In the Center of the Camp
Lesson 11 | Sabbath, 10 September 2022
“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 shallthey pitch.” Numbers 2:2.
“The Hebrew camp was arranged in exact order. It was separated into three great divisions, each having its appointed position in the encampment. In the center was the tabernacle, the abiding place of the invisible King. Around it were stationed the priests and Levites. Beyond these were encamped all the other tribes.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 374, 375.
Every tribe in its special place
- After traveling, when the people stopped somewhere, how were the tribes to arrange their tents in the new camp? In every location, what place did the tabernacle occupy?
Numbers 1:52; 2:1, 2 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…. 2:1 And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 2Every 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.
“In all their journeyings they observed perfect order. Every tribe bore a standard, with the sign of their father’s house on it, and every tribe was commanded to pitch by their own standard. And when they traveled the different tribes marched in order, every tribe under their own standard. When they rested from their journeyings, the tabernacle was erected, and then the different tribes pitched their tents in order, in just such a position as God commanded, around the tabernacle, at a distance from it.” –The Story of Redemption, p. 157.
- Which three tribes were situated in front of the entrance to the taber- nacle, that is, on the eastern side? Which three were on the opposite side, on the west?
Numbers 2:3, 5, 7, 18, 20, 22, first parts And on the east side toward the rising of the sun shall they of the standard of the camp of Judah pitch throughout their armies: and … of the children of Judah…. 5And those that do pitch next unto him shall be the tribe of Issachar…. 7 Then the tribe of Zebulun:… 18 On the west side shall be the standard of the camp of Ephraim…. 20 And by him shall be the tribe of Manasseh:… 22Then the tribe of Benjamin:…
“From the outset of the journey from Egypt, lessons had been given for their training and discipline. Even before they left Egypt a temporary organization hadbeen effected, and the people were arranged in companies, under appointed leaders. At Sinai the arrangements for organization were completed. The order so strikingly displayed in all the works of God was manifest in the Hebrew economy. God was the center of authority and government. Moses, as His representative, was to administer the laws in His name. Then came the council of seventy, then the priests and the princes, under these ‘captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens’ (Numbers 11:16, 17; Deuteronomy 1:15), and, lastly, officers appointed for special duties.” –Education, p. 37.
- Which tribes were located on the north? And, finally, which tribes took their places on the south?
Numbers 2:25, 27, 29, 10, 12, 14 The standard of the camp of Dan shall be on the north side by their armies:… 27 And those that encamp by him shall be the tribe of Asher: and the captain of the children of Asher…. 29 Then the tribe of Naphtali:… 10On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben…. 12 And those which pitch by him shall be the tribe of Simeon:… 14 Then the tribe of Gad….
“The position of each tribe also was specified. Each was to march and to encamp beside its own standard, as the Lord had commanded: ‘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.’ ‘As they encamp, so shall they set forward, every man in his place by their standards.’ Numbers 2:2, 17. The mixed multitude that had accompanied Israel from Egypt were not permitted to occupy the same quarters with the tribes, but were to abide upon the outskirts of the camp…. Deuteronomy 23:7, 8.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 375.
The Levites’ place
- Who were the sons of Levi, who made up the three largest families of the Levites? In relation to all of the tribes, where did the Levites pitch their tents?
Numbers 1:53; 3:17 But the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testi- mony, 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…. 3:17 And these were the sons of Levi by their name: Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari.
“The camp was arranged in exact order, the tabernacle, the abiding place of God, in the midst, and around it the tents of the priests and the Levites. Outside of these each tribe encamped beside its own standard.” –Education, pp. 37, 38.
- Did the members of these families just camp in the first place they came to, or were there exact specifications for them to follow?
Numbers 3:23, 29, 35, 38 The families of the Gershonites shall pitch behind the tabernacle westward…. 29The families of the sons of Kohath shall pitch on the side of the tabernacle southward…. 35And the chief of the house of the father of the families of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail: these shall pitch on the side of the tabernacle northward…. 38But those that encamp before the tabernacle toward the east, even before the tabernacle of the congregation eastward, shall be Moses, and Aaron and his sons, keeping the charge of the sanctuary for the charge of the children of Israel; and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.
“To the Levites was committed the charge of the tabernacle and all that pertained thereto, both in the camp and on the journey. When the camp set forward they were to strike the sacred tent; when a halting place was reached they were to set it up. No person of another tribe was allowed to come near, on pain of death. The Levites were separated into three divisions, the descendants of the three sons of Levi, and each was assigned its special position and work. In front of the tabernacle, and nearest to it, were the tents of Moses and Aaron. On the south were the Kohathites, whose duty it was to care for the ark and the other furniture; on the north the Merarites, who were placed in charge of the pillars, sockets, boards, etc.; in the rear the Gershonites, to whom the care of the curtains and hangings was committed.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 375.
Order in the camp and for travel
- When were the people to respect the established order–only when camped, or also at other times?
Numbers 1:51; 2:17 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…. 2:17 Then the tabernacle of the congregation shall set forward with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camp: as they encamp, so shall they set forward, every man in his place by their standards.
“In all their journeyings they were required to observe perfect order. Every tribe bore a standard with the sign of their father’s house upon it, and each tribe wasrequired to pitch under its own standard. When the ark moved, the armies journeyed, the different tribes marching in order, under their own standards. The Levites were designated by the Lord as the tribe in the midst of whom the sacred ark was to be borne, Moses and Aaron marching just in front of the ark, and the sons of Aaron following near them, each bearing trumpets. They were to receive directions from Moses, which they were to signify to the people by speaking through the trumpets. These trumpets gave special sounds which the people understood, and directed their movements accordingly.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 650.
- What instruction do we receive concerning God’s order through the example of the Hebrews? How do you think people today would have behaved if they had lived under that system? In a similar manner, who should be the center and great focus of a Christian’s life?
Numbers 2:34 And the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord com- manded Moses: so they pitched by their standards, and so they set forward, every one after their families, according to the house of their fathers.
John 3:14, 15 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
“Christ designs that heaven’s order, heaven’s plan of government, heaven’s divine harmony, shall be represented in His church on earth. Thus in His people He is glorified. Through them the Sun of Righteousness will shine in undimmed luster to the world. Christ has given to His church ample facilities, that He may receive a large revenue of glory from His redeemed, purchased possession. He has bestowed upon His people capabilities and blessings that they may represent His own sufficiency. The church, endowed with the righteousness of Christ, is His depositary, in which the riches of His mercy, His grace, and His love, are to appear in full and final display. Christ looks upon His people in their purity and perfection, as the reward of His humiliation, and the supplement of His glory–Christ, the great Center, from whom radiates all glory.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 680.
“As the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness by Moses, and all that had been bitten by the fiery serpents were bidden to look and live, so also the Son of man must be lifted up, that ‘whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 92.
The great Center
“The third angel’s message calls for the presentation of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, and this truth must be brought before the world; but the great Center of attraction, Jesus Christ, must not be left out of the third angel’s message….
“The sinner must ever look toward Calvary; and with the simple faith of a little child, he must rest in the merits of Christ, accepting His righteousness and believing in His mercy.” –(Review and Herald, March 20, 1894) Evangelism, pp. 184, 185.