"This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day." (John 6:39)
"While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost . . ." (John 17:12).
When we come to the way in which the significance of this number has been estimated, we find a variety of modes. Augustine and Gregory the Great both start with the fact that 17 is the sum of 10 and 7. But they deal with the 17 in different ways.
Gregory simply multiplies 17 by 3 and again by 3 (i.e., 17x32), and thus arrives at 153.
Augustine, on the other hand, employs addition, and takes the sum of all the digits to and including 17 as amounting to exactly 153. He says,* "For if you add 2 to 1, you have 3, of course; if to these you add 3 and 4, the whole number makes 10; and then if you add all the numbers that follow up to 17, the whole amounts to the aforesaid number ; that is, if to 10, which you had reached by adding all together from 1 to 4, you add 5, you have 15; to these add 6, and the result is 21; then add 7, and you have 28; to this add 8, and 9, and 10, and you get 55; to this add 11, and 12, and 13, and you have 91; and to this again add 14, and 15, and 16, and it comes to 136; and then add to this the remaining number of which we have been speaking, namely 17, and it will make up the number of fishes." **
* Tractate on John, 122.
** We should express this, now, more scientifically, and say, 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 12 + 13 +14 + 15 + 16 + 17 = 153. And Gregory's we should express thus: (10 + 7) x (3 x 3) = 153.
Bishop Wordsworth arrives at his result in a different manner. He uses two numbers, and employs both multiplication and addition. First he takes the square of 12 (which he holds to be the Church number), and then he adds the square of 3, and points out that 122 + 32 = 153, or (12 x 12) + (3 x 3).
We might give yet another contribution to these various modes as the result of our investigations in numbers, and say that 153 = 9 x 17, and see in this number all judgment (9) exhausted for the people of God (17) in the person of their Surety.
All, however, agree in the great and blessed fact that "Salvation is of the Lord," Divine alike in its source, its agency, and its results.
The same Divine character is stamped upon this miracle and its lessons by the number of disciples who were present when it was wrought. There were seven. And the seven is divided into 3 and 4 as usual - 3 being named, and 4 unnamed.
We may condense all this by calling 153 simply the number of the sons of God.
Why is the number 153 symbolic of the sons of God?
The expression Beni Ha-Elohim, "Sons of God," occurs seven times!
Now the Gematria (substituting numbers for letters) of this expression is exactly 153. In Greek, the expression exhibits in another form the same phenomena, the gematria being 3213, or 3 x 7 x 153.
It is very remarkable, in connection with this, that in Job 2:1 we have "Beni-ha Elohim with Satan among them. " The gematria of this phrase is 1989, and the two factors of this number are 153 and 13 (13x153=1989).
The word sunkleeronomoi, "joint-heirs" (Romans 8:17), amounts to 1071, the factors of which are 153 and 7 (153x7=1071).
The expression sunkleeronomoi de Christou, "joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17), amounts to 2751. Now the factors of 153, as we have seen, are 9 and 17, and the number 2751 is three times the nine hundred, plus seventeen, viz., 3 x (900 + 17) = 2751.
In the record of the miracle of the 153 fishes itself there are some remarkable phenomena:
The word for "fishes" (ichthues), is by gematria 1224, or 8 x 153.
The words for "the net" and by gematria this also amounts to 1224, or 8 x 153, for it is unbroken, and carries the precious freight from "the right side" of the ship safely to the shore, and "not one is lost."
Quite a new thought has recently been given which states that amongst the multitudes who received direct blessing from Christ there are recorded exactly 153 special individual cases! We append his list, with one or two alterations: and if any names appear to be missing, it will be found on examination that there is good reason for omitting them; e.g., Nathanael is the same as Bartholomew; while Matthias, and Barsabas (Acts 1:23), Joses, Barnabas (Acts 4:36), Stephen, though they with many others may have received blessing from Jesus Himself, and probably did, yet it is not so stated. Of course Zacharias, Elisabeth, John the Baptist, Joseph, Simeon, and Anna, are not included, as they were all in blessing before the birth of Jesus.
