Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance
by E.W. Bullinger
Back | Contents | Next
ITS SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE
We now come to the spiritual significance of the number Two. We have seen that One excludes all difference, and denotes that which is sovereign. But Two affirms that there is a differencethere is another; while One affirms that there is not another!
This difference may be for good or for evil. A thing may differ from evil, and be good; or it may differ from good, and be evil. Hence, the number Two takes a two-fold colouring, according to the context.
It is the first number by which we can divide another, and therefore in all its uses we may trace this fundamental idea of division or difference.
The two may be, though different in character, yet one as to testimony and friendship. The Second that comes in may be for help and deliverance. But, alas! where man is concerned, this number testifies of his fall, for it more often denotes that difference which implies opposition, enmity, and oppression.*
When the earth lay in the chaos which had overwhelmed it (Gen 1:2), its condition was universal ruin and darkness. The second thing recorded in connection with the Creation was the introduction of a second thingLight; and immediately there was difference and division, for God DIVIDED the light from the darkness.
* Like many other words; e.g., the verb "prevent" meant originally for one to get before another. But because whenever one man got before another it was always to the hindrance and hurt of that other, the word gradually took on the meaning to hinder, and thus testifies of man's fall. So with the word simple: it meant originally sincere, open, honest. But in man's judgment, any one who so acts is a fool. Hence, man soon came to use the word simple as denoting a very foolish person! So in the French with the word chef, which means "chief." But as man makes "a god of his belly" he who can best gratify its lusts has a unique claim to this word.
So the second day had division for its great characteristic (Gen 1:6). "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it DIVIDE the waters from the waters." Here we have Division connected with the second day.
This great spiritual significance is maintained throughout the Word of God. Of course we cannot recognise any human arrangements or divisions of books, chapters, or verses, etc. We can take only that division, order, and arrangement which is Divine.
The second of any number of things always bears upon it the stamp of difference, and generally of enmity.
Take the second statement in the Bible. The first is
Here the first speaks of perfection and of order. The second of ruin and desolation, which came to pass at some time, and in some way, and for some reason which are not revealed.
Gen 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
The second is, "And the earth was [or rather became] without form and void."
Then we have seen that the Book of Genesis is Divinely divided into twelve parts (consisting of an Introduction and eleven Tol'doth). The first of these twelve divisions records the perfection of God's sovereign work. The second (Gen 2:4-4:26) contains the account of the Fall; the entrance of a second beingthe Enemythat old Serpent the Devil, introducing discord, and sin, and death. "Enmity" is seen first in this second division. "I will put enmity" (Gen 3:15). We see a second to God in the Serpent; a second creature in the woman, who was deceived and "in the transgression"; a second man, in the Seed of the woman, the subject of the great primeval promise and prophecy. Hence the number two becomes associated with Incarnation, with the second Person of the ever-blessed Trinity, "the second Man," "the last Adam."
The second "Tol'doth" (Gen 5:1-6:8) begins with the words, "The book of the generations of Adam." While of "the second Man" it is written (Matt 1:1) "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ."
If we look at the Pentateuch as a whole, we see, in the First book, Divine sovereignty, but the Second book (Exodus) opens with "the oppression of the enemy." Here, again, there is "another," even the Deliverer and the Redeemer, who says, "I am come down to deliver" (Exo 3:8). To Him the praise is offered in the Song of Moses: "Thou in Thy mercy hast led forth the people which Thou hast redeemed" (Exo 15:13). And thus Redemption is introduced into the Bible, and mentioned for the first time in this second book, and in connection with the enemy (just as was the first promise of the Redeemer in Gen 3:15).
The second of the three great divisions of the Old Testament, called Nebiim, or the Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel) contains the record of Israel's enmity to God, and of God's controversy with Israel. In the first book (Joshua) we have God's sovereignty in giving the conquest of the land; while in the second (Judges) we see the rebellion and enmity in the land, leading to departure from God and the oppression of the enemy. Here, again, we have side by side with the enemy the "saviours" whom God raised up to deliver His people.
In the third great division of the Old Testament, called "the Psalms," because it commences with the Book of Psalms, we have in the Hebrew Canon, as the second Book, the Book of Job. Here, again, we see the enemy in all his power and malignity opposing and oppressing a child of God; and we are taken within the veil to behold the living God as the shield of His people, a very present help in the needful time of trouble.
Besides Genesis, the Book of Psalms is the only book which is marked by any similar Divine divisions.
It consists of Five Books:
The Second Book of the Psalms commences (as does Exodus) with "the oppression of the enemy" (Psa 42:9). This is the burden of the whole of this Psalm, and indeed of the whole of this second Book!
