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Wednesday, July 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 2

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-34

Chapter 2

Now as we get into chapter two, we find God arranges the camp of Israel around the tabernacle. Verse two.

Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with [the sign of their father's house or] the ensign of their father's house: far off about the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch ( Numbers 2:2 ).

So it is interesting, as we get a picture in our minds of the great company of people that were moving through the wilderness. I don't know if there is any migration in history that actually parallels this particular migration as far as the length of time in which the migration took place and the number of people that were migrating.

But to get the picture of the camp of Israel, first of all, the center of the entire camp was the tabernacle: the place of meeting. And the cloud rested on the tabernacle during the day and the pillar of fire rested on the tabernacle at night. It is very significant that the tabernacle set right in the center of the camp of Israel, because God was desiring to be at the center of the nation, the center of the hearts of these people. So that every man in Israel, when he would get up in the morning and walk out of the tent door looking to the center of the camp, he would see the cloud there resting upon the tabernacle and he was reminded of the centrality of God among these people.

Oh how important it is that God is the centrality of a nation. When a nation is centered around God, that nation is destined for greatness. As long there is that consciousness of God at the center of a people there is always that potential for greatness. It is when people lose the centrality of the concepts of God and God is no longer the center of their life, God is no longer the center of the national life, then that nation is in decline. It is tragic indeed that where once God was the center of our nation and our nation was really founded upon God and our founding fathers sought to bring to these people a consciousness and awareness of God and the need of God in our national life. Printing on our coins "In God We Trust," which is today become almost a hypocrisy because we've come to trust in the coins, in the money, rather than in God.

But as you look at the Constitution and as you look at the Bill of Rights and as you listen to the words of the songs of the National Anthem and all, we see how that they put God into the whole warf and woof of the national life of America. And as long as we had that centrality of God, our nation became strong.

In the first public schools in the United States the Bible was the textbook. They taught the children how to read out of the Bible, they taught them the ABC's out of the Bible. It was the first textbook and in many schools the only textbook. And now our courts have ruled that it is illegal to use the Bible in public schools except to be taught in a class of literature and any expressed faith or belief is illegal. How tragic. Where our nation was really founded with God at the center, we have moved so far. And it is no wonder that we see the national decline that we see today in proportion to our endeavor to put God out of the national life of America. In that same proportion that God is being pushed out, in that same proportion we see our nation in a decline.

Children of Israel had the tabernacle right in the center and the whole camp was encamped about the tabernacle. It was the center of their national existence. It was the center of their national life. What a beautiful place.

So, in chapter two we find out that they placed the tribes all around the tabernacle beginning, first of all, with the tribe of Judah and Issachar and Zebulun. Now these tribes had for their ensign a lion, and they were encamped upon the east side of the tabernacle and the color was green. The color of the flag of these tribes on the east side was green The total of the camp of Judah, Issachar and Zebulun was a hundred and eighty-six thousand four hundred in their army. Now these were to set forth first.

Then on the south side of the tabernacle was to be the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad. The ensign of this tribe had the face of a man. The distinguishing color of the flag was red and they were camped upon the south side of the tabernacle, a total of a hundred and fifty-one thousand four hundred and fifty in their armies.

On the west side of the tabernacle were the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin. Their ensign had on it the head of a calf and the color of the flag was golden. The total number of the camp of Ephraim was a hundred and eight thousand, one hundred.

Then on the north side, the tribe of Dan and Asher and Naphtali. Their ensign was an eagle. The flag was red and white and the total number of the tribe of Dan was a hundred and fifty-seven thousand, six hundred.

Now with these ensigns, we have first of all a lion, the face of a man and then we have the head of a calf and an eagle. What does that bring to mind? As we read the description of the cherubim in Ezekiel and in Revelation, we realize that these were actually the faces that are on the face of the cherubims. The four faces of the cherubim actually represented the ensigns of the camp of Israel. So you have the concept of the angels of the Lord encamping around about his people. God in the center, the tabernacle, the place of meeting God but encamped around the people of God the ensigns, which are reminding of the cherubim how the angel of the Lord is encamped around about the righteous. And so again, even in the banners and in the ensigns was the reminder of the spiritual nature of these people.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Numbers 2". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/numbers-2.html. 2014.
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