Numbers 2


Moses commanded to teach the Israelites how they are to pitch

their tents, and erect the ensigns of their fathers' houses,

1, 2.

Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun, on the EAST, amounting to

186,400 men, 3-9.

Reuben, Simeon, and Gad, on the SOUTH, with 151,450

men, 10-16.

The Levites to be in the midst of the camp, 17.

Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, on the WEST, with

108,100 men, 18-24.

Dan, Asher, and Naphtali, on the NORTH, with 157,600

men, 25-31.

The sum total of the whole, 603,550 men, 32.

But the Levites are not included, 33.

The people do as the Lord commands them, 34.


Verse 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

endeavours 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.



See image 2000002

"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 centre 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 centre, 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 pellmell, 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 centre 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 colours, 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 Ge 49:9. They give

to ISSACHAR an ass, Ge 49:14;

to ZEBULUN a ship, Ge 49:13;

to REUBEN a river, Ge 49:4,

(others give REUBEN the figure of a man;)

to SIMEON a sword, Ge 49:5;

to GAD a lion, De 33:20;

to EPHRAIM a unicorn, De 33:17;

an ox to MANASSEH, De 33:17;

a wolf to BENJAMIN, Ge 49:27;

and a serpent to DAN, Ge 49:17,

though others give him an eagle. In short, they pretend that

the ensign of ASHER was a handful of corn, Ge 49:20, and that

of NAPHTALI a stag, Ge 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 Nu 2:9

Reuben 151,450 Nu 2:16

Ephraim 108,100 Nu 2:24

Dan 157,600 Nu 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 centre.

"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; Nu 5:2, 3; De 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 centre. On the south,

Simeon formed the right wing, Gad the left, and Reuben the centre.

Towards the west, Manasseh composed the right, Benjamin the left,

and Ephraim the centre. And on the north, Asher was on the right

wing, Naphtali on the left wing, and Dan in the centre.

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 defence. 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


"In Ex 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 Clarke on Ex 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

inclosure, much more than twelve miles.

See Clarke on Ex 12:37, and "Ex 13:18".

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


For the tribe of ISSACHAR,

217 3/5 cubits 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.

For the tribe of DAN,

156 3/4 cubits in breadth

400 in length


Total 62,700 square cubits.

For the tribe of ASHER,

103 3/4 cubits in breadth

400 in length


Total 41,500 square cubits.

For the tribe of NAPHTALI,

133 1/2 cubits in breadth

400 in length


Total 53,400 square cubits.

"If we make the ichnography, or even the scenography, of the

camp on this plan, in following it we must first, in the centre,

form a parallelogram of 100 cubits long and 50 broad for the court

of the tabernacle with an empty space all round of 50 cubits

broad. We must then place the camp of the Levites in the

following order:-

To the west, the Gershonites, Nu 3:22, 23.

Breadth 30 cubits

Length 250 cubits


Total 7,500

To the south, the Kohathites, Nu 3:28, 29.

Breadth 86 cubits

Length 100 cubits


Total 8,600

To the north, the Merarites, Nu 3:34, 35.

Breadth 62 cubits

Length 100 cubits


Total 6,200

"On the east we must place tents for Moses, Aaron, and his

sons, Nu 3:38.

"At the place where the camp of the Levites ends, a space must

be left of 2,000 square cubits, after which we must take the

dimensions of the camp of the twelve tribes.

"This plan is in the main well imagined, but it does not afford

an ichnography of sufficient extent. To come more accurately to a

proper understanding of this subject, I shall examine the rules

that are now in use for encampments, and compare them afterward

with what is laid down in the Holy Scriptures, in order that we

may hereby form to ourselves an idea of the camp of God, the

grandeur and perfection of which surpassed every thing of the kind

ever seen. I shall now mention what I am about to propose as the

foundation upon which I shall proceed.

"In Ex 18:21, De 1:15, we find the advice given by Jethro to

Moses respecting political government and military discipline:

'Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear

God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them,

to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of

fifties, and rulers of tens.' [See the note on "Ex 18:21".]

We may very well compare these tribunes, or rather these

chiliarchs, to our colonels, the centurions or hecatontarchs

to commanders or captains, the quinquagenaries or

pentecontarchs to lieutenants, and the decurions or decarchs

to our sergeants. These chiefs, whether they were named

magistrates or officers, were each drawn from his own particular

tribe, so that it was not permitted to place over one tribe an

officer taken from another. Whatever matter the decarchs could

not decide upon or terminate, went to the pentecontarchs, and from

thence by degrees to the hecatontarchs, to the chiliarchs, to

Moses, and at length to GOD himself, the sovereign head of the

army. If we divide the whole army (such as it was at its

departure from Egypt) by the numbers already laid down, we shall

find 600 chiliarchs, 6,000 hecatontarchs, 12,000 pentecontarchs,

60,000 decarchs, which in all make 78,600 officers. Josephus

regulates the number of them still more exactly by saying that

there were chiefs set over 10,000, 1,000, 500, 50, 30, 20, and 10.

