The Camp Arrangement
The set-up of the Israelites’ camp is described in the first three chapters of Numbers. Numbers 1:1-4 describes how God asked Moses to divide up the Israelites and take a census of the Israelites a little over a year after the Exodus. (The date of the Exodus is discussed in Study 2 of the “Beauties of the Tabernacle” Series.)
“1 And the Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls; 3 From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies. 4 And with you there shall be a man of every tribe; every one head of the house of his fathers.”
[NOTE: “the first day of the second month, in the second year” was 1st Iyyar, 1444bc, one month after the Tabernacle was set up. The Tabernacle was first set up on 1st Abib, 1444bc—see Exodus 40:2, 17.]
The camp was arranged into east, south, west, and north sides as documented in the diagram below.
God arranged that Moses, Aaron, and his sons (the Priests) would camp “in front of” (i.e. closest to) the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 3:38). God also instructed that the Levite camps be adjacent to the tent on the 3 other sides (South, West, and North), while those of the other Israelites were to be “far off” (Numbers 2:2).
WHO DO THE ISRAELITES REPRESENT?
In the Tabernacle arrangement, Israel consisted of 4 categories of Israelites:
(1) the High Priest (Aaron) — represented Jesus, our “high priest.”
We read in Hebrews 4:14-16,
“14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Also, Hebrews 6:19-20:
“19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; 20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”
The symbolic meaning of the actors in the next 3 categories of Israelites depends upon the passage of Scripture at hand. The meaning is contextually sensitive.
(2) the under priests (Aaron’ sons) — Refer to Study 7 of the Beauties of the Tabernacle section, titled “The Priests. The Day of Atonement.”
(3) the tribe of Levi, (not including the Priests) — Refer to Study 6 of Beauties of the Tabernacle, titled “The Levites.”
(4) the Israelites (not including the Tribe of Levi) — Let us examine this here.
There are two groups of such Israelites represented in the Tabernacle type, which do not consist of the Priests (who only came from the Tribe of Levi) and the remaining (non-Priest) Levites:-
(a) the non-believers in Christ amongst the world of mankind — These are represented in the Israelites who are outside the court, in the camp area. Such individuals do not believe in Jesus and do not consider the Bible as the glorious, divinely inspired words of God, just as the Tabernacle’s outer-most covering may have looked unattractive to the Israelites in the camp. We discuss this further below, in the following Study. (See also Study 9 of Beauties of the Tabernacle, titled “Tabernacle Coverings.”) As the burnt offerings were a stench to Camp of the Israelites, so the message of God’s Truth is a stench to non-believers in today’s world and considered “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14; 3:19).
(b) the non-spirit begotten believers in Christ amongst the world of mankind—These are represented in the Israelites inside the court area who enter the “gate” (which represents Christ, see John 10:9; 14:6). See Study 4 of Beauties of the Tabernacle, titled “The Court (Holy Place).” These are believers in Christ but non-spirit begotten individuals, who have not fully consecrated their lives in following Christ and doing God’s will.
Let us now consider what an Israelite represents in relation to the Gospel Age and the future Millennium Age:-
- During the Gospel Age
During the Gospel Age (33 ad until the completion of the 6000 years of Permission of Evil) an Israelite coming to make an offering typifies “the Church of the Firstborn whose names are written in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23) — those who have consecrated their lives to the God. These develop as Christ’s body members, sharing in the sufferings of Christ (2 Timothy 2:12), and “by persistence in doing good, seek glory, honor and immortality” (Romans 2:7). Such are promised a “first resurrection” and spiritual, “incorruptible bodies” as Divine beings (1 Corinthians 15, Revelation 20:5). After the present time of sacrificing, these are to be kings and priests unto God, and to reign on the earth (Revelation 5:10).
The Laodicean (7th) Messenger to the seventh Gospel Age Church, Brother Charles Russell, in his later years, came to see that full justification applied to only the spirit begotten, rather than to those who are believers but not consecrated. Please refer to Reprints from the Original Watch Tower 4546:4, 4427:6, 5972:6.
- During the Millennial Age
As the type also pertains to the Millennial Age, the Israelites represent the world of mankind in the near future who will choose to walk up the Highway of Holiness. The term an “Israelite indeed” (as Nathanael was labelled by Jesus in John 1:47) is an expression that applies to anyone who adheres to the principles of Godliness, the golden standard in the Kingdom, the only standard by which one will be able to have eternal life. (Isaiah 26:9, Proverbs 2:21–22, Hebrews 12:22, Revelation 21:1.) For further reading, refer to the post “Will All Mankind Need to Become “Israelite Indeed”?”
Hence when considering the Day of Atonement, the Israelites (not including the Priests) represented the world of mankind. The sin offering sacrifices made for the Israelites only, represent the “better sacrifices” and atonement made on behalf of the whole world by Jesus (“head”, Colossians 1:18) and the Church (the “body” of Christ members, 1 Corinthians 12:27, Colossians 1:18, Romans 12:5) — who God has permitted to share in the antitypical sin offering. The sufferings of the Church count as sin offerings sacrifices, in that the present sufferings of the Church prepare them to assist the world during the Millennium to be purged from the propensity for sin — much as the sufferings of Christ prepared him to be our high priest, to purge from us the propensity for sin (2 Corinthians 1:3-7, 2 Timothy 2:12).
The Apostle Paul beautifully explains this through his words in Colossians 1:23-24:
“ 23 I Paul am made a minister; 24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church…”
In 1 John 2:2 we read that Jesus “is a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” In the future, the saints are permitted the privilege of assisting Jesus to free the world from their sins, through the priestly work they will share with Christ during the Millennial Age of Christ’s Reign with his 144,000 (Bride) body members.
What could be seen from out in the camp looking toward the Tabernacle arrangement?
The Tabernacle was in the middle of the camp in the desert.
Looking at the Tabernacle from the outside, an ordinary Israelite only saw the gate kept by the cherubim, perhaps the top part of the first 5 pillars of the Holy; perhaps some parts of the top of the posts and fencing equipment; the pillar of cloud of God’s presence, and the smoke of the perpetual offering rising from the altar in the Court because the white fine twined linen curtain surrounding the court was 5 cubits (2.29 metres; 7 1/2 feet) high all around. That is how we human beings perceive others and sometimes even God himself. Yet the Lord teaches Samuel the prophet and us, “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Of course depending on where one stood, the top of the Tabernacle could also be seen from the camp, since it was twice the curtain’s height. It would have appeared dark since it was made of the skin of sea cows (manatee or dugong) skins, (mistranslated badger skins). Because this dark skin was not attractive to the eye, perhaps a foreigner could never imagine that this was the house of the Creator of the Universe. Who would imagine there was so much gold inside?
“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing” (C. S. Lewis).
Here are parts of an excerpt from “Approaching God,” by Br. Regis Liberda in The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom, Nov.- Dec. 2002:
As the Tabernacle as seen from outside was not attractive, God knew it had to be this way for the camp in the desert where the Tabernacle is set represents the world. God does not attract anyone by apparent riches. We do not come to God because of the majesty and beauty of some building. Our reasons are not visible.
Many think that the Truth is as unattractive as the outer skin covering of the Tabernacle. Many think a Christian life is sad and dark; they do not know that for Christians the exterior has no value. Inside there is light, joy, richness, and peace.
Some are interested to know more. They suppose that this tent contains something more, and they draw closer. The closer they get, the greater appears the building, but they cannot see what is inside the Court since the linen hanging is too high. They can only see the top of the Tabernacle or tent. When they are very close, they can only see what resembles a white wall; the Tabernacle itself has disappeared. They know there is something beyond the wall but they cannot enter into the Court because of that wall. It is the white linen. Linen represents the justice of God; white represents purity and holiness: “Fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Revelation 19:8).
In front of that white wall, one understands he is a sinner. If he circles the wall trying to enter the Court, he continues to be stopped by this justice. When he finally recognizes his situation as a sinner, a unique door appears on the eastern side.
The sun arises in the east at the beginning of a new day. Likewise when someone reaches the door of the Court, a new day or a new life starts for him. He is now walking in the light.
Outside the Camp
Through Moses, God instituted a Law for all Israelites to adhere to which entailed the exclusion of lepers out of the camp in the wilderness, and out of the cities in Judea. We read about this in Leviticus 13:46, “46 All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be. 47 The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment.”
In Numbers 5:2-3 we read, “Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is unclean by the dead; both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camp, in the midst whereof I dwell.”
Leprosy is a picture of sin, and its cleansing represents the cleansing of the consecrated and spirit begotten believers in Christ now, during the Gospel Age, and the cleansing of the world later in the Millennial Kingdom Age, under the righteous rulership of Christ with his Bride of 144,000 Elect members.
The camp, the dwelling place of God, throughout which God would “walk” just as in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8), was to be holy. We are explain about this in Deuteronomy 23:14, “For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.”
Its holiness was to be achieved by the keeping of the ordinances of cleanliness, by the cleansing received from sacrifices, and by removing those who threatened its cleanliness. Offenders would be stoned outside the camp. (Leviticus 24:14) The remains of the offenders who died inside the camp were taken outside such as was the case of the two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:4).
There was a “ceremonially clean place outside the camp“ (Numbers 19:9) where the ashes of the sacrifices whose blood was carried into the sanctuary, were thrown and a wood fire on this ash heap was where, for instance, the remains of the sin offering’s bull were to be burned up as explained in Leviticus 4:11-12. The ashes of the red heifer were gathered up by a “clean” Israelite and placed in this ceremonially clean, which according to Numbers 19:9-10 were used “in the water of cleansing”. The water from a jar containing the red heifer’s ashes would be sprinkled over any one or any thing classified as “unclean” to purify (Numbers 19:9-22).
Hebrews 13:13 (KJV) — “Let us go forth therefore unto him without [“outside,” ESV] the camp, bearing his reproach.”
