Saturday 23rd May 2020 44th day of Omer 29th Iyyar 5780
PARASHAT BAMIDBAR Herschel
Numbers 1:1 – 4:20; 1 Samuel 20:18 – 42; Matthew 4:1 - 17
Jewish tradition says the “four standards” under which Israel encamped in the wilderness,
to the east, Judah - a lion
to the north, Dan - an eagle
to the west, Ephraim - an ox
to the south, Reuben - a man
The Jewish writers tell us, that the standard of each tribe of Israel took the colour of the stone which represented it in the high priest’s breastplate.
Jerome Prado, in his commentary upon Ezekiel (Ezekiel Eze. 1:1 p. 44), gives the following minute description according to rabbinical tradition:
“The different leaders of the tribes had their own standards, with the crests of their ancestors depicted upon them. On the east, above the tent of Naasson the first-born of Judah, there shone a standard of a green colour, this colour having been adopted by him because it was in a green stone, viz., an emerald, that the name of his forefather Judah was engraved on the breastplate of the high priest (Ex. Ex. 25:15ff.), and on this standard there was depicted a lion, the crest and hieroglyphic of his ancestor Judah, whom Jacob had compared to a lion, saying, ‘Judah is a lion’s whelp.’
Towards the south, above the tent of Elisur the son of Reuben, there floated a red standard, having the colour of the sardus, on which the name of his father, viz., Reuben, was engraved upon the breastplate of the high priest. The symbol depicted upon this standard was a human head, because Reuben was the first-born, and head of the family.
On the west, above the tent of Elishamah the son of Ephraim, there was a golden flag, on which the head of a calf was depicted, because it was through the vision of the calves or oxen that his ancestor Joseph had predicted and provided for the famine in Egypt (Gen. Gen. 41:1); and hence Moses, when blessing the tribe of Joseph, i.e., Ephraim (Deu. Deu. 33:17), said, ‘his glory is that of the first-born of a bull.’
The golden splendour of the standard of Ephraim resembled that of the chrysolite, in which the name of Ephraim was engraved upon the breastplate. Towards the north, above the tent of Ahiezer the son of Dan, there floated a motley standard of white and red, like the jaspis (or, as some say, a carbuncle), in which the name of Dan was engraved upon the breastplate. The crest upon this was an eagle, the great doe to serpents, which had been chosen by the leader in the place of a serpent, because his forefather Jacob had compared Dan to a serpent, saying, ‘Dan is a serpent in the way, an adder (cerastes, a horned snake) in the path;’ but Ahiezer substituted the eagle, the destroyer of serpents as he shrank from carrying an adder upon his flag.”15
the tribes were positioned on each of the 4 cardinal points around the Mishkan
2. then Moses and Aaron and his sons are positioned facing east toward the rising sun
3. then, Levi’s sons are carefully positioned around the Tabernacle so that they formed an inner protective ring between the people and the
Scripture informs us that the earthly patterns given by God are often a shadow of a greater heavenly reality (Col. Col. 2:17; Heb. Heb. 8:5; Heb. 9:8, Heb. 9:23; Heb. 10:1; Rev. Rev. 15:5+).
So it is not a great surprise when we find similarities between Israel’s encampment in the wilderness around the Tabernacle of meeting and the heavenly realm surrounding God’s throne.
1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one
seated on the throne.
3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and
around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4
Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones
were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns
on their heads.
5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of
thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which
are the seven spirits of God,
6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And
around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full
of eyes in front and behind:
7 the first living creature like a lion Y’hudah - east
the second living creature like an ox Ephraim - west
the third living creature with the face of a man Reuven - south
and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight Dan - north
8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes
all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy,
holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him
who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever,
10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne