The Israelite Camp
According to Origen Proverbs 22:21 originally said, "And do thou portray them [the scriptures] in a threefold manner." The three manners he referred to
are the historical application the spiritual application, and the prophetic one. Each issue of Pilgrims -Promise will discuss the prophetic meaning of one
of the episodes in the Bible. This issue examines the way Israel camped about the Tabernacle.
When the Israelites camped in the wilderness, each person camped with his tribe. God had commanded, "Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of his father's house; far off about the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch" (Nu 2:2). Each tribe had a pole or standard with its individual emblem on it. Members of each tribe gathered to their standard when they camped.
The arrangement of the Hebrew tribes was not random. God specified the placement of each tribe within the camp. The Tabernacle was set up in the center, the Levites camping around it. Judah lodged on the east side of the Tabernacle, with Issachar to their north and Zebulun to their south (Nu 2:3-9). Reuben pitched on die south side of the Tabernacle. Simeon camped to their east, while Gad camped to their west (Nu 2:10-17). Ephraim gathered on the west side of the Tabernacle. Manasseh lodged to their south, while Benjamin dwelt on their north. Dan assembled on the north side of the Tabernacle, with Asher to thew west and Naphtali to their east According to a possible copy of the Book of Jasher mentioned in the Bible (Jos 10: 13), the arrangement of the tribes about the Tabernacle was identical with the arrangement of the sons of Jacob about the bier of their father when they carried it back to Canaan for burial. Jewish scholars maintain that the Israelite encampment formed the Star of David.
The encampment of the Hebrews reveals the coming of the Messiah. Their camp was their only place of rest in the wilderness. Jesus is the only place of rest in this life. By him, all are refreshed from their daily wanderings through the wilderness of sin. He is the bread of heaven and everlasting water that nourishes the soul. He is the standard around which the faithful gather.
Malachi prophesied of the rest the Messiah will bring to the righteous. He said, "But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall" (Mal 4:2). In this passage, Malachi calls the Redeemer the "Sun of righteousness." The sun rises in the east. Judah camped on the east. Its standard was a lion. When the Messiah came to heal his people, he rose in the east; that is, he was born in Judah. This interpretation is confirmed by the appearance of the star at the time of Christ's birth. Although the wise men, who came from the east, followed a westerly direction, they told King Herod, "We have seen his star in the east" (Matt 2:2). The star Balaam predicted to rise in Jacob (Num 24:17) arose in the east as Judah's lion. Jesus is the standard around which the faithful gather. Apostle John revealed that the Lion of Judah is the "Lamb as it had been slain" (Rev 5:6). Jesus Christ is the "Sun of righteousness" who rose at his first advent in Judah as a sacrificial lamb to heal dim wandering in the wilderness of sin and return them to the Paradise of God.
Like the sun that breaks the night with the first rays of dawn later rises in the height of heaven to fill the day with its glory, Jesus, who shattered the night of sin by his redemption on the cross, rose into heavenly places after his resurrection to enlighten the world with his gospel. Peter preached, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with Ins right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:30-31). He remains in heaven, healing the multitudes coming to him and waiting for the time that he, like the sun, can descend again.
When Jesus told his disciples some events that will surround his second coming, he said, *For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matt 24:27). Just as Jesus rose in the east, or in Judah, he will set in the west. Ephraim camped on the west side of the Tabernacle. Jesus will return in Ephraim.
The land Ephraim received as an inheritance in Canaan became part of the northern kingdom when the Hebrews divided into two nations. In fact, it provided the site of the first capital for the rebelling tribes. Their leader, Jeroboam, was a member of the tribe of Ephraim. Because he separated them from the Temple and the divinely authorized priests serving there, the northern kingdom finally embraced the false religion of idolatry. God punished them because of their transgression by expelling them from their land. The Assyrians defeated them and carried every inhabitant to the eastern edge of its empire by the Caspian Sea.
In his prophecy against the northern kingdom, Hosea said, "Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind" (Hos 12: 1). Later he said that the east wind would spoil the northern kingdom. "An east wind shall come, the wind of the Lord shall come up from the wilderness... Samaria shall become desolate" (Hos 13:15-16). An east wind blows from east to west. In nature, it often signals a coming storm. In prophecy, it predicts impending judgment. God promised to judge Ephraim and all the northern kingdom. That judgment would not only devastate the land, but it promised to blow its tribes away. To follow an east wind means to travel from east to west. Hosea prophesied that God's judgment on the northern kingdom would move Ephraim toward the west.
When Cyrus freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity, he also freed the northern nation, then under his dominion, whom the Assyrians had relocated near the Caspian Sea. Ezra, whom Cyrus had authorized to lead the Hebrews back to Jerusalem, invited the northern kingdom to return with him, but they refused.1 They later left their land in eastern Persia and traveled to the west side of the Black Sea. Ezra recorded, "They took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt, . . . for through that country there was a great way to go, namely, of a yew and a halt and the same region is called Arsareth" (2 Esd 13:41, 45). Arsareth was also called Moesia, the latter word meaning "followers of Moses." The Romans placed Moesia north of Greece in what we call the Balkans. These Hebrew immigrants continued to travel to the west and north, eventually populating Scandinavia, Denmark, the coasts of western Europe, and Britain. The ancient British historian, Bede, said that the first inhabitants of England came from the western edge of the Black Sea.2 Since the Israelites were the first to inhabit the land Ezra called Arsareth, for he said they went into a "country, where never mankind dwelt," they must be the people Bede said first inhabited Britain. All this means that a remnant of Ephraim ended up in the British Isles.
The westward migration of Ephraim did not stop in Britain. After the discovery of the New World, England encouraged and sheltered the colonization of America. The standard for Ephraim was a bull. Britain is called "John Bull." Both England and America, or Ephraim and Manasseh, have pushed I multitude of people to the land on the opposite side of the earth from Palestine. Moses prophesied this event, saying of Joseph, "His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh" (Deut 33:17). Millions of emigrants from northwestern Europe, among whom were descendants of Jacob, have been summoned, first by Britain and later by America, to the United States. Today America is the most eminent nation on earth and lies on the western side of the earth. One of its divinely appointed duties is to gather the dispersed of Israel so
they can be molded into God's holy nation.
When Jesus returns, he will descend to rule his holy kingdom prepared in America. Just as the sun sets in the west, he will descend at the end of time to a remnant of Israel gathered by Ephraim. While Jesus rose in Judah, he was not just a savior to them, but the whole world. Even so, when Jesus descends to the Israel gathered in America in the last days, he will be king not only to Ephraim, but to the entire earth. All nations will find peace under his sovereignty.
By rising in the east (or in Judah) and setting in the west (or in Ephraim) Jesus demonstrates his sovereignty over all lands, nations, kindreds, tongues and people. He rose in the east to begin the day of righteousness. He reigns in the midst of heaven, while his gospel, moving from east to west, or from Jerusalem through Rome to America, works under its daylight to heal the nations. He will appear in the west to complete his day's work, the establishment of his kingdom on earth. He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
1 Josephus; Antiquity of the Jews; Bk 11, Ch 5
2 Barbara Tuchman; Bible and Sword, Ballantine Books; 1994; p 3