What Is the Meaning of the Number 12 in the Bible?

The number 12 is a symbol of faith, the church and divine rule.
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The number 12 features prominently in the Bible. The Old Testament Book of Genesis states there were 12 sons of Jacob and those 12 sons formed the 12 tribes of Israel. The New Testament tells us that Jesus had 12 apostles. According to the Book of Revelation, the kingdom of God has 12 gates guarded by 12 angels. The number 12 is displayed in many other contexts, such as the 12 months of the year and the 12 constellations of the zodiac.

1 The Number of Rule and Perfection

The number 12 signifies perfection of government or rule. According to Bible scholars, 12 is the product of 3, which signifies the divine, and 4, which signifies the earthly. The heavenly bodies are also connected to the number 12 since the stars pass through the 12 signs of the zodiac in their heavenly procession. The number 12 has further significance, as it represents authority, appointment and completeness. The number 666 is used to represent the devil and hell, whereas 12, 12, 12 is believed to signify God and heaven. The number 12 is also associated with the government of the cosmos.

2 Biblical Associations of the Number 12

The number 12 appears 187 times in the Bible. There are several instances regarding the number 12, such as the Virgin Mary’s stay in the temple for 12 years. Jesus was 12 years old when he questioned the scholars in the temple. There are 12 legions of angels, and the tree of life in the new creation will produce 12 types of fruit. The number 144,000 servants of God is the sum of 12 x 12,000 (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel). Many more associations with the number 12 are found in the Bible.

3 The New Jerusalem

The dimensions and description given of the New Jerusalem in the Bible’s Book of Revelation have multiples of the number 12. The wall of the city has 12 foundations and the names of the 12 apostles. The city measured 12,000 furlongs and the wall was 144 cubits, which is 12 x 12. The number 12 is symbolic of God’s spiritual kingdom, both in heaven and on earth, when the earth and heavens will be created anew.

4 Gematria

Gematria is a system in which the Hebrew language uses letters to represent numbers. Those who study gematria or biblical numerology believe that hidden messages can be found in the significance of numbers and letters used throughout the Bible. Although no one can say with absolute certainty whether there is any deep, spiritual significance regarding the number 12 in the Bible, it does seem to represent God’s kingdom, perfect government and divine authority. Since the number 12 is a symbolic representation of completeness, some followers of Bible prophecy associate the number with the return of Jesus.

Darlene Zagata has been a professional writer since 2001, specializing in health, parenting and pet care. She is the author of two books and a contributing author to several anthologies. Zagata attended the Laurel Business Institute to study in the medical assistant/secretarial program. She earned her associate degree through the U.S. Career Institute.