Numbers 2 – Details Details

Last time we talked about numbers 2:1. The only thing I want to say about verse 1 now is it clearly indicates to us that the following verses are God’s instructions to Moses and Aaron. What I want us to notice today is the repeating pattern in God’s instructions here. Let’s take a closer look at Numbers 2:2-32. I won’t reprint all of those verses here so you will probably want to have your Bible open as you read this devotional (which is always a good idea anyway).

In this chapter God gives specific details outlining how He wants the nation to camp. He calls out the tribes by name and where they are to be positioned. He calls out each of the tribe’s leaders by name too.

Let’s take a quick peek at verse two.

Numbers 2:2

     2       “Everyone of the children of Israel shall camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house; they shall camp some distance from the tabernacle of meeting.


This is a nation but God refers to them as the children of Israel. There, of course, are two ways to understand this reference. Remember that Jacob was renamed Israel. So to call this nation the children of Israel accurately tells us that the individuals composing this nation are the direct descendants of one man, named Israel

The other way to understand the reference children of Israel is if you think of God as Father, which is how Jesus taught us to think about the first person of the Trinity, then from God’s perspective, all of the individuals in this nation are perceived by God to be His Children. However, even though this would technically be a correct way to understand the reference I don’t believe this new nation thought of God as their father. They saw Him as the covenant God whose proper name is YHWH (Yahweh). 

When referencing this new nation YHWH often talked about them in the context of family. He used words such as children and father, as we see in this passage, and brothers or brethren in other scriptural references. It is as if God is underscoring the importance of their family lineage. It seems YHWH wanted them to be constantly aware of both their ancestors as well as their descendants. 

Maybe we don’t always think about this but God designed the family, which means family is important to Him and should be to us. Where does He tell them to camp? By their own standards (flags) beside their emblem (or family crest) of his father’s house. This new nation of Israel is one big family unit consisting of twelve different tribes and further divided down to individual families or households.

God then commands that they should camp some distance from the tabernacle of meeting. The individual could not approach God directly, they needed the Levites to provide a sort of buffer zone in the camp.

God tells them they are to camp by tribe and tells them specifically which side whether North, South, East or West (verse 3). Notice the phrase according to their armies. This huge family forms a massive military force and they are arranged around the tabernacle in military fashion! Then God tells the number of military personnel in each tribe and who is to camp next to them.

The above pattern is repeated over and over in this chapter until all twelve tribes have been placed by God in the camp. They would break camp, travel, set up camp, again and again, Judah would be camped to the East and the other tribes facing exactly the same direction they were in the last time they camped. This they did for forty years! 

I have been taught that when God repeats Himself or repeats a pattern we need to sit up and pay particular attention to the details. When God repeats things it’s as if He is bolding or underlining that passage of scripture.

There is a particular phrase I have come to hate. It is the devil is in the details. Not for those of us who have read our Bibles. The devil is not in the details and if you are fond of repeating that phrase I hope you will stop! God, as Numbers chapter two clearly indicates is the one in the details.

God is truly worthy of all praise and worship!


All Scripture Quotations From The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

2 Replies to "Numbers 2 - Details Details"

  • Roger Streifel
    September 17, 2019 (6:54 pm)

    Unlike the tribes, we can approach God directly with no mediator. A wonderful reminder of how distant I keep Him much of the time with inconsistent prayer, study, and worship of Him

    • Mark Hathaway
      September 18, 2019 (10:48 am)

      Your comment is interesting. If you think about it, even with the Levites as mediators the individual didn’t really have a personal relationship with God. Because of the mediatorial work of Christ we do have a personal relationship with God (including Jesus and the Holy Spirit).

      Romans 13:14 (NKJV) says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” It’s as if Jesus our mediator acts as a protective covering shielding us from the destructive effects of God’s Holiness.

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