One of the challenges of studying the scriptures, especially the Old Testament, is knowing which verses were meant to be interpreted literally and which verses were intended to be interpreted figuratively.
Studying ancient literature, I learned that certain numbers were intended to be figurative, symbolic, or even magical. One key to spotting these figurative numbers is their repetition. Their too frequent use goes beyond mere coincidence.
The Number “8” is one of these numbers. According to rabbis and scholars, the Number “8” in the Bible often represents a “new beginning.”
The Creation (8th Day)
God rested on the 7th day of creation, but he did not retire. The next day, the eighth day, represented a new beginning for God’s children and the new earth.
Flood, Ark, Noah’s Family (8 People)
God concluded that, because wholesale sin and violence were destroying free will/agency and frustrating the plan of salvation, that mankind need to be destroyed. It was time for a “do over.” After the Flood, eight members of Noah’s family emerged from the Ark. These eight represented a new beginning for mankind.
The Abrahamic Covenant (8 Times)
Some rabbis and theologians teach that “God established a covenant with Abraham on eight occasions, thus establishing Abraham as the beginning of the Jewish nation.” (See: Grant Luton, In His Own Words.)
Circumcision (8th Day)
God commanded that every Hebrew male born under the Abrahamic covenant be circumcised and given a new Hebrew name. The circumcision was to take place on the eighth day of life, representing a new beginning. (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3; See also: Rom. 2:28-29; Col. 2:11-13) (Note: Abram, Sarai, and Jacob were each given a new name as part of their covenant with the Lord.)
Resurrection of Jesus (8th Day)
Jesus was resurrected on the eighth day. This was a new beginning for mankind. This was the pivotal point of the plan of salvation. In commemoration of the resurrection Christians changed their Sabbath observance to Sunday, the eighth day and first day of the week. This represents a new beginning and being born again.
Baptism (8 Years)
In modern times, the Lord commanded “[C]hildren shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:27). This is another new beginning. Like other covenants, the person receives a new name — taking upon them the name of Christ.
Sunday Sacrament (8th Day)
Latter-day Saints renew their covenants of baptism by partaking of the Sacrament. This takes place on the eighth day, and represents a weekly new beginning. What a great blessing! Those renewing this covenant receive a new name — taking upon them the name of Christ.