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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Numbers

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2.1–34 : The plan of the wilderness camp.

This is an idealized plan, with the sanctuary in the center of the community (contrast 11.26n. ). Ch 2 prescribes the positions of the twelve tribes, and ch 3 sets out the positions of the Levites and priests (cf. 1.53; 3.23,29,35 ).

3–31 :

The twelve tribes are divided into four divisions, each with three tribes. A combination of genealogical (Gen 29.31–30.24; 35.16–18 ) and geographical principles (see Josh 13–19 ; see color Map 3 at end of book) influences their positions around the wilderness sanctuary. Tribes that descend from Rachel (Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin) and are centrally located in the traditional apportionment of the land of Israel form a division on the west, the central axis of the camp ( 2.18–24 ). Tribes that descend from Rachel's and Leah's maidservants Bilhah (Dan, Naphtali) and Zilpah (Asher) and are the northernmost tribes in the land form a division on the north of the sanctuary (vv. 25–31 ). Two tribes that descend from Leah (Simeon and Reuben) and are southernmost tribes, together with Gad, a son of Zilpah, but who adjoins Reuben's inheritance in the land, form a division on the south of the sanctuary (vv. 10–16 ). Finally, three other tribes that descend from Leah (Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun) form a division on the east of the sanctuary. The geographical principle is less clear here since Judah is a southern tribe, and Issachar and Zebulun are northern tribes. However, these tribes fall together when one subtracts the northernmost and southernmost tribes, as well as the central Rachel tribes. Judah's placement in the distinguished position on the east, the location of the sanctuary's entrance, appears to be due in part to its position as the royal tribe of the southern kingdom. See 10.14–28n.; 34.16–19n.

9,17,24,31 :

On the marching formation of the camp see 10.14–28n.

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