In Bamidbar 1:14, when listing the heads of the tribes, Gad comes between Asher and Naftali and is in the 11th position.

However, when citing the tribal census, Gad appears after Shim'on and is in the 3rd position. (See verse 24.) The rest of the tribes' censi (is that the plural of "census"?) appear in the same order as the tribal leaders' listings.

Why is only Gad moved?

  • The camps were divided into 4 groups of 3. The tribes from the "concubines" are Dan the leader, and the two others that were not firstborns, Naftali and Asher. Gad is moved with Reuven and Shimon so that camp has two firstborns (and the one led by Yehuda doesn't have any).
    – CashCow
    May 13, 2015 at 14:04
  • @CashCow interesting that you noticed this. If you can source this as being the reason, please make it an answer. Offhand, did you see this somewhere, or this is your own observation?
    – DanF
    May 13, 2015 at 14:08
  • I don't know if he was moved so that camp wouldn't have 2 firstborns. It is obvious they are 4 camps of 3 so one of those 4 had to move. I'm just suggesting why it is Gad.
    – CashCow
    May 13, 2015 at 14:09

1 Answer 1


The Abarbanal on Numbers 2 explains this.

He explains that ideally since there are 12 tribes that come from 4 mothers that there would be two groups of 3 tribes from לאה, one group from רחל and another from the שפחות.

However, since Levi was not with the other tribes (since he was in the middle), the groups were put in this way:

  1. Yehuda, Yisaschar, and Zvulon. The younger sons of Leah.

  2. Reuven, Shimon, and Gad. Since Levi is in the center, he is replaced by Gad - the eldest of Zilpa (Leah's maid).

  3. Efraim, Menashe, and Benyamin. Rachel's sons.

  4. Dan, Asher, and Naftali. The maids' sons.

  • To confirm - the second listing is in the order of the camp groups? If so, then why wasn't the 1st listing ordered in the same way?
    – DanF
    May 20, 2015 at 14:39
  • @DanF the 1st listing is in simple chronological order (excluding Levi) because the main purpose of counting israel was not for setting the camps (but for preparation for war). Only when setting the camps was the order changed as needed.
    – yechezkel
    May 20, 2015 at 16:31

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