(חָנָהּ, chanah', to decline, e.g. of the day, Jg 19:9, i.e., evening; hence to "pitch" a tent, Ge 26:17, especially to "camp" down at night, as often rendered), among the Hebrews, primarily denoted the resting of an army or company of travelers at night (Ex 13:20; Nu 1:50; comp. Ex 16:13; Ge 32:21), and hence the derivative noun (מִחֲנֶה, michaneh', camp, once מִחֲנוֹת, mackanoth', 2Ki 6:8) is applied to the army or caravan when on its march (Ex 14:19; Jos 10:5; Jos 11:4; Ge 32:7-8). SEE MAHANAIM. Sometimes the verb refers to the casual arrangement of a siege (Ps 29:3) or campaign (1Sa 4:1), and occasionally it is extended to the signification of a permanent abode (Isa 29:1). Among nomadic tribes war never attained the dignity of a science, and their encampments were consequently devoid of all the appliances of more systematic warfare. SEE WAR.
1. The description of the camp of the Israelites, on their march from Egypt (Nu 2:3), supplies the greatest amount of information on the subject: whatever else may be gleaned is from scattered hints. The tabernacle, corresponding to the chieftain's tent of an ordinary encampment, was placed in the center; and around and facing it (Nu 2:1), arranged in four grand divisions, corresponding to the four points of the compass (but not necessarily in the strict quadrangular form usually represented, since modern Arab caravans are ranged at night in a nearly circular manner), lay the host of Israel, according to their standards (Nu 1:52; Nu 2:2). On the east the post of honor was assigned to the tribe of Judah, and round its standard rallied the tribes of Issachar and Zebulon, descendants of the sons of Leah. On the south lay Reuben and Simeon, the representatives of Leah, and the children of Gad, the son of her handmaid. Rachel's descendants were encamped on the western side of the tabernacle, the chief place being assigned to the tribe of Ephraim. To this position of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, allusions are made in Jg 5:14, and Ps 80:2. On the north were the tribes of Dan and Napthali, the children of Bilhah, and the tribe of Asher, Gad's younger brother. All these were encamped around their standards, each according to the ensign of the house of his fathers. In the center, round the tabernacle, and with no standard but the cloudy or fiery pillar which rested over it, were the tents of the priests and Levites. The former, with Moses and Aaron at their head, were encamped on the eastern side. On the south were the Kohathites, who had charge of the ark, the table of shew bread, the altars and vessels of the sanctuary. The Gershonites were on the west, and when on the march carried the tabernacle and its lighter furniture; while the Merarites, who were encamped on the north, had charge of its heavier appurtenances. The order of encampment was preserved on the march (Nu 2:17), the signal for which was given by a blast of the two silver trumpets (Nu 10:5). The details of this account supply Prof. Blunt with some striking illustrations of the undesigned coincidences of the books of Moses (Undes. Coincid. pages 75-86).
In this description of the order of the encampment no mention is made of sentinels, who, it is reasonable to suppose, were placed at the gates (Ex 32:26-27) in the four quarters of the camp. This was evidently the case in the camp of the Levites (comp. 1Ch 9:18,24; 2Ch 31:2).
The sanitary regulations of the camp of the Israelites were enacted for the twofold purpose of preserving the health of the vast multitude, and the purity of the camp as the dwelling-place of God (Nu 5:3; De 23:14). With this object the dead were buried without the camp (Le 10:4-5); lepers were excluded till their leprosy departed from them (Le 13:46; Le 14:3; Nu 12:14-15), as were all who were visited with loathsome diseases (Le 14:3). All who were defiled by contact with the dead, whether these were slain in battle or not, were kept without the camp for seven days (Nu 31:19). Captives taken in war were compelled to remain for a while outside (Nu 31:19; Jos 6:23). The ashes from the sacrifices were poured out without the camp at an appointed place, whither all uncleanness was removed (De 23:10,12), and where the entrails, skins, horns, etc., and all that was not offered in sacrifice, were burnt (Le 4:11-12; Le 6:11; Le 8:17).
The execution of criminals took place without the camp (Le 24:14; Nu 15:35-36; Jos 7:24), as did the burning of the young bullock for the sin offering (Le 4:12). These circumstances combined explain Heb 13:12, and Joh 19:17,20.
2. The encampment of the Israelites in the desert left its traces in their subsequent history. The temple, so late as the time of Hezekiah, was still "the camp of Jehovah" (2Ch 31:2; comp. Ps 78:28); and the multitudes who flocked to David were " a great camp, like the camp of God" (1Ch 12:22).
