The number fourteen, the atomic number of silicon; what else do we associate with the number? It is the number of days in a fortnight (two weeks); there are fourteen pounds in a stone; Edward Elgar wrote fourteen Enigma Variations; a woodlouse has fourteen legs; there are fourteen lines in a sonnet; and in golf, a player can have no more than fourteen clubs in their bag. Piano Sonata No. 14by Beethoven is one of his most famous, more commonly known as Moonlight Sonata. Only fourteen overseas territories remain of the remnants of the British Empire: Akrotiri and Dhekelia; Anguilla; Bermuda; British Antarctic; British Indian Ocean; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Oeno Islands; Saint Helena; the Sandwich Islands; and the Caicos Islands.
The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith Jr., was fourteen when he had his first vision. The Egyptian god Osiris was supposedly torn into fourteen pieces by his brother Set. In Catholicism, there are Fourteen Holy Helpers, saints who are believed to be particularly effective against various diseases (Saints Acacius, Barbara, Blaise, Christopher, Cyriacus, Catherine of Alexandria, Denis, Erasmus of Formiae, Eustace, George, Giles, Margaret of Antioch, Pantaleon and Vitus).
In the Bible, the number fourteen takes its importance from being a multiple of seven, which, if you remember, represents perfection. It also has its own significance, for instance, in Matthew one, the Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah is split into three sets of fourteen generations: Thus there were fourteengenerations in all from Abraham to David, fourteenfrom David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteenfrom the exile to the Messiah. (Matthew 1:17, NIV)
It is said there are twenty-two appearances of the number fourteen in scripture and the term “fourteenth” appears twenty-four times. Here are some examples:
In the Book of Proverbs, the expression “fear of the Lord” (or similar) occurs fourteen times:
It is believed that Jesus Christ was crucified on the fourteenth day of the first month in AD 30. This is because it happened at Passover, which begins on the 15thday of that month. The crucifixion took place the day before, which is also the same day that the Passover Lamb is sacrificed.
Another connection to Easter is the fourteen Stations of the Cross, which is a popular devotion in many churches, although not the URC. They are as follows:
When I began my research for the importance of the number fourteen in the Bible, I was not expecting to find much. I guess I have been proved wrong.
Unlucky thirteen or lucky, depending on how you look at it. The number thirteen is the sixth prime number but the first compound number in Germanic languages (English, German, Dutch, Afrikaans, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic). This means it is a number whose name is made up of two stems, i.e. three (thir) and teen. Although numbers eleven and twelve have two digits, their names are unique to them.
So, why is the number thirteen considered to be unlucky? The fear of the number thirteen is called Triskaidekaphobia and those who suffer from it will go to great lengths to avoid anything named or labelled with the number: Friday 13th, thirteen people sat around a table, the thirteenth floor of a building etc.
There are a number of theories as to why the number thirteen became associated with bad luck. The most common is that there were thirteen people around the table at Jesus’ Last Supper (more on that later); however, I have discovered some other ideas. On Friday 13thOctober 1307, many people were tortured and killed when King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar. Whenever a year contained a thirteenth full moon as opposed to the usual twelve, it caused problems for the monks in charge of the calendar. This also upset the regular arrangement of church festivals.
In ancient cultures, the number thirteen represented women because it corresponded to the number of menstrual cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364). At that time, menstruation was considered evil and, therefore, the number thirteen was also considered evil.
Another theory, and possibly the oldest reference to thirteen being unlucky is in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (1780 BC), in which the thirteenth law is said to be omitted. This, however, may have been something that was added years or even centuries later because it is now believed the original manuscripts contained no numbers.
On the other hand, if you are in Italy, the number thirteen is very lucky. The Italian phrase fare tredici(“to do 13”) means to hit the jackpot.
There are thirteen ranks in each suit in a standard pack of playing cards. A baker’s dozen means thirteen rather than twelve. The United States of America was originally formed of thirteen states. Age thirteen is when a child becomes an adolescent and, in Judaism, thirteen is the age a boy matures and becomes Bar Mitzvah.
In the Bible, the number thirteen is thought to symbolically represent rebellion and lawlessness. Theologians have taken a handful of examples from scripture to develop this theory:
As well as being a reason the number thirteen is believed to be unlucky, one of the biggest reasons the number is considered a symbol of rebellion and lawlessness is because there were thirteen people around the table, including Christ, at the Last Supper. The event is recorded in all four Gospels:
There are not many instances when the number thirteen is actually written in scripture, in fact, I have only been able to find two:
There may well be other occasions the number thirteen is mentioned; let me know if you find any. For now, I leave you with my final Bible related fact about the number thirteen: the longest name of a book is Thessalonians, which is thirteen letters long.
Did you know the number twelve is the largest number in the English language to have only one syllable? I have found lots of other facts about the number, for example, it is the smallest number that can be divided by exactly six numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 12). Before the metric system was introduced, the world used to divide weights and measurements by twelve, for instance, there are 12 inches to a foot. This is called the duodecimal system and has not yet been completely eradicated from society; we still buy eggs by the dozen or half dozen.
A twelve-sided shape is called a dodecagon. Dodeca-is the Greek pronoun meaning twelve and duodeca-is the Latin equivalent. Regular cubes have twelve edges and a three-dimensional shape with twelve sides is called a dodecahedron.
There are twelve months of the year and usually twelve full moons. It takes twelve Earth years for Jupiter to travel a full circle around the sun. There are twelve hours in a half-day and manual clocks are numbered from one to twelve. There are twelve signs of the zodiac, both Western and Chinese.
Twelve is the atomic number of magnesium. The human body has twelve cranial nerves. The duodenum is the name for the first part of the small intestine, which measures approximately twelve inches long (30 cm).
In music, there are twelve major and minor keys (not counting enharmonic). In art, there are twelve basic hues on a colour wheel: three primary colours (red, yellow, blue), three secondary colours (orange, purple, green) and six tertiary colours (yellow-orange, chartreuse green, blue-green, azure, violet, rose).
In myth and legend, there are the twelve labours of Hercules and twelve knights of the roundtable. The Norse god Odin has twelve sons. There are twelve days of Christmas.
In the Bible, it is thought the number twelve is used 187 times, 22 of which appear in Revelation. It is generally believed that twelve is a perfect number and symbolises God’s power and authority. One of the most notable instances of the number twelve is the Twelve Apostles: Peter, Andrew, James (son of Zebedee), John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alpheus), Thomas, Simon, Jude Thaddeus and Judas Iscariot (later replaced by Matthias).
In the Old Testament, Ishmael, the first son of Abraham, has twelve sons who become twelve tribal rulers (Genesis 25:16). More importantly, however, are Jacob’s twelve sons, who are the forefathers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. A good way to remember their names in birth order is the mnemonic “Repentant Sinners Love Jesus. Do Not Give Animals In Zoos Jelly Beans.”
As mentioned above, the number twelve is significant in the Book of Revelation. According to Revelation 7, twelve thousand from each tribe of Israel will receive salvation. This is a total of 144,000 men. Later, in Revelation 14, it is said the same amount will be taken from the earth in order to serve and follow the Lamb wherever he goes.
In Revelation 12, a woman “clothed with the sun” wears a crown of twelve stars on her head. In Revelation 21, there is a description of the new Holy City of Jerusalem. It has a high wall with twelve pearl gates. Each gate is inscribed with the twelve tribes of Israel and guarded by twelve angels. The walls of the city have twelve foundations and on these are the names of the twelve apostles of the lamb. The walls are 144 cubits thick, which is the sum of 12 x 12.
Let’s look at some examples of the number twelve in the other books of the Bible. As you will no doubt see, many of these allude to the Twelve Tribes of Israel established in Genesis.
There are twelve patriarchs from and including Noah’s son Shem up to and including Jacob:
Finally, my last instance of the number twelve to mention is that the first recording of Jesus’ words in scripture occurs when he was only twelve years old. “When Jesus was twelve years old, they went to the festival as usual.” (Luke 2:42, GNT)
A President of Trinovante (formerly the Women's Guild, Romford), it is my honour provided them with two talks a year. My most recent talk explored the life of a sloth and the benefits their lifestyle could have for us humans. We covered basic facts about sloths, such as they eat, sleep and give birth whilst hanging upside down. They have more neck bones than any other animal, enabling them to turn their head 270 degrees. There are six species of sloth and they are found in South and Central America. All sloths have three toes, even though two types are called two-toed sloths. They eat the leaves of the cecropia tree; it can take up to one month to digest one leaf! They spend 90 per cent of their time motionless; go to the toilet once every two to three weeks; give birth to one baby at a time; have an average lifespan of twenty-five years; have been on the planet for a least 64 million years.
