The Order of March – Numbers 10
Bearing the Ark of the Covenant
Numbers 4: 15; 10: 33
ARMY OF JUDAH
Numbers 10: 14 – 16
Numbers 10: 17
with four wagons drawn by eight oxen, bearing the boards, bars, pillars, and sockets of the tabernacle, and the court pillars and their sockets
Numbers 10: 17
with two wagons, drawn by four oxen, bearing the curtains, coverings, and hangings of the tabernacle, and the hangings of the court
THE ARMY OF REUBEN
Numbers 10: 18, 20
Numbers 10: 21
carrying the sacred furniture of the sanctuary and the court
THE ARMY OF EPHRAIM
Numbers 10: 22, 24
THE ARMY OF DAN
Numbers 10: 25 – 27
When the cloudy pillar arose from off the Tabernacle, it was the divine signal for the children of Israel to commence their journey to another place that God had chosen for them to go. They started immediately taking down their tents and making other preparations for family and possessions so that they could move. In a very short time indeed, preparations were being made to leave.
As the encampment had been set up in the most perfect order, so was the order of march. Every camp, tribe, and family marched in the place that had been assigned to them.
The Levites were the first to start the journey as the carried aloft the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark with its cloudy pillar above was a sacred standard for them as it went before them to the next place that God had ordained for them. When the cloud gave the signal, the bearers of the Ark moved forward simultaneously. The priests blew an alarm with the silver trumpets for the army of Judah to start walking. They then set the standard for the whole tribe of Israel to follow. Issachar and Zebulun followed. Next came the Merarites, who were pulling the foundational pieces of the Tabernacle, then the Gershonites, who were pulling all the curtains, covering, and hangings.
After they had all passed, the priests again blew an alarm and the army of Reuben followed. The armies of Judah and Reuben formed a guard for the Levite families as they carried the precious belongings of the Tabernacle. Next in the order of march were the Kohathites, who carried the furniture and furnishings of the Tabernacle and Court. Then the army of Ephraim followed behind as a guard for all the valuable furnishings and sacred vessels. Then the Army of Dan came up last, forming the rearguard for the whole Israelite host.
They must have presented a grand spectacle as they marched through the wilderness in battle array. They were led by the fiery cloud that was guarding, lighting, and protecting them; and each tribe and family proudly displayed their banners as they walked.
We don’t know why the tribes were placed in the order that they were, but it seems that none of the arrangements were arbitrary to them in any way. Each tribe was assigned its place with a view to its own best interests, as well as that of the whole army of Israel. We do know that when Jacob had blessed Judah, he had predicted his preeminence among his brothers, and maybe for this reason, the others did not object to his tribe being in the utmost place of honor. The tribes of Issachar and Zebulon were associated with Judah because they were the descendants of Judah’s two youngest brothers by the same mother. They allied by blood, affection, and tender ties.
Since Reuben was actually the first-born, he was assigned the first place in the second great army, both in the camp and in the order of march. Simeon and Gad were associated with him in his large army. Simeon was Reuben’s brother by the same mother, Leah, and Gad was the first-born son of Leah’s handmaid. Reuben and Simeon were nearly the same age and very close to each other. This army was made to feel very special because they were given the responsibility of guarding the Tabernacle itself as it was transported by the Levites.
The third grand division was Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. They were the descendants of Jacob by his favorite wife, Rachel. They were more closely related to one another than to any of the other tribes, therefore they were one of the very closest armies. Their grand army followed and guarded all the sacred vessels and furnishings of the Sanctuary and Court. This may have been such an honor to them that it prevented them from being jealous over the other armies.
The last great camp was composed of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali. They were descendants of Jacob by his wives’ handmaids. Next to the army of Judah, Dan was the leading tribe in numbers. Because of this fact, this great army was appointed to the place of greatest danger, the rear of the whole army. Judah’s army formed the vanguard, and Dan’s the rearguard of Israel.
When you read the above, you can see that each of the armies and tribes had an admirable place in the encampment and order of march. None of them must have been made to feel that they were any less important than the others, because they each had a claim that they were protecting something very valuable.
The tribes were most nearly related to one another, by blood, affection, or other ties, and that is how they were grouped together. Every single detail seems to have been so arranged so as to best promote the peace, unity, and well-being of the many thousands of the Israelites. This setup also was the best way for them to be able to move quickly and easily because of their large numbers. The more one studies the plan of the encampment and order of march, the more one can truly admire them and the Divine Wisdom that was given to them to put them in the right positions.
The same thing is true today with all professing Christians. Every one has been washed in the same blood, baptized by the same Spirit, and they are animated by the same heaven-inspired hopes. Christians today are of every color, race, and peoples and dwell in all parts of the world. They do not see eye to eye on all points, yet they are all one. They constitute one great encampment and form one great spiritual army.
Just as each of the tribes and armies had their distinct duties and carried them out with preciseness, each Christian today can live with the same privileges. It doesn’t matter what our position in the world, or in church. We can know that God has a special place for each one of us and we can be proud of it. God has given us all a great responsibility and numerous duties to be performed. None of us are unimportant in the mighty work of God. Just as every person in each tribe was important and had their own certain duty to do, so it is the same way in God’s Army today. God has very important things for us to do if we will just listen to him and do what He says. It really doesn’t matter how much learning or talents we have in God’s Army. He has great plans for each one of us using the talents that we do have and the learning that we have. The main thing that He is looking for is a willing heart to do whatever He wants us to do.
The Israelites would have never taken possession of Canaan at all if they had not worked together and carried out their respective jobs. It took each one of them working together as a whole to get the job done. If they had rebelled and each wanted to do their own thing, they just would have totally died off and become extinct in the wilderness.
For the Kingdom of God to truly function as it should, each person must be willing to use the talents that God has given them and carry on their special function so that things can come together as a whole. When this happens, no person will feel left out and feel that they are not as important as another. They will know that God has called them specifically to do a certain thing and they will be able to do it well and know that God is pleased with them.