All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

God Is Our Fortress and Strength

Communication in the Hebrew language to the ancients is both rich and varied. Using their five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, they come to know and understand something by personal experience, rather than by rational thought. Through hearing they understand words, thoughts, and symbols. Through sight they experience reality, beauty, and form. Imagery of things they’ve experienced or understood in the past is used to understand similar new things or experiences they encounter in the present.

The Camp

In Numbers 2, the Israelites are portrayed as a military camp, where each tribe is numbered and encamped separately around the tabernacle by its own banner or flag. Judah is camped on the east side. They are the chief tribe, along with the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun. On the south side is the chief tribe of Reuben, along with Simeon and Gad. The chief tribe of Ephraim is camped on the west side, along with Manasseh and Benjamin. On the north side, Dan is the chief tribe, along with Asher and Naphtali. This geometric pattern is also likely repeated on the breastplate of the High Priest.

The Thirteenth Tribe

You will notice that this chapter lists thirteen tribes, even though Joseph and Levi are not listed as part of the twelve tribes that make up the army. This is because Jacob adopted Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, essentially giving their father a double portion of the inheritance. The thirteenth tribe of Levi serves as spiritual officers and guardians of the tabernacle, and is encamped between the twelve tribes and the sanctuary.

Numbers 3 and 4 list those who are to care for the sanctuary and minister within it. God declares the tribe of Levi as His firstborn, therefore making it spiritually responsible for the people. The three sons of Levi and their descendants have different sanctuary responsibilities: Gerson camps on the west side and cares for its coverings; Kohath camps on the south side and cares for its furniture; and Merari camps on the north side and cares for its frame and structure.

The sons of Aaron are to minister within the tabernacle. They camp at the front, on the east side, and their work symbolizes the ministration of the coming Messiah. They must be 30 years of age in order to officiate, just as the Redeemer would, in the future.

Protection All Around

The organization of the tribes of Israel as a military encampment with the tabernacle in the center, geometrically portrays the whole camp as a military fortress, with the Lord’s house/palace at the center. Its form is a perfect square, indicating there is no weak side for attack. The Lord protects them from the inside, and they in turn, have the responsibility to protect Him from the outside. The fact that He is always in the center of their camp demonstrates God’s great love for them, and His desire to be the center of their lives.

The geometric form of the encampment indicates that the Lord is the spiritual fortress and strength for His people, as well. He’s ever present, and when the camp moves, He remains always with them.

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Was I spinning? It must have worked.

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