The number 7 has religious meaning in diverse religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and ancient Near Eastern paganism. Leon R. Kass says in The Beginning of Wisdom, page 52, the Mesopotamians (Babylonians and Assyrians), before the coming of the Bible, already reckoned seven-day cycles, connected with the phases of the moon. They set aside the seventh, fourteenth, twenty first, and twenty eighth days of the lunar months; they had their own Sabbath, sabattu or sapattu, the day of the full moon. It seems likely that the familiar Hebrew seven-day week is based on the Babylonian tradition, although going through certain adaptations. By the second century BCE, seven was also associated with the number of known planets. The concepts of a full week or the total number of planets can be associated with completeness.
Twenty and its multiples are other favoured numbers. In Noah's Flood, it rained for forty days and forty nights. In '“There Was No King in Israel”: The Era of the Judges' (published in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, pages 139-140), Jo Ann Hackett points out that the number of years of peace brought about by each of the major judges, or the number of years of their ruling, is a multiple of 20, with the sole exception of Jephthah who ruled Israel for 6 years. Othniel's defeat of Cushan-rishathaim gave Israel 40 years of peace; after Ehud, 80 years of peace; after Deborah, 40 years; after Gideon, 40 years; then Samson is said to have judged Israel for 20 years. These numbers were no doubt fortuitous, as they helped the early tradents when passing the stories down orally before they were finally written down.
The number 17 is important in the numerology behind the Book of Genesis, especially in the ages of the Patriarchs:
- Genesis 25:7 - Abraham lived to 175 (5 X 5 X 7)
- Genesis 35:28 - Isaac lived to 180 (6 X 6 X 5)
- Genesis 47:28 - Jacob lived to 147 (7 X 7 X 3)
Each lifespan involves a perfect square (5, 6, 7 in a numeric series) and the third factor also forms a series (7, 5, 3). For each patriarch the sum of the factors is 17.
Furthering the above formulas, Genesis says Abraham’s wife Sarah lived to 127 years, which is the sum of these consecutive square numbers plus 17.