Numbers 2:25-31

The book of Numbers is the fourth of the five books of Moses that comprise the Torah, which means “Law.” It gets its English name from the Greek Old Testament called the Septuagint (or LXX). The LXX named this book, “Arithmoi,” meaning “Numbers.” Its Hebrew name means “in the desert” or “in the wilderness.” Both names are appropriate. The Hebrew name is appropriate because Numbers covers the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness (or “desert”) from Sinai to the plains of Moab. The Greek name is also appropriate because of the many lists, and the numbers within those lists.

At the beginning of the book, the Israelites had been camped at Mount Sinai for about a year. The book of Exodus covered their escape from Egypt and their journey to Sinai. The LORD commanded Moses to organize the people in preparation to leave Sinai and go to the Promised Land. The book covers around 38 years of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, and describes many of Israel’s failures, including mutinies against Moses and outright disobedience to the word of the LORD. In Numbers, the LORD declares that the generation that left Egypt would die in the wilderness due to their disobedience. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, were allowed to enter the Promised Land, due to their faithfulness. Even Moses died without entering the Land due to disobedience.

The book of Numbers can be outlined in many ways. The most general outline involves the generation that leaves Egypt and the one after it, as seen below:
• Events Involving the Exodus Generation (Num. 1 – 25)
• Events Involving the Second Generation (Num. 26 – 36)

Another outline sees the book having three major divisions based on the major encampments of the Israelites:
• Israel at Sinai (Num. 1:1 – 10:10)
• Israel at Kadesh Barnea (Num. 10:11 – 19:22)
• Israel on the Plains of Moab (Num. 20:1 – 36:13)

Still another outline (the one followed here) is as follows:
• The Exodus Generation in the Wilderness (chaps. 1 – 25)
◦ The Israelites Prepare to Leave Mount Sinai (1:1 – 10:10)
◦ The Israelites Depart to Kadesh Barnea (10:11 – 14:45)
◦ The Israelites Journey to the Plains of Moab (15:1 – 22:1)
◦ The Israelites Are Confronted by Balaam the Prophet (22:2 – 25:18)
• The Second Generation Prepares to Enter the Promised Land (26:1 – 36:13)
◦ The Rules Concerning Inheritance (Num. 26:1 – 27:11)
◦ The Provision for Moses’ Successor (Num. 27:12 – 23)
◦ The Laws Concerning Offerings (Num. 28:1 – 29:40)
◦ The Laws Concerning Vows (Num. 30:1 –16)
◦ The LORD’s Judgment Against the Midianites (Num. 31:1 – 54)
◦ The Inheritance of the Eastern Tribes (Num. 32:1 – 42)
◦ The Review of the Journey to Canaan (Num. 33:1 – 56)
◦ The LORD’s Instructions Before Conquering Canaan (Num. 33:50 – 36:13)

There are two themes that flow from the book of Numbers. The first concerns the LORD’s infinite grace in light of the people’s many failures and transgressions. There is hardly a book in the Bible where the LORD had to exercise His grace to His people more often than this one. The book of Numbers contains a record of Israel’s failure after failure and the LORD’s gracious forgiveness after forgiveness. Even when He judged them, there was grace.

Second, and related to the first, the book stresses the importance of obedience. God chose the Israelites unconditionally; they were the LORD’s chosen people regardless of their behavior. However, He demanded obedience to show His people that their obedience results in blessing. God set forth a way of life for His people in the covenant He and the people entered into at Sinai (Exodus 19:5-8). The Ten Commandments made it clear that God would make the law, and that the pinnacle requirement of His law was for the people to respect and serve one another. The strong were to serve the weak. This was in stark contrast to the surrounding cultures, which centered around the strong exploiting the weak (Leviticus 18). God’s judgment brought discipline upon Israel in order to shepherd them toward living in harmony and service to one another.

The second chapter of the book of Numbers describes the arrangement of the tribal camps around the tabernacle. It describes where each tribe was to be when camped, and it specifies the order in which each tribe was to embark when marching to the Promised Land. The LORD did not want His people to go to the Promised Land as an unorganized, chaotic mass of people. Instead, with the tabernacle in the center, the camps of the other tribes are assigned to a specific place around the tabernacle. This was not only orderly, but also practical, as the fighting tribes were on the exterior, and the square formation would be difficult for an enemy to attack.
Numbers 2 can be outlined as follows:
–The LORD Commanded Moses to Arrange the Camps (Num. 2:1 – 2)
–The Tribes Placed on the East Side (Num. 2:3 – 9)
–The Tribes Placed on the South Side (Num. 2:10 – 16)
–The Tent of Meeting in the Midst of the Camps (Num. 2:17)
–The Tribes Placed on the West Side (Num. 2:18 – 24)
–The Tribes Placed on the North Side (Num. 2:25 – 31)
–Summary of the Arrangement (Num. 2:32 – 34)

The three tribes assigned to the north side of the tabernacle were Dan, Asher, and Naphtali. The number of men eligible for military service was given for each tribe. Also their leaders were named. These tribes were to move out last when the Israelites made their way through the wilderness.

The three tribes on the north were to gather around the standard of the camp of Dan. Thus the three tribes on the northern side were to bear the name “camp of Dan.” Dan was the first son of Rachel’s maid (Genesis 30:1 – 5).

Like the others, these tribes on the north were arranged by their armies. Each tribe was an army in and of itself. The leader of the sons of Dan was then named. It was Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. This agrees with what was stated in Numbers 1:12. The size of his army, even their numbered men, was 62,700. This is the same number that was given in Numbers 1:39.

The second tribe to camp on the north and to camp next to him [i.e., Dan] shall be the tribe of Asher. Asher was the second son of Zilpah, the maid of Leah (Genesis 30:12 – 13). The leader of the sons of Asher was Pagiel the son of Ochran (Numbers 1:13). The size his army—even their numbered men, was 41,500. This is the same number that was given in Numbers 1:41.

Next in line on the northern side of the tabernacle was the tribe of Naphtali (v. 29). Naphtali was the second son of Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant (Genesis 30:7 – 8). The leader of the sons of Naphtali was Ahira the son of Enan (Numbers 1:15). The size of Naphtali’s army, even his numbered men was 53,400. This is the same number that was given in Numbers 1:43.

So, the total of the numbered men of the camp of Dan was 157,600, by their armies. This was the total number of troops on the north side of the tabernacle. These three tribes on the north side of the camp were to set out last by their standards. When Israel went on the march, the camp of Dan would bring up the rear. The 157,600 troop strength of the camp of Dan, bringing up the rear, compared to the camp of Ephraim’s 108,100, the camp of Reuben’s 151,450, and the camp of Judah’s 186,400. The camp of Levi, who walked in the center surrounding the tabernacle, was not numbered because they were exempt from fighting.

The following list shows the complete order in which the tribes moved out when the Israelites were ordered to depart from where they were camped:



–Tent of Meeting with Levites



Biblical Text

25 “On the north side shall be the standard of the camp of Dan by their armies, and the leader of the sons of Dan: Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai,26 and his army, even their numbered men, 62,700.27 Those who camp next to him shall be the tribe of Asher, and the leader of the sons of Asher: Pagiel the son of Ochran,28 and his army, even their numbered men, 41,500.29 Then comes the tribe of Naphtali, and the leader of the sons of Naphtali: Ahira the son of Enan,30 and his army, even their numbered men, 53,400.31 The total of the numbered men of the camp of Dan was 157,600. They shall set out last by their standards.”