What Does The Number Thirteen (13) Mean or Represent in the Bible?

What Does The Number Thirteen (13) Mean or Represent in the Bible? October 1, 2014

Is there something symbolic or meaningful about the number 13?   If so, what is it?

Not an Unlucky Number

God is sovereign over all that happens and there are no accidents in the reign of God so 13 is not a lucky or unlucky number.  In fact, luck is like chance…it is nothing.  Some hotels and airlines have no 13th floor or 13th aisles in them because of superstition.  Friday the 13th also carries that stigma with it. When we attribute certain power or luck to a number we are revealing our ignorance of the supremacy of God in all things.  There is no magical power or special abilities to a number any more than there is power in chance.  If a weather forecaster predicts a 30% chance of rain, do we really believe that the chance had anything to do with whether it rains or not?  Did chance create the wind shear or increase the humidity?  Was chance the cause for the wind direction, the dew point or the drop in the barometric pressure?  Of course not.  We can’t attribute any power or special abilities to a number but the Bible does speak about certain negative things regarding the number thirteen but it doesn’t mean that the number created or caused the bad or evil things to occur, as we shall read;  it just seems to be associated with it, but it is intentional and no accident.

The Number 13 and Defilement

Jesus mentions 13 things that defile a person in Mark 7:20-23 saying

“What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

The number 13 wasn’t a defiling number but these things that Jesus listed are.  What is interesting is that most of these defilements or evil things come out of the heart and are what truly defiles the man.  Jesus was speaking about the traditions of the Pharisees when He told the disciples “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him” (Mark 7:15) and that “whatever goes into a person from the outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled” (Mark 7:18-19).  The number 13 had nothing to do with the evil but the human heart did.

Other Things Associated with 13

  • The dragon, which is symbolic of Satan, is mentioned 13 times in the Book of Revelation.
  • There are 13 major famines that occurred in the Bible from Genesis 12:10 during Abraham’s time to Acts 11:28 during the period of the early church.
  • In Romans chapter 1 the 13th characteristic of evil attributes is that mankind is a hater of God (Rom 1:30).
  • Deuteronomy 13 speaks about pagan and false Gods that will lead people into idolatry and thus, the severe judgment of God.
  • Some traditions hold that Judas Iscariot, the one who would betray Christ, was the 13th one seated.
  • The 13th chapter of the Book of Revelation is reserved for Satan and the beast (the Anti-Christ).
  • Solomon spent only 7 years building God’s temple (1 Kings 6:38) but he spent 13 years building a palace for himself (1 King 7:1).
  • Haman the Agagite declared and signed a decree to have all of the Jews in the Persian Empire killed on the 13th day of the first month which would take effect on the 13th day of the 12th month.
  • Nimrod, the mighty hunter, was of the 13th generation of Ham and it seems that the number thirteen is the number of human government while twelve is the number that God uses in His governmental structures.
  • The Valley of Hinnom is mentioned thirteen times in Scripture and is always related to evil pagan practices.

Number 13 in the Bible


The number thirteen seems to represent rebellion and evil but we cannot hold to any special meaning to this number outside of the Bible.  It is just a number and nothing more.  In the sovereignty of God, there is nothing that is happen chance or by random, blind luck but with specific purpose.  God’s will cannot be thwarted and He is totally immutable.  What will be bad for you is if you have not been saved is that you will experience what Revelation 20:13 says “And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.”  You will be judged for your sins or if you repent and trust in Christ, they have already been forgiven and you will be found innocent because your sins have been taken away in the Person of Christ by His substitutionary death on the cross.  Please, I beg you, take Paul’s advice in 2 Corinthians 6:2 “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon

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