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2. Arrangement of Tribal Camps

And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 2Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father’s house: far off about the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch. 3And on the east side toward the rising of the sun shall they of the standard of the camp of Judah pitch throughout their armies: and Nahshon the son of Amminadab shall be captain of the children of Judah. 4And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were threescore and fourteen thousand and six hundred. 5And those that do pitch next unto him shall be the tribe of Issachar: and Nethaneel the son of Zuar shall be captain of the children of Issachar. 6And his host, and those that were numbered thereof, were fifty and four thousand and four hundred. 7 Then the tribe of Zebulun: and Eliab the son of Helon shall be captain of the children of Zebulun. 8And his host, and those that were numbered thereof, were fifty and seven thousand and four hundred. 9All that were numbered in the camp of Judah were an hundred thousand and fourscore thousand and six thousand and four hundred, throughout their armies. These shall first set forth.

10On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben according to their armies: and the captain of the children of Reuben shall be Elizur the son of Shedeur. 11And his host, and those that were numbered thereof, were forty and six thousand and five hundred. 12And those which pitch by him shall be the tribe of Simeon: and the captain of the children of Simeon shall be Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. 13And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were fifty and nine thousand and three hundred. 14Then the tribe of Gad: and the captain of the sons of Gad shall be Eliasaph the son of Reuel. 15And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were forty and five thousand and six hundred and fifty. 16All that were numbered in the camp of Reuben were an hundred thousand and fifty and one thousand and four hundred and fifty, throughout their armies. And they shall set forth in the second rank.

17Then the tabernacle of the congregation shall set forward with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camp: as they encamp, so shall they set forward, every man in his place by their standards.

18On the west side shall be the standard of the camp of Ephraim according to their armies: and the captain of the sons of Ephraim shall be Elishama the son of Ammihud. 19And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were forty thousand and five hundred. 20And by him shall be the tribe of Manasseh: and the captain of the children of Manasseh shall be Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. 21And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were thirty and two thousand and two hundred. 22Then the tribe of Benjamin: and the captain of the sons of Benjamin shall be Abidan the son of Gideoni. 23And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were thirty and five thousand and four hundred. 24All that were numbered of the camp of Ephraim were an hundred thousand and eight thousand and an hundred, throughout their armies. And they shall go forward in the third rank.

25The standard of the camp of Dan shall be on the north side by their armies: and the captain of the children of Dan shall be Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. 26And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were threescore and two thousand and seven hundred. 27And those that encamp by him shall be the tribe of Asher: and the captain of the children of Asher shall be Pagiel the son of Ocran. 28And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were forty and one thousand and five hundred.

29Then the tribe of Naphtali: and the captain of the children of Naphtali shall be Ahira the son of Enan. 30And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were fifty and three thousand and four hundred. 31All they that were numbered in the camp of Dan were an hundred thousand and fifty and seven thousand and six hundred. They shall go hindmost with their standards.

32These are those which were numbered of the children of Israel by the house of their fathers: all those that were numbered of the camps throughout their hosts were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty. 33But the Levites were not numbered among the children of Israel; as the Lord commanded Moses. 34And 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.

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, and unto Aaron This distribution into separate bands must have served to prevent contention; for, had not God thus assigned to each their proper position, so natural is ambition to man, that they would have quarrelled for the place of honor. It would have been grievous to the family of Reuben, the first-born, to resign his dignity; and, even if they had patiently submitted to the punishment inflicted upon them, they would have been made to take the lowest place, as being condemned to ignominy. Disputes would also have arisen respecting the children of the concubines, for they would not have thought it consistent that; those who sprang from Leah and Rachel should yield them the superior place. Besides, in proportion as they severally had the advantage in numbers, they would have thought themselves injured unless they preceded others.

Thus the children of Simeon would never have suffered themselves to be ranged under the standard of Reuben. Again, dispute would also have arisen between the children of Ephraim and Manasseh. God, therefore, at once put a stop to all these disturbances by so arranging their ranks that each one knew his own band. Consequently, Judah, although the fourth son of Leah, received the first standard as an honorable distinction, that he might thus in a manner begin to fulfill the prophecy of Jacob by anticipation; and two tribes were united with him which would willingly submit to his rule, Issachar and Zebuhm; because they derived their origin from the children of the 421421     This is a singular oversight of C., which is also copied in the French; “Pource qu’elles estoyent descendues de la chambriere de Lea;” because they were descended from the handmaid of Leah. It is perhaps still more strange that Attersoll in his Commentary on the Book of Numbers should have adopted it, evidently following C.; “He (Judah) was the fourth son of Jacob by Leah, with whom he associateth such two tribes as were in reason most likely to submit themselves to him, inasmuch as Zebulun and Issachar were the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid, whom she gave to her husband, and set in her own place.” I need scarcely remind my readers that Gad and Asher were the sons of Zilpah, and Zebulun and Issachar of Leah herself. handmaid whom Leah had substituted in her own place.

Although Reuben had been deprived of his primogeniture, still, that some consolation might remain for his posterity, he was set over the second standard; two tribes were associated with him, which on account of their connection would not be aggrieved at fighting under his command, the tribe of Simeon his uterine brother, and the tribe of Gad, which also sprang from the handmaid of Leah.

It was necessary that God should interpose His authorify, in order that two tribes should be formed of a single head, Joseph; otherwise the fact would have led to contention, because the inequality was odious in itself, and that family might appear to be elevated not without disgrace to the others. Besides, the children of Manasseh, who were superior by the law of nature, would never have been induced to obey, unless a divine decree had interposed. But thtat division could not have been better formed than of the sons of Rachel, because their consanguinity was closer; for a sharp contest might also have arisen for the leadership of the fourth band, because it was unjust that the son of a handmaid should have been placed at its head, and thus preferred to a legitimate son of Leah, and to the other son of Rachel, especially when Benjamin was so singularly beloved by Jacob, the common father of them all. 422422     Attersoll seems to have correctly, though somewhat quaintly, interpreted here the meaning of C., which else perhaps may not be quite clear; “from hence might hurly-burlies and heart-burnings arise, which are all pacified and compounded by the express commandment of God, who joineth to Dan, Naphtali his mother’s son, (for both of them were the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid,) and Asher, the son of Zilpah, Leah’s maid.” — Commentary on numbers in loco. The sole will of God, indeed, was sufficient, and more than sufficient to prevent all quarrels; but, inasmuch as He chose rather to rule over them generously and paternally, than in a despotic manner, He rather conformed Himself to their wishes than drove them by compulsion. Still, however, because their contentions could not be prevented by mere human decisions, it is again said at the end of the chapter that Moses did nothing except by God’s command. At the same time the obedience of the people is noticed in that they peaceably obeyed Moses, since thus they ratified their acknowledgment of Moses as a true and faithful minister of God; for this submissiveness is the inseparable companion of sincere piety towards God, that whatever is proposed by His approved ministers the people should reverently accept.


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