Devotionals Archive

Daybreak: Numbers 2:1-34

Dec 15, 2020

“And the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses.” (Numbers 2:34)

Speed along with that lawnmower — never mind if a few blades of grass are missed. Pull up the covers on the bed — don’t worry if the sheets are not smooth. Slide the dust cloth over the tables — don’t bother to clean under any books or lamps. Run the water over the dishes — never mind scouring the pans. After all, it’s time for a basketball game, a bicycle ride, or a talk with a friend!

How many times do children rush through their chores, perhaps forgetting a few because something more fun tugs at them? Sometimes parents choose to ignore the omissions or the haphazard performance, understanding that children will act in childish ways. At other times, parents require that the duties be completed more thoroughly, knowing that such discipline contributes to maturity.

God is our Father. He pays close attention to detail: we can see that by reading the second chapter of Numbers. As the Children of Israel traveled, God had a designated area where each tribe was to camp. As opposed to their conduct recounted further on in the Book of Numbers, the last verse of this chapter says they did “all that the Lord commanded.”

What has God given you to do today? We are His children, and He has assignments for us. How often do we rush through a job without doing quality work, or leave something undone because other interests tug at us? The old saying is, “Give it a lick and a promise.” How easy it is to fulfill a responsibility quickly and tell ourselves that we will do a better job next time, or to think that some task is unimportant and leave it undone. At times, our Heavenly Father may choose to ignore these attitudes, understanding our humanity. On other occasions, He may discipline us, knowing that correction is necessary for our spiritual maturity.

How good it would be if today we did “all that the Lord commanded” us. Think how pleased our Heavenly Father would be! Let us challenge ourselves to do what He wants us to do.


The events recounted in the first part of the Book of Numbers took place shortly after the Children of Israel left Egypt, where they had been slaves. They had not been allowed to govern or direct themselves, so it was no wonder God put such emphasis on their discipline and order.

The census shows the Children of Israel had over 600,000 fighting men at this time. When the women and children are added to this number, we can surmise that this camp was probably three million people strong. Many commentators suggest that their camp would by necessity have been spread over at least twelve square miles. Perhaps the tents were arranged in precise order, making roads to reach other tents. Clearly, there was a need for organization.

In today’s text, God directed the layout of the camp, instituting something similar to a flag system. Each major tribal group had a banner or flag. Individual tribes had another ensign — probably a smaller flag. Families and households had yet another flag.

God directed that the Tabernacle be in the center of the camp. The priests and Levites, including Moses and Aaron, camped around it. The other tribes camped around them in their assigned positions, and those people were not allowed to come within a specified distance of the Tabernacle.

The tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun camped to the east. This put the largest number of soldiers (and therefore the strongest protection) in front of the entrance to the Tabernacle, and also at the front of the line when they marched. The tribes of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali were the second largest group, and they were the rear guard, also providing stronger protection.

A traveling city of three million people and all their belongings! What a sight it must have been!

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)

I.   The preparation for the journey from Sinai
     A.   The census and arrangement of Israel’s men of war
           2.   The arrangement of Israel’s camp (2:1-31)
                 a.   The command (2:1-2)
                 b.   The distribution (2:3-31)
                        (1)   The east side: Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun (2:3-9)
                        (2)   The south side: Reuben, Simeon, and Gad (2:10-16)
                        (3)   The center: Levites with the tent (2:17)
                        (4)   The west side: Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin (2:18-24)
                        (5)   The north side: Dan, Asher, and Naphtali (2:25-31)
           3.   Summary (2:32-34)

A Closer Look

  1. How did the Children of Israel receive their directions for setting up the camp? 
  2. Why do you think the Children of Israel were instructed to pitch their tents a distance from the Tabernacle?
  3. What motivated the Children of Israel to follow God’s directions at this time?
  4. How do we receive directions for what the Lord wants us to do? What are the benefits to us of following through in obedience?


God is a God of detail. He had an exact plan for the Children of Israel to follow as they traveled and when they camped. He also has an exact plan for each of us every day. Are we doing all that the Lord has commanded and following that plan?

Reference Materials