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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 33

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary



This itinerary differs from that in chap. 21 in the mention of different stations and more of them. These apparent discrepancies may be easily accounted for by the fact that the space occupied by the encampment of the Israelites, an army of six hundred thousand men with their families and flocks, when once they reached the inhabited country with its towns and villages, where every spot had its own fixed name, must have extended over several places, so that the same encampment might be called by one or other of the places upon which it touched. See Numbers 21:18, note.

Scholars are quite well agreed in the opinion that the stations given in Numbers 33:19-35, between Rithmah, near Kadesh, and Ezion-geber, refer to the journeys of Israel after the exclusion at Kadesh, during the thirty-seven years of wandering. “An examination of the names of the seventeen stations occupied by Israel during their wanderings shows that the encampments were selected in the neighbourhood of water and vegetation.” Edersheim. Their fewness is because they were occupied for long periods.

Verses 1-49


Having reached the Land of Promise, and taken possession of its eastern portion, it is proper that the history of the desert wandering should close with a list of encampments as a permanent memorial for after ages of the grace and faithfulness of Jehovah, who led his people safely “in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord did lead him.”

Verse 2

2. Moses wrote their goings This is a proof of the Mosaic authorship of this book. See Introduction, (2.)

By the commandment of the Lord While all Scripture is given by inspiration in some degree, this important record is written by commandment, implying the highest degree of inspiration.

Verse 3

3. Rameses Exodus 12:37, note.

First month The event was so important that it became the beginning of a new era. Exodus 12:2, note.

With a high hand Not the armed hand of the Israelites, but the hand of the omnipotent Jehovah. The high hand of man denotes defiant sin. Chap. Numbers 15:30, note.

Verse 4

4. Egyptians buried all their firstborn Exodus 12:29-30, note.

Upon their gods… judgments See Introduction to the history of the plagues. Exodus 7:8.

Verses 5-6

5, 6. Succoth,… Etham Exodus 13:20, note. Succoth was probably a resting-place of caravans or a military station about fifteen miles due east of Rameses. It has left no trace.

Verse 7

7. Pi-hahiroth,… Baal-zephon:… Migdol See Introduction to Exodus xiv, and note on Numbers 33:2-3 of the same chapter.

Verse 8

8. The wilderness,… three days The wilderness of Shur. Exodus 15:22, note.

Marah The modern ‘Aryun Hawwara. Dr. Strong and his party rode their dromedaries up to the mouth of one of the wells, and found it dry and nearly filled with sand. The ground is slightly elevated and crowned with a few stunted palm trees. Exodus 15:23, note.

Verse 9

9. Elim Trees. Says Dr. Ridgaway, “There are two or three streams of water running through the valley, though nothing in the shape of wells, and I counted forty-six palm trees, and did not go down far below our camp. The precision with which this spot is identified is a helpful key to the journeyings of Israel as marking an important step, and so indicating unquestionably the direction they took after leaving the Red Sea.” See Exodus 15:27, note. For the route from Elim to Sinai, see Exodus xvi, Introductory.

Verse 10

10. Encamped by the Red Sea Probably at Ras Abu Zenimeh, a flat, sandy strip of ground. “This is not given in Exodus as a station, but its distance from Elim, sixteen miles, indicates it as a fair day’s march from that point. I could imagine how the tired multitude felt, as, after a toilsome march through a net of low, barren hills and dry wadies, the sight of a broad, level beach and of the soft, quiet sea unexpectedly opened before them.” Dr. Ridgaway.

Verse 11

11. The wilderness of Sin This name applies to the whole sandy plain which runs along the shore of the Red Sea from Elim to the southern end of the Sinaitic peninsula. It is the modern El Markha. Exodus 16:1, note.

Verses 12-14

12-14. Dophkah… Alush… Rephidim Exodus 17:1, note.

No water for the people Exodus 17:1-8, notes.

Verse 15

15. The wilderness of Sinai Numbers 1:1, note.

Verse 16

16. Kibroth-hattaavah Also called Taberah. Numbers 11:3; Numbers 11:34, notes. A glance at Kiepert’s or any good map will show that from Sinai to Canaan there was a choice between two main routes, namely, that on the west of the high plateau called the Tih region, and that on the east going up the ‘Arabah or desert valley west of Mount Seir. There are good reasons for supposing that Moses took the eastern route, and that Kibroth-hattaavah is to be sought for in this direction.

Verse 17

17. Hazeroth Enclosure. The meaning of Hazeroth “is one of the strongest arguments for identifying it with Hudhera. It lies on the most natural route from Sinai to the great valley of the ‘Arabah. It is evident, also, that tradition has long regarded this site as Hazeroth, from the indications that it was once occupied by a colony of monks.” Dr. Ridgaway. See Numbers 11:35, note.

Verse 18

18. Rithmah has not been identified. The name is kindred to the word rendered “juniper,” but more correctly “broom.” “It may therefore signify the valley of the broom-bushes.” Edersheim.

Verses 19-20

19, 20. Rimmon-parez has not yet been found. Parez signifies a breach or cleft. Some scholars identify Libnah with Laban in Deuteronomy 1:1. Its location is unknown.

Verses 22-29

22-29. The sites of these stations are at present unknown.

