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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 33

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-49

The Review of the Encampments

Numbers 33:1-49

1These are the Journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt 1with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron. 2And 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. 3And 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 a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians. 4For the Egyptians 2buried all their firstborn, which the Lord had smitten among them: upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments. 5And the children of Israel 3removed from Rameses, and 4pitched in Succoth. 6And they departed from Succoth, and pitched in Etham which is in the edge of the wilderness. 7And they removed from Etham, and turned again unto Pi-hahiroth, which is before Baal-zephon: and they pitched before Migdol. 8And they departed from before Pi-hahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, and went three days’ journey in the wilderness of Etham, and 9pitched in Marah. 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. 10And they removed from Elim, and encamped by the Red sea. 11And they removed from the Red sea, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin. 12And they took their journey out of the wilderness of Sin, and encamped in Dophkah. 13And they departed from Dophkah, and encamped in Alush. 14And they removed from Alush, and encamped at Rephidim, where was no water for the people to drink. 15And they departed from Rephidim, and pitched in the wilderness of Sinai. 16And they removed from the desert of Sinai, and pitched at 5Kibroth-hattaavah. 17And they departed from Kibroth-hattaavah, and encamped at Hazeroth. 18, 19And they departed from Hazeroth, and pitched in Rithmah. And they departed from Rithmah, and pitched at Rimmon-parez. 20And they departed from Rimmon-parez, and pitched in Libnah. 21And they removed from Libnah, and pitched at Rissah. 22And they journeyed from Rissah, and pitched in Kehelathah. 23, 24And they went from Kehelathah, and pitched in mount Shapher. And they removed from mount Shapher, and encamped in Haradah. 25And they removed from Haradah, and pitched in Makheloth. 26And they removed from Makheloth, and encamped at Tahath. 27And they departed from Tahath, and pitched at Tarah. 28And they removed from Tarah, and pitched in Mithcah. 29And they went from Mithcah, and pitched in Hashmonah. 30And they departed from Hashmonah, and encamped at Moseroth. 31And they departed from Moseroth, and pitched in Bene-jaakan. 32And they removed from Bene-jaakan, and encamped at Hor-hagidgad. 33And they went from Hor-hagidgad, and pitched in Jotbathah. 34And they removed from Jotbathah, and encamped at Ebronah. 35And they departed from Ebronah, and encamped at Ezion-gaber. 36And they removed from Ezion-gaber, and pitched in the wilderness of Zin, which is Kadesh. 37And they removed from Kadesh, and pitched in mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom. 38And 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 39Egypt, in the first day of the fifth month. And Aaron was a hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor. 40And king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the children of Israel. 41And they departed from mount Hor, and pitched in Zalmonah. 42And they departed from Zalmonah, and pitched in Punon. 43And they departed from Punon, and pitched in Oboth. 44And they departed from Oboth, and pitched in 6Ije-abarim, in the border of Moab. 45And they departed from Iim, and pitched in Dibon-gad. 46And they removed from Dibon-gad, and encamped in Almon-diblathaim. 47And they removed from Almon-diblathaim, and pitched in the mountains of Abarim, before Nebo. 48And they departed from the mountains of Abarim, and pitched in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho. 49And they pitched by Jordan, from Beth-jesimoth even unto 7Abel-shittim in the plains of Moab.

[Where the A. V. uses “departed,” “removed,” “took their journey,” “went” interchangeably, the Hebrew text has but one word. This uniformity ought to be reproduced in the translation by invariably reading “departed.” The same is true respecting the word in the Hebrew text variously rendered “encamped” and “pitched” in the A. V. It should invariably be rendered “encamped.”—Tr.]


