What Does The Number Twelve (12) Mean or Represent In The Bible

Numbers have meaning to God and often certain numbers have special meaning.  What special meaning or purpose does the number 12 have in the Bible?

The Number Twelve

You’ll find the number 12 used in 187 places in the Bible and there are some significances to this number as we will read.  The number twelve seems to be very important to God and it represents, in most cases, the number of perfection and authority.  The number 12 shows up in the Book of Revelation 22 times and are very important in that book and particularly in the New Jerusalem. Here are significances that are associated with the number 12.

Number 12 in the Bible

12; the Number of Completeness

There were 12 tribes in Israel and this symbolizes the completeness of the nation Israel.  Jacob had 12 sons which were the heads or fathers of each of the 12 tribes of Israel which are likened to 12 princes.  When God appeared to Jacob He told him, “Your name will not be called Jacob any longer.  From now on your name will be Israel” (Gen 35:10).  The name Jacob means “supplanter” which means “to supersede by force or treachery” which is what Jacob did when he took Esau’s birthright for a bowl of stew (Gen 25:29-34) but now God is going to deal differently with Jacob because he repented of his supplanting ways and was now going to be called Israel, which in the Hebrew is “Yisra’el” and means “God prevails” which essentially means that Jacob stopped wresting with God because he could not prevail against God (Gen 32:22-32).

Other Significances of the Number 12

  • Jesus chose 12 disciples who later became the 12 apostles which seem to fit the context of the number 12 used elsewhere in the Bible as this number also signified governmental rule or authority.  The betrayer, Judas, was replaced by Matthias (Acts 1:23-26).
  • The New Jerusalem which descends out of heaven has 12 gates made of pearl which are manned by 12 angels.  Each of the gates has been named after one of the 12 tribes of Israel.
  • In Revelation 7, twelve thousands from each of the 12 tribes of Israel will be saved near the end of the present world system.
  • The walls of the New Jerusalem are measured at 144 cubits high which is 12 multiplied (Rev 21:16).
  • The New City is also 12,000 furlongs squared (Rev 21:16).
  • There are 12 precious stones that will be used as the foundation of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:19-20).
  • The wall of the city had 12 foundations with the 12 names of the apostles on each one (Rev 21:14).
  • Twelve thousand will be taken from the earth so that they may serve the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ (Rev 14:1-5).
  • The high priest’s breastplate had 12 precious stones embedded within them.
  • Jesus very first words were spoken at the age of 12 (Luke 2:42).
  • There was even a woman who had suffered from a blood hemorrhage for 12 years (Luke 8:40).
  • There are 12 Minor Prophets in the Old Testament.  They are called minor, not because they are less important than the Major Prophets, but due to their size being considerably smaller.
  • There are 12 historical books in the Bible:  Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Sam, 2 Sam, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.
  • There were 12 loaves of permanent offerings on the golden table (Lev 24:5).
  • There were 12 explorers or spies sent into the land of Canaan (Due 1:23).
  • Solomon had 12 administrators in his kingdom (1 Kings 4:7).
  • There were 12 men who laid 12 stones in building a monument to the Lord (Joshua 4:3).
  • The Book of Chronicles contained 12 great priests.
  • Twelve curses were indicated for disobedience to Israel (Duet 27).
  • A young Israelite male took 12 years before he could be admitted as a “son of the law.”
  • There were the 12 sacrifices of animals that were to be given (Numb 7, 29).


There are many other significances tied to the number 12 that are too numerous to mention in one article but suffice it to say that God prescribed this number to have meaning and purpose of which were governmental authority, a completeness or perfection, and the authority given to mankind by God.  If there is one that seems to be missing, please add it in the comment section below.  For those who see God as having no significance in their life, they will see it someday but then it will be too late (Dan 12:2).  There is only one of two places that a person can go.  One is heaven and one is hell (Rev 20:11-15).  You have a choice.  Decide to day.  Jesus states these two choices in John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon


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