The number 22 is not as common as other numbers in the Bible but it is still an important number. Even though it is not explicitly used, there are lots of symbolism in its appearance in several instances in the scriptures. For instance, Jesus quoted from 22 books of the Old Testament and the Hebrew alphabet is composed of 22 alphabets.
There are two ways of looking at it. If you look at 22 as a double of 11, then 22 will represent evil, darkness, and confusion. That’s because 11 represents disorder and chaos. However, we can also extrapolate from various Biblical references that 22 stands of light (or God’s word.)
22 is a double of 11
22 is a double of eleven so we can extrapolate its symbolism from 11. Number 11 is used a lot in the Bible – approximately 43 times. The number 11 denotes chaos, judgment, and disorder. The perfect illustration of this is found in Genesis 11 where men gather with a goal of building a tower that would reach heaven. God confuses their tongue and what ensues is confusion and disorder. Even in modern English, “tower of Babel” is often used as a metaphor for confusion and disorder.
As such, the number 22, which is a double of eleven can signify a higher degree of chaos, confusion, and disorder. The word evil is often used to encapsulate all these and that is why 22 is often used to denote evil. Jeroboam I, who became the first king of Israel after the kingdom split in two, was king for a total of 22 years. Jeroboam’s ways did not please the Lord because he led the nation into idolatry as well as doing all manner of sins. Here is what God said of his reign;
You have done more evil things than everyone before you. You made other gods, metal idols, for yourself. You made me furious and turned your back to me. 1 Kings 14:9
Interstingly, King Ahab, who is considered one of the worst kings of Israel, also reigned for a total of 22 years. Apart from killing Naboth to steal his vineyard, the king also married Jezebel who brought foreign gods to Israel. Under King Ahab’s watch, Israel sank so deep into idolatry that the prophets of Yahweh had to go into hiding because they feared for their lives (1 Kings 18,19,20). Consequently, King Amon began his reign when he was 22 years of age and he is also described as an evil king. Even though he reigned for only 2 years, scripture says that the king continued in the evil ways of his father by worshiping idols and doing other kinds of evil deeds (2 Kings 21:19-24)
From these examples, we can infer that the number 22 symbolizes evil – which is also a condensed way of saying chaos, disorder, and confusion.
A symbol of light
Even though 22 may symbolize disorder and chaos, the same number may also symbolize light in other contexts. The word light does not just denote the light of the sun but it is used as a metaphor for God’s word. The Psalmist says the entrance of God’s word not only brings light (Psalms 119:130) but it is also light (119:105).
The Hebrew alphabet comprises 22 letters. Since these letters were used to compose the word of God, we can infer that the number 22 represents the light of God’s word.
The word light appears 264 times in the scriptures. If we divide this number by 12 (which signifies God’s divine authority), we get 22 – a number that denotes light. In Numbers 3:39, the number of Levites is recorded as 22,000. This was a symbol of their role in lighting the Tabernacle as we can see from the verse below:
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron, and say to him, ‘When you arrange the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.’” And Aaron did so; he arranged the lamps to face toward the front of the lampstand, as the LORD commanded Moses.
The connection of light and priesthood is also seen in 1 Peter 2:9 which illustrates the priesthood of all believers under the new covenant but also says that we were called out of darkness into his marvelous light.
The word light is used 22 times in the Gospel of John. The 22nd appearance of the word light in this book is when Jesus says,
“I have come as a light into the world . . .” (John 12:46).
The church is therefore called to walk in the light of God (John 3:21) for that is the only way they can truly be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14 – 15).
Another illustration of how 22 symbolizes light can be seen during Jesus’ death on the cross. At around 3 PM, Jesus quoted Psalms 22:1 by saying “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (Mark 15:34). After this, Jesus died and there was darkness for 3 hours. The darkness that covered the area for 3 hours symbolized the significance of the statement Jesus had made – God, who is light, had forsaken him. This was important because Jesus had to die on the cross in order to save humanity from eternal damnation.
The book of Revelation, which is the last book of the Bible, is a book where John foretells the things that are to come. It is called revelation because it “reveals.” By definition, the word reveals means “bring to light.” As a testament to this, the book has a total of 22 chapters to symbolize the light of God’s word that was revealed to John the Revelator.
To sum it up, the number 22 can be termed as a symbol of light or darkness depending on the context. But for the most part, it represents light which always trumps darkness. In the words of scripture, God is light and in him, there is no darkness at all.