The number 5 is mentioned 345 times in the Bible. The fact that this number has been mentioned so many times is testament enough that it is a significant number. For instance, the 10 commandments were written on two tablets with each tablet carrying 5. Additionally, the books of the law are 5 in number which corresponds to the first 5 books of the New Testament before the epistles that follow.
So, what does 5 mean in the Bible?
5 is a number of grace. It represents God’s mercy and unmerited favor that is revealed to mankind. God uses this number to paint the picture of grace throughout the Bible. For instance, lots of fives were used in the construction of the Tabernacle to represent God’s mercy that was revealed when God dwelt among his people.
Let us look at some examples of how 5 represents grace in the Bible:
Law and Grace
There are two overarching themes in the Bible that divide into two testaments – Law and grace. The Old Testament is based on the Law while the New Testament is based on grace. As Apostle John observed, the law was given through Moses while grace (and truth) came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). The law of Moses can be viewed as a preparatory gospel that was given to pave the way to the covenant of Grace.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4
The frst 5 books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) are also referred to as the Pentateuch (Penta means 5). These books were written by Moses and they were given as a precursor for the coming grace and the fact that they are 5 in number symbolizes the grace that was to come through Jesus. Consequently, the first 5 books of the New Testament comprise the four gospels plus the book of Acts and they are referred to as the New Testament Pentateuch. These books lay the foundation of the ministry of Jesus who is, as John put it, the avenue of God’s grace.
Apostle John is often referred to as the Apostle of Grace. This is because he authored 5 books that are centered on God’s grace and eternal life. The 5 books of John are the gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation.
The Number 5 and God’s Tabernacle
When issuing instructions on the anointing Oil, God directed Moses to mix 5 ingredients. The 5 ingredients were 500 shekels of pure Myrrh, 250 shekels of sweet cinnamon, 250 shekels of sweet calamus, and 500 shekels of cassia (Exodus 30:23 – 25). The use of the 5 spices in the composition of the anointing oil signified the grace of God that was revealed in using the anointing oil. Apart from the composition being made of five spices the proportions of the ingredients are also in multiples of 5 (500 and 250) as a further illustration of grace.
Apart from the anointing oil, the tabernacle also used 5 extensively. For instance, the Terbanacle has 5 curtains, 5 bars, 5 pillars, and 5 sockets (Exodus 26:3, 26 – 27, 37). Additionally, the altar in the Tabernacle was made from wood that was 5 cubits long and 5 cubits wide (Exodus 27:1). Also, the height of the court was 5 cubits (Exodus 27:18).
The use of 5 in the Tabernacle is a symbol of God’s grace. The grace of God is demonstrated by the fact that God took Israel out of captivity (where they had been for 430 years) and took them into Canaan. By God’s grace, he helped them dispossess the heathen nations thereby allowing them to take possession of the promised land.
The tabernacle was a representation of God’s presence. It represented how divinity had met with humanity. It represented God’s blessing on his people. As long as the tabernacle was present, they knew they could win any battle. Even though they were living in the dispensation of the law, they still witnessed God’s grace in action.
When God was giving Moses the law, he wrote the 10 commandments on 2 tablets of stone – each tablet had a set of 5 commandments. This was a metaphor that however much they tried, Israel wouldn’t attain legalistic righteousness. As the new covenant would eventually demonstrate, true righteousness could only come by grace and through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Tabernacle was also a symbol of the coming Messiah. The Ark of the Covenant, which was housed in the Most Holy Place, was a symbol of Jesus Christ. The Ten Commandments, which were also housed in the Ark of the Covenant, were a symbol of God’s law. The lampstand, which was in the Holy Place, was a symbol of Jesus Christ as the light of the world. The table of showbread, which was also in the Holy Place, was a symbol of Jesus Christ as the bread of life.
The Grace of Giving
In 2 Corinthians 8:7, Paul talks about the grace of giving. The old covenant had already painted the picture of this grace of giving. This is because there were 5 main offerings that God had commanded Israel to bring to him. The 5 offerings are:
- Trespass offerings (Leviticus 5:14 – 19; 6:1 – 7; 7:1 – 6)
- Peace Offerings (Leviticus 3; 7:11- 34).
- Sin offerings (Leviticus 4; 16:3 – 22)
- Burnt Offerings (Leviticus 1; 8:18 – 21; 16:24)
- Grain Offerings (Leviticus 2)
The fact that there were 5 types of giving was a symbol to illustrate the grace of giving. The Bible calls it the grace of giving because the ultimate offering was demonstrated by God when he gave his son to die for mankind – and that was the highest demonstration of grace.
So there you have it – 5 is a symbol of grace in the Bible. Even though grace was revealed in the New Testament, it was still at play in the old. As such, the number 5 was still used in both the Old and New Testaments to denote grace. For instance, under the Mosaic law, Israelites were commanded to give 5 types of offerings which represented the grace of giving.