Luke 10:1

ESV After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.
NIV After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
NASB Now after this the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come.
CSB After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and he sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself was about to go.
NLT The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit.
KJV After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.

What does Luke 10:1 mean?

Before, Jesus sent out the twelve primary disciples to heal, cast out demons, and preach that the kingdom of God is coming (Luke 9:1–6). It's not clear if the Twelve went to towns to prepare for Jesus' coming, but Jesus did send messengers into towns in Samaria (Luke 9:51–56). Their work reflects that of John the Baptist (Luke 1:17, 76; 3:4). Later He sends Peter and John to prepare for Passover (Luke 22:8).

Now, Jesus invites seventy-two additional followers to join this work. The instructions are similar: they are to take no bag and no extra sandals (Luke 9:3; 10:4). They are to stay at the first home that welcomes them (Luke 9:4; 10:7), and if no one welcomes them they are to shake the dust off their feet (Luke 9:5; 10:11). In both cases, the messengers go out in pairs, reflecting the requirement for witnesses in the Mosaic law (Mark 6:7; Deuteronomy 19:15).

Luke doesn't reveal where they are. Some think this setting is a chronological progression from Samaria to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51–52). It's possible they're in Samaria, but it's important to remember that the so-called "travelogue of Jesus" (Luke 9:51—19:27)—which outlines Jesus' progression from Galilee to Jerusalem—is a journey of spiritual formation, not necessarily geography. Jesus is teaching His disciples what they need to know to build the church. Jesus talks about Sodom, Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Tyre, and Sidon (Luke 10:12–15). Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum are in Galilee and Tyre and Sidon are farther north. None of these towns are in Samaria.

Scholars debate as to whether Jesus sent out seventy-two messengers or seventy. Of the various ancient manuscripts of Luke's gospel, slightly more say seventy-two. Scholars try to determine the original number by considering why it would have been changed.

One possibility is that Luke originally said seventy-two, only for a later scribe to change it to seventy. This might have been an effort to connect with Moses' elders (Exodus 24:1, 9; Numbers 11:16–17, 24–25), the number of members of the Sanhedrin, the seventy nations listed in Genesis 10, and an old Jewish belief that Moses' commandments were translated into seventy languages.

Another option is that the original number was seventy, and an Israeli transcriber changed it to seventy-two: the number of nations in Genesis 10 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Perhaps this was meant to emphasize the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. Another hint that the number may have been changed to be more Gentile-friendly is that the seventy-two are not restricted from preaching to Samaritans and Gentiles as were the Twelve (Matthew 10:5–6). The problem with using this as a justification is that Luke's account of Jesus' instructions to the Twelve does not include the restriction to only preach to the Jews (Luke 9:1–6). Luke is not trying to make a distinction of the intended audience.

The original number is likely literally seventy-two and no symbolism is intended.
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