We find this regulation in Ant. Jud., b. iii., c. 4: 'Take a

review of the army, and appoint chosen rulers over tens of

thousands, and then over thousands, then divide them into five

hundreds, and again into hundreds, and into fifties, and set

rulers over each of them who may distinguish them into thirties,

and keep them in order; and at last number them by twenties and

by tens, and let there be one commander over each number, to be

denominated from the number of those over whom they are rulers.'

"We ought not to pass over in silence this division by tens, for

twice 10 make 20, three times 10, 30, five times 10, 50, ten times

10, 100, ten times 50, 500, ten times 1,000, 10,000. It was in

this manner, as is pretended, that Cangu, the first of the great

Khams, (as he is called,) and after him Tamerlane, drew out an

army, i. e., by 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000, mentioned in Alhazen,

c. v. Probably these Tartars borrowed from the very Hebrews

themselves this manner of laying out a camp. At all events it is

certain that nothing more ancient of the kind can be found than

that mentioned in the books of Moses. To distinguish it from that

of the Greeks and Romans we may with justice call it the Hebrew

castrametation, or, if we judge it more proper, the Divine

castrametation, and consequently the most perfect of all. For

although Moses places the pentecontarchs in the middle, between

the hecatontarchs and the decarchs, i. e., 50 between 100 and 10;

and although Josephus afterward places 1,000 between 500 and

10,000, and 30 and 20 between 10 and 50, this does not at all

derange the progression by tens, which Is the foundation of

arithmetic. These subaltern officers were equally useful and

necessary, as we now see that their number, far from creating

confusion, helps maintain order, and that the more there are of

them the better is order preserved. According to the modern

method of carrying on war, the next in rank to the generals of the

army (who have the supreme command) are field marshals and

brigadiers, who command 5,000 men.

There are then between the chiliarchs or colonels and the

hecatontarchs or captains, lieutenant-colonels; and between the

hecatontarchs and the decarchs, lieutenant-captains; and these

have under them lieutenants and ensigns.

"It is certain that this method of distributing an army by tens,

and of encamping, which is very concise, has far greater

advantages even with respect to expense than the very best plans

of the Greeks, Romans, or any other ancient nation. On this

subject we have the testimony of Simon Steven, Castrametat. c. 1,

art. 1, and c. 4. art. 3, Oper. Math., p. 574 and 596, &c.

According to this arrangement each soldier, or if more proper,

each father of a family, being thus placed by ten and ten in a

straight line one after the other, might very easily name

themselves first, second, &c. Each troop in like manner might be

distinguished by its ensigns, that of 100 might have them small,

that of 1,000 larger, and that of 10,000 still larger. Every

officer, from the lowest subaltern to the general officers of the

camp, and even to the generalissimos themselves, had only an easy

inspection of ten men each; the decarch had the inspection of 10

soldiers, the hecatontarch of 10 decarchs, and the chiliarch of

10 hecatontarchs. After the chiliarchs, which in no troop can

amount to ten, there is the chief or head of each tribe. Each

then exactly fulfilling the duty assigned him, we may suppose

every thing to be in good order, even were the camp larger and

more numerous. The same may be said respecting the contentions

that might arise among the soldiers, as well as every thing

relative to the general duty of the officers, as to the labours

they were to undertake, whether for striking their tents for works

of fortification or for making entrenchments. This arrangement

might be easily retained in the memory, or a general list be kept

of the names of both officers and soldiers to distribute to them

their pay, and to keep exact accounts.

"It was possible in one moment to know the number of those who

were either wanting or were out of their ranks, and to avoid this

disorder in future by obliging each man to attend to his duty and

keep in his rank. If by chance it happened that any one man

wished to desert or had escaped, it was easy to notice him and

inflict on him the punishment he merited. The ensigns being

distinguished by their marks, and the company being known, it was

easy to find any soldier whatever.

