The fourth book of the Old Testament, also known as the Fourth Book of Moses.

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36

Previous book: Leviticus | Next book: Deuteronomy
King James Bible

Last updated 3 April 2012: the copyright compliance effort continues. All the bold-face ellipses ("...") indicate a place where I skipped a segment of the poem to trim the quoted material and improve my original content: cut and paste ratio.

A poem by Robert Creeley; one of my very favorites, but sadly (far) longer than is permissible by E2 copyright standards. Here are a few excerpts, but what you should really do is go out and buy The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley or some other volume containing this piece, because it's just that lovely. Like all of Creeley's work, it's exquisitely simple and understated in its word choice, but the real mastery comes in its use of line breaks and meter or lack thereof. As a sometime poet and mathematician both, this piece is incredibly inspiring to me. I used to keep a copy taped to the wall wherever I lived; I think eventually I left it with someone who shares my determination to enjoy both art and science in life.

"Numbers" is dedicated to the sculptor Robert Indiana, a pop artist most famous for his widely reproduced sculptures, paintings, silk screenings, and other pieces that incorporate the word "Love".


singular upright flourishing
condition . . .
it enters here,
it returns here.

Who was I that
thought it was
another one by
itself divided or multiplied
produces one.


Math geeks, are you drooling yet? Around this point, I start feeling pleasant tingles of what I now know is abstract algebra in my brain.

You are not
, nor I you.


Do you see what he did there? I'm going to over-explain it anyway, if only in a feeble attempt to convey how much this poem lights my brain on fire. Creeley emphasizes the one-ness of individuality while introducing the idea of "more than one", leading neatly into the next verse, "TWO". (I think of the sections for each number as verses, for lack of a better term.) The possibility or impossibility of relationships between "ones", individuals, to create groups, larger numbers, which in turn can relate to other numbers, is an idea which recurs, nay reverberates, throughout the poem. I really, really wish I could post all of it, but I don't have the poet's permission.



When they were
first made, all the
earth must have
been their reflected
bodies, for a moment—
a flood of seeming
bent for a moment back
to the water's glimmering—
how lovely they came

What you wanted
I felt, or felt I felt.
This was more than one.


And there you have it: Adam and Eve, or whatever you want to call them --- once there is more than one person, there are relationships, and everything becomes infinitely more complex, just as mathematically one is infinitely greater than zero. I'm sorry --- my explication doesn't do the Creeley justice: his words explain these ideas, which --- sort of like abstract algebra --- would be ridiculously, almost uselessly simple and obvious, if they weren't also so universal and profound.

This point of so-called
consciousness is forever
a word making up
this world of more
or less than it is.


Abridging this poem is painful like pulling teeth, but also perilous-precarious like trying to somehow thin out a house of cards without having the whole thing collapse on me. No, wait, I've got it: I am playing poetry Jenga! That's it! Anyway, I included these lines because they remind me of another favorite Creeley poem of mine: "A Token", which ends with the lament, "...words, words/ as if all /worlds were there". Creeley is a master craftsman; words and silence are his medium. Whenever he chooses to share his thoughts about them, I have to stop and catch my breath.


They come now with
one in the middle—
either side thus
another. Do they

know who each other is
or simply walk
with this pivot between them.
Here forms have possibility.

When either this
or that becomes
choice, this fact

of things enters.
What had been
agreed now

alters to
two and one,
all ways.

The first
triangle, of form,
of people,

sounded a
lonely occasion I

circle begins
here, intangible—
yet a birth.

I cannot bear to cut a single line of the "THREE" verse. Fortunately, it's a short one? It can be hard to tell: the lines are short but the stanzas vary in length and the numbers dd and multiply... Anyway. This paragraph break is to try to explain how "Numbers" has something new to reveal every time I reread it. I started writing my first draft of the previous sentence with the lead-in, "Like all great poetry", then changed it to "Like all my favorite poetry" because I realize that just because I like something a lot, it doesn't mean it is of high quality but even that doesn't work because I have plenty of favorite poems that mean the same thing every time, even if that something is as simple as "I love the way these words sound." But the reason I started writing this paragraph is because I wanted to call attention to one such revelation: namely, the way Creeley subtly shifts the meter between verses. The ones for odd numbers I read as more syncopated, even asymmetrical, whereas the even numbers feel much more solid somehow, steady and measured. The contrast is particularly striking here, between THREE and FOUR, but also between SEVEN and EIGHT, quoted further below.


This number for me
is comfort, a secure
fact of things. The

table stands on
all fours. The dog
walks comfortably,

and two by two
is not an army
but friends who love

one another. Four
is a square,
or peaceful circle

celebrating return,
love's triumph.


Is a door
who enters.


Speaking of symmetry and asymmetry, another idea this poem constantly makes me examine is the concept of balance. I mentioned trying to live in the space between art and science before, but this poem is also about the happy medium between thought and feeling, rationality and whatever else doesn't actually exist at the end of what's a false dichotomy anyway... again, exactly where I try to live? That is what this poem is ABOUT, and that doesn't come nearly as close to expressing what I mean nearly as well as Creeley does.


Two by
two with
now another

in the middle
or else at
the side.

From each
of the four
corners draw

a line to
the alternate
points. Where

these intersect
will be

When younger this was
a number used
to count with, and

to imagine a useful
group. Somehow the extra
one—what is more than four—

reassured me there would be
enough. Twos and threes or
one and four is plenty.

A way to draw stars.

I could not bring myself to cut a single word of the "FIVE" verse. It is suffused (or maybe it just suffuses me) with a childlike joy and wonder remind me of Sesame Street's counting songs and what I consider their twenty-first century counterpart, They Might Be Giants's Here Come the 1 2 3s. ♥


     as forms of it
two and three—

     on the sixth
day had finished
     all creation

hence holy
     or that the sun
is "furthest from

     equator & appears
to pause, before
     returning . . ."

or that it "contains      the first even number
(2), and the first odd

     (3), the former representing
the male member, and the latter
     the muliebris pudenda . . ."

Or two triangles interlocked.


We are seven, echoes in
my head like a nightmare of
days in the week, seven
years for the itch of
unequivocal involvement



At sixes
and sevens
—the pen
lost, the paper:

a night's dead
drunkenness. Why
the death of something now

so near if this
number is holy.
Are all

numbers one?
Is counting forever
beginning again.

Let this be the end of the seven.


Say "eight"—
be patient.

Two fours
show the way.

Only this number
marks the cycle—

the eight year interval—
for that confluence

makes the full moon shine
on the longest

or shortest
day of the year

Now summer fades.
August is its month—
this interval.

She is eight
years old, holds
a kitten, and
looks out at me.

Where are you.
One table.
One chair.

In light lines count the interval.
Eight makes the time wait quietly.

No going back—
though half is
four and
half again
is two.



There is no point
of rest here.
It wavers,

it reflects multiply
the three
times three

Like a mirror
it returns here
by being there.


Somehow the game
where a nutshell covers
the one object, a

stone or coin, and
the hand is
quicker than the eye—

how is that nine,
and not three
chances, except that

three imaginations of it
might be, and there are
two who play—

making six, but
the world is real also,
in itself.

More. The nine months
of waiting that discover
life or death—

another life or death—
not yours, not
mine, as we watch.

The serial diminish-
ment or progression of
the products which

helped me remember:
nine times two is one-eight
     nine times nine is eight-one

at each end,

move forward, backward,
then, and the same
numbers will occur

What law

is involved


Where are you—who
     by not being here
are here, but here
     by not being here?

There is no trick to reality
     a mind
makes it, any


by being not
is—is not
by being.

When holes taste good
we'll put them in our bread.

And they do, so we do. Amen? Seriously, that is how much I love this poem; it makes little old nontheist me say "Amen" unironically.

With the exception of the playful "Pocket Calculator," Kraftwerk's 1981 album Computer World, although popularly perceived as a celebration of technology's wonders, was a rather pessimistic view of the then-approaching information age. Though "Numbers" is primarily known for its quirky beat and groundbreaking vocoder work, the sonic barrage of numerics served a greater artistic purpose than merely kicking off Kraftwerk's live show. There is a subtle "story" of sorts behind the track.

Throughout "Numbers" different computer and vocoder voices count upwards in various languages. The speed at which the numerals are read increases as the track goes on. This was meant to represent a man teaching a computer (or some other type of primitive artificial intelligence) how to count. The more robotic voice becomes more proficient at counting as the track goes on, and the "human" and "computer" voices trade multilingual numbers in a kind of gentle, poetic dance.

Around this point, "Numbers" segues into "Computer World..2", which combines the voices with the sonic theme of the album's opening track. As the tune progresses, however, the human voice is drowned out by the ever-accelerating computer voice. In the end, all that remains is a satanic computer voice reading an immense string of indistinguishable numbers at a deafening pace, occasionally punctated by the lost echoes of the human voice.

The volume is then gently reduced, and the listener is left a little disturbed before being soothed by the warm melodies of lonely "Computerlove".

A couple of years ago, I had a new idea - unfortunately, as I researched it, I realised that Donald Knuth (a man I respect) had had the same basic idea decades ago.

However, he did not appear to extend the idea as far as I've been thinking about it. The idea is this: The first operator in mathematics was to count up. Once you realise that repeated counting up is something that happens a lot, you make a shorthand for it, and call it addition. Once you realise that repeated addition is something that happens a lot, you make a new notation for it, and call it multiplication. Repeated multiplication gives the exponent (or power) operator. Repeated power can give something even newer.

The interesting thing is, that before the count operation was seen as something in and of itself, the set of numbers was basically limited to the numbers a brain can recognise instantly without counting - up to about 6. Once the count operator was recognised as something that can be applied indefinitely, the set of numbers expanded to include all the natural numbers. Once the addition operator was recognised as something in and of itself, the subtraction operator came along naturally - and the set of numbers is now all the integers, including the negative ones. Once the multiplication operator came into use, along with division, we got fractions and the rational numbers. Once the power operator came into use, and the roots were investigated, we got imaginary and complex numbers. At each stage, a new and unexpected set of numbers was revealed that was never even hinted at before. Each step has led to more expressive mathematics. If the pattern holds, investigating the inverse of Knuth's up-arrow notation should show an exciting whole new set of numbers. What x satisfies ((x ↑ 2) = (14 + 2i))? I think the answer to that question is actually a complex number. But what x satisfies (((2 - 5i) ↑ x) = -7)?

Yet more new numbers might arise from John Conway's extension to the up-arrow notation, his chained up-arrow notation. What might (3.5 → -1.7 → (5 + 2.2i)) evaluate to? And what about the inverses of the operator, e.g. what x satisfies ((1.84 → -5.2 → x) = 27)?

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
Book: Numbers
Chapters: 1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · 6 · 7 · 8 · 9 · 10 · 11 · 12 · 13 · 14 · 15 · 16 · 17 · 18 · 19 · 20 · 21 · 22 · 23 · 24 · 25 · 26 · 27 · 28 · 29 · 30 · 31 · 32 · 33 · 34 · 35 · 36 ·

This Book is called Numbers from the several numberings of
the people contained in it. It extends from the giving of the
Law at Sinai, till their arrival in the plains of Jordan. An
account is given of their Murmuring and unbelief, for which they
were sentenced to wander in the Wilderness nearly forty years;
also some laws, both moral and ceremonial. Their trials greatly
tended to distinguish the wicked and hypocrites from the
Faithful and true servants of God, who served him with a pure
number-crunching = N = NUXI problem

numbers n.

