Jesus Sends Seventy (Two)

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2) Luke 10:1–2: These verses follow the missionary journey of the twelve disciples and Christ’s call to assist him by ushering in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:1–6, 57–62).[1]

Luke 10:1–20 continues the theme of outreach,[2] with an interesting twist. Although Luke provided no location for this enterprise, he included some intriguing hints regarding the identity of those who would hear the gospel.[3]

Luke wrote, “After these things, the Lord commissioned seventy[-two] others, and he sent them two by two before him into every city and place where he himself was about to come.”

Manuscript evidence between “seventy” and “seventy-two” is evenly divided.[4] However, one document attesting to “seventy” (P75) dates to the third century. Those citing “seventy-two” begin in the fourth century.[5]

While the standard Hebrew (Masoretic) text of the Table of Nations lists seventy nations (Gen 10), the Greek translation of that chapter names seventy-two.[6]

This may have occurred because Jewish scholars regarded those two numbers as interchangeable.[7]

In Num 11:24–26, the Holy Spirit fell upon seventy elders around the tabernacle and two who remained in the camp. Whether to include the two in the camp among the seventy leaders might account for this uncertainty.[8]

The disciples’ mission foreshadows the Spirit falling upon gentiles (Acts 2:1–5, 17–21; Acts 10:44–48).[9]

By sending out seventy (or seventy-two) missionaries, Jesus expressed his concern for every people-group in the world.[10]

Third Enoch, a fifth–sixth century AD Jewish apocryphal book, asserts, “[There] are seventy-two princes of kingdoms on high corresponding to the 72 tongues of the world.”[11]

We also have the Letter of Aristeas, a second century BC legend surrounding the Greek Old Testament (OT). It claims that seventy-two scholars traveled to Alexandria. They translated the Hebrew Scriptures into a language which people of many nations could understand.[12]

Regarding the number seventy, Moses commanded Israel to inscribe the words of God’s law onto an altar covered with plaster (Deut 27:1–8).

According to the Mishnah, they wrote all the words of the law “in seventy languages” (m. Sotah 7.5).[13]

This implies that God holds all people-groups accountable, whether they view him as their Lord or not (Amos 9:7).[14]

Jesus sent (apostellō) these apostles out in pairs. This enabled them to give credible witness concerning the reception they received (Deut 19:15; Luke 10:3–17).[15]

It also provided camaraderie, accountability, and increased security (Ecc 4:9–12; 2 Cor 8:18–22). Dispatching people on a mission to proclaim the kingdom of God was unparalleled at that point in Jewish history.[16]

As Christ prepared to send them, he said, “The harvest is great, but the ones working are few. Pray, then, of the Lord of the harvest that he might send out workers into his harvest.”

In the agrarian milieu of the Bible, the imagery of a harvest connoted God’s blessing, abundance, and reward for hard work (Exod 23:16; Deut 28:1–6; Prov 20:4).[17]

Usually when the metaphor of the Lord reaping appears in the OT, the focus falls upon impending judgment (Isa 17:10–12; Jer 51:33; Joel 3:13).[18]

Yet, it does occasionally connote salvation (Jer 2:3; Hos 6:11).[19]

As Christ’s parable of the vineyard workers implies, vintners could easily find day laborers for harvests (Matt 20:1–7). Locating people to do the strenuous work of missions for little earthly reward proves more difficult.[20]

Therefore, Christ implored his followers to pray for God to direct people to engage in evangelism and discipleship in order to expand his kingdom (Luke 24:46–49; Matt 28:16–20).[21]

In reality, the harvest comes from and belongs to the Lord.[22] We have the privilege of participating in God’s great plan for humanity.

For those working in agriculture, the concept of a harvest of grain or produce promotes an impression of urgency.[23]

Peak reaping conditions often remain quite short.[24] This may result in seasonal workers employed to assist those who labor year-round.[25]

Notably, Jesus expanded ministry responsibilities beyond the twelve disciples and even beyond the seventy (two) (Luke 24:46–49; Acts 1:7–8; Acts 8:1–12).[26]

Although Christ had resolutely begun traveling toward his death in Jerusalem, he remained concerned for people of every nation (Luke 9:51–56).[27]

Choosing seventy (two) missionaries to go ahead of him symbolized sharing the gospel with the whole known world.[28]

This task soon grew exponentially (Acts 17:6; Acts 24:5; Rom 1:8; Rom 15:20–26).[29]

God continues to use his people to reach the nations, often in ways we don’t expect. We sow the seed of God’s Word, but the Lord makes it grow (1 Cor 3:5–9).

When the end of this age arrives, those who do evil shall be destroyed, while God’s people shall enjoy his presence forever (Matt 13:36–43).[30]

Participating in the advance of the gospel remains a difficult task. Yet, it brings tremendous joy (Phil 1:3–18).[31]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Luke 10:1–2. Why is the number of apostles Jesus sent on this mission significant? How do you help with the task of reaping God’s harvest? Discuss some creative ways to reach those in our generation.

 

 

 

 

 

Go to Introduction to Chapter 12

[Related posts include The Descendants of Noah (Gen 10:1); The Descendants of Japheth (Gen 10:2–5); The Descendants of Ham (Gen 10:6–14); The Descendants of Canaan (Gen 10:15–20); The Descendants of Shem (Gen 10:21–31); Seventy Nations (Gen 10:32); Greek Translation of the Old Testament; and New Testament Textual Criticism]

[Click here to go to Chapter 11: The Table of Nations (Gen 9:28–10:32)]

 

[1]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 410, 412.

[2]John Nolland, Luke 9:21–18:34 (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1993), 549.

[3]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 410–11.

[4]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 348.

[5] Nestle and Nestle, Nestle-Aland: NTG Apparatus Criticus, Luke 10:1, 224.

[6]Garland, Luke, 425.

[7]Nolland, Luke 9:21–18:34, 549.

[8]Pao and Schnabel, “Luke,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 316–7.

[9]Garland, Luke, 425.

[10]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 411.

[11]R. Ishmael Ben Elisha, Hebrew Book of Enoch (Enoch 3) (trans. Hugo Odeburg; London: Cambridge University Press, 1928), 17:8, Https://archive.org/stream/HebrewBookOfEnochenoch3/BookOfEnoch3_djvu.txt.

[12]H. St. J. Thackeray, trans., The Letter of Aristeas, Translated with an Appendix of Ancient Evidence on the Origin of the Septuagint (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1917), 33–4, Https://archive.org/stream/theletterofarist00unknuoft/theletterofarist00unknuoft_djvu.txt.

[13]Ryken, et. al., “Seventy,” DBI, 775.

[14]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 174.

[15]Nolland, Luke 9:21–18:34, 550.

[16]Garland, Luke, 425.

[17]Ryken, et. al., “Harvest,” DBI 365–7, 365.

[18]Nolland, Luke 9:21–18:34, 550.

[19]Bock, Luke, 291.

[20]Garland, Luke, 425–6.

[21]Bock, Luke, 291.

[22]Garland, Luke, 426.

[23]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 413.

[24]Nolland, Luke 9:21–18:34, 551.

[25]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 413.

[26]Bock, Luke, 297.

[27]Nolland, Luke 9:21–18:34, 549.

[28]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 348.

[29]Hays, From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race, 168.

[30]Ryken, et. al., “Harvest,” 367.

[31]Bock, Luke, 296.