|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
10:11-28 After the Israelites had continued nearly a year at mount Sinai, and all was settled respecting their future worship, they began their march to Canaan. True religion begins with the knowledge of the holy law of God, and humiliation for sin, but we must go on towards perfection, in acquaintance with Christ and his gospel, and those effectual encouragements, motives, and assistances to holiness, which it proposes. They took their journey according to the commandment of the Lord, De 1:6-8, and as the cloud led them. Those who give themselves to the direction of God's word and Spirit, steer a steady course, even when they seem bewildered. While they are sure they cannot lose their God and Guide, they need not fear losing their way. They went out of the wilderness of Sinai, and rested in the wilderness of Paran. All our removes in this world are but from one wilderness to another. The changes we think will be for the better do not always prove so. We shall never be at rest, never at home, till we come to heaven, but all will be well there.
Verse 12. - Took their journeys. Literally, "marched according to their journeys" לְמַסְּעֵיהֶם. Septuagint, τίαις αὐτῶν, set forward with their baggage. And the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran. Taken by itself this would seem to apply to the first resting of the cloud and the first halt of the host after breaking up from "the wilderness of Sinai." It appears, however, from Numbers 12:16 that "the wilderness of Paran" was fully reached after leaving Hazeroth at the end of three days' journey from Sinai, nor would a shorter space of time suffice to carry the host across the mountain barrier of the Jebel et-Tih, which forms the clearly-marked southern limit of the desert plateau of Paran (see next note). Some critics have arbitrarily extended the limits of "the wilderness of Paran" so as to include the sandy waste between Sinai and the Jebel et-Tih, and therefore the very first halting-place of Israel. This, however, is unnecessary as well as arbitrary; for
(1) verses 12, 13 are evidently in the nature of a summary, and the same subject is confessedly taken up again in verse 33, sq.; and
(2) the departure from Sinai is expressly said to have been for a "three days' journey" (verse 33), which must mean that the march, although actually divided into three stages, was regarded as a single journey, because it brought them to their immediate destination in the wilderness of Paran. Here then is a plain reason for the statement in this verse: the cloud did indeed rest twice between the two wildernesses, but only so as to allow of a night's repose, not so as to break the continuity of the march. "The wilderness of Paran." Septuagint, ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τοῦ φαράν. This geographical expression is nowhere exactly defined in Holy Scripture, and the name itself has disappeared; for in spite of the resemblance in sound (a resemblance here, as in so many cases, wholly delusive), it seems to have no connection whatever with the Wady Feiran, the fertile valley at the base of Serbal, or with the town which once shared the name. All the allusions, however, in the Old Testament to Paran point to a district so clearly marked out, so deeply stamped with its own characteristics, by nature, that no mistake is possible. This district is now called et-Tih, i.e., the wandering, and is still remembered in the traditions of the Arabs as the scene of the wanderings of the people of God. Little known, and never thoroughly explored, its main features are nevertheless unmistakable, and its boundaries sharply defined. Measuring about 150 miles in either direction, its southern frontier (now called the Jebel et-Tih) is divided by the broad sandy waste of er-Ramleh from the Sinaitic mountains and the Sinaitic peninsula properly so called; its northern mountain mass looks across the deep fissure of the Wady Murreh (or desert of Zin), some ten or fifteen miles broad, into er-Rachmah, the mountain of the Amorite, the southern extension of the plateau of Judah; on the east it fails abruptly down to the narrow beach of the Elanite Gulf, and to the Arabah; on the west alone it sinks slowly into the sandy desert of Shur, which separates it from the Mediterranean and from Egypt. Et-Tih is itself divided into nearly equal halves, by the Wady el Arish (or "river of Egypt"), which, rising on the northern slopes of the Jebel et-Tih, and running northwards through the whole plateau, turns off to the west and is lost in the desert of Shur. That the western half of the plateau went also under the name of Paran is evident from the history of Ishmael (see especially Genesis 21:21; Genesis 25:18), but it was through the eastern portion alone that the wanderings of the Israelites, so far as we can trace them, lay. This "wilderness of Paran" is indeed "a great and terrible wilderness" (Deuteronomy 1:9), lacking for the most part the precipitous grandeur of the granite mountains of Sinai, but lacking also their fertile valleys and numerous streams. A bare limestone or sandstone plateau, crossed by low ranges of hills, seamed with innumerable dry water-courses, and interspersed with large patches of sand and gravel, is what now meets the eye of the traveler in this forsaken land. It is true that a good deal of rain falls at times, and that when it does fall vegetation appears with surprising rapidity and abundance; it is true also that the district has been persistently denuded of trees and shrubs for the sake of fuel. But whatever mitigations may have then existed, it is clear from the Bible itself that the country was then, as now, emphatically frightful (cf. Deuteronomy 1:19; Deuteronomy 8:15; Deuteronomy 32:10; Jeremiah 2:6). Something may be set, no doubt, to the account of rhetoric, and much may be allowed for variety of seasons. Even in Australia the very same district will appear at one time like the desolation of a thousand years, and in the very next year it will blossom as the rose. But at certain seasons at any rate et-Tih was (as it is) a "howling" wilderness, where the dreadful silence of a lifeless land was only broken by the nightly howling of unclean beasts who tracked the footsteps of the living in order to devour the carcasses of the dead. Perhaps so bad a country has never been attempted by any army in modern days, even by the Russian troops in Central Asia. Amongst the many Wadys which drain the uncertain rain-fall of the eastern half of et-Tih (and at the same time testify to a greater rain-fall in bygone ages), the most important is the Wady el Terafeh, which, also rising on the northern slopes of Jebel et-Tih, runs northwards and north-westwards, and finally opens into the Arabah. Towards its northern limit et-Tih changes its character for the worse. Here it rises into a precipitous quadrilateral of mountains, about forty miles square, not very lofty, but exceedingly steep and rugged, composed in great measure of dazzling masses of bare chalk or limestone, which glow as in a furnace beneath the summer sun. This mountain mass, now called the Azaimat, or mountain country of the Azazimeh, rising steeply from the rest of the plateau to the southward, is almost completely detached by deep depressions from the surrounding districts; at the north-west corner alone it is united by a short range of mountains with er-Rachmah, and so with the highlands of Southern Palestine. From this corner the Wady Murreh descends broad and deep towards the cast, forking at the eastern extremity towards the Arabah on the southeast, and towards the Dead Sea on the north. east. The interior of this inaccessible country has yet to be really explored, and it is the scanty nature of our present knowledge concerning it which, more than anything else, prevents us from following with any certainty the march of the Israelites as recorded in this book.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai,.... Each of their camps removed from thence, and so everyone took their journey:
and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran; which was a signal for the camps to rest and pitch their tents; this was after they had gone three days journey, and were come to Taberah, which, it is probable, was in the wilderness of Paran; otherwise we read of their pitching in the wilderness of Paran, after they had been a month at Kibrothhattaavah, Numbers 11:34, and seven days at Hazeroth, Numbers 12:16; so they went from one wilderness to another; of this wilderness; see Gill on Genesis 21:21.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
12. wilderness of Paran—It stretched from the base of the Sinaitic group, or from Et-Tyh, over that extensive plateau to the southwestern borders of Palestine.
Numbers 10:12 Parallel Commentaries
Numbers 10:12 NIV
Numbers 10:12 NLT
Numbers 10:12 ESV
Numbers 10:12 NASB
Numbers 10:12 KJV
Bible Hub: Online Parallel Bible