The Design of Scripture

The Number One Hundred Fifty-Three

Many years ago, while teaching in a typical "church" setting, I was introduced to scriptural numbers and gematria. While teaching in the gospel of Yochanan (John), I was asked what the significance of the 153 fish was that the disciples pulled from their net. I did not have an answer, but I was determined to find out. Well, as it turned out, I did not find an answer and soon forgot all about it. Several years later, someone gave me a copy of E. W. Bullinger's book, "Number in Scripture". It was there that I found my answer and a whole new area of study opened up.

It was not the fact that numbers meant something, but rather the awesome revelation that YHVH was precise, that He meant every word that He spoke, and He was not superfluous. It just so happens that it was this particular number that was the closure for me on the preciseness of Yah's use of numbers. Our study of this number takes us back to previous comments that Messiah made concerning the ministry and purpose of His disciples. Two pertinent examples come to mind. When choosing His disciples, Messiah proclaims. "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Mattityahu (Matthew) 4:19). Then, in the gospel of Yochanan, we are told that those who receive the Messiah are called "the sons of God" (Yochanan 1:12). Now, before the observance of Shavu'ot (Pentecost) in Acts chapter two, the disciples ask Yeshua‘ when the Kindgom shall be restored to Isreael (Acts 1:6). Yeshua‘ replies that it is not for them to know, but they are to wait to receive power from the Ruach haQodesh so that they might be His witnesses unto Jerusalem, in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. What was Messiah saying? He was saying that His fishers of men must go out into the multitudes and fish for those who are the Kingdom of Israel first. The residents of the Kingdom of Israel are the sons of God, scattered throughtout all the earth, just as the prophets had foretold.

Those who are versed in the prophets know that the destiny of the house of Israel and the house of Judah (the only two entities of the New Covenant - Yiremeyahu (Jeremiah) 31:31, Ivrim (Hebrews) 8:8), is found in the names of the three children of Hosea and Gomer (Hoshea 1:1-11). the future of the house of Israel is seen in the names of these three children. The first child is named Jezreel or scattered. The second child is called Lo-ruhamah, or no more mercy, and the third child is called Lo-ammi, or not my people. God's own people will be scattered throughout the earth and would mix with the nations. Because they would abandon the ways of God and mix among the gentiles, they would no longer be "His people". At this time, who are "His people"? ISRAEL! But they would no longer be Israel, because they turned from the God of Israel. What are the people of Scripture called that are not His people! The nations, gentiles, strangers, and the multitudes! But YHVH knows the end from the beginning. He knows that He will send His Son and a messenger before Him to restore all things (Mattityahu 17:11-12). It is because of this knowledge that YHVH gives us the rest of the prophecy in Hoshea:

Hoshea 1:10-11Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.

One might ask, where is the place where this will be said unto them? It will be said unto them while they are scattered throughout the nations. This is why the kingdom of Israel cannot be restored yet, because the citizens of the kingdom are scattered all over the world. These citizens are from the multitudes and are referred to as fish. Listen carefully to the words of Jeremiah:

Yiremeyahu 16:11-16Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith YHVH, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my Torah; And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me: Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith YHVH, that it shall no more be said, YHVH liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, YHVH liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers. Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith YHVH, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.

Now we come to our number one hundred fifty-three. In Yochanan 21, we find that after the resurrection the disciples went right back to fishing. But is that the kind of fishing that Yeshua‘ was referring to when He told them that they would be fishers of men? To illustrate the truth of their true mission, Yeshua‘ uses the present circumstances of these fishermen to validate, not only what He told them earlier, but what prophecy had foretold. First, we find that the disciples are fishing on the left side of the boat and have caught "zippo".

Yochanan 21:5-6Then Yeshua‘ saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

Messiah tells them that they have been fishing their own way (left side of the boat) and now they were to fish His way (the right side of the boat). And if they do it His way, they will catch multitudes of fishes. How many fish, you might ask? Well, the text reveals to us how many fish these fishers of men will catch.

Yochanan 21:10-11Yeshua‘ saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

Why does the Ruach HaQodesh tell us the number of fish they caught? It may be because the gematria of the word "fishes" in the Greek (remember they will go to the nations to get the fish) is a multiple of 153! And who are these fish? They are called the "sons of God". The gematria of the "sons of (The) God" in Hebrew (remember they are now once again the people of God, the God of Israel) is 153! Coincidence? (See the numeric breakdown at the end of this article.) Perhaps. But let me close with one more coincidence. In the prophetic blessing of Ya'aqov's two grandchildren in Genesis 48, we are told three times that multitudes will come from the house of Ya'aqov (also called the house of Israel, one of the two partakers of the New Covenant) through Ephraim (this name means fruitful). There are three different Hebrew words used in this blessing that are all translated as multitudes.

Bere’shiyt (Genesis) 48:4And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession.

The word employed here for multitude is qahal (קהל). The meaning of this word is the assembly or congregation. This word is one of several Hebrew words translated in Greek as ekklesia. This word is translated into the English as church.

Bere’shiyt 48:16The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

The word chosen by the Ruach HaQodesh here and translated as grow is dagah (דגה), or the Hebrew word for fish. Hmmmm. The word for multitudes here is rav (רב). And last, but certainly not least:

Bere’shiyt 48:19And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people [speaking of the descendants of Manasseh, the firstborn], and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother [Ephraim] shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.

This phrase in the Hebrew is melo hagoyim (מלא הגוים). In the Greek it reads pleroma ton ethnon (πληρωμα των εθνων), or fullness of the Gentiles .

Romans 11:25For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.

Come in to what? A net perhaps! ... or to the land?

Shalom Alecheim!

Benay Ha-'Elohiym

  • Bet (ב) = 2
  • Nun (נ) = 50
  • Yod (י) = 10
  • Hey (ה) = 5
  • Aleph (א) = 1
  • Lamed (ל) = 30
  • Hey (ה) = 5
  • Yod (י) = 10
  • Mem (ם) = 40
Total = 153