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12 – Twelve: Administration, Representation



According to Biblical numerology, 12 is a perfect number like 3, 7, 10, 50 and 100. Biblically speaking, while 12 is considered the perfect number of administration and symbolizes universality, 3 signifies the triune God and four – the four corners of the Earth. Twelve is the product of three and four.


According to the divine plan, God organized Israel as twelve tribes under the names of the sons of Jacob (Gen 49:28). Twelve symbolized completeness and power. Israel was powerful when it was a united kingdom.

God instructed to make the high priest’s breastplate with twelve 12 stones embedded in it “to match the names of the sons of Israel, each stone engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes” (Ex 28:21).

Moses sent twelve spies to Canaan, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. “The LORD said to Moses: Send men to reconnoiter the land of Canaan, which I am giving the Israelites. You shall send one man from each ancestral tribe, everyone a leader among them. So, Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, at the direction of the LORD. All of them were leaders among the Israelites” (Num 13:1-3).

God instructed Moses to set up twelve showbreads representing the twelve tribes in the Holy Place. “These you shall place in two piles, six in each pile, on the pure gold table before the LORD” (Lev 24:6).

King David organized his army based on the twelve tribes to serve by turn during the twelve months of the year. “This is the list of the Israelite family heads, commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and other officers who served the king in all that pertained to the divisions, of twenty-four thousand men each, that came and went month by month throughout the year” (1 Chr 27:1).

“Solomon had twelve governors over all Israel who supplied food for the king and his household, each having to provide for one month in the year” (Kgs 4:7).


Jesus started discussing on the Word of God in the Temple when he was only twelve (Lk 2:42).

Though Jesus had several disciples, he limited the number of apostles to twelve (Mt 10:1-4; Lk 6:12-16). As the Son of David, Jesus reestablished the rule of the twelve princes through the twelve apostles he selected on the mountain. This showed the reestablishment of the old Israel in a new form. The twelve apostles were not representatives of the twelve tribes originated from Jacob.

Though the apostles were Jews, they were to represent all nations whom God promised to bless when he made a covenant with Abraham. God had told Abraham, “in your descendants all the nations of the earth will find blessing” (Gen 26:4). Jesus asked to preach to all the nations (Mt 28:18-20).(

Jesus promised his apostles, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Mt 19:28).

After the death of Judas, the college of the apostles was very particular to maintain the twelve by selecting Mathias substituting Judas (Acts 1:15-26).

The book of Revelation gives importance to twelve and its multiplications (Rev 21:12-21). “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). The twelve stars represent the twelve patriarchs of the Old Testament and the twelve apostles of Jesus.


God, who is perfect, wants his church and the disciples of Jesus to be perfect. Church is a continuation of Israel with its twelve tribes in a new format that is inclusive of all humanity, who will follow Jesus and become participative in the church and its sacraments.

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