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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 2

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-9


Verse 1-9

God prescribed the order in which Israel’s camp was to be arranged, and the order in which they were to travel. God is the God of order, not of chaos, 1Co 14:33. He did not leave to chance the arrangement of His people.

No information is extant on the arrangement of the camp prior to the census, chapter 1. The arrangement given in the present chapter follows the tribal and family order.

"Standard," degel, "banner, or flag." The text implies that each tribe had its own special banner or flag.

"Ensign," oth, "sign, token, signal." The text implies that this was a token or emblem for each family.

"Far off," literally, "over against." Israel was to withdraw a distance from the Tabernacle, The exact distance is unknown, but Jos 3:4 implies that it was likely about 2,000 cubits (3,000 feet).

Three tribes were assigned places on each of the four sides of the camp surrounding the Tabernacle. One of these three was named as the leader, and the "standard" of this tribe became the banner for the group. Leaders for each tribe are those recorded in chapter one.

Toward the east, the three tribes were Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The count of the men in this group was 186,400. This group camped and marched under the banner of Judah. They led the way when Israel traveled, with Judah in the forefront. This was not because Judah was the greatest in number, but because of the prophecy regarding him, of Ge 49:10.

The tribes under Judah’s standard were descendants of Jacob’s sons by Leah.

Jewish historians record that the emblem on Judah’s banner was a young lion. This appears to be confirmed by Re 5:5. They further record that the other emblems were: Reuben, a man; Ephraim, an ox (De 33:17); and Dan, an eagle. These are the forms of the "living creatures" described in prophecy, Eze 1:26; 10:1; Re 4:4-6.

Verses 10-16

Verses 10-16:

To the south of the Tabernacle were camped three tribes: Reuben, Gad, and Simeon, with Reuben being the leader of this group, which numbered 151,450 men. In the order of Israel’s march, this group moved second.

Simeon and Reuben were Jacob’s sons by Leah, and Gad was his son by Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid.

Verse 17

Verse 17:

The arrangement was such that, whether Israel was camped or on the march, the Tabernacle was always at the center of the camp. This illustrates the central role the presence of God is to fill in the life of His people, even in the church, Re 5:4-10.

Verses 18-24

Verses 18-24:

The descendants of Rachel camped to the west of the tabernacle, under the standard of Ephraim. This group occupied the place of third in rank, immediately following the Tabernacle in the marching order. This was the smallest of the four groups, numbering 108,100 men.

Verses 25-31

Verses 25-31:

The three tribes camped to the north were Dan, Asher, and Naphtali, under the banner of Da They occupied the last place in the order of march. Their number included 157,600 men.

The placement of this group last in march did not imply they were inferior in any way, nor that they were unimportant. This was a responsible, important place, for it served as protection against sneak attack by their enemies.

This teaches that every place of service is important in the Lord’s work today, 1Co 3:8.

Verses 32-34

Verses 32-34:

The Jewish Targum says that Israel’s camp covered an acre of twelve square miles. If this figure is accurate, the camp must have been very close-knit, for there were likely at least two million people, in addition to their considerable herds of livestock, in Israel’s number. This would require strict discipline, and consideration for others throughout the camp.

The arrangement of the camp listed in this text implies that the ideal configuration was foursquare. This is prophetic of the New Jerusalem, see Re 21:1-16.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Numbers 2". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/numbers-2.html. 1985.
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