Numbers 33:2
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) By the commandment of the Lord.—It does not clearly appear whether these words should be understood of the record of the journeys of the Israelites as being made by Moses in obedience to a Divine command, or whether they should be understood of the journeys themselves as being taken in obedience to the Divine command.

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.This list was written out by Moses at God's command Numbers 33:2, doubtless as a memorial of God's providential care for His people throughout this long and trying period.

Numbers 33:3-6. For these places, see the marginal reference.

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. Moses would have this done, partly to evince the truth of the history, partly to preserve the remembrance of God’s glorious and miraculous works both of judgment and mercy towards his people, and thereby to confirm their faith in their present difficult undertaking. 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.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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. The Reubenites built Heshbon, the capital of king Sihon (see Numbers 21:16), which was allotted to the tribe of Reuben (Joshua 13:17), but relinquished to the Gadites, because it was situated upon the border of their territory, and given up by them to the Levites (Joshua 21:39; 1 Chronicles 6:66). It stood almost in the centre between the Arnon and Jabbok, opposite to Jericho, and, according to the Onomast., twenty Roman miles from the Jordan, where the ruins of a large town of about a mile in circumference are still to be seen, with deep bricked wells, and a large reservoir, bearing the ancient name of Hesban or H׬sban (Seetzen; Burckhardt, p. 623; Robinson, Pal. ii. 278; cf. v. Raumer, Pal. p. 262; and Ritter's Erdkunde, xv. p. 1176). - Elealeh: half-an-hour's journey to the north-east of Heshbon, now called el Aal, i.e., the height, upon the top of a hill, from which you can see the whole of southern Belka; it is now in ruins with many cisterns, pieces of wall, and foundations of houses (Burckhardt, p. 523). - Kirjathaim, probably to the south-west of Medeba, where the ruins of el Teym are not to be found (see at Genesis 14:5). Nebo, on Mount Nebo (see at Numbers 27:12). The Onomast. places the town eight Roman miles to the south of Heshbon, whilst the mountain is six Roman miles to the west of that town. Baal-Meon, called Beon in Numbers 32:3, Beth-Meon in Jeremiah 48:23, and more fully Beth-Baal-Meon in Joshua 13:17, is probably to be found, not in the ruins of Maein discovered by Seetzen and Legh, an hour's journey to the south-west of Tueme (Teim), and the same distance to the north of Habbis, on the north-east of Jebel Attarus, and nine Roman miles to the south of Heshbon, as most of the modern commentators from Rosenm׬ller to Knobel suppose; but in the ruins of Myun, mentioned by Burckhardt (p. 624), three-quarters of an hour to the south-east of Heshbon, where we find it marked upon Kiepert's and Van de Velde's maps.

(Note: Although Baal-Meon is unquestionably identified with Maein in the Onom. (see v. Raumer, Pal. p. 259), 1 Chronicles 5:8 is decidedly at variance with this. It is stated there that "Bela dwelt in Aroer, and even unto Nebo and Baal-Meon," a statement which places Baal-Meon in the neighbourhood of Nebo, like the passage before us, and is irreconcilable with the supposition that it was identical with Maein in the neighbourhood of Attarus. In the case of Seetzen, however, the identification of Maein with Baal-Meon is connected with the supposition, which is now generally regarded as erroneous, namely, that Nebo is the same as the Jebel Attarus. (See, on the other hand, Hengstenberg, Balaam; and Ritter's Erdkunde, xv. pp. 1187ff.))

Shibmah (Numbers 32:3, Shebam), which was only 500 paces from Heshbon, according to Jerome (on Isaiah 14:8), has apparently disappeared, without leaving a trace behind.

(Note: The difference in the forms Shibmah, Baal-Meon (Numbers 32:38), and Beth-Nimrah (Numbers 32:36), instead of Shebam, Beon, and Nimrah (Numbers 32:3), is rendered useless as a proof that Numbers 32:3 is Jehovistic, and Numbers 32:36-38 Elohistic, from the simple fact that Baal-Meon itself is a contraction of Beth-Baal-Meon (Joshua 13:17). If the Elohist could write this name fully in one place and abbreviated in another, he could just as well contract it still further, and by exchanging the labials call it Beon; and so also he could no doubt omit the Beth in the case of Nimrah, and use the masculine form Shebam in the place of Shibmah. The contraction of the names in Numbers 32:3 is especially connected with the fact, that diplomatic exactness was not required for an historical account, but that the abbreviated forms in common use were quite sufficient.)

Thus all the places built by the Reubenites were but a short distance from Heshbon, and surrounded this capita; whereas those built by the Gadites were some of them to the south of it, on the Arnon, and others to the north, towards Rabbath-Ammon. It is perfectly obvious from this, that the restoration of these towns took place before the distribution of the land among these tribes, without any regard to their possession afterwards. In the distribution, therefore, the southernmost of the towns built by the Gadites, viz., Aroer, Dibon, and Ataroth, fell to the tribe of Reuben; and Heshbon, which was built by the Reubenites, fell to the tribe of Gad. The words שׁם מוּסבּת, "changed of name," are governed by בּנוּ: "they built the towns with an alteration of their names," mutatis nominibus (for סבב, in the sense of changing, see Zechariah 14:10). There is not sufficient ground for altering the text, שׁם into שׁוּר (Knobel), according to the περικυκλωμένας of the lxx, or the περιτετευχισμένας of Symmachus. The Masoretic text is to be found not only in the Chaldee, the Syriac, the Vulgate, and the Saadic versions, but also in the Samaritan. The expression itself, too, cannot be justly described as "awkward," nor is it a valid objection that the naming is mentioned afterwards; for altering the name of a town and giving it a new name are not tautological. The insertion of the words, "their names being changed," before Shibmah, is an indication that the latter place did not receive any other name. Moreover, the new names which the builders gave to these towns did not continue in use long, but were soon pressed out by the old ones again. "And they called by names the names of the towns:" this is a roundabout way of saying, they called the towns by (other, or new) names: cf. 1 Chronicles 6:50.

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