Seven and Seventy in Genesis
§ 5. The structure of our section is based on a system of numerical harmony. Not only is the number seven fundamental to its main theme, but it also serves to determine many of its details. Both to the Israelites and to the Gentiles, in the East and also in the West—but especially in the East—it was the number of perfection and the basis of ordered arrangement; and particular importance attached to it in the symbolism of numbers. The work of the Creator, which is marked by absolute perfection and flawless systematic orderliness, is distributed over seven days: six days of labour and a seventh day set aside for the enjoyment of the completed task. …
The following details are deserving of note:
(a). After the introductory verse (i 1), the section is divided into seven paragraphs, each of which appertains to one of the seven days. An obvious indication of this division is to be seen in the recurring sentence, And there was evening and there was morning, such-and-such a day. Hence the Masoretes were right in placing an open paragraph [i. e. one that begins on a new line] after each of these verses.
(b-d) Each of the three nouns that occur in the first verse and express the basic concepts of the section, viz God [ ‘elohim] heavens [ šamayim], earth [ ’eres] are repeated in the section a given number of times that is a multiple of seven: thus the name of God occurs thirty-five times, that is, five times seven (on the fact that the Divine Name, in one of its forms, occurs seventy times in the first four chapters, see below); earth is found twenty-one times, that is, three times seven; similarly heavens (or firmament, raqia’) appears twenty-one times.
(e). The ten sayings with which, according to the Talmud, the world was created (Aboth v 1; in B. Rosh Hashana 32a and B. Megilla 21b only nine of them are enumerated, the one in i 29, apparently, being omitted)—that is, the ten utterances of God beginning with the words, and … said—are clearly divisible into two groups: the first group contains seven Divine fiats enjoining the creation of the creatures, to wit, ‘Let there be light’, ‘Let there be a firmament’, ‘Let the waters be gathered together’, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation’, ‘Let there be lights’, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms’, ‘Let the earth bring forth’; the second group comprises three pronouncements that emphasize God’s concern for man’s welfare (three being the number of emphasis), namely, ‘Let us make man’ (not a command but an expression of the will to create man), ‘Be fruitful and multiply’, ‘Behold I have given unto you every plant yielding seed’. Thus we have here, too, a series of seven corresponding dicta.
(f). The terms light and day are found, in all, seven times in the first paragraph, and there are seven references to light in the fourth paragraph.
(g). Water is mentioned seven times in the course of paragraphs two and three.
(h). In the fifth and sixth paragraphs forms of the word hayya [rendered ‘living’ or ‘beasts’] occur seven times.
(i). The expression it was good appears seven times (the seventh time—very good).
(j). The first verse has seven words.
(k). The second verse contains fourteen words—twice seven.
(l). In the seventh paragraph, which deals with the seventh day, there occur the following three consecutive sentences (three for emphasis), each of which consists of seven words and contains in the middle the expression the seventh day: And on THE SEVENTH DAY God finished His work which He had done, and He rested on THE SEVENTH DAY from all His work which He had done. So God blessed THE SEVENTH DAY and hallowed it.
(m). The words in the seventh paragraph total thirty-five—five times seven.
To suppose that all this is a mere coincidence is not possible.
A Commentary of the Book of Genesis by Umberto Cassuto trans from the Hebrew by Israel Abrahams, The Magnes Press, Hebrew University 1961 Introduction paragraph 5 pp12-15
Umberto Cassuto, also known as Moshe David Cassuto (16 September 1883 – 19 December 1951), was an Italian historian, a rabbi, and a scholar of the Hebrew Bible and Ugaritic literature, in the University of Florence, then at the University of Rome La Sapienza. When the 1938 anti-Semitic Italian racial laws forced him from this position, he moved to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
RABBINIC INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE
The Rabbis never suggest a correction of the text of the Bible. In the entire rabbinic literature we never come across
divergences of opinion regarding Biblical readings. It is therefore obvious that the textual corrections of Greek classics practiced by the Alexandrian grammarians have no parallel in the rabbinic exegesis of Scripture.
It has been indicated in the previous chapters that in rabbinic tradition exceedingly few traces are left of the literary activity of the Soferim. The literal meaning of the word Soferim is scribes. The Rabbis interpreted it to mean “tellers”; the Soferim counted the letters of the Torah. They probably knew the number of letters in every section. In this they resembled the grammarian,..