The first - Psalms 1-41
The second - Psalms 42-72
The third - Psalms 73-89
The fourth - Psalms 90-106
The fifth - Psalms 107-150
Not only is this true of this Second Book, but it is true also of the second Psalm of each of the other books! e.g.:
But here, again, we have the Deliverer, in verse 6.
The second Psalm of First Book (Psa 2):
"Why do the heathen rage,
And [why] do the people imagine a vain thing?
[Why do] the kings of the earth set themselves,
And [why do] the rulers take counsel together
Against the LORD and against His anointed?"
The Second Psalm of the Second Book (Psa 43) opens with "the oppression of the enemy," repeated in v. 2, together with the prophecy of praise for the promised Deliverer.
"Yet have I set My King."
The second Psalm of the Fourth Book (Psa 91) would have to be quoted as a whole. It describes how the enemy shall be finally trodden down by the coming Deliverer.
The second Psalm of the Third Book (Psa 74):
"Lift up Thy feet unto the perpetual desolations:
Even all that the ENEMY hath done wickedly in the sanctuary,
Thine ENEMIES roar in the midst of Thy congregations...
O God, how long shall the ADVERSARY reproach?
Shall the ENEMY blaspheme Thy name for ever?...
Remember this, that the ENEMY hath reproached, O LORD...
O let not the oppressed return ashamed...
Arise, O God, plead Thine own cause...
Forget not the voice of Thine ENEMIES."
The same significance of the number Two is seen in the New Testament. Wherever there are two Epistles, the second has some special reference to the enemy.
The second Psalm of the Fifth Book (Psa 108):
"That Thy beloved may be delivered:
Save with Thy right hand, and answer me...
Give us help from trouble,
For vain is the help of man.
Through God we shall do valiantly:
For He it is that shall tread down our ENEMIES."
In 2 Corinthians there is a marked emphasis on the power of the enemy, and the working of Satan (2:11, 11:14, 12:7.
In 2 Thessalonians we have a special account of the working of Satan in the revelation of "the man of sin" and "the lawless one."
In 2 Timothy we see the church in its ruin, as in the first epistle we see it in its rule
In 2 Peter we have the coming apostacy foretold and described. While
In 2 John we have the "antichrist" mentioned by this name, and are forbidden to receive into our house any who come with his doctrine.*
It is impossible even to name the vast number of things which are introduced to us in pairs, so that the one may teach concerning the other by way of contrast or difference.
* Brand (Pop. Ant. iii. 145) quotes Numerus Infaustus, in the preface to which the author says, "Such of the kings of England as were the second of any name proved very unfortunate persons, William II, Henry II, Edward II, Richard II, Charles II, James II."
The two foundations of Matthew 7:24-27: the one which "fell not, for it was founded upon a rock"; the other which "fell, and great was the fall of it." The two goats (Lev 16:7); the two birds (Lev 14:4-7); the two opinions (1 Kings 18:21); the two masters (Matt 6:24); the two commandments (Matt 22:40); the two debtors (Luke 7:41); the two covenants (Gal 4:24); the two men (Luke 18:10); the two sons (Matt 21:28, and Luke 15:11, and Gal 4:22), etc., etc.
The second of the seven life-types of Genesis has the same character.
The first Adam sets forth our first parents in their innocence, fall, and expulsion, driven out from the presence of God (Gen 3:24). How could they again walk with God? This is the great problem which is to be solved in the words which immediately follow, written on the forefront of revelation to set before us the answer to the all-important question, "How can TWO walk together except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3).
The solution is given in Genesis 4, in the second life-type, which is two-fold in the persons of Cain and Abel. Here are presented and described the Two ways"The way of God" (Acts 18:26) and "The way of Cain" (Jude 11), the only two Religions which the world has ever seen. One, the true; the other, the false.
True religion is one and unchangeable. Its language is
False religion is one and unchangeable. It has many varieties; its one language is
"NOTHING in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling."
Men quarrel bitterly as to what that something is to be. They persecute, and burn, and destroy one another in the heat of their controversies about it. But however this "something" may vary, it is one, in that it is not "the way of God," not the way which God has appointed, but it is "the way of Cain," man's way. The one is "faith," the other is "works." The one is "grace," the other is human "merit." The one is "the path of life," the other ends in "the second death."
"SOMETHING in my hand I bring."
Not only have we this contrast or eternal difference in Cain and Abel, but others are presented in this manner, in order to bring out truths of the deepest significance and solemnity.
are so presented. These two were related as uncle and nephew; both descended from Shem through Terah. Both started together from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran in Mesopotamia (Gen 11); they both started together from Haran to go into the land of Canaan (Gen 12:4); and afterwards they both go up together out of Egypt (Gen 13:1). But soon the difference between the two was manifested, and "there was a strife" between them. The difference was manifested.
