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Mem (מ) is water, signifying a flow of history or time. Vav (ו) is a nail or peg in Hebrew. It is also a conjunction (“and”), for it takes a nail to connect two things.
Six is the number of man, because man was created on the sixth day (Genesis 1:24-31). Man was also to labor for six days before entering into the Sabbath rest (Exodus 20:8-11), and the Hebrew slave was to serve for six years (Exodus 21:2).
The number 46 signifies man as a temple of God. So Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:16,
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
A temple is an image (or reflection) of the God of that temple. So the biblical temple was built according to the pattern of the spiritual temple in heaven. Even the sanctuary in the time of Moses was built according to the revelation given to him on the mountain. In Exodus 25:8, 9, God says,
8 Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern [tabneeth, “model”] of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.
Again, we read in Exodus 25:40,
40 See that you make them after the pattern [tabneeth] for them, which was shown to you on the mountain.
This “pattern” (model, pattern, plan) was part of the revelation that God gave Moses when he was on Mount Horeb. For this reason, the earthly sanctuary had to be constructed in a precise manner in order to reflect that which was in heaven.
Later, when the temple of Solomon was built, David received revelation of its pattern. We read David’s instructions to Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:10-12,
10 “Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be courageous and act.” 11 Then David gave to his son Solomon the plan [tabneeth] of the porch of the temple, its buildings, its storehouses, its upper rooms, its inner rooms and the room for the mercy seat, 12 and the plan [tabneeth] of all that he had in mind for the courts of the house of the Lord and for all the surrounding rooms, for the storehouses of the house of God and for the storehouses of the dedicated things.
The purpose of this revelation was to bring heaven to earth and for the temple on earth to reflect the image of the heavenly temple. This was also the case with Adam, who was created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). However, when Adam sinned, that image was distorted, and the rest of history focuses upon restoring that image so that the creation itself might fulfill its purpose.
The tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon can be seen as models of reconstruction of heavenly things on earth. Yet these places of group worship were also progressive revelations, moving over time from a tent to a house and finally culminating in the temple made of “living stones,” as we read in 1 Peter 2:5,
5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
This is the real temple that God had in mind from the beginning. It is described further in Ephesians 2:19-22,
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
The progression from tent to house under the Old Covenant is being repeated on a greater level under the New Covenant. The “tent” stage is pictured by David’s tabernacle that was prophesied in Amos 9:11. James, the head of the Jerusalem church, quoted Amos’ prophecy in Acts 15:16-18, applying it to his day,
16 “After these things I will return and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, 17 so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” 18 says the Lord, who makes these things known from along ago.
Christ’s first coming built the tabernacle of David; His second coming will build the temple. So we see a two-step process, according to the pattern under the Old Covenant. The progressive pattern is clearly shown in this. A tent is not a permanent structure; a house is permanent. A tent is a work in progress and is yet incomplete, falling short of God’s ultimate intention.
Therefore, a tabernacle pictures believers on earth who are yet incomplete, having been born mortal and corruptible through Adam’s sin, and yet by faith are being built into a temple. This is reflected in a subtle manner by the numeric value of Adam. His name in Hebrew has a numeric value of 45, but in Greek it is 46.
This suggests that the tabernacle and temple under the Old Covenant, which was revealed through the Hebrew language, fell short of the glory of God. It is only under the New Covenant that the true temple could be built—the temple that truly reflects the purpose of God to be a house of prayer for all people (2 Chronicles 6:33; Isaiah 56:7).
In the time of Haggai, the second temple had been built to replace Solomon’s temple which the Babylonians had destroyed. This was a much smaller temple than the original. The old men who had seen Solomon’s temple wept because the second temple lacked the glory of the first (Ezra 3:12). Centuries later, King Herod reconstructed the temple and restored its glory. It had been recently finished when Jesus came to the temple in John 2:19-21,
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
Was it a mere coincidence that it took 46 years to build that temple? The number 46 is thus associated with the temple. In fact, if you convert each Greek letter into its numeric equivalent, the phrase “It took forty-six years to build this temple” has a numeric value of 3,588 (46 x 78). In other words, the number 46 is built into the Greek text itself in the place where the number 46 is associated with the building of the temple.
Furthermore, the number 3,588 is also 13 x 276, because 276 is 46 x 6. The number 276 is the numeric value of “all flesh,” showing us that the purpose of the temple is to be a house of worship for all people. We see the number 276 also in Acts 27:37,
37 All of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons.
When we add the numeric values of all the letters in this verse, the total is 3,036, or 276 x 11. It is also 46 x 66. Because 276 is built upon the number 46, this suggests that in the end, all flesh will become living stones in the temple of God when the divine plan has been completed. For this reason, the 276 souls on the sinking ship were all saved. Acts 27:44 says, “And so it happened that they all were brought safely to land.” The Greek text says, “they were all saved thoroughly.”
The underlying theme of 46 and 276 is about all flesh (mankind) as a unit worshiping God in His temple and also becoming living stones in that temple. This does not happen all at once, of course. Some are saved during their lifetime; others are saved at the great White Throne, when every knee bows and every tongue professes Jesus Christ as Lord (Philippians 2:10, 11). Only a remnant will be saved prior to their profession of faith at the White Throne, but everyone's purpose in life will be fulfilled at the time of the restoration of all things.
The 46th time that Abram’s name appears in Scripture is in Genesis 16:2. This is in the story of Abram, who took Hagar the bondwoman as a wife to bring forth Ishmael, the child of the flesh (Romans 9:8; Galatians 4:29). Ishmael was born of natural seed, and so the Adamic problem was passed down to him. Hence, Ishmael represents all of us in our natural state, born of fleshly parents.
On the other hand, Isaac represents “the children of promise” (Galatians 4:28) who are born from Sarah, who represents the New Covenant (Galatians 4:24). We are changed from the body of Ishmael to the body of Isaac through faith in Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant. Spiritually speaking, we claim Sarah as our mother and thus become children of promise.
So in Genesis 16:2, Abram agreed to beget a son through Hagar. One must be begotten by the flesh before being begotten by the Spirit. The second begetting is through our ears as we hear and believe the word of God, which is His “seed” (1 Peter 1:23) that begets the sons of God. We become sons of God in a two-step process, whereas Jesus Christ was the Son of God from the beginning (Luke 1:35), having been begotten by the Holy Spirit.
The point is that Genesis 16:2 gives us the 46th time that Abram’s name appears, and this suggests that Ishmael (and all that he represents) will become a living stone in the temple of God. He is part of “all flesh” that will be saved when every tongue professes Jesus Christ as Lord.
The same principle is seen in the 46th time that Abraham’s name appears in Scripture. We see this in Genesis 21:24, where the Philistine king, Abimelech, makes a covenant with Abraham after repenting on behalf of his people for stealing the wells (of salvation) that belonged to Abraham. This “covenant at Beersheba” (Genesis 21:32), the well of the oath, was a prophetic type and shadow of the day when every tongue will profess Christ. This great profession is defined clearly in Isaiah 45:22-24,
22 Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. 23 I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. 24 They will say of Me, “Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.” Men will come to Him, and all who were angry at Him will be put to shame.
In other words, their profession of faith is worded this way: “Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.” Furthermore, they will cease to be angry with Him, because they will know the full revelation of truth at the great White Throne. No man in that day will lack New Covenant faith. Hence, they will all be sons of God, born spiritually as children of promise through Sarah.