This host of God was not merely a mob or an aggregation of individuals.
It must be a disciplined and ordered company, and here we find the instructions concerning the relative positions to be occupied by the tribes, both in times of encampment and when on the march. It would be an interesting and helpful thing for the reader of this chapter to draw a diagram of the encampment as described.
At the center of everything was the Tabernacle, the very dwelling place of God, as to His manifestation. Around this the Levites were encamped on two sides and at the back. Moses and the priests were to occupy the fourth side close to the courts of worship on the east, confronting the entrance. Outside the enclosure and beyond this encampment of priests and Levites, the tribes of the nation took up their positions. Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun encamped on the east, confronting the entrance to the courts. Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin were on the west; Reuben, Simeon, and Gad on the south; with Dan, Asher, and Naphtali, on the north.
On the march, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun led. Reuben, Simeon, and Gad followed. Then at the center came the Tabernacle priests and Levites. These were followed by Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin; Dan, Asher, and Naphtali marching last in order. Whereas this is a technical chapter with a technical note, one great fact stands out, that, whether encamped or on the march, there was a divine order; and that in each case at the center of everything, the Tabernacle took its place.
the Second Week after Epiphany