A Sonic Picture of Perfection

Three questions:

One. Can you imagine God placing a little picture of His perfection in the mechanics of sound waves -- specifically the seven-note musical scale that millions of music students practice every day around the world?

Two. Did you know the number seven appears in the Bible in a way that's most often associated with God's perfection?  I mentioned a few examples in my post "Does God Do Things in Sevens?"

Three. Did you know that the number eight in the Bible is most often associated with new beginnings?

Some examples:

The Number Eight in the Bible

Abraham circumcised Isaac when he was eight days old. Circumcision, as the NT explains, is a physical sign of a spiritual reality: our newness in Christ that removes the old nature from our hearts.

Eight people emerged from Noah's ark to repopulate the earth. If that's not a new beginning I don't know what is.

Eighth day circumcision continued into the Mosaic covenant and endured throughout Jewish history. The pattern of the eight day depicting newness continued unabated.

David was the eighth son of Jesse; he brought newness to Israel as the first king to conquer Israel's enemies and bring the Ark back to its rightful place.

Solomon was the eighth son of David; he brought newness to Israel as the first king to build the temple using the blueprints and revelation that God had given David.

In Ezekiel's vision of the temple that some scholars believe will exist in the Millenial Reign of Christ, there are eight steps that ascend from the outer court to the inner court. The inner court represented a new phase of religious life with different religious activities than the ones that operate in the outer court.

There are also eight tables in Ezekiel's temple used to slaughter the sacrifices. The sacrifices are a picture (and memorial, in Ezekiel's temple) of Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross, which sets us free from sin and gives us a new life. Atonement and sacrifice is always tied to newness -- at least from the perspective of the person whose sins are being cleansed.

The Gospel of Luke (Lk 9:28) specifically mentions eight days passing between when Jesus told his disciples that some of them would not die before seeing Him in His true glory and when He fulfilled that prophecy and took three of them to the Mountain of Transfiguration where He was revealed in His full glory. This was a new revelation for the disciples; they had never seen Jesus in His full glory.

The Gospel of John (Jn 20:26) specifically mentions eight days passing between when Thomas said he refused to believe that Jesus had risen and when Jesus appeared to them and told Thomas to touch His wounds as proof. After the eight days, Thomas was set free from unbelief, and he entered a new spiritual life of belief in Jesus.

Acts 9:33 specifically mentions that a paralyzed man had been bedridden for eight years before Peter healed him in Jesus' Name. The man entered into a newness of physical health after eight years.

Whether or not you agree with the overall point above, you can't blame people for seeing a common link between the number eight and the concept of spiritual newness in the Bible.

I think it is fascinating, therefore, that in the laws of sound there are seven notes in the scale, and the eight note -- the perfect octave above the starting note of the seven-note scale -- marks the beginning of a new scale. This is a natural occurring phenomenon in the laws of sound. In other words, God designed this seven-note pattern with the eighth note as a new beginning. He programmed it into Creation. Therefore, in the very principles of sound waves, we see seven associated with perfection/completion (seven notes complete a scale), and we see eight associate with new beginnings.

Let me dive into the observational science behind the octave principle. If you're interested in that kind of stuff, keep reading. If not, I hope you enjoyed the post up to this point.

To understand the principle behind the seven-note scale and the eighth note as the octave, you have to first understand something called the "overtone series."

When you strike a single note on a piano, you're not just playing one note. Every individual note (on a string or wind instrument) carries within it a whole kitten caboodle (yes, a caboodle specifically full of kittens -- very important) of other notes, and the "many notes in one" is what they call the "overtone series." If you write out the notes -- or "harmonics" -- found in one single note, you would count as many as 16 notes embedded subtly in one note. There is no bottom or top to this number: the number of notes could continue above and below the music staff. 16 is simply the number of these extra notes that you could easily fit on a music staff.

So why can't you hear all those extra notes when you strike an individual note? It's because they're quiet. They're not the dominant frequencies. In technical terms, they're not the "fundamental" frequency. The fundamental is the individual note that you're striking or playing or singing. The extra notes, the "harmonics," are subtle, below the radar -- like little ingredients in a big recipe. The human ear doesn't easily pick them all up unless the ear is trained.

While studying this amazing "zillions of notes in one" phenomenon in the overtone series -- which is the basic scientific foundation of music -- some smart people figured out that there were precise (more or less) frequency ratios that divided the overtone series a certain way. As they pinpointed these precise, simple ratios that had nice neat whole numbers (I.e. 3:2), they found that these special notes divide the overtone series in sets of sevens before reaching an eighth note, called the octave, which is twice as fast as the starting note of the seven-note scale. In fact, this perfect doubling of the frequency makes it sound identical to the starting note, except higher. This is why you play an "octave above" another note, yet the two notes sound like twins, as if they were the same note but in different low and high registers. In truth, they really are not the same note. They simply share a perfect mathematical ration 2:1 of frequency. If their vibrations were visualized, it would be like watching someone jump rope twice as fast as another person. It would look like they were doing it on purpose to create a rhythm: every second jump that the fast person completes, the slow person does one jump.

When people discovered this very interesting phenomenon in sound, they thought it was cool -- just from a mathematical perspective. But if that wasn't cool enough, the seven-note patterns -- and this octave equivalence phenomenon -- all sounded quite appealing to the human ear.

Thus music theory as we know it (in the West) was born, and it was all based on a phenomenon where seven notes complete something and the eighth note begins something new.

It's almost as if the same Personality that shaped the events recorded in the Bible -- all the sevens depicting completion and all the eights depicting newness -- also designed Creation.

Intelligent design indeed.