An essential and fascinating key to understanding God’s Word and its design is through the meaning of numbers used throughout scripture. The study is fascinating when we search for connections and patterns of numbers as they repeat themselves. As we search for the repetitious use of any given number, we find symbolic meanings are attached to each number. These consistent patterns, I believe, reveals the handiwork of an all-knowing God.
The arrangement of some numbers tends to be clear. Others are not and require and in-depth study of scripture. When number patterns are discovered, they do not exist by random change but by design. Each number you will find has a symbolism attached to it by our Creator.
These symbolic meanings of numbers in scripture are different from what is referred to as numerology. Numerology involves looking for an occult meaning in numbers, their combinations, and numerical totals. Numerology is a form of divination that God condemns in the 19th chapter of Deuteronomy. In scripture, the most common numbers investigated include 3, 7, 10, 12, and 40. All of these numbers are used frequently and often in conjunction with significant biblical events.
The number seven (7) is found through the early portions of Genesis. This number is believed to represent spiritual perfection! We read of the seven days of creation with the 7th day being called the Sabbath. The 7-fold spirit of God is mentioned, which is a likely reference to completion in connection with the completed days of creation. Seven (7) is also a common literary device in the book of Revelation. Here we find the seven letters to 7 churches and seven years of Tribulation, among other occurrences. Also, in Revelation, we find the frequent use of multiples of the number 7. For example, we read of 144,000 Jews who spread the Gospel message in the “last days.” When we multiple 12 X 12 X 1000, it yields the number 144,000. It is as if to drive home the point scripture says “perfection” times “perfection” times 1000.
The number 3 is also significant in several passages. For example, Jonah was in the belly of the great fish three days just as Jesus was in the grave for three days before His resurrection. The use of the number 3 or variations of 3 is also common. For example, we read of “faith, hope, and love” in 1 Corinthians 13. At the transfiguration of Jesus, three people are included – Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Likewise, Jesus had three disciples in His inner circle – Peter, James, and John. When Jesus was in the wilderness, confronted by Satan, there were three temptations.
The number 12 also has a profound symbolic meaning and is often used in scripture. There were 12 sons of Jacob who became the 12 tribes of Israel. Likewise, Jesus would later have 12 disciples. The Book of Revelation includes 24 elders (12 X 2) that some interpret as representing Israel and the New Testament Church.
How about number 40? It is also significant in Scripture, representing a time of testing. The great flood experienced by Noah and his family lasted for 40 days. The Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus fasted for 40 days, as did Moses and Elijah. Each Israelite King, Saul, David, and Solomon ruled for 40 years.
The number 10 signifies testimony, law, responsibility, and the completeness of order. We see the use of the number 10 frequently in scripture, especially during the ten plaques of Egypt during the time of Moses. Moreover, of course, God gave us the ten commandants.
The number I want us to focus on in this article is number 17. The number 17 itself occurs ten times in the King James Bible. Of particular interest is the fact that the 17th day of the month, while not directly spelled out in scripture, is referenced within the dates of historical events in the Bible. As you will see, the number 17 is associated with victory, the restoration of all things, spiritual perfection, and perfect order. The first time the number 17 occurs in the bible is significant.
Genesis 7:11-12 (KJV) – In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
Every serious student of the Bible should be aware that God is into numbers. Here is Genesis chapter 7 we see that God chose to destroy the earth on the 17th day of the 2nd month. This account is again mentioned in 1 Peter chapter 3. In the New Testament, Noah’s Ark is spoken of as a type of Christ and His resurrection. Here is the scripture I am talking about:
1 Peter 3:20-21 (KJV) Which sometime were disobedient when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Notice how Peter, in his reference to Noah’s ark, points to it as a symbol of salvation and our baptism into His death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us have a closer look at Noah’s ark; it is a type of Christ & specifically something that has been called ‘the mystery of the 17th’.
The Story of Noah – A Closer Look
A few quick observations are in order before we get onto our little mystery. First, it should be noted that Noah is a type of the Lord Jesus. We read about Noah in Genesis:
Genesis 6:9 (KJV) – These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.
