I seem to drive orthodox Christians up a wall every time I offer evidence that the biblical narratives contain higher meanings. This seems to threaten a faith system built on the rigid belief that the inerrancy of Scripture lies in the historical accuracy of its literal sense.
So I am quite empathetic and patient when the evidence I present on this blog that God’s Holy Word can be metaphorically interpreted, is usually denied by many readers with vehemence.
So I will continue to offer new evidence. For instance, there is a passage in the Old Testament that suggests God’s own words cannot represent literal truth unless He is bad at math – really bad.
Theologian Emanuel Swedenborg pointed out in his great work Arcana Coelestia (Secrets of Heaven) that Jehovah made a big mathematical error in Genesis 15:13. It reads:
Jehovah said unto Abram, Knowing thou shalt know that thy seed shall be a sojourner in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years.
Of course, this biblical passage concerns Abram’s progeny and their unfortunate bondage in Egypt. However, when Swedenborg does the math he concludes God’s estimation of the duration of the stay of the sons of Israel (from Jacob to Moses) in Egypt is way off – almost by a factor of two.
Swedenborg, working directly with the historical account given by Scripture, follows the generations from Jacob to Moses – from Jacob came Levi; from Levi, Kohath; from Kohath, Amram; and from Amram, Aaron and Moses (Exodus 6:16-20). He points out that Scripture further states that Levi and his son Kohath came with Jacob into Egypt (Genesis 46:11) and that Moses represented the second generation after this. Since Moses was eighty years old at the time of his confrontation with Pharaoh (Exodus 7:7) it becomes evident that the from Jacob’s arrival to Egypt and the final departure of his sons took about two hundred and fifteen years – not four hundred!
The only way the number “four hundred” could represent Scriptural inerrancy is if it were used symbolically to represent a deeper, spiritual meaning. This deeper meaning has personal relevance to our daily lives in today’s world. In the symbolic language of Scripture “four hundred” is used to represent the spiritual price we must spend to free ourselves from the bondage of our inner compulsions and inclinations towards hurtful manifestations. Concealed deep within the literal story of Exodus is our own story!
Any biblical term using the number “four” symbolizes the duration of a state of personal challenge to our spiritual integrity. The Lord suffered such a state of conflict on the cross (which represents four directions – all in opposition – signifying the battle between the opposing forces of good and evil).
Only an Infinitely Wise Creator could fashion such profound depth within the ordinary words of human language. So God is very good at math – sacred math.