The book records the history of Israel's wilderness life from Sinai onwards. At Sinai they were incorporated as the people of God under the legal covenant, and were given the task of crossing the wilderness to the Promised Land.

Instead of a rapid march to the Land of the Covenant, sad and terrible failure delayed them in their progress due to their lack of faith. But though the generation that left Egypt perished in the wilderness, the nation did not.

A new generation arose that was led on to the borders of the land, conquerors over all opposition, until they reached the Plains of Moab, ready to enter into their inheritance. And

here the story ends, to be taken up in The Book of Joshua. Deuteronomy is simply a review, and not a history.

The lesson is simple and obvious. Those called out of the Gentiles, as was Israel from Egypt, can be categorised under the heading of failure or success; the old generation or the new. The Book of Numbers reveals that though individuals may fail, God's purpose will not. Those who trust in Yahweh, and seek to do His will, shall succeed in spite of temporary failure.

In Christ they have a priest, a mediator, whose resurrection is the sign of competence,

and in whom they can conquer, and go on from strength to strength awaiting the consummation at his coming.

The Christadelphian Expositor

3 From 20 years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies.

We are called to be soldiers also... 'Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ' (2 Tim 2:3).

As the mighty men of Israel were instructed to 'fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses' (Neh 4:14), so today's men and women of faith must battle for the salvation of their families and the ecclesias. In so doing, by the favour of Yahweh, will secure their own.

5 And these are the names of the men that shall stand with you: of the tribe of Reuben; Elizur the son of Shedeur.

There were some incidents connected with Israel's passage from Egypt to Canaan that appear merely historical and casual and yet may yield a counterpart in the glory yet to be revealed. Even historically viewed, they are full of the deepest interest. Such, for example, was the numbering of the congregation in "the first day of the second month in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt". Moses received command to "assemble all the congregation together, to declare their pedigrees after their families by the house of their fathers", Twelve "princes of the tribes" were told to do the work. They were "expressed by name"--not by Moses or by the vote of the people or by lot or by any process of human nomination: they were named for the work by Divine authority direct... For each tribe a prince is named --omitting Levi, and Joseph, for whom Manasseh and Ephraim (Joseph's sons) appear.

If, as is probable, there was an intended meaning in the category as expressed by the significance of each individual name in the order of their enumeration, we have a concealed prophecy in a dry list. This will be seen in three ways, when the meanings of the names are expressed in succession: 1, The names of the princes; 2, the names of the tribes they represented; and 3, the names of the princes and the tribes taken together.

1. The names of the princes--ELIZUR, God is a rock; SHELUMIEL, God is peace; NAHSHON, all oracle; NATHANIEL, God-given; ELIAB, God is Father; ELISHAMA, God hears; GAMALIEL, God recompenses; ABIDAN, father of judgment; AHIEZER, helping brother; PAGIEL, God meets; ABIASAPH, God gathers; AHIRA, evil brother--(which being strung together would yield the following declaration: God, the rock, is peace by the oracle He gives. He is Father and prayer-hearer, and will be a Recompenser in judgment through a helping brother when He meets and gathers His people for the suppression of the brother of evil).

2. The names of the tribes represented by the princes--REUBEN, see a son; SIMEON, hearing; JUDAH, praise; ISSACHAR, hire; ZEBULON, dwelling; EPHRAIM, fruitful; MANASSEH, forgetting; BENJAMIN, the son of the right hand; DAN, judging; ASHER, happy; GAD, a troop or company; NAPHTALI, wrestling--(which in the same way, would yield the following sense: Behold a Son, for the hearing of praise by a purchased people, dwelling fruitfully when toil is all forgotten, through the Son of God's right hand, judging happily in a great company after victorious wrestling).

3. The two lists fused, taking the princes first and then the tribes, would yield the following sense :--GOD IS A ROCK. See a Son, our God-given peace, through hearing the oracle of praise given for a purchased people to whom God is Father, dwelling among them and hearing fruitfully as a Recompenser, causing them to forget the evil days. He is a Father o f judgment, by the Son of His right hand, a helping brother, judging when God meets the happy gathering in the great company from which the evil brother (i.e., Cain or the seed of the serpent) will be expelled by wrestling.

