The day The Dwelling was set up, the Cloud covered The Dwelling of the Tent of Testimony. From sunset until daybreak it was over The Dwelling. It looked like fire. It was like that all the time, the Cloud over The Dwelling and at night looking like fire.
When the Cloud lifted above the Tent, the People of Israel marched out; and when the Cloud descended the people camped. The People of Israel marched at God’s command and they camped at his command. As long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, they camped. Even when the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for many days, they honored God’s command and wouldn’t march. They stayed in camp, obedient to God’s command, as long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, but the moment God issued orders they marched. If the Cloud stayed only from sunset to daybreak and then lifted at daybreak, they marched. Night or day, it made no difference—when the Cloud lifted, they marched. It made no difference whether the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for two days or a month or a year, as long as the Cloud was there, they were there. And when the Cloud went up, they got up and marched. They camped at God’s command and they marched at God’s command. They lived obediently by God’s orders as delivered by Moses.
The Two Bugles
God spoke to Moses: “Make two bugles of hammered silver. Use them to call the congregation together and give marching orders to the camps. When you blow them, the whole community will meet you at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.
“When a bugle gives a single, short blast, that’s the signal for the leaders, the heads of the clans, to assemble. When it gives a long blast, that’s the signal to march. At the first blast the tribes who were camped on the east set out. At the second blast the camps on the south set out. The long blasts are the signals to march. The bugle call that gathers the assembly is different from the signal to march.
“The sons of Aaron, the priests, are in charge of blowing the bugles; it’s their assigned duty down through the generations. When you go to war against an aggressor, blow a long blast on the bugle so that God will notice you and deliver you from your enemies. Also at times of celebration, at the appointed feasts and New Moon festivals, blow the bugles over your Whole-Burnt-Offerings and Peace-Offerings: they will keep your attention on God. I am God, your God.”
The March from Sinai to Paran
In the second year, on the twentieth day of the second month, the Cloud went up from over The Dwelling of The Testimony. At that the People of Israel set out on their travels from the Wilderness of Sinai until the Cloud finally settled in the Wilderness of Paran. They began their march at the command of God through Moses.
The flag of the camp of Judah led the way, rank after rank under the command of Nahshon son of Amminadab. Nethanel son of Zuar commanded the forces of the tribe of Issachar, and Eliab son of Helon commanded the forces of the tribe of Zebulun. As soon as The Dwelling was taken down, the Gershonites and the Merarites set out, carrying The Dwelling.
The flag of the camp of Reuben was next with Elizur son of Shedeur in command. Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai commanded the forces of the tribe of Simeon; Eliasaph son of Deuel commanded the forces of the tribe of Gad. Then the Kohathites left, carrying the holy things. By the time they arrived The Dwelling would be set up.
The flag of the tribe of Ephraim moved out next, commanded by Elishama son of Ammihud. Gamaliel son of Pedahzur commanded the forces of the tribe of Manasseh; Abidan son of Gideoni commanded the forces of the tribe of Benjamin.
Finally, under the flag of the tribe of Dan, the rear guard of all the camps marched out with Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai in command. Pagiel son of Ocran commanded the forces of the tribe of Asher; Ahira son of Enan commanded the forces of the tribe of Naphtali.
These were the marching units of the People of Israel. They were on their way.
Moses said to his brother-in-law Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We’re marching to the place about which God promised, ‘I’ll give it to you.’ Come with us; we’ll treat you well. God has promised good things for Israel.”
But Hobab said, “I’m not coming; I’m going back home to my own country, to my own family.”
Moses countered, “Don’t leave us. You know all the best places to camp in the wilderness. We need your eyes. If you come with us, we’ll make sure that you share in all the good things God will do for us.”
And so off they marched. From the Mountain of God they marched three days with the Chest of the Covenant of God in the lead to scout out a campsite. The Cloud of God was above them by day when they marched from the camp. With the Chest leading the way, Moses would say,
Get up, God!
Put down your enemies!
Chase those who hate you to the hills!
And when the Chest was set down, he would say,
Rest with us, God,
Stay with the many,
Many thousands of Israel.
The people fell to grumbling over their hard life. God heard. When he heard his anger flared; then fire blazed up and burned the outer boundaries of the camp. The people cried out for help to Moses; Moses prayed to God and the fire died down. They named the place Taberah (Blaze) because fire from God had blazed up against them.