Numbers 10:28
Thus were the journeys of the children of Israel according to their armies, when they set forward.
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(28) When they set forward.—Better, and they set forward.

10:11-28 After the Israelites had continued nearly a year at mount Sinai, and all was settled respecting their future worship, they began their march to Canaan. True religion begins with the knowledge of the holy law of God, and humiliation for sin, but we must go on towards perfection, in acquaintance with Christ and his gospel, and those effectual encouragements, motives, and assistances to holiness, which it proposes. They took their journey according to the commandment of the Lord, De 1:6-8, and as the cloud led them. Those who give themselves to the direction of God's word and Spirit, steer a steady course, even when they seem bewildered. While they are sure they cannot lose their God and Guide, they need not fear losing their way. They went out of the wilderness of Sinai, and rested in the wilderness of Paran. All our removes in this world are but from one wilderness to another. The changes we think will be for the better do not always prove so. We shall never be at rest, never at home, till we come to heaven, but all will be well there.A more precise determination of the method of executing the order given in Numbers 2:17. The appointed place of the tabernacle, in the midst of the host, was represented during the march by the ark, the holy vessels, etc. carried by the Kohathites. The actual structure of the tabernacle was borne in advance by the Gershonites and Merarites, immediately behind the camp of Judah; so as to be set up ready against the arrival of the sacred utensils borne by the Kohathites. Compare Numbers 2; 4, 13-27. the children of Israel took their journey … by the hand of Moses—It is probable that Moses, on the breaking up of the encampment, stationed himself on some eminence to see the ranks defile in order through the embouchure of the mountains. The marching order is described (Nu 2:1-34); but, as the vast horde is represented here in actual migration, let us notice the extraordinary care that was taken for ensuring the safe conveyance of the holy things. In the rear of Judah, which, with the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun, led the van, followed the Gershonites and Merarites with the heavy and coarser materials of the tabernacle. Next in order were set in motion the flank divisions of Reuben and Ephraim. Then came the Kohathites, who occupied the center of the moving mass, bearing the sacred utensils on their shoulder. They were so far behind the other portions of the Levitical body that these would have time at the new encampment to rear the framework of the tabernacle before the Kohathites arrived. Last of all, Dan, with the associated tribes, brought up the rear of the immense caravan. Each tribe was marshalled under its prince or chief and in all their movements rallied around its own standard. No text from Poole on this verse. Thus were the journeyings of the children of Israel,.... Or this was the order of them, as Jarchi; in this form and manner they marched, and a most wise, beautiful, and regular order it was; first the standard of Judah, a camp consisting of 186,400 able men fit for war, then followed the Gershonites and Merarites with six wagons carrying the heavier parts of the tabernacle; next to them the standard of the camp of Reuben, having in it 151,450 warlike men; next to them were the Kohathites, bearing the holy things of the sanctuary on their shoulders, who were followed by the standard of the camp of Ephraim, which was formed of 108,100 men fit for military service; and last of all the standard of the camp of Dan, which consisted of 157,600 men, able to bear arms, and which had under their care all that were not able which belonged to the other tribes; an emblem of the church of God in its militant state, walking according to the order of the Gospel, and in all the ordinances of it, which is a lovely sight to behold, Sol 6:4; thus they marched

according to their armies; ranged under their several standards:

when they set forward; in their journey through the wilderness; as now, so at all other times, this order was carefully observed by them.

{l} Thus were the journeyings of the children of Israel according to their armies, when they set forward.

(l) This was the order of their host when they travelled.

