Israel and the Number 12 in Scripture :: By Randy Nettles

Israel and the Number 12 in Scripture :: By Randy Nettles

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In 2018, I wrote a series of articles called God’s Perfect Numbers, based on the numbers 3, 7, 10, and 12 and their biblical significance or representation ( In this article, I will expound upon one of these perfect numbers.

The number 12 signifies the perfection of rule or government. “It is found as a multiple in all that has to do with rule. The sun, which rules the day, and the moon and stars, which govern the night, do so by their passage through the 12 signs of the Zodiac, which completes the great circle of the heavens of 360 (12 x 30) degrees or divisions, and thus govern the year (there are 12 months in a normal year for most calendars). Twelve is the product of 3 (the perfectly Divine and heavenly number) and 4 (the earthly, the number of what is material and organic).” {1}

The number 12 represents Israel in many ways. Jacob had twelve sons whose descendants eventually formed the kingdom of Israel. Jesus, a descendant of King David of the tribe of Judah, had 12 disciples from different tribes of Israel. It’s not hard to find Israel in the Bible as Abraham’s descendants, the Jewish people of Israel and Judah, are located throughout the Old and New Testaments. However, several chapters, in particular, highlight Israel and their relationship and communion with God as no others do, and they are mostly located in chapter 12 of their respective Books. But first, let’s review the significance of the number 12 in my earlier article:


There were 12 patriarchs from Noah’s son, Shem, to Jacob (Israel): Shem, Arphaxad, Salah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abram, Isaac, and Jacob.

The number 12 is also the number signifying the perfection of government. Jacob had 2 wives and 2 ‘substitute’ wives. With these 4 wives, he had 12 sons and 1 daughter (Genesis 35:22-26). These sons of Jacob and their descendants eventually became the nation of Israel. Jacob’s sons’ names were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. Jacob’s only daughter’s name was Dinah.

Abraham’s son, Ishmael (by the Egyptian bondwoman Hagar), was the father of 12 princes. His sons and their descendants became a great nation (Genesis 17:19). Ishmael’s sons’ names were Nebajoth, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadar, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.

There were 12 persons that were anointed in the Old Testament (5 of them were priests and 7 were kings): Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, Ithamar, Saul, David, Absalom, Solomon, Jehu, Joash, and Jehoahaz. David was actually anointed 3 times.

In the New Testament, there were 12 apostles of Jesus: Simon (Peter); James the son of Zebedee; John the brother of James; Andrew; Philip; Bartholomew; Matthew; Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite; and Judas Iscariot (Mark 3:14-19).

At the Garden of Gethsemane, when the religious leaders came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus told Peter to put up his sword, for he could call down 12 legions of angels to help him if He wished (Matthew 26:53).

Every year, Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. Jesus’ first visit to the Temple in Jerusalem was when he was 12 years old. “And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to the custom of the Feast” (Luke 2:42). On their trip home, after 1 day’s journey, they noticed Jesus wasn’t in their company, so they returned to Jerusalem seeking him. “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers” (Luke 2:46-47).

When Jesus fed the multitude (5,000 men, not counting women and children) in the desert, all they had were five loaves and two fishes (a total of 7 food items). Jesus then looked up to heaven and blessed the meal and broke the bread, and gave the food to his disciples for distribution. “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full” (Matthew 14:20).

At the time of the Great Tribulation, after the sixth seal, a mighty angel comes to the earth and proclaims: “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed a hundred, and forty and four thousand (12 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10) of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (Revelation 7:3). Of the 12 tribes of Israel, 12,000 servants from each tribe will be sealed for service in the days of the Tribulation.

In Revelation 21, 12 is the dominant number concerning the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven: “And (it) had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels and names written thereof, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:12,14). “And the city lies foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. And he measured the wall thereof, a hundred and forty and four (12 x 12) cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel” (Revelation 21:16-17).

“The twelve foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. (Revelation 21:19-21).

God showed John another vision of the New Jerusalem. Here is a part of the description: “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manners of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2).



In Genesis 12, the Lord makes a covenant with Abram (later named Abraham), who would become the patriarch of the nation of Israel and other nations as well. Here are the promises and blessings the Lord made to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed Haran with his wife Sarai and Lot (his brother’s son), and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. Abraham and Sarah had one child between them, Isaac, in their old age, and this began the God-favored nation of Israel.

Abraham is called the father of faith. He was the father of many nations, as God had promised him, for he was faithful to hear and obey the word of God. Abraham and Sarah are both members of the Hall of Faith in the Book of Hebrews. “By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10).

“By faith, Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore” (Hebrews 11L11-12).

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had the opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).


The Passover was instituted in Exodus 12. “On the tenth of this month, every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.

“Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire—its head with its legs and its entrails. You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover” (Exodus 12:3-11).

The Passover was the 10th and final plague of the Lord against Egypt before Pharoah relented and let the children of Israel go free. “For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:3-12). This was the first of seven Feast of the Lord memorials to be observed annually by the Israelites.

The 2nd Feast of the Lord, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was also observed at this time. “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt.

“Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land” (Exodus 12:15-19).


