Ingathering and the Twelve Baskets of Left-Over Fragments in John 6:1-15

Long have I puzzled over the significance of the 12 baskets of left-over fragments of bread in the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:1-15). Of course, the number 12 has obvious connections to other parts of Scripture (e.g. 12 sons of Jacob, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles). But what of the left-over fragments of bread gathered by the disciples?

Teaching this pericope to my Bible class today brought fresh insights to mind. For example, the theme of ingathering is strong in the Gospel of John. There seems to be a deliberate effort to show that the Feast of Tabernacles (among others) is being fulfilled in Christ (See John 7-8). Christ is the source of the living waters, and is Himself the living bread which comes down from heaven. Christ even says that when He is lifted up He will draw all men to himself. Ingathering. He is the Temple, to which all shall go to drink and not go thirsty, and eat and not go hungry.

Here is where the 12 baskets of left-over fragments come in. Could it be that these left-over fragments being gathered by the disciples into 12 baskets represent the scattered people of Israel and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning the return of these scattered folk from all the nations to which they were exiled? It seems to fit the general theme of the Gospel of John.


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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20 Responses to Ingathering and the Twelve Baskets of Left-Over Fragments in John 6:1-15

  1. barkley woosley says:

    will reading this account, it struck me in comparision with the manna no food was left over except the day before the sabbath. the day after this feeding, jesus was not to be found on this side of the lake and they ventured to the other side to eat again. i was wondering what happened to the 12 or even the 7 large baskets of broken pcs that were gathered.

  2. Peter says:

    Regarding the ingathering and the 12 baskets in John 6, Verse 4 sets the teaching: In John 6,soon the Passover lamb (Christ) will be sacrificed [on Passover the first of the three yearly Jewish festivals]. He was the first fruits (first fruits starts right after Passover and 50 days later (i.e. from the barley harvest to the wheat harvest) IT ends at Pentecost-the second Jewish festival) “Who then will feed the people/flock – this is Jesus’ pointed question to one of His disciples? The answer is those 12 that are left (i.e. His apostles)who will receive the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (the second of three festivals) His 12 then will teach 12, who will teach 12, …. until the final ingathering (the third festival) when Christ returns and the 12 APOSTLES WOULD HAVE BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR FILLING 12 BASKETS (12 being an earthly number meaning completness) …. meanwhile, this crowd of 5,000 are all being symbolically fed from 5 barley loafs (5 is the number meaning to make a choice and that is what all those who are being fed will have to do – gentile as well as Jew). Keep in mind that the date of the festival of “first fruits” is determined by the ripening of the barley crop in Isaeral’s calendar (barley being the earliest grain in Israel)and the ingathering is when the full crop is harvested (i.e. the wheat crop)- symbolic also of Christ’s return and ingathering. Scripture inticates that this will happen when the full number of the gentiles have come in. The true church has yet to meet! It will meet for the first time when Christ returns and gathers all His own! He will gather individual overcomers not congregations for all congregations will have been corrupted by the world and will be like the weeds in the parable – that were burned “in bundles!” This is my understanding on these matters. Respectfully submitted, Peter

  3. Michael says:


    12 in scripture is not an “earthly number meaning only completeness” unless you recognize God’s use of Heavenly governmental roles and order. (ie 12 tribes, Jacob’s sons, 12 apostles, 12 thrones on each side of Christ throne in heaven… also the twelve notes in the whole octave, and 12 months in the Lunar year…)

    And 5 does not denote “to make a choice”.

    FIVE = Grace, Mercy, God’s goodness

    Five ministries to reveal God’s grace:
    Ephes. 4:11
    And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

    David trusted God’s grace
    1 Samuel 17:40
    And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.

    Five colonades (porches) at the Pool of Bethesda (PLACE OF MERCY) John 5:1-9
    where Jesus grace offered healing when the lame man didn’t even know who He was

    Five thousand + fed five Barley loaves and 2 small fish John 6:1-14
    Grace to Israel, who God called His unfaithful wife in Jer. 3:20.

    Note: Barley was used as the jealousy grain offering for an unfaithful wife in Numbers 5:11ff

    Five wise and five foolish virgins Matt. 25:1-13

    John wrote five books (about the GRACE of God) John, I, II, III John, Revelation

    I haven’t ever left messages on these things, but was prompted to offer additional thoughts to your reply.



  4. Peter says:

    God loves the humble who always “qualify” what they say. In that way, the humble don’t steal God’s glory (i.e. a verticle sin) nor cause division (i.e. a horizontal sin). The proud however, must have things their way.

  5. allen says:

    how about the 12 loafs of showbread in temple after 7 days priest ate

  6. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Allen–I’m intrigued. Please explain further if you have the time.

