The Number 4 and its Role throughout History
Many numbers play significant roles within our society, our religions, and our history. In this article, we are going to explore just one of these numbers: the number four. When do you think of this number what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of the number of sides or corners to a square? Perhaps it’s the four key nucleobase types found within DNA: thymine, guanine, cytosine, and adenine. We’ll take a look at the number 4 delve into the different ways in which the number four appear within our world today and throughout human history!
Before we start to explore a number 4 meaning and some of its various moments of significance, we have to have a basic understanding of numerology. Numerology is important because while the appearance of a number over and over again can often be brushed off as a mere coincidence, numerology proposes that there is a supernatural or mystical connection between numbers and events.
In numerology, a repeating number isn’t just chance, it’s due to the power of a number. It’s important to keep this in mind as we explore the meaning of 4 throughout this article.
Meaning of the Number 4 in the Bible
We’re going to start off by taking a look at the Bible, a book that is primarily associated with Christianity yet contains stories connected to both Judaism and Islam. The Bible is the most read book on the planet and so its importance in modern societies is obvious.
For starters, there are four main gospels surrounding the life of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and each of these highlights a significant part of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. As we continue to look at the story of Jesus, we find that upon being crucified he had his clothes divided up between four guards.
As we continue with the meaning of 4 in the Bible, we find that rainbows are mentioned only four times. The Bible describes there are being four witnesses of God (wonders, miracles, signs and gifts). Eve, who is the first woman in the Bible, is mentioned only four times.
Speaking of Eve, the Garden of Eden had a river which broke up into the start of four separate rivers. If we look at the Apostle Paul, we find that the Bible mentions him as having connections to four major civilizations (Rome, Greek, Hebrew, and Judeo-Christendom). Finally, there are four horsemen of the Apocalypse in the book of Revelations.
What Does the Number 4 Mean in Other Faiths?
In India, Hinduism marks there as being four levels of the caste system. These four classes are: the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishya, and the Shudras. There are also four Vedas (texts containing large bodies of knowledge) and there are considered four aims of life in Purusartha (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha).
The final connection that the number 4 symbolism has to Hinduism is the four stages of life (student, household, retired and renunciation).
Islam also contains a number of connections to the number four. For example, there are four Archangels within Islam (Raphael, Michael, Gabriel and Azrael), several of whom are also found within Judaism and Christianity.
Islam itself is made up of four books and there are four Sunni schools as well as four major Sunni Imams. The Festival of Sacrifice in Islam (which celebrates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son to God) lasts for four days.
Meaning of 4 within Nature
Now that we’ve covered the spiritual significance of the number 4, we can take a look at where it appears in nature. For example, there are four seasons, four phases of the moon and in Western societies, we represent nature through 4 primary elements (Air, Earth, Water, and Fire). We have four cardinal points which are used in relation to a direction (North, East, South, and West).
Looking outwards we find that there are four planets within our solar system that can be described as terrestrial (Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury). Many insects go through a four-stage metamorphosis (known as holometabolism) which includes the embryo, the larva, the pupa and the imago. Speaking of insects, all flying insects apart from flies have four wings.
The Number Four throughout History
This number even has significance throughout history. If we start off with American history, we find that four Presidents were assassinated while in office (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy).
The 4th of July (which is, of course, day number 4 of the month) is of special significance within America. Notably, the Declaration of Independence was signed on the 4th of July 1776 while three US Presidents all died on the 4th July (Adams and Jefferson in 1826 and Monroe in 1831. The four number digital alarm clock was first patented in the US as well.
Moving to other parts of the world, we find that the fire of London burned for four days before going out and throughout the whole of England there are a grand total of only four round churches. It’s interesting to note that in Medieval England, being hung, drawn and quartered was the punishment for treason. The final part of this punishment involved the prisoner being cut into four pieces.
Superstitions Surrounding the Number Four
As with any number, there are varying superstitions surrounding whether it is considered lucky or unlucky. For example, in East Asia the fear of the number 4 (tetraphobia) is very common due to the fact that “four” is pronounced the same as “death”.
As such, many buildings will skip the number 4 when numbering floors, rooms or the buildings themselves, similarly to how many buildings in the US skip the number 13.
Of course on the other side of the world, the 4-leaf clover is considered to bring great luck and fortune to the finder. This luck is even greater if the clover is found unexpectedly as opposed to actively searching for one.