The Musical Scale: Does God Do Things in Sevens?

Seven -- there is something special about this number.

Numbers, like the constellations, like the mountains, like any created thing, testify about the nature of God -- just as Romans 1:20 claims. I believe the concept of numbers -- and the physical reality upon which it is based -- is a part of Creation's voice that is continually praising God and testifying about Jesus. And when we look at how God has organized the physics of sound, we begin to see His patterns -- the marks of His intelligent design and His personality -- in all of it.

For example, in the Bible, we see that the number seven is strongly associated with God's perfection or His perfected works. He likes using the number seven to express completion. Its a pattern in His personality as expressed in the Bible. In the laws of sound, I believe God has designed mechanisms in it that use this same pattern. I believe it is evidence that the Personality in the Bible is the same Personality that created sound waves.

There is something miraculous about what's called the "octave" in music -- and the seven degrees of notes that divide it, called a scale. I'm referring to the thing that Julie Andrews sings in Sound of Music -- do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti, which are the seven notes of a musical scale. It leads logically to the eighth note, which is called the octave. It sounds exactly like the note that started the scale ("do" in do-re-mi) only higher in pitch. It's an odd and amazing thing, if you stop to think about it. After seven pitches move upward in a methodical step-by-step movement, you arrive at an eight note that "completes" the journey of the seven notes because it sounds the same as the starting note, only higher. I believe there is meaning in this little miracle far beyond just an interesting phenomenon in the physics of sound. I believe God designed it that way to express spiritual truth.

Even Paul Cooper, in his Perspectives in Music Theory: An Historical-Analytical Approach, called the octave the "basic miracle of music" -- though he certainly wasn't thinking about a spiritual corollary. But his comment confirms that there is indeed something special happening. When the frequency (the speed at which the air vibrates when a note is struck/sung) is double the rate of another frequency, it is an octave, and the pitch is moving twice as fast -- the air molecules are excited into more rapid movement.

As you see in the Bible, God likes to do things in sevens or multiples of seven -- whether it's the seven days of Creation, the Sabbath law of resting on the seventh day of the week, the seven feasts of Israel, the seven bowls, trumpets, and seals in Revelation, the 49 years (7 x 7) of the Jubilee cycle, the 14 stations of the Cross, the marching around Jericho seven times, and many other instances.

Of course, the seven-note scale came from European musical tradition, but let's not give humans too much credit. When you look at how and why Western music rested all of its musical laurels on what's called the "diatonic" scale, you see that Western thinkers were stumbling on a natural phenomenon already inherent in the physics of sound, thanks to the harmonic principles behind the octave.

The history and details of how the seven-note diatonic scale came to be will be the subject of another post. Once that's covered, I'll offer my opinion about the spiritual truths that God has embedded in the diatonic scale.

For now, it is enough to ask: does God do things in sevens? I think it's certainly a pattern of His Personality as portrayed in the Bible, and it is amazing to find similar patterns from His Personality all over Creation.

His fingerprints are everywhere.