  7. lee keele says:

    Maybe this is grasping at straws. But I consider not merely the leftovers, but the whole situation. Jesus passed out bread to everyone, What was gathered together were the “remnants” a term used often in prophecy to refer to those of Israel (represented by the number 12) at the end of the times.

    Also – the number 7 is the reference made in Romans and in O.T. prophecy where God said (I think in 1 Kings to Elijah?) that he would keep 7000 men of Israel who had not bowed their knee to Baal.

    I see Jesus signs here in feeding the multitudes as being parts one and two of the same sign.

    Part 1 – Remnants = 12 baskets = 12 tribes of Israel. The remnant of Israel is being called.

    Part 2 – 7 baskets, 7 fish = 7000 men who have not bowed to “baal.” or in this case refused to believe in the Christ.

    In short – these signs designate the end of the times. Which as I understand it, began with the Crucifixion and culminated in the destruction of the Temple, AD 70.

  8. lee keele says:

    Oh – as for the “FIVE” loaves int he first story.

    I think the remnants came ultimately from 5 tribes who were left on the earth. (The rest having been corrupted as the Northern Kingdomj intermarried with the locals).

    But the question remains, who were the five tribes left? . . .

    Judah – largest portion of the kingdom
    Simeon (lived within Judah)
    Benjamin (part of the Southern Kingdom)
    Levi (obviously the Levites were still around)
    And . . . ?

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  11. E. Gordo says:

    I thought of the 5 loaves being the 5 books of Moses. Loaves being the bread of Life or the word of God. 12 fragments that remained I also thought were the 12 tribes of Israel. When Jesus fed the multitude a second time I thought of the 7 loaves representing the 7 books (Romans, etc) to the churches. Again loaves being the Bread of Life. The 7 fragments being the 7 churches that represent the Gentiles….
    I came up with this a few days ago and confirmed that some people thought the same thing of the loaves being the bread of Life. Maybe we are on to something. The withering of the fig tree still stumps me.

  12. DeLois says:

    Just came to the same thought this morning while studying this verse

  13. Pam Rawski says:

    you can say anything you want about the left overs but as for me left overs are just fine so I eat from the basket of left overs every day. Hallelujah

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  16. dp12 says:

    My thoughts on the 12 baskets – the 12 baskets were left for the 12 disciples, for them to pick up and fulfill their calling of bringing the Jesus, the bread of life, to the world.

  17. E.Gordo says:

    That’s a really good one! I like that. But what about the 7 baskets on the second feeding?

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  19. winnie wamucii says:

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  20. endtimeepochs says:

    There is a shift from 7’s to 12’s in the book of Revelation.
    Last reference to 7’s is mentioned in chapter 2-3.
    Revelation 3:7-13 …..’And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.’

    For those who have been given or have received the key of David will gain access to the restoration of David’s fallen tent. In this place is the armoury in which David was graced with. The tent is where the presence of God rested and where and when David led the tribes of Israel and the nation was formed.

    As this latter tent is built in the spirits and hearts of this end time army a major shift takes place with the release of a little scroll as denoted in Rev 10:8-11.

    8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”

    9 So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’[a]” 10 I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. 11 Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”

    This little scroll will have the same effect as to what happened to Ezekiel in chapter 6 after he ate the scroll. Ezekiel was than shown the judgement upon the nations.

    The key word in verse 11 is ‘ again”. Prophecy again. This implies that a prophecy was already spoken. This initial spoken prophecy came as the result of both the Catholic and Protestant cannon’s( bibles).

    Both were a co -opted effort of man and the early church writings. These writings have been corrupted down through the ages. Hebrew alphabet has changed 26 times. Jesus and Jeremiah warn us about scribes which no – one ever really ponders or seeks the Holy Spirit about as it is a sacred cow to ALL camps especially the same folks who gave us these” copy write” bible versions.

    If anyone should question or doubt the validity of what is presented please read Daniel 12:4. Here is is:4 But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”

    So if the words and book were sealed how was it that both the Catholic and Protestants were graced with what was sealed.

    This unsealing release of a little scroll is what removes the veil over the tribes of Israel. This is the place where the 12’s come into play.

    It is in Rev7:4 we see something strange. This number of each of the tribes is 12,000. So the reader is to align this number to Abraham’s promise to the stars in the sky? Does not add up!

    The number is a mystery to a key to unlock where the 12 tribes were sealed up under 12 nations.
    But this is off course to the 12 baskets of left overs. These baskets of bread represent the presence to feed the 12 tribes as they awake to eat of Jesus at or after the little scroll is eaten….. there are many more than 144,000.

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