Numbers 34
Benson Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Numbers 34:1-2. God here directs Moses, and he is ordered to direct Israel, concerning the line by which the land of Canaan was to be bounded on all sides. Its limits, or bounds, are described, 1st, To guide and bound them in their wars and conquests, that they might not seek the enlargement of their empire, after the manner of other nations, but be contented with their own portion. 2d, To encourage them in their attempt upon Canaan, and assure them of their success. There was a much larger possession promised them, if they were obedient, even to the river Euphrates; and even so far the dominions of Israel did extend in David’s and Solomon’s time, 2 Chronicles 9:26. But this, which is properly Canaan, lay in a very little compass. It is but about a hundred and sixty miles in length, and about fifty in breadth. This was that little spot of ground, in which alone, for many ages, God was known! But its littleness was abundantly compensated by its fruitfulness; otherwise it could not have sustained so numerous a nation.

See how little a share of the world God often gives to his own people! But they that have their portion in heaven, can be content with a small pittance of this earth.

Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof:)
Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward:
Numbers 34:3. Your south quarter — Which is here described from east to west by divers windings and turnings, by reason of the mountains and rivers. Though Canaan itself was a pleasant land, as it is termed Daniel 8:9, yet it butted upon wildernesses and seas, and was surrounded with divers melancholy prospects. And thus the vineyard of the church is compassed on all hands with the desert of this world, which serves as a foil to it, to make it appear the more amiable and desirable. Many of the borders of Canaan, however, were its defences and fortifications, and rendered the access of its enemies more difficult. The utmost coast of the salt sea — So called from the salt and sulphureous taste of its waters; and termed also the Dead sea, because no creature, it appears, will live in it, on account of its excessive saltness, or rather bituminous quality. “It contains,” says Volney, “neither animal nor vegetable life. We see no verdure on its banks, nor are fish to be found within its waters.” This was part of the border of the Israelites, that it might be a constant warning to them to take heed of those sins which had been the ruin of Sodom: yet the iniquity of Sodom was afterward found in Israel; (Ezekiel 16:49;) for which Canaan was made, though not a salt sea, as Sodom, yet a barren soil, and continues such to this day. Eastward — That is, at the eastern part of that sea, where the eastern and southern borders of the land met. Thus Moses determines the boundary of Canaan, on the south, to be Idumaea and the deserts of Arabia.

And your border shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and pass on to Zin: and the going forth thereof shall be from the south to Kadeshbarnea, and shall go on to Hazaraddar, and pass on to Azmon:
Numbers 34:4-6. From the south to Kadesh-barnea — Rather, shall extend on the south to Kadesh-barnea westward. Unto the river of Egypt — That is, the Nile. Not that the Jews did really extend their territories so far as the Nile; but thus far they were allowed to extend them. The goings out of it shall be at the sea — The Midland or Mediterranean sea, called the sea, emphatically, and (Numbers 34:6,) the great sea, in opposition to the sea of Galilee, and the Dead sea, which are indeed but lakes. This midland sea was to be their western border.

And the border shall fetch a compass from Azmon unto the river of Egypt, and the goings out of it shall be at the sea.
And as for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border: this shall be your west border.
And this shall be your north border: from the great sea ye shall point out for you mount Hor:
Numbers 34:7-8. Mount Hor — Not that Hor where Aaron died, which was southward, and bordering upon Edom, but another mountain, probably Hermon, or some part of mount Lebanon, which is elsewhere mentioned as the northern border of the land, and which, in regard of divers parts, or by divers people, is called by divers names, and here Hor, which signifies a mountain, by way of eminence. Accordingly we find Lebanon and Hermon joined with the entrance of Hamath, (Joshua 13:5,) as mount Hor is here.

