Numbers chapter 2- I love it. 🙂 We are given the layout of the camp of Israel. The last time I read this passage, I sketched it on a piece of scratch paper for myself so I could better understand how it was all set up. Yesterday I stumbled across commentary by Pastor Chuck Smith, and he explains what each standard, or banner, over the tribes looked like. It is really awesome… get ready!
God gave very specific instructions on how they were to camp, and how they were to travel.
“‘The sons of Israel shall camp, each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ households; they shall camp around the tent of meeting at a distance.
“‘Now those who camp on the east side toward the sunrise shall be of the standard of the camp of Judah, by their armies…And those who camp next to him shall be the tribe of Issachar…Then comes the tribe of Zebulun…The total of the numbered men of the camp of Judah: 186,400, by their armies. They shall set out first.'” ~ Numbers 2:2-3a,5a,7a,9 (I omitted verses with statistics and leaders’ names to shorten.)
On the east side of the tabernacle, the tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zebulun camped. Judah was in charge, and these tribes would lead the way when the sons of Israel set out on their journeys. They camped under the standard of Judah, which had green as its main color and the ensign of a lion.
“‘On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben by their armies…And those who camp next to him shall be the tribe of Simeon…Then comes the tribe of Gad…The total of the numbered men of the camp of Reuben: 151,450 by their armies. And they shall set out second.'” ~ Numbers 2:10a,12a,14a,16
South of the tabernacle, the tribes of Reuben, Simeon and Gad camped, under the leadership and standard of Reuben. The main color of this standard was red, and the ensign was of a man’s face. They would set out second, behind the armies of Judah.
“‘Then the tent of meeting shall set out with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camps; just as they camp, so they shall set out, every man in his place, by their standards.'” ~ Numbers 2:17
Remember, the tribe of Levi was not numbered for an army. They were to care for the tabernacle and the offerings. So they would march in the middle of the armies.
“‘On the west side shall be the standard of the camp of Ephraim by their armies…And next to him shall be the tribe of Manasseh…Then comes the tribe of Benjamin…The total of the numbered men of the camp of Ephraim: 108,100, by their armies. And they shall set out third.'” ~ Numbers 2:18a,20a,22a,24
To the west, the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin camped. (Ephraim and Manasseh were the sons of Joseph- Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of Jacob’s favored wife, Rachel- interesting that they would be grouped together.) They marched third, after the tent of meeting, under the standard of Ephraim, which was primarily golden with the ensign of a calf’s head.
“‘On the north side shall be the standard of the camp of Dan by their armies…And those who camp next to him shall be the tribe of Asher…Then comes the tribe of Naphtali…The total of the numbered men of the camp of Dan, was 157,600. They shall set out last by their standards.'” ~ Numbers 2:25a,27a,29a,31
North of the tabernacle were the tribes of Dan, Asher and Naphtali, camped under the standard of the tribe of Dan, which was red and white with the ensign of an eagle. They would bring up the rear, guarding the flanks of the camp of Israel when on the road.
God was in the center of the camp. Remember, the pillar of cloud by day and fire at night rested on the tabernacle of meeting. And when you looked around the camp, you would see God in the middle, and the lion, man’s face, calf’s head, and eagle all around. Does that sound familiar?
In Ezekiel 1, he describes what the cherubim look like. In verse 10 we are told, “As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man, all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle.”
The ensigns of the standards represented the four faces of cherubim– I find that so amazing and wonderful! To the east of camp- the right- was the lion, to the west- the left- was the calf, or bull. To the north was the eagle and to the south the face of a man.
God was at the center of the nation, and they were surrounded by His cherubim! What a beautiful picture! I love how the Bible fits together so perfectly, always. 🙂