|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:1-34 The order of the tribes in their tents. - The tribes were to encamp about the tabernacle, which was to be in the midst of them. It was a token of God's gracious presence. Yet they were to pitch their tents afar off, in reverence to the sanctuary. The children of Israel put themselves in their posts, without murmuring or disputing; and as it was their safety, so it was their beauty. It is our duty and interest to be contented with the place allotted to us, and to endeavour to occupy it in a proper manner, without envying or murmuring; without ambition or covetousness. Thus the gospel church ought to be compact, according to the Scripture model, every one knowing and keeping his place; and then all that wish well to the church rejoice, beholding their order, Col 2:5.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben, according to their armies,.... This camp consisted of the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad, which was divided into lesser bodies, regiments, or companies, called armies; and this was placed to the south of the tabernacle, or to the right hand, as Aben Ezra interprets it; this was the right wing of the whole army. Reuben's stone, according to the Jewish writers (h), was the "sardius", and his flag was coloured red, and there were figured upon it mandrakes. Simeon's stone was the topaz, and his flag was coloured green, and on it was figured "shechem". Gad's stone was the agate, and his flag was coloured neither black nor white, but mixed, and there was figured upon it a camp or host, on account of what is said, Genesis 49:19,
and the captain of the children of Reuben shall be Elizur the son of Shedeur; see Numbers 1:5.
(h) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 178. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
10-31. On the south side the standard of the camp of Reuben—The description given of the position of Reuben and his attendant tribes on the south, of Ephraim and his associates on the west, of Dan and his confederates on the north, with that of Judah on the east, suggests the idea of a square or quadrangle, which, allowing one square cubit to each soldier while remaining close in the ranks, has been computed to extend over an area of somewhat more than twelve square miles. But into our calculations of the occupied space must be taken not only the fighting men, whose numbers are here given, but also the families, tents, and baggage. The tabernacle or sacred tent of their Divine King, with the camp of the Levites around it (see on Nu 3:38), formed the center, as does the chief's in the encampment of all nomad people. In marching, this order was adhered to, with some necessary variations. Judah led the way, followed, it is most probable, by Issachar and Zebulun [Nu 10:14-16]. Reuben, Simeon, and Gad formed the second great division [Nu 10:18-20]. They were followed by the central company, composed of the Levites, bearing the tabernacle [Nu 10:21]. Then the third and posterior squadron consisted of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin [Nu 10:22-24], while the hindmost place was assigned to Dan, Asher, and Naphtali [Nu 10:25-27]. Thus Judah's, which was the most numerous, formed the van: and Dan's, which was the next in force, brought up the rear; while Reuben's and Ephraim's, with the tribes associated with them respectively, being the smallest and weakest, were placed in the center. (See on Nu 10:13).
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