Verse 28. - Thus were the journeyings. Rather, "these were the journeyings," the marchings of the various hosts of which the nation was composed. The question may here be asked, which is considered more at large in the Introduction, how it was possible for a nation of more than two million souls, containing the usual proportion of aged people, women, and children, to march as here represented, in compact columns closely following one another, without straggling, without confusion, without incalculable suffering and loss of life. That the line of march was intended to be compact and unbroken is plain (amongst other things) from the directions given about the tabernacle. The fabric was sent on in advance with the evident intent that it should be reared up and ready to receive the holy things by the time they arrived. Yet between the fabric and the furniture there marched more than half a million of people (the camp of Reuben), all of whom had to reach the camping ground and turn off to the right before the Kohathites could rejoin their brethren. Now discipline and drill will do wonders in the way of ordering and expediting the movements even of vast multitudes, if they are thoroughly under control; the family organization also of the tribes, and the long leisure which they had enjoyed at Sinai, gave every opportunity of perfecting the necessary discipline. But it is clear that no discipline could make such an arrangement as the one above mentioned feasible under the ordinary circumstances of human life. It would be absolutely necessary to eliminate all the casualties and all the sicknesses which would naturally clog and hinder the march of such a multitude, in order that it might be compressed within the required limits of time and space. Have we any ground for supposing that these casualties and sicknesses were eliminated? In answering this question we must clearly distinguish between the journey from Sinai to Kadesh, on the borders of Palestine, which was a journey of only eleven days (Deuteronomy 1:2), and the subsequent wanderings of the people of Israel. It is the eleven days' journey only with which we are concerned, because it was for this journey only that provision was made and orders were given by the God of Israel. During the subsequent years of wandering and of excommunication, there can be no doubt that the marching orders fell into abeyance as entirely as the sacrificial system and the rite of circumcision itself. During these years the various camps may have scattered themselves abroad, marched, and halted very much as the circumstances of the day demanded. But that this was not and could not be the case during the short journey which should have landed them in Canaan is obvious from the whole tone, as well as from the particular details, of the commandments considered above. It is further to be borne in mind that the Divine promise and undertaking at the exodus was, impliedly if not explicitly, to bring the whole people, one and all, small and great, safely to their promised home. When the Psalmist asserts (Psalm 105:37) that "there was not one feeble person among their tribes," he does not go beyond what is plainly intimated in the narrative. If of their cattle "not an hoof" must be left behind, lest the absolute character of the deliverance be marred, how much more necessary was it that not a soul be abandoned to Egyptian vengeance? And how could all depart unless all were providentially saved from sickness and infirmity? But the same necessity (the necessity of his own goodness) held good when the exodus was accomplished. God could not bring any individual in Israel out of Egypt only to perish in the wilderness, unless it were through his own default, he who had brought them out with so lavish a display of miraculous power was (we may say with reverence) bound also to bring them in; else they had been actual losers by obedience, and his word had not been kept to them. Under a covenant and a dispensation which assuredly did not look one hand's breadth beyond the present life, it must have seemed to be of the essence of the promise which they believed that not one of them should die or have to be left behind. And as the death or loss of one of God's people would have vitiated the temporal promise to thegn, so also it would have vitiated the eternal promise to us. For they were ensamples of us, and confessedly what was done for them was done at least as much for our sakes as for theirs. Now the promise of God is manifest unto every one that is included within his new covenant, viz., to bring him safely at last unto the heavenly Canaan, and that in spite of every danger, if only he do not draw back. The whole analogy, therefore, and the typical meaning of the exodus would be overthrown if any single Israelite who had crossed the Red Sea failed to enter into rest, save as the consequence of his own sin. We conclude, therefore, with some confidence that the ordinary incidents of mortality were providentially excluded from the present march, as from the previous interval; that none fell sick, none became helpless, none died a natural death. We know that the great difficulty of a sufficient supply of food was miraculously met; we know that in numberless respects the passage from Egypt to Canaan was hedged about with supernatural aids. Is there any difficulty in supposing that he who gave them bread to eat and water to drink, who led them by a cloudy and a fiery pillar, could also give them health and strength to "walk and not be weary"? Is it unreasonable to imagine that he who spake in his tender pity of the flight from Judaea to Pella, "Woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days," miraculously restrained for that season the natural increase of his people?

CHAPTER 10:29-32 THE INVITATION TO HOBAB (verses 29-32). Behind the sacred things came the banners of Ephraim, with Manasseh and Benjamin (see Numbers 2:18-24), and Dan with Asher and Naphtali (Numbers 2:25-31); so that the camp of Dan was the "collector of all the camps according to their hosts," i.e., formed that division of the army which kept the hosts together.
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