|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.
Verse 3. - On the east. The van, the post of honour. The general direction indeed of their march was northwards, not eastwards; but nothing can obliterate the natural pre-eminence given to the east by the sunrise, the scattering of light upon the earth, the daily symbol of the day-spring from on high. The standard of the camp of Judah. Judah led the way not because he was the greatest in number, for the order of the tribes was not determined by this consideration, but because of his place in prophecy, and as the ancestor of the Messiah (Genesis 49:10). According to Aben Ezra and other Jewish expositors, the device upon the standard of Judah was a young lion, and this agrees with Revelation 5:5. The same authorities assign to Reuben a man, to Ephraim an ox (cf. Deuteronomy 33:17), to Dan an eagle. If it were so, we should find in these banners the origin of the forms of the living creatures in the visions of Ezekiel and St. John (Ezekiel 1:26; Ezekiel 10:1; Revelation 4:4-6), unless, indeed, the devices on the standards were themselves taken from the symbolic forms of the cherubim in the tabernacle, and these in their turn borrowed from the religious art of Egypt. But the tradition of the Jews is too fluctuating to carry any weight. The Targum of Palestine assigns to Judea the lion, but to Reuben a stag, to Ephraim a young man, and to Dan a basilisk serpent.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And on the east side, towards the rising of the sun,.... Which rises in the east; or of all; for, as Jarchi observes, that which is "before" is called "Kedem", the east, as the west is called "behind":
shall they of the standard of the camp of Judah pitch, throughout their armies; the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun, formed one camp, which had its name from the principal tribe Judah; and this was divided into various regiments and companies, called armies, who severally pitched under one and the same standard. It is said (g) Judah's stone was the "nophech" (which we render an emerald), and his flag was coloured in the likeness of the colour of the heavens, and there was formed upon it a lion. Issachar's was the sapphire, and his flag was coloured black, like to black lead, and there were framed upon it the sun and moon, on account of what is said, 1 Chronicles 12:32. Zebulun's was a diamond, and his flag was coloured white, and there was formed upon it a ship, because of what is said, Genesis 49:13,
and Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, shall be captain of the children of Judah; who had been assisting in numbering the people, and who afterwards offered to the dedication of the altar, Numbers 1:2.
(g) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 178. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. on the east side toward the rising of the sun shall they of the standard of the camp of Judah pitch throughout their armies—Judah, placed at the head of a camp composed of three tribes rallying under its standard, was said to have combined the united colors in the high priest's breastplate, but called by the name of Judah. They were appointed to occupy the east side and to take the lead in the march, which, for the most part, was in an easterly direction.
Nahshon—or Naasson (Mt 1:4; Lu 3:32, 33).
shall be captain—It appears that the twelve men who were called to superintend the census were also appointed to be the captains of their respective tribes—a dignity which they owed probably to the circumstances, formerly noticed, of their holding the hereditary office of head or "prince."
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