Lot, the second of this pair, lifted up his own eyes and chose his own portion (13:11); while Abram's portion was chosen for him by God (13:14). Thus they were "separated" (13:11,14).
First, Lot looked and "behold" the plain of Jordan with its cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and it seemed to him "as the garden of the LORD" (Gen 13:10); then he "chose" this for his portion (13:11); then he "pitched his tent towards Sodom" (13:12); then he "dwelt in Sodom," and shared in Sodom's troubles and wars, and lost all the treasure which he had laid up there (14:12). He afterwards "sat in the gate of Sodom" (19:1) and held office there as a judge in spite of his being daily "vexed" with their ungodly words and deeds (2 Peter 2:6-9); and finally he escaped from its overthrow, only with his life.
Abram, on the other hand, had his portion with God. He walked by faith; he pitched his tent only where he could build his altar (12:8, 13:3,4); he held communion with God who was his "shield and exceeding great reward" (15:1). Though he was a stranger on earth, he was "the friend of God," and received the secrets of God's purposes (Psa 25:14; Amos 3:7; John 15:15). Truly there was a difference. And this difference was greater in their two wives. Sarah was a type of the Heavenly Jerusalem (Gal 4:21-31); while "Lot's wife" became a pillar of salt, and remains a beacon of warning to be for ever remembered (Luke 17:32).
are presented together. Here the relationship was nearer, for they were step-brothers. Both were the sons of Abram, Sarah being the mother of Isaac, and Hagar the mother of Ishmael. Though the relationship according to the flesh was nearer than that between Abram and Lot, the difference was morally and spiritually greater. For it is written, "neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children: for in Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Rom 9:7). Oh! how great was the difference! Isaac, "born after the spirit"; Ishmael, "born after the flesh" (Gal 4:29,30), and therefore a persecutor. We read of no "just" Ishmael, no "righteous" Ishmael, as we do of Lot. Lot's descendants were the Moabites and Ammonites, and Ruth the Moabitess was an ancestress of Jesus. But Ishmael's posterity were "cast out," and continue to this day wild and unsubdued.
are presented together. Here the relationship is still closer. Not only were they the children of the same father (Isaac), but of the same mother (Rebekah). But the spiritual difference is still greater. The enmity was manifested when the babes "struggled together," being yet unborn (Gen 25:22). And it is written in the Scriptures of truth, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Mal 1:2,3; Rom 9:13). Esau was "a fornicator and a profane person," despising his birthright (Heb 12:16,17); while Jacob so loved and prized it that he sinned grievously in grasping it. As the difference is seen in the posterity of Abraham and Lot, Isaac and Ishmael, so here it is still more marked. Israel is Jehovah's glory, the "everlasting nation" (Isa 43:12,13, 44:7); while the Edomites were accursed. And of the Amalekites Jehovah declared that He would "have war with Amalek from generation to generation" (Exo 17:16).
We see the same significance in the
A long list of these might be made. We give a few from the Hebrew and from the Greek. In all such words we can see important instruction. In apoplew (apopleo) we see the work of the enemy seducing the very elect, were it possible (Matt 13:22), and causing them to err from the faith (1 Tim 6:10).
In apopnigw (apopnigo) we see the enemy choking the seed (Matt 13:7), and himself choked in the sea (Luke 8:33).
In apolausiV (apolausis) we have the things which God has given us for enjoyment (1 Tim 6:17), and the enjoyment of the pleasures of sin (Heb 11:25).
In apokuew (apokueo) we have sin bringing forth death (James 1:15), and God begetting us by the word of truth (James 1:18).
In atmiV (atmis) we see the difference between earthly life, which is but a vapour, compared with life which is eternal (James 4:14; Acts 2:19).
In panoplia (panoplia) (panoply) we see a difference indeed. It is not that the word occurs twice (merely as a word), but it is used in two senses and two places, namely, of the armour of Satan (Luke 11:22), and the armour of God (Eph 6:11,17).
The armour of the "strong man" is taken from him by the "stronger than he," and the soul is delivered, never more to be under the dominion of Satan. All the armour in which Satan trusted is then taken away from him (Luke 11:21,22), and the poor sinner who was before in his power is now endued with the "whole armour of God."*
Similar studies may be made with other words. And even where a word may occur often, it may occur only twice in connection with another word making a phrase. This may be significant. For example, o uioV thV apwleiaV, the son of perdition. Both of these words, "son" and "perdition," occur many times, but only twice together (John 17:12 and 2 Thess 2:3, pointing to Psa 109). Some have questioned from this whether Judas Iscariot will be revealed again as the man of sin.
