What does the number 8 mean in the bible

What Does the Number 8 Mean in the Bible

What is the Biblical Meaning of the Number 8

In the bible, the number 8 means Newness, renewal, wall, separation. As will most number and biblical meaning there are different perspectives to think about depending on context and application.The Bible has so many instances of the number eight in a context of newness, a new beginning, or a renewal that those are dominant themes of the number eight. Some can be taken as both ‘new’ and ‘separation’; the end or separation of something signifies the beginning of something new.

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Eight’s Pictograph

Before delving into the details of any particular number, it bears mentioning that the language of Hebrew uses its letters as numbers, and also that the letters are words and concepts (pictographs) that can be used either in the literal sense or as symbol(s). When deriving the meaning of biblical numbers it is important to remember these pictures.

A pictograph is a symbol or an image that represents a concept or an idea. For example, a graphic of a cigarette with a red circle around it and a slash through it is a pictograph; it commonly means ‘No smoking’.

The eighth letter in Hebrew is chet; it has the numerical value of eight.  The pictograph for chet looks like a wall or a fence, typically meaning wall, separation, divide, half, outside and inside.  

Chet as a Picture of Community

In classical Hebrew script (more florid writing), chet is comprised of the preceding two letters, vav and zayin joined at the top with a thin line reaching from one letter to the next.

Vav’s numerical value is 6 and zayin’s is 7, therefore, one gematria value of chet would be thirteen, which is the same value as ahavah – love.  It is also the value for echad – one.  Combining these concepts, it can be asserted that love unifies us in true fellowship, just as we were taught by Jesus (John 17:22-23).

Also, since vav represents people or others, and some interpretations suggest zayin represents time, chet can be a picture of ‘spending time in community’.  

Please note: it’s not being suggested that the number four means ‘community’; it’s just being pointed out that the letter chet can be taken as a picture of community.

What Does Eight Mean?

The Bible has so many instances of the number eight in a context of newness, a new beginning, or a renewal that those are dominant themes of the number eight.  Below are some examples from the Bible or Biblical times, many of which include the number eight signifying something new or renewed.  Some can be taken as both ‘new’ and ‘separation’; the end or separation of something signifies the beginning of something new:

  • Eight people were saved on the ark: Noah and his wife, their three sons and their wives
  • God reaffirmed His (new) covenant with Abraham eight times
  • Abraham had a total of eight sons
  • Boys were to be circumcised on the eighth day (Gen 17:10-14, among other places)
  • The Feast of Tabernacles is an eight day feast (Lev 23:34-36)
  • Abdon was a judge of Israel who served eight years (Judges 12:13-14)
  • David was the eighth son of Jesse (1 Sam 16:6-11)
  • New Testament days were divided into watches of eight, equal segments of time.  (Sunrise-9 am, 9 am – 12 pm, 12-3 pm, 3 pm – sunset, sunset – 9 pm, 9 pm – midnight, midnight – 3 am, 3 am – sunrise)
  • Eight is the number of Jesus, whose name in the Greek adds up to 888
  • After His resurrection, Jesus appeared eight times
  • Peter healed a man that was paralyzed for eight years (Acts 9:33-34)
  • Eight people recorded the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude
  • Early churches were often built with eight walls to convey faith in the resurrection (new life)

God saved eight people on the ark while waters flooded the earth.  Those people were a new beginning for mankind.  (Gen 7:13)

Abraham, with whom God established a new covenant, had eight sons in total. (They were Ishmael, Isaac, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah.)

In Jewish tradition, boys were to be circumcised and given a name on the eighth day.  Through the giving of a name and through circumcision – a symbol of the new covenant – a child entered into a new relationship as a member of the people of Israel.  (A physical reason for circumcision to be done on the eighth day is that Vitamin K, which clots and stops bleeding, is not present in the body until the eighth day.)  In New Testament writings, under the new covenant, ‘circumcision’ is used to describe the death of the carnal nature (self will, pride, lust, etc) which is one of the primary outcomes of redemption and being a new person in Jesus Christ.  (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:23-24)

Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. However, when considering the prior week, seven days – when his arrest, trial and crucifixion took place – and adding the first day of the week, the total is eight. Therefore, the number eight can be used to convey the concept of the resurrection of Jesus, as well as the believer’s resurrection and beginning of new life in Christ.  

Eight times after His resurrection, Jesus appeared alive.  

  • In John chapter 20, Mark 16, and Luke 24, His first appearance was to Mary Magdalene and other women disciples of Christ.
  • He then showed himself to two disciples traveling to Emmaus (Luke 24). 
  • Next, he appeared to all the disciples but Thomas who was absent at that moment (John 20:19 – 24).  
  • A week later, when Thomas was with the other disciples, He appeared to all of them (John 20:26 – 29).  
  • In 1 Corinthians 15:4-7, the apostle Paul writes that Christ was seen by 500 believers at one time. 
  • Jesus instructed his disciples to go to a specific mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16 – 17) and He met them there.
  • He also met them on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1 – 24). 
  • His final appearance was on the Mount of Olives, where he gave His followers instructions before ascending to heaven (Acts 1).  

Eight appearances following Jesus’ resurrection could be construed as emphasizing new life – resurrection life – in the risen Christ.

In 1 Peter 3:20, Peter draws a comparison between the eight people saved on the ark – “saved through water” as he puts it – and water baptism, symbolism of a believer being a new creation.

