Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Nu 33:1-15. Two and Forty Journeys of the Israelites—from Egypt to Sinai.
1. These are the journeys of the children of Israel—This chapter may be said to form the winding up of the history of the travels of the Israelites through the wilderness; for the three following chapters relate to matters connected with the occupation and division of the promised land. As several apparent discrepancies will be discovered on comparing the records here given of the journeyings from Sinai with the detailed accounts of the events narrated in the Book of Exodus and the occasional notices of places that are found in that of Deuteronomy, it is probable that this itinerary comprises a list of only the most important stations in their journeys—those where they formed prolonged encampments, and whence they dispersed their flocks and herds to pasture on the adjacent plains till the surrounding herbage was exhausted. The catalogue extends from their departure out of Egypt to their arrival on the plains of Moab.
went forth … with their armies—that is, a vast multitude marshalled in separate companies, but regular order.
And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the LORD: and these are their journeys according to their goings out.
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.
And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians.
3. Rameses—generally identified with Heroopoils, now the modern Abu-Keisheid (see on Ex 12:37), which was probably the capital of Goshen, and, by direction of Moses, the place of general rendezvous previous to their departure.
For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the LORD had smitten among them: upon their gods also the LORD executed judgments.
4. upon their gods—used either according to Scripture phraseology to denote their rulers (the first-born of the king and his princes) or the idolatrous objects of Egyptian worship.
And the children of Israel removed from Rameses, and pitched in Succoth.
5. pitched in Succoth—that is, "booths"—a place of no note except as a temporary halting place, at Birketel-Hadji, the Pilgrim's Pool [Calmet].
And they departed from Succoth, and pitched in Etham, which is in the edge of the wilderness.
6. Etham—edge, or border of all that part of Arabia-Petræa which lay contiguous to Egypt and was known by the general name of Shur.
And they removed from Etham, and turned again unto Pihahiroth, which is before Baalzephon: and they pitched before Migdol.
7. Pi-hahiroth, Baal-zephon … Migdol—(See on Ex 14:2).
And they departed from before Pihahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, and went three days' journey in the wilderness of Etham, and pitched in Marah.
8. Marah—thought to be Ain Howarah, both from its position and the time (three days) it would take them with their children and flocks to march from the water of Ayun Musa to that spot.
And they removed from Marah, and came unto Elim: and in Elim were twelve fountains of water, and threescore and ten palm trees; and they pitched there.
9. Elim—supposed to be Wady Ghurundel (see on Ex 15:27).
And they removed from Elim, and encamped by the Red sea.
10. encamped by the Red Sea—The road from Wady Ghurundel leads into the interior, in consequence of a high continuous ridge which excludes all view of the sea. At the mouth of Wady-et-Tayibeh, after about three days' march, it opens again on a plain along the margin of the Red Sea. The minute accuracy of the Scripture narrative, in corresponding so exactly with the geographical features of this region, is remarkably shown in describing the Israelites as proceeding by the only practicable route that could be taken. This plain, where they encamped, was the Desert of Sin (see on Ex 16:1).
And they removed from the Red sea, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin.
And they took their journey out of the wilderness of Sin, and encamped in Dophkah.
12-14. Dophkah … Alush … Rephidim—These three stations, in the great valleys of El Sheikh and Feiran, would be equivalent to four days' journey for such a host. Rephidim (Ex 17:6) was in Horeb, the burnt region—a generic name for a hot, mountainous country. [See on Ex 17:1.]
And they departed from Dophkah, and encamped in Alush.
And they removed from Alush, and encamped at Rephidim, where was no water for the people to drink.
And they departed from Rephidim, and pitched in the wilderness of Sinai.
15. wilderness of Sinai—the Wady Er-Raheh.
And they removed from the desert of Sinai, and pitched at Kibrothhattaavah.
Nu 33:16-56. From Sinai to Kadesh and Plains of Moab.
16-37. Kibroth-Hattaavah ("the graves of lust," see on Nu 11:34)—The route, on breaking up the encampment at Sinai, led down Wady Sheikh; then crossing Jebel-et-Tih, which intersected the peninsula, they descended into Wady Zalaka, pitching successively at two brief, though memorable, stations (De 9:22); then they encamped at Hazeroth ("unwalled villages"), supposed to be at Ain-Hadera (see on Nu 11:35). Kadesh, or Kadesh-barnea, is supposed to be the great valley of the Ghor, and the city Kadesh to have been situated on the border of this valley [Burckhardt; Robinson]. But as there are no less than eighteen stations inserted between Hazeroth and Kadesh, and only eleven days were spent in performing that journey (De 1:2), it is evident that the intermediate stations here recorded belong to another and totally different visit to Kadesh. The first was when they left Sinai in the second month (Nu 1:11; 13:20), and were in Kadesh in August (De 1:45), and "abode many days" in it. Then, murmuring at the report of the spies, they were commanded to return into the desert "by the way of the Red Sea." The arrival at Kadesh, mentioned in this catalogue, corresponds to the second sojourn at that place, being the first month, or April (Nu 20:1). Between the two visits there intervened a period of thirty-eight years, during which they wandered hither and thither through all the region of El-Tih ("wanderings"), often returning to the same spots as the pastoral necessities of their flocks required; and there is the strongest reason for believing that the stations named between Hazeroth (Nu 33:8) and Kadesh (Nu 33:36) belong to the long interval of wandering. No certainty has yet been attained in ascertaining the locale of many of these stations. There must have been more than are recorded; for it is probable that those only are noted where they remained some time, where the tabernacle was pitched, and where Moses and the elders encamped, the people being scattered for pasture in various directions. From Ezion-geber, for instance, which stood at the head of the gulf of Akaba, to Kadesh, could not be much less than the whole length of the great valley of the Ghor, a distance of not less than a hundred miles, whatever might be the exact situation of Kadesh; and, of course, there must have been several intervening stations, though none are mentioned. The incidents and stages of the rest of the journey to the plains of Moab are sufficiently explicit from the preceding chapters.
And they departed from Kibrothhattaavah, and encamped at Hazeroth.
And they departed from Hazeroth, and pitched in Rithmah.
18. Rithmah ("the place of the broom")—a station possibly in some wady extending westward of the Ghor.
And they departed from Rithmah, and pitched at Rimmonparez.
19. Rimmon-parez, or Rimmon—a city of Judah and Simeon (Jos 15:32); Libnah, so called from its white poplars (Jos 10:29), or, as some think, a white hill between Kadesh and Gaza (Jos 10:29); Rissah (El-arish); mount Shapher (Cassius); Moseroth, adjacent to mount Hor, in Wady Mousa. Ezion-geber, near Akaba, a seaport on the western shore of the Elanitic gulf; Wilderness of Zin, on the east side of the peninsula of Sinai; Punon, in the rocky ravines of mount Hor and famous for the mines and quarries in its vicinity as well as for its fruit trees, now Tafyle, on the border of Edom; Abarim, a ridge of rugged hills northwest of the Arnon—the part called Nebo was one of its highest peaks—opposite Jericho. (See on De 10:6).
And they departed from Rimmonparez, and pitched in Libnah.
And they removed from Libnah, and pitched at Rissah.
And they journeyed from Rissah, and pitched in Kehelathah.
And they went from Kehelathah, and pitched in mount Shapher.
And they removed from mount Shapher, and encamped in Haradah.
And they removed from Haradah, and pitched in Makheloth.
And they removed from Makheloth, and encamped at Tahath.
And they departed from Tahath, and pitched at Tarah.
And they removed from Tarah, and pitched in Mithcah.
And they went from Mithcah, and pitched in Hashmonah.
And they departed from Hashmonah, and encamped at Moseroth.
And they departed from Moseroth, and pitched in Benejaakan.
And they removed from Benejaakan, and encamped at Horhagidgad.
And they went from Horhagidgad, and pitched in Jotbathah.
And they removed from Jotbathah, and encamped at Ebronah.
And they departed from Ebronah, and encamped at Eziongaber.
And they removed from Eziongaber, and pitched in the wilderness of Zin, which is Kadesh.
And they removed from Kadesh, and pitched in mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom.
And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the first day of the fifth month.
And Aaron was an hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor.
And king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the children of Israel.
And they departed from mount Hor, and pitched in Zalmonah.
And they departed from Zalmonah, and pitched in Punon.
And they departed from Punon, and pitched in Oboth.
And they departed from Oboth, and pitched in Ijeabarim, in the border of Moab.
And they departed from Iim, and pitched in Dibongad.
And they removed from Dibongad, and encamped in Almondiblathaim.
And they removed from Almondiblathaim, and pitched in the mountains of Abarim, before Nebo.
And they departed from the mountains of Abarim, and pitched in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.
And they pitched by Jordan, from Bethjesimoth even unto Abelshittim in the plains of Moab.
And the LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,
50-53. ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you—not, however, by expulsion, but extermination (De 7:1).
and destroy all their pictures—obelisks for idolatrous worship (see on Le 26:1).
and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places—by metonymy for all their groves and altars, and materials of worship on the tops of hills.
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan;
Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places:
And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it.
And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families: and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance: every man's inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit.
54. ye shall divide the land by lot—The particular locality of each tribe was to be determined in this manner while a line was to be used in measuring the proportion (Jos 18:10; Ps 16:5, 6).
But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.
55. But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you—No associations were to be formed with the inhabitants; otherwise, "if ye let remain, they will be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides"—that is, they would prove troublesome and dangerous neighbors, enticing to idolatry, and consequently depriving you of the divine favor and blessing. The neglect of the counsel against union with the idolatrous inhabitants became fatal to them. This earnest admonition given to the Israelites in their peculiar circumstances conveys a salutary lesson to us to allow no lurking habits of sin to remain in us. That spiritual enemy must be eradicated from our nature; otherwise it will be ruinous to our present peace and future salvation.
Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them.