The study of the number eighteen has proven to be more than I expected! There are many thoughts about this number, most are very surprising. I feel that eighteen compares with thirteen when it comes to alternate and veiled meanings. Some Jews view it as a very lucky number, while Nazis use it to commemorate Hitler; there are many other opinions held about this number.
When things are studied in the Bible the first use of the word is often important and lends a shadow to the use of the word from then on. Many times, I feel that is very cut and dry when it comes to the meaning(s) of the word. Eighteen is one of those words. The first two times eighteen is used is in Judges and both of these verses deal with the length of time that a foreign king oppressed the Children of Israel. Many sources will tell you that eighteen is the number of bondage in the Bible. That is a limited scope of the number; as I reflected on Judges 3:14, 10:8 and Luke 13:11 and 16, I could see this as the length of time that they were held in bondage, but it is also when they were set free from the bondage. So, to start this study I will start with an example of eighteen that shows another side of the word.
When Solomon built the first Temple he commissioned two pillars to adorn the front entrance. The first reference to these huge bronze structures is in 1 Chronicles 27:9; this does not talk about the pillars but the bronze that would have made its way into them, eighteen thousand talents given by the leaders of the people. 1 Kings 7:15 is the description of these two pillars when they were made. The final reference to these pillars is found in Jeremiah 52:21 when they were taken apart and looted by the Babylonians.
Between these two references, we get an impressive amount of information about these two eighteen cubit high guardians of the Temple. Solomon even named them, the one to the south was Jakin (he establishes), the other one on the north side was Boaz (in him is strength). Imagine the events and history that took place around them and the impression that they had on the worshippers that attended the Temple.
These “eighteen” references to the pillars do not deal with bondage but with the idea of the components of the words that make-up eighteen. Eight is “more” than the perfect of seven and the “teen” part refers to ten which in part is related to “tithe.” (See Ten in the Bible.) Strong’s/Vines paints the idea of “plumpness” or beyond enough that is God’s.
Meaning of Eighteen
Jews may hold eighteen as a lucky number; the reason is the numerical value of the two words that make up eighteen: chet and yod, these two together spell the word chai or life http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/judaism-numbers/
Josiah’s Eighteenth Year
2 Kings 22: 3 + 23: 23 and 2 Chronicles 34 + 35
Josiah was the last king to do right in the ways of God before Jerusalem was exiled. His father and son did not follow God. He came to the throne at eight years of age (children will rule over you) but set his heart on God. Hilkiah, a forefather of Jeremiah, was the High Priest. Josiah’s eighteenth year of reigning was busy because he had ordered the Temple cleaned and when it was purified he ordered Passover to be celebrated. This is another example of God’s fullness and the people being freed to worship and follow God. I don’t do this very often but “Josiah’s Generation” is the type and shadow for the last great revival before the end of this age comes.
Time Markers or God Sending a Message
Nebuchadnezzar’s Eighteenth Year
Jeremiah records two things that happened during Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year. The first one is in Jeremiah 32:1 where God instructs Jeremiah to buy a field, as a sign that life would return to normal. Verse 26 starts the rest of the story; God tells Jeremiah that He has every intention to destroy Jerusalem and it will happen. The second event is found in 52: 29, this is the number of people that were carried into exile that year; this follows the story of the destruction of the Temple and the pillars. Nebuchadnezzar was God’s appointed instrument to free the land from the people so it could have its Sabbath rest.
The End of Bondage
Many study helps/websites declare that eighteen = bondage, I will say it again, it seems to me that it signals the end of bondage. Judges 3:14 and 10: 8 both tell a story of Israel messing up and being in bondage until eighteen years have passed when God appoints a Judge to free them. Luke 13: 11 is the story of Jesus healing the woman on the Sabbath, to show the Pharisees that their thinking had the people bound. Verse 4 also mentions eighteen people who died when a tower collapsed on them, just because they died that way did not make them sinners. It seems by the text that people were passing judgment about these people because of the way that they died. (It is bad luck to be superstitious.)
2 Samuel 8.13 and 1 Chronicles 18.12 tell the story of David/his army defeating 18,000 Edomites. A strange note in Samuel said he became famous after this victory even though the preceding twelve verses tell of much larger and very powerful enemies that fell to David. It would be a hard push to make a lot of this just because it has an eighteen in the verse. But Edom was an enemy and it seems that there was some level of freedom associated with the victory. A more notable thing happened after this, David renewed his interest in Jonathan and found Mephibosheth at Lo Debar.
Benjamin and Israel
This story at the end of Judges (20: 25 and 44) is a tale that lets you know the Bible is real. It does not show-off victories but shortcomings. It’s eighteen “connection” is the 18,000 warriors that fell on both sides; the totals for the war were lopsided and more than just 18,000. It would seem God had had enough, and the message to the nation was that neither side was right. This “purging” seems to have brought about a revival and soul-searching in Israel. This story is important in the life of King Saul and his acceptance in Israel.
There are three “eighteens” that appear to be time markers for the beginning of kings starting their reigns: Abijah in 1 Kings15.1 and 2 Chronicles 13:1; Jehoiachin in 2 Kings 24.8 and 2 Chronicles 36: 9; 3.1; Joram in 2 Kings 3: 1. Honestly, it took me several “does this have any meaning” sessions before I got this. With Abijah and Joram it was not about them but the “other” king they interacted with. Abijah defeated Jeroboam, the man who broke up the twelve tribes into two kingdoms and started serious sins in “his” ten tribes. Joram got Jehoshaphat to go with him to fight Moab; it was a lesson for Jehoshaphat and Elisha. Jehoiachin started ruling at eighteen and he was born when his father was eighteen years old. The best I can give you in each of these stories is that a “fullness” in God’s timetable had occurred and a lesson was taught or something ended.
The other “eighteens” are just a number position of a person in a list and that King Rehoboam had that many wives, which may lend to a “plumpness or fullness” or that the man was a glutton.
God put and uses numbers to help teach truths! Sorry, I just cannot associate them as “lucky, blessed, or cursed.” Worship Jesus, not numbers! Again, I will say the number eighteen is complex in its uses and associations; freedom from bondage, bondage, or a “fullness” occurring. There many other “eighteens” that people have found in the Bible. I think most of them will fit into one of these associations.