So, what can we learn from such an animal that was once described in an encyclopedia of sciences in 1749 as the "lowest form of existence"?
Be laid back. Sloths really only have four things to think about: sleep, food, reproduction and toilet. So, perhaps we should declutter our lives, prioritise and concentrate on what is important.
Slow down. Sloths move at most four metres a minute. Living in trees, they take great care to test the branch before they grab onto it to ensure it can take their weight. They are fully aware of their circumstances, they enjoy the moment and they focus on one thing at a time, as could we: learning to relax, breath efficiently, and acknowledge every move that we make.
Go green. Sloths only need 160 calories a day and they eat low energy leaves. They spend time in nature and, therefore, perhaps we should also eat more greens and appreciate our surroundings: walk in a park or a forest and wonder at the beauty of nature, or slow down wherever we are and observe the goings on around us. Sloths enjoy the occasional hibiscus flower and so, we too should remember to give ourselves a treat every now and then.
Sloths have very little ears and have poor hearing. As a consequence, they do not flinch at sudden noises and keep on persisting with whatever task they are pursuing. Likewise, we should not take notice of nasty comments from other people, but keep persevering with our ambitions. A touch of selective hearing will not do us harm.
Sloths are born with a smile and are a picture of serenity. We, therefore, could practice smiling more and enjoy life as it comes.
Sloths live upside down. Perhaps if we have problems, we should totally change our perspective. Just as sloths can move their heads 270 degrees, we could look at our difficulties from different angles and reframe the situation.
Sloths stay cool. They are excellent swimmers. They know what makes them happy. We ought to ensure we have a list of things we can always refer to that make us happy, too.
A downside of a slow digestion process is sloths suffer from trapped wind. They turn this negative to a positive, however, because it helps them keep afloat in water. Therefore, we too should try to turn a negative into a positive. Can we even redefine what success means to us?
Sloths enjoy their own company. They enjoy nature. They opt out. They do not feel that they should socialise all the time. We too can embrace solitude, using the time for deeper thinking, concentration and learning to like ourselves. They tend not to stick their noses in other sloths' business; a lesson for us, perhaps!
Sloths sleep 60% of the day, therefore, we must remember sleep is good.
Sloths take a long time to eat their food. We should eat more slowly and, perhaps, enjoy family time together around a meal table.
Baby sloths are born knowing how to hug, so they can keep hold of their mother for the first six months of their lives. The skill of hugging is taken into adult life, where they hug trees, even in their sleep. Perhaps we should rediscover the power of the hug.
From my research, I discovered a few interesting quotes I would like to share with you.
"There is no hurry, we shall get there someday." A. A. Milne
"Slow and steady wins the race." Aesop
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." Lao Tzu
"To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual." Oscar Wilde
And my favourite quote is by Jiddu Krishnamurti: "If your eyes are blinded with your worries, you cannot see the beauty of the sunset."
Acknowledgement goes to:
Hazel Stainer, for helping with the research.
McCartney, J (2018) The Little Book of Sloth Philosophy. HarperCollins Publishers
Cooke, L (2018) Life in the Sloth Lane: Slow Down and Smell the Hibiscus. Workman Publishing
Picture: Keele University
The number eleven is the first repdigit or monodigit, meaning it is the first number to be composed of a recurring digit (1 and 1). It is also the smallest number to be comprised of three syllables in the English language (e-lev-en).
Did you know, if a number is divisible by 11, e.g. 264 = 11 x 24, reversing its digits will result in another multiple of 11, e.g. 462 = 11 x 42? Also, do you know the name of an eleven-sided shape? I didn’t; it can either be called a hendecagon or an undecagon.
What else do we know about the number eleven? Well, obviously there are eleven players on a football team. Eleven is the atomic number of sodium. Apollo 11 was the first manned spacecraft to land on the moon. The eleventh moon of Jupiter is called Himalia. Aquarius is the eleventh sign of the zodiac. The maple leaf on the flag of Canada has eleven points. World War One ended on 11thNovember 1918 at 11 o clock, which is why we hold Remembrance Day on the eleventh day of the eleventh month with a two-minute silence at the eleventh hour.
