Numbers 33


‘Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. At the LORD’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages: The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians, who were burying all their firstborn, whom the LORD had struck down among them; for the LORD had brought judgment on their gods. The Israelites left Rameses and camped at Sukkoth. They left Sukkoth and camped at Etham, on the edge of the desert. They left Etham, turned back to Pi Hahiroth, to the east of Baal Zephon, and camped near Migdol. They left Pi Hahiroth and passed through the sea into the desert, and when they had travelled for three days in the Desert of Etham, they camped at Marah. They left Marah and went to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there. They left Elim and camped by the Red Sea. They left the Red Sea and camped in the Desert of Sin. They left the Desert of Sin and camped at Dophkah. They left Dophkah and camped at Alush. They left Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink. They left Rephidim and camped in the Desert of Sinai. They left the Desert of Sinai and camped at Kibroth Hattaavah. They left Kibroth Hattaavah and camped at Hazeroth. They left Hazeroth and camped at Rithmah. They left Rithmah and camped at Rimmon Perez. They left Rimmon Perez and camped at Libnah. They left Libnah and camped at Rissah. They left Rissah and camped at Kehelathah. They left Kehelathah and camped at Mount Shepher. They left Mount Shepher and camped at Haradah. They left Haradah and camped at Makheloth. They left Makheloth and camped at Tahath. They left Tahath and camped at Terah. They left Terah and camped at Mithkah. They left Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah. They left Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth. They left Moseroth and camped at Bene Jaakan. They left Bene Jaakan and camped at Hor Haggidgad. They left Hor Haggidgad and camped at Jotbathah. They left Jotbathah and camped at Abronah. They left Abronah and camped at Ezion Geber. They left Ezion Geber and camped at Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin. They left Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the border of Edom.’ Numbers 33:1-37

Stages In Israel’s Journey

This chapter begins by informing us about the different stages of Israel’s journeys from Egypt to Moab. There are forty-two places listed, each one was where Israel had camped in the wilderness and the reason they are listed is simply for future generations.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘There could hardly be any other source of all these repeated instances of the forty-two months theme, or equivalent, than that found here in the exact number of these forty-two stations of the wilderness wanderings.’

We read about Israel leaving Egypt in Numbers 33:3-4. Despite being slaves in Egypt, God gave them great confidence to leave, not as slaves but as victors.

All the plagues which God brought upon Egypt, were designed to humble the people and let them see the uselessness of the Egyptian deities.

We read about Israel’s journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai in Numbers 33:5-15. This journey took them more than a year, but they spent most of the time at the foot of Mount Sinai receiving the law.

We read about Israel’s journey from Mount Sinai to the Jordan River, Numbers 33:16-49. This part of the journey took them around 38 years, only because they disobeyed God and so, God led them in the wilderness until that generation died, except for Calen and Joshua.

‘At the LORD’s command Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor, where he died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. Aaron was a hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor. The Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev of Canaan, heard that the Israelites were coming. They left Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah. They left Zalmonah and camped at Punon. They left Punon and camped at Oboth. They left Oboth and camped at Iye Abarim, on the border of Moab. They left Iye Abarim and camped at Dibon Gad. They left Dibon Gad and camped at Almon Diblathaim. They left Almon Diblathaim and camped in the mountains of Abarim, near Nebo. They left the mountains of Abarim and camped on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. There on the plains of Moab they camped along the Jordan from Beth Jeshimoth to Abel Shittim.’ Numbers 33:38-49

Note the difference between this account and the one given in Numbers 21:4-20. This can be better understood when we remember that Israel were once scattered throughout the wilderness until they came together as one, Numbers 20:1.

If the tribes were living in different places in the wilderness, then different names would have been given. Each list was given to highlight the experiences of any number of the tribes at the time they were at any particular campsite.

Very little is known about what happened to Israel during most of the forty years of wandering. Outside of the sabbath breaker’s execution and Korah’s rebellion, Numbers 15 / Numbers 16, what is written in this chapter just about sums up the record.

‘On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols and demolish all their high places. Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes. “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’” Numbers 33:50-56

God commands Israel to drive out all the inhabitants in the land, destroy all the carved images and idols, along with demolishing all the high places.

This was commanded for obvious reasons, God didn’t want them being influenced by the Canaanite religion or culture, sadly as we know, they failed to obey these commands despite being warned by God of the consequences.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following as to why they failed.

1. The custom of the times allowed captured peoples to be used as slaves. It is not hard to see how Israel reacted to that.

2. The lust of Israel was aroused and captured by the allurement of vast numbers of women, many of whom no doubt were persons of great physical beauty and attractiveness.

3. There were still remnants of the old pagan superstitions in Israel as revealed in Stephen’s valedictory in Acts 7, and, in the case of the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, those pagan traditions went back to the very roots of their tribes.

Rachel, herself seems to have been, at least partially, an idolater, as witnessed by her stealing the gods of Laban and Joseph married the daughter of the Egyptian Priest of On, and it is exceedingly likely that from these pagan roots, there eventually flowered the full paganism of Northern Israel as denounced by all the minor prophets.

4. Added to all of this, the natural revulsion of normal human beings against taking the lives of vast numbers of helpless and defeated peoples must have entered unto Israel’s utter failure to follow the Divine instructions here given.

5. And, in addition to all this, the deployment of two and a half tribes of Israel east of Jordan robbed Israel of sufficient strength to have disposed of this commission quickly and efficiently.

Go To Numbers 34


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