three gates on the east . . . north . . . south . . . west
The layout of the gates around the holy city is similar to the Camp of Israel
around the Tabernacle in the Wilderness
. In the wilderness, three tribes camped in each compass direction around the Tabernacle
. The Levites camped in the center and served as a buffer between the glory of God (in the Tabernacle) and the tribes. See Camp of Israel
. See Tabernacle in the Wilderness
. If the heavenly layout were to follow the encampment in the wilderness around the Tabernacle, then:
- The gates on the east would be named for Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.
- The gates on the north would be named for Dan, Asher, and Naphtali.
- The gates on the south would be named for Reuben, Simeon, and Gad.
- The gates on the west would be named for Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin.
In the camp in the wilderness, Jacob and Levi are omitted in favor of listing Jacobs two half tribes: Ephraim and Manasseh. Since Levi encamped around the Tabernacle in the center, and Manasseh and Ephraim comprise all of Joseph, every individual in all twelve tribes is accounted for. However, in the heavenly scene, there is no encampment around the sanctuary which is the entire New Jerusalem (Rev. Rev. 21:22+
). Therefore, the names of the gates may be according to the plan of the millennial city (Eze. Eze. 48:30-35
- The gates on the east would be named for Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan.
- The gates on the north would be named for Reuben, Judah, and Levi.
- The gates on the south would be named for Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun.
- The gates on the west would be named for Gad, Asher, Naphtali.
With Joseph including both Ephraim and Manasseh, Levi is explicitly listed and all twelve tribes are accounted for. It may be that an entirely new order occurs in the New Jerusalem as Scripture does not give us these details.