Thirty: the minimum age for senators in the United States of America. Did you know a shape with thirty sides is called a tricontagon? I have looked it up online and at glance, a regular tricontagon could be mistaken for a circle. All its interior angles are 168°.
Written as -30-, this is a copy editor’s typographical notation indicating the end of a newspaper article. In years of marriage, a thirtieth wedding anniversary is represented with pearls. In tennis, the number thirty represents the second point gained in a game.
Thirty days has September, April, June and November. The Thirty Years War lasted, would you believe it, thirty years. The address of The Gherkin in London is 30 St Mary Axe.
In the Bible, it has been calculated that there are approximately eighty-seven instances of the number thirty. Scholars have interpreted the number’s meaning as a symbol of devotion to a particular task or calling. According to Numbers 4, Aaronic priests were allowed to serve from the age of thirty. It was believed that this was the age when a person reached both physical and mental maturity and, therefore, could be trusted with major responsibilities.
The link between maturity and responsibilities or callings continues throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament where we know from Luke 3:23 (NIV) that “Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.” It is also believed John the Baptist was thirty when he began to preach.
In Genesis, Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh (41:46). In 1 Samuel, we are told that Saul became king at the age of thirty (13:1), as did David (2 Samuel 5:4). Ezekiel was thirty years old when he received his first vision of God (Ezekiel 1:1).
The first book of the Bible also reveals three men who became fathers at the age of thirty:
The number thirty can also represent the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. It is generally believed that Jesus was crucified in the year AD 30. Prior to his death, Judas had betrayed Jesus in return for thirty silver coins (Matthew 26:15), which Judas tried to return after he saw that he was condemned (27:3).
Judas’ betrayal for thirty pieces of silver had been alluded to in Zechariah 11:12:
It appears in the Old Testament that the period of mourning was thirty days long. Numbers 20:29 tells us that when the Israelites heard about Aaron’s death, they mourned for thirty days. In Deuteronomy 34:8, it is recorded that the Israelites grieved for Moses for thirty days “until the time of weeping and mourning was over.” (34:8)
In 2 Samuel 23, there is a list of names that make up King David’s mighty warriors. They are known as “The Thirty”.
Let’s look at some other examples of the number thirty in the Bible. I won’t bore you by listing them all:
The number thirty has appeared in a number of visions during the past millennia. Of course, we cannot assume these are correct since there is no means of backing up these claims, however, they are interesting nonetheless.
Mary of Jesus of Ágreda (1602-65) claimed that when the Virgin Mary reached the “perfect” (i.e. physically and mentally mature) age of thirty, she stopped ageing. The visions of Maria Valtorta (1897-1961), a Franciscan tertiary, revealed that Joseph was thirty when he married the then twelve-year-old Mary. Anne Catherine Emmerich’s (1774-1824) vision told her that Jesus was thirty-years-old when his (step) father Joseph passed away.
The little known Saint Epiphane began the tradition that Lazarus was thirty when he died and was subsequently resurrected by Jesus. Lazarus went on to live for an additional thirty years after this event.
I finish this article with one word that occurs thirty times in the Bible: empire. Whilst it appears twenty-seven times in the Old Testament, it only appears three times in the New Testament.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon