Encampment and Movement of the Twelve Tribes in the Wilderness

They only moved when the Pillar moved and they followed wherever it went. Nu.9:15-23

God commanded Moses at Mount Sinai to take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses; counting every male from twenty years old and above who was fit for service in God’s army.

The children of Israel organized themselves according to the tribes that descended from the original twelve sons of Jacob.  Each tribe designated one leader who was the head of his father’s house.  The tribe of Levi was set apart (without the designated land inheritance of all the other tribes) unto the service of GOD to care for, protect and transport everything pertaining to the Tabernacle from camp to camp.  Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, were to receive their father’s inheritance, and so, their names appear among the tribes of Israel, instead of the name of Joseph.

Movement and encampment in the wilderness was highly organized like a military organization.  Each of the twelve tribes were assigned specific places and responsibilities in the camp and on the march.  Each side of the Tabernacle was protected in camp by three tribes who encamped and marched together like a military division.  The sons of Levi with their families camped close to the Tabernacle with each of the four army groups.

Tabernacle encampment
Tribe encampment around the Tabernacle

Eastern Division

  • Judah tribal symbol

    Judah

    Commanding tribe of the eastern division

    Leader of the Judah Tribe: Nahshon

    Number of soldiers: 74,600

  • Zebulun tribal symbol

    Zebulon

    Leader of the Zebulon Tribe: Eliav

    Number of soldiers: 57,400

  • Issachar tribal symbol

    Issachar

    Leader of the Issachar Tribe: Nethanel

    Number of soldiers: 54,400

  • Symbols of the 12 tribes of Israel

    Aaron & Sons

    Responsibilities: Aaron and his sons would go in and cover all the Holy items in the Tabernacle to prepare for the march.

    They would cover the Ark with the Parochet (the veil to the Holy of Holies) then with Tahash hide skin and then a blue cloth.

    On the table of shewbread they would spread a blue cloth and place on it the dishes, incense pans, offering bowls and pitchers and cover it all with a scarlet cloth and Tahash hide skin.  Nu.4:5-14

    Aaron’s son Eliazer was responsible to supervise the Kohath Levites in their holy duties.  Aaron’s son Itamar was responsible to supervise the Mereri and Gershon Levites.

Southern Division

  • Reuben

    Reuben

    Commanding tribe of the southern division

    Leader of the Reuben Tribe: Elizur

    Number of soldiers: 46,500

  • Gad tribal symbol

    Gad

    Leader of the Gad Tribe: Eliasaph

    Number of soldiers: 45,650

  • Simeon tribal symbol

    Simeon

    Leader of the Simeon Tribe: Shelumiel

    Number of soldiers: 59,300

  • Symbols of the 12 tribes of Israel

    Levi Sons of Kohath

    Leader:  Elizaphan

    Responsibilities: Carrying the Altar of Sacrifice; the Washbasin; the Shewbread table; the Menorah lampstand; the Incense Altar; the bundle of Holy utensils and The Ark of the Covenant.  Nu.4:17-20; Nu.3:31&32.

Western Division

  • icon

    Ephraim

    Commanding tribe of the western division

    Leader of the Ephraim Tribe: Elishama

    Number of soldiers: 40,500

  • Benjamin tribal symbol

    Benjamin

    Leader of the Benjamin Tribe: Avidan

    Number of soldiers: 35,400

  • Joseph (Manasseh) tribal symbol

    Manasseh

    Leader of the Manasseh Tribe: Gamaliel

    Number of soldiers: 32,200

  • Symbols of the 12 tribes of Israel

    Levi Sons of Gershon

    Leader:  Eliasaph

    Responsibilities: Duties in the Tabernacle and courtyard

Northern Division

  • Dan tribal symbol

    Dan

    Commanding tribe of the northern division

    Leader of the Dan Tribe: Elizur

    Number of soldiers: 62,700

  • Asher tribal symbol

    Asher

    Leader of the Asher Tribe: Pagiel

    Number of soldiers: 41,500

  • Napthali tribal symbol

    Naphtali

    Leader of the Naphtali Tribe: Ahira

    Number of soldiers: 53,400

  • Symbols of the 12 tribes of Israel

    Levi Sons of Merari

    Leader: Zuriel

    Responsibilities: Duties in the Tabernacle and courtyard

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