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’.

(2)         Until discovering the 1717 references to ‘land’, my favourite reference to 17 was at the end of John’s gospel. His opening Hymn to the Logos starts with 17 words. Utterly iconoclastic: logos and 17 in the same sentence! He finishes up with a story about how Peter is forgiven by Jesus, just after 153 fish are caught. 153 is the 17th triangular number and, by using it, John was attacking another cherished belief. 153 had, for several centuries even at that time, been known in ancient mathematics as the ‘number of the fish’. This is a divine mathematical joke which loses so much in the translation I won’t even bother to try to explain it here.

(3)          Jesus rose from the dead on the 17th day of the month of Nisan. The word Nisan is said to derive from nitzan meaning bud or nissim meaning miracles or redemption and possibly being related to a Sumerian word for firstfruits.

(4)         There are 17 prayers recorded in the gospel of Matthew.

(5)         Jeremiah is said in some commentaries to offer 17 prayers on behalf of the people of Judah, before stopping at God’s command. After he stops he then buys a field at a cost of 17 shekels.

(6)         There are seventeen appearances of angels in the Gospels and Acts:

  • Joseph in Matthew 1:20
  • Joseph in Matthew 2:13
  • Joseph in Matthew 2:19
  • Jesus in Matthew 4:11
  • On the stone in Matthew 28:2
  • Inside the tomb in Mark 16:5
  • Zachary in Luke 1:11
  • Mary in Luke 1:26
  • Shepherds in Luke 2:9
  • Shepherds in Luke 2:13
  • Jesus in Luke 22:43
  • Pool of Bethesda in John 5:4
  • Disciples in Acts 1:11
  • Disciples in prison in Acts 5:19
  • Cornelius in Acts 10:3
  • Peter in prison in Acts 12:7
  • Paul in Acts 27:23

(7)        John qualifies zoe, ‘life’, 17 times with the adjective ‘eternal’ in his gospel

(8)         John also uses the name ‘Simon’ for Peter 17 times

(9)         John uses the word semeion, ‘sign’ or ‘miracle’ 17 times

(10)      Paul cites 17 names in his personal remarks at the end of his second letter to Timothy

(11)      Paul uses Sophia, ‘wisdom’, 17 times in his first letter to the Corinthians

(12)      Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah 17 times in his letter to the Romans

(13)      There are 17 prophetic books in the Old Testament

(14)      There are 17 historical books in the Old Testament (and 5 poetical books)

(15)      Psalm 83:6-12 mentions 17 enemies of the people of Israel, a tenfold contemporary confederation and seven enemies destroyed in the past

(16)      Noah’s Ark came to rest on Mt Ararat on the 17th day of the 7th month (which might be the same day as Jesus’ resurrection)

(17)     The people of Israel possibly crossed the Red Sea on the 17th of Aviv (which might be the same as Jesus’ resurrection and the day the ark came to rest on Mt Ararat)



  1. Alison Collins

    What does it all mean?? Or did I miss something. I’m sure it’s profound, but why are there so many 17’s?


  2. Anne Hamilton

    Ken Legg in his book Grace to Reign mentions that the New King James version of the Bible lists 17 aspects of the flesh in Galatians 5.

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