Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,Order of the Twelve Tribes in the Camp and on the March. - Numbers 2:1, Numbers 2:2. The twelve tribes were to encamp each one by his standard, by the signs of their fathers' houses, opposite to the tabernacle (at some distance) round about, and, according to the more precise directions given afterwards, in such order that on every side of the tabernacle three tribes were encamped side by side and united under one banner, so that the twelve tribes formed four large camps or divisions of an army. Between these camps and the court surrounding the tabernacle, the three leading mishpachoth of the Levites were to be encamped on three sides, and Moses and Aaron with the sons of Aaron (i.e., the priests) upon the fourth, i.e., the front or eastern side, before the entrance (Numbers 3:21-38). דּגל, a standard, banner, or flag, denotes primarily the larger field sign, possessed by every division composed of three tribes, which was also the banner of the tribe at the head of each division; and secondarily, in a derivative signification, it denotes the army united under one standard, like σημεία, or vexillum. It is used thus, for example, in Numbers 2:17, Numbers 2:31, Numbers 2:34, and in combination with מחנה in Numbers 2:3, Numbers 2:10, Numbers 2:18, and Numbers 2:25, where "standard of the camp of Judah, Reuben, Ephraim, and Dan" signifies the hosts of the tribes arranged under these banners. אתת, the signs (ensigns), were the smaller flags or banners which were carried at the head of the different tribes and subdivisions of the tribes (the fathers' houses). Neither the Mosaic law, nor the Old Testament generally, gives us any intimation as to the form or character of the standard (degel). According to rabbinical tradition, the standard of Judah bore the figure of a lion, that of Reuben the likeness of a man or of a man's head, that of Ephraim the figure of an ox, and that of Dan the figure of an eagle; so that the four living creatures united in the cherubic forms described by Ezekiel were represented upon these four standards.
(Note: Jerome Prado, in his commentary upon Ezekiel (ch. 1 Peter 44), gives the following minute description according to rabbinical tradition: "The different leaders of the tribes had their own standards, with the crests of their ancestors depicted upon them. On the east, above the tent of Naasson the first-born of Judah, there shone a standard of a green colour, this colour having been adopted by him because it was in a green stone, viz., an emerald, that the name of his forefather Judah was engraved on the breastplate of the high priest (Exodus 25:15.), and on this standard there was depicted a lion, the crest and hieroglyphic of his ancestor Judah, whom Jacob had compared to a lion, saying, 'Judah is a lion's whelp.' Towards the south, above the tent of Elisur the son of Reuben, there floated a red standard, having the colour of the sardus, on which the name of his father, viz., Reuben, was engraved upon the breastplate of the high priest. The symbol depicted upon this standard was a human head, because Reuben was the first-born, and head of the family. On the west, above the tent of Elishamah the son of Ephraim, there was a golden flag, on which the head of a calf was depicted, because it was through the vision of the calves or oxen that his ancestor Joseph had predicted and provided for the famine in Egypt (Genesis 41); and hence Moses, when blessing the tribe of Joseph, i.e., Ephraim (Deuteronomy 33:17), said, 'his glory is that of the first-born of a bull.' The golden splendour of the standard of Ephraim resembled that of the chrysolite, in which the name of Ephraim was engraved upon the breastplate. Towards the north, above the tent of Ahiezer the son of Dan, there floated a motley standard of white and red, like the jaspis (or, as some say, a carbuncle), in which the name of Dan was engraved upon the breastplate. The crest upon this was an eagle, the great doe to serpents, which had been chosen by the leader in the place of a serpent, because his forefather Jacob had compared Dan to a serpent, saying, 'Dan is a serpent in the way, an adder (cerastes, a horned snake) in the path;' but Ahiezer substituted the eagle, the destroyer of serpents as he shrank from carrying an adder upon his flag.")
Every 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.
And 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.Order of the tribes in the camp and on the march. - Numbers 2:3-9. The standard of the tribe of Judah was to encamp in front, namely towards the east, according to its hosts; and by its side the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun, the descendants of Leah, under the command and banner of Judah: an army of 186,400 men, which was to march out first when the camp was broken up (Numbers 2:9), so that Judah led the way as the champion of his brethren (Genesis 49:10).
And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were threescore and fourteen thousand and six hundred."His host, and those that were numbered of them" (cf. Numbers 2:6, Numbers 2:8, Numbers 2:11, etc.), i.e., the army according to its numbered men.
And 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.
And his host, and those that were numbered thereof, were fifty and four thousand and four hundred.
Then the tribe of Zebulun: and Eliab the son of Helon shall be captain of the children of Zebulun.
And his host, and those that were numbered thereof, were fifty and seven thousand and four hundred.
All 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.
On 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.On the south side was the standard of Reuben, with which Simeon and Gad, descendants of Leah and her maid Zilpah, were associated, and to which they were subordinated. In Numbers 2:14, Reuel is a mistake for Reuel (Numbers 1:14; Numbers 7:42; Numbers 10:20), which is the reading given here in 118 MSS cited by Kennicott and De Rossi, in several of the ancient editions, and in the Samaritan, Vulgate, and Jonah Saad., whereas the lxx, Onk., Syr., and Pers. read Reuel. This army of 151,450 men was to break up and march as the second division.
And his host, and those that were numbered thereof, were forty and six thousand and five hundred.
And 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.
And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were fifty and nine thousand and three hundred.
Then the tribe of Gad: and the captain of the sons of Gad shall be Eliasaph the son of Reuel.
And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were forty and five thousand and six hundred and fifty.
All 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.
Then 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.The tabernacle, the camp of the Levites, was to break up after this in the midst of the camps (i.e., of the other tribes). "As they encamp, so shall they break up," that is to say, with Levi in the midst of the tribes, "every man in his place, according to his banner." יד, place, as in Deuteronomy 23:13; Isaiah 57:8.
On 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.On the west the standard of Ephraim, with the tribes of Manasseh and Benjamin, that is to say, the whole of the descendants of Rachel, 108,100 men, as the third division of the army.
And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were forty thousand and five hundred.
And by him shall be the tribe of Manasseh: and the captain of the children of Manasseh shall be Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur.
And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were thirty and two thousand and two hundred.
Then the tribe of Benjamin: and the captain of the sons of Benjamin shall be Abidan the son of Gideoni.
And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were thirty and five thousand and four hundred.
All 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.
The 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.Lastly, towards the north was the standard of Gad, with Asher and Naphtali, the descendants of the maids Bilhah and Zilpah, 157,600 men, who were to be the last to break up, and formed the rear on the march.
And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were threescore and two thousand and seven hundred.
And 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.
And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were forty and one thousand and five hundred.
Then the tribe of Naphtali: and the captain of the children of Naphtali shall be Ahira the son of Enan.
And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were fifty and three thousand and four hundred.
All 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.לדגליהם (according to their standards) is equivalent to לצבאתם (according to their hosts) in Numbers 2:9, Numbers 2:16, and Numbers 2:24, i.e., according to the hosts of which they consisted.
These 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.In Numbers 2:32 we have the whole number given, 603,550 men, not including the Levites (Numbers 2:33, see at Numbers 1:49); and in Numbers 2:34 the concluding remark as to the subsequent execution of the divine command-an anticipatory notice, as in Exodus 12:50; Exodus 40:16, etc.
But the Levites were not numbered among the children of Israel; as the LORD commanded Moses.
And 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.