Author’s Note: With the Persian new year (Nowruz) beginning in a few days I thought it appropriate to share a little bit of Persian and Jewish history related to the subject. The following is taken from my new book: The 13th Enumeration: Key to the Bible’s Messianic Symbolism.
Of Superstitions, Heroines, and April Fools
“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.”—Acts 17:22–23
Any investigation of the number 13 in biblical or secular history would be incomplete without looking at the superstitions surrounding it. We’re all familiar with the fear and “bad luck” associated with this number around the world. What’s the deal? Why 13? With all the biblical symbolism pointing to the Messiah, what makes this number so infamous?
By now you’ve probably realized that it would be to our adversary’s advantage for the world to associate the number 13 with evil in some way. I mean, what better way for Satan to cover up a great biblical truth than to hide it in plain sight beneath a superstition? But what about the superstition—does it have any basis in historical fact?
Every really good deception has a kernel of truth. Let’s look and see if we can find the truth behind the ill omens and bad luck surrounding the number 13. I think the history may surprise you.
Back in Time
Let’s go back in history to one of the first associations between the number 13 and bad luck. Back before Mary Kay become engrossed with the number 13; before Napoleon Bonaparte, J. Paul Getty, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt became superstitious; before 13 became associated with American Masonic lore; before Jacques de Molay was murdered on Friday the 13th; before the Knights Templar; before Yeshua and His 12 apostles—back five hundred years to a biblical story of revenge, betrayal, heroism, and the number 13.
This is the story of a young Jewish woman who risked her own life to save her people from certain destruction, a story that began in the first month of the twelfth year of the Persian King Ahasuerus, when a villain named Haman started casting pur (lots) to find a good day to kill all the Jews in the kingdom of Persia. Twelve months later, Haman approached King Ahasuerus with a story that a certain people group in his kingdom were subversives. If it pleased the king, Haman would solve the Jewish problem in the kingdom of Persia once and for all.
In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar. (Esther 3:7)
And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee. Then were the king’s scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king’s ring. (Esther 3:11–12)
King Ahasuerus listened to Haman’s advice, and the following month, in the 13th year of King Ahasuerus’s reign, on the 13th day of the 13th month from when the first lot was cast, Ahasuerus granted Haman permission to destroy the Jewish people. So the decree was sent out and the date of destruction was set for the 13th day of Adar in the 13th year of Ahasuerus.
We know from the biblical account that Hadassah (Esther) intervened, Haman was hanged, and the king issued another decree that allowed the Jewish people to defend themselves from their enemies. So instead of a day of sorrow and loss, the 13th day of Adar became a day of deliverance and joy. But the story doesn’t end there. Hadassah petitioned the king to allow the Jewish people who lived in the Persian capital of Shushan to pursue their enemies on the 14th day as well.
Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey, upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar. (Esther 8:11–12)
But the Jews that were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day thereof, and on the fourteenth thereof. (Esther 9:18)
So 2500 years ago, the 13th and 14th days of Adar in the 13th year of a Persian king became one of the most celebrated events in Jewish history. In the festival of Purim, these days commemorate the deliverance of the Jewish people by the hand of YHWH through the efforts of a young Jewish queen of Persia.
On the thirteenth day of the month Adar; and on the fourteenth day of the same rested they, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. But the Jews that were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day thereof, and on the fourteenth thereof; and on the fifteenth day of the same they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. (Esther 9:17–18)
And Now for the Rest of the Story . . .
About the same time this biblical story was unfolding, a Persian tradition records the commemoration of a day of ill omen and bad luck. The Persian New Year celebration of Nowruz, literally “new light,” begins in the spring about the time of the spring equinox. This New Year’s celebration is twelve days long, leading up to the 13th day of the Persian new year. On this day, Persians celebrate Sizdah-bedar, which literally means “getting rid of” or “getting past” 13. You see, they believed that if they could get past the 13th day without anything bad happening, they were home free for the rest of the year. In modern times, Persians celebrate the day by visiting the countryside and playing practical jokes on each other. This has led some to speculate that this day may be the origin of April Fool’s Day.
An April Fool
In stunning irony, Sizdah-bedar was likely the very day upon which King Ahasuerus granted Haman permission to kill all the Jews of Persia. In true April Fool’s fashion, the joke was on Haman. An entire race of people were marked for death on Sizdah-bedar, the day of “getting rid of 13,” due to the hatred of one man—a man we now know as history’s greatest April fool.
So next time April Fool’s Day comes around, give a thought to an ancient Persian superstition regarding the number 13 and how YHWH used a pur to mark this day in infamy. A day meant for the death and destruction of the Jewish people was instead turned into a celebration of deliverance that has been commemorated every year, for the past 2500 years, on the 13th, 14th,, and 15th days of Adar.
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of YHWH. (Proverbs 16:33)
Not Given to the Spirit of Fear
I think there is a lesson to be learned from this little bit of history. As believers, we shouldn’t be afraid of unreasonable fears, superstitions, or unfounded conspiracy theories. As we’ve seen, the ill omens and bad luck surrounding the number 13 are merely a deception or veneer used by Satan to cover up one of the most profound examples of Messianic symbolism found in the Bible.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
—2 Timothy 1:7
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