See also Camp
CAMP, ENCAMPMENT (Heb. mahaneh). A group of tents intended for traveling or for temporary residence as in case of war—contrasted with villages, towns, or cities that are composed of houses and other more or less permanent buildings. The word mahaneh occurs over two hundred times and is properly translated “camp,” but it is often translated “host” and occasionally “army,” indicating the military purpose of the encampment. In Gen.32.1-Gen.32.2, when the angels of God met Jacob, Jacob exclaimed, “This is the camp of God!” and he named the place “Mahanaim,” or “Two Camps,” referring to God’s host and his own.
In the wilderness the Israelites were given precise instructions as to the order and arrangements of their camp, both at rest and in traveling (Num.2.1-Num.2.34). The tabernacle in the center indicated the centrality of God in their life and worship. It was surrounded rather closely by the three families of the priests and Levites, and then further back were the twelve tribes. In Deut.23.9-Deut.23.14 the sanitary and ceremonial observances, which were used to keep the camp clean and wholesome, are given. Three tribes were grouped on each side of the tabernacle under the banners of the leading tribes: Judah eastward, with Issachar and Zebulun; Reuben southward, with Simeon and Gad; Ephraim westward, with Manasseh and Benjamin; and Dan northward, with Asher and Naphtali. When they marched, the Levites, carrying the tabernacle, occupied the center of the line. The high command was located there.——ABF