* Not so when Satan "goes out" of a man of his own accord. For this parable is given in immediate connection with the other. Satan is not despoiled of his armour in this case. He is not "cast out." Hence the man sweeps his house and garnishes it. He takes pledges, and wears badges, but the house is "empty." Satan returns with all his power, and the last state of that man is worse than the first (Luke 11:24-26; Matt 12:43-45).
The following are a few other words which occur only twice:
* Differing from anexereunhtoV, (anexereuneetos), that which cannot be understood, occurring only once (Rom 11:33).
Not only do we trace this significance where we have the number "two," but where two things are named, though they are not numbered.
The first vessel which he made was marred; the second was "another" vessel, as it pleased the potter to make it.
This is interpreted in the context, of Israel ruined, but to be restored; broken off, but to be grafted in again; self-destroyed, but finding Divine help.
The same great difference may be seen in the TWO COVENANTS. The first marred, not faultless, waxen old, and taken away (Heb 8:7,8,13, 10:9); the second "a better Covenant," "new," and "established" (Heb 8:6,8, 10:9,16,17).
The ORDINANCES of the Law, "weak" and "unprofitable" (Heb 7:18, 10:6,9). The ordinances of grace, the "good things to come."
"The FIRST MAN," marred (Gen 2:7, 3:19), and of the earth, earthy. "The second man," the Lord from Heaven (1 Cor 15:47). The first Adam condemned to death, the last Adam living again for evermore.
The BODY, marred in the Fall, and made subject to death and corruption, but in Resurrection to be made like Christ's own body of glory (1 John 3:1-3; Phil 3:21; Rom 8:23; 1 Cor 15:42-49).
The OLD CREATION under the curse marred and ruined (Gen 3); "The New Heavens and the New Earth" established in righteousness (Rev 21, 22);a mighty difference indeed. "No night there," "no need of the sun," "no more sorrow," "no more curse," no more sin, or suffering, or death. Oh, wondrous difference! and this for ever and for ever. "He taketh away the first that He may ESTABLISH the second." "Praise the LORD!" Rebellious ISRAEL'S heart taken away, and a new heart given. ORDINANCES which "perish with the using" replaced by the Christ of God. MAN ruined and lost, but saved with an everlasting salvation. The BODY of humiliation sown in corruption, but raised in incorruption. The HEAVENS AND EARTH passed away, and the new heavens and the new earth established for ever in glory.
But we have seen that where there are two, though there is still difference, this difference may be in a good sense. It may be for oppression or hindrance, or it may be for association and mutual help. See Ruth 4:11, where of Leah and Rachel it is written: "Which two did build up the house of Israel." It may be the proverbial "Two and two" of apostleship and service. Or it may be our association with Christ in death and resurrection, of which Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the great sign and token.
Especially does it mark that "other," the Saviour and mighty deliverer, spoken of in Psa 89:19: "I have laid help on one that is mighty." The second person of the Trinity partook of two natures perfect God and perfect man. Perfect man indeed, but oh, how different! "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up."
It is still "another," but there is "help" instead of enmity. No longer the two differing, but the two agreed; for "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3).
Two testimonies may be different, but yet one may support, strengthen, and corroborate the other. Jesus said: "The testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me" (John 8:17,18). And it is written in the Law: "At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses," shall the matter be established (Num 35:30; Deut 17:6, 19:15; Matt 18:16; 2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19; Heb 10:28). The whole Law itself hung on "two commandments" (Matt 22:40).
God's own revelation is two-fold. The Old Covenant and the New are God's sufficient testimony to man. And yet how different. The Law and Grace; Faith and Works!
We may notice also that it is the second Person of the Trinity who is specially called "the Faithful Witness" (Rev 1:5). And we have other examples of the number Two in connection with faithful testimony. Caleb and Joshua were two faithful witnesses of the truth of God's Word. Faithlessness said: "We be not able to go up against the people. For they are stronger than we." But Faith could say "Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it" (Num 13:30,31). And these were the two who alone out of 600,000 men did possess their inheritance in the land. Today, also, it is not numbers. The testimony of numbers may be as false today as was that of the Spies. It is the testimony of the two based on God's Word which alone was true. May this encourage us to stand firm in these days of apostasy, with ears deaf to the words of man, but attentive to the words of Jehovah. Firm, even though the whole congregation be against us, and we be only the few who are waiting to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
Let us have for our seal the faithfulness of Jehovah, and say always and ever, "Let God be true, and every man a liar."
It is remarkable that words having special reference to Testimony, should occur twice; for example:
Back | Contents | Next