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Bible Dictionaries
Wanderings of the Israelites

Morrish Bible Dictionary

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The Israelites were always directed by God as to their journeyings and when and where to pitch their tents. It was God who caused them to 'wander' because of their sin. Numbers 32:13 .

The accounts of the journeys of the children of Israel have not escaped the unwarrantable attacks to which many parts of scripture have been subjected. Though many of the places mentioned cannot now be identified, and therefore the actual path trodden cannot be traced, yet enough is recorded to show in the main what their route was, and to prove that the several records do not clash one with another. The passage quoted above speaks of the wanderings occupying forty years, yet it was after their first visit to Kadesh-barnea in the 2nd year that their real 'wanderings' began.

Travellers have visited the districts along which the Israelites are supposed to have travelled, and have not hesitated to say that the cattle and sheep of the Israelites could not possibly have found pasture or fodder on which to have lived.

We read that they brought out of Egypt 'flocks and herds,' and in Exodus 12:38 "very much cattle" is mentioned. Before crossing the Jordan the two and a half tribes are describedas having "a great multitude of cattle," but this was after the Midianites had been destroyed, and most of the cattle and sheep may have fallen to these tribes, the other tribes taking "the gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead" with other spoils.

The Israelites were forbidden to graze their flocks and herds "before the mount." And this implies that there was pasture there for them; the Amalekites also dwelt there, and doubtless had cattle. Exodus 17:8; Exodus 34:3 . The actual state of the desert now is no proof of what it was then. It is well known that the Bedouins do not encourage cultivation, and they have destroyed the trees extensively in order to make charcoal, which they can always sell, and this decreases the fertility. A traveller records that "the gardens at the Wells of Moses, under the French and English agents from Suez, and the gardens in the valleys of Jebel Musa, under the care of the Greek monks of the Convent of St. Catherine" are proofs of the fertility of the ground under culture.

The barren state of the desert in general does not preclude the fact that parts of it are fertile. There are few parts of the Sinai Peninsula that do not show signs of vegetation. The numerous valleys of the Sinaitic group of mountains are full of shrubs and grass.

Much farther north, near Kadesh, the Amalekites and Canaanites were able to live in the mountain. Numbers 14:40-45 .

It is therefore useless and unbelieving to draw conclusions from the present aspect of the land through which the Israelites travelled. If they continued to have much cattle, God could as easily have provided for their cattle as have given them manna from heaven for themselves.

The first part of their journey from Egypt was from Rameses to the Red Sea. Rameses was on the east of the Nile, but some place it farther north than others. The western branch of the Red Sea doubtless then extended farther north than it does at present, and it cannot be ascertained at what point the sea was crossed. The stations are

Exodus 12 . Numbers 33 .

Rameses, Exodus 12:37 . | Rameses, Numbers 33:3 .

Succoth, Exodus 12:37 . | Succoth, Numbers 33:5 .

Etham, Exodus 13:20 . | Etham, Numbers 33:6 .

Pi-hahiroth, Exodus 14:2 . | Pi-hahiroth, Numbers 33:7 .

Passage through the Red Sea, | Passage through the Red Sea

Exodus 14:22 , and three days' march | and three days' march in the

into the desert of Shur, Exodus 15:22 | desert of Etham, Numbers 33:8 .

It will be noticed that in Numbers, Etham is mentioned on both sides of the Red Sea. The word has been interpreted 'boundary of the sea' (a meaning which Fürst thinks doubtful, but gives no other): if so, it might apply to either side. The desert of Etham may have swept round the end of the Gulf of Suez, as in some maps.

The second part of their journey was from the Red Sea to Mount Sinai, on the east side of the Gulf of Suez. The wilderness of Sin, Mount Sinai, and Horeb are in the main identified. The stations are

Marah Exodus 15:23 . | Marah, Numbers 33:8 .

Elim, Exodus 15:27 . | Elim, Numbers 33:9 .

| Encampment by the Red Sea,

| Numbers 33:10 .

Desert of Sin, Exodus 16:1 . | Desert of Sin, Numbers 33:11 .

| Dophkah, Numbers 33:12 .

| Alush. Numbers 33:13 .

Rephidim, Exodus 17:1 . | Rephidim, Numbers 33:14 .

Desert of Sinai, Exodus 19:1 , in the | Desert of Sinai, Numbers 33:15 .

third month of the first year. |

In the wilderness of Sinai the Israelites remained until the second month of the second year, during which period the law was given. Numbers 10:11; Numbers 33:16 .

The third part of their journey was from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, some eighty miles farther north. In this journey only three intermediate stations are mentioned.

