Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster , at sacred-texts.com
LIII. (1) The sages say that while the Israelites were travelling in the wilderness they were surrounded by seven clouds of glory, one in front of them, one behind them, two on each side, and one above them to protect them from the
sun and the cold. Another cloud went before them, which levelled the high places and raised the lower places that they might not stumble, as it is said, 'And Thy cloud stood above them, and in a pillar of cloud Thou wentest before them.' This was the one in front of them, and the seventh was that which was placed at the head of the standards, and the light of the Divine Presence was refulgent in it. But how did it shine there? (2) The Rabbis say that there were four standards, of which the standard of Judah was in the east, and similar in shape to a lion, as it is said, Judah is a lion's whelp.' On the top of the banner was the form of a lion, out of which hooks of gold protruded, which ended in a sword-like pike, and on this there rested one arm of the seventh cloud, on which the three letters representing the three forefathers were engraved, viz., Alef, Yod, Yod. 'Alef' for Abraham, 'Yod' for Isaac, and 'Yod' for Jacob (### being the mnemonic sign). These letters were illuminated by the Shechinah. (3) In the south the banner of Reuben was placed. It had the appearance of a man similar to mandrakes, on account of the passage, 'And he found mandrakes.' On the top of the banner hooks of gold, which ended in a sword-like pike, and upon them rested one arm of the cloud, on which the three letters representing the three ancestors were engraved—'Beth' for Abraham, 'Ṣade' for Isaac, and '‘Ayin' for Jacob (### being the mnemonic sign). These letters also shone from the splendour of the Shechinah.
(4) In the west the banner of Ephraim was encamped, being in appearance like a fish, on account of the expression, 'And they shall increase like the fish abundantly.' On the top of the banner were placed hooks of gold ending in a sword-like pike, on which rested one arm of the cloud, with the three letters representing the three forefathers engraved upon it, viz., 'Resh' for Abraham, 'Heth' for Isaac, and 'Qof' for Jacob (the mnemonic sign being ###). Likewise these letters shone through the splendour of the Shechinah. (5) Lastly, in the north was encamped the banner of Dan, in the form of a serpent, on account of the
expression, 'Dan shall be like a serpent by the way.' On the top of the banner were placed hooks of gold ending in a sword-like pike, above which one arm of the cloud rested, with three letters representing the three ancestors engraved thereon, viz., 'Mem' for Abraham, 'Qof' for Isaac, and 'Beth' for Jacob (the mnemonic letters being ###), which shone through the splendour of the Shechinah.
(6) Now, there was one letter remaining, viz., the He of Abraham, which God added to Abram from His own name, which is spelt Yod Hē (###). With this God created the world, as it is said, 'For with "Yah" the Lord created the worlds.' God placed the pillar of cloud above the ark, which was surrounded by all the banners, as it is said, 'They encamped round about the tent of the congregation.' On this cloud now those sacred letters Yad, Hē, were fixed, and during the seven days of each week it went the round of all the camps of Israel, giving light as the sun by day and as the moon by night. They were thus able to distinguish between day and night. (7) When God wished them to remove their camps, the cloud on which the letters Yod, He were engraved moved upwards from the ark of the covenant. The four clouds on which were respectively engraved the letters ###, ### and ### followed after them, and as soon as the priests noticed these clouds following in the wake of the pillar of cloud, with the letters ### on it, they blew their trumpets, and the four winds of the earth blew myrrh and frankincense, as it is said, 'Who is this coming up from the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense?'
(8) These trumpets were used first for assembling the people together, then as the signal to continue their journeying for war, and also for the Sabbaths and festivals. Every trumpet was hollow and emitted a loud sound. It was one cubit in length and broad at the mouth, and a thin reed was placed in its mouth to receive the breath, and thus to discourse music in the hearing of the people. When they were used to assemble the people, and to bring the princes together, the sons of Aaron blew on one trumpet one long
even sound (teqi‘ah ###), and not a tremolo (###). A Teqi‘ah, or one long even sound, on two trumpets meant the assembling of the whole congregation, but the same on only one trumpet was the signal for the assembling of the princes. If a tribe required its prince, they blew a Teqi‘ah on one trumpet, but not a Teru‘ah or tremolo. In the same manner the assembling of all the congregation was sounded.