[scientific computation] Output of a computation that may not be significant results but at least indicate that the program is running. May be used to placate management, grant sponsors, etc. `Making numbers' means running a program because output -- any output, not necessarily meaningful output -- is needed as a demonstration of progress. See pretty pictures, math-out, social science number.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

For Jet-Poop's The Blood is the Life: A Frightful Halloween Quest. Vive l'Halloween!

2002.05.25 | 00.04

It is dusk.

Three men are led up seven wooden steps. The men are wearing once-white jumpsuits, now blood- and dirt- and sweat-stained from scores of years of use. All three are one-size-fits-all, and hang loosely off the undernourished bodies they clothe. The jumpsuits are in fact overgrown straightjackets, and each man's two arms are strapped to each man's back with a weave of worn belts and buckles.

Three men have black canvas hoods over their heads. They too are one-size-fits-all, but are tight enough to distinguish the bump of a nose under each one.

Three men are tied together at the neck. One thick rope encircles each neck, with three or four feet separating the men. One frayed end bounces against the small of the third man's back; the other is held tightly in one hand of one man dressed in black, leading the first man up the seven wooden steps.

One man clothed in black also wears one black hood—thick cheesecloth—he views the dim world around him through a translucent mesh. He pulls the first man towards the middle of the raised wooden platform.

One raised wooden platform sits seven feet above the pounded dirt ground. An infinite crowd surrounds the raised wooden platform on all sides. The crowd mills, vying for a better view, trying to get closer. Children pop out of the crowd, hoisted onto the shoulders of eager parents.

Three men in off-white stand in a line on one raised wooden platform, tied together at the necks, facing the same direction; one man in black stands behind them. The three men are framed by ancient wooden stakes, rising ten feet above the tallest man's hooded head. Three thick ropes dangle above each head, each knotted securely to the stake above and each with a strong noose knotted two feet above each head.

Four wooden crates are thrown onto the raised wooden platform. Each crate is three feet in height, a foot or two square. One man in black places a crate at the two feet of each man. He mumbles in one ear of each man, and each man sends a feeble foot out exploring, touching the crate in front of his two feet. Each man steps slowly, cautiously onto the unusually tall crate.

One three-foot tall crate is placed next to the first man. One man in black steps resolutely upon the fourth crate, clutches in one hand the noose hanging near to the first man's hooded head, and places the noose roughly about the first man's only neck. The man in black dismounts, places the fourth crate next to the second man, and repeats the action. The man in black dismounts, places the fourth crate next to the third man, and repeats the action. The man in black dismounts and hurls the fourth crate into the infinite crowd.

Twenty bright spotlights are lit, all trained upon one raised wooden platform. Three off-white jumpsuits glow in the darkening night as the crowd grows louder. Three men close to death hear distinct words from the infinite crowd, but none of the words are understood. One man begins to shake slightly.

One man in black, seeing some unseen signal, approaches the first man—the crowd quiets instantly. The man in black swings a steel-toed foot at the bottom of the first three-foot tall crate. One man in an off-white jumpsuit drops one foot to his death—the infinite crowd erupts in noise—a powerful spotlight casts the image of a flag of a foreign country on the off-white jumpsuit of the swinging man. One leg of the man twitches once, twice, and lies still.

One man in black takes three steps towards the second man, and the infinite crowd quiets instantly. He swings the same steel-toed foot at the bottom of the second three-foot crate—the second man drops a foot—the crowd explodes in noise—a spotlight casts an image of the same foreign country's flag on the dead man's body.

One man in black takes three steps towards the third man—silence—swing—drop—sound—light. The third man twitches uncontrollably as the third noose failed to separate two vertebræ in his only neck. The man's twitching slowly, imperceptibly decreases in consistency as the man asphyxiates. After twenty seconds, the man hangs completely still.

One infinite crowd continues clamoring as one man in black hurls three tall crates into the crowd and descends the seven wooden steps. The crowd parts without hesitation as the man in black walks in unmarked line away from one raised wooden platform.

Num"bers (?), n. pl.

of Number. The fourth book of the Pentateuch, containing the census of the Hebrews.


© Webster 1913.

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