Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have read that in biblical numerology the number 11 indicates a system or period given to chaos or disorganization, and a survey of the text seems to bear this out. See, for example: Meaning of Numbers in the Bible.

Are there any systems of Hermeneutics that believe this to be both meaningful and intentional?

share|improve this question
2  
I am uncomfortable with this question as it is stated. It seems to presume a conclusion (about biblical numerology in general) that has not been established. I believe most (evangelical) biblical scholars are skeptical about systems that purport to find great significance in individual numbers in Scripture. I personally am wary of numerology because it is so inconclusive -- there are few accepted rules defining it. (Examples give way to counter-examples and systems proliferate.) Perhaps this question could be re-written to ask about the hermeneutical principals of numerology in general. –  kmote Jan 29 '12 at 5:32
    
@kmote - good suggestion, are you willing to have re-write the question? IIUC the OP is no longer contributing to the site - J.T. please correct me if that is wrong... –  Jack Douglas Jan 29 '12 at 14:42
    
@kmote: I'm not sure what you think of my answer. 11 isn't exactly the richest vein to study numerology in the Bible as it turns out. –  Jon Ericson Jan 30 '12 at 22:49
add comment

2 Answers

A quick search of the world "eleven" reveals that most instances are of an incidental sort:

Deuteronomy 1:2 (ESV)
2 It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea.

This is a statement of a fact that just happens to include the number eleven.


Other mentions of the number arise because eleven is one less than twelve:

Genesis 37:9 (ESV)
9 Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

In this case, Joseph's brothers (the eleven stars) are prophesied to be bowing down to him. Joseph had eleven brothers, so there are eleven stars. Twelve turns out to be really important because of Israel's twelve sons who become the twelve tribes. When you are counting to twelve (such as when the twelve tribes offer sacrifices one after another) you have to count "eleven" first.


The only example of "disorganization" (at least explicitly) I can see in the search results is:

Acts 1:24-26 (ESV)
24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

The number twelve, which is the number of disciples Jesus chose (most likely to reflect the tribes of Israel), turns out to be significant enough to the apostles that they made sure to pick one more person by lots. Being one short of twelve clearly was uncomfortable to those men. But it was less about the number eleven and more about twelve.


I looked over the list referenced in the question, I really don't think 11 is particularly significant. Anyone who reads the Bible will be familiar with the importance of numbers such as 3, 7, 12, and 40, but few would take the time to analyze 11. And that's for good reason: the conclusions you might reach from doing the work just isn't that interesting or useful for understanding the texts. Personally, I find no surprises in that list and none of the passages will undergo any radical new interpretation with a knowledge of the "significance" of 11 at hand.

share|improve this answer
    
Excellent observations, Jon. Particularly the keen insight that eleven often occurs due to it's relationship to 12. –  kmote Jan 31 '12 at 4:43
    
I don't think this is an actual answer to the question that was asked. However, I do think it is helpful in understanding the topic (i.e. useful information), so I am giving a +1. –  Jas 3.1 Jul 7 '12 at 23:39
add comment

In Sensus Plenior the meaning of numbers is derived the same way as the meaning of any metaphor and follows the same restrictive rules.

The meanings of many numbers turns out to be different than in other systems.

1 - God

2 - a different dualism of earthly and heavenly where both are good except when the earthly is placed pre-eminent.

3 - a reference to the Trinity in one it's aspects. The Father speaks, the Son works, the Holy Spirit gives the increase or the life. We hear the word, understand the works, or are walking the life. Or we are deaf, blind, and lame.

4 - the four voices of God's revelation (King, Judge, Prophet, Priest)

5 - the nature of man

6 - God's tri-fold revelation of Himself in heaven and on earth, 2*3

7 - Completeness. 6 + 1 the unity or completeness of God's revelation of himself in heaven and on earth. Think of the candle with 3 + 3 + 1.

8 - the word in four voices in heaven and on earth.

9 - 8+1 the completeness of the word in heaven and on earth, 3*3 Each person of the God head is the fullness of the Trinity. 7+2 Christ with 2 natures is complete, etc.

10 - the dual-natured man, Christ

100 - the church

1000 - king

I appreciate the question about 11 and Jon's answer concerning 12. They made me look at the details.

