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The Mission of the Seventy


After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.

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Luke 10:1. And after these things the Lord appointed That the Apostles had returned to Christ before these seventy were substituted in their room, may be inferred from many circumstances. The twelve, therefore, were sent to awaken in the Jews the hope of an approaching salvation. After their return, as it was necessary that higher expectation should be excited, others were sent in greater numbers, as secondary heralds, to spread universally in every place the report of Christ’s coming. Strictly speaking, they received no commission, but were only sent by Christ as heralds, to prepare the minds of the people for receiving his doctrine. As to the number seventy, he appears to have followed that order to which the people had already been long accustomed. We must bear in mind what has been already said about the twelve Apostles, 3030     Harmony, volume 1 p. 438. that as this was the number of the tribes when the people were in a flourishing condition, so an equal number of apostles or patriarchs was chosen, to reassemble the members of the lacerated body, that the restoration of the Church might thus be complete.

There was a similar reason for these seventy. We know that Moses, finding himself insufficient for the burden, took seventy judges to be associated with him in governing the people, (Exodus 18:22; 24:1.) But when the Jews returned from the Babylonish captivity, they had a council or συνέδριον—which was corrupted into Sanedrin 3131     “Lequel les Grecs nomment Synedrion, et eux l’appeloyent par une prononciation corrompue Sanedrin;” — “which the Greeks denominate Synedrion, and which they, by a corrupt pronunciation, called Sanedrin.” —consisting of seventy-two judges. As usually happens with such numbers, when they spoke of the council, they called them only the seventy judges; and Philo assures us, that they were chosen out of the posterity of David, that there might be some remaining authority in the royal line. After various calamities, this was the finishing stroke, when Herod abolished that council, and thus deprived the people of a legitimate share in the government. Now as the return from Babylon prefigured a true and complete redemption, the reason why our Lord chooses seventy heralds of his coming appears to be, to hold out the restoration of their fallen state; and as the people were to be united under one head, he does not give them authority as judges, but only commands them to go before him, that he may possess the sole power. And sent them by two and two. He appears to have done so on account of their weakness. There was reason to fear, that individually they would not have the boldness necessary for the vigorous discharge of their office; and therefore, that they may encourage one another, they are sent by two and two