Numbers 2; Psalm 80:2; Numbers 10; Exodus 33:7; Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 4:11-12; Hebrews 13:11; Hebrews 13:12-13; Revelation 20:9
“The Camp” was a common expression used of Israel in the wilderness: the tabernacle in the center and the twelve tribes, each in its appointed place, arranged around it, composed the camp. Everything was ordered of God, and each tribe must pitch its tents in the places appointed for them (Num. 2). As we might have expected, Moses, Aaron, and the priests were nearest to the door of the Tabernacle, and the Levites surrounded the three other sides.
The order in which the tribes were to march was also specified. In Psalm 80:22Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us. (Psalm 80:2) we read “Before Ephraim, and Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up thy strength, and come and save us.” This alludes to those three being the tribes which immediately followed the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence. It will be seen that the tribes were grouped under four leaders, each being called a camp. They moved in the order given in Num. 10—
JUDAH, with Issachar and Zebulun,
The GERSHONITES and the MERARITES with the Tabernacle,
REUBEN, with Simeon and Gad,
The KOHATHITES with the “sanctuary,”
EPHRAIM, with Manasseh and Benjamin,
DAN, with Asher and Naphtali.
Certain defilements shut a person out of the camp until he was cleansed, and many things had to be carried outside as being unfit for the place in the midst of which God had His dwelling-place. When the camp itself had become defiled by the golden calf, Moses “took the tabernacle and pitched it without the camp.... and called it the tabernacle of the congregation.” This was not really “the tabernacle,” for it had not at that time been erected. The word used signifies “the tent,” and it was doubtless a tent anticipatory of the tabernacle significantly pitched by Moses outside the camp, to show that God’s dwelling could not be where there was an idol, for it is added, “Every one which sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp” (Ex. 33:77And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp. (Exodus 33:7)).
The bodies of the beasts whose blood was brought into the sanctuary by the high priests for sin were burned without the camp (Ex. 29:1414But the flesh of the bullock, and his skin, and his dung, shalt thou burn with fire without the camp: it is a sin offering. (Exodus 29:14); Lev. 4:11-1211And the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, and his dung, 12Even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall he be burnt. (Leviticus 4:11‑12); Heb. 13:1111For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. (Hebrews 13:11)). With this is linked the fact that Jesus also “suffered without the gate” (of Jerusalem, which then answered to the camp); on which is based the exhortation to Christians, “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach” (Heb. 13:12-1312Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. (Hebrews 13:12‑13)). The whole earthly religious system adapted to the natural man, as Judaism of old, answers now to “the camp” which Christians are exhorted to leave. Such systems, Judaism and Christendom, stand in direct contrast to the heavenly and spiritual character of the church of God. The camp in Revelation 20:99And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (Revelation 20:9) refers to the nation of Israel when again gathered into the land of Palestine. There is no “camp” on earth for the church.