The Mission of the 12 and 70
R. Yehudah ben Shomeyr
Did you know that Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah had more than just 12 talmidim (disciples)? He had about 120 (Acts 1:13-15). He had many followers, approximately 120 official disciples; 70 of which at one point He sent out and 12 close ones which He made Apostles and 3 whom He was most intimate with. We read about how 12 of them went on to become Sheliachim (Apostles), which meant they were ordained as Rabbi’s by Yeshua Himself and “sent out” which is what the word Sheliachim and Apostle means.
Sadly, some disciples abandoned Yeshua. Ironically this is found in John “6:66”
“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”
11 symbolize chaos and incompleteness and 12 symbolizes order and completeness of a cycle. There are 12 tribes of Israel, 12 “minor” Prophets, and 12 months in a year. 12 Symbolizes Israel and this was the mission of the 12 Yeshua sent out.
Matthew 10:5-6 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
In Matthew 10, Mark 6, and Luke 9 we read about Yeshua sending out the 12 in pairs. He told them to go and minister miraculously as Yeshua did to the Jews and Hebrews who were not keeping Torah. He told them to preach repentance, in other words forsake Torahless ways and return to the obeying the Torah. He told them to travel light, take only the bare necessities, stay with upright and righteous people and do not stay anywhere they were not welcome. Yeshua told them if they did this all their needs as they traveled would be met. Even though they were not to shove The Message down people’s throats, nonetheless He told them they should expect to butt heads and make enemies. He told them no matter what, they need to refuse to give into fear, to be bold and in doing so God would give them the words to say to their enemies. He told them not to be afraid or ashamed to admit they were His (Rabbi Yeshua’s) talmidim and was sent out by Him. Yeshua told the 12 that this sending out was going to stir, wake and shake things up in Israel and that through this battle lines would be drawn. He told them that faithfulness to this mission, despite the hardships it brought, had its reward.
70 symbolize Divine Government. Moses appointed 70 elders to help him lead Israel (Num. 11:25), he and the 70 making 71 altogether and there were 71 elders that sat on the Sanhedrin of Israel in Yeshua’s day because of this.
In Luke 10 Yeshua and the 70 equals 71, and we see Yeshua sends out the 70 in pairs. Their mission was practically identical to that of the earlier 12, with the exception that they went before Yeshua to prepare the cities for His arrival and that this mission was not limited to just the house of Israel but to the Gentiles. 70 in the Bible represent the nations. When Moses appointed the 70, Moses represented Israel and the 70 elders represented the 70 nations of the world. A mixed multitude came up with Israel out of Egypt (Exd. 12:38) and they too agreed to keep Torah and it is believed there was one representative for ever nation in that mixed multitude and that is what the 70 elders represented. There were 70 bulls sacrificed during Sukkot, one for each Gentile nation. And so this mission of the 70 was for the Gentiles, in which also encompassed Israel, for by this time due to the Assyrian captivity there were 10 tribes scattered about the world, some of which had become gentilized and lived, acted and believed as the Gentiles did.
The 12 were sent out knowing they had authority in Yeshua over sickness and the demonic, the 70 had this authority too but was not told them and they returned amazed at what was done in Yeshua’s Name.
Luke 10:17 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.
Another difference is that in the accounts of the sending out of the 12 we hear no report of how the mission went, with the 70 they returned rejoicing at what happened. Could this be a hint that the 12 faced greater opposition and rejection among their own people the Jews, where the 70 found openness and acceptance among the pagans and gentiles?
Matt. 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Luke 10:3,18-20 Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves… And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
We see that Kefa (Peter), among the original 12 was primarily an Apostle to the Jews, which the exception of his encounter with the House of Cornelius. Rav Sha’ul (Paul) was the Apostle to the Gentiles and was not one of the original 12, but being well schooled in Judaism represented the 70 elders which originally was to rule over the nations within Israel.
Yeshua’s philosophy was to the Jew first and then to the Gentile and Rav Sha’ul knew this well (Rom. 1:16, 2:9-10). Why? Because salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22) and Judgment comes first to the House of God (I Pet. 4:17).
Everyone in the service of the Almighty and His Messiah has a mission, the question is, are you one that will abandon him or are you one of the 12 or one of the 70? Are you one specifically called to reach the Jew or the Gentile? Regardless, we have the necessary tools and the authority to do so in Yeshua’s Name. Yeshua sent them out in pairs, no one is a lone gun, and everyone needs someone. You got to have someone watching your back and vice versa. Is your partner your spouse or another brother or sister? Find your partner and let’s get to harvesting!
“The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest (Luke 10:2b).”