We found ourselves obliged under chap. 21 to discuss the whole subject of the successive encampments, and must here refer the reader to that place. [See also, with relation to geographical matters and the time required for the journey from Sinai to Kadesh, pp. 73, 74, 78, 79, 80, 102.—Tr. ]

Numbers 33:1-2. This introduction forms the superscription of the list of the removals and decampments of the children of Israel according to their hosts under the guidance of Moses. Moses, now in the plains of Moab, was to prepare this list at the command of Jehovah, undoubtedly that it might be a monument of the great guidance of Jehovah and of His covenant faithfulness, which had now brought the people to the border of Canaan. It is a retrospect of the journey through the wilderness, in which richest memories must attach to many stations, inspiring humiliation and praise.

Numbers 33:3-15. From Rameses to Sinai.—The notice is new which states that the Egyptians were actually employed in burying their firstborn when the Israelites departed—a circumstance that must have contributed to facilitate their departure. Therewith was connected, that Jehovah executed judgment, not only on the children of the Egyptians, but also on their idols, i.e., therefore, on the false religious confidence in their gods. From Rameses, see on Exodus 12:37; Exodus 14:8. From Succoth to Etham, see Exodus 13:20. Pi-hahiroth, see Exodus 14:2. Marah, see Exodus 15:23. Elim, see Exodus 15:27. Desert of Sin, see Exodus 16:1. Dophkah and Alush are passed over in Exodus. Rephidim, see Exodus 17:1. Sinai, see Exodus 19:1.

Numbers 33:16-31. From Sinai to Kadesh (Bene-Jaakan, see under chap. 21).

Graves of Lust—Hazeroth—Rithmah—Rim-mon-parez—Libnah—Rissah—Kehelathah—mount Shapher—Haradah—Makheloth—Tahath—Tarah—Mithcah—Hashmonah—Moseroth—Bene-Jaakan. As in this list Kadesh is comprehended under the name Bene-Jaakan, so, according to Numbers 33:36, Ezion-Gaber must be sought under one of the foregoing names. As the Israelites, no doubt, first came to the mountains at Ezion-Gaber, one may conjecture that mount Shapher (the beautiful mountain) is that name; and that Tahath [a depression] indicates some low ground of the Arabah.

Numbers 33:32-35; Numbers 33:41-43. From Kadesh to Ezion-Gaber (Oboth). Hor-hagidgad—Jotbathah—Ebronah—Ezion-Gaber. Or, what is the same thing, Hor-Zalmonah—Punon—Oboth. [See Dr. Lange’s mode of establishing this result under chap. 21; also Translator’s note below.—Tr.].

Numbers 33:36-40. A parenthesis relating to the death of Aaron and to king Arad. We read in the pluperfect: they had departed from Ezion-Gaber, and had encamped in the wilderness of Zin, that is, Kadesh. And (now) they departed (again) from Kadesh and encamped at Hor, the mountain on the border of the land of Edom. Hereupon the death of Aaron is related, just as after the statement of Numbers 20:22-29. That we have here a parenthesis appears from the quite fragmentary notice about king Arad, Numbers 33:40. See Deuteronomy 10:6; from Bene-Jaakan they came to Mosera, where Aaron died. Numbers 20:23; from Kadesh they came to mount Hor, where Aaron died. Here in the list: from Bene-Jaakan to Hor-hagidgad; or also from Kadesh to mount Hor [see Translator’s note below—Tr.].

Numbers 33:44-49. From Oboth to the plains of Moab.—lim—Dibon-gad—Almon-diblathaim—mountains of Abarim—plains of Moab (Beth-je-simoth to Abel-shittim). According to Keil and the usual supposition, the encampment in the wilderness of Zin, i. e., Kadesh (Numbers 33:36) is to be understood of the second arrival at Kadesh. See on the contrary at Numbers 20:21. Two arrivals at Kadesh are only to be thought of with respect to the army that went out from Kadesh and attacked the Canaanites, and then, when repulsed to Hormah, settled again at Kadesh. On the various hypotheses regarding the encampments comp. Keil on chap. 33, especially the notes, p. 378 [p. 247 sqq. Clark’s translation—Tr.] and Knobel, p. 33.

[It seems expedient to add here such considerations as will adjust the view of the Translator given under chap. 14. (p. 78–80 above) with relation to the explanations of the list of encampments given by Dr. Lange under chap. 21.

The reasons adduced by Dr. Lange do not compel the conclusion that Bene-jaakan must be identical with Kadesh. The obvious intent of chap. 33 is to give a consecutive list of encampments; and this forms so strong a presumption against Dr. Lange’s interpretation that nothing short of a compelling reason can justify it. Verses 1, 2 show, that in this chapter we have a distinct document, or “a monument,” as Dr. Lange justly entitles it. It must then be complete and self-interpreting. A pluperfect rendering, such as Dr. Lange proposes at Numbers 33:36, must be justified in the document itself. Such a monument is not to be read as those familiar with the events might be supposed to read it, or even with the aid of statements drawn from other contemporary records. Being intended for posterity, it must have been composed so as to occasion no confusion in the reading. It is, therefore, unreasonable to suppose that in six or more instances the same movement and spots are signified by totally different names; that the same course is twice described, as Dr. Lange supposes, in Numbers 33:32-35; Numbers 33:41-43, and that the same verbal form, properly translated by the aorist, is suddenly, without notice in the narrative itself, to be taken in a pluperfect sense.

The reasoning of Dr. Lange under 21. shows that Moseroth must be locally much the same as Hor. Deuteronomy 9:6 makes this probable. But a formal table or log like our chapter 33 must not be modified by less formal notices of other narratives, even of our own book of Numbers, much less by such sporadic notices as those that appear in Deuteronomy. Granting the locally approximate identity of Moseroth, Hor and Hor-hagidgad, then the movement from Moseroth to Bene-jaakan and the return from Bene-jaakan to Hor-hagidgad, Numbers 33:31-32, only means a change of locality within narrow limits. This would only be consistent with the name “wandering,” always given in Scripture to this emigration, and especially to this period of it, and particularly with the language of Deuteronomy 1:19. Thus, as stated p. 80, the presence of the Israelites in that region amounted to a virtual occupancy of the land. The different names of the narrative mark distinct places, though some of them may have been very near each other. When such was the case, they might be used interchangeably in such a narrative as Deuteronomy without involving any confusion for those to whom Deuteronomy was addressed, since they were familiar with the scenes.

Thus from Moseroth to Bene-jaakan may have been in the direction from Hor to Kadesh; and, consequently, from Bene-Jaakan to Moseroth would be part of the route from Kadesh to Hor. But we need not conclude from that, that Bene-Jaakan must be identical with Kadesh, or even near Kadesh. It might have been near Mt. Hor. In the statement of Deuteronomy 10:6, which is without geographical connection in the preceding context, Moses may have named Bene-jaakan and Moseroth as well-known land-marks, by which to describe the course of the movement, and by which to define the date of the incident there referred to. If it be conjectured, with Dr. Lange and others, that Hor and Hor-hagidgad and Gudgodah are the same locality, of which also Moseroth is another name, then Deuteronomy 10:6-7, itself distinguishes between Moseroth and Gudgodah or Hor, as well as does Numbers 33:30-33. They are therefore the same with a difference. What the difference was may elude detection. We may conjecture that Bene-jaakan, Moseroth, Hor-hagidgad, Jotbathah lay in the order named on the route the Israelites followed from Kadesh to the southern extremity of Mt. Seir. If nothing else, at least their having been once encampments would make them familiar landmarks to the Israelites. That they had been encampments, proves that they afforded convenience for a halt. On the final march they may have been taken again as halting places for a night or longer, though not for a regular encampment according to the regulations of chap. 2. In other places, then, beside the present chapter, when the mention of places is only for the purpose of localizing an event in time or place, or for the purpose of stating the course of the march (not the encampment), the narrative might mention names that, for some reason not known to us, served popularly to mark the event. Thus Bene-jaakan may have been a halting-place (not encampment) just before proceeding to Mount Hor, where Aaron died; and Moserah (Deuteronomy 10:6 a singular; in Numbers 33:30 we have Moseroth, the plural of the same word, which may or may not indicate a distinction) may have become a more popular name by which to refer to the time and place where Aaron died. In Deuteronomy 2:8 see a similar variation in names, viz. Elath and Ezion-gaber, instead of those in Numbers 33:42-44. In this case, Elath and Ezion-gaber need not be regarded as encampments, though they might have been stopping-places, and we can easily see that they would better serve as descriptive land-marks than the encampments in that region, which only while encampments may have received “a local habitation and a name” The same may be said of the (supposed, discrepant) names mentioned in Numbers 21:12 sqq. A short halt without encampment would suffice for the incident related, Numbers 21:16-18. It is not to be supposed that the encampments mentioned in this chapter name all the halts that the host made. It was impossible, e. g., to make the move from Kadesh to Hor without two or more halts. This distinction between halts, and encampments made according to the regulations of chap. 2, was proposed by Kurtz (Hist, of the Old Gov., iii., p. 384 sq., Clark’s translation), and is applied by Keil, p. 246 (Clark’s translation). It is ignored by Dr. Lange, whose method implies that he rejects it. Kurtz says: “The list in Numbers 33:0 is purely statistical. The purpose of the author was to give a full and particular account of the actual stations—that is, the places of encampment in which the Israelites prepared for a lengthened stay—not merely forming a regular encampment, but also erecting the Sanctuary. The writer in Numbers 10-22, does not pretend to give anything like a complete account of the various places of encampment, and therefore many names are wanting in the latter which are found in the former. His purpose is purely historical, and not in any sense statistical. And this is to our mind an explanation of the fact that he mentions more places of encampment [halting places] between Ije-Aba-rim and Arboth Moab than we find in Numbers 33:0; places, that is, in which there was not a complete camp formed, including the erection of the Sanctuary”.

