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What's the Significance of the Number Seventy?

What's the Significance of the Number Seventy?

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The number seventy appears several times in the Torah: seventy elders of the Jewish nation, seventy languages and nations of the world, and seventy members of Jacob's family that came to Egypt. The last two examples will give us an insight as to the nature of this number.

Seventy is a double-sided coin, representing on one hand the ultimate unity, and on the other hand, the epitome of disunity. When Jacob and his household traveled down to Egypt to be with his son, Joseph, the Bible tells us, "All the offspring of Jacob, seventy soul." Not souls, in the plural form, but the singular word—soul. The commentaries explain that the degree of unity among the family members was such that they were as one man, one soul, one drive.

Yet earlier in history, a generation after the great flood in Noah's time, a group had arisen to build a structure that would reach the heavens. They would ascend it and fight G‑d. This became known as the Tower of Babel. As punishment for their rebellion, G‑d planted strife and disagreement among them by causing each to speak a different language and not understand his fellow workers. From the unfinished Tower of Babel, the different languages separated from each other, and formed seventy nations.

When disunity came to the world, it took the form of seventy. When we see a true example of togetherness in the Bible, it takes the form of seventy. It's a number than can be pulled either way, all depending on you.

Let me know if this helps,

Malkie Janowski for Chabad.org

Malkie Janowski is an accomplished educator who lives in Coral Springs, Florida. Mrs. Janowski is also a responder on Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi team.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Belinda April 13, 2017

What version are you coming from when you're speaking of 70 being singular? Genesis 46:26, KJV says "souls". Plural.. Reply

kalil January 13, 2017

the unity and disunity also represent the balance of the menorah pattern. There are all sorts of these patterns in the Tanakh because He is a G-d of balance Reply

Norbert Steiner March 12, 2015

Is there significance to the number 71? I grew up in an apartment building with the street number 71. I always thought that there must be a significance to it, and thought it may stand for seven (the world was created in seven days) and one (HaShem). I use the number 71 wherever and whenever I can. I believe that if it does not do anything for me in this world, maybe in the next. Reply

yitzchak chaim March 12, 2015

Thank you for this explanation. I find the use of the singular soul to describe Jacob's family very powerful. When you realize that Gd is infinite and that souls are each made of His infinite light, there is really no separation between souls. Our separation from each other is only an illusion in this world. I believe hashem uses 70 as a representation of His divine action moving away from perfect creation (babel) and back towards it (jacob). Reply

Anonymous Germany March 9, 2015

Very informative and inspiring. The number seventy seems to hold the solution as to how one can bring disunity into unity and give order to disorder.
Ultimately the coin will settle on one side, thus achieving stability. Reply

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