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 "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." The second is, "And the earth was [or rather became] without form and void."
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.
How does the number two represent divisions?
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 (Genesis 2:4-4:26) contains the account of the Fall; the entrance of a second being - the Enemy - that old Serpent the Devil, introducing discord, and sin, and death. "Enmity" is seen first in this second division. "I will put enmity" (Genesis 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.
The second "Tol'doth" (Genesis 5:1-6:8) begins with the words,
"The book of the generations of Adam."
While of "the second Man" it is written (Matthew 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" (Exodus 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" (Exodus 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 Genesis 3:15).
The second of the three great divisions of the Old Testament, called Nebiim, or the Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2Samuel, 1 and 2Kings, 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 "saviors" whom God raised up to deliver His people.
How is the number 2 significant in the New Testament?
The same symbolism of this number is seen in the New Testament. Wherever there are Two Epistles, the second has some special reference to the enemy.
In 2Corinthians there is a marked emphasis on the power of the enemy, and the working of Satan (2:11, 11:14, 12:7). In 2Thessalonians we have a special account of the working of Satan in the revelation of "the man of sin" and "the lawless one." In 2Timothy we see the church in its ruin, as in the first epistle we see it in its rule.
In 2Peter we have the coming apostasy foretold and described. While in 2John 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 stress the importance of the number 2, so that the one may teach concerning the other by way of contrast or difference.
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 (Leviticus 16:7); the 2 birds (Leviticus 14:4-7); the 2 opinions (1Kings 18:21); the 2 masters (Matthew 6:24); the 2 commandments (Matthew 22:40); the 2 debtors (Luke 7:41); the 2 covenants (Galatians 4:24); the 2 men (Luke 18:10); the 2 sons (Matthew 21:28, and Luke 15:11, and Galatians 4:22), etc., etc.
The meaning of number 2 found in comparing differences
How were Abraham and Lot so different? 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 (Genesis 11); they both started together from Haran to go into the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:4); and afterwards they both go up together out of Egypt (Genesis 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" (Genesis 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 (2Peter 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 (Psalm 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 (Galatians 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).
How were Issac and Ishmael DIFFERENT?
Issac and Ishmael 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" (Romans 9:7). Oh! how great was the difference! Isaac, "born after the spirit"; Ishmael, "born after the flesh" (Galatians 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 from Moab was an ancestress of Jesus. But Ishmael's posterity were "cast out," and continue to this day wild and unchained.
How were Jacob and Esau DIFFERENT?
Jacob and Esau 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 (Genesis 25:22). And it is written in the Scriptures of truth, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Malachi 1:2,3; Romans 9:13). Esau was "a fornicator and a profane person," despising his birthright (Hebrews 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 God's glory, the "everlasting nation" (Isaiah 43:12,13, 44:7); while the Edomites were accursed. And of the Amalekites God declared that He would "have war with Amalek from generation to generation" (Exodus 17:16).
Additional commentary on the Biblical Meaning of the number 2 *
The number two signifies union, division and verification by witnesses:
The union of husband and wife as one.
The union of Christ and the Church
The unity between the Old and New Testaments.
The witness of God in the Old and New Testaments
God requires a minimum of two witnesses in any trial or dispute. Jesus sent the disciples out to witness and preach the gospel in pairs. The final witnesses of God during the tribulation will be the Two Witnesses, who will give their warnings for an exact number of days.
"And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." (Revelation 11:3)