Ever had that moment when the scales fall off your eyes? When the veil falls away and it strikes you the situation is not what you think it is?

I had such a moment recently when I was digging (yet again!) in Ephesians 6. As I noted in The Story of a Cover, there’s an allusion to the rose of Sharon in the armour of God. Actually, upon further investigation, it transpired there are—surprise, surprise!—seven flowers.

What’s an entire layer of subtle references to Israel’s flora doing in the Armour of God? Good question. But it’s not the only layer:

  1. Surface layer: the accoutrements of Roman armour—helmet, breastplate, belt, sword, shield, shoes—plus an extra bit of protection in prayers and hymns.
  2. Sub-surface layer 1: the elements of a threshold—pillars, lintel, gates, threshold stone, mezuzah, seals, door. These do not correspond in a one-to-one fashion to the Roman armour, but are based on puns. For instance, the word for ‘darts’ (as in fiery darts of the Evil One) comes from belos, threshold while the word for ‘shield’ doubles as a word for door. With a single exception, these are Greek puns and I have no doubt the average reader would have spotted them immediately.

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Seventeens in Scripture (17)

This is the last of this series.

Appropriately, it’s the seventeenth.

So I just thought I’d mention a couple of my favourite multiples of 17 in Scripture, along with some other random significant seventeens I haven’t looked at very closely.

(1)         Currently the top of my favourites among the seventeens is the 1717 references to ‘land’ across the Old and New Testaments. Now 101 in medieval times appears to have been a metaphor for the Music of the Spheres, the sustaining song of the angel host. It looks to me like Paul uses it that way to book-end Ephesians as well. As it happens ‘land’ and ‘song’ evoke the Australian aboriginal concept of connection to the land and songlines in the landscape. So pardon me if I sum up 1717 as a mathematical metaphor for ‘the songlines of the Lord’.

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Seventeens in Scripture (16)

Besides those 17 references to God as ‘Father’ embedded in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew also made 17 references to Jesus as ‘the Christ‘ in his gospel. Unsurprisingly, the seventh reference is Simon’s confession of Peter as ‘the Christ’, an occasion that results in his being given the name ‘Peter’.

  1. Matthew 1:1 NKJV — The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham
  2. Matthew 1:16 NKJV — And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
  3. Matthew 1:17 NKJV — So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.
  4. Matthew 1:18 NKJV — Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
  5. Matthew 2:4 NKJV— And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

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Seventeens in Scripture (15)

The moment I heard a sermon in which it was mentioned that there are 16 references to joy in Philippians, I knew there was one missing. So I went looking for it. There are indeed 16 references based on chara, but there is one based on kauchaomai (#13), which happens to be positioned to divide the remainder of mathematical structure in a 3:1 ratio.

Also noting from yesterday’s post that joy and crown are related concepts in Hebrew, it should be no surprise to find them together in Philippians 4:1

  1. Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joyPhilippians 1:4
  2. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and rejoicingPhilippians 1:18
  3. …I therein do rejoice, yea, and will… Philippians 1:18
  4. rejoice. Philippians 1:18
  5. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith…  Philippians 1:25
  6. That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again. Philippians 1:26
  7. Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Philippians 2:2
  8. Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Philippians 2:16
  9. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice with you all.. Philippians 2:17
  10. For the same cause also do ye rejoice with me. Philippians 2:18
  11. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Philippians 2:28
  12. Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Philippians 3:1
  13. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Philippians 3:3
  14. Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. Philippians 4:1
  15. Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say… Philippians 4:4
  16. Rejoice. Philippians 4:4
  17. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Philippians 4:10


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Seventeens in Scripture (14)

This is not numerical literary style at all. It is simply an example of 17 occurrences of the same name. But since the name has a reference to joy, that wonderful word found 17 times in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I think it’s worth making an exception.

Abigail means my father is joy. In Hebrew, the word for joy alludes to a crown. I guess it’s appropriate that Abigail is one of the queens of Israel.

