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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 2

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-34

Numbers 2:2 . Every man shall pitch by his own standard. Ensigns or colours are useful in war, for distinction and for honour, and serve as rallying points to the host. The rabbins say that the ensign of Judah bore a lion; Reuben a man, with a mandrake, Genesis 30:14; Ephraim an ox; Dan an eagle. See Ezekiel 1:0. Mystically, these wise regulations adumbrated the church of Christ, in the midst of which is the tabernacle of the Most High. Numbers 2:17 directs the order of their march in the wide wilderness, that they might avoid confusion, and be ready for defence. The camp of Levi was in the centre, and around the tabernacle.

Numbers 2:14 . Reuel. Hebrews Rehuel; Chaldee, Dehuel; the LXX, Raguel. The orthography of all ancient books is very variable, with regard to the names of persons and cities.

Numbers 2:34 . So they pitched by their standards; and by estimation formed a square, each of whose sides was twelve miles. In this order also they marched through the wilderness.


The Lord by his overruling providence doth as certainly, though with less observation, appoint the bounds of our habitation and our rank in life, as he did the encampments of Israel in the wilderness. It is therefore our duty and interest to be contented with our place, and endeavour to occupy it in a proper manner, without attempting to desert it or wishing to change it; without envying, murmuring, ambition, or covetousness.

If especially he hath allotted our station near to his word and ordinances, and given us precious faith in the divine Redeemer, we have abundant reason to be thankful for such distinguishing grace; and though in a wilderness, in a cottage, in poverty, we have no reason, and surely we shall have no disposition, to envy those who possess stately mansions, elegant gardens, or cultivated estates, but have no lot in Israel, no inheritance in Canaan.

Our God is a God of order, and a God of peace; and he commands that all things in his church should be done decently and in order, and that all things be gone in peace. It would be well if in attempting to accomplish the former purpose, according to their own idea of decency and order, all denominations of christians had not too much lost sight of the latter injunction. It is desirable that all true christians should be of one judgment; but if that cannot be, it is of great importance that they be of one heart, and like these four squadrons of Israel, that they live in peace with one another; and in their different encampments surround the ark, as all of one family, embarked in one common interest, and marching to the same heavenly Canaan. Let them then be upon their guard against the suggestions of those enemies who would persuade them to quarrel about their different ensigns, and to draw the sword of war against their brethren, instead of being valiant for the truth, and against the common enemies of their religion.

The church would then indeed be comely, and terrible also as an army with banners. They would be not the less so for being divided into different companies, encamped or marching separately; provided each division vied with all the others, which should be most zealous for the ark and for the cause of God and truth, and most careful to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. Let then brotherly love continue; and may the Lord prosper the attempts, and increase the numbers of those who endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/numbers-2.html. 1835.
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