|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
Verse 18. - Rithmah. Comparing this verso with Numbers 12:16 and Numbers 13:26, it would appear as if Rithmah were the station "in the wilderness of Paran" from which the spies went up, and to which they returned - a station subsequently known by the name of Kadesh. There are two difficulties in the way of this identification. In the first place we should then only have three names of stations between Sinai and the southern border of Palestine, on what is at least eleven days' journey. This is, however, confessedly the case in the historical narrative, and it admits of explanation. We know that the first journey was a three days' journey (Numbers 10:33), and the others may have been longer still, through a country which presented no facilities for encamping, and possessed no variety of natural features. In the second place, Rithmah is not Kadesh, and cannot be connected with Kadesh except through a doubtful identification with the Wady Retemat in the neighbourhood of Ain Kudes (see note at end of chapter 13). It is, however, evident from Numbers 12:16, as compared with Numbers 13:26, that Kadesh was not the name originally given to the encampment "in the wilderness of Paran." It seems to have got that name - perhaps owing to some popular feeling with respect to an ancient sanctuary, perhaps owing to some partial shifting of the camp - during the absence of the spies. Rithmah, therefore, may well have been the official name (so to speak) originally given to the encampment, but subsequently superseded by the more famous name of Kadesh; this would explain both its non-appearance in the narrative of Numbers, and its appearance in the Itinerary here.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they departed from Hazeroth, and pitched at Rithmah. Eight miles from Hazeroth: Rethem, from whence this place seems to have had its name, is generally rendered by "juniper", 1 Kings 19:4 and the Targum of Jonathan here adds, where the juniper trees grew; and, perhaps, it is the same with the valley of Retheme, of which some travellers (e) thus write, "this valley", called in the Hebrew Retheme, and commonly Ritma, derives its name from a yellow flower, with which the valley is covered; we found here, on the left hand, two cisterns of excellent water; and water being to be had here, might be the reason of the Israelites pitching in this place. Some learned men (f) think it is the same with Kadeshbarnea, from whence the spies were sent, that being the next remove from Hazeroth, as this was; see Numbers 12:16, with which agrees the remark of Jarchi, that this place was so called, because of the evil tongue of the spies, as it is said, Psalm 120:3 "what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper"; alluding to the signification of Rithmah; perhaps this is the same place, which by Josephus (g) is called Dathema, and so in the Apocrypha:"Then the heathen that were at Galaad assembled themselves together against the Israelites that were in their quarters, to destroy them; but they fled to the fortress of Dathema.'' (1 Maccabees 5:9)
(e) Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. 2. p. 154. (f) Dr. Lightfoot, vol. 1. p. 35. Dr. Clayton's Chronology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 382, 383. (g) Antiqu. l. 12. c. 8. sect. 4.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
18. Rithmah ("the place of the broom")—a station possibly in some wady extending westward of the Ghor.
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