The number 11 is mentioned several times throughout the Bible, often representing disorder, imperfection, and incompletion. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The number 11 symbolizes the opposite of 12, which represents governmental perfection and completion.
In this comprehensive article, we will explore the significance of the number 11 in the Bible by looking at key passages and analyzing the meaning behind this unique number.
Symbolism and Meaning of 11
Imperfection and Disorder
In the Bible, the number 11 is often associated with imperfection, disorder, and judgment. This meaning comes from the fact that 11 falls short of the perfect number 12, which symbolizes completeness. Here are some examples:
The Tower of Babel – God judged the people’s arrogance and halted the building of the tower by confusing their languages into 11 different ones (Genesis 11:1-9). This dispersed the people and led to imperfection and disorder.Rebellion against God’s appointed leaders – In Numbers 16, a group of 11 men rebelled against the authority of Moses and Aaron. As judgment, the earth opened up and swallowed the 11 rebels.
The number 11 is seen as a warning sign and a symbol that something is wrong or out of place. It represents chaos, disruption, and judgment for disobedience against God’s perfect order.
Transition and Change
Though the number 11 represents disorder and judgment, it also symbolizes a time of transition and change. Here are some examples:
– Jacob’s sons became the 12 tribes of Israel, but this only happened after a period of transition that started with 11 sons.
– There were 11 faithful apostles after Judas betrayed Jesus and committed suicide.
– In Revelation 11, the two witnesses prophesy for 1,260 days before being killed and resurrected. Their resurrection points to a future revival and change coming.
The number 11 marks a transition between two states or eras. It signals that change is coming through a time of testing and judgment. The disorder of 11 eventually gives way to the new order of 12.
Judgement and Sin
As we’ve seen, the number 11 is closely tied to judgment for disobedience and sin. Here are some other key examples:
– God judged Egypt with 11 plagues before the Passover and exodus of the Israelites.
– Saul reigns as king for 11 years before being rejected by God for his disobedience (1 Samuel 13:1).
– Eli judges Israel for 11 years but comes under God’s judgment for failing to discipline his wicked sons (1 Samuel 4:18).
The number 11 reminds us that God hates and judges sin. Whether it’s pride and rebellion against God or moral failures by leaders, disorder and judgment follow. But this can lead to revival and restoration for those who repent.
Key Biblical Passages with 11
11 Sons of Jacob
One of the most well-known biblical stories involving the number 11 is that of Jacob’s 11 sons, who would go on to form the 12 tribes of Israel. Jacob, later renamed Israel, was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham in the book of Genesis.
He had 12 children with his two wives Leah and Rachel, as well as their two maids. However, one of his 12 sons, Joseph, received a double portion inheritance, meaning there were effectively 11 sons who became heads of 11 tribes.
The 11 sons were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali and Joseph. Each son, with the exception of Levi, went on to father one of the 12 tribes that made up the nation of Israel. The Levites became the priestly tribe instead of receiving tribal allotment of land.
So Jacob’s 11 sons correlate to 11 of the 12 tribes of Israel.
11 Days’ Journey to Canaan
In Deuteronomy 1:2, Moses recalls that it took 11 days to travel from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea by way of Mount Seir as the Israelites were nearing the Promised Land. This approximately 400 mile journey would lead them to the border of Canaan where the 12 spies were sent out to scout out the land.
The fact that it took almost two weeks (just shy of a fortnight) for the Israelites to reach Canaan’s edge hints at a period of testing and transition. 11 falls just short of 12, which symbolizes governmental perfection.
So there may have been a probing of Israel’s readiness before entering the Promised Land.
11th Hour Workers
In Jesus’ Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), a landowner hires workers at various times throughout the day, agreeing to pay them each a denarius. Those hired early in the morning as well as those hired at the 11th hour, just an hour before quitting time, all received the same wage.
This 11th hour alludes to both mercy and grace. Rather than being passed over, those workers hired at the last minute were paid as if they had worked the whole day. Their late start did not penalize them.
God’s generosity towards those turning to Him late in life mirrors this parable – He accepts repentance whenever it comes.
11 in Relation to 12 in the Bible
12 Represents Completion
In the Bible, the number 12 often symbolizes completeness, perfection, and God’s power. There were 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles, and the measurements of the New Jerusalem in Revelation are all based around the number 12 (Revelation 21:16).
The number 12 is considered complete because it is the product of fundamental numbers – 3 and 4 which symbolize the Trinity and the physical universe. This gives 12 spiritual and physical completeness.
11 as Falling Short of Perfect Order
Unlike 12, the number 11 represents falling short of perfection and completeness. It points to disorder and imperfection as it falls one short of 12. Throughout the Bible, the use of 11 is often associated with judgment or the failure of man.
For example, in Genesis 11 is the account of the Tower of Babel where mankind is scattered across the Earth as judgment.
Rebellion and Disorganization
Building on the symbolism of falling short of 12, the number 11 is also connected to rebellion, sin, and disorganization in the Bible. In Job 32:11, Elihu claims understanding that the three friends of Job lacked. Some see this as pride and rebellion against God’s greater wisdom.
In the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, there are 11 names from the exile to Christ showing the disorder before Christ’s coming. Overall, while 12 shows God’s perfect order, 11 signifies rebellion and disorganization in God’s created order.
In closing, while the number 11 carries negative connotations in Scripture, it also represents a transitional period leading to renewal. Just as repentance follows judgement, the disorder of 11 ultimately gives way to the perfection of 12.
Through studying the symbolism of numbers in the Bible like 11, we can uncover deeper meanings and theological significance.