The Number Eighteen in The Bible

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 verse 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.

Solomon’s Pillars

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 the 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 judgement about these people because of the way that they died. (It is bad luck to be superstitious.)

David

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.

Time Markers????

There are three “eighteens” that appear to be time markers for 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 the will fit into one of these associations.

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Zechariah – In Context

To read Zechariah, I think you need to put it in context with the Haggai and Ezra.  I know that Malachi has been put last in the Old Testament because of 4:5, that is about Elijah coming again, but it has no time stamps as to when it was written.  Haggai and Zechariah are time stamped so it is very easy to believe that these were the last two prophets to write their visions and words from the Lord. (Ezra, Esther, and Nehemiah were written after Haggai and Zechariah but they are “historical” books.)

Zechariah is written in two sections, which a course means someone has to say it has two different authors from two times!  The sections are chapter 1 – 8 and 9 – 14; 1 – 8 deal with the building of the Second Temple and 9 – 14 are independent “oracles” that could have come at any time during Zechariah’s time as a prophet.  This second section, to me, could be a recap of many of the Prophets before his time and the Father is restating and adding to words and ideas that have come before. I see Zechariah as a man “standing on the shoulders” of people who have come before him.

This seems to be the order of the time stamps that I was talking about:

  • 2y of Darius – Ezra 4:24 Starts his telling of story about the building and the opposition to the Temple
  • 2y, 1d, 6m – Haggai 1:1; call to restart building the Temple

24d, 6m – Haggai 1:15; building starts again

  • 2y, 21d, 7m – Haggai 2:1; to encourage Zerubbabel
  • 2y, 8m – Zechariah 1:1; call to return to the Lord
  • 2y,24d, 9m – Haggai 2:10; was defiled now blessed

Haggai 2:18; blessings from this day on

Haggai 2: 20; encouraged Zerubbabel

  • 24d, 11m – Zechariah 1:7; various visions for the leaders and people
  • 4y, 4d, 9m – Zechariah 7:1; call to administer true justice and words of encouragement
  • 6y, 3d, 12m – Ezra 6:15 Temple completed
  • 7y, 14d, 1m – Ezra 6:19 Passover celebrated

Zechariah – The Prophet With A Family History

The word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo.  Zechariah 1: 1(NIV)

When you do a study on people in the Bible it is good to look at the meaning of their names, and like this study who was related to them.  Given the fact that names were given to later generations in honor of their forefathers this can prove tricky to be as accurate as people want.  This study is one of those that could have several possibilities but I will try my best; please be merciful.  So, first we will look at the meanings of the names and a common city that turned up with several of them.  (The numbers are Strong’s Concordance Hebrew references numbers.)

  • Zechariah (#2148) Jah (God) has remembered
  • Berekiah (#1296) knee or “blessing” of Jah
  • Iddo – (#5714, 3260, 3035, 112) 5714 – timely; 3260 – appointed or JEDI (for you Star Wars fans); 3035 – praised; 112 may be related to Edom or worshipper of Him. It seems that changing the spelling of the name happened for the same person.

Zechariah – There are many people with that name in the Bible, so not much there.

Berekiah – It seems there are two “major” families that share that name.

  1. A relative of King Jehoiakim – 1 Chronicles 3:20 and probably the family in Nehemiah 3:4, 30 and 6: 18. They rebuilt a portion of the wall and married into the family of a troublemaker for Nehemiah.
  2. A Levite from the tribe of Merarites from Mahanaim – 1 Chronicles 9:16, 15:17,23

Iddo – Other than “our” Zechariah there are four people(s) with this name.

  1. 1 Kings 4:14 and 1 Chronicles 27:21 talk about an Iddo from Mahanaim who was an administrator for Solomon.
  2. The seer who wrote down history and genealogies for Solomon and Abijah. 2 Chronicles 9:29, 12: 15, and 13: 22
  3. A leader of Levites that Ezra asked for help. 1 Chronicles 6:21 and Ezra 8: 17
  4. A priest whose son (Zechariah) went to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel. Nehemiah 12:4, 16

Mahanaim is a city that was east of the Jordan River.  It is first mentioned in the Bible as the place where Jacob wrestled the angel (Genesis 32: 2).  It was a “city of refuge” for people who accidentally killed someone.  This is where King Saul’s general, Abner, set up Saul’s last son, Ish-Bosheth, to reign as king. Finally, it is where King David went when he ran from Absalom.  It is easy to see that this was a town of some importance in the area of Gilead.  So, Mahanaim was either a fortified city that was very important on the edge of the kingdom, or they were trying to use the Law as protection against those looking to harm them.

Can we know for sure exactly who was the family of Zechariah?  No, but I will go with this idea.  He was a Levite (not the priest) whose family had lived in Mahanaim and his grandfather had been the seer and administrator who worked for Solomon.  This would mean that he was part of a family that had served God for many generations as prophets; that is quite a family legacy.