2:2 by his own standard. The men of Israel were organized as an army, with each tribe having its own “flag,” as it were, under which it marched, and beside which it pitched camp. The nature of the insignia on each standard has not been recorded in Scripture. One tradition suggests that each banner corresponded in design and color to its particular stone in the breastplate of the high priest (Exodus 28:21). Another states that each tribe used one of the twelve heavenly “signs” (Genesis 1:14) in the Zodiacal constellations as its emblem, with Judah in particular using the sign of the victorious Lion, or Leo (Genesis 49:9). If so, the purpose would not be astrological, but Messianic and prophetic. The fact is, however, that no one knows what they were.
2:3 the east side. Judah’s prophetic preeminence, as revealed through their father Israel (Genesis 49:8-10) is acknowledged by God in specifying that his host (including Issachar and Zebulun) “shall first set forth” (Numbers 2:9) when the tribes were commanded to march forward. His encampment “on the east side” (that is, toward the rising sun) is a further sign of his special relation to God (compare Malachi 4:2). Judah, Issachar and Zebulun had been the fourth, fifth, and sixth sons of Jacob’s first wife Leah. Her first three sons (Reuben, Simeon and Levi) had been rejected for leadership by Jacob because of their special sins (Genesis 49:3-7).
2:17 midst of the camp. As the tabernacle (signifying the presence of God) was in the center of the tribes during periods of encampment, so it was moved along in the center when the hosts were marching, in both cases being immediately surrounded for protection and service by the priestly tribe of Levi. Appropriately and analogously, the Lord Jesus said: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
2:32 all those that were numbered. See also Numbers 1:46. The large number of men (603,550) is thus repeated, and is checked by adding the numbers given for the four hosts (Numbers 2:9,16,24,31) and these in turn with the numbers for the individual tribes. Furthermore, this number correlates well with the round number of 600,000 men leaving Egypt (Exodus 12:37). Critics have frequently alleged that such a large number of Israelites at this time is unrealistic, but Moses seems to have guarded against such cavils by this repeated and detailed accounting. In fact, this number did not even include the Levites (Numbers 2:33).