Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own
Or banner, of which there were four, as appears from the following account, under each of which were placed three tribes; and so every man of each tribe was to pitch his tent in the tribe he belonged to, and by the standard under which his tribe was marshalled, and in the rank that he was placed:
with the ensigns of their father's house;
which were either lesser standards or banners, somewhat different from the great standard or banner, which belonged to the camp consisting of three tribes, and which were peculiar to their several families and houses, and distinguished one from another, like flags in different regiments; or these were signs F6, as the word may be rendered, or marks in the standards or banners, which, distinguished one from another; so the Targum of Jonathan, the signs which were marked in their standards: but what they were is not easy to say; Aben Ezra observes, and Abendana from him, that their ancients were used to say, that there was in the standard of Reuben the form of a man, on account of the mandrakes, ( Genesis 30:14 ) ; and in the standard of Judah the form of a lion, because Jacob compared him to one, ( Genesis 49:9 ) ; and in the standard of Ephraim the form of an ox, from the sense of those words, the firstling of his bullock, ( Deuteronomy 33:17 ) ; and in the standard of Dan the form of an eagle, so that they might be like the cherubim the prophet Ezekiel saw, ( Ezekiel 1:10 ) , which is not very likely, such images and representations not being very agreeable, yea, even detestable to the people of the Jews in later times, and can hardly be thought to be in use with their early ancestors: others, as Jarchi, fancy that those standards were distinguished by their colours, as our flags or ensigns are; which, if they stopped here, would not be much amiss, but they go on and say, that each was according to the colour of his stone fixed in the breastplate, so that there were three colours in every flag or standard; thus, for instance, in the standard of Judah, which is the first, were the colours of the three precious stones, on which were the names of Judah, Issachar, and Reuben, namely, the emerald, sapphire, and diamond; and so in the rest of the standards; but others say, the letters of the names of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, differently disposed of, were on those standards; but rather, one would think, the names of the three tribes under every standard were embroidered on them, which would sufficiently distinguish one from another, and direct where tribe was to pitch; but of those things there is no certainty:
far off about the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch:
a mile from it, according to Jarchi, or two thousand cubits, which is supposed to be a sabbath day's journey, ( Acts 1:12 ) ; and this distance is gathered from ( Joshua 3:4 ) , and is not improbable.
F6 (ttab) "in signis", Pagninus, Montanus; "sub signis", Tigurine version; "cum signis", Junius & Tremellius, Drusius; "apud signa", Piscator.