What Does The Number Ten (10) Mean or Represent in the Bible?

What Does The Number Ten (10) Mean or Represent in the Bible? October 4, 2014

Is there meaning to the number 10 in the Bible? If so, what does this number mean or represent?

The 10 Commandments

God gave us the 10 Commandments that were a reflection of His expectations of mankind and as a way to represent His holiness.  The first four are vertical (towards God) and the last six are horizontal (human relations).  Couldn’t there have been more than 10 Commandments?  Why not 15 or 20?  The fact is that the 10 Commandments, if kept, would be all that society would require to live in peace and harmony with both God and mankind.  The number 10 seems to reflect God’s authority or God’s governmental rule over the affairs of mankind.  This is seen elsewhere as in the 10 elders that were placed in most of the city gates of Israel (Ruth 4:2) so the number 10 also seems to represents man’s responsibility of obedience to God’s law.  Such a number seems to indicate the law, responsibility and a completeness of order in both divine and human structures of society.   Some scholars see 10 as the number of divine perfection.

The 10 Toes and Horns of Daniel and Revelation

As 10 represented God’s governmental rule, so does the number 10 represent the rule of mankind but also the Evil One behind man’s government as we see in the 10 toes of Daniel 2 and in Revelation chapter’s 13 and 17 of the beast with the 10 horns.   Throughout the Bible horns are representative of strength and great power.  In Revelation 2:10 Jesus tells the church as Smyrna, “Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison that you may be fully put to the test, and that you may have tribulation ten days.”   The beast has 10 toes and 10 diadems (Rev 13:1) and the beast’s 10 horns represented 10 kings (Rev 17:12).

The 10 of Genesis

The phrase “God said” appears 10 times in the creation week of Genesis 1.  I don’t believe in coincidences so the fact that “God said” is mentioned 10 times may be His way of saying that there is completeness in all of God’s creation and in all that God says.   I find it interesting that humans, who were created in the image of God (Gen 1:27), have 10 fingers and ten toes.

The 10 Plagues

When God punished Egypt for not letting Israel God, there were 10 plagues which are reflective of the completeness of God’s judgment.  These plagues were also related, by no accident, to the false God’s that the Egyptians worshiped so the fact is not lost that God used Egypt’s own false gods against them to prove that God is the One, True God and there is no other.  This was intended to prove to both Egypt and Israel who the real God was and that the other gods were, in actuality, no gods at all.

The Passover Lamb

The Passover lamb was to be sacrificed on the 10th day of the first month (Ex 12:3) which was symbolic of the true Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ which John the Baptist noticed when He saw Christ and said “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29b).  Since Jesus was the atonement provided for sinners, the Day of Atonement was on the 10th day of the 7th month.

Ten Generations

There were exactly 10 generations that lived up to the flood of Noah’s day when the flood of God’s judgment on sinful mankind overwhelmed all those who refused to repent.   Noah was the 10th patriarch and after this generation, God’s judgment fell on mankind because “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”  But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 6:5-8).  Abraham, the father of the faithful, was the 10th generation from Shem, the son of Noah (Gen 11:10-26).

Number 10 in the bible

The Tithe

The tithe which is 10% of what Israel gained was holy unto the Lord.  This tithe was compulsory and was said to belong to the Lord, therefore it was holy.  Today, we are not under the Old Covenant, but many still believe in tithing while some are not able to give that much but those who have been blessed are able to give more than a 10th.

  • Jesus’ Use of 10

  • Jesus loved to use the number 10 in many of His sayings, particularly His parable:

  • There were 10 virgins (Matt 25:1-13).

  • There were 10 lepers (Luke 17:11-19).

  • There were 10 talents (Matt 25:14-30).

  • There were 10 minas (Luke 19:12-27).

  • There were exactly 10 “I AM’s” spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of John.

Conclusion

I hope that this helps give us a better understanding about what the number 10 often represents in the Bible, however the most important thing that you should understand is that if you have never repented, confessed your sins, and put your trust in Christ, you will face worse than the 10 plagues of Egypt.  At least they ended but for those who have never been born of God, they will have the endless wrath of God abiding on them for all eternity (John 3:18, 36b) with all hope gone forever.  I pray that is not your case.  If you haven’t yet been saved, today is your day (2 Cor 6:2) because tomorrow may be too late (Rev 20:11-15).

Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon

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  • Brittany Routin

    you cant have something without nothing. The number 1 represents something in contrast to the number 0 but ultimately wouldn’t exist without it so 01 is how the number one should appear. The bible says that we are Mirrored in his image. Using this i then draw the conclusion that the number 10 is just a reflection of “the beginning”. and beginning is a word which contains 9 letters and represents the completion of a cycle. that is why this body wasn’t supposed to be focused on so much when looking for divine guidance. Which yes they are out there but The key lies in your intent which is fueled by your Ego and and can give way to our mindsets and we could in turn implement the force known as resistance. I could go on for hours and hours about this but i think ill just leave it at that. God bless sending this with love and light.

    • Wynand Marais

      I’d like to hear about what you have to say about the number 10. I’m currently doing a study on the biblical meaning of the number 10, I have found that the last 2 weeks i am getting “verse 10” of everything. So I thought it a good idea to try and see what God is saying between the lines.

  • Thank you for this article. It was very helpful. I hadn’t noticed how many times ten was used in Scripture! Another site linked “testimony” with the responsibility/testing aspects of ten — that when you meet the challenge presented by the ten, you gain a testimony. 🙂 I was initially searching for the importance of ten because the menorah of the tabernacle had 7 lights – interpreted in Rev. 1 as the testimony of the Spirit of God through the seven church ages (therefore the fullness of the church from Pentecost to Rapture), but the lamp stand of Solomon’s temple had ten. So I was curious as to the change. I’m thinking. . . that with the tabernacle representing our journey (in the ‘tabernacles’ of our physical bodies) with God in this age, seven is appropriate, whereas in the Millennium, it will be the challenge and responsibility of the whole earth to bear the light of God and His gospel. Still pondering. Thanks for the help!

    • I love the connection of challenge/testing/responsibility with the minas, the talents, the virgins (5 passed the test, 5 didn’t), the plagues, the commandments, the lepers (are we thankful?), our own fingers and toes (where we go, what we do), etc.!

      • Wynand Marais

        Here’s a Testimony. 2 years ago I posted a question on a reply about number 10. I just came back from church, we have a commitment to make for 10 months this year. I asked myself should I commit to this challenge. As I’m laying on my bed now, I received this notification of your reply, regarding the number 10. I got my answer I asked 2 years ago tonight. How amazing is that? *mindblown.

        • That’s terrific! A wonderful ‘testimony’! God is so good. My husband and I have been sitting here discussing all these ‘tens’ in the Word. It’s so enlightening! I have seen the testing/responsibility aspect of it for a long time, but not till today did I add the testimony aspect, and it’s just so cool. To see every ‘trial’ we go through as an opportunity to respond rightly to the Lord in it, overcome, and thus gain a new foothold spiritually and a testimony. 🙂

    • The book of Revelation nowhere says that the 7 churches are representative of church ages. They were 7 historical churches which existed in the first century. To take them to be 7 church ages is to read it into the book. This is eisegesis, not exegesis.

      • Dear John Arthur, I see three different ways to take the seven letters, and I believe they are all “legitimate.” They were messages to the seven local churches of that time, as you point out; they are messages with relevant truths to all Christians at all times; and they represent chronological prophetic/historic time periods in the totality of the church age — Pentecost to the end. My basis for saying the third, is this: Jesus Himself divides Revelation into three portions (ch. 1, v. 19): 1. The things which you have seen (that is, the vision John had just seen in ch. 1), 2. The things which are, and 3. The things which shall be hereafter. Ch. 4:1 begins the third portion, the ‘things which shall be hereafter.’ These things pertain to the close of the age. That means that ‘the things which are’ are found in chapters 2 & 3 and cover the whole church age, Pentecost to the end. If #2 doesn’t mean the whole church age, then ‘the things which are’ — the present age — ended when those local churches passed away. But a study of church history reveals an amazing parallel between each letter and progressive periods of time in the church. E.g., the letter to Ephesus is the Apostolic age, while the apostles were alive. Smyrna is the suffering church – the age of persecution under the Roman emperors, with 10 primary and identifiable periods of persecution. Pergamos (‘behold the marriage!’) refers to the age when Constantine joined the church to the Roman state, bringing the church into the very place where Satan dwells. Etc., etc. Very fascinating study. Blessings!

        • What you seem to be proposing is a futurist interpretation of the book of Revelation. I assume that you are an Evangelical Christian but there are several possible ways for Evangelicals to interpret this book: historicist, idealist, futurist and some even adopt a preterist position.

          Most church historians at leading Evangelical seminaries do not take the view that the 7 letters to the churches are representative of 7 periods of church history. Why is this? Could it be because there is insufficient evidence from church history to justify this position on a detailed basis, though some of the evidence may support it?