In this article, we will continue our study of the numbers of the Bible by focusing on the Biblical meaning of the number 12. So, grab your Bible, and let’s dive…
When we read God’s Word, we may notice patterns and numbers. Numbers may be included to give an accurate account of historical events. Some numbers and patterns are included to help us understand the Scripture better.
They may also be prophetic in nature. The Bible is complex, with layers of understanding within each letter, number, and symbol.
We may never fully unravel the full extent of the meaning of God’s Word. However, He gave us many clues to help us better understand some aspects. Using certain numbers in a similar context helps us understand that some numbers have a specific significance or meaning. This is called Biblical numerology, which adds meaning to a number.
The number 12 in the Bible is such a number that it is rich in symbolism and significance. You will be amazed as we unpack what God’s Word says.
12 in the Bible: A look at the Hebrew
As we have gone through numbers 1-10, you have learned that each one of these numbers is connected with a Hebrew letter in the alphabet. But sadly, there isn’t a letter that has the numeric value of 12.
One thing we can look at is the the twelfth letter in the Hebrew alphabet which is the Lamed (pronounced “lah-med”).
It is called the heart letter because Lamed is viewed as the center letter of the alphabet. As the tallest letter, the Lamed rises above the baseline and above all other letters in the alphabet. Because of rising above the rest of the letters, the Lamed is said to represent the King of kings.
The Lamed is shaped like a shepherd’s staff or ox goad to lead, guide and govern a flock. It is also symbolic of a yoke or something that binds.
The numeric value of Lamed is thirty. Jesus entered His ministry on earth when He was thirty, and Aaronic priests were dedicated to service at age thirty.
The Biblical Meaning Of The Number 12
You may have noticed how often the number twelve is used in the Bible. The number twelve is used almost two hundred times in the Bible!
We find the number twelve present in the Bible in other ways. Looking at the context, we find a connection between twelve and governing or government, order, and authority.
Twelve short books of the Old Testament are categorized as minor prophets. These prophets spoke God’s Word with authority to guide and correct the nation.
There are twelve instances where we are told that a person was anointed. In each instance, the anointed person was either a priest or a king in a position of authority.
We also see 12 tribes in Israel and twelve judges that later governed Israel before kings were appointed.
By studying where the number twelve occurs, we find an emerging pattern that points to the number twelve’s additional meaning. As I mentioned earlier, we find twelve associated with a perfect government, authority given to man, and order.
It can represent completeness, unity, and organization. Let us see if we can highlight these meanings by looking deeper into the clues God gave us.
God Sets His Order In The Universe
In Genesis 1:14, God creates the universe’s lights and tells us they are created to measure time. God sets an orderly system of measurements in place for all to see. The sun, moon, and star constellations measure the day and night into twelve equal parts each. Each year is divided into twelve months. Each year has four seasons, each lasting around three months.
Four is linked to God’s complete creation, and three speaks to His perfect design and the Trinity. Twelve, as a multiple of three and four, reinforces this number’s perfect and complete order association.
We see God’s complete order of time set in place in twelve parts right at the beginning of the Bible. Today we know that each month corresponds to the location of star constellations in the sky. The constellations have nothing to do with predicting your future through astrology. Astronomy is a measuring system God set in place before He created man.
The 12 Tribes Of Israel – The First Government
God promised childless Abram he would have an heir, and from him, there would arise a whole nation. God told Abram to look at the stars and that his offspring would be like the stars.
It is interesting that the nation of Israel came forth from that promise. Just as Abram looked up at twelve constellations that govern time, twelve sons were to govern the nation of Israel!
Just as Abraham and Sarah conceived their first child by God’s supernatural design, the twelve sons who started the nation were part of His design.
In effect, God created the first government. Over time, division crept in, and the nation split in two. The divided nations of Judah and Israel were never as strong after the split.
Over time both the incomplete nations stopped serving God, and as a result, they fell under the rule of other nations. This shows us that God’s first design of one nation with twelve parts was much stronger. We also see that we are better off following God as our Shepherd.
Jesus Appoints 12 Disciples
When Jesus started His ministry on earth, He chose twelve disciples to spend time with Him. They were to learn everything He had to teach while on earth. These twelve students had a huge task ahead. They were to lay the foundations for God’s kingdom on earth.
