When Joseph interprets the cup bearer and baker’s dreams he reveals an important clue: Each time God speaks a number that number is a reference to time. Since the Bible is God’s word to us, all counts within the pages of the Bible are references to time. This article explains.
Many times Jesus spoke in public he used parables. He revealed later that the reason he spoke this way was to veil his message from everyone except those who should understand. In private the disciples were taught by Jesus just as we are when we read and pray though the Bible.
The pattern exists to this day with many of the more important points veiled in prophetic language. Understanding what the Bible says still requires private consultations with God himself in order to understand what he means. In the case of the Bible those keys to unlocking his meaning are usually simply buried within the Bible’s own pages. Once such key is given in Genesis when Joseph interprets the cup bearer and baker’s dreams.
8"We both had dreams," they answered, "but there is no one to interpret them."
Then Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams."
9So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, "In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, 10and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. 11Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh's cup and put the cup in his hand."
12"This is what it means," Joseph said to him. "The three branches are three days. Genesis 40:8-12 NIV
8And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you. 9And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before me; 10And in the vine were three branches: and it was as though it budded, and her blossoms shot forth; and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes: 11And Pharaoh's cup was in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand. 12And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days: Genesis 40:8-12 KJV
Notice something rather profound with Joseph’s interpretation. The three branches are symbolic for three days. One branch per day. Stated generally:
One item per unit time.
Joseph goes on to interpret a second dream and demonstrates the same principle.
16When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, "I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. 17In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head."
18"This is what it means," Joseph said. "The three baskets are three days. 19Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh." Genesis 40:16-19 NIV
16When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, I also was in my dream, and, behold, I had three white baskets on my head:white: or, full of holes 17And in the uppermost basket there was of all manner of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head.bakemeats…: Heb. meat of Pharaoh, the work of a baker, or, cook 18And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days: 19Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee.lift…: or, reckon thee, and take thy office from thee Genesis 40:16-19 KJV
Here again three items, in this case three baskets become three units of time, in this case three days.
New Testament Confirmation
The same principle can be seen again in the New Testament when Jesus uses currency within the same structure. Though the general principle includes counts of money, Jesus’ New Testament example reinforces the principle:
1"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3"About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4He told them, `You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5So they went.
"He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, `Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'
7"`Because no one has hired us,' they answered.
"He said to them, `You also go and work in my vineyard.'
8"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, `Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'
9"The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12`These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, `and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'
13"But he answered one of them, `Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'
16"So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Matthew 20:1-16 NIV
1For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.hama - tagged as early 2And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.unto them - no Greek, tagged with eipen (tag 2)??tag 16 '(20:5) hoi's 5Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. 6And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 7They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.ho ean (whatsoever) - ean empty 8So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. 9And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, 12Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. 13But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.theloo de (I will) - de empty 15Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? 16So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. Matthew 20:1-16 KJV
In this parable the rate of pay for the laborers is "a denarius a day" or one unit currency per unit time. This simply reinforces the principle of 1 count of anything mapping to 1 unit of time but it does pique our attention to look for other currency references. The best example is the Samaritan’s wages to the innkeeper though the principle applies across the Bible.
An interesting side note to this principle is that certain taxes were paid at the rate of 1/2 unit currency per person and so either the person count or the currency count (or both) could be applied to individual days.
As the Bible itself is God’s word to mankind, it is our collective dream, these examples suggest that every count given within the pages are references to time.
This is the principle that is required to fully understand the chronology implied at the time of Ezra and the Second Temple. Both Daniel and Jeremiah explain that the period of the exile between the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon and the return of a remnant will be 70 years.  Yet when we read the account in Ezra of the his return to dedicate the temple we find no specific date references. Instead we find references to animal counts. The following is the best example:
35Then the exiles who had returned from captivity sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven male lambs and, as a sin offering, twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the LORD. Ezra 8:35 NIV
35Also the children of those that had been carried away, which were come out of the captivity, offered burnt offerings unto the God of Israel, twelve bullocks for all Israel, ninety and six rams, seventy and seven lambs, twelve he goats for a sin offering: all this was a burnt offering unto the Lord. Ezra 8:35 KJV
Here we see Ezra’s animal sacrifice activities and he is revealing the year of those actions through the counts of animals he uses. These counts are indicating the 96 years since the loss of sovereignty to Babylon and the 77 years since the loss of the city. Confirmation is found by adding 70 years, the number in exile to the year of Ezra’s return.
Perhaps the most impressive confirmation of this principle rests in the main census counts conducted by Moses. Here we have some of the largest numbers recorded in the Bible’s pages. These counts also appear to be references to time.
The best way to see the significance of these census counts is to compare the total against the number of days in 3500 years. In both cases the result is the same:
|Korah’s Rebellion: 252 * 5 =||1260|
|Korah’s Rebellion recorded again:||1260|
|Days in a Jubilee, 50 years:||18,240|
|Number of Jubilees:||* 70 =|
|Total days in 70 Jubilees:||1,276,800|
The odds that these are simply the same by random chance is one part in the total, since this is the error, or 1 in over 1.2 million. This chart is the subject of an interactive tool that allows adjustments based on textual issues found in these census. See Moses’ Census Report to play with these numbers more and view them as date references.
The census counts from Numbers are indicating that the story of the people who left Egypt and entered Canaan has something to do with 3500 years.
The day-for-a-year time line is counting down to the 3500th anniversary to the very day from the Exodus from Egypt. The two are working to the same end.
From a logical perspective a generality like this is rather amazing. Does every reference to any count of anything indicate time? As one who has puzzled over nearly every such count I can say that my belief is that all counts really do work this way. Though I don’t know exactly when every such count applies in the overall time line, I don’t doubt that with enough study all such counts will be found.
Each time God speaks a number it is a reference to time.
1. Jeremiah 25:11-12
2. Daniel 9:2
3. Ezra 7:8-9