe signifies some universal or essential of the church, in which those are who are of the church. Moreover, the universal of each has relation to truths from good, and truths are manifold; for all who are in the heavens differ from each other in respect to good, and thence also in respect to truth." Although not stated by Swedenborg, this may apply to 12 basic personalities defined by the 12 signs of the zodiac.
SEVENTEEN (17) symbolizes a beginning, or that which is new. 17 is 10 + 7, and 10 signifies remains (similar to the number 5), and 7 that which is holy. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4670)
FORTY (40) symbolizes a period of temptation, which can be derived from the fact that in the flood of Noah it rained 40 days and nights, Jesus was tempted for 40 days, and the Israelis wandered 40 years in the wilderness (Heavenly Arcana, n. 730).
FORTY-TWO (42) symbolizes the duration of combat against temptation, as it is 6 x 7 - six a symbol of combat and seven a new beginning (Heavenly Arcana, n. 730).
EIGHTY (80) - as a multiple of 40, this number symbolizes temptations (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1963, 4617)
That's all I have for now - there are actually quite a few more entries on numbers, which is a bit hard to summarize as in many cases the meaning of the number is determined by context. There is an earlier blog that I devoted to the number 13. Hopefully people can see that Swedenborg's explanation of the Bible is quite detailed, and often extends into other subjects. Its almost like studying another language, but in this case more universal and spiritual. Its a bit harder than programming, where all one needs to know is that 0 is false and 1 is true - if only understanding the heavenly symbolism was that simple.
WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION?
I covered the symbolism of the most simple numbers. The meaning of a number can actually change according to the context - of what precedes, and what comes after. Swedenborg was once shown a vision where the ancients could communicate purely by a series of numbers - higher numbers being even more detailed than the simple ones. Much of the symbolism seen in Swedenborg's visions comes from his massive work, Heavenly Arcana (20 volumes in one) - meaning "Heavenly Secrets" - available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble:
Another useful work is Apocalypse Revealed and Explained (9 volumes in one):
Both of these are also part of the hyperlinked works of Emanuel Swedenborg, The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem: Expanded Edition:
There is much information here - it would take a lifetime to absorb it all. Numerology was just one topic covered by Swedenborg, it was just one part of the spiritual symbolism he had uncovered during the 27 years he had waking heavenly visions.