God chose Noah as a means of salvation to those who would enter the Ark. 2 Peter 2:5 declares that Noah was ‘a preacher of righteousness. God assigned Noah a critical task! However, Noah not only undertook the task but he saw it through right to the end for we read that:
Genesis 6:22 (KJV) – Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.
This scripture gives us a foreshadowing of another man that God would use to bring salvation to humanity. The Lord Jesus was that man. He was the righteous Son of God whom the Father used to save those who would put their trust in Him. Moreover, the task given to this man would lead Him right to the cross. It meant the most violent ends and excruciating suffering. Jesus did everything that the Father commanded, just as Noah did before him.
The Ark – General Observations
The ark represents the salvation that we find “in Christ.” The ark provided refuge from the floodwaters when God’s judgment fell upon the earth. Those who failed to obey the message Noah preached perished in the floodwaters. While those obedient to the message entered into the safety of the ark. The ark is a perfect representation of the salvation that is ‘in Christ’
A Single Door
Genesis 6:16 (KJV) – A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.
There was only one way to enter into Noah’s ark. Noah put a single door on the side of the ark just as God instructed. Those entering the ark had to enter through that single door. In like manner, God has provided one way into the salvation He now provides. Jesus knew this well, stating:
John 10:7-9 (KJV) – Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
God offered protection to all those who trusted and were obedient to His word. We read in Genesis 7:16 that it was the Lord who closed and sealed the door of the ark.
Genesis 7:16 (KJV) – And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.
The Mystery of the 17th
Now let us focus on the day, after the flood waters receded, that the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat. Scripture reveals that the ark touched down on the 17th day of the 7th month. I find that fact incredible, don’t you? It was on the 17th day of the month!
Genesis 8:1-4 (KJV) – And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged; The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.
And the in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
The symbolism contained in the ark story points to water baptism. While the world was drowning, the ark was riding safely through the waters. Forty days later, it rested on the mountains of Ararat. These events are symbolic of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Keeping that in mind, we find it extraordinary that the ark rested on the 17th day of the 7th month.
You see, in Exodus12:1 the Lord changed the Israelite’s calendar. What had been the 7th month since creation was now to become their first month. To this day, the Jews have these two calendars (usually known as the civil and religious calendars). The 17th day of the 7th month (when the ark came to rest, and a new life dawned for Noah and his family) is the same day as the 17th of the 1st month (called Nisan) in the religious calendar. This is important because there are key events in the Bible which occur on the 17th day of Nisan!
On the 17th Day of the Month!
On the 17th day of the month in different years, we see:
- Sinners punished by God
- God restores the earth
- God returns the earth to a type of perfection
The symbolism contained within the number 17 is amazing:
The number 17 is a combination of the number 7 and 10. Of course, seven added to 10 yields 17. Remember, the number 7 symbolizes perfection and completion. Likewise, the number 10 symbolizes perfect order. Also of interest is that the 7th prime number happens to be 17. Here are the first seven prime numbers: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, and 17. Just as 6 is the number for man. Guess what the 6th prime number is? Answer: the number 13, the number symbolic of the rebellion of man against God.
Other Key Events
There are a surprising number of other key events in Israel’s history that occurred on this exact date. The 17th of Nisan (the first month in the religious calendar) is a very key date associated with resurrection! Here is a list of the events that occurred on this day:
- In Genesis – Jacob was reunited with his favorite son Joseph for 17 years. Peace was restored to his soul. Genesis 47:28 (KJV) – And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was a hundred forty and seven years.
- Joseph – sold as a slave by his brothers at the age of 17, but he eventually had victory over them.
- Hebrew Calendar – Nisan 17, Hebrews entered Egypt (Exo 12:40-41) 430 years before deliverance.