Verses 30-33

30-33. Moseroth is the Hebrew plural of Mosera in Deuteronomy 10:6. Hengstenberg thinks it lay in the ‘Arabah where Mount Hor overhangs it. Burckhardt suggests that Wady Mousa, near Petra and this mountain, is a corruption of Moseroth.

Bene-jaakan Sons of Jaakan. In the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 10:6-7, the full name is given Beeroth Bene-Jaakan, wells of the sons of Jaakan. There are trivial variations of names, such as Hor-hagidgad and Gudgodah, in the two passages. The account in Deuteronomy, which puts Bene-jaakan before Mosera, probably refers to a second visit, in the fortieth year of the wandering, in the reverse order of the two places named.

Verse 34

34. Ebronah Passage or ford. The meaning may point to a ford across the head of the Elanitic Gulf.

Verse 35

35. Ezion-gaber The giant’s backbone, so called from the head of a mountain that runs out into a point. It is the name of a seaport at the northeast end of the Elanitic Gulf, not far from Elath. Says Stanley, “There is nothing to fix its site.” Kiepert’s map (in Robinson, 1856) locates it at Ain el-Ghudyan, about ten miles up what is now the dry bed of the ‘Arabah, supposed to have been anciently covered by the waters of the Gulf. Numbers 14:25, note. Here the Israelites, in the times of Solomon and Jehoshaphat, built a fleet to sail to Ophir. 1 Kings 9:26; 1 Kings 22:49, notes.

Verse 36

36. Wilderness of Zin Numbers 13:21, note. Kadesh is said to have been situated also in the wilderness of Paran. Numbers 13:26. To explain this difficulty there are three hypotheses: (1.) That there were two Kadeshes or “holy places.” (2.) That the name applied to a city and to an extensive region, as does New York. (3.) That Kadesh was on the border of both Paran and Zin. It is the theory of Fries, Hengstenberg, Keil, Kurtz, Raumer, Robinson, and others that the Israelites were at Kadesh once in the second, and again in the fortieth year of their wanderings. Numbers 20:16; Joshua 10:41, notes.

Verse 37

37. Pitched in mount Hor On the slopes at its base. Numbers 20:22, note and cut. The place is called Mosera, Numbers 33:30, note.

The edge of… Edom Numbers 20:14-21, notes.

Verse 38

38. Aaron… died there Numbers 20:23-29, notes.

In the fortieth year An important note of time. See Introduction, (4.)

Verse 40

40. King Arad A place, and not a person. Numbers 21:1, note.

Verse 42

42. Zalmonah Probably Wady Ithm, which runs into the Arabah close to where Elath anciently stood. Punon is conjecturally identified with Phenan, a ruined castle on the caravan road east of Mount Seir.

Verse 44

44. Oboth,… Ije-abarim Numbers 21:10-11, notes.

Verse 45

45. Iim is Ije-abarim abbreviated.

Dibon-gad Dibon, rebuilt by the Gadites after the conquest of the land, (Numbers 32:3; Numbers 32:34, notes,) and allotted to Reuben.

Verse 47

47. Almon-diblathaim is probably the same as Beth-diblathaim in Jeremiah 48:22, and is to be sought for to the north or north-west of Dibon.

Abarim Numbers 21:11; Numbers 21:20, notes. Nebo is only another name for the valley in the field of Moab upon the top of Pisgah, as is proved by the fact that, according to Deuteronomy 34:1; Deuteronomy 3:27; Deuteronomy 32:48, Nebo was a peak of Pisgah upon the mountains of Abarim; from which it is evident that Pisgah was a portion of the mountains of Abarim opposite to Jericho. Numbers 21:20, note.

Verse 48

48. Plains of Moab Numbers 22:1, note.

Jericho Joshua 2:1, note.

Verse 49

49. Beth-jesimoth House of wastes. It was at the south end of the Jordan valley, the southern limit of the camp which stretched northward to Abel-shittim, or Shittim, or “acacia-groves,” which still remain, says Stanley, “marking with a line of verdure the upper terraces of the Jordan valley.” Joshua 2:1, note.

Verses 50-52


52. Destroy all their pictures Literally, idols of stone, R.V., “figured stones.” Painting is the product of a more advanced civilization.

Molten images Idols cast from brass. This verse is not to be construed as a charter for universal iconoclasm. In the case of Israel, strongly inclined to idolatry, this was the only safe course.

Verse 53

53. Ye shall dispossess The same in Hebrew as “drive out,” in Numbers 33:52, signifying to take possession of their land, to drive out and to exterminate all who remain.

Verse 54

54. Divide the land by lot The mode of determining the location of each tribe. Numbers 26:53-56, notes.

Verse 55

55. If ye will not drive out, etc. If Israel should be perversely disobedient, Jehovah threatens to withdraw from them his help. Exodus 23:22-23.

Pricks in your eyes Joshua, (Numbers 23:13,) in repeating this, says, “scourges in your sides and thorns in your eyes,” and adds, “they shall be snares and traps unto you.” These strong metaphors portray the infliction of the most painful injuries by the un-exterminated Canaanites.

Verse 56

56. I shall do unto you, as… unto them God is no respecter of persons, nor of nations. The sins of the people are followed by the same punishments as the sins of Gentile nations. The land vomited out Israel as it rejected the Canaanites when the former had copied the vices of the latter. Joshua 6:21; Joshua 13:13, notes.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Numbers 33". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/numbers-33.html. 1874-1909.
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