This is a good question for the word “twelve” is used at least 212 times in the Bible. Many Bible expositors believe it symbolizes “Divine rule in government.” As we shall see there are many passages which do indeed convey this thought, but in fairness there are other passages which may not take on this meaning.  Due to limited space, we will only look at some of the most well-known passages.

1) The TWELVE SONS/TRIBES of Jacob/Israel. In Genesis 35:22 we read “Now the SONS of Jacob were TWELVE,” and in Genesis 49:28 it is said of these sons, “All these are the TWELVE TRIBES.” It was to be through these TWELVE TRIBES that God’s GOVERNMENT on earth was established. This theme of God’s “Divine rule through the 12 tribes of Israel” runs through all of Scripture. A good example of this is seen in 1st Kings 4:7 where we read, “And Solomon had TWELVE GOVERNORS over all Israel.” The twelve tribes are even mentioned in the description of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:12, “Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the TWELVE TRIBES of the children of Israel.

In connection with the “twelve tribes of Israel” it is instructive to see them symbolized by the following:

*TWELVE spies… “So I took TWELVE of your men, ONE man FROM EACH TRIBE” (Deuteronomy 1:23).

*TWELVE stones… “Take for yourselves TWELVE MEN…ONE man FROM EVERY TRIBE…and command

 them, saying, ‘Take for yourselves TWELVE STONES from here, out of…the Jordan’” (Joshua 4:2-3).

*TWELVE cakes (loaves of bread)…see Leviticus 24:5-6

*TWELVE silver platters, 12 silver bowls, 12 gold pans, 12 young bulls, 12 rams, 12 male lambs, 12 kids from the  goats (Numbers 7:84, 87).

2) The TWELVE APOSTLES. In Luke 6:13 we read, “And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He CHOSE TWELVE whom He also named APOSTLES.  An “apostle” is “one who is sent” and thus we read in Matthew 10:5 “these TWELVE JESUS SENT OUT.” Where or who were they sent to? Verses 5-6 tell us, “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In other words, they were sent to “the 12 tribes of Israel.” We see in verse 7 what their main message was: “and as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The message of “the kingdom” suggests, as we have seen, the thought of Divine rule in government.” It is very interesting to see that towards the end of Jesus’ life He promised His twelve apostles, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on TWELVE THRONES, judging the TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL.” Surely the word “twelve” is a perfect symbol of Divine rule in government in this passage! I believe the TWELVE TRIBES and the TWELVE APOSTLES, who represent saints from Israel and from the Church, are symbolized by a multiple of 12 (2 x 12), in the 24 ELDERS in Revelation 4:4. That verse says, “Around the throne were TWENTY-FOUR THRONES, and on the thrones I saw TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had CROWNS of gold on their heads.” Again, the thought of Divine rule in government is clearly seen in this verse.

The very last mention of the number TWELVE in the Bible is in Revelation 22:2. Let’s read verses 1-2, “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from THE THRONE OF GOD and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore TWELVE FRUITS, each tree YIELDING ITS FRUIT EVERY MONTH.” We see, once again, that they are intimately connected with “the throne of God,” (Divine rule in government). In this day of perfection, when God rules supreme from His throne, God will supply every need that man has!  (401.1)  (DO)