One month after completion of the tabernacle and thirteen months after leaving Egypt, all of God’s laws governing the people were in place. He was ready for the people to move on toward the Promised Land of Canaan. In order to be successful in their venture, there would be wars to fight with the inhabitants. God instructed Moses to count all of the men twenty years old and above. These would be available to go to war.
The Levites would be exempt from war since they were responsible for the tabernacle and all of the worship services. With the tribe of Levi unavailable, God chose the descendants of the two sons of Joseph to become two one-half tribes. That provided twelve groups of people in addition to the Levites to fight their battles.
One man from each tribe or group was chosen to be head of his people. Upon completion of the census, it was determined that there were 603,550 men aged twenty and above in addition to women and children. This was quite an increase from the seventy who originally went into the Land of Goshen in Egypt many years earlier.
After the count was completed, God gave instructions for the location of the various tribes to camp around the tabernacle. There were four groups of three tribes on each of the four sides. The tribe of Levi was in the middle and surrounded the tabernacle.
Upon the order to move out, the Levites were to disassemble the tabernacle and its contents and follow the first two of the four groups. They would be in the middle as the last two groups marched behind.
“Thus the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses…”