YBD032 The Meaning of Numbers in the Torah, Part 20, Number 66, 60

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In the previous several articles we looked at the number 6. It is the number of man. In this article we will look at 66,60 followed by 600. Together with the 6 previous articles on the number 6, we will show that 6 has a bearing on 666. But 60, 66 and 600 do not generally contribute to 666. Surprisingly 66 only appears twice, and only, in the Torah.


The 1st time 66 is mentioned is when it relates to all the souls that came with Jacob to Egypt, "which came out of his Loins, beside Jacob 66 souls" (Bereshit 46:26). In Devarim 10:22 it states thy fathers went down into Egypt with 70 persons. Why the difference of 4. To the 66 souls mentioned in Bereshit we need to add, the 3 already in Egypt (Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim) and Jochebed who was born on route (Rashi). We shall in a later article show that 70 stands for completeness. Here we are emphasising that 66 "sons" of Jacob had to change from their worldly practices to become one complete family of 70, that is, Israel, a nation. Please note the Torah quote does note say that 12 came out of his loins, but 66. We Jews are all Abraham's seed and he is the father of us all. This is the great concept of continuity.

Related to this point is that there are no words for grandfather or grandson in the Torah. Therefore when the "souls that came ... out of his lions" are mentioned their numbers are given according to the mothers. Taking, Rachel, one of the 4 mothers of Jacob's children as an example: "These are the sons of Rachel which were born to Jacob; all the souls were 14" (Bereshit 46:22). We know that Rachel had two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Joseph had two sons and Benjamin had 10. This totals to 14, implying that counting was done in accordance to extended families. Your grandfather was also considered your father. This is an important concept of thinking at that time. Understanding this explains many verses in Bereshit related to generations and also in the Apostolic Writings (Matthew). This way of counting also applies to the other 3 mothers, Leah (32 sons, plus a daughter), Zilpah (16 sons) and Bilhah (7 sons) (Bereshit 46:15,19,25).

The 2nd time 66 is mentioned relates to the 80 days a mother is separated with her new born daughter. The 1st 14 days the mother and child are separated from the rest of the community as "unclean". After 14 days the girl is named and then they both continue in separation from the males for a further 66 days (Vayikra 12:5).

However a son is separated 7 and 33 days giving 40 (circumcised and named on the 8th day). Why the doubling of time between a boy (40 days) and girl (80 days) being separated from the main family. The only explanation I heard that makes sense is to do with the custom that still exists in some Bedouin families.

Death of an infant (within the 1st month of its life) was not uncommon until relatively recent medical and hygiene advances. In Bible times around half of the babies died in their first month of life. The Talmud treats family mourning differently for infants less than a month old.

Families, in those days, preferred having boys to girls. Too many daughters was a burden on the family, feeding them and perhaps later staying with the family many years until the future husband saved enough for a dowry. Also many sons died in work related accidents, wars or reprisals. This led to an imbalance between the number of boys and girls. Therefore it was not unusual, in the surrounding nations, for new born girls to be suffocated soon after birth by a family member. To prevent this custom being adopted by Israel, the mother with her baby daughter were separated from the rest of the family for 14 plus 66 days. This went some way to protect the life of an Israeli girl. Mothers naturally protect the life of their children.

Both the above two cases of 66 are not related to each other. Therefore the number 66 does not play a significant role as a number related to 6. Both of the cases related to 66 form a distinct part of a larger number 70 and 80. Both 66's relate to separation and acceptance. One relates to the separation from Canaan, to which they eventually return several hundred of years later. A girl is separated 66 days from her wider family for safety. I do not find a relationship that 66 may have a bearing on 666. Sixty-six does not appear to be a stepping stone to 666. Let us look at 60.

Threescore appears in the King James Version of the Tanakh 84 times and 60 twelve times giving 96 in total. The use of threescore for sixty was traditional when the translation was made over 400 years ago. There are many situations where it usage is misleading. An example is the age of Abraham of 175 years. The KJV it gives his age as one hundred and threescore and fifteen years. The Torah and the NKJ translation gives the age as one hundred and seventy and five. This inconsistency uses threescore for 60 as part of larger number. This is confusing and hides the meaning behind Abrahams emphasised age of 100 and 70 and 5 (see YbD016).

Another example is from Psalm 90:10 where a man's age is given as "threescore and ten". In the Tanakh and the NKJ the word used is seventy. The incorrect translation suggests 60 years of toil and 10 of retirement (i.e. from 6 days work and resting on Shabbat). This poetic representation was not the intension of the Tanakh. The KJV gives: "The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, (...)". The Tanakh "The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labour and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away" (Ps 90:10 NKJ). I gave the complete verse to emphasis the point.

If we take the Tanakh, which the NKJ reflects correctly, 60 appears 64 times. The difference between the 96 in the KJV and 64 in the NKJ of 32 is the usage of threescore as part of another larger number, where two examples were given above. We should be wary of all translations from the original because they are all interpretations. In addition translations are influenced by traditions, customs and language usage at the time they were produced. This is why I go to the original text and study the traditions and customs of that time.

Sixty, as used on its own, appears 25 times in the Tanakh. The 1st time 60 appears is in Bereshit, as the age of Isaac when he fathered twins, the hairy Esau and Jacob, who held the heel of his brother. First time usage is important in the Torah, it tends to define the word. Therefore 60 can relate to man.

The next time 60 is used is in the 2nd half of the 3rd book Vayikra (27:3,7) where a person gifts himself, or another, to the Temple. A person who wishes to gift himself, to help in the Temple, takes a vow to that end. However the Torah allows a money equivalent (given to the Temple treasury) to take his place. This is sometimes called the redemption value. There is a scale for the amount to be given. For men between the ages 20 to 60 the is value 50 shekels of silver. So what is the difference between a normal monetary gift to the Temple and this vow with a "redemption" value. The importance is the vow or dedication as a more serious commitment. In the normal market place each man is valued by his abilities and health. In the Temple, hence before G-d, all are equal the value is the same for all. No one is better and none worse.

The third time 60 is mentioned in the Torah relates to the dedication of the wilderness Mishkan or Temple. Here the first festival peace offering include 60 each of rams, male goats and lambs in their first year. This topic will be expanded when the number 10 will be discussed in a few articles time.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of 60 relates to the outside measurements of the 1st and 2nd Temple, both were 60 cubits long and 20 cubits wide (2Chron 3:3, Ezra 6:3). However we only know the height of the 2nd Temple of 60 cubits. This was the same height as the image of gold (60 cubits by 6 cubits) on the plain of Dura (Dan 3:1), to which the 3 friends of Daniel refused to bow. Are the heights coincidental or is there another significance?

In the next article (YbD033) we will look at 600 and summarise the number 6 mathematically, which will be a good introduction to 666.


יוסף בן דרגן     Yosef ben Dragan

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