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Num 2:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying-
Encamping around standards and by their tribes was different to how they had filed out of Egypt as one long stream of humanity (Ex. 13:18). After our exodus from the world through our Red Sea baptism, we find our place within the larger family of God. Their sense of which tribe they belonged to had probably been eroded in the 430 years they spent in Egypt; now even the isolated and lonely were given family groups to belong to (Ps. 68:6; see on Num. 1:18).

Num 2:2 The children of Israel shall encamp every man by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ families: at a distance from the Tent of Meeting shall they encamp around it-
The standards of the tribes were a pole with a symbol upon it. Israel marched through the wilderness towards the promised land, as we walk through the wilderness of life towards the Kingdom, carrying and walking behind poles- foreshadowing the cross or stake of Christ, which we are asked to daily pick up and walk behind. Is. 11:10-12 speaks of the cross of Christ as a standard lifted up, to which the believing Gentiles come and camp around- as if they take their place in the Israel of God.


Num 2:3 Those who encamp on the east side toward the sunrise shall be of the standard of the camp of Judah, according to their divisions, and the prince of the children of Judah shall be Nahshon the son of Amminadab-
Three tribes camped on each of the four sides, around the tabernacle. This place of meeting with God was to be central to the community. It is the things of Christ and our relationship with God which should be at the core of the Christian community; we’re not held together by geography, personal friendship or shared denominational history. We are to be Christ centred. The language of the numbering of Israel according to how many fighting men there were in each tribe, and the ideas of encamping and breaking up, all suggest that Israel were God’s army on earth. According to Jewish tradition, Judah carried a lion emblem on their standard, Reuben a man, Joseph an ox, and Dan an eagle. In this case, the cherubim vision of Ezekiel 1 would allude to Israel, as if to say that above them there hovered an Angelic army organized the same way, and the armies of God’s people on earth were a reflection of them. The tent of meeting in the midst of the troops of Israel would’ve been understood in military terms as the tent or pavilion of a general in the centre of an army. But there was nobody within that pavilion- just the presence of God over the sprinkled blood. We aren’t just sitting around waiting for Christ’s return; we are God’s army in this world, with a very present although invisible Heavenly commander in our midst. But His invisibility led Israel many times to ask ‘Is the Lord among us?’, and we face the same doubt in our weak moments. But this is the essence of faith.


Num 2:4 His division, and those who were numbered of them, were seventy-four thousand six hundred.
Num 2:5 Those who encamp next to him shall be the tribe of Issachar, and the prince of the children of Issachar shall be Nethanel the son of Zuar-

Although the inheritances for the location of the tribal cantons were drawn by lot, it is clear the hand of God was in it. For the inheritances were appropriate to the people given them. Issachar's lot for possession of the land was next to Judah and Zebulun (Josh. 19:17), with whom Issachar had lived and journeyed side by side during the wilderness years (Num. 2:5; 10:15). This opens up the question as to whether we should also draw lots in this age. For God worked through them clearly enough in Joshua's time. 


Num 2:6 His division, and those who were numbered of it, were fifty-four thousand four hundred.
Num 2:7 The tribe of Zebulun, and the prince of the children of Zebulun shall be Eliab the son of Helon.
Num 2:8 His division, and those who were numbered of it, were fifty-seven thousand four hundred.
Num 2:9 All who were numbered of the camp of Judah were one hundred eighty-six thousand four hundred, according to their divisions. They shall set out first.
Num 2:10 On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben according to their divisions. The prince of the children of Reuben shall be Elizur the son of Shedeur.
Num 2:11 His division, and those who were numbered of it, were forty-six thousand five hundred.
Num 2:12 Those who encamp next to him shall be the tribe of Simeon. The prince of the children of Simeon shall be Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai.
Num 2:13 His division, and those who were numbered of them, were fifty-nine thousand three hundred.
Num 2:14 The tribe of Gad, and the prince of the children of Gad shall be Eliasaph the son of Reuel.
Num 2:15 His division, and those who were numbered of them, were forty-five thousand six hundred and fifty.
Num 2:16 All who were numbered of the camp of Reuben were one hundred fifty-one thousand four hundred fifty, according to their armies. They shall set out second.
Num 2:17 Then the Tent of Meeting shall set out, with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camps. As they encamp, so shall they march out, every man in his place, by their standards-
Our attitude and position at rest or leisure is to be our attitude when on the move for Christ.


Num 2:18 On the west side shall be the standard of the camp of Ephraim according to their divisions, and the prince of the children of Ephraim shall be Elishama the son of Ammihud.
Num 2:19 His division, and those who were numbered of them, were forty thousand five hundred.
Num 2:20 Next to him shall be the tribe of Manasseh, and the prince of the children of Manasseh shall be Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur.
Num 2:21 His division, and those who were numbered of them, were thirty-two thousand two hundred.
Num 2:22 The tribe of Benjamin, and the prince of the children of Benjamin shall be Abidan the son of Gideoni.
Num 2:23 His army, and those who were numbered of them, were thirty-five thousand four hundred.
Num 2:24 All who were numbered of the camp of Ephraim were one hundred eight thousand one hundred, according to their divisions. They shall set out third.
Num 2:25 On the north side shall be the standard of the camp of Dan according to their divisions, and the prince of the children of Dan shall be Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai.
Num 2:26 His division, and those who were numbered of them, were sixty-two thousand seven hundred.
Num 2:27 Those who encamp next to him shall be the tribe of Asher, and the prince of the children of Asher shall be Pagiel the son of Ochran.
Num 2:28 His division, and those who were numbered of them, were forty-one thousand and five hundred.
Num 2:29 The tribe of Naphtali, and the prince of the children of Naphtali shall be Ahira the son of Enan.
Num 2:30 His division, and those who were numbered of them, were fifty-three thousand four hundred.
Num 2:31 All who were numbered of the camp of Dan were one hundred fifty-seven thousand six hundred. They shall set out last by their standards.
Num 2:32 These are those who were numbered of the children of Israel by their fathers’ families. All who were numbered of the camps according to their armies were six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty-
The size of Israel’s encampment would’ve been huge- maybe twenty square kilometres, like a moveable city, with streets and lanes. The continual commands to move on, to follow the leading of the Angel in the pillar of fire and cloud, would’ve likely been received without enthusiasm because the breaking of camp would’ve been a long and tedious process. Yet as with us, God works things so that His people are always on the move. God looked down upon their orderly encampment and thought His people were beautiful (Num. 24:5,6). Perhaps Paul alludes to their order when he says that the body of Christ should likewise be characterized by orderliness when they are beheld by others (Col. 2:5).


Num 2:33 But the Levites were not numbered among the children of Israel; as Yahweh commanded Moses.
Num 2:34 Thus the children of Israel did. According to all that Yahweh commanded Moses, so they encamped by their standards, and so they marched out, everyone by their families, according to their fathers’ families.