Numbers 2:34
And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses: so they pitched by their standards, and so they set forward, every one after their families, according to the house of their fathers.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Numbers 2:34. So they pitched by their standards — Their order was so beautiful, that when Balaam beheld the camp of Israel from an eminence, he exclaimed with admiration, How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! thy tabernacles, O Israel! As valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side? Numbers 24:5-6.2:1-34 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.Such was the ideal form of the encampment in the wilderness: a form reproduced in the square court with which the temple was eventually surrounded, and in the vision of the heavenly city as seen by Ezekiel EZechariah 48:20, and by John (Revelation 21:16; compare Revelation 20:9). Thus the camp of God's earthly people was divinely ordered so as to set forth the completeness of His Church; and to illustrate by its whole arrangement, which was determined by the tabernacle in the center, both the dependance of all on God, and the access which all enjoyed to God. 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). By their standards, i.e. each of them under his principal standard. And the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses,.... Formed themselves into camps, so many tribes to a camp, and over each tribe or host appointed a captain, and erected a standard to each camp, by which they pitched as directed, which is next particularly observed:

so they pitched by their standards; every tribe, and every person in the tribe, as they were ranked, pitched by the standard to which they belonged:

and so they set forward, after their families according to the house of their fathers; the camps, and the tribes in them the families in those tribes, and the houses or lesser families under them, when they marched, proceeded in this regular order, as they did on the twentieth of this month; see Numbers 10:11.

And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses: so they pitched by their {i} standards, and so they set forward, every one after their families, according to the house of their fathers.

(i) For under every one of the four principal standards, were various signs to keep every band.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 34. - So they pitched. The Targum of Palestine (which embodies the traditional learning of the Palestinian Jews of the 17th century) says that the camp covered a space of twelve square miles. Modern writers, starting from some measurements of the Roman camps given by Polybius, compute the necessary space at three or three and a half miles square. This would require the strictest discipline and economy of space, and makes no provision for cattle; but supposing that the women and children were closely packed, it might suffice. It is, however, evident that there would be very few places in the wilderness, if any, where more than three square miles of fairly level ground could be found. In the plains of Moab the desired room might perhaps have been found, but scarcely anywhere in the wilderness of Paran. We must conclude, therefore, that this order of encampment was an ideal order, beautiful indeed by reason of its faultless regularity and equality, but only to be attained in practice as circumstances should permit, more or less. Indeed, that the foursquare symmetry of the camp had an ideal meaning and significance more really, because more permanently, important than its actual realization at the time, is evident from its recurrence again and again in the Apocalyptic writings (see Ezekiel 48:20, and especially Revelation 21:16). It is impossible to help seeing that the description of the heavenly Zion is that of a city, but of a city modeled upon the pattern of the camp in the wilderness. Here is one of those cases in which the spiritual significance of an order is of such importance that it matters comparatively little whether it could be literally carried out or not.



Lastly, towards the north was the standard of Gad, with Asher and Naphtali, the descendants of the maids Bilhah and Zilpah, 157,600 men, who were to be the last to break up, and formed the rear on the march.
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