With the stern jagged granite peak from which God spoke as its backdrop, the four-sided camp, with the Tabernacle in its center, stood on the plain in the divinely prescribed order. Each side of the encampment was shared by three tribes under the standard of the leading tribe for that group.
Judah, Issachar and Zebulon camped on the east side under the standard of Judah. Reuben, Simeon and Gad were on the south side under the standard of Reuben. On the west side were Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin under the standard of Ephraim, while on the north were the tribes of Dan, Asher and Naphthali under the standard of Dan. Inside this sea of tents was a narrow line of tents that belonged to the priestly families. On the east were those of Moses and Aaron, while on the south, was the family of Kohath. The family of Gershon encamped on the west, while the family of Merari had their row of tents in the north. All these surrounded the Tabernacle, the movable sanctuary over which rested a pillar of cloud that shaded the entire camp from the intense desert sun (Ps. 105.39). During the year-long stay under Mount Horeb, the Israelites were transformed from a shapeless mass of people into a nation whose progress through the desert was prescribed down to the minutest detail and whose discipline would be the envy of the sternest military commander. From a scene such as this, the Ark commenced its wanderings.