Below is represented the Israelite order of march and encampment (Numbers 2). This would be varied according to local requirements; but the ideal was reproduced in the square court with which the temple was surrounded, and in the heavenly city of Eze 48:20; Re 21:16; 20:9. The earthly camp exhibited the perfect symmetry of the church; the tabernacle in the middle denoted the dependence of all on Jehovah and the access of all to Him. The area of the camp was about three square miles. Living in families they did not occupy so much room as the same number of soldiers would occupy. The "standard" (degel, a glittering emblem on a pole) marked the division or camp, the "ensign" ('ot) the family.
Thus there were four standards, one for each "camp" of three tribes: according to tradition the four cherubic forms, the lion (Judah, Ge 49:9; Re 5:5), the ox (Ephraim, De 33:17), the man, and the eagle (Eze 1:26; 10:1; Re 4:4, etc.). Judah had the post of honor in front of the curtain of the tabernacle, along with Issachar and Zebulun, all three Leah's children, and led the van on march. Reuben, Leah's oldest son, with Simeon, Leah's second, and Gad, oldest of Leah's handmaid Zilpah's sous, formed the second camp. Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, Rachel's descendants, formed the third camp. Dan, oldest of the handmaids' children, with Asher and Naphtali, handmaids' children, formed the fourth camp.
In coincidence with this arrangement, Nu 10:14, etc., represents Judah taking the lead in the march out of the wilderness of Sinai, Reuben was next, Ephraim was next, and Dan was rearward. The signal for march was given by a blast of two silver trumpets. The sanctity of the camp was maintained even in time of war. Among other nations ordinary rules of morality and propriety were then relaxed, as Lucan x. 407, observes: "no faith or regard for religion exists among men in camp" (nulla fides pietasque viris qui castra sequuntur). But in war especially Israel was to "keep from every wicked thing," and even from any breach of decorum or cleanliness, "for the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp to deliver thee and to give up thine enemies before thee, therefore shall thy camp be holy, that He see no unclean thing in thee and turn away from thee" (De 23:9-14).
All refuse was to be carried outside the camp. There the dead were to be buried (Le 10:4; 6:11). Contact with the dead, until purification, and leprosy excluded from it (Nu 5:2; 31:19). Ashes from the sacrifices were poured out in an appointed place outside the camp, where the entrails, skin, and horns, and all that was not offered in sacrifice, were burnt (Le 4:11-12; 6:11; 8:17; 24:14). There criminals were executed, and the sin offering bullock was burnt.
(compare as to the antitype Joh 19:17,20; Heb 13:12). So late as Hezekiah the temple was called "the tents of Jehovah" (2Ch 31:2; Ps 78:28; compare "a great host like the host of God" applied to David's adherents, 1Ch 12:22). The military camp was generally fixed on a hill and near water (1Sa 13:2-3,16,23; 17:3; 28:4; 29:1). The baggage wagons or else an earthwork formed a barrier round the camp. The machineh were movable camps as distinguished from the matsab, or netsib, standing camps (2Ch 17:2).
primarily denoted the resting-place of an army or company of travellers at night,
and was hence applied to the army or caravan when on its march.
The description of the camp of the Israelites, on their march from Egypt, Numb 2,3, supplies the greatest amount of information on the subject. The tabernacle, corresponding to the chieftains tent of an ordinary encampment, was placed in the centre, and around and facing it,
arranged in four grand divisions, corresponding to the four points of the compass, lay the host of Israel, according to their standards.
In the centre, round the tabernacle, and with no standard but the cloudy or fiery pillar which rested over it, were the tents of the priests and Levites. The former, with Moses and Aaron at their head, were encamped on the eastern side. The order of encampment was preserved on the march.