Original: דּגל

Transliteration: degel

BDB Definition: 1) banner, standard

Numbers 2:17 (NKJV)

"And the tabernacle of meeting shall move out with the camp of the Levites in the middle of the camps; as they camp, so they shall move out, everyone in his place, by their standards.

Numbers 2:34 (NKJV)

Thus the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses; so they camped by their standards and so they broke camp, each one by his family, according to their fathers' houses.

The word for standard is degel meaning banner.

1) What were the four standards or banners used to represent each triad of tribes?

2) What did these tribal banners/standards look like?

4 Answers 4


Excerpt from The Four Banners of Israel by Ron Wallace:

" According to rabbinical tradition, the standard of Judah bore the figure of a lion, that of Reuben the likeness of a man or of a man’s head, that of Ephraim the figure of anox, and that of Dan the figure of an eagle; so that the four living creatures united in the cherubic forms described by Ezekiel were represented upon these four standards.7

Jewish tradition says the “four standards” under which Israel encamped in the wilderness, to the east, Judah, to the north, Dan, to the west, Ephraim, to the south, Reuben, were respectively a lion, an eagle, an ox, and a man, while in the midst was the tabernacle containing the Shekinah symbol of the Divine Presence." Source: here

These images were also the representations on the four faces of the living creatures in both Ezek. 1:5, 10 and Rev. 4:6-7. Excerpt from my post "The Signs of Revelation - Part IV: The Throne Scene ..." "

4. Four living creatures – Rev. 4:6, 8, 9; 5:6, 8, 11, 14; 6:1, 6; 7:11; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4

The KJV translates these as “beasts,” which is a meaning given in Strong’s, but which is not the context of these scriptures. These are of a completely different office and nature than of the predator beasts of chapters 13 – 20. These are the living creatures who are the agents of God, with the characteristics of God as described in Ez. chap. 1, and are correctly translated so in Young’s Literal Translation of the above verses.

Rev. 4:6-7,

” and before the throne [is] a sea of glass like to crystal, and in the midst of the throne, and round the throne, [are] four living creatures, full of eyes before and behind; 7 and the first living creature [is] like a lion, and the second living creature [is] like a calf, and the third living creature hath the face as a man, and the fourth living creature [is] like an eagle flying.” (YLT)

Compare with Ezekiel’s description:

Ez. 1:5, 10;

“ And out of its midst [is] a likeness of four living creatures, and this [is] their appearance; a likeness of man [is] to them,” ….. “10 As to the likeness of their faces, the face of a man, and the face of a lion, toward the right [are] to them four, and the face of an ox on the left [are] to them four, and the face of an eagle [are] to them four.” (YLT)

These are the same which Ezekiel identifies as the cherubim of Ez. 1:15, 20:

”15And the cherubs are lifted up, it [is] the living creature that I saw by the river Chebar.“…..20It [is] the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river Chebar, and I know that they are cherubs.”

Isa. 6:2 calls them “seraphim:”

” Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” (KJV)

These are burning ones symbolizing judgment of God. God’s fury is fire (Ex. 3:2; Psa 21:9; Nah.1:6; Heb 12:29), and these have a burning flame described in Ez. 1:13 as coals of fire, and burning lamps going up and down their bodies. Isaiah sees them with six wings, whereas Ezekiel sees four wings and four faces. They fly where God wills them to go (Ez. 1:12, 20). They hand out coals of fire, which are the judgments from God (Is. 6:6; Ez. 10:2, 7)

See Ez. 10:2,

“And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight.” (KJV)

They are represented in the wilderness tabernacle over the mercy seat in the holy of holies (Ex. 25: 18-20), which is a representation of the throne of God.

Ex. 25:22,

“And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.” (KJV)

And we go back to Gen. 3:24,

“ So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

They are guardians, agents / angels of God, bearing his chariot in Ezekiel, and constantly doing the will of the Almighty.

Ezekiel saw them with each having four faces. Faces are aspects, appearances, what they look like to others who see them. These living creatures were beside God at His throne, and surrounded Christ. They reflected the appearance and image of Christ.

Christ is the King of Kings (1 Tim. 6:15), the lion is a symbol of kingship. Christ was the sacrifice for all who will call upon Him; the ox, or calf was one of the animals frequently sacrificed under the old law. Christ became a man to be able to perfect all of us in Him, which is the representation of a man’s face on the living creatures. Christ’s judgment is swift and certain; the aspect / face of the eagle; possibly also reflecting sovereignty and deity.

According to Hebrew tradition, their faces represented the tribes of Israel around the tabernacle; the lion that of Judah, with Issachar and Zabulon on the east of the camp; the ox / calf that of Ephraim on the west side, with Manasseh and Benjamin; the man was the emblem of Reuben, who was camped on the south with Gad and Simeon; and the eagle that of Dan, encamped on the north with Asher and Naphtali.