(9) As a signal for continuing their journey they used two trumpets and sounded the Teru‘ah. At the first sound the three camps eastward, under the banner of Judah, moved onwards; at the second the three camps in the south, under the banner of Reuben; at the third, the three camps in the west, under the banner of Ephraim; and at the fourth sound of the Teru‘ah, the three camps in the north, under the banner of Dan, started on their journey. For all these the Teru‘ah sound was blown. In war, however, and on a day of rejoicing, or a festival, or a new moon, the sons of Aaron blew the two sounds Teqi‘ah and Teru‘ah. (10) These four banners correspond with the four elements of which the world is composed, and the twelve tribes correspond with the twelve stones of the ephod, as it is said, 'And the stones shall be called after the names of the children of Israel.' The banner of Judah in the east corresponds to one of the four elements, viz., fire, and of the constellations, to Aries, Leo and Sagittarius, which consist of fire, and to the first row of the stones of the ephod, viz., the sardius, topaz and carbuncle.
(11) The standard of Reuben in the south corresponded to earth, the second of the four elements; to Taurus, Virgo and Capricornus of the constellations which are of the dust; and to the second row of the stones of the ephod, viz., the emerald, sapphire, and diamond. The banner of Ephraim in the west corresponded to water, the third of the four elements; to Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius of the constellations, which consist of water; and to the third row of the stones of the ephod, viz., the jacinth, agate, and amethyst.
(12) The standard of Dan in the north corresponded to air, the fourth of the four elements; to Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces of the constellations, which were created of air; and to the fourth row of the stones of the ephod, viz., the beryl, onyx, and the jasper. (13) Judah's constellation is Leo and his stone the sardius; Isaachar's is Aries and his stone the topaz; Zebulun's Sagittarius and his stone the carbuncle, i.e., altogether nine corresponding to fire. * Reuben's constellation is Taurus, and his stone the emerald; Simeon's Virgo and his stone the sapphire; Gad's Capricornus and his stone the diamond, i.e., altogether nine * corresponding to dust. Ephraim's constellation is Gemini and his stone the jacinth; Menasseh's Libra and his stone the agate; Benjamin's Aquarius and his stone the amethyst, which are together nine corresponding to air. * Dan's constellation is Cancer and his stone the beryl; Asher's Scorpio and his stone the onyx; Naphtali's Pisces and his stone the jasper, which are altogether nine corresponding to water.`
(14) Each man stood by his standard, together with the ensign of his father's house, thus: Reuben, mandrakes; Simeon, the city of Shechem; Judah, the lion's whelp; Issachar, a strong ass; Zebulun, a ship; Ephraim, an ox; Menasseh, a buffalo (or Rëem); Benjamin, a wolf; Dan, a serpent; Naphtali, a hind; Gad, a troop (according to the passage, 'a troop will overtake him'); Asher, an olive, on account of the passage, 'He dipped his foot in oil.' Thus, a sign was given to every banner, according to the deeds and according to the name of the tribe.