From mount Hor ye shall point out your border unto the entrance of Hamath; and the goings forth of the border shall be to Zedad:
And the border shall go on to Ziphron, and the goings out of it shall be at Hazarenan: this shall be your north border.
And ye shall point out your east border from Hazarenan to Shepham:
Numbers 34:10. Your east border — This ran from the head of Jordan along the course of that river, taking in the lake of Gennesareth, called in the New Testament, the sea of Galilee, and the sea of Tiberias, (John 6:1,) and here, the sea of Chinnereth, or Cinnereth, from the Hebrew, cinnor, a harp, the figure of which it resembles. Shepham and Riblah were two places near Jordan. Ain signifies a fountain, and the passage may be rendered, On the east side of the fountain — Namely, of Jordan, for that river had more sources than one.

And the coast shall go down from Shepham to Riblah, on the east side of Ain; and the border shall descend, and shall reach unto the side of the sea of Chinnereth eastward:
And the border shall go down to Jordan, and the goings out of it shall be at the salt sea: this shall be your land with the coasts thereof round about.
And Moses commanded the children of Israel, saying, This is the land which ye shall inherit by lot, which the LORD commanded to give unto the nine tribes, and to the half tribe:
Numbers 34:13. This is the land which ye shall inherit — This is repeated, that they might not extend their desires beyond the bounds of God’s gracious grant to them. And, by the foregoing description, it appears that they were placed in a very pleasant land, sheltered from the sultry air of the deserts of Arabia by great mountains on the south, refreshed by western breezes from the Mediterranean sea, and on the north defended by mount Lebanon from the colder blasts of that quarter, and having the delightful plains of Jordan on the east.

For the tribe of the children of Reuben according to the house of their fathers, and the tribe of the children of Gad according to the house of their fathers, have received their inheritance; and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance:
The two tribes and the half tribe have received their inheritance on this side Jordan near Jericho eastward, toward the sunrising.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
These are the names of the men which shall divide the land unto you: Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun.
Numbers 34:17. These are the men that shall divide the land — Although the division of the land was to be made by lot, (Numbers 34:13,) yet it was proper there should be some persons appointed to oversee this business, and to take care that there should be no fraud nor quarrels in the drawing of the lots. The management of it, therefore, is ordered to be in the hands of the high-priest, of the governor, or chief general, and a principal officer chosen out of each tribe, as its representative. Eleazar the priest — Was to preside in God’s name, to cast lots, to prevent contentions, to consult with God in cases of difficulty, and to see that the whole business was transacted in a solemn and religious manner.

And ye shall take one prince of every tribe, to divide the land by inheritance.
And the names of the men are these: Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh.
Numbers 34:19. Of the tribe of Judah — The tribes are not set down here in the same order that was observed at their first and second numbering, (Numbers 1:5-7; Numbers 26:5,) but according to the situation in which they were afterward placed in the land of Canaan; as if Moses had foreseen what tribes should be next neighbours one to another. And as, when they encamped, they were placed according to their brotherhood, so, in inheriting the land, we see a similar order observed: Judah and Simeon, both sons of Leah, dwelt by one another: next, Benjamin of Rachel, and Dan of Rachel’s maid: Manasseh and Ephraim, both sons of Joseph, had the next place: Zebulon and Issachar, who dwelt next together, were both sons of Leah: and the last pair were Asher of Leah’s maid, and Naphtali of Rachel’s maid. Here, therefore, we have an evident proof of the wisdom of God’s providence, and of his peculiar care of his people.

And of the tribe of the children of Simeon, Shemuel the son of Ammihud.
Of the tribe of Benjamin, Elidad the son of Chislon.
And the prince of the tribe of the children of Dan, Bukki the son of Jogli.
The prince of the children of Joseph, for the tribe of the children of Manasseh, Hanniel the son of Ephod.
And the prince of the tribe of the children of Ephraim, Kemuel the son of Shiphtan.
And the prince of the tribe of the children of Zebulun, Elizaphan the son of Parnach.
And the prince of the tribe of the children of Issachar, Paltiel the son of Azzan.
And the prince of the tribe of the children of Asher, Ahihud the son of Shelomi.
And the prince of the tribe of the children of Naphtali, Pedahel the son of Ammihud.
These are they whom the LORD commanded to divide the inheritance unto the children of Israel in the land of Canaan.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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