It was when the disciples did not remember this great miracle of provision, first the feeding the 4000 and second forgetting to bring bread, that Jesus quizzes them and see how He does it: Mark 8:19-21
When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they said to Him, “Seven.”
And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
Why did Yeshua ask this question, putting an emphasis on the number of baskets?
First the words for baskets are different in both events. For the 5000 the baskets were small, while for the 4000 they were much bigger, so big that the size of this basket was large enough to put a man inside. When Paul was at Damascus, they thought to kill him, so they lowered him from a wall in such a sized basket. (Acts 9:25) So, while the number of baskets is lower for the Gentiles, the quantity of leftover bread was actually higher. But why these numbers of 12 baskets for the 5000 which typified Israel and 7 baskets for the 4000 which typified the Gentiles? What is the relation between the numbers 12 and the 7?
When we consider these number, the message of proclaiming the Word to both Jews and Gentiles is even more enhanced. Seven is the number of spiritual perfection and twelve is the number of governmental perfection and here we find them both mentioned to describe the work of the 12 disciples who stand at the forefront of proclaiming the Messiah.
Seven is the number of spiritual perfection in that we are to bring the perfect gift of God to all the nations. Twelve is the number of governmental perfection is that it began with Israel as the number 12 recalls the 12 tribes of Israel leading the way in the formation of the Body of the Messiah. It is like the union of God with man in the spreading of the Good News.
And we find these two numbers in harmony at the very foundation of the nations of the world in the Table of the Nations in Genesis 10 (Cassuto). These two numbers 12 & 7 are highly emphasized in this chapter 10 of Genesis. We see this through the 3 sons of Noah, Japhet, Ham and Shem through whom all the nations of the world came.
Japheth has seven sons and his grandsons also number seven. Shem’s sons are 12, up to Peleg and the other line through the sons of Joktan are 14, twice 7. While Ham had 4 sons: the sons and grandsons of Cush are seven. The sons of Egypt Mizraim are seven. Now consider as well that Canaan’s sons total twelve.
These two numbers bring us then to the formation of the nations as the 12 and 7 baskets cover all the nations of the world.