“The people of Israel are to set up camp by clans, each man with his own banner and under his clan’s symbol; they are to camp around the tent of meeting, but at a distance.“-Numbers 2:2
Let’s take a quick look at how the 12 tribes of Israel were grouped around the Tabernacle.
Again, understand that we are being given a plan for the marching of the Israelite forces for war!
Each tribe will be a military unit each carrying its distinctive insignia.
Here’s how they were grouped according to compass direction:
ON THE EAST SIDE
ON THE SOUTH SIDE
ON THE WEST SIDE
ON THE NORTH SIDE
Notice that Reuben has been placed second in command next to Judah.
Because Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn son, he should have inherited the right to become the supreme leader of Israel but he didn’t because he went in and slept with his father’s concubine in a sly move to gain family power.
Recall these words of judgement that Jacob pronounced upon his firstborn son Reuben.
“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my strength, the first fruits of my manhood.
Though superior in vigor and power
you are unstable as water, so your superiority will end,
because you climbed into your father’s bed
and defiled it — he climbed onto my concubine’s couch!”
What I find interesting about this whole matter is it wasn’t necessary for Reuben to do what he did to gain family power
As the firstborn Reuben would have automatically inherited the right to rule Israel.
See what happens when we let external circumstances dictate our actions instead of just being still and trusting God.
Due to his indiscretion, the highest leadership position would be passed on to Judah.
Also understand that Reuben is not alive at this time.
In fact, all the original sons of Jacob had long ago passed away.
Here in Numbers 2, Reuben is being referred to as the name of the Tribe.
At this point in time, a man named Elizur was leading the Reuben tribe.