One of the foundational convictions of reformed theology is the unity of Scripture. There is, we believe, one covenant of redemption that God reveals and accomplishes through history, from Adam all the way through to Christ. It should not surprise us, therefore, to find the Old Testament—beginning with the Pentateuch—framed around the expectation of Christ (so, Lk. 24:27). There is one fascinating example of this in the book of Numbers that I want to take up in this post.
The book of Numbers begins with two lists of names. In chapter one, a census of Israel is taken, listing all twelve tribes one-by-one. Then in chapter two, the arrangement for Israel’s encampment and their order of march is given, once again listing the tribes one-by-one. But the order is different in the two chapters. And the shift in order is theologically profound.
Both lists of tribes are shaped according to the birth order of their namesakes, the twelve sons of Jacob. To be more specific, both of these name lists are based on the birth order of the twelve patriarchs, grouped according to their mothers. (Recall that Jacob had two wives and two concubines). Here is their birth order when grouped by [...]