Reversing the names, and taking tribe and prince in the order of their divine enumeration (instead of prince and tribe), the following sense might be expressed :--See a Son in whom God, the Rock, hearing us, is peace, evoking praise by the oracle-purchase which he gives that he may dwell as a father fruitfully hearing us, and causing us to forget our toil in the recompense by the Son of his right hand, a father of judgment, judging through a helping brother making happy when God meets the great company of his gathering for the final wrestle against the brother of evil.

Whether this be a right rendering of the concealed meaning of the list of names divinely supplied to Moses for the numbering of Israel, it is not a little singular that the names should be capable of yielding meanings so exactly in harmony with the great purpose which God's dealings with Israel were designed to accomplish. Those who understand the Gospel of the Kingdom and reconciliation, will have no difficulty in recognizing the complete adumbration of that purpose in the order of these names. And as the Law of Moses was in all things a shadow of good things to come, it is probable we are not wrong in seeking to trace these good things in so unpromising a hiding-place as a mere list of names.

Law of Moses Ch 32

6 Of Simeon; Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai.

Scripture Names Doctrinally Applicable to Christ

 Zurishaddai, Rock of Mighty Ones.

"That rock was Christ." "A man shall be as the shadow of a great rock."—(Isaiah 32:2.)

The Christadelphian, June 1873

12 Of Dan; Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai.

Scripture Names Doctrinally Applicable to Christ

Ahiezer, Brother of Help.

"He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also and him who hath no helper."—(Psalm 72:12.)

The Christadelphian, June 1873

46 Even all they that were numbered were 603 550.

The total number of fighting men 603 550

Israel Defense Forces 2016 - Wikipedia statistics suggest a total army (ground, air and sea) 

of 647 000

Active personnel 26,000 active combat soldiers,

176,500 total active (ranked 34th)

Reserve personnel 445,000

49 Only thou shalt not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel:

50 But thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle.

51 And when the tabernacle setteth forward, the Levites shall take it down: and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.


One tribe only received no special inheritance-Levi. This arrangement was made on God's express instructions. It was necessitated by the separation of the Levites to serve in the Sanctuary in the nation's stead (yet representatively, let it be remembered). "Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die. But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance" (Num. 18 : 22-23).

We have already established that the Levites, as ministers in the Court, were an objective representation of the people as a whole. That factor is the clue to the moral purpose behind the arrangement which prevented them from having a tribal inheritance of their own. Obviously, the whole of the nation could not relinquish secular activities in favour of service at the Sanctuary: only by cultivating the soil could the mass of the nation survive. But what was impracticable for the nation as a whole was nevertheless feasible in the case of one tribe in particular.

To Aaron, as head of this tribe, God said, "Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel" (Num. 18: 20). The Levites, that is, were to depend entirely upon God for their sustenance. But since they were only typical of the nation as a whole, the principle involved was meant to hold good for all. The arrangement was meant to develop in the mind of every reflective Israelite a correct attitude toward his inheritance, judged as a material possession.

The wealth and sustenance which it yielded him were never to blind him to the fact that those, like the soil itself, came to him from God. Though the words, "The Lord is his inheritance" (Deut. 10: 9), applied strictly to Levi alone, each true Israelite nevertheless was meant to take the lesson to himself. Faithful indeed was the man who did so to such an extent that he could claim, "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage" (Psa. 16 : 5-6).

Law and Grace Ch 11

52 And the children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp, and every man by his own standard, throughout their hosts.

In Numbers,‭ ‬we have the organization of the camp of Israel in the wilderness.‭ ‬It might seem at first as if this had no interest or use for us-a thing of the past-an inherently transient thing,‭ ‬which having answered its purpose during Israel's passage from Egypt to the promised land,‭ ‬could be of no possible service to those who came after.‭ ‬This must be a wrong thought in view of the elaborate record it has received among those‭ "‬whatsoever things‭" ‬which have been‭ "‬written for our learning.‭"

‭ ‬That it is a wrong thought we discover when we apply our minds to the subject itself.‭ ‬The mere circumstance of a large travelling body of people being arranged by divine direction would impart to that arrangement a supreme interest-as a thing to study-a thing certain to be characterised by ingenuity and wisdom-a thing to be delighted in by those who admire the works of God,‭ ‬and take pleasure in seeking them out.

