Numbers 33:1
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.
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(1) These are the journeys of the children of Israel . . . —The word which is rendered journey appears to denote primarily the breaking up of the encampments, which lasted for very different periods, and which, during the protracted wanderings in the wilderness, may have been of the average duration of a twelvemonth. The list of the encampments is expressly said to have been written by Moses, and it served as a permanent memorial, on the one hand, of the sin and rebellion of the nation, and, on the other hand, of the faithfulness and long-suffering of God in leading and sustaining His people throughout their sojourn in the wilderness.

Numbers 33:1-2. These are the journeys of Israel — As the peculiar providence of God remarkably appeared in the protection and miraculous preservation of the Israelites, from the time they left Egypt till they came to the borders of Canaan, so Moses was particularly commissioned to preserve a history of them for the benefit of posterity. In execution of this commission, he wrote their goings out — Kept an account of their journeys, and of all the remarkable occurrences in the way, for his own satisfaction and the instruction of others. And he here recapitulates the principal stages of their long journey, and sets them all before the reader in one view, that those who would take the pains to examine might be satisfied that it was only by a train of unprecedented miracles that such a multitude of people had been fed and preserved every day, for forty years together, in a barren and unhospitable desert, Jeremiah 2:6; Deuteronomy 29:6. These are their journeys — It is to be observed that Moses only mentions those places where they encamped for some time, passing by others where they only halted for a little refreshment.33:1-49 This is a brief review of the travels of the children of Israel through the wilderness. It is a memorable history. In their travels towards Canaan they were continually on the remove. Such is our state in this world; we have here no continuing city, and all our removes in this world are but from one part a desert to another. They were led to and fro, forward and backward, yet were all the while under the direction of the pillar of cloud and fire. God led them about, yet led them the right way. The way God takes in bringing his people to himself is always the best way, though it does not always seem to us the nearest way. Former events are mentioned. Thus we ought to keep in mind the providences of God concerning us and families, us and our land, and the many instances of that Divine care which has led us, and fed us, and kept us all our days hitherto. Few periods of our lives can be thought upon, without reminding us of the Lord's goodness, and our own ingratitude and disobedience: his kindness leaves us without excuse for our sins. We could not wish to travel over again the stages we have passed, unless we could hope, by the grace of God, to shun the sins we then committed, and to embrace such opportunities of doing good as we have let slip. Soon will our wanderings end, and our eternal state be fixed beyond recall; how important then is the present moment! Happy are those whom the Lord now guides with his counsel, and will at length receive to his glory. To this happiness the gospel calls us. Behold now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. Let sinners seize the opportunity, and flee for refuge to the hope set before them. Let us redeem our time, to glorify God and serve our generation; and he will carry us safely through all, to his eternal kingdom.This list was written out by Moses at God's command Numbers 33:2, doubtless as a memorial of God's providential care for His people throughout this long and trying period.

Numbers 33:3-6. For these places, see the marginal reference.


Nu 33:1-15. Two and Forty Journeys of the Israelites—from Egypt to Sinai.

1. These are the journeys of the children of Israel—This chapter may be said to form the winding up of the history of the travels of the Israelites through the wilderness; for the three following chapters relate to matters connected with the occupation and division of the promised land. As several apparent discrepancies will be discovered on comparing the records here given of the journeyings from Sinai with the detailed accounts 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 this itinerary comprises a list of only the most important stations in their journeys—those where they formed prolonged encampments, and whence they dispersed their flocks and herds to pasture on the adjacent plains till the surrounding herbage was exhausted. The catalogue extends from their departure out of Egypt to their arrival on the plains of Moab.

went forth … with their armies—that is, a vast multitude marshalled in separate companies, but regular order.A relation of the marches and campings of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, Numbers 33:1-49. They are commanded to drive out the Canaanites, and destroy their pictures, molten images, and high places, and to divide the land by lot, Numbers 33:50-54. The Canaanites, if not dispossessed, should trouble and vex them; and God would do to them as he thought to do to the others, Numbers 33:55-56.

With their armies, i.e. in great number and exact order, as armies march, and they did, Exodus 12:37,38 13:18.

These are the journeys of the children of Israel,.... Which are related in this chapter following:

which went forth out of the land of Egypt: whither their fathers went and stayed, and were kept in hard bondage, but in due time were delivered from it, and came out from thence:

with their armies; in great numbers, and in an orderly manner, in rank and file, and like so many squadrons, see Exodus 7:4, under the hand of Moses and Aaron: who were sent to the king of Egypt to require their dismission, and who were the instruments under God of their deliverance, and were the leaders of them; as of them out of Egypt, so through the wilderness, in their, several journeys here recorded.

These are the {a} 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.

(a) From which they departed, and where they came.

Verse 1. - These are the journeys. The Hebrew word מַסְעֵי is rendered σταθμοί by the Septuagint, which means "stages" or "stations." It is, however, quite rightly translated "journeys," for it is the act of setting out and marching from such a place to such another which the word properly denotes (cf. Genesis 13:3; Deuteronomy 10:11). The Reubenites built Heshbon, the capital of king Sihon (see Numbers 21:16), which was allotted to the tribe of Reuben (Joshua 13:17), but relinquished to the Gadites, because it was situated upon the border of their territory, and given up by them to the Levites (Joshua 21:39; 1 Chronicles 6:66). It stood almost in the centre between the Arnon and Jabbok, opposite to Jericho, and, according to the Onomast., twenty Roman miles from the Jordan, where the ruins of a large town of about a mile in circumference are still to be seen, with deep bricked wells, and a large reservoir, bearing the ancient name of Hesban or H׬sban (Seetzen; Burckhardt, p. 623; Robinson, Pal. ii. 278; cf. v. Raumer, Pal. p. 262; and Ritter's Erdkunde, xv. p. 1176). - Elealeh: half-an-hour's journey to the north-east of Heshbon, now called el Aal, i.e., the height, upon the top of a hill, from which you can see the whole of southern Belka; it is now in ruins with many cisterns, pieces of wall, and foundations of houses (Burckhardt, p. 523). - Kirjathaim, probably to the south-west of Medeba, where the ruins of el Teym are not to be found (see at Genesis 14:5). Nebo, on Mount Nebo (see at Numbers 27:12). The Onomast. places the town eight Roman miles to the south of Heshbon, whilst the mountain is six Roman miles to the west of that town. Baal-Meon, called Beon in Numbers 32:3, Beth-Meon in Jeremiah 48:23, and more fully Beth-Baal-Meon in Joshua 13:17, is probably to be found, not in the ruins of Maein discovered by Seetzen and Legh, an hour's journey to the south-west of Tueme (Teim), and the same distance to the north of Habbis, on the north-east of Jebel Attarus, and nine Roman miles to the south of Heshbon, as most of the modern commentators from Rosenm׬ller to Knobel suppose; but in the ruins of Myun, mentioned by Burckhardt (p. 624), three-quarters of an hour to the south-east of Heshbon, where we find it marked upon Kiepert's and Van de Velde's maps.

(Note: Although Baal-Meon is unquestionably identified with Maein in the Onom. (see v. Raumer, Pal. p. 259), 1 Chronicles 5:8 is decidedly at variance with this. It is stated there that "Bela dwelt in Aroer, and even unto Nebo and Baal-Meon," a statement which places Baal-Meon in the neighbourhood of Nebo, like the passage before us, and is irreconcilable with the supposition that it was identical with Maein in the neighbourhood of Attarus. In the case of Seetzen, however, the identification of Maein with Baal-Meon is connected with the supposition, which is now generally regarded as erroneous, namely, that Nebo is the same as the Jebel Attarus. (See, on the other hand, Hengstenberg, Balaam; and Ritter's Erdkunde, xv. pp. 1187ff.))

Shibmah (Numbers 32:3, Shebam), which was only 500 paces from Heshbon, according to Jerome (on Isaiah 14:8), has apparently disappeared, without leaving a trace behind.

(Note: The difference in the forms Shibmah, Baal-Meon (Numbers 32:38), and Beth-Nimrah (Numbers 32:36), instead of Shebam, Beon, and Nimrah (Numbers 32:3), is rendered useless as a proof that Numbers 32:3 is Jehovistic, and Numbers 32:36-38 Elohistic, from the simple fact that Baal-Meon itself is a contraction of Beth-Baal-Meon (Joshua 13:17). If the Elohist could write this name fully in one place and abbreviated in another, he could just as well contract it still further, and by exchanging the labials call it Beon; and so also he could no doubt omit the Beth in the case of Nimrah, and use the masculine form Shebam in the place of Shibmah. The contraction of the names in Numbers 32:3 is especially connected with the fact, that diplomatic exactness was not required for an historical account, but that the abbreviated forms in common use were quite sufficient.)

Thus all the places built by the Reubenites were but a short distance from Heshbon, and surrounded this capita; whereas those built by the Gadites were some of them to the south of it, on the Arnon, and others to the north, towards Rabbath-Ammon. It is perfectly obvious from this, that the restoration of these towns took place before the distribution of the land among these tribes, without any regard to their possession afterwards. In the distribution, therefore, the southernmost of the towns built by the Gadites, viz., Aroer, Dibon, and Ataroth, fell to the tribe of Reuben; and Heshbon, which was built by the Reubenites, fell to the tribe of Gad. The words שׁם מוּסבּת, "changed of name," are governed by בּנוּ: "they built the towns with an alteration of their names," mutatis nominibus (for סבב, in the sense of changing, see Zechariah 14:10). There is not sufficient ground for altering the text, שׁם into שׁוּר (Knobel), according to the περικυκλωμένας of the lxx, or the περιτετευχισμένας of Symmachus. The Masoretic text is to be found not only in the Chaldee, the Syriac, the Vulgate, and the Saadic versions, but also in the Samaritan. The expression itself, too, cannot be justly described as "awkward," nor is it a valid objection that the naming is mentioned afterwards; for altering the name of a town and giving it a new name are not tautological. The insertion of the words, "their names being changed," before Shibmah, is an indication that the latter place did not receive any other name. Moreover, the new names which the builders gave to these towns did not continue in use long, but were soon pressed out by the old ones again. "And they called by names the names of the towns:" this is a roundabout way of saying, they called the towns by (other, or new) names: cf. 1 Chronicles 6:50.

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