In the Bible, the number eleven is apparently only used 24 times, and the term “eleventh”, 19 times. The number has come to mean the opposite of the number ten, i.e. breaking the law, disorder and judgement. This is in part due to events recorded in Genesis 11 when men disobeyed God by building the Tower of Babel. As we know, God hindered their progress by causing them to speak in different languages, thus confusing them and resulting in chaos.
Another instance of disorder and law breaking occurs when Judas Iscariot is disgraced, eventually killing himself, leaving only eleven of Jesus’s apostles remaining. Eventually, Matthias was added to bring the total back up to twelve.
Let’s look at a handful of the occasions when the number eleven is mentioned in scripture:
In the Gospel of John, there are eleven important promises:
Often, passages from the Old Testament are referred to in Books of the New Testament; however, there are exactly eleven New Testament books that do not have any direct quotes. These are:
Some Old Testament quotes are repeated again and again in the New Testament and there are two that are cited eleven times:
There are eleven chiefs descended from Esau, the father of the Edomites (Genesis 36:40-43):
Now, a final note about the number eleven: some religious fanatics who are obsessed with the rapture and Armageddon believe the number eleven is a sign of the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy, (i.e. the eleventh hour). As you may remember, there was a scare in 2012 when it was pointed out that the Mayan calendar ended after 5126 years, which happened to fall on 21stDecember 2012. Now, we know this did not result in the end of the world but at the time, many prophesied the end was nigh, using the date as evidence: 21/12/2012 = 2+1+1+2+2+0+1+2 = 11.
Those who believe the number eleven signifies the end times claim there is evidence for this in the Bible. There are four books containing a chapter 11, verse 11 that refer to the end of the world:
Complete hogwash or is there some truth is these conspiracies? I’ll let you decide.
I’ll leave you with a more positive instance of the number eleven: Jesus Christ is eleven letters long.
The number ten is the first double-digit number and one of the most important in everyday life. It is the base of the decimal numeral system that we use in modern society as well as the number of fingers we have – which are both great ways of helping us with our sums! The metric system is based on multiples of ten, for example, 1 cm = 10 mm.
What else do we know about the number ten? Ten is the sum of the first three prime numbers (2+3+5) as well as the first four positive integers (1+2+3+4). In Roman numerals, the letter X represents the number ten. Ten is the atomic number of neon.
A period of ten years is called a decade, decabeing a Greek prefix meaning ten. A shape with ten sides is called a decagon. A decapod is a crustacean with ten legs. A decathlon is an event in athletics combined of ten field and track events.
So, what importance does the number ten have in the Bible? It is believed the number ten appears 242 times and, for some, is designated a perfect number representing law, responsibility and order. One of the most important instances of the number is the Ten Commandments mentioned in Exodus and Deuteronomy, which is why it is considered to denote the law.
There is, of course, another significant list of ten in the Bible. In Exodus 7-12, God sent ten plagues on Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to let his people go:
Instances of the number ten being mentioned include:
I have discovered a number of other facts about the Bible in relation to the number ten that I thought you may find interesting, for instance, in Genesis 1, the words “God said” are written ten times.
Before the great flood recorded in Genesis 6-9, there were ten generations of man, beginning with Adam and ending with Noah. The ten patriarchs were Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech and Noah. Remarkably, the average age of these men was 857 years!
There are many deaths recorded in the Bible but only ten of these deaths were caused by women. The female “murderesses” are as follows:
Those of you who have read the Bible carefully may have noticed that some passages refer to other books that are not part of the Bible. There are several non-canonical books that have been combined into the Biblical Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books; however, I have found at least ten that have been completely lost. They are as follows:
What do we know about the number nine? A nine-sided shape is a nonagon; in Chinese; it is a good number because it sounds like their word for “long-lasting”; in Norse mythology, the universe is divided into nine worlds; and in Greek mythology there are nine muses: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (erotic poetry), Euterpe (lyric poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (song), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy) and Urania (astronomy).
Many idioms incorporate the number nine, for example:
Why nine has been used in these instances I am not sure but many authors have also adopted the number nine. In Dante’s Divine Comedythere are nine circles of Hell. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earththere are nine rings of power and, consequently, nine Ringwraiths. In the Lorien Legacieswritten under the pseudonym Pittacus Lore, nine children are sent to Earth from another planet. Also, in A Game of Thrones,there are nine regions of Westeros.
