Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
By, &c. Hebrew, "by his own standard, in the ensigns of their father's house, far off, about," &c. Perhaps a general standard, belonging to the chief tribe, was set up for each of the four great bodies; while the two inferior tribes had their peculiar ensign, as well as the different companies. It is supposed, that these standards were distinguished either by their colour, or by the representation of some animals. Jonathan says, each of the great standards, made of silk, were of three colours, similar to those precious stones, on which the names of the patriarchs were engraven on the rational; and also exhibited the figure or emblem of the principal tribe, with some text of Scripture, and the names of the three tribes. Thus the tribe of Juda, with those of Issachar and Zabulon, occupying the space of 4000 paces, had a lion's whelp on their standard, with this inscription, Let God arise, and his enemies be put to fight; Juda, Issachar, Zabulon. The tribes of Ruben, Simeon, and Gad, bore the figure of a stag, Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one God. The standard of Ephraim, Manasses, and Benjamin, had a child embroidered, The cloud also of the Lord was over them by day, when they marched. Some give to the tribes of Dan, Aser, and Nephtali, the figure of a basilisk; others, that of an eagle; with these words, Return, O Lord, and dwell with thy glory in the midst of the host of Israel. See chap. x. 34-36., and Deuteronomy vi. 4. Some imagine that the standard of Juda was green, with a lion's whelp embroidered upon it; Ruben's red, with the head of a man. That of Ephraim, yellowish, the colour of the chrysolite, and represented an ox, or a calf's head. The standard of Dan had a mixture of white and red, like the jasper, with an eagle grasping a serpent in its talons; all in allusion to various passages of Scripture, and to the cherubim of Ezechiel. We cannot, however, vouch for the accuracy of these Rabinnical accounts. The custom of bearing the figures of animals on armour and standards, is very ancient. Anubis and Macedo had a dog and a wolf engraven on their arms, when they accompanied their father Osiris. (Diodorus ii. 2. The heroes at Troy had similar emblems on their bucklers. (Pliny, [Natural History?] xxxv. 3.) Others adorned their helmets with them. Hence some derive the custom of armour-hearing. --- Covenant, at the distance of 2000 cubits, as at the passage of the Jordan, Josue iii. 4. The tabernacle in the middle formed the camp of the Lord, the Levites were round it; the third camp was for the army, (Calmet) occupying a large square. The nearest soldiers were a mile distant from the centre.
First. The gate of the tabernacle looked towards the east. (Haydock) --- Juda marched therefore in the first ranks. Then followed Ruben, the Levites, with the camp of the Lord. (Calmet) --- (Yet see chap x. 17.; Haydock) --- Afterwards came Ephraim; and last of all, Gad, ver. 16, 17, 24, 31. But in the camp, Juda, Issachar and Zabulon, Moses and Aaron, dwelt on the eastern side of the tabernacle; Ruben, Simeon and Gad, with the Caathites, to the west; and Dan, Aser and Nephtali, with the Merarites, on the north. (Calmet)
And. Hebrew, "when the tabernacle of the assembly, shall depart, the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camp, they shall depart in the same order as they encamp, each in his rank, and his ensigns." The Levites shall always be in the middle. (Calmet) --- So the Romans made their camps, of a square form, and placed the sacred things in the centre. (Grotius) --- Down. The same officers who took it down, shall set it up again. (Menochius)
Five, is omitted in the Samaritan copy.
Eight. Onkelos has 180,000 (Calmet) --- But both these are incorrect, chap. i. 37, 52. (Haydock)