The Arrangement of the Tribes1 ▼ The Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron: 2 “Every one ▼
▼ Heb “a man by his own standard.”of the Israelites must camp ▼
▼ The imperfect tense is to be taken in the nuance of instruction.under his standard with the emblems of his family; ▼
▼ Heb “of/for the house of their fathers.”they must camp at some distance ▼
▼ The Hebrew expression מִנֶּגֶד (minneged) means “from before” or “opposite; facing” and “at some distance” or “away from the front of” (see BDB 617 s.v. נֶגֶד 2.c.a; DCH 5:603–4 s.v. 3.b).around the tent of meeting. ▼
▼ The Israelites were camping as a military camp, each tribe with the standards and emblems of the family. The standard was the symbol fastened to the end of a pole and carried to battle. It served to rally the tribe to the battle. The Bible nowhere describes these, although the serpent emblem of Numbers 21:8–9 may give a clue. But they probably did not have shapes of animals in view of the prohibition in the Decalogue. The standards may have been smaller for the families than the ones for the tribes. See further K. A. Kitchen, “Some Egyptian Background to the Old Testament,” TynBul 5 (1960): 11; and T. W. Mann, Divine Presence and Guidance in Israelite Tradition, 169–73.
The Tribes on the East3 “Now those who will be camping ▼
▼ The sentence begins with a vav (ו) on a word that is not a finite verb, indicating a new section begins here. The verbal form is a participle with the article used substantivally, with the meaning “and/now those camping.” Many English versions employ a finite verb; cf. KJV “on the east side…shall they of the standard of the camp of Judah pitch.”on the east, toward the sunrise, ▼ are the divisions ▼
▼ The sentence actually has “[those camping…are] the standard of the camp of Judah according to their divisions.”of the camp of Judah under their standard. The leader of the people of Judah is ▼
▼ Or “will be.”Nahshon son of Amminadab. 4 Those numbered in his division ▼
▼ The expression “and his divisions and those numbered of them” is somewhat tautological. The words are synonyms used for statistical purposes, and so neither should be simply deleted.are 74,600. 5 Those who will be camping next to them ▼
▼ Heb “by him” [i.e., Judah].are the tribe of Issachar. The leader of the people of Issachar is Nethanel son of Zuar. 6 Those numbered in his division are 54,400. 7 Next will be ▼
▼ This part has been supplied; the text simply has “the tribe of Zebulun.”the tribe of Zebulun. The leader of the people of Zebulun is Eliab son of Helon. 8 Those numbered in his division are 57,400. 9 All those numbered of the camp of Judah, according to their divisions, are 186,400. They will travel ▼
▼ The verb is נָסָע (nasa’): “to journey, travel, set out,” and here, “to move camp.” Judah will go first, or, literally, at the head of the nation, when they begin to travel.at the front.
The Tribes on the South10 “On the south will be the divisions of the camp of Reuben under their standard. ▼
▼ Here and throughout the line is literally “[under] the standard of the camp of Reuben…according to their divisions.”The leader of the people of Reuben is Elizur son of Shedeur. 11 Those numbered in his division are 46,500. 12 Those who will be camping next to them are the tribe of Simeon. The leader of the people of Simeon is Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai. 13 Those numbered in his division are 59,300. 14 Next will be ▼
▼ The Hebrew text simply has “and the tribe of Gad.”the tribe of Gad. The leader of the people of Gad is Eliasaph son of Deuel. ▼ 15 Those numbered in his division are 45,650. 16 All those numbered of the camp of Reuben, according to their divisions, are 151,450. They will travel second.
The Tribe in the Center17 “Then the tent of meeting with the camp of the Levites will travel in the middle of the camps. They will travel in the same order as they camped, each in his own place ▼
▼ The Hebrew expression is עַל־יָדוֹ (’al-yado, “upon his hand”). This clearly refers to a specifically designated place for each man.under his standard.
The Tribes on the West18 “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 Amihud. 19 Those numbered in his division are 40,500. 20 Next to them will be the tribe of Manasseh. The leader of the people of Manasseh is Gamaliel son of Pedahzur. 21 Those numbered in his division are 32,200. 22 Next will be ▼
▼ Here too the Hebrew text simply has “and the tribe of Benjamin.”the tribe of Benjamin. The leader of the people of Benjamin is Abidan son of Gideoni. 23 Those numbered in his division are 35,400. 24 All those numbered of the camp of Ephraim, according to their divisions, are 108,100. They will travel third.
The Tribes on the North25 “On the north will be the divisions of the camp of Dan, under their standards. The leader of the people of Dan is Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai. 26 Those numbered in his division are 62,700. 27 Those who will be camping next to them are the tribe of Asher. The leader of the people of Asher is Pagiel son of Ocran. 28 Those numbered in his division are 41,500. 29 Next will be ▼
▼ The Hebrew text has “and the tribe of Naphtali.”the tribe of Naphtali. The leader of the people of Naphtali is Ahira son of Enan. 30 Those numbered in his division are 53,400. 31 All those numbered of the camp of Dan are 157,600. They will travel last, under their standards.”
Summary32 These are the Israelites, numbered according to their families. ▼ All those numbered in the camps, by their divisions, are 603,550. 33 But the Levites were not numbered among the other Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.
34 So the Israelites did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses; that is the way ▼
▼ The Hebrew word is כֵּן (ken, “thus, so”).they camped under their standards, and that is the way they traveled, each with his clan and family.
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