|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 2. - And Moses wrote their goings out (מוּצָא. Septuagint, ἀπάρσεις) according to their journeys by the commandment of the Lord. The latter clause (עַל־פִי יְהוָה) may be taken as equivalent to an adjective qualifying the noun "goings out," signifying only that their marches were made under the orders of God himself. It is more natural to read it with the verb "wrote;" and in that case we have a direct assertion that Moses wrote this list of marches himself by command of God, doubtless as a memorial not only of historical interest, but of deep religious significance, as showing how Israel had been led by him who is faithful and true faithful in keeping his promise, true in fulfilling his word for good or for evil. The direct statement that Moses wrote this list himself is strongly corroborated by internal evidence, and has been accepted as substantially true by the most destructive critics. No conceivable inducement could have existed to invent a list of marches which only partially corresponds with the historical account, and can only with difficulty be reconciled with it - a list which contains many names nowhere else occurring, and having no associations for the later Israelites. Whether the statement thus introduced tells in favour of the Mosaic authorship (as usually accepted) of the rest of the Book is a very different matter, on which see the Introduction.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys, by the commandment of the Lord,.... Which may be understood, either that their journeys were by the commandment of the Lord; so Aben Ezra takes the connection to be, and which is undoubtedly true, and which is expressed plainly elsewhere; for so it was, that when the cloud abode on the tabernacle they rested, and had their stations, and continued as long as the cloud tarried on it, and when that was taken up, then they marched; and thus at the commandment of the Lord they rested, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed, see Numbers 9:17 or that Moses wrote the account of their journeys, and several stations, at the commandment of the Lord, that it might be on record, and be read in future ages, and appear to be a fact, that they were led about in a wilderness, in places which were unknown to others, and had no names but what they gave them:
and these are their journeys according to their goings out; from place to place; some of the ancients, as Jerom (z) particularly, and some modern writers, have allegorized these journeys of the children of Israel, and have fancied that there is something in the signification of the names of the places they came to, and abode in, suitable to the cases and circumstances of the people of God in their passage through this world; but though the travels of the children of Israel in the wilderness may in general be an emblem of the case and condition of the people of God in this world, and there are many things in them, and which they met with, and befell them, that may be accommodated to them; yet the particulars will never hold good of individual saints, since they are not all led exactly in the same path of difficulties and troubles, but each have something peculiar to themselves; and it will be difficult to apply these things to the church of God in general, in the several stages and periods of time, and which I do not know that any have attempted; and yet, if there is anything pointed out by the travels, one would think it should be that.
(z) "De 42 mansionibus", Fabiolae, "inter opera ejus", T. 3. fol. 13.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the Lord—The wisdom of this divine order is seen in the importance of the end to which it was subservient—namely, partly to establish the truth of the history, partly to preserve a memorial of God's marvellous interpositions on behalf of Israel, and partly to confirm their faith in the prospect of the difficult enterprise on which they were entering, the invasion of Canaan.
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