In other words, Jesus was training new leaders to whom he could hand over His authority on earth when he left.
Jesus replicated God’s governmental system when He appointed twelve disciples. Jesus tells us that His actions directly result from doing what God told him. Following God’s, pattern and plan for effective governance would serve us well.
12 Years To Healing
In Mark 5, we learn about two individuals who showed great faith and received miracles on the same day. A woman who had sought her healing unsuccessfully for twelve years believed that Jesus could heal her.
Jesus was already on His way to healing a little girl who was twelve years old and on the verge of death. Her father, Jairus, also believed that Jesus was the answer to her healing.
The woman had suffered for as long as the little girl was alive. She had literally endured a lifetime of suffering in a sense.
Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” 29 Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. Mark 5:25-20
Her faith-filled touch of Jesus’ robe restored her health. The woman knew she had been healed, but when confronted, she became fearful. Jesus reassured her that by showing faith, she was made whole. She received complete restoration of her health.
Shortly after this miracle, news arrived that the little girl had died. Jesus knew this news could cause Jairus to lose faith. Jesus reassured him to remain steadfast in his faith, despite what the people around him were saying. Because the man remained in faith, his daughter also received healing.
In all three gospels that tell of these events, there is an emphasis on the number twelve. All three accounts also mention that Jesus tells the woman she has been made whole. This can allude to twelve representing completeness or wholeness.
24 Elders: 12X2
Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. -Revelation 4:4
In Revelation 4, we see 24 elders sitting on thrones. Many scholars speculate these are the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles. Though we are not certain who they are, we can see that number 12 is once again used in a very specific way in the throne room of God.
A Perfect City In The Future
God has guided man throughout history, showing us His perfect plan and purposes by using twelve to create order.
In Revelation 21, we are told about God’s perfect future tabernacle, where He will dwell with man.
Many aspects of the city are described in this chapter of Revelation, with the number twelve or multiples of it being spoken of repeatedly. God’s message is clear regarding the esteem He holds for the number twelve when we look at the design of His perfect abode.
The New Jerusalem has twelve gates, named after the twelve tribes of Israel. The gates are guarded by twelve angels and made from twelve pearls.
The names of the twelve apostles are within the city’s wall, and the twelve foundations contain twelve different precious stones. The measurements of the wall and the dimensions of the city are also multiples of the number twelve.
Using the number twelve so many times to describe the new Jerusalem points us to the importance of this number to God. The design has order and perfection, and no imperfection may enter the city.
Only Those whose names are recorded in the Lamb’s book of life will be allowed entrance!
The Meaning Of 12 In The Bible
To sum up what we have learned lets do a quick look at the Biblical, spiritual, and prophetic meaning of 12 in the Bible.
The Symnolic Meaning of 12
- Perfect Government or Governing
- Completeness or Wholeness
Numbers Of The Bible Series
God’s Word is truly amazing and has so much to teach us if we take the time to delve deeper. That’s why I’m currently working on a full series about The Numbers in the Bible! It’s an extraordinary topic that unveils spiritual, historical and cultural insights that really strengthen our faith– there’s no doubt you’ll learn something new!
If you’re curious and want to learn more, my articles are now available.
God teaches us about order and governance through the number twelve. We also see His perfect design in the design of the new Jerusalem. Jesus called himself our Good Shepherd. The Lamed symbolizes a staff or a yoke, and Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28-30 that His yoke is easy, and His burdens are light.
It seems God is leading and guiding us to understand His great plan and outcome if we listen to Him. God desires for us to be whole and not burdened down with the cares of life. He invites us to put on His light yoke and submit to his guidance in order for our names to be recorded in the Book of Life.
Melissa is a passionate minister, speaker and an ongoing learner of the Bible. She has been involved in church and vocational ministry for over 18 years. And is the founder of Think About Such Things. She has the heart to equip the saints by helping them get into the Word of God and fall more in love with Jesus. She also enjoys family, cooking, and reading.
She has spoken in churches in California, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico and has been featured in Guidepost Magazine and All Recipes Magazine. Read More…