YBD037 The Meaning of Numbers in the Torah, Part 25, Number 666 continued

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In the last 2 articles we looked at the number 666 starting with its mathematical aspects then followed by taking prophesy in the book of Revelation and relating it to the dark years of Solomon. Earlier we looked at the meaning of 6, the number of Man. We will now continue the study of 666 by looking at two common references in the Tanakh and in the next article a Gematria interpretation relating to the Apostolic Writings.

An often quoted source is “Bunsen” who states that the Hebrew letters of Balaam amount to 666. I have spent hours trying to find the facts behind this statement with no result. If anyone can help me here, I will be grateful.

The story starts before Balaam was involved, with Israel winning battles and placing the Ark in the main valley of Moab, that is, in the main worship groves of their god Baal Peor. This was the valley of the god of the region - Baal. Balak the king of Moab was utterly devastated that a people came with their own G-d and defeated his god and army. Invaders normally accepted the god of the country they occupied. Never before had someone brought their own. Therefore to win back his country, he needed to defeat the invading G-d as well as the invaders. Balak invited Balaam, a famous priest, to curse Israel. Not known to Balak, Balaam once served the One G-d. When Balaam is finally permitted by G-d to go to Baal Peor, he is instructed to say only what Adonai tells him to utter. Three times he tries to curse and three times he blesses. On “failing” in his mission of cursing Israel and hence their G-d, he tell Balak on how the Hebrews can be overcome – by being tempted by the idolatrous Moabite women during a festival (probably held on the 1st day of the week or Sunday).

Balaam believed in the One G-d, but he was hungry for wealth, hence his failed attempts to find a way not to displease Adonai and at the same time earn a rewarded. Balak took the advice of Balaam and successfully tempted the men of Israel with the idolatrous Moabite women. By quick action the leaders, who went after the Moab women, were slain and life returned to normal. There were no marriages with the Moabite women, no captives taken, no assimilation and idol worship had not taken root as to deny Adonai and His Shabbat. What appears to be similar to the later story of the dark days of Solomon, is in fact not. What defines sin includes doing something wrong habitually. Doing something wrong once can be defined as a mistake. Often mistakes can be rectified, sinful habits are another thing.

Another source for 666 is the name of the King of Babylon, Nebuchadrezzar (as in the Book of Daniel) or Nebuchadrezzur (as in the book of Jeremiah chapter 49:28–30). Nebuchadrezzar has a Gematria of 663 and Nebuchadrezzur, 669. The midpoint between the two variants is 666. Nebuchadrezzar was in many ways a just ruler, as long as you paid your taxes, were loyal and did not rebel, he left you alone to lead your own life. Being a vassal nation under Nebuchadrezzar allowed Judea to serve their One G-d and maintain their own Written and Oral Laws.

Jeremiah warned the people many times to follow the commands of G-d. Their rebellion against Adonai resulted in taking sides against Babylon. Three Judean kings, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah became vassals of Babylon and then rebelled. Their rebellions initially bought bands of marauders from the surrounding nations. Then the Babylonian armies came to Judea several times with captives being taken in ever increasing numbers. The last rebellion led the land to be laid waste and Solomon’s Temple destroyed. Rather than siding with the most powerful nation, Israel sided with Egypt. The Babylonian goal was to keep the Egyptians at bay or conquer Egypt. Therefore the armies of Babylon needed to march through Judea. Had Judea sided with Babylon, these armies would have passed through and left the Judeans alone. Siding with Babylon, the small country, with its One G-d and wise men, would have had a great influence in the empire.

When the educated Judean captives were taken to the court of Nebuchadrezzar he allowed them to keep their religion and lifestyle. Nebuchadrezzar hoped that Babylonian life would influence the captives to change and become Sunday keeping idol worshippers. That is, to change from worshipping on Shabbat to that of Sunday. Their wisdom, from G-d and keeping His commandments, changed Nebuchadrezzar and influenced the Medo-Persian Cyrus. At the end of their captivity the Judeans could return home, rebuild their Temple and re-establish the Written and Oral Law.

In both the two above traditional Tanakh examples of 666, I do not see the likeness in the past of “that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (Rev 13:15). Attempts were made to introduce idol worship and hence Sunday observance, but they failed in both cases. Both Balak and Nebuchadrezzar did not require their subjects to worship them, the image of the beast does. Israel crossed the Jordan under Joshua and prospered. From Babylon Jews returned under Ezra and Nehemiah to Israel. Balaam, Balak, Solomon and Nebuchadrezzar do not fit the likeness or description of the future image of the beast.

Balaam and Nebuchadrezzar had different goals, but they agreed on one thing. That was, that victory would be gained by assimilation. The first step was to separate and then physical or mental (knowledge) attraction. A further step, down the road would be to introduce worship on the first day of the week (Sunday) and later still to drop Shabbat. The same sequence is used today. There is no extreme force used to achieve the goal to give up Shabbat. However we have a recorded event in history that tried to force, under the pain of death, the Jews and early Christians to deny that they kept Shabbat and to admit they worshiped gods. We will look at this aspect in the next article (YbD039) as we study the Emperor Nero.


יוסף בן דרגן     Yosef ben Dragan


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