‭ ‬But when,‭ ‬in addition to this,‭ ‬we find that a typical significance was stamped upon all these arrangements,‭ ‬in foreshadowing of God's ultimate will concerning man,‭ ‬it is manifest that a subject of great depth and richness is opened out to the mind in these Mosaic specifications.

On the first head,‭ ‬we may note the perfect symmetry and convenience of all the arrangements.‭ ‬There was a system observed throughout.‭ ‬The whole congregation was sub-divided into tribes,‭ ‬consisting of descendants respectively of the twelve sons of Jacob.‭ ‬These tribes were grouped in threes,‭ ‬so as to make four camps of three tribes each,‭ ‬each camp having its own standard,‭ ‬the lion,‭ ‬the man,‭ ‬the ox,‭ ‬and the eagle.‭

The camps were named after the leading tribe in each camp-Judah,‭ ‬Reuben,‭ ‬Ephraim,‭ ‬and Dan.‭ ‬The four camps were arranged in a square round the tabernacle as a centre-the camp of Judah forming the east side,‭ ‬the camp of Reuben the south,‭ ‬the camp of Ephraim the west,‭ ‬and the camp of Dan the north.‭ ‬Inside these four camps,‭ ‬lying between them and the tabernacle in the centre,‭ ‬were four minor camps,‭ ‬consisting of the tribe of Levi,‭ ‬separated and sanctified for the priestly service in four sections,‭ ‬according to the sons of Levi-Gershon,‭ ‬Kohath,‭ ‬and Merari-the family of Moses and Aaron forming the fourth.‭

The Gershonites pitched to the west of the tabernacle,‭ ‬the Kohathites to the south,‭ ‬the Merarites to the north,‭ ‬and Moses and Aaron and their sons to the east,‭ ‬in front of the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.‭

To each of these sections was assigned a separate part of the work in taking down and putting up the tabernacle in their journeys.‭ ‬Aaron and his sons alone had to do with the naked holy things‭ (‬any others coming near were struck dead‭)‬.

‭ ‬It was the duty of the Kohathites to carry these things after they had first been covered and packed by Aaron and his sons.‭ ‬The Gershonites had charge of the curtain walls of the Court-a court or square enclosure which measured‭ ‬200‭ ‬feet by‭ ‬100‭ ‬feet,‭ ‬and they had also charge of the curtains and coverings of the tabernacle,‭ ‬which stood in the centre of the Court.‭ ‬It was their duty to take these down and carry them.‭ ‬It was the duty of the Merarites to unfasten the boards and take down the pillars and lift out the heavy metallic sockets which were let into the ground for the pillars to stand on.

The order of march was accommodated to these divisions.‭ ‬When the time arrived to strike their tents,‭ ‬Aaron's sons blew an alarm on silver trumpets‭ (‬made for the purpose‭)‬.‭ ‬At this signal,‭ ‬the camp on the east‭ (‬consisting of the tribes of Judah,‭ ‬Issachar,‭ ‬and Zebulon‭) ‬broke up and got on the march.‭ ‬At the same time,‭ ‬the Levites were getting the tabernacle down in the order of their service‭; ‬and first went the Merarites with the sockets,‭ ‬pillars and boards,‭ ‬and then the Gershonites with the curtains,‭ ‬cords,‭ ‬and coverings.‭

When these had marched,‭ ‬another alarm on the trumpets summoned the south camp,‭ ‬the camp of Reuben,‭ ‬which marched‭; ‬then marched the Kohathites,‭ ‬bearing the ark,‭ ‬the altars and holy vessels,‭ ‬for which,‭ ‬when the march ended,‭ ‬the Gershonites and Merarites had got the tabernacle erected in readiness.‭ ‬Next a blast of the trumpets brought forward the west and then the north camp,‭ ‬all halting in the same order at the end of their journey,‭ ‬and pitching in the original form of a square round the tabernacle.

