Spoke 4 - Dalet - The Foursquare Camp in the Wilderness
And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, Every man of the children
of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign (ot) of their father's house ...
And on the east side toward the rising of the sun shall they of the standard of the camp of
Judah pitch throughout their armies ... On the south side shall be the standard of the
camp of Reuben according to their armies ... On the west side shall be the standard of the camp
of Ephraim according to their armies ... The standard of the camp of Dan shall be on the north
side by their armies ...
Numbers 2:1ff (Spoke 4, Cycle 1)
God used the census numbers to establish the foursquare pattern of the camp in the wilderness.
The fact that He did this on Spoke 4 is one of the most striking integrations of the symbolic meaning
of number with His geometric design of Scripture, especially in light of its integration with
the Four Living Creatures and the Foursquare Temple found in
Ezekiel on Cycle 2.
It exemplifies the obvious meaning of the Number 4 that derives from its association with the
Four Directions (North, East, West, South), the Four Winds (Ezek 37:9),
and the Four Corners of the earth (Ezek 7:2). Here is how R. D. Cole describes it
in his entry in The New American Commentary:
The arrangement of the twelve tribes in symmetrical fashion around the central sanctuary reflects the
orderliness of a unified community that is faithfully following the commands of the Lord.
Allen describes this setting as expressing "the joy of the writer in knowing the relation of each
tribe to the whole, each individual to the tribe, and the nation to the central shrine
– and to the Lord Yahweh." As wonder and beauty are reflected in the order of creation, so
the unity and symmetry of the chosen people of his creation evoke splendor and awe.
The text does not specify the exact shape of the camp. Many scholars (e.g. Baxter, Scroggie, Riggins)
have assumed it forms a perfect square in prophetic anticipation of Ezekiel's Temple revealed on the
second Cycle of Spoke 4. Others have suggested that a strict reading of the text implies that it formed a
giant cross. The latter is particularly interesting because the census numbers reveal a well-balanced symmetry
very similar to the traditional Cross of Christ. Both possibilities are shown below.
The north and south arms of the cross represent nearly identical populations of 25% and 26%,
each almost exactly a quarter (1/4) of the whole. Taken together they represent just over half (51%)
of the population. The other 49% is distributed on the east and west arms which are divided
into 18% and 31% for a ratio of roughly 3 to 5, the same as the proportions of the Ark of the Covenant
(Exo 25:9) housed in the heart of the Tabernacle (T) at the center of the camp.
I set north on the right so the longest leg of the cross would be on the bottom.
The diagram of the square formation had more room so I listed the positions of the Levites who dwelt in
a foursquare pattern around the Tabernacle. The difference between these two layouts depends only on whether
the tribes camped strictly in the direction specified (the cross) or spread out with diagonal
divisions between them (the square). Regardless of its exact historical form,
Balaam's blessing of Israel suggests its foursquare arrangement was evident from an aerial view:
For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I view him:
lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob,
and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous,
and let my last end be like his!
Numbers 23:9f (Spoken 4, Cycle 1)
This reference to the fourth part of Israel is unique to the Fourth Book. Evidently,
it refers to the foursquare camp Balaam viewed when he looked down from high upon
"the top of the rocks." His appreciation of its beauty is clear in his later prophecy:
How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they
spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side, as the aloe trees which the LORD hath planted,
and as cedar trees beside the waters.
Numbers 24:5f (Spoke 4, Cycle 1)
A similar aerial view of the foursquare Temple, prefigured by the camp in the wilderness, was
given to the Prophet Ezekiel when he was taken by the Spirit of God to a "very high mountain" overlooking it
When God established the pattern of the camp, He commanded each tribe to camp
"by his own standard, with the ensign (ot) of their father's house." Here
He used the word ot (sign, BW book pg 88)
from His Capstone Signature ΑΩ/את. As noted above (BW book pg 169),
He first used this word when He gave the fourfold purpose - signs, seasons, days, and years – of
the sun, moon, and stars made on the Fourth Day. He used it here for the symbolic sign,
the ensign (flag), that distinguished each tribe. In his commentary on Revelation 4, Fausset explained the
Jewish tradition concerning the specific forms displayed on these flags:
Jewish tradition says the "four standards" under which Israel encamped in the wilderness, to
the east, Judah, to the north, Dan, to the west, Ephraim, to the south, Reuben, were respectively a
lion, an eagle, an ox, and a man, while in the midst was the tabernacle containing the Shekinah symbol
of the Divine Presence.
These symbols are revealed in the opening vision of the Book of Ezekiel (Spoke 4, Cycle 2)
where also we find the greatest density of the Number 4 in the entire Bible (BW book pg 178). These Four Faces
appear again only in Revelation 4, where they signify the
dominant aspect of the character of Christ revealed in
each of the Four Gospels in their proper canonical order.