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Numbers Two

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Numbers 2:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,

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

by his own standard. The men of Israel were organized as an army, with each tribe having its own “flag,” as it were, under which it marched, and beside which it pitched camp. The nature of the insignia on each standard has not been recorded in Scripture. One tradition suggests that each banner corresponded in design and color to its particular stone in the breastplate of the high priest (Exodus 28:21). Another states that each tribe used one of the twelve heavenly “signs” (Genesis 1:14) in the Zodiacal constellations as its emblem, with Judah in particular using the sign of the victorious Lion, or Leo (Genesis 49:9). If so, the purpose would not be astrological, but Messianic and prophetic. The fact is, however, that no one knows what they were.

Numbers 2:3 And on the east side toward the rising of the sun shall they of the standard of the camp of Judah pitch throughout their armies: and Nahshon the son of Amminadab shall be captain of the children of Judah.

the east side. Judah's prophetic preeminence, as revealed through their father Israel (Genesis 49:8-10) is acknowledged by God in specifying that his host (including Issachar and Zebulun) “shall first set forth” (Numbers 2:9) when the tribes were commanded to march forward. His encampment “on the east side” (that is, toward the rising sun) is a further sign of his special relation to God (compare Malachi 4:2). Judah, Issachar and Zebulun had been the fourth, fifth, and sixth sons of Jacob's first wife Leah. Her first three sons (Reuben, Simeon and Levi) had been rejected for leadership by Jacob because of their special sins (Genesis 49:3-7).

Numbers 2:4 And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were threescore and fourteen thousand and six hundred.

Numbers 2:5 And those that do pitch next unto him shall be the tribe of Issachar: and Nethaneel the son of Zuar shall be captain of the children of Issachar.

Numbers 2:6 And his host, and those that were numbered thereof, were fifty and four thousand and four hundred.

Numbers 2:7 Then the tribe of Zebulun: and Eliab the son of Helon shall be captain of the children of Zebulun.

Numbers 2:8 And his host, and those that were numbered thereof, were fifty and seven thousand and four hundred.

Numbers 2:9 All that were numbered in the camp of Judah were an hundred thousand and fourscore thousand and six thousand and four hundred, throughout their armies. These shall first set forth.

Numbers 2:10 On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben according to their armies: and the captain of the children of Reuben shall be Elizur the son of Shedeur.

Numbers 2:11 And his host, and those that were numbered thereof, were forty and six thousand and five hundred.

Numbers 2:12 And those which pitch by him shall be the tribe of Simeon: and the captain of the children of Simeon shall be Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai.

Numbers 2:13 And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were fifty and nine thousand and three hundred.

Numbers 2:14 Then the tribe of Gad: and the captain of the sons of Gad shall be Eliasaph the son of Reuel.

Numbers 2:15 And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were forty and five thousand and six hundred and fifty.

Numbers 2:16 All that were numbered in the camp of Reuben were an hundred thousand and fifty and one thousand and four hundred and fifty, throughout their armies. And they shall set forth in the second rank.

Numbers 2:17 Then the tabernacle of the congregation shall set forward with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camp: as they encamp, so shall they set forward, every man in his place by their standards.

midst of the camp. As the tabernacle (signifying the presence of God) was in the center of the tribes during periods of encampment, so it was moved along in the center when the hosts were marching, in both cases being immediately surrounded for protection and service by the priestly tribe of Levi. Appropriately and analogously, the Lord Jesus said: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

Numbers 2:18 On the west side shall be the standard of the camp of Ephraim according to their armies: and the captain of the sons of Ephraim shall be Elishama the son of Ammihud.

Numbers 2:19 And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were forty thousand and five hundred.

Numbers 2:20 And by him shall be the tribe of Manasseh: and the captain of the children of Manasseh shall be Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur.

Numbers 2:21 And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were thirty and two thousand and two hundred.

Numbers 2:22 Then the tribe of Benjamin: and the captain of the sons of Benjamin shall be Abidan the son of Gideoni.

Numbers 2:23 And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were thirty and five thousand and four hundred.

Numbers 2:24 All that were numbered of the camp of Ephraim were an hundred thousand and eight thousand and an hundred, throughout their armies. And they shall go forward in the third rank.

Numbers 2:25 The standard of the camp of Dan shall be on the north side by their armies: and the captain of the children of Dan shall be Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai.

Numbers 2:26 And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were threescore and two thousand and seven hundred.

Numbers 2:27 And those that encamp by him shall be the tribe of Asher: and the captain of the children of Asher shall be Pagiel the son of Ocran.

Numbers 2:28 And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were forty and one thousand and five hundred.

Numbers 2:29 Then the tribe of Naphtali: and the captain of the children of Naphtali shall be Ahira the son of Enan.

Numbers 2:30 And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were fifty and three thousand and four hundred.

Numbers 2:31 All they that were numbered in the camp of Dan were an hundred thousand and fifty and seven thousand and six hundred. They shall go hindmost with their standards.

Numbers 2:32 These are those which were numbered of the children of Israel by the house of their fathers: all those that were numbered of the camps throughout their hosts were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty.

all those that were numbered. See also Numbers 1:46. The large number of men (603,550) is thus repeated, and is checked by adding the numbers given for the four hosts (Numbers 2:9, 16, 24, 31) and these in turn with the numbers for the individual tribes. Furthermore, this number correlates well with the round number of 600,000 men leaving Egypt (Exodus 12:37). Critics have frequently alleged that such a large number of Israelites at this time is unrealistic, but Moses seems to have guarded against such cavils by this repeated and detailed accounting. In fact, this number did not even include the Levites (Numbers 2:33).

Numbers 2:33 But the Levites were not numbered among the children of Israel; as the LORD commanded Moses.

Numbers 2:34 And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses: so they pitched by their standards, and so they set forward, every one after their families, according to the house of their fathers.