T w e l v e

12 - Twelve - 12

By Andrew Harris 26 February 2000

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The first time that the number twelve appears in the Bible (other than as part of a compound number such as nine hundred and twelve) is:

Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

Genesis 14:4

Here it for twelve years that Chedorlaomer ruled over these other kings. In scripture we find twelve associated with rule. The sun which rules the day, and the moon and stars which govern the night move through the twelve signs of the zodiac. The zodiac resides in the great circle of the heavens, which is itself 360 degrees (= 30 x 12).

The Heavenly City

The city of God in Revelation chapter 21, symbolic of the church and also called the bride of Christ.

10And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; 12And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. 14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. 16And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. 17And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. 18And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. 19And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; 20The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. 21And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

Revelation 21:10-21

The city has twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes on them. Twelve angels stand at the gates, the walls have twelve foundations garnished with twelve precious stones, and in them the names of the twelve apostles. The city is twelve thousand furlongs square, and the twelve gates are twelve pearls. The number twelve is used here symbolically of Gods perfect government. Twelve is here nine times and the walls are 144 cubits = 12 x 12. If we accept the 144 being a reference to 12 then we have ten such in this passage. But also not that the length bredth and heigh are all equal, all twelve thousand furlongs. If we count this as three measures of twelve rather than just one, than there are twelve, twelves in this passage of twelve verses.

Perfect numbers

Twelve is one of the perfect numbers, three is divine perfection, seven is spiritual perfection, ten is ordinal perfection and twelve is governmental perfection. It is thus that the children of Israel are divided into twelve tribes. Even though there are in actuality thirteen tribes, every time they are listed only twelve are listed. Similarly in the New Testament Jesus chose for himself twelve apostles.

Twelve is the product of three times four and the significance of both of these numbers can usually be seen in twelve. Three is divine perfection and usually denotes things from or of God, thus wee see that perfect government can only exist when God is involved, in particular we shall only have perfect government when God rules all. Four is the number of the world and the creation, thus we see the perfect governments connection to that which is governed. It is the things of this world, the nature of this world that it needs to be governed.

The Twelfth Chapter

The twelfth chapter of the Bible starts with God calling Abram to come out of the land he was living in and go where God would tell him. This is the beginning of Gods plan to call out a nation unto himself, that would be ruled by God and be a testimony to all the nations of the earth of the one true God. That the nation of Israel failed to live up to their glorious calling in no way alters Gods intentions or plans. Here we can clearly see the link between perfect government and the number twelve. It is interesting to not that six, the number of man only comes halfway to perfect government. By definition, perfect government must involve God, man alone cannot reach it. Thus in Genesis chapter twelve we have God calling out his nation in the person of Abraham who would be its father. Abraham was called to leave his family and home, without even knowing where he was going, God would tell him later. Thus right from the start, walking by faith was what the Lord demanded.

The Twelve Tribes

The twelve sons of Israel, who became the head of the twelve tribes can be divided in the following manner. Six were the sons of Leah, if you remember Jacob (Israel) was tricked into marrying Leah instead of Rachael. Nevertheless God turned misfortune into blessing in that fully half of Jacob's sons were by his wife Leah. Two sons were born to Jacobs favored wife Rachael. However before they were, Rachael tried her own solution to her apparent barreness and had her handmaid bear two sons to Jacob in her stead. Leah saw this and also had her handmaid bear two sons for Jacob. However Rachels oldest son, Joseph, had his own two sons, grandsons of Jacob adopted as Jacobs sons. Thus there are thirteen "sons" of Jacob. When the Lord gave the Israelites the law he commanded that the tribe of Levi (the decendants of one of Leah's sons - Levi) become the priests for the whole nation and there were not to be reckoned a tribe anymore. Thus in effect only five tribes came from Leah. Thus bearing in mind these two important "legal" changes to the birth order of Jacobs twelve sons we have:



- three sons, the number of divine perfection, Jacob worked for Rachael, God granted her sons despite her barreness, these were the sons of promise.



- the wife that Jacob was tricked into marrying by the devious Laban, nevertheless God blessed a bad situation and thus five tribes can be reckoned to Leah, Five is the number of grace, exactly what God showed Jacob in turning all things to good for him. Also as mentioned in Genesis 29:31, when God saw that Jacob did not love Leah, he granted her grace and she concieved, thus Gods mercy was also unto Leah as well as Jacob.

Bilhah and Zilpah


- the two handmaids together bore Jacob four sons. Having their handmaids bear children to Jacob on their behalf was the solution of the two wives who were competing against each other. Their natural, worldly solution to their envy, is marked with the number four, the number of the world.

Where to go from here

The symbolism of the number thirteen.

Symbolic meanings of the numbers.

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