  1. Abigail…was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband, a Calebite, was surly and mean in his dealings. 1 Samuel 25:3
  2. One of the servants told Nabal’s wife Abigail: “David sent messengers from the desert to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. 1 Samuel 25:14
  3. Abigail lost no time. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 1 Samuel 25:18
  4. When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 1 Samuel 25:23
  5. David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 1 Samuel 25:32
  6. When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing until daybreak. 1 Samuel 25:36
  7. Then David sent a proposal to Abigail, to take her as his wife. 1 Samuel 25:39

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Seventeens in Scripture (13)

Paul lays out the qualities of an elder in the church, citing seventeen qualifications for anyone who desires such ‘a noble task’.

Now the elder must be

  1. above reproach
  2. the husband of but one wife
  3. temperate
  4. self-controlled
  5. respectable
  6. hospitable
  7. able to teach

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Seventeens in Scripture (12)

The first epistle of John is often said to have a comparatively impoverished vocabulary compared to the gospel. It is also said to have ‘worked to death’ a very few select themes.

In a blog-length letter—a little under 2200 words—John used ‘eido’, to know the truth, seventeen times. Of course ensuring such an important word appears this exact number of times in such a comparatively short letter virtually guarantees this theme will appear to be over-emphasised.

  1. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 1 John 2:20 NIV
  2. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth… 1 John 2:21 NIV
  3. …but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 1 John 2:21 NIV
  4. If you know that he is righteous… 1 John 2:29 NIV
  5. …you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. 1 John 2:29 NIV
  6. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that… 1 John 3:1 NIV
  7. …it did not know him. 1 John 3:1 NIV

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Seventeens in Scripture (11)

The gospel of Mark records two occasions when Jesus fed thousands of people by multiplying loaves and fish. Between those two events, several incidents are recorded which refer in different ways to ‘bread’. These incidents include:

  • Jesus walking on the water and calming the storm which ends with a thought about bread
  • Jesus confronting the Pharisees over their attitude towards the way his disciples ate bread
  • Jesus indulging in repartee about bread with a woman who had come to ask him to cast a demon out of her daughter.

This so-called ‘Bread Portion’ of Mark’s gospel contains—you guessed it!—seventeen references to bread all up.

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Seventeens in Scripture (10)

Following on from both the overt and implied seventeens of Hebrews 11, there’s another set of them in Hebrews 12. The format is similar to Paul’s list of the things that cannot separate us from the love of God in its list of seven, a short interlude, then a list of ten.

You have NOT come:

1.   to a mountain that can be touched

2.   to burning fire

3.   to darkness

4.   to gloom

5.   to storm

6.   to a trumpet blast

7.   to a voice speaking  such words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded.

But you have come:

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Seventeens in Scripture (9)

As well as being seventeen instances of an overcomer in the book of Revelation—as mentioned yesterday—there are also seventeen promises to the overcomer.

  1. granted to eat of the tree of life (Revelation 2:7)
  2. not to be hurt of the second death (Revelation 2:11)
  3. granted to eat of the hidden manna (Revelation 2:17)
  4. given a white stone (Revelation 2:17)
  5. given a new and secret name (Revelation 2:17)
  6. given power over the nations (Revelation 2:26)
  7. given white raiment (Revelation 3:5)

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Seventeens in Scripture (8)

Seventeen of the twenty-eight occurrences of nikao—to overcome or to conquer—in the New Testament are found in the book of the Revelation. Five of the seventeen refer to the Lord, three to the Beast and nine to the people of God.

  1. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)
  2. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:11)
  3. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it. (Revelation 2:17)
  4. He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. (Revelation 2:26)
  5. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (Revelation 3:5)
  6. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore ; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. (Revelation 3:12)
  7. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne. (Revelation 3:21)

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Seventeens in Scripture (7)

The boast of Paul listed in 2 Corinthians 11:23–26 contains seventeen ‘perils’…

I have:

  1. worked much harder
  2. been in prison more frequently
  3. been flogged more severely
  4. been exposed to death again and again.
  5. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.
  6. Three times I was beaten with rods
  7. once I was stoned

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