The following extract is from: Souvenir Notes, Bible Students’ Conventions 1913 – Question Meeting Conducted by Br. Charles T. Russell (in the Bible Students Library CD) – Question 4 — “Together with Him without the camp” — does this mean to go out in the second camp, or are there two camps?
The Apostle says, “Let us go to Him without the camp.” In the English of today we would
say, “Let us go to Him outside the camp.” We do not use the word “without” the camp in that same way today. Let us go to Him outside the camp — what does that mean?
Well the camp would represent that condition of things which claimed to be in harmony with God.
Look back in Jesus’ day:
Jesus went outside the camp. Was it the Gentile camp? No. What was the camp with Him? The camp in Jesus’ time was composed of all those who professed to be God’s people, holy people — all the Jewish people who professed to be in harmony with the Lord. What would it mean that He went outside the camp? He was pledged in his faithfulness and loyalty to God to take His stand which took Him outside of the sympathy and fellowship of those who were not fully Israelites indeed — all the Jews that were Israelites indeed in whom was no guile could appreciate it, and they, like the disciples, were in the attitude of the Levites that were approaching the Holy and drawing near to the Lord, and were, like the Levites, ministering in the Court. This would represent the attitude of all believers inside of that white curtain, but those who constituted the camp at that time were nominal professors who did not appreciate fully, and Jesus in order to be faithful to God and His message was obliged to stand for the truth, for that which is right, and that brought Him out of sympathy and out of accord with the great nominal mass of the Jewish people.
Now the Apostle says, “Let us go to Him outside the camp.” What does this mean?
It meant to the Apostles’ of old that they should also take the same stand toward the law that Jesus took toward the law; the same stand toward the pharisees and scribes and the doctors of the law that Jesus took. Then to those afterwards who became associated with the Gentiles, as, for instance, Paul, Silas and Barnabas, who ministered to the Gentiles, we think outside the camp meant outside the synagogue of the Jews and all of those who professed to be in harmony with God that were living in Rome, or wherever they might be — whoever stood for and claimed to be God’s people constituted the camp.
What does it mean today?
The camp today means all of Christendom, all the dear people who claim that they are spiritual Israelites, that is God’s camp… And all of God’s people who are sincerely following in the footsteps of Jesus will find that they will not be appreciated by the general camp. In other words, the nominal church will not generally appreciate the spirit of the Lord and the teachings of the Lord, and therefore all who would he faithful to Jesus and walk in His steps will find themselves today just as much out of accord with the camp of today as Jesus and the Apostles found themselves out of accord with the camp of their clay. To go to Him without the camp today means that we will take up our cross, whatever sacrifice it might mean to you and me, the breaking of tender ties with dear fellow Christians who are Methodists, or Presbyterians, etc., willing to go to the Lord and be faithful and loyal to Him at any cost, no matter how others may view it.
And as a matter of fact it was those of the camp that persecuted Jesus and the Apostles: and it is those of the camp who have persecuted the Church which is the Body of Christ from that day to this.
Br. Charles Russell: “Tabernacle Shadows,” “The Tabernacle and Its Teachings” — Supplement to Feb. “Zion’s Watch Tower,” Pittsburgh, PA, 1882, Volume 6 — “Studies in the Scriptures,” Reprints of the Watch Tower.
Br. Anton Frey: “Notes on the Tabernacle,” “Wilderness Wanderings.”
Br. Regis Liberda: An article titled “Approaching God”, The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom Magazine, Nov.- Dec. 2002.
Souvenir Notes, Bible Students’ Conventions 1913 — Question Meeting Conducted by Br. Charles T. Russell — in the Bible Students Library CD —
Suggested Further Reading
STUDY 1: An Introduction To The Tabernacle And It’s Purpose
STUDY 2: The Pillar of Cloud By Day And The Pillar of Smoke By Night https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/09/09/study-2-the-pillar-of-cloud-by-day-and-the-pillar-of-smoke-by-night/
STUDY 3: The Tabernacle Construction: The Holy and The Most Holy https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/09/14/study-3-the-tabernacle-construction-the-holy-the-most-holy/
STUDY 4: The Court (“Holy Place”)
STUDY 6: The Levites
STUDY 7: The Priests. The Day of Atonement.
STUDY 8: The Tabernacle Coverings
STUDY 9: The Gate. The Door. The Vail.
“Going Outside the Camp.” Reprint 4607 – from the Original Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.http://www.htdbv8.com/1910/r4607.htm
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One thought on “STUDY 5: The Camp. The Israelites.”
Good Morning –
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all those involved in the construction and implementation of your webpage. I found it to be a comprehensive, user-friendly resource point that was informative and Spirit-led. I did notice however, one minor numerical error located in within the illustration titled, “Arrangement of the Camp of Israel” – “Camp of Ephraim” indicates a total of 180,100 when in fact the total is 108,100. I believe the “8” and the “0” were inadvertently transposed. Nonetheless, I wasted no time adding this page to my personal roster of resources – used in my ever-important plan of salvation. I will most certainly be utilizing and sharing it often.
Thank you so very much,
God Bless –