When Jacob wrestled with God he represents Christ at Gethsemane and on the cross. He sent his 11 sons away (Benjamin was not born yet). Jesus only had 11 disciples. Judas was not one of them. And they left him.

There were only 12 at the last supper for the 'Lord's supper', 11 disciples and Jesus. Jesus himself is one of the 12, just as Jacob wrestling with God as the Christ type is one of the twelve within the scope of that picture.

Benjamin was born 'out of season' killing his mother in the process. Paul (from the tribe of Benjamin) was born out of season. He was not there for Gethsemane and the cross with the other 11, and he was killing his mother (the church) when he was born again.

Joseph, the Christ type had eleven stars make obeisance to him in his dream. Once again Christ and the eleven make 12. Ge 37.9

There are 11 curtains of goat's hair covering (surrounding) the tabernacle. (Ex 26.8) Just as there were 11 disciples who surrounded Jesus.

11 bullocks are offered on the third day of dedicating the tabernacle because they were being made to Jesus, the 12th as in Joseph's dream.

11 isn't 12 missing 1. 11 plus Jesus makes 12. He is one of us. He is the Lion of Judah. He is the chief cornerstone, building with us.

In SP even the 'incidental' occurrences must have the same meaning, so I will go back and flush some of them out. This answer just picks the low hanging fruit.

------- addition

It is said that the eleven day journey to Kadeshbarnea was one day short of entering the promised land (I have not verified this). If this is so it is a foreshadow that the 11 disciples 'didn't get it'.

Nu 14:11 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?

Mt 17:17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.

Mr 9:19 He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me.

So here the eleven without Christ still represents the 11 disciples. With Christ they would have been in the promised land, the building would have been built. Jon's 'one short' answer is correct IF the one short is Christ, not Judas.

(This part of the answer is given based on unverified facts concerning the location.)

------ addition 2

Jehoiakim and Zedekiah ruled 11 years. This means that the king as a type of Christ refers to Jesus prior to the cross. The unfolding stories of their reigns should confirm this.

----- addition 3 In answer to the direct question "Are there any systems of Hermeneutics that believe this to be both meaningful and intentional?"

By the numbers

Hebrew letters have numeric values. There is no letter for eleven, the numbers jumping from 10 to 20 in the sequence.

10 + 1 are the letters Yod and aleph spelling Yah (or God).

This may imply that God is hidden in the 11 disciples, the eleven tribes, etc. in the same manner that Light and Life are hidden in Elohim.

Yes. Numbers in sensus plenior have metaphoric meaning derived from a strict set of rules which were put there by God as part of the shadows of Christ. Other systems of numerology may have meanings that are close or quite distant from those found in SP.

In Kabalah

Though it is often said that there are ten sefirot or channels of Divine energy, there are actually eleven, but the sefirah of keter and da'at are actually one, representing differing dimensions of a single force. There are eleven names of Godwhich are associated each with a particular channel of energy.

Ginsberg explains that eleven is related to "wits" , or that which is uncountable.

share|improve this answer
    
Can you cite a source that lays out those numerological characterizations? I don't see a strong scholastic foundation for this answer. I'm not necessarily saying you are wrong, there are just no sources cited. –  blundin May 30 '12 at 14:34
    
Thanks for asking. I added a link to another question explaining the rules referred to. Rule 4 is important to understand which is the most restrictive of any hermeneutic rule in any system. Methods are defined in any of the formal Midrash systems. I use the 32 rules of Rabbi Eliezer and apply them to the New and Old Testaments together. The list of numbers should be considered 'penciled in' until every occurrence is validated as with all sensus plenior solutions. –  Bob Jones May 31 '12 at 2:57
    
Why the down votes on this answer? –  Eli Rosencruft May 31 '12 at 16:30
2  
I am confused about why this answer has been down-voted. The question was "Do any Hermeneutical approaches have a specific meaning for the number 11?" Jon's post doesn't actually answer the question, but people agree, so it is voted up. This post answers the question with the affirmative, but people (presumably) disagree, so it is down-voted. The vote is supposed to be on whether the post is helpful in answering the question (or understanding the topic). I think either Bob's answer alone should be voted up, or both should be. –  Jas 3.1 Jul 7 '12 at 23:37
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.