- Hebrew Calendar – Nisan 17, Moses led the Israelites through the Parting of the Red Sea (Exo 3:18, 5:3)
- Hebrew Calendar – Nisan 17, Israel entered and ate the first fruit of the Promised Land (Joshua 5:10-12)
- Hebrew Calendar – Nisan 17, The cleansing of the Temple by Hezekiah (eight hundred years after entering the promised land. (2 Chronicles 29:1-28)
- Hebrew Calendar – Israel came through the Red Sea on the 17th of Nisan, having left at Passover on the 14th. For them, this was death to their old life (with the drowning of the Egyptians) and resurrection to a new life in God on the 17th!
- Hebrew Calendar – The manna which had fed the nation of Israel for the 40 years in the wilderness stopped on the 16th of Nisan & from the 17th onwards Israel feasted on the new grain of the promised land (Josh 5:10-12). This again is a picture of the new life that came on the 17th!
- Hebrew Calendar – Death sentence hung over the entire Israelite nation as their sworn enemy, Haman, had convinced the king to sign a decree to destroy the Jews. (Esther 3:1-12). This decree went out on the 13th Nisan. Esther then proclaimed a three day fast for the 14th, 15th, and 16th. On the 3rd day, Esther approached the king saying to herself ‘If I perish, I perish!’ (an attitude of death or resurrection… it is in God’s hands!) On the 17th Nisan, the tables were turned on the enemy Haman & instead of the Jews being destroyed, his own life was taken!
Another key event associated with the number 17 is the Passover. The Passover is the Jewish celebration of God’s liberating the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.
Numbers 28:16 (KJV) – And in the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover of the LORD.
The word “Passover” refers to the time when God spared the Israelites from the calamity that killed every firstborn in Egypt. (Exodus 12:27; 13:15). Before God carried out this devastating plague, he told the Israelites to splash the blood of a slaughtered lamb on their doorways. God would see this sign and “pass over” their homes and spare their firstborn. Passover is a celebration of spring, birth, and rebirth, of a journey from slavery to freedom,
Jesus Died on the Passover
In the New Testament, we find that Jesus died on the Passover. The Jewish Passover was celebrated on the 14th day of the 1st month of the Hebrew Calendar.
1 Corinthians 5:7-8 (KJV) – Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
John 18:28 (KJV) – Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.
John 19:14-15 (KJV) – And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
Resurrection Day – the 17th day of the month!
Matthew 20:18-19 (KJV) – Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
On the 17th day of the month, Jesus rose from the dead. We can be sure of this because Passover is on the 14th day of the 1st month on the Hebrew calendar. On the Hebrew calendar, it would be the 17th day of Nisan! For three days and three nights, Jesus remained in the grave. He rose from the dead on the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. He conquered death, hell, and the grave by rising on the 17th day! Coincidence? I believe this was a deliberate act by an all-knowing God.
According to this ancient Hebrew calendar, the ark rested on precisely the same day that Jesus was resurrected from the tomb. Amazing coincidence? Knowing the beginning from the end, God pre-ordained history to point toward the pinnacle event of salvation. Just as the ancient judgment ended on the day, the ark rested on Ararat, so the judgment of the restored world ended on the same day of the year when the tomb could not hold Him – on the 17th day of Nisan.
The Lord of the Sabbath, rose from the dead on the Sabbath, Nisan 17, on Saturday, April 6, 30 AD.
The God we serve is very exact and precise. The odds of just two of these events both happening accidentally on the same day of the Hebrew year (360 days) are one in 129,000.
The odds of these events all happening coincidentally on the same day of the Hebrew year are one in 783 quadrillions, 864 trillion, 876 Billion, 960 Million (783,864,876,960,000,000). Please do not check my math; it is a long time since I took a course in probability and statistics. However, the point is the math will yield and exceptionally large number.
God is consistent throughout scripture. Like bread crumbs, God provides clues that, when studied, always provide a deeper, more profound meaning. God’s use of the number 17 is one of those bread crumbs. What starts as an insignificant date mentioned in Genesis 7:11 is, in reality, the first in a series of clues that God gave pointing to the resurrection of His dear Son!