The number 18 is mentioned several times throughout the Bible, most often symbolizing bondage or oppression. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The number 18 in the Bible represents bondage, oppression, or judgment.
In this comprehensive article, we will explore the symbolic meanings behind the number 18 in scripture. We’ll look at key passages that feature this number, analyzing what it represented in each case. We’ll also examine the spiritual significance of the number 18 and what we can learn from its usage in God’s word.
Occurrences of 18 in the Old Testament
The 18 Years of Oppression by the Philistines
The number 18 is significant in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. One prominent mention is the 18 years of oppression that the Israelites suffered under the Philistines. As recorded in Judges 10:7-8, the Israelites were subjugated by the Philistines and Ammonites for 18 long years because they had forsaken God and served other gods.
This oppression was so severe that the Israelites were greatly distressed and cried out to God for help (Judges 10:9-16). The length of suffering highlighted both the depth of Israel’s unfaithfulness and God’s justice.
Yet even in judgement, God heard their plea and raised up Jephthah to deliver them from the hand of the Philistines (Judges 11:1-33).
The 18 years under the Philistines teaches us several things. Firstly, it shows the cyclical pattern of Israel’s disobedience and God’s discipline. When they strayed, God would hand them over through oppression to bring them back. Secondly, it displays God’s justice and holiness.
He could not overlook their idolatry. Yet thirdly, it also shows God’s mercy and faithfulness. Despite their persistent failures, He was willing to forgive and save them when they repented. This cycle occurs multiple times, with the length of 18 emphasizing the extent of Israel’s apostasy.
18 Years of Good King Josiah’s Reign
Another significant mention of 18 is in regards to King Josiah’s reign. 2 Kings 22:1-2 tells us that Josiah reigned in Jerusalem for 31 years. Of these, he reigned for 18 years faithfully following God by removing idolatry and restoring proper worship (2 Kings 22:3-23:27).
Josiah was considered one of the most righteous kings, turning the nation back to God.
The 18 years highlight Josiah’s early faithfulness as a contrast to other wicked kings of Judah. Though he stumbled in his later years, the length of 18 devoted to God stands out. Even as a child, Josiah was sensitive to God’s law and sought Him with all his heart (2 Kings 22:19-20).
This period of 18 years shows us that age is no obstacle for wholehearted service to God. Josiah led reforms and revival as a boy. His devotion as a youth puts many of us adults to shame!
Symbolic Meaning of 18 in the Bible
Bondage and Oppression
The number 18 is often associated with bondage and oppression in the Bible. Here are some examples:
In all these cases, the period of 18 years represents a time of hardship, subjugation and distress for the Israelites. It suggests that despite God’s desire to bless them, their disobedience led to His disciplining hand for an extended but limited period.
The number 18 can also symbolize immaturity and unfinished growth in the Bible.
Just as adolescence falls short of fully developed adulthood, the number 18 indicates a phase of inadequate spiritual development. Believers must continually progress from spiritual childhood to spiritual maturity (Hebrews 6:1).
The Number 18 in Bible Prophecy
The number 18 holds special meaning in the Bible, particularly in relation to God’s judgment. Let’s explore some examples of how this number points to the fulfillment of prophecy.
The 18 Apocalyptic Judgments in Revelation
The book of Revelation chapters 6-19 details 18 apocalyptic judgments that will come upon the earth during the end times. These include:
- The 7 Seal Judgments
- The 7 Trumpet Judgments
- The 7 Bowl/Vial Judgments
The fact that there are 18 total judgments likely carries biblical numeric meaning. The number 18 in the Bible is often connected with bondage, judgment or the completion of judgment.
For example, after 18 years, God freed Abraham’s son Ishmael from the bondage of sin into which he was born (Gen 17:18, 25). For the 18 years that the ark of the covenant was in the land of the Philistines, the Philistines were struck with plagues (1 Sam 5-6).
And David reigned in Jerusalem for 40 years; 18 of them he reigned under God’s blessing, and the other 22 with God’s discipline because of his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 5:4-5).
So it follows logically that as God releases his end time judgments in Revelation, he would release 18 judgments to bring his complete judgment on a rebellious world.
Other Prophetic Examples of 18 Meaning Judgment
We also see the number 18 connected to judgment outside of Revelation:
- God brought flooding rains upon the earth for 18 months during Noah’s flood (Gen 7:11)
- The millennial reign of Jesus will last 1,000 years according to Revelation 20. Divided by 18 judgments of Revelation: 1,000/18 = 18 decades.
The biblical meaning of 18 also lines up with its meaning in Hebrew numerology. In Hebrew, each letter of the alphabet carries a corresponding numeric value. The numeric value of the word “chai” meaning “life” totals 18.
But sin and rebellion lead to judgment and death, the very opposite of chai or life.
So when we see 18 connected to the completion of judgment in the book of Revelation, it signifies that the rebellion and sin of mankind necessitates God’s mighty final judgments. Only after his 18 apocalyptic judgments can God usher in new life for those who belong to Him.
As we have seen, the number 18 in scripture often represents bondage, oppression, or judgment. Key passages illustrate this symbolic meaning, whether referring to years of hardship for God’s people or listing out end times judgments.
By thoughtfully examining the spiritual significance of numbers in the Bible like 18, we can grow in our understanding of God’s word and how He chooses to communicate with us through its pages. As with all scripture, there are rich layers of meaning waiting for us uncover if we diligently seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance.