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Based on Bamidbar/Numbers 2:2 the Israelites had to pitch their tents by tribe around the Ohel Mo'ed/Mishkan.

But what I would like to know is

  1. How it would look from above? What shape would it be (round, squared, etc.)?
  2. And what would their order/arrangement look like?

I noticed that at the east one should start with Yehudah and in Bamidbar/Numbers 2:5 it says: "וְהַחֹנִים עָלָיו". What does this mean? In which direction in relation to Yehudah would the next tribe - Yissachar - be placed? And what about Zevulun?

P.s. After the direction is given, the first tribe is mentioned and afterwards the next tribe is mentioned. In these cases the words וְהַחֹנִים עָלָיו are being used, except for one occasion and that's when Menasheh is mentioned in Numbers 2:20 it only says וְעָלָיו why so?

  • Related to this other question of yours – DonielF Jun 24 '18 at 20:54
  • I think the Hertz Chumash has a diagram. If I'm not mistaken, Stone Chumash has one, as well. – DanF Jun 25 '18 at 17:20
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There is a dispute in the g'mara about what shape (viewed aerially) the people were in as they walked. One opinion says they were shaped like a "box" - i.e. rectangle*, and the prooftext is

כַּאֲשֶׁ֤ר יַחֲנוּ֙ כֵּ֣ן יִסָּ֔עוּ

They walked in the same shape in which they camped.

According to this opinion they camped in a rectangle!

כיצד היו ישראל מהלכין במדבר? רבי חמא בר חנינה ורבי הושעיה: חד אמר כתיבה וחרנה אמר כקורה. מאן דמר כתיבה, "כאשר יחנו כן יסעו". מאן דמר כקורה, "מאסף לכל המחנות לצבאותם"‏

Following along with the idea that we can infer their camping orders from their marching orders, the site Al Hatorah has a compilation of visual depictions of the camp, and the sources which could bear upon such illustrations. The only one that relates directly to the shape is that of Abarbanel, who explains the strategic reason for placing particular populations on each of the four cardinal sides.


* Jastrow translates it in this instance as "square" (p. 1643), which is reasonable to the extent that there was an equal number (3) of sh'vatim on each side, notwithstanding the fact that some of them were far more populous than others, which is a fact adduced in support of the other side in this dispute.

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