Numbers 2 Commentary: The community is organized.
The first census is covered in chapter 1. Chapter 2 concerns itself with the physical arrangement in the camp and when marching out as they begin to possess the land. It looks plain but in reality this is a military activity and forms part of the conquest strategy.
The nation of Israel is organized in units. There is a pattern for marching out as well as a pattern for camping. The value of organization we saw in chapter one is expanded here. Chapter 2 is the reason for the census.
The units seem to surround the tabernacle. The obvious picture is that the Ark required protection. No. The picture is that the Ark was a central component of life for Israel. They needed the Ark to protect them. We need the presence of God to protect us hence the centrality of its importance. The divisions are equidistantly spaced around the Ark. No one should be closer than the others. The LORD is as near to your heart as He is near to your brother’s heart.
Generally speaking Israel is marching in the Eastern direction from the West. So camped in the Eastern side is the division of Judah – the strongest and leader of God’s community. Any enemy resistance will have to deal with Judah first. Put your right foot forward. This seems to be the obvious pick from these lines.
The weakest division belonged to Joseph and it camped in the western side of the Sanctuary. We guess there is no better way to protect the weakest member of the community. But when charging out this division marched out third. So we have the strongest division leading the charge while the real guard is served by the second strongest division.
Judah is to march out first, probably because of its military strength. We are reminded of the blessing of Judah in Genesis chapter 49. The Levites are not numbered because of the important role of caring for the tabernacle. The general misunderstanding that pastors don’t work is partly drawn from here. No. They work. Their work is taking care of the tabernacle. They get paid and are sustained by the tabernacle offering machinery initiated by God.
This chapter continues the preparations started in chapter 1 for the conquest of Canaan. The two years were important as the LORD needed to spell out terms of the covenant with the entire community. They needed to be washed before entering the Promised Land.
A Christian walk is a charge into enemy territory. Both organization and placement of troops is important. Yes, the LORD will achieve the conquest of Canaan on Israel’s behalf but the community must be organized first. Put out your strengths first. Let your best charge out first. This is a military strategy. In our walk with the LORD we are encouraged to let our light shine. We shouldn’t let our weakness take charge of our campaigns. Let the enemy face your faith first, not your prayerlessness and doubt.
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