In Hinduism, the number nine is said to be complete, perfect and divine, and in Buddhism, there are nine virtues. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims partake in fasting and prayer. In Judaism, the first nine days of the month Av are a period of mourning, leading up to the ninth day, the anniversary of the destruction of both temples in Jerusalem. But what about in Christianity; is there any significance of the number nine?
According to the Christian angelic hierarchy, something that is not found in the Bible, there are nine choirs of angels: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Angels. This was put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and later explored further by Thomas Aquinas who used passages from the New Testament to help establish these spheres or choirs.
The number nine itself is thought to appear in the Bible only 49 times but is believed to symbolise divine completeness and finality. Part of the reason for this is that Christ died at the 9thhour of the day (3pm), assuming that the official start of the day began at 6pm.
Another reason for this definition is the nine fruits of God’s Holy Spirit, which are mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23:
Of the 49 usages of the number nine in the Bible, only a handful is worth mentioning, which may or may not correspond with the divine completeness symbolism.
My final example of the number nine is the number of groups or individuals that practices sorcery in the Old Testament. It is unlikely this has any connection to divine completeness since sorcery was considered to be pure evil, however, it is interesting nonetheless.
What do we know about the number eight? An eight-sided shape is an octagon; eight is the atomic number of Oxygen; there are now eight planets in our solar system (sorry Pluto); spiders have eight legs, as does an octopus; there are eight notes in a musical scale (octave); there are eight pawns of each colour in a game of chess; and for the nuclear physicists amongst us, eight is apparently a “magic number”.
In Asian cultures, the number eight is considered lucky because it sounds similar to their word for wealth. The number is taken very seriously in China where a number plate containing the number eight sold for $640,000 in Hong Kong. Also, did you know, the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing was held on 8thAugust (8.8.08) and started at 8 minutes and 8 seconds past 8pm?
So, if the number eight is so imperative in the Eastern world, does it hold importance in the Bible? It is believed by some that the number eight represents a new beginning or a new order. In Judaism, the religious rite of brit milah(circumcision) is held eight days after the birth of a baby boy.
Although Pentecost is now celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter, it is also the beginning of the eighth week after the spring harvest. Also, the Jewish Festival of the Tabernacles, known as Sukkot, ends on the eighth day, called the Last Great Day.
It is thought that forty different people wrote the Bible and forty is a number composed of five (representing God’s grace) times eight (representing new beginnings), which to some is representative of the promisethat by God’s grace we will be given a chance for a new beginning.
There are not so many instances of the number eight in the Bible compared to the previous numbers I have looked at. The most obvious example I have found is the number of Beatitudes, the eight blessings Jesus spoke of during the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew:
³“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
⁴Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
⁵Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
⁶Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
⁷Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
⁸Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
⁹Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
¹⁰Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
¹¹“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
¹²Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
(Matthew 5:3-12 NIV)
Here are a few more examples of the number eight I have found in the Bible:
After Jesus’ resurrection, it is recorded that he showed himself alive eight times before ascending to heaven. The first was his appearance to Mary Magdalene in the garden as recorded in Mark 16:9-11 (although the earliest Biblical manuscripts do not contain these verses). This was followed by showing himself to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) and then appearing to all the disciples bar one in John 20:19-24. The Apostle Thomas was not at this last meeting; therefore, a week later, Jesus appeared to them once again, casting away Thomas’ doubts about his resurrection (John 20:26-29). The fifth appearance was to over five hundred people, as recorded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:4-7, which was followed by meeting his disciples in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-17) and at the Sea of Galilee where they caught 153 fish (John 21:1-24). The eighth and final meeting was on the Mount of Olives shortly before Jesus was taken up to heaven, as recorded in Acts 1.
My final reference to the number eight is in relation to gematria, an alphanumeric code of assigning a numerical value to a name, word or phrase based on its letters. Although this practice is now mistrusted, advocates of the theory believe each letter of the Hebrew and Greek alphabet has a specific number attached to it. According to gematria, the value of the Greek word for Jesus, or more specifically “Christ the Redeemer” is 888.
What do you think? Is there real significance in the use of the number eight in scripture or is this something we have added later in a desperate attempt to find meaning?
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon