Meaning of Numbers: The Number 12
The number 12 is one of the foundations of Scripture. The word "twelve," recorded 189 times in the King James translation, is found the most in 1Chronicles (26 times) followed by Revelation (22). The word "twelfth" is found an additional 23 times. The meaning of 12 is that it symbolizes God's power and authority, as well as serving as a perfect governmental foundation. It can also symbolize completeness or the nation of Israel as a whole.
Jacob (Israel) had 12 sons, each of which represented a tribe. These sons were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin. Ishmael, who was born to Abraham through Hagar, also produced twelve tribes or princes.
God specified that twelve unleavened cakes of bread be placed every week in the temple with frankincense next to each of the two piles that were to be made. The priests were commanded to change the bread every Sabbath day (Leviticus 24).
Christ called twelve men to bear witness to what he did and to spread the good news of the gospel to the entire world. After he was raised from the dead, Jesus told the eleven disciples (Judas had killed himself) that God had given him ALL power and authority in both earth and heaven (God's divine authority - Matthew 28:18).
Twelve thousand from each tribe of Israel (144,000 total) will receive salvation during the end time's Great Tribulation (Revelation 7). A set of 144,000 (12 x 12,000), possibly the same as those in chapter 7, will be taken from earth in order to serve and follow the Lamb of God (Revelation 14:1 - 5). Christ's bride in Revelation 12, the church, wears a crown containing twelve stars.
The New Jerusalem, which is made in heaven and brought to the earth by God himself, contains 12 gates made of pearl that are each manned by an angel. Over each gate will be one of the names of Israel's twelve tribes. The walls are 144 cubits high (12 multiplied by itself - Revelation 21:16 - 17), with the city itself being 12,000 furlongs square.
Appearances of the Number Twelve
The Biblical books of Ecclesiastes and Daniel each have 12 chapters. The chapters in God's word that number twelve verses are Deuteronomy 34, 1Samuel 5 and 27, 2Chronicles 22, Psalm 2, 5, 26, 30, 60, 76, 84, 97, 143, Ecclesiastes 6, Isaiah 25, 53, 56, 62, 64, Hosea 11, Micah 3, Zechariah 10 and 2Thessalonians 1.
There are 12 names in the Bible that have only two letters. They are Ai (Joshua 7:2), Ar (Num. 21:15), Ed (Joshua 22:34), Er (Genesis 38:3), Ir (1Chronicles 7:12), No (Jeremiah 46:25), Og (Num. 21:33), On (Num. 16:11), Pe (Psalm 119:129), So (2Kings 17:4), Ur (Genesis 11:28) and Uz (Genesis 10:23).
In 1692 B.C., at the ripe old age of 108, the patriarch Jacob (Israel) and his huge family of 12 sons arrive near Mamre (Hebron). Jacob has travelled many miles to be near his father Isaac who is now 168. Shortly after he arrives, he makes a "coat of many colors" for Joseph (Genesis 37). The family will sojourn near Isaac for the next twelve years until his death at the age of 180 (Genesis 35:28 - 29)!
The twelve patriarchs from and including Shem (one of Noah's sons saved in the Ark) to Jacob (Israel) are Shem, Arphaxad, Salah, Heber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The Minor Prophets in Scripture are a group of 12 writings considered "minor" as they are much shorter than the other prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. These writers are, in alphabetical order, Amos, Habakkuk, Haggai, Hosea, Joel, Jonah, Malachi, Micah, Nahum, Obadiah, Zechariah, and Zephaniah.
Solomon appointed 12 officers over Israel (1Kings 4:7).
Anointing and the Number 12
Twelve people are specially noted in the Bible as being anointed for a unique task or responsibility. They are Aaron and his four sons to serve as priests (Exodus 29:7 - 9) and Saul (1Samuel 10:1), David (1Samuel 16:13) and Solomon (1Kings 1:39) to serve as kings over a united Israel.
David's son Absalom, who wanted to take the throne of his David but was killed (2Samuel 19:10), was also anointed by some to be king. The remaining three specially anointed are King Jehu of Israel (2Kings 9:6) and Kings Joash (2Kings 11:12) and Jehoahaz (2Kings 23:30) of Judah.
More Info on Biblical Meaning of 12
It was on April 3, 30 A.D. (Nisan 12 on the Hebrew calendar) that Judas Iscariot meets with Jewish religious leaders. He agrees to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, an act which will fulfill prophecy (Psalm 41:9, Zechariah 11:12, Matthew 26:14 - 15).
Three of the four Gospel writers are silent regarding Jesus' life from the age of about six months until he turns thirty. We have Luke to thank, however, for offering us a glimpse into his early life (Luke 2:40 - 52). The gospel writer records the earliest words of Christ when he was only 12 years old. They were in response to Mary chiding him for not knowing where he was when the family left Jerusalem after the spring Feast days.
"Why is it that you were looking for Me? Don’t you realize that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49)
The high priest's breastplate, also called the breastplate of decision, had 12 stones embedded in it. Each stone represented a tribe of Israel. The Urim and Thummim were part of the High Priest's breastplate. They were primarily used to consult God regarding important matters (1Samuel 28: 3 - 6, Numbers 27:21 and so on). Both the first century historian Josephus and the Talmud identify the Urim and Thummim with the breastplate stones.
Twelve, along with other numbers such as three, four, seven and ten, are unmistakably used in a symbolic fashion in God's word.