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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 33

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.

These are the journeys. This chapter may be said to form the winding-up of the history of the travels of the Israelites through the wilderness; because the three following chapters relate to matters connected with the occupation and division of the promised land. Since several apparent discrepancies will be discovered on comparing the records here given of the journeyings from Sinai, with the detailed account of the events narrated in the Book of Exodus, and the occasional notices of places that are found in that of Deuteronomy, it is probable that, as 2,000,000 of people with their flocks would spread over a wide tract of country, and as few stations would be large enough to receive them all at the same time, the stations enumerated in Exodus refer to the halting places of Moses and the chief men, including as many of the people as were associated with them, while the catalogue in this chapter embraces, ever and above these, the intermediate and adjoining stations, in those parts of the desert over which the people spread in detached groups at the same time. This list was intended by the sacred historian to contain a full and particular account of all the stations where in the course of their journey they made a prolonged encampment, and whence they dispersed their flocks and herds to pasture on the surrounding plains. In short, the former is historical, while this is statistical. The catalogue extends from their departure out of Egypt to their arrival on the plains of Moab.

Went forth ... with their armies - i:e., a vast multitude marshalled in separate companies, but regular order.

Verse 2

And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the LORD: and these are their journeys according to their goings out.

Moses wrote ... by the commandment of the Lord - namely, in the book (see the notes at Exodus 17:14; Exodus 24:4). The wisdom of this divine order is seen in the importance of the end to which it was subservient, namely-partly to establish the truth of the history, partly to preserve a memorial of God's marvelous interpositions on behalf of Israel, and partly to confirm their faith in the prospect of the difficult enterprize on winch they were entering-the invasion of Canaan.

Verse 3

And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians.

Rameses - generally identified with Heroopolis, now the modern Abu-Keisheid (see the note at Exodus 12:37), which was probably the capital of Goshen, and, by direction of Moses, the place of rendezvous to the Israelites previous to departure (see the note at Exodus 12:37).

Verse 4

For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the LORD had smitten among them: upon their gods also the LORD executed judgments.

Upon their gods - used either according to Scripture phraseology, to denote their rulers, the first-born of the king and his princes, or the idolatrous objects of Egyptian worship.

Verse 5

And the children of Israel removed from Rameses, and pitched in Succoth.

Pitched in Succoth - i:e., booths; a place of no note except as a temporary halting-place, at Birket-el-Hadji (the Pilgrim's Pool), (Calmet: see the note at Exodus 12:37).

Verse 6

And they departed from Succoth, and pitched in Etham, which is in the edge of the wilderness.

Etham - the strip of desert extending 'along the coast up to the tongue of land Abu Zelime' (Lepsius, 'Letters'), constituting the edge or border of all that part of Arabia-Petraea which lay contiguous to Egypt, and was known by the general name of Shur.

Verse 7

And they removed from Etham, and turned again unto Pihahiroth, which is before Baalzephon: and they pitched before Migdol.

Pi-hahiroth ... Baal-zephon ... Migdol - (see the notes at Exodus 14:1-4).

Verse 8

And they departed from before Pihahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, and went three days' journey in the wilderness of Etham, and pitched in Marah.

Marah - thought to be Ain Howarah, both from its position and the time (three days) it would take them with their children and flocks to march from the water of Ayun Musa to that spot.

Verse 9

And they removed from Marah, and came unto Elim: and in Elim were twelve fountains of water, and threescore and ten palm trees; and they pitched there.

Elim - supposed to be Wady Ghurundel (see the note at Exodus 15:27).

Verse 10

And they removed from Elim, and encamped by the Red sea.

Encamped by the Red sea. This station is omitted in the historical itinerary of Exodus. The distance between the Elim station and the sea is only one mile and a-half; so that it could with propriety be left unnoticed in the principal account; and perhaps there may be some truth in the conjecture of Lepsius, that a large portion of time people moved down from the headquarters at Elim 'to refresh themselves with a good repast of fish, as they had been in the habit of doing out of the Nile.'

The road from Wady Ghurundel leads into the interior, in consequence of a high continuous ridge which excludes all view of the sea, At the mouth of Wady-et-Tayibeh, after about three days' march, it opens again on a plain along the margin of the Red Sea. The minute accuracy of the Scripture narrative, in corresponding so exactly with the geographical features of this region, is remarkably shown in describing the Israelites as proceeding by the only practicable route that could be taken. This plain, where they encamped, was the Desert of Sin (see the note at Exodus 16:1).

Verse 11

And they removed from the Red sea, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 12-14

And they took their journey out of the wilderness of Sin, and encamped in Dophkah.

Dophkah ... Alush ... Rephidim. These three stations, in the great valleys of Wady Mukatteb, El Sheikh, and Feiran, would be equivalent to four days' journey for such a host. Rephidim (Exodus 16:6) was in Horeb, the burnt region-a generic name for a hot mountainous country.

Verse 15

And they departed from Rephidim, and pitched in the wilderness of Sinai.

Wilderness of Sinai - the Wady Er Raheh.

Verses 16-37

And they removed from the desert of Sinai, and pitched at Kibroth-hatta'avah. Kibroth-hattaavah - the graves of lust (see the notes at Numbers 9:4-23). The route, on breaking up the encampment at Sinai, led down Wady Sheikh, then, crossing Jebel-et-Tyh, which intersected the peninsula, they descended into Wady Zalaka, pitching successively at two brief though memorable stations (Deuteronomy 9:22).

And encamped at Hazeroth - unwalled villages, supposed to be at Ain-Hudera (Numbers 11:35).

Verse 18. Rithmah - the place of the broom, a station possibly in some wady extending westward of the Ghor (Num. 10:40 ).

Verse 19. Rimmon-parez - or Rimmon, a city of Judah and Simeon (Joshua 15:32).

Verse 20. Libnah - so called from its white poplars (Joshua 10:29); or, as some think, a white hill between Kadesh and Gaza (Joshua 10:29).

Verse 21. Rissah - El-arish.

Verse 23. Mount Shapher - Casius.

Verse 30. Moseroth - adjacent to mount Hor, in Wady Mousa.

Verse 35. Ezion-gaber - near Akaba, a sea-port on the western shore of the Elamitic gulf.

Verse 36. Wilderness of Zin - on the east side of the peninsula of Sinai.

Verse 37. Kadesh - or Kadesh-barnea-is supposed to be the great valley of the Ghor, and the city Kadesh to have been situated on the border of this valley (Burckhardt, Robinson: but see the notes at Numbers 13:26; Numbers 14:29-33; Numbers 20:1; Genesis 14:7; Deuteronomy 2:14 for another site assigned to Kadesh by Williams). But as there are no less than 18 stations inserted between Hazeroth and Kadesh, and only eleven days were spent in performing that journey (Deuteronomy 1:2), it is evident that the intermediate stations here recorded belong to another and totally different visit to Kadesh. The first was when they left Sinai in the second month (Numbers 1:11; Numbers 13:20), and were in Kadesh in August (Deuteronomy 1:45), and "abode many days" in it, and complaining at the report of the spies, were commanded to return into the desert "by the way of the Red Sea." The arrival at Kadesh, mentioned in this catalogue, corresponds to the second sojourn at that place, being the first month, or April (Numbers 20:1). Between the two visits there intervened a period of 38 years, during which they wandered here and there through all the region of Et-Tyh (wanderings), often returning to the same spots as the pastoral necessities of their flocks required; and there is the strongest reason for believing that the stations named between Hazeroth (Numbers 33:8) and Kadesh (Numbers 33:36) belong to the long interval of wandering.

No certainty has yet been attained in ascertaining the locale of many of these stations, and there must have been more than what are recorded; because it is probable that those only are noted where they remained some time, where the tabernacle was pitched, and where Moses and the elders encamped, the people being scattered for pasture in various directions. From Ezion-gaber, for instance, which stood at the head of the gulf of Akaba, to Kadesh, could not be much less than the whole length of the great valley of the Ghor, a distance of not less than 100 miles, whatever might be the exact situation of Kadesh; and, of course there must have been several intervening stations, though none are mentioned. The incidents and stages of the rest of the journey to the plains of Moab are sufficiently explicit from the preceding chapters.

Verses 38-41

And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the first day of the fifth month.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 42

And they departed from Zalmonah, and pitched in Punon.

Punon - in the rocky ravines of Mount Hor, and famous for the mines and quarries in its vicinity, as well as for its fruit-trees-now Tafyle, on the border of Edom (Osborn identifies it with the Phenne of the Greek itineraries, 'Monumental History.' 2:, p. 466; also, 'Eg. her Testimony,' p. 82).

Verse 43

And they departed from Punon, and pitched in Oboth.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 44

And they departed from Oboth, and pitched in Ijeabarim, in the border of Moab.

Ije-abarim - a ridge of rugged hills, northwest of the Arnon-the part called Nebo was one of its highest peaks-opposite Jericho (see the note at Deuteronomy 10:6).

Verse 45

And they departed from Iim, and pitched in Dibongad.

Iim. 'It is more in accordance with the usage of the sacred writer throughout this chapter to repeat the full name Ije-abarim in Numbers 33:45 as in Numbers 33:44. This is the reading of four MSS. and the Vulgate' ('Negeb,'

p. 156). There is a striking difference between the list of stations contained in this passage (Numbers 33:44-49) and that in Numbers 21:10; Numbers 21:12; Numbers 21:18-20. It must be borne in mind that the Israelites, when arrived in the Trans-jordanic regions, were not in a desert, but an inhabited country, where every separate place would have a name; and that as 2,000,000 of people would spread over more than one of these places, the station would be called by various names.

There are two names mentioned in this passage which do not occur in the former chapter; but these-namely, Dibon-gad and Almon-diblathaim-may possibly, coincide with some of those mentioned here. 'It is observable that fewer places of encampment between Ije-abarim and Arboth Moab are enumerated here than in Numbers 21:1-35, because it was of importance for the historian to show that the Israelites intentionally avoided the Moabitish territory, and partly because, from the places mentioned, the various expeditions were sent forth that made the conquest of the Amorite land' (Kurtz, 3:, p. 385; also Hengstenberg, 'Balaam,' p. 531).

Verses 46-51

And they removed from Dibongad, and encamped in Almon-diblatha'im.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 52

Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places:

Ye shall drive out - not, however, by expulsion, but extermination (Deuteronomy 7:1). Destroy all their pictures - obelisks for idolatrous worship (see the note at Leviticus 26:1).

Molten images - by metonymy for all their groves and altars, and materials of worship on the tops of hills.

Quite pluck down all their high places, [ tashmiyduw (H8045)] - abolish, demolish utterly (cf. Leviticus 26:30; Esther 3:6).

Verse 53

And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 54

And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families: and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance: every man's inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit.

Ye shall divide the land by lot. The particular locality of each tribe was to be determined in this manner, while a line was to be used in measuring the proportion (Joshua 18:10; Psalms 16:5-6). Canaan was to be divided, when they should be settled in peaceful occupation of it, in such a manner that the whole of the 600,000 yeomen should possess property in an equal share of it. This equality was a fundamental principle in the political constitution; and in order to maintain it, the possessions allotted were to be held by an inalienable tenure of entail by the successive generations of the family.

Verse 55

But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.

But if ye will not drive. No associations were to be formed with the inhabitants; otherwise, if "let remain," they "will be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides" - i:e., they would prove troublesome and dangerous neighbours, enticing to idolatry, and consequently depriving you of the divine favour and blessing. The neglect of this counsel against union with the idolatrous inhabitants became fatal to them. The earnest admonition given to the Israelites in their special circumstances conveys a salutary lesson to us to allow no lurking habits of sin to remain in us. That spiritual enemy must be eradicated from our nature, otherwise it will be ruinous to our present peace and future salvation.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Numbers 33". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/numbers-33.html. 1871-8.
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