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Read Numbers 2

The Arrangement of the Tribal Camps

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: “The Israelites are to camp around the tent of meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standardand holding the banners of their family.”

On the east, toward the sunrise, the divisions of the camp of Judah are to encamp under their standard. The leader of the people of Judah is Nahshon son of Amminadab. His division numbers 74,600.

The tribe of Issachar will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Issachar is Nethanel son of Zuar. His division numbers 54,400.

The tribe of Zebulun will be next. The leader of the people of Zebulun is Eliab son of Helon. His division numbers 57,400.

All the men assigned to the camp of Judah, according to their divisions, number 186,400. They will set out first.

10 On the south will be the divisions of the camp of Reuben under their standard. The leader of the people of Reuben is Elizur son of Shedeur.11 His division numbers 46,500.

12 The tribe of Simeon will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Simeon is Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai. 13 His division numbers 59,300.

14 The tribe of Gad will be next. The leader of the people of Gad is Eliasaph son of Deuel. 15 His division numbers 45,650.

16 All the men assigned to the camp of Reuben, according to their divisions, number 151,450. They will set out second.

17 Then the tent of meeting and the camp of the Levites will set out in the middle of the camps. They will set out in the same order as they encamp, each in their own place under their standard.

18 On the west will be the divisions of the camp of Ephraim under their standard. The leader of the people of Ephraim is Elishama son of Ammihud. 19 His division numbers 40,500.

20 The tribe of Manasseh will be next to them. The leader of the people of Manasseh is Gamaliel son of Pedahzur. 21 His division numbers 32,200.

22 The tribe of Benjamin will be next. The leader of the people of Benjamin is Abidan son of Gideoni. 23 His division numbers 35,400.

24 All the men assigned to the camp of Ephraim, according to their divisions, number 108,100. They will set out third.

25 On the north will be the divisions of the camp of Dan under their standard. The leader of the people of Dan is Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai.26 His division numbers 62,700.

27 The tribe of Asher will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Asher is Pagiel son of Okran. 28 His division numbers 41,500.

29 The tribe of Naphtali will be next. The leader of the people of Naphtali is Ahira son of Enan. 30 His division numbers 53,400.

31 All the men assigned to the camp of Dan number 157,600. They will set out last, under their standards.

32 These are the Israelites, counted according to their families. All the men in the camps, by their divisions, number 603,550. 33 The Levites, however, were not counted along with the other Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.

34 So the Israelites did everything the Lord commanded Moses; that is the way they encamped under their standards, and that is the way they set out, each of them with their clan and family.

Go Deeper

Numbers 2 outlines the arrangement of the camp for the tribes. The general structure is there are three tribes in each cardinal direction. The tribes are situated around the tabernacle; God is at the center of all of this, He is who they are oriented from. While we orient our maps to the north, that is not the case for this culture. God starts their layout from the east with Judah. 

We see that God is clear with His instructions for them of where they will go, how they will do it, and who they will be led by. He is kind in His order, but it isn’t always clear why each camp is placed where they are at. Sometimes the biggest camps are on the outside, which is good for military protection since they will march in this same order. However, other times it’s the smaller ones on the outside. It is possible that this had a symbolic shape–some scholars even believe that it could possibly be in the shape of the cross. Whatever the reason is, He doesn’t explain it to them (but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one). He is intentional in His order, even if it’s for reasons that we ourselves cannot see.

“The standard” is mentioned often in this text and it is a banner or flag. There is speculation for what exactly the standards for each tribe is, but the four main banners are normally agreed to be a lion for Judah, a man for Reuben, a calf for Ephraim, and an eagle for Dan. In Revelation, there are these same four creatures described to be surrounding the throne of God. “The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle” (Revelation 4:7). 

These are the same Ezekiel 1:10 prophecies about and the four gospel authors are assigned one of these same animals to symbolize them. This is yet another reminder of how the whole Bible is connected. It isn’t accidental that these symbols are seen all throughout the scriptures. Only our God could beautifully connect His story from Genesis to Revelation!


  1. What does this reveal about God to you?
  2. Read Genesis 49:8-12. How do you see this prophecy fulfilled in this chapter?
  3. Re-read verse 34. What does this say about the Israelites? What does it look like for you to “obey all the Lord commanded” today?

Keep Digging

For more about the camp arrangement, check out this article.

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3 thoughts on “Numbers 2”

  1. God is purposeful, intentional and orderly in his plan. Although it may beyond our limited human understanding, he does all things well. Digging a bit deeper into the “camp” I found this detail in a commentary, “It would have taken 12 square miles to set up tents for just 600,000 thousand men, not to mention the women and children.” God’s instructions would provide Moses a way to manage so large a group. I love v34, “ So the Israelites did everything the Lord commanded Moses.” Even in this narrative, we can trace God’s hand pointing to his perfect redemption plan.

  2. Wow is our God amazing. So decent and in order, which helps to know what is around you and how to take care of business. Having God at the center of our life, putting His commandments first and the rest of our life will fall into place with so much more ease. God wants order in and for our lives. When He directs our path and our hearts are in alignment and harmony with Him it is easier to follow that path, to hear, to listen, to obey.

    God thank You for Your order in and for my life. Thank You that I listen and hear Your voice to do what. how and speak when You direct me. Thank You for me being more organized in my daily life. Thank You for these minutes of this day that I give You the glory and honor for each one. God thank You for my fear of You, God that I never want to be away from You in Jesus name amen

  3. 1. This shows me that God is an intentional God. Even in the things we think are small and unimportant things to care about. God is intentional in how he arranges and orchestrates every area of our lives. It’s really all a matter of us surrending everything we have over to him. But, this chapter also shows me how faithful God is to his word he doesn’t renege on his promises, he is Alpha and Omega from the beginning until the very end of time, he does not change but he remains the same forever. Though generations may pass the word of the Lord always stands.
    2. I see that the Lord kept his promise to Judah to basically elevate him above his brothers when God said in Genesis 49:8, “Judah your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you.” We see the fulfillment of this in Numbers 2:9 when the LORD says, “All the men assigned to the camp of Judah, according to their divisions number 186, 400. They will set out first.” The verses proceeding after Numbers 2:10-29 showed all of Judah’s brothers coming after him just as the Lord promised.
    3. When I see the scriptures say the Israelites did everything the LORD commanded; to me that means to obey all that the Lord commands me to do. It’s to continue to walk in obedience to his every command, instruction, and leading no matter the cost and no matter how uncomfortable it may feel. It means to be being completely led by Jesus and his Holy Spirit walking in complete surrender and submission to what he has to say. In summary, being a doer of the Word and not just a hearer only.

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