Numbers 12 occurred evidently after Moses divorced his wife and married an Ethiopian woman (which was considered taboo according to God). I believe Aaron and Miriam used this event to try and gain more leadership authority with the children of Israel. “So they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?’ And the Lord heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:1-3). Of course, Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible (and possibly Job), so I think this sentence in parenthesis is highlighting Moses’ humor regarding how humble he was.

Here is what happened next, which I find extraordinary. “Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, ‘Come out, you three, to the Tabernacle of Meeting!’ So the three came out. Then the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward” (Numbers 12:4-5). “Then He said, ‘Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision;

I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?’” (Numbers 12:6-8).

I think the LORD answered Aaron and Miriam’s question (“Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?”) very adamantly. Throughout Israel’s history, the LORD spoke to his prophets mostly through dreams and visions. Moses was unique in that God spoke to him in a more personal way, face-to-face. Of course, the LORD’s form was obscured by a cloud, or he appeared in the form of a man (or angel) as a theophany (Christophany).

The following verses describe the Lord’s anger at this question, and then He departs. At this point, Miriam became leprous. This leads me to believe she must have been the one who asked the question. Aaron cried out to his younger brother, Moses, and said, “Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned. Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb!” (Numbers 12:11-12).

“So Moses cried out to the LORD saying, ‘Please heal her, O God, I pray!’” (Numbers 12:13). The LORD answered Moses’ petition but made Miriam remain leprous for seven days, during which she had to remain outside the camp for those days. Aaron and Miriam never questioned or challenged Moses’ authority again.


God ordained that there was to be only one designated place of worship, where sacrifices were to be made, for all 12 tribes of Israel. “But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord.

“And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you. Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which the Lord chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you” (Deuteronomy 12:10-13).

During the time of Joshua and the judges, the Tabernacle of Meeting (which contained the ark of the covenant) was located in Shiloh. After many centuries, the place of worship and sacrifice at Shiloh was moved to Jerusalem during the time of David. When Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, all of the Jewish people were required to assemble there for worship and sacrifice.


After Solomon’s heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel, God informed Solomon that He would tear away the kingdom from him and give it to his servant, Jeroboam. However, for the sake of David, the LORD wouldn’t do it in Solomon’s life but in his son’s life. The LORD also said because of His servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which He had chosen, He would leave two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, with Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. This division of the United Kingdom of Israel into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, is described in 1 Kings 12.

One of the first things King Jeroboam did in the northern kingdom of Israel was to build two idols of gold that resembled calves. He set one up in Dan and the other in Bethel so his people would not return to Jerusalem to worship there. He instituted a new feast day to replicate the Passover, only this feast would start on the 15th day of the eighth month, in which sacrifices would be offered to the Golden Calf god. The great apostasy that God (and later Moses) had predicted the children of Israel would commit (according to Deuteronomy 31:16-19) had begun.


Daniel 12 is a prophecy of the end times. It is referring to the last 3.5 years of Daniel’s 70th seven (seven years), found in Daniel 9:27. Jeremiah refers to it as the time of Jacob’s Trouble in Jeremiah 30:7. Isaiah refers to it as the Day of the Lord in Isaiah 13, and likewise so does Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Here is how the angel describes this time of Great Tribulation: “At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:1-3).

In verse 4, Daniel is told to “shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and from, and knowledge shall increase.” I believe the book or scroll is not seen again until its reappearance in Revelation 5:1, where it is sealed with seven seals. The only one in heaven or earth (or under the earth) who was worthy to open or read or even look at the scroll is Jesus Christ. It’s interesting that He is described as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David in Revelation 5:4, and just one verse later in Revelation 5:6, He is described as the Lamb of God. It is as the Lamb of God and His sacrifice for mankind that He is worthy to open the scroll.

Daniel 12 is a vision in which Daniel sees three persons: two angels, and Jesus Christ (the man clothed in linen). The two angels are on each side of the riverbank, and Jesus is above the waters. One of the angels asked Jesus how long will these wonders last. Jesus answered, “That it shall be for a time, times, and half a time [or 3.5 years], and when the power of the holy people [the Jews] has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished” (Daniel 12:7).

Daniel heard this statement but still did not understand, so he asked the Lord (in verse 8), “What shall be the end of these things?” Jesus answered, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:9-10).

However, Jesus gave Daniel (and us) one last clue of how long this time period would last. “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days” (Daniel 12:11). Jesus gives Daniel the exact number of days of the “time, times, and half a time” which He referred to earlier. The end time of Jacob’s Trouble will start when the evil abomination of desolation occurs in the Temple of Jerusalem (as described in Daniel’s earlier prophecy contained in Daniel 9:27) and will end 1,290 days later.

Jesus then tells Daniel, “Blessed is he that waits and comes to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days” (Daniel 12:12). No explanation is given for what will occur on this 45th day after the 1,290 days have expired, only that those who experience it will be blessed. My theory on these 1,290 and 1,335 “end of the age” days is found here: End of the Age: From Firstfruits to Hanukkah: Part II :: By Randy Nettles – Rapture Ready

We will examine more of the number 12 in Scripture in part II.

Randy Nettles


{1} Number in Scripture by E.W. Bullinger, pg. 253 – Kregel Classics

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