Numbers 2:17
Then the tabernacle of the congregation shall set forward with the camp of the Levites in the middle of the camp: as they encamp, so shall they set forward, every man in his place by their standards.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Numbers 2:17. In the midst — This is not to be understood strictly, but largely; for in their march they were divided, and part of that tribe marched next after Judah, (Numbers 10:17,) and the other part exactly in the midst of the camp.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.Reuel - Doubtless an error of transcription for Deuel Numbers 1:14. 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 [53]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 [54]Nu 10:13). In the midst of the camp, which is not to be understood strictly or exactly, but largely; for in their march they were divided, and part of that tribe marched next after Judah, Numbers 10:17, and the other part exactly in the midst of the camp. Then the tabernacle of the congregation shall set forward with the camp of the Levites,.... Which reached four miles, according to the Targum of Jonathan, as did Judah's. Levi's stone, as the Jews say (i), was the carbuncle, and his flag was coloured, a third part white, and a third part black, and a third part red, and on it were formed Urim and Thummim:

in the midst of the camp; or "camps" (k); between the camps of Judah and Reuben, before mentioned, and those of Ephraim and Dan, which are after spoken of: the order in which they moved was this, as Aben Ezra observes; the Gershonites and Merarites marched between the standard of Judah and the standard of Reuben; and the Kohathites marched, and with them Aaron and his sons, between the standard of Reuben and the standard of Ephraim:

as they encamp, so shall they set forward; this is to be understood, according to Aben Ezra, not of the camp of Levi, since the standard of Judah was to the east, and the Gershonites, which were to the west of the sanctuary, and the Merarites in the north, set forward together; but of the camps of Israel, which set forward, not as they were encamped about the tabernacle, for those that were encamped on the side of it, in marching went before and behind, but as they were encamped with respect to themselves; first marched the standard of Judah, then that of Reuben, which went before, and then those of Ephraim and Dan, which followed; and besides, as each camp was pitched, so it moved; as the camp of Judah, his host marched between those of Issachar and Zebulun, and the same order the rest observed:

every man in his place by their standards, as every individual person in the several tribes were ranked under their respective banners, so they marched.

(i) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 178. 2.((k) "in medio castrorum", Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version; so Ainsworth; "in medio reliquorum castrorum", Junius & Tremellius.

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

(e) Because it might be an equal distance from each one, and all indifferently have recourse to it.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. in the midst of the camps] This appears to mean in the centre of the line of march. The tribes on the east and south sides start first and second. Then follows the Tabernacle with all its parts and accessories, the Levites who carry it forming a hollow square. After them follow the tribes on the west and north sides. The Levitical families retain the respective positions which they occupy when encamped. In the present order of the text, these positions are not described till Numbers 3:23; Numbers 3:29; Numbers 3:35; Numbers 3:38. A different priestly tradition as to the order of match is given in Numbers 10:17-21.Verse 17. - Then the tabernacle... shall set forward. Thus it was provided that, whether at rest or on the march, the Divine habitation should be exactly in the midst of Israel. On the south side was the standard of Reuben, with which Simeon and Gad, descendants of Leah and her maid Zilpah, were associated, and to which they were subordinated. In Numbers 2:14, Reuel is a mistake for Reuel (Numbers 1:14; Numbers 7:42; Numbers 10:20), which is the reading given here in 118 MSS cited by Kennicott and De Rossi, in several of the ancient editions, and in the Samaritan, Vulgate, and Jonah Saad., whereas the lxx, Onk., Syr., and Pers. read Reuel. This army of 151,450 men was to break up and march as the second division.
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