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EXEGESIS > Old Testament > Pentateuch > Numbers > Num. 9:18 - Marching and Camping

Marching and Camping
Num. 9:18


God’s involvement with His people is total (9:18, 23); with the nation of Israel He told them when to march and the manner of their marching; and He told the nation when to camp and how the camp was to be organized (2:34); both the marching and the camping were ordered by God (9:15-23).

In fact, all of the nation’s life was directed and ordered by God – the worship, including the sacrifices to be offered and the festivals to be observed, family relationships, foods that could be eaten, farming practices, social regulations, health guidelines, and specific clean and unclean practices.

Against such national and religious directions by God, the psalmist stated in regards to his personal life: “Direct my steps by Your word” (119:133); the wise man echoed the same sentiment: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Prov. 3:5-6).

In Scripture there is not only a willingness to be directed in how to live one’s life, but there is a desire to be directed; to think in this manner reveals a commitment to the truth that life is not about the individual but about God.

Life is not to be lived according to the desire and design of the individual; that is not the individual’s right; life is from God and belongs to God; it is to be lived for Him.

The Nation Marching

    Moving the Tabernacle

The Levites were to dismantle, pack, carry, and setup the Tabernacle at the new destination; they were to transport the Tabernacle and all of its furnishings (2:47-51).

Three sons of Levi (Gershon, Kohath, and Merari) provided three divisions in the work of the Tabernacle: Gershonites – carried the tent, screen for the door, and the fabric wall around the Tabernacle (3:21-26); Kohathites – carried the furniture and the interior veil (3:27-31); and the Merarites – carried the supporting skeletal material (3:33-37).

    The Order during the March

The tribes on the east (Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun) broke camp first, followed by the tribes on the south (Reuben, Gad, and Simeon) which broke camp second; then followed the tribe of Levi bearing the Tabernacle and its furnishings—the Tabernacle was to be in the middle of the march; the tribes on the west (Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin) then followed, and finally the tribes on the north (Dan, Asher, and Naphtali).


All details of the nation’s march were ordered by the Lord; they started and stopped according to His directions; the fire and the cloud led them (9:15-23).

The Nation Camping

    The Organization of the Camp

The Tabernacle was to be erected and placed in the center of the camp, with all tribes camped around it; the Tabernacle was 150’ by 75’ and had one door, which always faced east.

Moses and Aaron were just outside the door of the Tabernacle (3:38), camped on the east side.

The Levites were to camp around the Tabernacle (1:53); the three divisions of the Levites camped as follows: Gershonites on the west; Kohathites on the south; and Merarites on the north.

The remaining tribes were to camp on the four sides of the Tabernacle, with three tribes on each side: East – Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun; South – Reuben, Gad, and Simeon; West – Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin; North – Dan, Asher, and Naphtali.

    Duties within the Camp

The Levites were to do the work of the Tabernacle, setting it up, dismantling and transporting it, and then setting it up again; also they directed all of the ceremonial practices related to the Tabernacle (1:47-53; 3:5-10, 32, 38).


When the nation was at camp, God was among His people; He was in the center; all of the nation was arranged around the symbol of His Presence, the Tabernacle.   The camp, their place of living, and their manner of living were ordered by the Lord.

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