Twelve Tribes and Disciples

There are a number of parallels between the Twelve Tribes and the Twelve Disciples. Many of them are kinda/sorta obvious. Here’s a weird one that struck me the other day. It’s not so obvious.

In the Canaanite famine, the 12 sons of Jacob were sent by God to Egypt to live and eventually become the 12 oppressed tribes. The sons and grandsons numbered 70 all together (with 2 of them – Joseph’s sons – being born in Egypt).

In Matthew 10, we see Jesus sending out the 12 disciples to preach to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”. But in Luke 10, writing about the same episode, Luke says Jesus sent 72 disciples “to go ahead of Him into every town He Himself was about to go”. In my mind, harmonizing the two is fairly trivial: Jesus sent the 12 main disciples (and the 72 lesser disciples). No biggie.

But is there any connection (deliberate or otherwise) with the numbers for Jacob->Egypt?

  •  12[70] sent by God to Egypt to become the oppressed needing redemption.
  •  12[70] sent by God to Israel to call the lost sheep of Israel needing redemption. (well.. 72)

I don’t think there’s any real point or teaching to the parallel, but it’s kinda/sorta there and strikes me as curious/interesting, so I thought I’d mention it. If anyone knows of something more profound here, I’m all ears.

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1 comment to Twelve Tribes and Disciples

  • Some early Greek manuscripts say 72 disciples at Luke 10:1, while others say 70. The HarperCollins Study Bible explains,

    “The mission of the Seventy moves beyond the mission of the Twelve in 9:1–10. Seventy may reflect the seventy nations in Gen 10 (seventy-two in the Septuagint) or the seventy elders chosen by Moses from the twelve tribes (see Ex 24.1, 9; Num 11.16, 24).”

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