Arrangement of the Camp
2 The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. Those to camp on the east side toward the sunrise shall be of the standard of the camp of Judah by their companies, the chief of the people of Judah being Nahshon the son of Amminadab, his company as listed being 74,600. Those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Issachar, the chief of the people of Issachar being Nethanel the son of Zuar, his company as listed being 54,400. Then the tribe of Zebulun, the chief of the people of Zebulun being Eliab the son of Helon, his company as listed being 57,400. All those listed of the camp of Judah, by their companies, were 186,400. They shall set out first on the march.
“On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben by their companies, the chief of the people of Reuben being Elizur the son of Shedeur, his company as listed being 46,500. And those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Simeon, the chief of the people of Simeon being Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai, his company as listed being 59,300. Then the tribe of Gad, the chief of the people of Gad being Eliasaph the son of Reuel, his company as listed being 45,650. All those listed of the camp of Reuben, by their companies, were 151,450. They shall set out second.
“Then the tent of meeting shall set out, with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camps; as they camp, so shall they set out, each in position, standard by standard.
“On the west side shall be the standard of the camp of Ephraim by their companies, the chief of the people of Ephraim being Elishama the son of Ammihud, his company as listed being 40,500. And next to him shall be the tribe of Manasseh, the chief of the people of Manasseh being Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur, his company as listed being 32,200. Then the tribe of Benjamin, the chief of the people of Benjamin being Abidan the son of Gideoni, his company as listed being 35,400. All those listed of the camp of Ephraim, by their companies, were 108,100. They shall set out third on the march.
“On the north side shall be the standard of the camp of Dan by their companies, the chief of the people of Dan being Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai, his company as listed being 62,700. And those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Asher, the chief of the people of Asher being Pagiel the son of Ochran, his company as listed being 41,500. Then the tribe of Naphtali, the chief of the people of Naphtali being Ahira the son of Enan, his company as listed being 53,400. All those listed of the camp of Dan were 157,600. They shall set out last, standard by standard.”
These are the people of Israel as listed by their fathers’ houses. All those listed in the camps by their companies were 603,550. But the Levites were not listed among the people of Israel, as the LORD commanded Moses.
Thus did the people of Israel. According to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so they camped by their standards, and so they set out, each one in his clan, according to his fathers’ house.
Numbers 2 Commentary
by Hank Workman
God was up to some organization. The people had been on their journey now for a year. God was putting things in order. Where they went from here was not to be all willy-nilly but with purpose which was even stated down to where they were to camp and what that looked like.
At the center of their camp was the tabernacle – a statement that God was to be the center of their camp but also the center of their lives and future. Arranged by family groups, each tribe had a place. This would make it far easier for Moses to govern the people by such a grouping but also would prove the division of the Promised Land in the future would be smooth as well. God was looking ahead through having order.
Let’s remember in this chapter the cultural heritage of things in those days. People were known by their tribe, not their last name. This was the ticket to one’s genealogy which would need to be used again and again in the future but also how things functioned in those days. On the practical order, a standard would be raised with their tribe’s name. Attempting to move an entire population of people through the desert would be nothing short of a nightmare. The people were to follow their standard and stay in that grouping. It was what they looked toward to as they went forward.
But here’s the sheer reality of this entire chapter. This dealt with hundreds of thousands of people. Some estimate this campsite alone would have been 12 square miles when set up to hold everyone! And these numbers are only counting the men. The women and children were never counted so the numbers far exceed anything we can gather or fathom. Some have speculated upwards of 1.8 million people!
The takeaway from this chapter, however, speaks to a far deeper truth of things. Our God is a God of order. Before God would move them toward the next great thing for them – the Promised Land – they had to order themselves. As we know, their grumbling selfish hearts would deter that taking for decades but still the fact remained organization was essential.
This for sure reverberates in ministry itself. Order is needed for feet to be given to the path of where God is calling. But this also resounds deeper within our own lives. God wants order within us. When we resist to His order of things, the placement of Him in our lives (just like the tabernacle was center to all of the tribes) we are acting in selfishness and wanting things our way. This brings about many decisions that are not of Him and brings consequences far-reaching.
Simply consider for yourself if you’ve come under His order? Have you allowed Him to organize your life and ways? These set the stage for following wholeheartedly. We must be under the order of Jesus in our daily everyday lives so that we too will not overstep, run ahead or even simply camp out in our own selfishness.
Numbers 2 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
You really need a visual for Numbers 2. It describes the arrangement of the camps around the tabernacle. There were three tribes on each of the four sides of the tabernacle and there were specific allotments for the north, south, east, and west.
“This chapter is one of consummate design and order; it speaks of the joy of knowing one’s place in relation to the living and holy God. Late Jewish tradition suggests that each tribe had its own standard corresponding in color to the twelve stones in the high priest’s breastplate (Exo 28:15-21).”Nelson’s New Illustrated Commentary
“Judah’s military divisions will camp on the east side toward the sunrise under their banner. The leader of the descendants of Judah is Nahshon son of Amminadab.”Numbers 2:3 CSB
The tribes which were given the east side had a prime position for several reasons:
- The sun sets in the west and rises in the east. The east was considered a place of renewal and power.
- Judah led the line of march.
- Judah’s census numbers were the largest.
- Judah was the tribe from which the Messiah would be born.
- Judah would play a major role in defending and protecting Israel.
Each tribe had a particular place in God’s plan and He put them exactly where they needed to go. So often in modern church culture, this idea is easily lost.
God’s role for each tribe was not necessarily equal. The camp of Ephraim may have been tempted to be jealous of the camp of Judah because of their prime position on the east. But God had an important role for the camp of Ephraim.
I was talking with a friend of mine recently about how worship teams all over the nation are marketing themselves. The commercialization of the church is booming. There are photoshoots, merchandise promos, and album release parties at many of the largest churches in America. But this commercialization is only focused on a select few within the body. Pastors and worship teams receive the largest push from the marketing world while the prayer team and coffee team are not so fortunate.
The commercialization aspect is troubling to me personally, but I’ll save you the rant. The main point I’m making here is that the prayer team and the coffee team have vital roles within the body. Every gifting is important and every gifting is needed to complete the body of Christ. We cannot get hung up on how the systems of this world elevate some spiritual gifts and marginalize others. You are important to the body. You have a role to fill. Jesus put you in a specific place at a specific time in order to use a specific gift for a specific calling. Imagine what the body would look like if we actually believed and behaved with this mindset?
“The tribes were to encamp about the tabernacle, which was to be in the midst of them. It was a token of God’s gracious presence. Yet they were to pitch their tents afar off, in reverence to the sanctuary. The children of Israel put themselves in their posts, without murmuring or disputing; and as it was their safety, so it was their beauty.
It is our duty and interest to be contented with the place allotted to us, and to endeavour to occupy it in a proper manner, without envying or murmuring; without ambition or covetousness. Thus the gospel church ought to be compact, according to the Scripture model, every one knowing and keeping his place; and then all that wish well to the church rejoice, beholding their order, Col 2:5.”Matthew Henry