on Numbers 2 :2
Every man - shall pitch by his own standard - Commentators, critics, philosophers, and professional men, have taken a great deal of pains to illustrate this chapter by showing the best method of encampment for such a vast number of men, and the manner in which they conceive the Israelites formed their camp in the wilderness. As God gave them the plan, it was doubtless in every respect perfect; and fully answered the double purpose of convenience and security. Scheuchzer has entered into this subject with his usual ability, and in very considerable detail. Following the plan of Reyher, as in the preceding chapter, he endeavors to ascertain the precise order in which the several tribes were disposed; and as his work is both scarce and dear, the reader will not be displeased - to meet here with a translation of all that refers to the subject.
Scheuchzer's Description and Plan of the Encampments of the Israelites in the Wilderness
"If we form a proper idea of God, of his essence and his attributes, we shall easily perceive that this infinite and supreme Being wills and executes what his Divine wisdom appoints; in a word, we shall see that he is the God of order. This order displays itself in the perfection, arrangement, and assemblage of all created beings; in the construction of the earth which we inhabit, where every thing is formed in order, number, weight, and measure; and in all bodies, great and small. It is certain that Noah's ark is a perfect model of naval architecture. The temple of Solomon, and that of Ezekiel were likewise masterpieces in their kind. But at present we are to consider the Divine arrangement of the Israelitish camp, and the manner in which it was formed. "The Israelitish army was divided Into three principal divisions. The first, which was the least in extent, but the strongest and the most powerful, occupied the center of the army: this was the throne of God, i. e., the Tabernacle. The second, which was composed of the priests and Levites, surrounded the first. The third, and the farthest from the center, took in all the other tribes of Israel, who were at least about a mile from the tabernacle. For it appears from Josephus, iii. 4, that the nearest approach they dared make to the ark, except during the time of worship, was a distance of 2,000 cubits. The reverence due to the Divine Majesty, the numerous army of the Israelites, composed of 600,000 soldiers, with their families, which made about 3,000,000 souls, naturally demanded a considerable extent of ground. We are not to imagine that all these families pitched their tents pell-mell, without order, like beasts, or as the troops of Tartary, and the eastern armies; on the contrary, their camp was divided according to the most exact rules. And we cannot even doubt that their camp was laid out, and the place of every division and tribe exactly assigned by some engineers, or geometricians, before the army stopped to encamp, in order that every person might at once find his own quarter, and the road he ought to take to reach the other tents. "Four divisions, which faced the four quarters of the heavens, each with his own ensign, formed the center of the army. Judah was placed on the east, and under him he had Issachar and Zebulun; on the south was Reuben, and under him Simeon and Gad: on the west was Ephraim, and under him Manasseh and Benjamin; finally, Dan was on the north, and he had under him Asher and Naphtali. It has been pretended by some that these four principal divisions were not alone distinguished by their ensigns, but that each particular tribe had likewise its standard or ensign. On this subject we might refer to the Talmudists, who have gone so far as to define the colors, and the figures or arms, of the very ensigns. They pretend that on that of Judah a lion was painted, with this inscription: 'Rise, Lord, let thine enemies be dispersed, and let those that hate thee flee before thee;' and they found this description of Judah's ensign in Genesis 49:9. They give to Issachar an ass, Genesis 49:14; to Zebulun a ship, Genesis 49:13; to Reuben a river, Genesis 49:4, (others give Reuben the figure of a man); to Simeon a sword, Genesis 49:5; to Gad a lion, Deuteronomy 33:20; to Ephraim a unicorn, Deuteronomy 33:17; an ox to Manasseh, Deuteronomy 33:17; a wolf to Benjamin, Genesis 49:27; and a serpent to Dan, Genesis 49:17, though others give him an eagle. In short, they pretend that the ensign of Asher was a handful of corn, Genesis 49:20, and that of Naphtali a stag, Genesis 49:21. "To prove that the sums here are correctly added, we have but to join together the detached numbers, and see if they agree with the total. The text will furnish us with an example of this: there was in the quarter of: -
Judah 186,400 Numbers 2:9 Reuben 151,450 Numbers 2:16 Ephraim 108,100 Numbers 2:24 Dan 157,600 Numbers 2:31
"Among other things we must remark that rule of military tactics which requires that the advanced and rear guards should be stronger than the center. "In a well-regulated camp, cleanliness is considered indispensably necessary; this is particularly remarkable in the Israelitish army, where the most exact order was maintained. Hence every person who had any kind of disease, and those who were reputed unclean, were forbidden to enter it; Numbers 5:2, Numbers 5:3; Deuteronomy 23:10. "Those who have the health of men, and of a whole army confided to them, are not ignorant that diseases may be easily produced by putrid exhalations from excrementitious matter; and that such matter will produce in camps pestilential fevers and dysenteries. For this reason, care should be always taken that offices, at a distance from the camp, be provided for the soldiers, and also that those who are sick should be separated from the others, and sent to hospitals to be properly treated. "In military tactics we find two distinct wings spoken of; the right and the left. The Israelitish army not only had them on one side, as is customary, but on all their four sides. On the eastern side, the tribe of Issachar formed the right, that of Zebulun the left, and that of Judah the center. On the south, Simeon formed the right wing, Gad the left, and Reuben the center. Towards the west, Manasseh composed the right, Benjamin the left, and Ephraim the center. And on the north, Asher was on the right wing, Naphtali on the left wing, and Dan in the center.