This view is secondary to the higher symbolism that reflects the nature of Christ. However, it is interesting that the armies God usually used to bring judgment against Israel most often came from the north. The eagle was the emblem of swift, swooping justice, and being on the north side of the camp might have indicated the direction of God’s judgment. (Isa. 14:31; Jer. 4:6; 6:22; Jer. 50:9; Ez. 1:4; 26:7; etc.).

You can find the rest of this post at my site ShreddingTheVeil

  • Are those creatures explicitly associated with the tribes anywhere?
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 9, 2017 at 0:54
  • Most of this doesn't really relate to the question. Explanations on the significance of the animals would really be better on questions about those verses.
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 9, 2017 at 0:55
  • The living creatures are God's agents. I find it interesting that the emblems of the standards were also the four aspects or faces of the living creatures that surrounded Christ in the throne scene. His aspects, character, and protection was reflected in the standards around the camp.
    – Gina
    Dec 9, 2017 at 1:09
  • Which would be compelling if there was any actual evidence or argument for it. The Exodus took place a millennia before Ezekiel. Jewish tradition is not much here. But as I asked, if there is anywhere the creatures are explicitly associated with the tribes that would make this theory much more compelling.
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 9, 2017 at 1:59
  • Why the down vote. This is a very helpful answer. +1!!
    – user20490
    Dec 9, 2017 at 3:07

I happen to agree with the first answer. However, in regards to the source of the standards, we find that mainly in Genesis 49 when Israel blessed his children.

Judah is prophesied to be a lion's whelp that is originally prey but then becomes an old powerful lion, and the standard is thus associated with a lion. (Gen 49:9)

enter image description here

Reuben means "behold a son" (Reu meaning observe and, Beni-adam means son of Adam) and the is the firstborn of strength and this symbol is that of a man (Gen 29:32)


Ephraim is blessed under Joseph to be full of strength and the traditional standard was that of an Ox or Unicorn (Gen 49:24).

enter image description here

Dan means "judge" and is designated as a serpent, biting the heels of those around them. The original standard would include that of a serpent (Gen 49:16), but due to it's association with sin and the tempter in the garden of Eden, Ahiezer, who was later the chief of Dan (Numbers 2:25), changed the standard into an Eagle clutching a snake (according to Jewish Tradition).

enter image description here

Interestingly, if you arrange the camps by the numbers and the description in Numbers 2, you will get this image, which speaks for itself in my opinion.

enter image description here

The remainder is superfluous unless you are interested in further reading and is copied from http://www.biblefragrances.com/studies/fourbanners.html

" Jerome Prado provides additional background correlating the images with the camps:

Jerome Prado, in his commentary upon Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1 p. 44), gives the following minute description according to rabbinical tradition: “The different leaders of the tribes had their own standards, with the crests of their ancestors depicted upon them. On the east, above the tent of Naasson the first-born of Judah, there shone a standard of a green colour, this colour having been adopted by him because it was in a green stone, viz., an emerald, that the name of his forefather Judah was engraved on the breastplate of the high priest (Ex. 25:15ff.), and on this standard there was depicted a lion, the crest and hieroglyphic of his ancestor Judah, whom Jacob had compared to a lion, saying, ‘Judah is a lion’s whelp.’ Towards the south, above the tent of Elisur the son of Reuben, there floated a red standard, having the colour of the sardus, on which the name of his father, viz., Reuben, was engraved upon the breastplate of the high priest. The symbol depicted upon this standard was a human head, because Reuben was the first-born, and head of the family. On the west, above the tent of Elishamah the son of Ephraim, there was a golden flag, on which the head of a calf was depicted, because it was through the vision of the calves or oxen that his ancestor Joseph had predicted and provided for the famine in Egypt (Gen. 41); and hence Moses, when blessing the tribe of Joseph, i.e., Ephraim (Deu. 33:17), said, ‘his glory is that of the first-born of a bull.’ The golden splendour of the standard of Ephraim resembled that of the chrysolite, in which the name of Ephraim was engraved upon the breastplate. Towards the north, above the tent of Ahiezer the son of Dan, there floated a motley standard of white and red, like the jaspis (or, as some say, a carbuncle), in which the name of Dan was engraved upon the breastplate. The crest upon this was an eagle, the great doe to serpents, which had been chosen by the leader in the place of a serpent, because his forefather Jacob had compared Dan to a serpent, saying, ‘Dan is a serpent in the way, an adder (cerastes, a horned snake) in the path;’ but Ahiezer substituted the eagle, the destroyer of serpents as he shrank from carrying an adder upon his flag.”15

In relation to the eagle being associated with the tribe of Dan, we note that Dan means judge (Gen. 30:6; 49:16) and the symbolism of the eagle is often connected with judgment (Deu. 28:49; Job 9:26; Pr. 30:17; Jer. 4:13; 48:40; 49:22; Lam. 4:19; Eze. 17:3; Hos. 8:1; Hab. 1:8; Mtt. 24:28; Luke 17:37)."