(15) And these are the four camps of the standards. 'Every man by his standard, according to the house of their fathers, shall encamp round about the tent of the congregation.' Between the tabernacle and the camps of the standards there was a very wide space. Three tribes formed under one banner, that is, in three separate camps according to their order, and each camp was like a large city. The camps of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun, were
placed in the east; Reuben, Simeon and Gad in the south; Ephraim, Benjamin and Menasseh in the west; and Dan, Asher and Naphtali in the north. The Levites encamped between the tabernacle and the camps, on the four sides of the tabernacle, at a distance from the camps, but near the tabernacle, and kept guard in the tabernacle of the Lord. Moses and Aaron and his sons encamped in the east of the tabernacle, opposite Judah's standard. The sons of Kehath encamped in the south, opposite Reuben's banner; the children of Gershon in the west, opposite Ephraim's banner, and the children of Merari in the north, opposite Dan's banner. The tent of the congregation stood in the centre, surrounded on all sides by the Levites, while the four standards of the Israelites surrounded the Levites, and the clouds of glory surrounded the Israelites. That is the meaning of the verse, 'The angel of the Lord encamps round about those who fear Him.' The four standards, Moses, Aaron and the tabernacle, which are altogether seven, correspond to the seven planets, viz., Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, and the twelve tribes to the twelve constellations.
(16) R. Ele‘azar asked R. Simeon, 'When the Israelites went out of Egypt, did they take weavers with them?' 'No,' replied R. Simeon. 'How, then, did they clothe themselves during the whole of the forty years?' ‘The ministering angels clothed them, as it is said, "And I shall clothe thee in fine network." 'But did not the children grow to men?' said he. 'Learn the reply from the purple snail whose shell grows simultaneously with it.' Thus the Israelites fared, nor did they become dirty, for the clouds were cleansing them. Further, they did not emit a malodorous smell from the perspiration of their bodies, although they did not change their clothes.
(17) The well caused to grow various kinds of spices and sweet-smelling herbs, upon which they lay, as it is said, 'He will cause me to lie down in the well-watered pastures,' the perfume of which travelled from one end of the world to the other. The well of Miriam was placed at the entrance of
the court near Moses’ tent, and indicated to all (the camps) where they were to encamp. It indicated it in this manner: When the curtains of the court were set up, the twelve pillars by the well sang the 'Shirah,' as it is said, 'They dug the well with songs.' And the waters of the well swelled into rivers, one of which surrounded the camp of the Shechinah. From that river there issued four other rivers into the four corners of the court, each one of which flowed through the four corners, such as south-east, etc., to the camp of the Israelites. After passing the camp of the Levites, these rivers flowed together into one channel, encompassing first the whole camp of the Levites; and flowing between each family, and surrounding the camp of the Shechinah, there were seen many small channels. Then this great river encompassed the whole camp of the Israelites from without, forming into smaller rivers running between each tribe. These rivers marked the boundary of each camp, so that one did not encroach upon his neighbour. But do not think that they obtained nothing from the waters, because they produced all kinds of dainties similar to those of the world to come, as it is written, 'Thou art a fountain of gardens.' And all kinds of spices grew for them, as it is said, 'Thy shoots are a garden of pomegranates . . . . with spikenard and saffron,' etc.
(18) At the end of each camp on the east, west, north and south, there stretched an area of 4,000 cubits. Moses and Aaron and his sons were encamped in the east; the children of Kehath in the south; the children of Gershon in the west; and the children of Merari in the north. Each one of them occupied 100 cubits within the 4,000. In addition to this there were those 4,000 cubits on each side. Thus the Levites occupied one-eighth of the whole area of the tribes. But where did the animals pasture? The whole encampment extended over an area of 12 square miles, comprising the camp of the Shechinah, that of the Levites, and that of the camp of the Israelites. In the corners on each side their cattle pastured, i.e., opposite (or facing) their own encampment. The rivers
surrounded them from within and without, forming channels for them all round, so that the people had permission to walk on the Sabbath from one camp to the other. The cloud being spread over them, divided them from their cattle, as it is said, 'And the cloud of the Lord rested over them by day.' From the splendour of the blue used in the tabernacle the rivers appeared blue as the blue of the morning and the light of the moon and the sun was reflected in them. When the nations beheld them from afar praising God, they said, 'Who are these people looking at us from the wilderness?' and fear and dread fell upon them all, as it is said, 'Fear and dread shall fall upon them.'
153:* I. e., if we include the names of the tribes.