"The armies themselves might have certain marks to distinguish

them, and by that means they might at once ascertain the person in

question; for example: 8. 2. 7. 3. might signify the eighth

soldier or father of a family, of the second rank, of the seventh

company, in the third chiliad; 7. 3. 5. the halberdier of the

decurion or sergeant of the seventh line, in the third

company, of the fifth chiliad or thousand; 5. 8. the hecatontarchs

or captains of the fifth company, in the eighth chiliad; 7. the

chiliarchs or colonels of the seventh rank; 0. finally, the

general of the whole army. Farther, by the same means the loss or

misplacing of their arms might be prevented. Again, the soldiers

might in a very short time be instructed and formed to the

exercise of arms, each decad having its sergeant for its master;

and the chariots or other carriages might easily be divided

amongst several, 10 under the decurion, 100 under the hecatontarch;

and by thus following the above method, every thing might be kept

in good order.


See image 2000003

"We shall finally, in one plate, represent the whole camp of

the Israelites, in that order which appears the most proper. For

this purpose we must extract the square roots of the preceding

spaces, in order that we may be able to assign to each tribe

square areas, or rectangular parallelograms. I therefore find for

Reuben 3049 square cubits.

Simeon 3443

The Gershonites 1224

The Kohathites 1311

The Merarites 1113

Judah 3862

Issachar 3298

Zebulun 3388

Gad 3019

Asher 2880

Manasseh 2537

Ephraim 2846

Benjamin 2660

Dan 3541

Naphtali 3268

"The tabernacle, which was 100 cubits long and 50 broad, I

place in the centre of the camp, at the distance of 840 feet from

the camp of the Levites, which is placed exactly in the same

manner as described in the sacred writings. I find therefore that

the whole space of the camp is 259,600,000 feet. Now, according

to the manner we have just divided the camp for each tribe, the

sum total being 125,210,000, it follows that the space between the

tents contained 134,390,000. If, with Eisenschmid, we estimate

the Roman mile at 766 French fathoms and two feet, (consequently

21,141,604 square feet to a Roman square mile,) the Israelitish

camp will contain a little more than 12 such square miles."

The reader will have the goodness to observe that the preceding

observations, as well as the following plate or diagram, which was

made by Scheuchzer on the exactest proportions, could not be

accurately copied here without an engraved plate; and after all,

the common reader could have profited no more by the plate than he

can by the diagram. It is not even hoped that disquisitions of

this kind can give any thing more than a general idea how the

thing probably was; for to pretend to minute exactness, in such

cases, would be absurd. The sacred text informs us that such and

such tribes occupied the east, such the west, &c., &c.; but how

they were arranged individually we cannot pretend absolutely to

say. Scheuchzer's plan is such as we may suppose judgment and

skill would lay down; but still it is very probable that the plan

of the Israelites' castrametation was more perfect than any thing

we can well imagine; for as it was the plan which probably God

himself laid down, it must be in every respect what it ought to

be, for the comfort and safety of this numerous multitude.

As there are some differences between the mode of distributing

the command of a large army among the British, and that used on

the continent, which is followed by Scheuchzer, I shall lay down

the descending scale of British commanders, which some may think

applies better to the preceding arrangement of the Israelitish

army than the other.

The command of a large army in the British service is thus


1. The Commander-in-chief.

2. Lieutenant-generals, who command divisions of the army:

(these divisions consist of 2 or 3 brigades each, which,

on an average, amount to 5,000 men.)

3. Major-generals, who command brigades: (these brigades consist

of from 2 to 3,000 men [2,500 is perhaps the average]

according to the strength of the respective regiments of

which the brigade is composed.)

4. Colonels in the army, or lieutenant-colonels, who command

single regiments; they are assisted in the command of these

regiments by the majors of the regiments. [I mention the

major, that there may be no break in the descending scale

of gradation of ranks, as in the event of the absence of the

above two officers, he is the next in command.]

5. Captains who command companies: these companies (on the war

establishment) consist of 100 men each, and there are 10

companies in every regiment, consequently a colonel, or

lieutenant-colonel, commands 1,000 men.

6. Lieutenants, of which there | Subaltern officers having

are 2 to every company. | no command, but assisting

7. Ensign; 1 to each company. | the captain.

1. Commander-in-chief. |

2. Lieutenant-generals commanding | These are called

divisions 5,000 each. | general officers.

3. Major-generals, brigades 2,500. |

4. Colonels, lieutenant-colonels, and majors; 3 officers

belonging to each regiment in the service, and are solely

employed in the disciplining and commanding the men; these

are mounted on horseback, and termed field-officers.

5. 1 Captain |

6. 2 Lieutenants to each company.

7. 1 Ensign |

Ascending scale of ranks which every officer must pass through.

Ensign |

Lieutenant |

Captain | to every regiment.

Major |

Lieutenant-colonel |

Colonel |

Major-general, brigade-commander.

Lieutenant-general, division-commander.

General-in-chief, who commands the whole army.

Copyright information for Clarke