The Number Thirteen in the Bible

The number thirteen in the Bible heralds that a change is coming. We like to attach all sorts of meanings to numbers, but the truth is that God created numbers for His use (See Genesis 1). Thirteen as used in the Bible is another number that God uses to show His plan for His people.

Numerology is part of studying the Bible; there are certain numbers that have been assigned certain meanings.  Three, seven, six, twelve, eight, and forty are just a few numbers that most Christians will be able to give you as having an important significance in the Bible. Three is a “God” number for the three persons of the Trinity.  Seven represents completeness from the seven days of the week. Six is the number of man this comes from the fact that we were made on the sixth day and the number 666 from the Book of Revelation.  Twelve represents the government as shown by the twelve disciples and the number of the tribes of Israel (the sons of Jacob). Forty is the number of testing or trail as shown in the years spent by Israel in the wilderness and the length of days Jesus was tested after He received the Holy Spirit. Eight is the number of new beginnings given that the eighth day of Creation started a new week.  The number fourteen is also an interesting study if you would like to see mine you may click this address  A study of the number fifteen is available at Cleaning Up to Celebrate.

Unfortunately, people and Christians in particular start to focus on the number instead of the God of the numbers. So we get people with triskaidekaphobia which is the fear of the number thirteen. Beliefs about this number are varied and separating fact from fiction is impossible. Some early ideas on this number and its “significance” to bring bad luck are hinged on the assumption that there were only 13 people at the Last Supper and that Jesus died on a Friday the 13th. (World Book Encyclopedia)

WHY I would like to offer a different look at the number 13 from a Biblical perspective. I already know that this does not fit into most numerological frameworks but I will ask you to follow through with my reasons and then you make up your mind.  I will show that a possible meaning for the number thirteen is the signal for the “start of or the beginning of something new.”  I am not trying to mix this with the number eight in any way.

Examples of Thirteen in the Bible These are a few of the instances that there are thirteen of something and each of these represents the “start of a new thing.”

1. In Genesis 17:25 Ishmael is circumcised at the age of thirteen which is when God made the promise to Abraham; this contrasts with Isaac being circumcised at eight days old.

2. 1 Kings 7:1 Solomon took 13 years to complete his palace.

3. Genesis 14: 4 Sodom rebelled after 13 years of servitude to Chedorlaomer king of Elam (Babylon) and Abraham rescued Lot.  This brought on Melchizedek’s blessing and Abraham’s covenant with God.

4. Esther 3: 12 Haman had orders written on the 13th day of the first month about the 13th day of last month to kill all Jews.  They have to defend themselves and so put an end to the threats of Haman the Agagite, who is an Amalekite, and a new time of freedom for the Jews.

5. Jeremiah starts his ministry in the 13th year of Josiah (Jeremiah 1:2).  Josiah had started purifying the land in his 12th year of being a king.  Jeremiah may have been 13 years old when his ministry started.  The term for his age shows a child up to the age of becoming a young man.

6. Joseph was 17 years old when he was taken as a slave. He was 30 when Pharaoh put him in charge of Egypt (13 years). Genesis 37:2 to 41:46.

7. The Children of Israel went around Jericho 13 times before they yelled and the walls fell down.

There are many more “13’s” in the Bible but I hope you get my point about it showing a “new start.”

My personal feeling about thirteen/Friday the 13 and other lucky things is summed up in this: It is bad luck to be superstitious!  ← (This is another post in my blog.)

So I look at it this way.

 Number 13

graphic by Ryan Johanningmeier

Ishmael and Esau: Family and Foe – Part 2

Esau (Edom) is also a shadowing of personal/family troubles but he is more complicated even than Ishmael.  When Jacob was sent off to find a wife Esau did something interesting, he went to Ishmael for a third wife.  At one time I thought that was to make Isaac and Rebekah mad but I now think it was just the opposite; in an attempt to please mom and dad he went back to “family” just like Jacob was doing (Genesis 28:6-9).  Esau married Mahalath, Ishmael’s daughter. So all of the types and shadows that may apply to Ishmael live on in Esau’s family. ( see Part 1 and Three Books)

Now the bad blood, remember it started in Rebekah’s womb (see Timeline), that had existed between Esau and Jacob (Genesis27: 41-45) seems to have been forgiven in the 20 years that they were separated (Genesis 33) but you have to wonder if Jacob’s mistrust was well-founded or did he create another offense when he did not travel back right away to the family area.

I am sure it was different then but he certainly had two interesting names, Esau means “hairy” and Edom means “red.”

Edom and Israel were always fighting in the Old Testament and all of the Major and Minor Prophets have sections that talk about the destruction and downfall of Edom. Since this area corresponds to modern-day Jordan you just know that this story is not over yet.

Please see the above link for more about Edom.

References: NIV footnotes,

Josephus is a Jewish historian, his writings may seem a little frightening but I only read the section that corresponds to what I am reading in the Bible.  My copy is a Nelson’s Super Value Series book and it does a good job of describing what each section covers and the parts in the “books” are very well labeled.  It adds an interesting perspective to the Bible passages that I am studying.

Ishmael and Esau: Family and Foe – Part 1

These are the first-born children of both Abraham and Isaac. Hagar gave birth to Ishmael but he was not considered the “promised child” and Esau (see Three Books and The Day) sold his birthright to Jacob. So neither of these men received the rights of the first-born; this is in agreement with the shadowing of Adam and Jesus. ( FYI Muslims say they are the spiritual children of Abraham through Ishmael.) You can read that both of these men maintained a relationship with their fathers because both of them showed up to help bury their fathers; Genesis 25:9 for Abraham and Genesis 35:29 for Isaac. Josephus, a Jewish historian, actually uses the death of Isaac as a dividing point for his history book The Antiquities of the Jews.

Ishmael is an interesting “type and shadow” he was born from an Egyptian and got an Egyptian wife; Egypt for Christians is associated with our bondages and addictions before we are saved.  So even though Egypt still holds that shadow Ishmael takes on an added shadowing because he is something personal/family in our lives.  One of the last mentions of him is in Genesis 25:18 which refers to the fact that his descendants lived in hostility (or to the east of) all of their brothers. According to Josephus Ishmael became the father of the Arabians. (see Part 2)

Now the Arabians do show up later in Scripture in some interesting places. In  2 Chronicles 17 Jehoshaphat has tribute brought to him by Arabs, Jehoram is attacked by them in chapter 21, and in chapter 26 Uzziah is beating them again with God’s help.  Nehemiah has trouble with them because of Geshem and they are mentioned in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel where they are condemned to the sword or are under God’s wrath.  But a scripture that ties all of this together is in Galatians 4:21 – 31. Hagar represents Mount Sinai (the Law) that is in Arabia and Paul links that to physical Jerusalem while the heavenly Jerusalem is linked to Sarah.

References:1.12.2 The Antiquities of the Jews, Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance