Click here to send us your inquires or call (852) 36130518
Language issues
Main home page Amazon UK Store Amazon COM Store Site map Search Resources
Translations Languages Language issues Writing Chronology Patriarchs Exodus Judges Site access Recent changes Sundry

Vocabulary characteristic of the Pentateuch - “Encampment”

The word machaneh is used quite extensively within all of the narrative Old Testament books, and in a few scattered locations elsewhere. However, the sense of the word changes outside the Pentateuch. Within the Pentateuch it almost always has a quite general connotation of a mixed temporary settlement including women, children, animals and so forth. From Judges onwards the meaning is dominantly of a military encampment (with a few more technical exceptions noted below). The change of meaning is quite abrupt during the book of Joshua, in which just over half of the uses indicate the wider camp, and just under half have the more explicitly military meaning.

A complete list of references is given below, but briefly, we have the following:

The word is used of Jacob's household as they returned to Canaan, and the Egyptian funeral entourage accompanying Joseph's body.
Exodus to Deuteronomy
The word is used extensively of the Israelite camp in the wilderness. In one chapter in Exodus (14:19) it is used to indicate the camp of the Egyptian soldiers pursuing the Israelites. Once in Numbers (13:19) the word is used while instructing the spies what to look at while inspecting Canaan. Settlements are described of two kinds - encampments and fortified towns - with the implication that the former would be easier to defeat. Once in Deuteronomy it indicates Israelite soldiery going to war. The remaining - nearly 100 - uses indicate the temporary camp of the Israelite people as a whole.
Joshua forms a transition from the Pentateuchal use to the later use, in that the military usage that dominates later books begins to appear here. Just over half of the cases still refer to the major Israelite encampments at Gilgal and elsewhere, but 7 times (of 17) it indicates an army or military base rather than a travellers' temporary settlement. The word is used of the Israelite army camp outside Jericho, the group making the frontal assault on Ai, and the forces of the southern and northern Canaanite alliances.
Although the narrative continues straight on from Joshua into Judges, the word usage changes quite markedly here. It is used of Sisera's army and of the Midianite forces faced by Gideon, and of Israelite forces. Only 3 uses (of 28) indicate a mixed civilian population - either the Danite camp where Samson grew up, or the main Israelite base at Shiloh.
Other books
There are numerous uses scattered through the rest of the Old Testament, split roughly half-and-half as referring to an army (sometimes in the heat of battle), or to a military encampment. The armies concerned include those of the Philistines, Aramaeans, the armies of Israel and Judah, and later still the Assyrians. There are three uses in Chronicles of a religious nature - the camp of the sons of Levi (1 Chr 9:18) in Jerusalem, and the camp of Yahweh (2 Chr 9:19 and 31:2), apparently referring to the Temple area. None of these suggest the kind of general settlement with mixed population that appears in the Pentateuch - the only time such a use is in view is in a Psalm deliberately recalling the time of Moses (106:16).


Mixed civilian settlement 1001031
Army encampment or armed host 472562
Religious)    3

This table shows clearly the change in significance of the word between the Pentateuch and the later books, with Joshua forming a transition. It is important to note that there are occasions when the word machaneh could have been used in the Pentateuch in a military sense but was not - for example, the description of the armies clashing in Genesis 14, or of Abraham and his men pursuing the victors to rescue Lot, or of the conflicting armies at Arad and the transJordan kingdoms (Numbers 21). Similarly, the word is not used in a civilian sense - for example of small Israelite settlements - from 1 Samuel onwards. Hence, this reflects a genuine change in word usage, rather than simple lack of opportunity to use it in a particular way.

Complete list

7 times of Jacob's household.
1 time of the accompaniment to Joseph's body.
16 times of the Israelite encampment.
3 times in chapter 14 of the Egyptian army pursuing the Israelites.
18 times, all of the Israelite encampment.
49 times, all of the Israelite encampment.
9 times of the Israelite encampment.
1 time describing the group of Israelites going to war.
All Pentateuch
100 times of the temporary camp of a mixed population.
4 times of a group of soldiers.
10 times of the main Israelite settlements at Gilgal, Shiloh or Makkedah.
4 times of the camp of the Israelite army
3 times of armed hosts (once Israelite, twice Canaanite)
1 time of the Danite camp where Samson grew up.
2 times of the main Israelite settlement at Shiloh.
14 times of army camps of the Israelites or the Midianites.
11 times of armed hosts of various origins.
1 and 2 Samuel
13 times of army camps, either Philistine or Israelite.
13 times of an armed host ready for or engaged in battle.
1 and 2 Kings
10 times of army camps of various nations.
8 times of armed hosts of various origins.
Later narrative books
2 times of army camps of various nations.
8 times of armed hosts of various origins.
1 time of the Levite region of Jerusalem.
2 times of the temple area as the encampment of Yahweh.
Other books
1 time of the Israelite encampment at the time of Moses (in Psalm 106).
3 times of army camps of various nations.
5 times of armed hosts of various origins.
All books from Judges on
4 times of the temporary camp of a mixed population.
42 times of army camps.
45 times of armed hosts.
3 times in a religious context.
Language issues