|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 20. - Libnah. Hebrew לִבְנָה ("whiteness") may perhaps be the same as the Laban (לָבָן, "white") mentioned in Deuteronomy 1:1. So many places, however, in that region are distinguished by the dazzling whiteness of their limestone cliffs that the identification is quite uncertain. The site of this, as of the next eight stations, is indeed utterly unknown; and the guesses which are founded on the partial and probably accidental similarity of some modern names (themselves differently pronounced by different travelers) are utterly worthless. Of these eight names, Kehelathah and Makheloth seem to be derived from קָהָל, "an assembling," and thus give some slight support to the supposition that during the thirty-eight years the people were scattered abroad, and only assembled from time to time in one place. Rissah is variously interpreted "heap of ruins," or "dew;" Shapher means "fair," or "splendid;" Haradah, or Charadah, is "terror," or "trembling" (cf. 1 Samuel 14:15); Tahath is a "going down," or "depression;" Tarah is "turning," or "delay;" Mithcah signifies "sweetness," and may be compared (in an opposite sense) to Marah.
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