No better arrangement could be imagined for the guidance of an immense body of people on the march.‭ ‬It bears the marks of divine wisdom on the face of it.‭ ‬But consider the spiritual significances which it yields.‭ ‬Here is a divine organisation of human life in a national capacity‭; ‬and what is its most conspicuous feature‭?

The tabernacle of the divine presence in the midst‭-‬God the Centre-the pivot upon which the whole system turns-the source of all direction and law.‭ ‬How great a contrast is this to human system‭! ‬How complete the lesson that human life can never be and will never be what it ought to be until God's authority in visible administration is the heart and kernel of human society upon earth.‭ ‬It is nothing less than the Kingdom of God in miniature.‭

Christ enthroned at Jerusalem,‭ ‬and ruling by the hands of his own immortal friends in all the earth,‭ ‬will soon establish the Father's name as the controlling power of human life-a fertilising and ennobling ideal that will generate joy and beauty everywhere.‭ ‬The anti-typical tabernacle of God will thus be with men as the typical was with Israel:‭ ‬and they shall be His people,‭ ‬as Israel was‭; ‬and,‭ ‬what Israel did not experience,‭ ‬God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes,‭ ‬and at last,‭ ‬there shall be no more death,‭ ‬neither sorrow and crying.

Sunday morning 178

It seems strange that we are not told in Scripture that the four standards of Israel's camp were the same as the four faces of the Cherubim. We have to glean this important link from Josephus who is notoriously inaccurate and undependable. But in this case it seems strongly confirmed in these ways-

1. It fits the picture exactly: just what we would have to assume if not told.

2. The arrangement is identical, viewed looking north, as Ezekiel was-

LION - Judah - right - East

MAN - Reuben - front - South

OX - Ephraim - left - West

EAGLE - Dan - back - North

Judah is elsewhere identified by the lion, and Ephraim by the ox. These are the two principal tribes or encampments.

In this use of the Israelitish encampment as the natural basis of the spiritual Cherubim symbol, we have emphasized the Jewish foundation of the Way of Life-

"Salvation is of the Jews" (Jn. 4:22).

"Though I make a full end of all nations, yet will I not make a full end of thee" (Jer. 30:11).

"The nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish" (Isa. 60:12).

These four faces or aspects of the Cherubim symbol of God Manifestation primarily refer to Christ - the phases of his work and character.

Bro Growcott - The living Creatures and the bow

53 But the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony, that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel: and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony.

The innermost tents of the Israelites did not encroach upon the Sanctuary. God was too holy and Israel too sinful for such familiarity of intercourse between the two to be possible. Girdling the Sanctuary were the tents of the Levites, God's specially appointed near neighbours. Physical contact with the structure of the Sanctuary was restricted to them as a tribe.

...The location of the Levitical tents, separating the Israelite from his God, reminded him of his sinfulness and the way it excluded him from God's presence. Yet it also presented him with an ideal for the conduct of his spiritual life. For were not the Levites but another objective representation of himself?

They were "the firstborn" in another form. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him. And they shall keep his charge, and the charge of the whole congregation before the taberncle of the congregation, to do the service of the tabernacle ... And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine; because all the firstborn are mine" (Num. 3: 6-13).

...The Levites appear to have come to occupy this representative position in stages. They distinguished themselves by their zeal for God when the nation had fallen to worshipping the golden calf (Exod. 32 : 26-29). Probably it was in recognition of this that it was duly decreed, "the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony" (Num. 1: 53). The exchange of them for the consecrated first born would follow naturally from this as a more practical arrangement of the working of the Tabernacle services, and also as of more striking symbolical value in the scheme of the Law as a whole.

...As, then, the consecration of the firstborn taught the Israelite that the whole of his life and possessions were really God's, so the tents of the Levites were an object lesson to him. Of the Levites, pre-eminently, it was true to say that the Sanctuary was in the midst of them. But precisely because of that the ministry of the Sanctuary (i.e., the work of the Lord) was to occupy the whole of their working day and the full extent of their active working lives (Num. 8: 23-26). "For they are wholly given unto me from among the children of Israel; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel have I taken them unto me" (Num. 8 : 16).

Law of Moses Ch 5.