Numbers 2:1-34 – Breaking It Down Into Manageable Pieces!

Posted: July 2, 2016 in Book of Numbers

Numbers 2:1-34

Organization of Israel’s Camp

Back in 2012, when Elena and I started in leadership of the Community Transformation Stake of Ministry at LifeSong Church, the first thing we were tasked with was to lead our church’s Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway. The idea of this community outreach event is not just to have less fortunate members of our community come to our church for a meal but rather to have them come to our church to receive all the fixings (including a turkey) for a Thanksgiving meal that they could prepare at home with their families in the comfort of their own homes. In addition, we have given away coats and blankets to our visitors as well. Feeding people a full meal at your church is daunting organizational task in and of itself but giving away meals and blankets and coats and managing the logistics of moving people through the process on the day of the event is an even bigger deal. It also involves mobilizing our church people to donate a specified list of canned and dry goods and making arrangements with a local grocery store chain to purchase and deliver anywhere from 300-500 turkeys (the number of turkeys has grown each year) in a refrigerated truck. The event is a massive one for our church. I would venture to say that by the time the event concludes about half of our church has been involved in one way or another.


The first lesson that we learned in leadership was when handed a large and seemingly insurmountable task is to, as the old saying goes, “identify all the moving parts” or “break the task down into manageable pieces.” That’s exactly what we had to do with this huge undertaking. The project is too big for one single person to lead. We had to identify the parts that made up the whole, and gather individuals to lead those sub-teams within the larger team. Here is what we came up with as the teams within the team:


  1. Coat Donations & Distribution
  2. Food Donations Management
  3. Event Day Logistics
  4. Parking
  5. Security
  6. Visitor Registration
  7. Hospitality
  8. Media/Worship
  9. Prayer Team
  10. Food Distribution – Dry Goods
  11. Food Distribution – Turkeys


As you can see, the event is a big one and we had to have eleven leaders work underneath us and we had to empower them to recruit their teams and take care of the details of their area. We had to manage them as they managed their areas. That was the only way to get the job done. Could you imagine, Elena and I trying to work the details of these 11 different areas all at one time. We had to have an organization of people working together in concert to make the event come off as a success. Just as a football team has offense, defense, and special teams underneath the banner of the overall team, so did we. Each function serving a purpose that contributes to the success of the larger overall team. That was small potatoes compared managing approximately 2 Million people (including the women and children) in the Israelite nation where we find ourselves in the Book of Numbers today.


That is what I thought of when I read Numbers 2 this morning. Let us read Numbers 2 together this morning:


2 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “The Israelites are to camp around the tent of meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standard and holding the banners of their family.”


3 On the east, toward the sunrise, the divisions of the camp of Judah are to encamp under their standard. The leader of the people of Judah is Nahshon son of Amminadab. 4 His division numbers 74,600.


5 The tribe of Issachar will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Issachar is Nethanel son of Zuar. 6 His division numbers 54,400.


7 The tribe of Zebulun will be next. The leader of the people of Zebulun is Eliab son of Helon. 8 His division numbers 57,400.


9 All the men assigned to the camp of Judah, according to their divisions, number 186,400. They will set out first.


10 On the south will be the divisions of the camp of Reuben under their standard. The leader of the people of Reuben is Elizur son of Shedeur. 11 His division numbers 46,500.


12 The tribe of Simeon will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Simeon is Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai. 13 His division numbers 59,300.


14 The tribe of Gad will be next. The leader of the people of Gad is Eliasaph son of Deuel.[a] 15 His division numbers 45,650.


16 All the men assigned to the camp of Reuben, according to their divisions, number 151,450. They will set out second.


17 Then the tent of meeting and the camp of the Levites will set out in the middle of the camps. They will set out in the same order as they encamp, each in their own place under their standard.


18 On the west will be the divisions of the camp of Ephraim under their standard. The leader of the people of Ephraim is Elishama son of Ammihud. 19 His division numbers 40,500.


20 The tribe of Manasseh will be next to them. The leader of the people of Manasseh is Gamaliel son of Pedahzur. 21 His division numbers 32,200.


22 The tribe of Benjamin will be next. The leader of the people of Benjamin is Abidan son of Gideoni. 23 His division numbers 35,400.


24 All the men assigned to the camp of Ephraim, according to their divisions, number 108,100. They will set out third.


25 On the north will be the divisions of the camp of Dan under their standard. The leader of the people of Dan is Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai. 26 His division numbers 62,700.


27 The tribe of Asher will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Asher is Pagiel son of Okran. 28 His division numbers 41,500.


29 The tribe of Naphtali will be next. The leader of the people of Naphtali is Ahira son of Enan. 30 His division numbers 53,400.


31 All the men assigned to the camp of Dan number 157,600. They will set out last, under their standards.


32 These are the Israelites, counted according to their families. All the men in the camps, by their divisions, number 603,550. 33 The Levites, however, were not counted along with the other Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.


34 So the Israelites did everything the Lord commanded Moses; that is the way they encamped under their standards, and that is the way they set out, each of them with their clan and family.


The nation of Israel was organized according to tribes for several reasons. First, it was an effective way to manage and govern a large group. Second, it would make dividing up the Promised Land easier. Third, it was part of their culture and heritage (you were identified not by a last name but by the clan into which you were born). Fourth, it was easier to keep detailed genealogies, which was the only way to prove that you belonged to the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people. Finally, it made travel much more efficient. The people followed their tribe’s flag and thus stayed together and helped prevent people from getting lost.


When you think about it, the emcampment of the Jews must have been one of the biggest campsites in the world. When we think of the Bible stories of the Jews at Mt. Sinai and when they were on the move, we really don’t think of the scale of this large group and it continued to grow over time. It would have taken 12 square miles to set up tents for the 600,000 plus men and their women and children (a total of probably 2 Million people). Two million people traveling and camping together! I have a hard enough time organizing my wife and my three daughters! LOL! Just imagine, 2 Million people living together in a nomadic band. That’s equivalent to the number of people living inside the city limits of Atlanta (not the whole metro area but just the city). Moses must have had a really hard time managing such a large group. It was necessary to have this clan organization structure simply to survive and to get things done.


I guess the thing that I take away today is that in all these things, God demonstrates to us that He is a God of order and not disorder. When we find disorder is when we find Satan. God gives us His commands not to restrain us or to hold us back but rather to promote order and to promote health and to promote lifestyles that are not destructive to us. God wants us to live orderly lives so that we do not get so mired down in the details of chasing our tails that we forget to worship Him. God wants us to live orderly lives so that we don’t get lost. God is not a God of chaos or randomness. God is not a God of disorder. If we follow His commands, we will find a life of contentment. It is only when we rebel against God that we find chaos and disorder in our lives. Just look at Adam and Eve. They lived a life of perfection and contentment and communed with God Himself in the Garden. It was only when sin entered through disobedience that what was an idyllic life became chaotic and we have what we have now on earth. Even the earth groans under the chaos caused by our human race’s cumulative sins since that day in the Garden.


Some of us may look at Number 2 and yawn as to why it matters and why is in the Bible and why we have to read it. Upon closer inspection, the arrangement of the clans at their encampment demonstrates the order that is of God. By this organization of breaking down the larger nation down into clans, it make the nation more manageable. It demonstrates that when we do as God says, we find peace and order and contentment.


Amen and Amen.


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