Illustration of Eight in a Composite Number

Many times that the number eight appears in the Bible, it is part of a composite number. For example, in John 5, a man was paralyzed for 38 years or, put another way, 30 and 8 years.

‘Death’ is the broad meaning of the number 30, but it is possible to break down the number 30 into its multiplications, such as 5 x 6 or 3 x 10.  The idea of ‘testing’ is part of the number three and the idea of ‘completely’ or ‘thoroughly’ is part of the number ten. Therefore, the number thirty can relate to being thoroughly or completely (10) tested (3).  A typical response when testing is encountered is to pray that the testing would end.  In John 5, what is being expressed is that the paralyzed man is going to be thoroughly (10) tested (3) and then, when the purpose for this testing is achieved, he will have a new beginning (8).

As you look to understand what eight means in the context that you have encountered it, you might wonder, “Does it mean ‘newness’, ‘renewal’… maybe ‘wall’?”  As you seek to understand what God might be communicating to you, and/or seeking to discern the times and seasons we are in, no conclusion can be complete without inviting the Holy Spirit’s voice into your research and reflections.

Research notes

Pictograph of chet:

The letter chet:

In Hebrew, the word shemonah (eight) has the same exact letters as hashemen (the oil), neshama (soul), and mishna (transmitted teaching).

Instances of Number Eight in the Bible

God saved eight people on the ark in order to have a new beginning for mankind after the flood. Since the meaning of four is derived from God’s creation of everything, 8 (4 + 4) pictures the new creation after the flood.

Abdon (in the East) was a Judge of Israel who served 8 years (Judges 12:13 – 14).

The most joyous Feast period of the year is the eight day period of the Fall Feast of Tabernacles followed immediately afterward by the Last Great Day.  (After the 7 weeks of the spring harvest, the next day, the 50th day, is Pentecost. This day is also the eighth day of the seventh week. This 8th and 50th day combination pictures the first resurrection when the saints will be raised from the dead and made immortal (1Corinthians 15:20 – 23, John 3:3 – 12, Revelation 20:4 – 6). After the 7 days of the Feast of Tabernacles there is an 8th day, called the Last Great Day.)

Abraham, the father of the faithful, had 8 sons total. They were Ishmael, Isaac, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah.

Boys were to be circumcised on the 8th day. (I, NP, have read, but not been able to corroborate, that…Another reason circumscion is done on the 8th day is that Vitamin K, which clots and stops bleeding, is not present in the body until the 8th day. Only G-d knew, until He revealed that to man.

The Lord reaffirmed His covenant with Abraham eight times.

David was the eighth son of Jesse.

One method of timekeeping used in Israel was called a ‘watch.’ Watches were time periods in which guards were placed on duty. Although days were initially divided into 6 equal watch periods (Judges 7:19), by the time of the New Testament days were divided into 8 equal parts (Matthew 14:25, Mark 6:48).

(Night Watches: First watch – Sunset to 9 p.m. Second watch – 9 p.m. to Midnight Third watch – Midnight to 3 a.m. Fourth watch – 3 a.m. to Sunrise

Day Watches

  • First watch – Sunrise to 9 a.m
  • Second watch – 9 a.m. to Noon
  • Third watch – Noon to 3 p.m
  • Fourth watch – 3 p.m. to Sunset

Eight is the number of Jesus, whose name in Greek adds up to 888.

The New Testament was penned by only eight men (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Peter, Jude, Paul).

Jesus showed himself alive eight times after his resurrection from the dead. His first appearance alive was to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9 – 11). He then showed himself to two disciples travelling to Emmaus (Luke 24). Next, he appeared to all the disciples except Thomas (John 20:19 – 24) then a week later to all of them when Thomas was present (John 20:26 – 29).  According to the apostle Paul, Christ also was seen by 500 believers at one time (1Corinthians 15:4 – 7). Jesus also met his disciples at the appointed place in Galilee (Matthew 28:16 – 17) and on Galilee’s shores (John 21:1 – 24). His final meeting was on the Mount of Olives, where he gave his followers instructions before ascending to heaven (Acts 1).

The number 8 in the Bible represents a new beginning, meaning a new order or creation, and man’s true ‘born again’ event when he is resurrected from the dead into eternal life.

Like the Old Testament Passover lamb, Jesus was selected as the Lamb to take away man’s sins on the Hebrew day of Nisan 10 (April 1, 30 A.D. – John 12: 28 – 29). He was crucified on Nisan 14 (Wednesday, April 5 in 30 A.D.). His resurrection occurred, exactly as he stated, three days and three nights after he was buried, which was at the end of the weekly Sabbath day that fell on Nisan 17 (seventeen symbolizes victory).

Nisan 17 was also the eighth day, counting inclusively, from the time Christ was selected as man’s sacrificial Lamb. All this bears record of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice and His complete victory over death.

Boys were to be circumcised on the 8th day. The number 8 symbolizes circumcision of the heart through Christ and the receiving of the Holy Spirit (Romans 2:28 – 29, Colossians 2:11 – 13). Those in Christ are becoming a new creation, with godly character being created by the power of God’s Spirit (2Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 2:10; 4:23 – 24).

Another reason circumcision is done on the 8th day is that Vitamin K, which clots and stops bleeding, is not present in the body until the 8th day. Only G-d knew, until He revealed that to man.

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