Taberah, Numbers 11:3; Deuteronomy 9:22 |

Kibroth-hattaavah, Numbers 11:34 . | Kibroth-hattaavah, Numbers 33:16 .

Hazeroth, Numbers 11:35 . | Hazeroth, Numbers 33:17 .

Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran | Rithmah, Numbers 33:18 .

Num., 12:16; Num.13:1-26. |

At Taberah the fire of the Lord burnt among them. At Kibroth-hattaavah the people lusted for flesh: quails were given them, and then God sent upon them a very great plague. Numbers 11:4,31-34 . At Hazeroth Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses, and Miriam was smitten with leprosy. Numbers 12:10 . The above shows that Kadesh is in the same locality as Rithmah, from whence the spies were despatched. The spies are not mentioned in Numbers 33 .

There was a prolonged stay at Kadesh or Rithmah in the wilderness of Paran. The return of the spies was waited for. The rebellion broke out on the report of the faithless spies, and God sware they should not enter the land, but should wander in the wilderness that all the men who came out of Egypt might die except Caleb and Joshua. In defiance of this they invaded the land, and were attacked by the Amalekites. Numbers 14:33-45 . Then followed the rebellion of Korah. Numbers 16 .

Apparently the Israelites spent about thirty-seven years in travelling three times between Kadesh and Ezion-gaber, at the corner of the Gulf of Akaba, but many of the stations cannot be identified; some may have been situated farther to the west. It is not, however, recorded how long they remained at the various places, and it is possible that some of them are not included in the lists.

By comparing Numbers 20:22-29 with Deuteronomy 10:6 it will be seen that Mosera and Mount Hor are regarded as the same place, Mosera, or Moseroth, being situated at the foot of Mount Hor. Mosera is therefore a recognised place to which they travelled when the real 'wanderings' began. They removed from Kadesh, or Rithmah, to Rimmon-parez, and then to other stations till they arrived at Mosera, or Mount Hor, the first time, though it seems but a short distance. Numbers 33:19-30 .

From Mosera they travelled southward to Ezion-gaber, there being four stations between. Numbers 33:31-35 .

From Ezion-gaber they turned and travelled northward again and arrived at Kadesh or Kadesh-barnea a second time, no stations being mentioned between those two distant places. At Kadesh Miriam died. The people murmured, and the rock was smitten, on which occasion Moses and Aaron offended. Numbers 20:1-13 .

From Kadesh they travelled to Mount Hor, without any station being mentioned between them, unless Beeroth in Deuteronomy 10:6 comes in here. At Mount Hor Aaron died and was buried. Numbers 33:37,38 . They were attacked by King Arad the Canaanite, who was defeated and his cities destroyed. Numbers 21:1-3 .

The King of Edom having refused to let the Israelites pass through his land necessitated their journeying again to the Red Sea in order to compass the land of Edom (perhaps passing Gudgodah and Jotbath, Deuteronomy 10:7 , in the route). Numbers 20:14-21; Numbers 21:4 . From the Red Sea their route is plainly on the east of Edom and the Salt Sea until they arrived opposite Jericho, where their wanderings ended.

From Mount Hor by the way of the | By Elath and Ezion-gaber, Deuteronomy 2:8 .

Red Sea, Numbers 21:4 . |

| Zalmonah, Numbers 33:41 .

| Punon, Numbers 33:42 .

Oboth. Numbers 21:10 . | Oboth, Numbers 33:43 .

Ije-abarim, Numbers 21:11 . | Ije-abarim, or Iim, Numbers 33:44,45 .

The Brook Zared, Numbers 21:12; |

Deuteronomy 2:13,14 . |

The Brook Arnon, Numbers 21:13; |

Deuteronomy 2:24 . |

| Dibon-gad, Numbers 33:45 ,

| Almon-diblathaim, Numbers 33:46 ,

Beer, in the desert, Numbers 21:16,18 . |

Mattanah, Numbers 21:18 . |

Nahaliel, Numbers 21:19 . |

Bamoth. Numbers 21:19 . |

Pisgah, Numbers 21:20 (on Abarim). | Mountains of Abarim, before

| Nebo, Numbers 33:47 .

Plains of Moab, by Jordan, near | Plains of Moab, by Jordan, near

Jericho, Numbers 22:1 . | Jericho, Numbers 33:48 .

The many failings and murmurings of the Israelites are recorded in scripture, and stand as solemn warnings to the Christian, as we see in 1 Corinthians 10:1-14 . For the typical signification of the journey of the Israelites see under WILDERNESS.

Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'Wanderings of the Israelites'. Morrish Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​mbd/​w/wanderings-of-the-israelites.html. 1897.
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