  • 1
    Wow walid. I really appreciate the depth, extensiveness and simplicity of your answer. +1
    – user20490
    Feb 6, 2018 at 14:24

I read an account from a Rabbi that the arrangement of the Tribes around the Tabernacle Tent was according to Jewish Tradition related to Jacob who had a vision of the Angelic Armies of God in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 32:

[1] Jacob also went on the journey he had begun: and the angels of God met him. [2] And when he saw them, he said: These are the camps of God, and he called the name of that place Mahanaim, that is, Camps." (Duay Rheims Bible) The sons of Jacob were arranged in an order around Jacob's remains according to his vision of how the angelic armies were arranged when they buried him according to his wishes: Genesis 49:29 "And he charged them, saying: I am now going to be gathered to my people: bury me with my fathers in the double cave, which is in the field of Ephron the Hethite, [30] Over against Mambre in the land of Chanaan, which Abraham bought together with the field of Ephron the Hethite for a possession to bury in.

Again, according to the Rabbi's teaching which I read the Israelites in Exodus also had a vision of the Angelic Armies and were in such awe that they desired their own camp to reflect the Angelic Armies of God in their arrangement around the Tabernacle Tent. There is evidence that there was a tradition for which Archangel was associated with different sides of the camp, according to tribes and the four cardinal directions:

  • Michael the Archangel was associated with tribe of Judah to East
  • Gabriel was associated with Tribe of Ephraim to West
  • Uriel was associated with the 'earth;, and fulfillment of prophecy assigning him to the Southern camp of Reuben
  • Raphael would be the Archangel to the North, Tribe of Dan.

This article is one I found helpful about the Angels and their association with protecting the Tribes of Israel, although different articles seem to place the angels in different cardinal directions but I quote:

As it is shown in the Book of the Holy Prophet Ezekiel throughout (compare with the Book of Revelation), the first four archangels (Michael, Gabriel, Raphel, Uriel) are the ones that stand in the four corners of The Great Throne of God (the Ma'aseh Merkabah). Together with them stand the four six-winged Living Creatures (Ayyot), the four many-eyed Cherubim—having four arms, four wings and four faces each—and the four many-eyed Wheels (Ophannim) or Storm-Winds (Galgallim), which Christians, (according to the example of the Great Apostle Paul and that of his illustrious disciple, St. Dionysius the Areopagite) call Thrones. These four archangels are the ones that protected the four camps of the people of Israel in the wilderness: to the North, to the South, to the East and to the West. They are the angels of the four winds, according to the Scripture that says: "[You] Who maketh his angels spirits [literally, winds]; his ministers a flaming fire" (Psalms 104:4, KJV). Source

The mention of the same Angelic figures, symbols which are associated with the four Gospels occurs in Book of Revelations so you can see a thread that runs from the Book of Genesis, through Exodus, Ezekiel, and the whole scriptures--I am working on how the four sets of rosary mysteries (a rosary is made up of Angelic Salutations so the repeated hail Marys become an Angelic Wheel) and I believe the symbols for the four Evangelists are connected--so if you think the rosary is not in the scriptures, you would be wrong, it is a thread that runs through all of it!

I am sorry I have not been able to locate the Rabbi's original article about the camps and the vision the Israelites had of the Angelic Armies because it was an amazing teaching. The four standards correspond to the Angels

  • Michael, and Angel of fire, Judah the tribe of the East, sunrise, direction believed to be where Messiah will return
  • Raphael the Angel of healing, Tribe to the North is Dan whose symbol is an Eagle, the enemy of the snake
  • Uriel the Angel of Humanity, prophecy Tribe of Reuban to south, firstborn of Jacob, symbol the Angelic Man, Christ is firstborn son of the Father in Heaven
  • Gabriel, Angel of Strength, Tribe of Ephraim to West, symbol is Ox the beast of burdens, the direction of the Patriarchs or the sturdy legs, foundations of Israel.

This direction is associated with passage to East, an axis-mundi of dark to west going upward toward the light of the East. The tribe of Judah would have led the Israelites and Ephraim, tribe to Wesr was the last tribe as they crossed the desert. Another site pointed out that you can say they passed through the desert in a cross-formation.

  • The orthodoxwiki is not a Jewish site. The "rabbis" alluded to in it are not quoted, and the sources given, such as the Book of Enoch, are widely questioned. The theology of this viewpoint is at odds with Scripture, which tells us plainly that the Israelites were camped according to God's direction (see Numbers 2 & 3). Their places did not just happen according to tradition. Also, the Bible speaks of only one archangel. "The archangel" is named as Michael (see Jude 1:9), who is identified in Daniel as Messiah our Prince, i.e. Jesus.
    – Polyhat
    Jul 14, 2021 at 5:03
  • Did not realize you only want official Jewish websites. Other websites from Christian bibical scholarship and belief can add information from my poin of view. Fod is always revealing more and more to us.
    – Mary Zore
    Jul 19, 2021 at 16:37

TO POLYHAT - Michael is not identified as Jesus anywhere in the few verses Michael is spoken of (like 5 verses). Also in Jude 1:9, it says that Michael didn't rebuke Satan...But no where in Scripture do we find Jesus ever having hesitations regarding any rebuking Satan..So obviously Michael is not Jesus. FYI God Bless


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