1 And Yahweh spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
2 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.
The santuary was holy as Yahweh is holy. This is what they were being taught by pitching far off about the tabernacle. Only the anointed priests of the tribe of Levi were permitted close proximity to the sanctuary. Yahweh may be approached on his own terms of his choosing. Man must abase himself.
Their business was to
"assemble the congregation... and declare their pedigrees, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names",
Here was a preparation for the settlement that was about to be effected in the land of promise--a preparation pointing in the direction of order, precision, exactness of arrangements--first, the tribes carefully discriminated one from the other (no doubt they got mixed in Egypt a little); then the houses, or great branches in each tribe; then the leading families in each branch; and then the heads of households in each family.
As a measure of expediency, in a large body of people on the march from one country to another, something of the sort was indispensable to avoid inevitable confusion. This exact registry and enumeration of the people served a highly practical and pressing purpose; but does it yield no "pattern" for the days that are to come? Of this there can be no question.
The mind naturally looks forward into the days of the Kingdom with curiosity as to the form of things, as regards practical arrangements. Will the multitude of the saved be as a mere cloud of disconnected atoms, each individual at liberty to rove and roam at his own sweet will? or will they be organized in such a way that each will have his own duties and his own place in the circle assigned to him? This Mosaic census in the wilderness supplies the answer.
We might have gleaned it on the principle hinted at by Paul when he asked the Corinthians: "Doth not nature itself teach you?" Order and mutuality of social obligations is the one thing that distinguishes human life from brute life. A herd of cattle, a drove of horses, a flock of sheep, exemplify the latter. Men living in communities, whether in tribes, villages, towns, cities or kingdoms, show the former.
The higher up we ascend in the state of man, the more complex and definite are his social relations, till you come to the aristocracy, where etiquette is as the breath of their life. That the principle extends to man's relation to God is shown by the whole Mosaic ritual, and by nothing more than in that declaration of the righteousness of God in the sacrifice of Christ, which is the basis of invited reconciliation. Is it conceivable, then, that the life of the redeemed should be a social chaos? The casual glimpses we get in various ways contradict the thought. Order and organization are indicated in all revelations on the subject.
Consider the symbolic use of the twelve tribes of Israel to represent the whole multitude of the redeemed (Rev. 7:4-8); the employment of a New Jerusalem, having tribe-named gates and apostolic-named foundations, to signify their municipal relation to the world (Rev. 21:12-14); a temple with foundations of apostle and prophet to express their relation to God (Eph. 2:20-21; 2 Cor. 6:16); and the human body, with its different members of differing functions, to illustrate the inter-dependent relations of the different parts of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:19-27).
As, therefore, the congregation of the Israelites were organized and numbered before they entered the land of promise, we may be sure the community of God's immortalized children will be exact in number and definite in station. They are being slowly developed from age to age, each according to his foreseen and assigned place in the new and perfect system of things coming. The hour comes when as it is expressed in the 87th Psalm, "the Lord will count when he writes up the people"; or as it is in Malachi 3, He will "make up his jewels", who are defined in the previous verses as "they that feared the Lord and spake often one to another", for whom "a book of remembrance was written before him", and saith He, "they shall be mine in that day", when, as it is testified in the next chapter, "they shall go forth and grow up as fattening calves", and "shall tread down the wicked as ashes under the soles of their feet".
All this implies very definite organization, as indeed is conclusively signified in the larger expression that God will make "new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness"
Law of Moses Ch 32
3 And on the east side toward the rising of the sun shall they of the standard [lion] of the camp of Judah pitch throughout their armies: and Nahshon the son of Amminadab shall be captain of the children of Judah.
"The status of firstborn was originally invested in Reuben"
Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power - Gen 49: 3.
This changed due to his sin
Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine - Gen 35: 22
[He did, however, save Joseph's life when his murderous brothers intended to slay him - Gen 37: 21]
"The chief position, "toward the rising of the sun" is given to Judah...The position of Judah, therefore, constantly asserted the intention of Yahweh to supercede the natural firstborn by the spiritual firstborn, the true "Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Rev 5: 5)
The Leviticus Expositor
32 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 603 550.
Now collectively the saints are an encampment, and are so represented in Apoc. xx. 9; where it is stated, that the rebel nations at the close of the Millennium go up against their "camp."
As the saints are "the Israel of the Deity;" and though by the accident of birth multitudes of them were once Gentiles, yet by adoption through Jesus were grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel; they necessarily partake of its national organization.
The camp of the saints, then, has its ensigns in conformity with those of the four camps into which the twelve tribes were distributed, whose captains or princes they become. From Numb. ii we learn that the whole host of Israel was marshalled about four standards: the first, that of Judah; the second, of Reuben; the third, of Ephraim; and the fourth, of Dan; and in the midst of these four grand divisions was the camp of the priests and saints, and in their midst the tabernacle, in which was the throne of Yahweh over the Mercy Seat and between the Cherubim.
Now, of these several camps of fighting men the following were their ensigns: first, the Lion, which symbolized the camp of Judah; second, the Man that of Reuben; third, the Ox that of Ephraim; and fourth, the Eagle for the camp of Dan.
Hence it is that the Lamb in Apoc. v. 5, is styled "the Lion of the Tribe of Judah."
Being descended from that tribe, and the King of the nation too, the royalty of which belongs to Judah, he is symbolized by the ensign; and as the king is thus designated, so all his brethren, the saints, are apocalyptically divided into camps about the throne; each camp being represented by a living one; and the ensigns of the camps borrowed from the nation they are to rule.
And that the reader may not erroneously suppose that the four living ones represent the fleshly descendants of Abraham, their standards are enumerated after a different order; it being first, the lion; second, the ox; third, the man; and fourth, a flying eagle.
Apocalyptically, then, we have the whole multitude of resurrected and accepted saints marshalled into four camps in the midst of, and circling about the throne; and according to the law, "every man of the children of Israel pitching by his own standard with the ensign of his father's house."
There will be the east camp composed of three gates, or tribes; on the north three; on the south three; and on the west three (xxi. 12,13); all ready to go forth following the Head to the place it may indicate (Ezek. x. 11) on the mission of the chariots and horses.
In the new song they sing they say, "We shall reign on the earth;" not "we do reign."
They go forth energized by the spirit to establish their dominion, and to fill the earth with glory; so that when their victory is complete they may as royal priests of the Deity, cast the coronal wreaths they have acquired before the throne; that he who sits upon it, whom in their wars they will have followed whithersoever he led them, may receive the glory and honour and power; for the reason that he has "created all things, and for his pleasure they are and were created."
34 And the children of Israel did according to all that Yahweh 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.
For the moment they were obedient to the Law of Moses.
Possible formation of encampment.