High ground appears to have been uniformly selected for the position of a camp, whether it were on a hill or mountain side, or in an inaccessible pass (Jg 7:18). So, in Jg 10:17, the Ammonites encamped in Gilead, while Israel pitched in Alizpeh. The very names are significant. I he camps of Saul and the Philistines were alternately in Gibeah, the "height" of Benjamin, and the pass of Michmash (1Sa 13:2-3,16,23). When Goliath defied the host of Israel, the contending armies were encamped on hills on either side of the valley of Elah (1Sa 17:3); and in the fatal battle of Gilboa Saul's position on the mountain was stormed by the Philistines he had pitched in Shunem (1Sa 28:4), on the other side of the valley of Jezreel. The carelessness of the Midianites in encamping in the plain exposed them to the night surprise by Gideon, and resulted in their consequent discomfiture (Jg 6:33; Jg 7:8,12). But another important consideration in fixing upon a position for a camp was the propinquity of water; hence it is found that in most instances camps, were pitched near a spring or well (Jg 7:3; Jg 1 Macc. 9:33). The Israelites at Mount Gilboa pitched by the fountain in Jezreel (1Sa 29:1), while the Philistines encamped at Aphek, the name of which indicates the existence of a stream of water in the neighborhood, which rendered it a favorite place of encampment (1Sa 4; 2Ki 20:21; 2Ki 13:17). In his pursuit of the Amalekites David halted his men by the brook Besor, and there left a detachment with the camp furniture (1Sa 30:9). One of Joshua's decisive engagements with the nations of Canaan was fought at the waters of Merom, where he surprised the confederate camp (Jos 11:5,7; comp. Jg 5:19,21). Gideon, before attacking the Midianites, encamped beside the well of Harod (Jg 7:1), and it was to draw water from the well at Bethlehem that David's three mighty men cut their way through the host of the Philistines (2Sa 23:16).
The camp was surrounded by the מִעגָּלָה, magalah' (1Sa 17:20) or מִעִגָּל, magal' (1Sa 26:5,7) which some, and Thenius among them, explain as an earthwork thrown up round the encampment, others as the barrier formed by the baggage-wagons. The etymology of the word points merely to the circular shape of the enclosure formed by the tents of the soldiers pitched around their chief, whose spear marked his resting-place (1Sa 26:5,7; see Thomson, Land and Book, 2:20 sq.), and it might with propriety be used in either of the above senses, according as the camp was fixed or temporary. We know that, in the case of a siege, the attacking army, if possible, surrounded the place attacked (1 Macc. 13:43), and drew about it a line of circumvallation (דָּיֵק, dayek', 2Ki 25:1), which was marked by a breastwork of earth (מסַלָּה, Mesillah', Isa 62:10; סללָה, solelah', Eze 21:27 ; comp. Job 19:12), for the double purpose of preventing the escape of the besieged and of protecting the besiegers from their sallies. But there was not so much need of a formal entrenchment, as but few instances occur in which engagements were fought in the camps themselves, and these only when the attack was made at night. Gideon's expedition against the Midianites took place in the early morning (Jg 7:19), the time selected by Saul for his attack upon Nahash (1Sa 11:1l), and by David for surprising the Amalekites (1Sa 30:17; comp. Jg 9:33). To guard against these night attacks, sentinels (שׁוֹמרַים, shomerhim') were posted (Jg 7:20; Jg 1 Macc. 12:27) round the camp, and the neglect of this precaution by Zebah and Zalmunna probably led to their capture by Gideon and the ultimate defeat of their army (Jg 7:19).
The valley which separated the hostile camps was generally selected as the fighting ground (שָׂדֶה, "the battle-field," 1Sa 4:2; 1Sa 14:15; 2Sa 18:6), upon which the contest was decided, and hence the valleys of Palestine have played so conspicuous a part in its history (Jos 8:13; Jg 6:33; 2Sa 5:22; 2Sa 8:13, etc.). When the fighting men went forth to the place of marshaling מִעֲרָכָה maarakah', 1Sa 17:20), a detachment was left to protect the camp and baggage (1Sa 17:22; 1Sa 30:24). The beasts of burden were probably tethered to the tent pegs (2Ki 7:10; Zec 14:15).
The מִחֲנֶה machaneh', or movable encampment, is distinguished from the מִצָּב, matstsab', or נצַיב, בַעשׂתֶנ (2Sa 23:14; 1Ch 11:16), which appears to have been a standing camp, like those which Jehoshaphat established throughout Judah (2Ch 17:2), or an advanced post in an enemy's country (1Sa 13:17; 2Sa 8:6), from which skirmishing parties made theor predatory excursions and ravaged the crops. It was in resisting one of these expeditions that Shammah won himself a name among David's heroes (2Sa 23:12). Vachaneh is still farther distinguished from מַבצָר, mibtsur', "a fortress" or "walled town" (Nu 13:19).
Camps left behind them a memorial in the name of the place where they were situated, as among ourselves (comp. Chester, etc., from the Lat. castsra). Mahaneh-Dan (Jg 13:25) was so called from the encampment of the Danites mentioned in Jg 18:12. The more important camps at Gilgal (Jos 5:10; Jos 9:6) and Shiloh (Jos 18:9; Jg 21:12,19) left no such impress; the military traditions of these places were eclipsed by the greater splendor of the religious associations which surrounded them. (See Ker Porter, Travels in Persia, 2:147 sq., 300 sq.; Rhodes, Tent life and Encampment of Armies in ancient and modern Times, Lond. 1858.)
Among the Ancient Egyptians, "the field encampment was either a square or a parallelogram, with a principal entrance in one of the faces, and near the center was the general's tent and those of the principal officers. The general's tent was sometimes surrounded by a double rampart or fosse inclosing two distinct areas, the outer one containing three tents, probably of the next in command, or of the officers on the staff; and the guards slept or watched in the open air. Other tents were pitched outside these enclosures; and near the external circuit a space was set apart for feeding horses and beasts of burden, and another for ranging the chariots and baggage. It was near the general's tent, and within the same area, that the altars of the gods, or whatever related to religious matters, the standards, and the military chest, were kept; and the sacred emblems were deposited beneath a canopy within an enclosure similar to that of the general's tent" (Wilkinson, 1:409, abridgm.).