Numbers 2 (CEV)
Instructions for Setting Up Israel’s Camp
In chapter 1 the nation is mustered, and the genealogical relationships are clarified. In chapter 2 the nation is put in structural order, and the line of march and place of encampment are established.
–The NIV Study Bible notes
1The LORD told Moses and Aaron 2how the Israelites should arrange their camp:
Each tribe must set up camp under its own banner and under the flags of its ancestral families. These camps will be arranged around the sacred tent, but not close to it.
The Israelites are arranged around the tabernacle. The tribes would arrange themselves to the east, south, west, and north in relation to the tabernacle. Since the tabernacle was symbolically the presence of God with them, this meant all order in Israel began being centered around God Himself.
3-4Judah and the tribes that march with it must set up camp on the east side of the sacred tent, under their own banner. The 74,600 troops of the tribe of Judah will be arranged by divisions and led by Nahshon son of Amminadab. 5-6On one side of Judah will be the tribe of Issachar, with Nethanel son of Zuar as the leader of its 54,400 troops. 7-8On the other side will be the tribe of Zebulun, with Eliab son of Helon as the leader of its 57,400 troops. 9These 186,400 troops will march into battle first.
Judah, Issachar, Zebulun — These are the fourth, fifth, and sixth sons of Jacob and Leah. It is somewhat surprising to have these three tribes first in the order of march, since Reuben is regularly noted as Jacob’s firstborn son. However, because of the failure of the order brothers, (Reuben, Simeon, and Levi; see Genesis 49:3-7), Judah is granted pride of place among his brothers. Judah produced the royal line from which the Messiah came.
10-11Reuben and the tribes that march with it must set up camp on the south side of the sacred tent, under their own banner. The 46,500 troops of the tribe of Reuben will be arranged by divisions and led by Elizur son of Shedeur. 12-13On one side of Reuben will be the tribe of Simeon, with Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai as the leader of its 59,300 troops. 14-15On the other side will be the tribe of Gad, with Eliasaph son of Deuel as the leader of its 45,650 troops. 16These 151,450 troops will march into battle second.
17Marching behind Reuben will be the Levites, arranged in groups, just as they are camped. They will carry the sacred tent and their own banners.
The priestly tribe was in the middle of the camps, closest to the tabernacle and surrounded by the other tribes.
18-19Ephraim and the tribes that march with it must set up camp on the west side of the sacred tent, under their own banner. The 40,500 troops of the tribe of Ephraim will be arranged by divisions and led by Elishama son of Ammihud. 20-21On one side of Ephraim will be the tribe of Manasseh, with Gamaliel son of Pedahzur as the leader of its 32,200 troops. 22-23On the other side will be the tribe of Benjamin, with Abidan son of Gideoni as the leader of its 35,400 troops. 24These 108,100 troops will march into battle third.
The Rachel tribes (Joseph and Benjamin) were on the west. Joseph’s two sons Manasseh and Ephraim received a special blessing from their grandfather Jacob.
Psalm 80:1-2 (NIV)
Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock;
you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might;
come and save us.
25-26Dan and the tribes that march with it must set up camp on the north side of the sacred tent, under their own banner. The 62,700 troops of the tribe of Dan will be arranged by divisions and led by Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai. 27-28On one side of Dan will be the tribe of Asher, with Pagiel son of Ochran as the leader of its 41,500 troops. 29-30On the other side will be the tribe of Naphtali with Ahira son of Enan as the leader of its 53,400 troops. 31These 157,600 troops will march into battle last.
32So all the Israelites in the camp were counted according to their ancestral families. The troops were arranged by divisions and totaled 603,550. 33The only Israelites not included were the Levites, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
34Israel did everything the LORD had told Moses.
These words of absolute compliance contrast with Israel’s later disobedience.
They arranged their camp according to clans and families, with each tribe under its own banner. And that was the order by which they marched into battle.
Song of Solomon 2:4 (NIV)
His banner over me is love.
I confess that I do not particularly like to go camping, and camping in the desert sounds even worse! But this hymn reminds me that spiritually speaking, I live in a tent on the way to my heavenly home. Oh, for grace to be strong!
HERE is “Lead On, O King Eternal” with Diane Bish on the organ and the choir at Coral Ridge Presbyterian. Love this hymn, love this arrangement.
1. Lead on, O King eternal,
the day of march has come;
henceforth in fields of conquest
thy tents shall be our home.
Through days of preparation
thy grace has made us strong;
and now, O King eternal,
we lift our battle song.
2. Lead on, O King eternal,
till sin’s fierce war shall cease,
and holiness shall whisper
the sweet amen of peace.
For not with swords loud clashing,
nor roll of stirring drums;
with deeds of love and mercy
the heavenly kingdom comes.
3. Lead on, O King eternal,
we follow, not with fears,
for gladness breaks like morning
where’er thy face appears.
Thy cross is lifted o’er us,
we journey in its light;
the crown awaits the conquest;
lead on, O God of might.