In the Bible, the phrase “3 score” refers to a period of 60 years. The word “score” is an archaic term meaning “20 years.” So 3 scores would be 3 x 20 = 60 years.
This phrase appears in several places in the Bible, often referring to a person’s lifespan or a significant period of time. Understanding the meaning of “3 score” can provide insight into certain scriptural passages.
- In the Bible, a “score” refers to 20 years.
- The phrase “3 score” means 60 years.
- This was a way of expressing lifespans and periods of time in biblical times.
- Several important biblical figures lived to “3 score and ten” meaning 70 years.
- Certain prophecies and time periods are expressed as “3 score” – meaning 60 years.
- Recognizing this meaning helps understand the proper context of verses using this phrase.
Understanding Biblical Lifespans
In the Old Testament, many important figures are said to have lived long lives expressed in scores. For example:
- “And Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.” (Genesis 50:26 KJV)
- “And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” (Deuteronomy 34:7 KJV)
These lifespans are impressive even by today’s standards. In the Bible, living to 70 or 80 years of age was considered a full lifespan.
Psalm 90:10 states:
“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (Psalms 90:10 KJV)
Here we see “threescore years and ten” (70 years) described as the typical lifespan, with 80 years (“fourscore”) being possible but still filled with labor and sorrow.
So when we see lifespans like “three score and six years” (66 years) for Noah’s father Lamech (Genesis 5:25-26), this indicates he lived a full life. Methuselah famously lived to “nine score and sixty-nine years” (969 years!), per Genesis 5:27. But most ancients did not enjoy such longevity.
Time Periods of “Three Score”
The phrase “three score” is also used to denote significant periods of time other than lifespans:
- God told Abraham his descendants would be enslaved 400 years: “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years.” (Genesis 15:13 KJV)
- Later, it specified this period as four generations: “And the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.” (Exodus 12:40 KJV)
- This 430 years is clarified as “four score and ten” (70 years) by the Septuagint, Alexandria version: “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel which they sojourned in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan was four hundred and thirty years long.” The additional 360 years (three score) then represents the period in Canaan up to the Exodus.
So here the 400 and 430 year periods are broken down into “scores” – with Abraham’s prophecy specified as a very long period of exile and oppression for his descendants before deliverance.
We also find “three score” used in prophecy regarding periods of judgment:
- God decreed that if the Israelites disobeyed, he would scatter them among the nations for a period described as “seven times” over. (Leviticus 26:18 KJV)
- In prophetic terms, “time” came to symbolize one year. (Daniel 4:16, 23-25)
- So “seven times” refers to 7 years in prophecy. By year-day correspondence, this equals 7 x 360 = 2,520 prophetic days.
- As each day represents a year in prophecy (Numbers 14:34, Ezekiel 4:6), “seven times” over symbolizes 2,520 literal years.
- This correlates to the “seven times” (2,520 years) of the Gentile “times of the Gentiles” that Jesus referred to (Luke 21:24). The 2,520 years expired in 1914 CE when the Gentile empires ruling Jerusalem lost power.
So in various prophecies, we see the phrase “three score” used to represent periods of judgment and exile expressed in 60-year increments. Recognizing the meaning of “score” helps unpack prophetic timelines.
Notable Figures Who Lived “Three Score”
Many important figures are described as living “three score” years – meaning 60 years:
- Ishbosheth, King Saul’s son, reigned over Israel for 2 years before being killed at the age of 40 (“two score years”). (2 Samuel 2:10, 4:4)
- David’s reign in Jerusalem lasted 40 (“two score”) years. (1 Kings 2:11)
- Abijah son of Rehoboam reigned as Judah’s king for 3 (“three score”) years. (2 Chronicles 12:16)
- Jehoahaz king of Israel reigned for exactly 23 (“three and twentieth”) years. (2 Kings 13:1)
- King Hezekiah of Judah reigned in Jerusalem for 29 (“nine and twentieth”) years. (2 Kings 18:1-2)
So when we see lifespans and reigns denoted in “scores”, it tells us the exact number of years. This helps provide clarity when studying the chronology of kings and prophets in Scripture.
Significant Instances of “Three Score” in Scripture
Beyond lifespans and time periods, the Bible uses “three score” to enumerate things like money, distance, groups of people, and more. Here are some noteworthy examples:
- Delilah was paid 1,100 (“eleven hundred”) shekels of silver by the Philistine lords, “eleven hundred pieces of silver.” (Judges 16:5 KJV)
- The men of Beth-shemesh offered 70 (“threescore and ten”) men as burnt offerings during the Ark of Covenant’s return. (1 Samuel 6:19)
- Solomon had 700 (“seven hundred”) royal wives and 300 (“three hundred”) concubines. (1 Kings 11:3)
- Ben-hadad king of Syria marched against Samaria with 32 (“two and thirty”) allied kings and horses and chariots. (1 Kings 20:1)
- Ahaziah was 42 (“two and forty”) years old when he began reigning over Israel. (2 Kings 8:26)
- Jehu slaughtered 42 (“two and forty”) of Ahaziah’s relatives at Samaria. (2 Kings 10:14)
- Babylon was prophesied to become desolate after 70 (“three score and ten”) years. (Jeremiah 25:12, 29:10)
So in all these accounts, recognizing the meaning of “scores” provides the exact quantities being described. This adds richness and precision to our understanding of these historical events and prophecies.
The Significance of “3 Score” in Scripture
In summary, the phrase “3 score” means a literal period of 60 years in the Bible. It was commonly used to denote:
- Lifespans of prophets and patriarchs
- Reigns of kings of Israel and Judah
- Time periods of prophecy and judgment
- Precise numbers and quantities
Some key verses to understand include:
- Psalm 90:10 – establishing threescore and ten (70) years as a typical lifespan.
- Genesis 15:13-16 – God’s prophecy to Abraham of a 400 year period of affliction.
- 2 Kings 13:1 – the 23 year reign of King Jehoahaz.
- Daniel 4:16, 23-25 – Biblical basis for equating “times” with years in prophecy.
- Leviticus 26:18 – God’s “seven times” decree of scattering the Israelites.
So recognizing the meaning of “3 score” provides valuable insight into the significance of numbers, lifespans, time periods, and prophecies throughout Scripture. It enhances our understanding of important biblical accounts and God’s plan revealed through His Word.