Meaning of Numbers
in the Bible
The Number 17
The Meaning of Numbers: The Number 17
Seventeen stands out very prominently as an important number. It is not a multiple of any other number, and therefore it has no factors. Hence it is called one of the prime (or indivisible) numbers. What is more, it is the seventh in the list of the prime numbers.
The prime number series runs 1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, etc. Thirteen, it will be noted, is also a prime number, and is therefore important; but it is the sixth of the series: hence it partakes of the symbolism of the number 6, and is indeed an intensified expression of it.
In like manner seventeen, being the seventh of the series, partakes of and intensifies the meaning of the number seven. Indeed, it is the combination or sum of two perfect numbers - seven and ten - seven being the number of spiritual perfection, and ten of ordinal perfection.
Contrasted together the significance of these two numbers is clear; and when united in the number 17 we have a union of their respective meanings, viz., spiritual perfection, plus ordinal perfection, or the perfection of spiritual order.
How does the number seventeen symbolize spiritual perfection?
We see a beautiful illustration of 17's perfection in Romans 8:35-39.
Romans 8, which concludes the first great division of that all-important Epistle, sums up the blessings of those who are dead and risen in Christ. First we have a series of seven, then a series of ten. The seven are marked off by being put in the form of a question, while the ten are given as the answer to it.
Romans 8:35 asks: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall . . ." (NKJV Bible). The answer is given as a series of 7 in the rest of the verse:
1) Tribulation, 2) distress, 3) persecution, 4) famine, 5) nakedness, 6) peril 7) sword?
The apostle Paul then states in verses 38-39 that he is persuaded:
- Neither death,
- Nor life,
- Nor angels,
- Nor principalities,
- Nor powers,
- Nor things present,
- Nor things to come,
- Nor height,
- Nor depth,
- Nor any other created thing,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Thus is set forth the spiritual and eternal perfection of the believer's standing in Christ.
By forming the conclusive answer to the question, and giving us the positive assurance (though in a negative form), it seems as though the number ten is of more weight than seven when thus used together. It is so in 2Chronicles 2, where, in verse 7, Solomon sends to Hiram for a cunning workman, and seven particulars are specified; and in verse 14 a man is sent and his qualifications are enumerated in ten particulars. A more important illustration will be found in the book of Hebrews.
How does the number 17 reveal the difference between Old and New Covenants?
Hebrews 12:18-24 is where the Old Dispensation (under the Old Covenant) and the New (under the New Covenant) are contrasted. Verse 18 begins with "For you have not come . . . " (NKJV version) then answers in the rest of the verse and verse 19:
- to the mountain that may be touched
- and that burned with fire,
- and to blackness
- and darkness
- and tempest,
- and the sound of a trumpet,
- and the voice of words . . .
The apostle Paul begins verse 22 with "But you have come to . . ." and then answers:
- Mount Zion,
- and to the city of the living God,.
- the heavenly Jerusalem,
- to an innumerable company of angels,
- to the general assembly
- and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven,
- to God the Judge of all,
- to the spirits of just men made perfect,
- to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant,
- and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.."
Here again the blessings of the New Covenant are seen to be higher than those of the Old, both in number and in importance. The Old were spiritual (7), but the latter are more so, for they are doubly the manifestation of Divine grace, ten, or 2 x 5.
Who are the ten enemies that prophecy states will make Israel EXTINCT?
Psalm 83:6-11 gives us the ten and the seven in a different order. Verses 6-9 give us a confederation of ten enemies for the purpose of making Israel extinct, and "to cut them off from being a nation"; while verses 10 and 12 give us an enumeration of seven enemies which the Lord had destroyed in the past, with the prayer that He would do to the confederacy of the ten what He had done to the seven in the past.
The commentators agree that no such confederacy can be found in the past history of Israel, so that we are shut up to the conclusion that the Psalm speaks of a yet future confederacy of which the later Prophets speak more particularly.
Psalm 83:6-9 tells us the ten-fold confederation:
- The Ishmaelites
- The Hagarenes
- The Philistines
- Assur (Assyria)
Then, in verses 10-12, the Bible lists the seven enemies which had been destroyed in Israel's past:
- Midianites (1), Judges 7:8
- Sisera (2), Judges 4:5, 21
- Jabin (3), Judges 4:5, 21
- Oreb (4), Judges 7:25
- Zeeb (5), Judges 7:25
- Zebah (6), Judges 8:5
- Zalmunna (7), Judges 8:5
The number seventeen (not the word merely) has a significance of its own, and therefore an importance which must be taken into account wherever it appears in the Word of God by itself or as a factor. It forms a great factor in the number 153.
Where are the seventeen appearances of ANGELS in the New Testament?
Seventeen Angelic appearances are recorded in the Gospels and Acts:
- 1, 2 and 3. Three separate appearances to Joseph, Matthew 1:20, 2:13,19
- To the Lord in the wilderness, Matthew 4:11
- In Gethsemane, Luke 22:43
- On the stone at the sepulcher, Matthew 28:2
- Within the sepulcher, Mark 16:5
- To Zecharias, Luke 1:11
- To Mary, Luke 1:26
- One of the two appearances to the Shepherds, Luke 2:9,13
- The second appearance to the Shepherds, Luke 2:9,13
- At the pool of Bethesda, John 5:4
- To the disciples, Acts 1:11
- To the disciples in prison, Acts 5:19
- To Cornelius, Acts 10:3
- To Peter in prison, Acts 12:7
- To Paul, Acts 27:2 3
Additional commentary on the Biblical Meaning of 17 *
In the Bible the number 17 signifies "vanquishing the enemy" and "complete victory in Christ." During the days of Noah, God vanquished rebellious mankind by the flood which He began on the 17th day of 2nd month. The ark came to rest on the 17th day of the 7th month. Jesus was victorious over death when God raised Him from the dead on the 17th day of the first month.
The 17th time love is mentioned in 1Corinthians 13, it says, "[The] greatest of [all] is LOVE" (verse 13). Hence, the love of God (John 3:16) is victorious in all things. True believers will be victorious over death at the resurrection (1Corinthians 15:54-55).
The beasts of Daniel 7 have 7 heads and 10 horns, totaling 17. The beasts symbolize world-ruling kingdoms from Daniel’s time to the return of Christ — kingdoms which reign victoriously over the nations that reject God’s rule. Revelation 13 depicts Satan’s end-time system as having 7 heads and 10 horns, again totaling 17. The whole world will worship Satan and the Beast, and no one will be able to make war against him (verses 4, 8); he will make war against the saints (verse 7) and have a temporary victory over them:
"Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.
"So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"
"And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
"All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Revelation 13:1-8, NKJV)
The saints will ultimately be victorious over the Beast when God raises them from the dead at the first resurrection (Revelation 15:2; 20:4).
On the 10th day of the 7th month, the Day of Atonement, Satan is bound (Revelation 20:1-3). Thus, 10 + 7 = 17, depicting Jesus Christ vanquishing Satan.