Thus the position already maintained against Dr. Lange seems amply justified, viz., that the narrative of chap. 33 is to be taken in its simple and prima facie sense, i. e., as an accurate list of all the regular encampments of the Israelites, in which the names are given consecutively and in their order, and without repetition or confusion. The conjectural explanation just given, of the apparent discrepancy between the mention of names in 33 and elsewhere, is not to be pressed as the actual solution of the problem. It is only offered in order to show, that it is as easy to adhere to the obvious sense of the narrative as to take some other course. But the explanation has the additional advantage, that it relieves us of all necessity of dealing with the different mention of names as discrepancies. The parallelism of names, treated by Dr. Lange under chap. 21 and above in this chapter, remains an interesting subject of investigation. But it is seen that it does not involve the question of reconciling discrepancies.

The process by which Dr. Lange would identify Jotbathah and Zalmonah, and Abronah and Punon (see under Numbers 21:10-20), is used with equal success by others (e.g., Keil and Bib. Com.) to establish the identity of Rithmah, Numbers 33:18, and Kadesh, Numbers 13:26. We may suppose from this that the method is of doubtful value.

Until the places are identified on the map, and the mention of names is shown to be irreconcilable, there is no question of discrepancy to discuss. Whoever desires to see in briefest form the latest results in the efforts to locate the names of the present list from Hazeroth to the plains of Moab can consult the (Speaker’s) Bib. Com. in loc., Smith’s Bib. Dict., Wilderness of the Wanderings. As said above under chap. 14, only two places are identified beyond doubt, viz., Ezion-gaber and Mt. Hor (though the latter is debated by Dr. Lange; see under 21.). About several others there is reasonable certainty, (e. g., Ije-abarim, see Dr. Lange under Numbers 21:10-20, and Dibon-gad, Dhiban, the ancient Aroer, “about three miles north of the Arnon,” Smith’s Bib. Dict., s. v., where the Moabite stone was discovered in 1868. Palmer, Desert of the Exod. chap. 24; H. B. Tristram, The Land of Moab, chaps. 5, 6. But until more definite results are reached, it does not seem expedient, in a commentary like the present, to review the representations of Dr. Lange under chap. 21, though many efforts at exploration have been made since he wrote them, and there is reason for modifying some of them.—Tr.].


[1]according to.

[2]were burying.



[5]That is, the graves of lust.

[6]Or, heaps of Abarim.

[7]Or, the plains of Shittim.

Verses 50-56

Anticipation of Canaan, Renewed Command Respecting the Expulsion of the Canaanites and the Obliteration of the Public Signs of their Idolatry

Numbers 33:50-56

50And the Lord spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying, 51Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan; 52Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their 8pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: 53And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it. 54And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance 9among your families; and to the more ye shall 10give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall 11give 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. 55But 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. 1256Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them.


Comp. Exodus 23:31; Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 9:4-5; Joshua 23:13; Judges 2:3. Command to exterminate the Canaanites. So Keil entitles this section. The text does not admit of this extravagant, traditional representation. The religious assumption underlying the stern measures against the Canaanites is this, that Israel in Canaan can and must by no means tolerate any Canaanitish, or indeed any sort of idolatrous community, because it will affect Israel ruinously, This latter motive is reiterated again and again, and the most various changes rung on it. Hence in the Promised Land no sorts of signs of idolatry shall stand in places, or by the roads, or on bridges. But it is first of all assumed that they are not to exterminate the heathen as individual heathen in the land; already in the Decalogue there is mention of the stranger that is in Israel’s gates. This stranger, toward whom they are again and again commanded to behave themselves justly and kindly (Exodus 22:21; Exodus 23:9; Leviticus 19:33; Deuteronomy 10:19) might in later times be made a proselyte of the gate; originally he was only one that recognized the supremacy of the Israelitish established religion, and had renounced all public announcement of any heathen feeling. Hence it is the first task of the Israelites to expel the heathen from the land, as this sort of crowding out and pushing farther of one people by another frequently happened in ancient times. By such crowding out the Germans came to Germany, and the Celts have experienced crowding in many ways. If, however, the heathen made warlike opposition, the meaning was that they would maintain heathenism in the land itself, and then the cherem resulted, the prostrating of the warlike men, and only in consequence of that storm of war or vengeance, a more universal cherem. But in reference to this, a distinction must be made between the social task of Israel, and the religious sentence that was referred back to the decree of Jehovah. According to the latter, a universal judgment of extermination fell on the Canaanites; according to the social task, the extermination was conditioned in many ways, and in general the national spirit of the Jews continued to be tempted rather by a false, dangerous tolerance which it could not yet bear, than by an opposing, excessive fanaticism. The intercourse of Moses with pious heathen, the history of the Gibeonites, the book of Judges, and the later history of Israel serve for illustration. Solomon had a fall by anticipating the public freedom of worship.

Numbers 33:51. The meaning of the reiterated command is quite plain. The inhabitants of Canaan are driven out, while all public signs of idolatrous worship are destroyed. The most inconspicuous are memorial stones by the way-side having on them figures of idols or idolatrous inscriptions; of higher degree are molten images; still higher are the high-places, consecrated groves or enclosed places of worship with altars. More the religion of the law cannot and will not do. Press hearts, convert souls by constraint,—this dark thought of the middle ages and of the Syllabus cannot occur on Biblical ground, or, if it does, only as the heathenism of Jezebel, of Nebuchadnezzar, and of Antiochus Epiphanes. Thus they are to possess the land purely and wholly, but also in just relations, whence Numbers 33:54 repeats the command of Numbers 26:55. The law is enforced by threatening punishment for the transgressors. The natural consequences are these: the heathen become thorns in their eyes and pricks in their sides; their eyes become obscured for faith; their life will be trained in the way of superstition. But in the land that is given to them, the heathen will oppress and afflict them; and just because of this intolerance of heathenism they must not tolerate heathenism. It is here: either or; anvil or hammer. How long the vulgar liberalism showed itself too insipid to understand that! But the positive punishment shall be that Jehovah will, in that case, reject them also as He now does the Canaanites, Joshua 23:13.


[8]statues (stones with images—Stier, De Wette).

[9]according to.

[10]Heb. multiply his inheritance.

[11]Heb. diminish his inheritance.


Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Numbers 33". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/numbers-33.html. 1857-84.
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