Who received a DIRECT blessing from Jesus?
The following is a list of those who received a direct blessing from Jesus. The number in parenthesis is the number of individuals blessed.
- The leper, Matthew 8:2 (1)
- Centurion and servant, Matthew 8:5 (2)
- Peter's wife's mother, Matthew 8:14 (1)
- Two possessed with devils, Matthew 8:18 (2)
- Palsied man and bearers [Mark 2:3], Matthew 9:2 (5)
- Jairus and his daughter, Matthew 9:18 (2)
- Woman with issue of blood, Matthew 9:21 (1)
- Blind men, Matthew 9:27 (2)
- Dumb man, Matthew 9:32 (1)
- Eleven Apostles, Matthew 10:2 (11)
- Man with withered hand, Matthew 12:10 (1)
- Blind and dumb devil, Matthew 12:22 (1)
- Brethren of the Lord [Acts 1:14] Matthew 13:55 (4)
- Syrophoenician woman and daughter, Matthew 15:22 (2)
- Lunatic child and father, Matthew 17:14 (2)
- Blind men (leaving Jericho),* Matthew 20:30 (2)
- Simon the leper, Matthew 26:6 (1)
- Mary (sister of Lazarus. See Nos 32 and 47), Matthew 26:7 (1)
- Centurion; Matthew 27:54 (1)
- Salome (mother of Zebedee's children), Matthew 27:56 (1)
- Mary (mother of James, and wife of Cleopas), Matthew 27:56 (1)
- Mary Magdalene, Matthew 27:56 (1)
- Joseph of Arimathaea, Matthew 27:57 (1)
- Man with unclean spirit; Mark 1:23 (1)
- Man, deaf and dumb, Mark 7:32 (1)
- Blind man, Mark 8:22 (1)
- Son of the widow of Nain, Luke 7:12 (1)
- A woman, a sinner, Luke 7:37 (1)
- Joanna and Susanna, Luke 8:3 (2)
- A disciple - "follow Me", Luke 9:59 (1)
- The seventy disciples, Luke 10:1 (70)
- Martha, Luke 10:38 (1)
- Woman with infirmity, Luke 13:11 (1)
- Man with dropsy, Luke 14:2 (1)
- The ten lepers, Luke 17:12 (10)
- The blind man (approaching Jericho),** Luke 18:35 (1)
- Zaccheus, Luke 19:2 (1)
- Malchus [John 18:10], Luke 22:51 (1)
- Penitent thief, Luke 23:43 (1)
- The two disciples at Emmaus, Luke 24:13 (2)
- Nicodemus, John 3:1 (1)
- Woman of Samaria, John 4:4 (1)
- Nobleman and sick son, John 4:46 (2)
- Impotent man (Bethesda), John 5:1 (1)
- Woman taken in adultery, John 8:11 (1)
- Man born blind, John 9 (1)
- Lazarus, John 11 (1)
- Mary, mother of Jesus, John 19:25 (1) = (153)
* Bartimeus being one of them (Mark 10:46), these two being healed as Jesus left Jericho.
** The blind man (No. 36) was healed (Luke 18:35) "as He was come nigh unto Jericho," and therefore is additional to the two who were healed as He was leaving Jericho (No. 16). See Matthew 20:30; Mark 10:46.
We give the above not as an alternative solution, but as an additional illustration, believing that all may be true; and at any rate, that all contribute to, and increase the cumulative evidence in support of the same great and blessed fact, that it is true of the Lord's people as it is of the stars, "He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. " (Psalm 147:4). The book of Exodus is the book in which we first hear of redemption (Exodus 15:14), and the Hebrew and divinely canonical name for this book is "the names," because His people are redeemed by name!
This is the lesson of the 153 great fishes.