Notwithstanding this, however, the army was not in danger of being easily broken; for every tribe being numerous, they were supported by several ranks, in such a manner that the first being broken, the second was capable of making resistance; and if the second gave way, or shared the same fate as the first, it found itself supported by the third, and so on with the rest. The square form in which the Jewish army was ordinarily placed, was the very best for security and defense. The use and importance of the hollow square in military tactics is well known. "For so large a multitude of people, and for so numerous an army, it was needful that all the necessary articles of life should be prepared beforehand, or be found ready to purchase. In these respects nothing was wanting to the Israelites. Their bread came down to them from heaven, and they had besides an abundance of every thing that could contribute to magnificence. If we may credit Josephus, they had amongst them public markets, and a variety of shops. Ant., i. iii. c. 12, sec. 5. The tabernacle being erected, it was placed in the midst of the camp, each of the three tribes stretching themselves on the wings, and leaving between them a sufficient space to pass. "It was, says Josephus, like a well appointed market where every thing was ready for sale in due order, and all sorts of artificers kept their shops; so that this camp might be considered a movable city. "In Exodus 32:27 we likewise find that mention is made of the gates of the camp: 'Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp.' From whence we may certainly conclude that if the camp had gates, the Israelites had also sentinels to guard them. If this be true, we may also believe that they were surrounded with entrenchments, or that at least their gates were defended by some fortifications. Sagittarius (de Jan. Vet., c. 18. 10) pretends that the tabernacle was not only guarded by the Levites, but that there were likewise sentinels at the gates, and at the entrance of the Israelitish camps. See the note on Exodus 32:27. "If we examine and compare the camp of Israel with that of our most numerous armies, which in these days are composed of 100,000 or of 150,000 men, we cannot but consider it of vast extent. The Jews say it was twelve miles in circumference; this is not at all improbable, and consequently the front of each wing must be three miles in extent. But taking in the tents, the soldiers and their numerous families, the beasts of burden, the cattle, and the goods, it certainly must have formed a very considerable enclosure, much more than twelve miles. See the notes on Exodus 12:37, and Exodus 13:18 (note). Reyher (Math. Mos., p. 568) assigns to the Tribe of Judah, A space of 298 2/5 cubits in breadth and 250 in length - Which makes 74,600 square cubits. "We must observe that we are here merely speaking of the ground which the soldiers of this tribe occupied whilst remaining close to each other in their ranks, and that in this computation there is but one cubit square allowed for each man; wherefore, if we take in the arrangement of the soldiers, the tents, the necessary spaces, the families, the beasts of burden, and the movables, a much larger extent of ground is requisite. All those circumstances do not come into Reyher's calculation. He continues thus: -
For the tribe of Issachar, 217 3/5cubits in breadth 250 in length - Total 54,400 square cubits.
For the tribe of Gad, 140 5/11 cubits in breadth 325 in length - Total 45,650 square cubits.
For the tribe of Zebulun, 229 3/4 cubits in breadth 250 in length - Total 57,400 square cubits.
For the tribe of Ephraim, 202 1/2 cubits in breadth 200 in length - Total 40,500 square cubits.
For the tribe of Reuben, 143 1/5 cubits in breadth 325 in length - Total 46,500 square cubits.
For the tribe of Manasseh, 161 cubits in breadth 200 in length - Total 32,200 square cubits.
For the tribe of Simeon, 182 6/13 cubits in breadth 325 in length - Total 59,300 square cubits.
For the tribe of Benjamin, 177 cubits in breadth 200 in length - Total 35,400 square cubits.
on Numbers 2 :2
standard ... ensign - The "standard" marked the division, or camp (cf. Numbers 1:9, Numbers 1:16, Numbers 1:24, Numbers 1:31); the "ensign" the family. There would thus be four "standards" only, one for each "camp" of three tribes. The "standard" was probably a solid figure or emblem mounted on a pole, such as the Egyptians used. Tradition appropriates the four cherubic forms (Ezekiel 1:5-12; Revelation 4:7 ff), the lion, man, ox, and eagle, to the camps of Judah, Reuben, Ephraim, and Dan respectively; and this, as to the first, has a certain support from Genesis 49:9 (compare Revelation 5:5), and as to the third, from Deuteronomy 33:17.
Far off - See the margin, over against; i. e. facing the tabernacle on every side. The distance was perhaps 2,000 cubits or rather more than 14 mile: compare Joshua 3:4.
on Numbers 2 :2