Hellenism in Jewish Palestine, Saul Lieberman, 1950 p47
The two and thirty Middoth.
Abulwalid ibn Ganah is the first to cite the thirty-two Middoth which are ascribed to Eliezer ben Jose Ha-gelili. The
text has been repeatedly copied and reprinted from the third part of the Sepher Kerithuth by Samson of Chinon.
Still earlier is the textual form in Judah Hadassi (No. 155ff.). In manuscript form this Baraitha is found e. g. in the introduction to midrash ha-gadol: and in midrash ha-hefeş. The number 33 in the two Yemenite Midrashim has arisen through bisection of the 29th Middah.
In the Talmud itself the thirty-two Middoth are not mentioned: nevertheless we read: 'Wherever thou hearest the words
of Eliezer ben Jose Ha-gelili in the Haggada, incline thine ear like unto a funnel.' (Hulin 89a) At least a part of these Middoth is older than this Eliezer.
Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash, Hermann L. Strack, 1972 pp 95-96
Rule 29. Gematria, i. e. computation of the numeric value of letters. Only a single instance is adduced in this Midrash to illustrate the gematria. The number 318 (servants of Abraham) in Gen. 14:14 has the numerical value of Eliezer, i. e. Abraham had only his servant Eliezer with him, But rabbinic literature is replete with examples of gematria.
Lieberman p 69
The use of letters as numerals is apparently a Greek invention which was adopted by the Semites at a much later time, see Dornseiff, Das Alphabel etc., p. 11, (Comp. now H. L. Ginsberg, Studies in Koheleth, p. 32 #.) At some time during the second commonwealth the Jews inscribed alpha, beta gamma (signifying 1, 2, 3) on the several baskets in the temple of Jerusalem (See Mishnah Shekalim III. 2), i. e. the Jews availed themselves of the Greek alphabet to employ letters as numerals (In the Mishnah ibid. R. Ishmael is only explaining the statement of the first Tanna). Comp. however Tosefta Ma'asser Sheni V.1.
Note 211 on page 73 of Lieberman
Rule 30. Substitution of letters. The so called atbash alphabet (in the DaVinci Code see: https://davincicode.bib.bz/chapter-77 )
Beginning of the Letter of Aristeas to Philocrates (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 11th century)
According to tradition, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (the Greek Pharaoh of Egypt) sent seventy-two Jewish translators—six from each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel—from Jerusalem to Alexandria to translate the Tanakh from Biblical Hebrew into Koine Greek, for inclusion in his library. This narrative is found in the pseudepigraphic Letter of Aristeas to his brother Philocrates, and is repeated by Philo of Alexandria, Josephus (in Antiquities of the Jews), and by later sources (including Augustine of Hippo). It is also found in the Tractate Megillah of the Babylonian Talmud:
Philo of Alexandria writes that the number of scholars was chosen by selecting six scholars from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Caution is needed here regarding the accuracy of this statement by Philo of Alexandria, as it implies that the twelve tribes were still in existence during King Ptolemy's reign, and that the Ten Lost Tribes of the twelve tribes had not been forcibly resettled by Assyria almost 500 years previously. According to later rabbinic tradition (which considered the Greek translation as a distortion of sacred text and unsuitable for use in the synagogue), the Septuagint was given to Ptolemy two days before the annual Tenth of Tevet fast.
In the preface to his 1844 translation of the Septuagint, Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton acknowledges that the Jews of Alexandria were likely to have been the writers of the Septuagint, but dismisses Aristeas' account as a pious fiction. Instead, he asserts that the real origin of the name "Septuagint" pertains to the fact that the earliest version was forwarded by the authors to the Jewish Sanhedrin at Alexandria for editing and approval.
Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah said, "Behold I am like a seventy year old man yet I have not merited to understand why the Exodus from Egypt should be said at night until Ben Zoma explicated it, as it is stated (Deut. 16:3), 'In order that you remember the day of your going out from the land of Egypt all the days of your life;' 'the days of your life' [indicates that the remembrance be invoked during] the days, 'all
- 70 years of Babylonian domination over Judah and the surrounding nations (609-539; Jer. 25:11-12).
- 70 years of Jewish captivity in Babylon (605-536; Jer. 29:10; 2 Chron. 36:20-21; Dan. 9:1-2).
- 70 years of indignation on Jerusalem and Judah (586-516), marked by the destruction and rebuilding of the temple (Zech. 1:12ff; 7:5).