I love how precise God is. In Numbers 1 we learn the number of men in each tribe over age 20.
The Lord spoke to Moses in the tent of meeting in the Desert of Sinaion the first day of the second month of the second year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. He said: “Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. You and Aaron are to count according to their divisions all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army. Numbers 1:1-3
All together the men counted came to 603,550, not including the women, children, and teens. This group was probably near 2 million. God tells the tribes to camp in specific locations around the tabernacle. They camped in this order each time they moved and set up camp again – for 38 years.
The arrangement of this camp is astonishing! Using the census numbers for each tribe and laying it out as specified, we see the formation of the camp forms a cross. Since this cross spans about 12 square miles, you would not see the shape easily from Earth. But God certainly had a stellar view of the cross from Heaven!
This picture is given prophetically about 1450 years before Christ hung on the cross for our sin. God is amazing, faithful, and true.
Numbers 2 gives the location of each tribe as drawn in the figure:
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.