A Thousand Hills

Devils Dyke panoramic view
Picture: Ben124 (CC)

For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. Ps 50:10

Based on this blessing – if I were a farmer – I would rather cultivate forest beasts than cattle. At least I would know for sure that all my flock – be it wolfs or bears, mountain lions or deer, caribou or even rabbits – were the Lord’s. With cattle it would be unsure, or at least I had to be really sure that my land was full of hills, and that those hills were of the one thousand that the Lord is looking after.

But Switzerland alone has more than a thousand hills. And somehow I am sure, the hills in Israel would take precedence.

I am sure you see how ridiculous this strain of thought is. Nobody would think of one thousand in this verse as being literally true.

But what is it then?

As a modern time human being with some understanding of math you will immediately see that this is 10 times 10 times 10. For us, 1000 is a rather significant number. Ten to the cube. We could call it somewhat perfect. If only…

In ancient times, ten was by no means a special mathematical number. The base of most mathematical systems was not ten, but rather 6 or 12. Even today, we have other mathematical system of high importance. The dual or binary system of computers, with base 2, that only consists of 0 and 1. Or also in computers, the hexadecimal system that uses 16 symbols for numbers, adding ABCDEF to the digits. Or the octagonal system with base 8.

In the binary system, other numbers are important and somewhat “perfect”. 32, 256, 1024, 4096, 65536, all powers of 2.

So why could 1000 be of symbolic value to the Hebrew culture if they were not calculating to the power of 10?

Because 10 has a special meaning to itself, denoting trials and tests.

Want some examples?

  • Noah was the tenth generation from Adam.
  • The ten commandments
  • The ten plagues over Egypt
  • The ten camels of the servant searching a wife for Isaak
  • Ten times fire came from heaven
  • And last but not least, the tithe.

Ten brings a test or a trial to its completion.

Let’s look at Egypt: they could have decided to let Israel go after each and every plague, and would have spared themselves from the other plagues. More over, they would have changed their future fate through obedience. But after 10 plagues there was no more room for obedience. And for Israel, it was important to muster their faith after each and every failure of Egypt to let them go, even though they had just suffered a terrible plague. But after ten plagues, the ones that still believed and put the blood on their door post, were set free.

Therefore, ten times ten times ten, 1000, stands for completion and fullness. Especially fullness of a period of tests and trials.

So, when God says that he owns the cattle on a thousand hills, he tells us that we can be sure as if it had been tested that he owns the cattle on ALL hills.

With this basic know how let’s look on some other verses.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. Deu 7:9

Exact same stream of thoughts here: God will extend his blessings to all generations, not superficially stop after a thousand.

For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. Ps 90:4 (2Pe 3:8)

David – and Peter in his reference of the verse – tells us here that God lives in another time system, outside of our time. Thus, some things that seem to take ages for us, are a moment for God. Especially testing periods. Until they come to completion seems very long for us. That is why God shortens them. On the other hand, scientist have found this verse to be strangely correct. Einstein’s relativity theory states that an outside observer of a system passing by in high speed will experience time differently than somebody within the system. With expansion speed of the universe being a certain value around David’s time, a thousand years within the universe make up a day in the time of an outside observer like God. Not everything is purely symbolic, but surely not every number is to be taken literally.

Another one:

Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. Rev 20:6

When Israel became a nation again in 1948, literal and external interpretation of Revelations as introduced by the three blind mice experienced a boost. Everything now was to be taken literal and would happen externally in the future. The verse in Rev 20:6 therefore denotes a period of a thousand years to the point that Jesus is going to rain here on earth in the future. While this might be true – and hear me, I believe in the literal return of Jesus – taken what we saw so far, the thousand years stand for an extended period of tests and trials that will come to completion and lead to its intended purpose eventually. Its purpose? That we reign as priests with Jesus. The first resurrection? When we accepted Jesus’ work on the cross, his invitation into a living and intimate relationship with God. His marriage proposal. Are those 1000 years future? No. They go on for 2000 years now since the death and resurrection of Jesus. We hold our faith up high like the Israelites through all those tests and trials, even though we at times react more Egyptian and harden our hearts to the invitations and pressings of God.

Want some more evidence?

And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. Rev 20:2

Again, literal external interpretation puts this off to the future. Yet Jesus defeated the devil at the cross. Why let him do havoc for another 2000 years before binding him up? I have established on this blog that the devil is defeated and that we fight memories of the past. So the last 2000 years have been and extended testing and trial period with a guaranteed successful ending when it comes to completion. Both to rule and reign as priest and kings with Jesus as well as a time to realize that we are set free. For whom the son sets free is free indeed.

I love him a thousand times.

And you?