The number 120 can symbolize a divinely appointed time of waiting. After God saw how sinful and dedicated to evil man had become after the garden of Eden, he determined a one hundred and twenty year period would be given for repentance and then the flood waters would come (Genesis 6:1 – 3).
The meaning of the number 120 is seen in its Exodus role when Israel left Egyptian bondage. Scripture states that the Israelites who left Egypt had 600,000 men (Exodus 12:37). When the Egyptians heard about their former slaves leaving the country they complained to Pharaoh, who then amassed 600 chariots to pursue the children of Israel (14:5 – 7). 600,000 = 120 times 5,000 and 600 = 120 times 5.
We also find 120 playing a part in the Book of Revelation. In the end time, God will save 12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel for 144,000 (120 x 1,200) total (Revelation 7).
After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven, 120 disciples that were gathered in Jerusalem chose a successor to Judas Iscariot (who committed suicide) to be among the special eleven disciples who were witnesses of Christ’s entire ministry (Acts 1:14 – 26).
One hundred and twenty is a factor in the number of Kingdom of Judah captives who returned to Jerusalem and the land of Palestine from Babylon. According to the book of Ezra, 42,360 captives (120 x 353) came back to resettle the land (Ezra 2:1, 64).
When Ezra the prophet came back from Babylonian captivity, He determined that the only way he could keep the knowledge of God active for the Jews was to have copies of the Scriptures. These copies would be sent to every synagogue in the world.
In order to do this he first had to collect all the manuscripts purported to be inspired. He then had to determine which ones actually were inspired by God, edit them, correct any mistakes, arrange them in a proper order and so on. To aid him in this monumental task Ezra decided to create what is known as the Great Synagogue (or Great Assembly).
The Great Synagogue, with Ezra as the leader, was a group of 120 Jewish elders who led the effort to officially collect and edit the writings that would become what we call the Old Testament.
” . . . Ezra the priest – assisted by the priests and Levites of the Great Assembly or Synagogue – completed the final editing and canonization of the Old Testament Scriptures . . . ” (HBFV, Second Edition, page 4)
The canonization (the collecting of writings to be considered authoritative and definitive) of the Old Testament scriptures occurred in the late fifth century B.C. After Ezra died, the Great Synagogue continued for only about another 100 years.