The Book of Numbers (B’Midvar) begins with a census of the Children of Israel. The census of all 12 Tribes (excluding Levi) came to 603,505 military-age men. Adding all the women, children and the old men we can easily arrive at a total population of 2.5 to 3 million souls. Not an insignificant number! The Levites were also counted at 22,000. Levi was not included in with the other 12 Tribes (counting Ephriam & Menasseh as separate tribes) because they were specifically forbidden to go to war.
The Order of the Camp
The 12 Tribes were placed into four groups and assigned locations around the Tabernacle. The Tribe of Levi camped closest to the Tabernacle, then three Tribes to the east, three Tribes to the west, three Tribes to the north and three Tribes to the south. There is no allowance for Tribes camping in any location other than these four cardinal directions. So … from a birds-eye view, the Camp of Israel forms a perfect Cross! What a foreshadowing of Yeshua!
The Order of the March
When the Cloud moved, so did the Children of Israel. And they moved according to the Camp positions. First the Tribes to the east, then the Tribes to the south, then the Levites carrying all of the Tabernacle components and furnishings, then the Tribes to the west and finally the Tribes to the north.
The Duties of the Kohathites
The three sons of Levi (Gerson, Kohath & Merari) were assigned specific duties concerning the transportation of the Tabernacle and its furnishings. Kohath was charged with packing and carrying all of the Tabernacle furnishing – the Brazen Alter and Laver, the Golden Menorrah, Table of Shewbread, the Altar of Incense, and the Ark of the Covenant and Mercy Seat. This was the plum assignment!!