And they removed from Makheloth, and encamped at Tahath.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
The stations named are those visited during the years of penal wandering. The determination of their positions is, in many cases, difficult, because during this period there was no definite line of march pursued. But it is probable that the Israelites during this period did not overstep the boundaries of the wilderness of Paran (as defined in Numbers 10:12), except to pass along the adjoining valley of the Arabah; while the tabernacle and organized camp moved about from place to place among them (compare Numbers 20:1).
Rissah, Haradah, and Tahath are probably the same as Rasa, Aradeh, and Elthi of the Roman tables. The position of Hashmonah (Heshmon in Joshua 15:27) in the Azazimeh mountains points out the road followed by the children of Israel to be that which skirts the southwestern extremity of Jebel Magrah.And they removed from Makheloth, and encamped at Tahath.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Numbers 20:1, and still more the agreement of the places mentioned in Numbers 33:37-49, as the encampments of Israel after leaving Kadesh till their arrival in the steppes of Moab, with the march of the people in the fortieth year as described in Numbers 20:22-22:1, put it beyond all doubt that the encampment in the wilderness of Zin, i.e., Kadesh (Numbers 33:36), is to be understood as referring to the second arrival in Kadesh after the expiration of the thirty-eight years of wandering in the desert to which the congregation had been condemned. Consequently the twenty-one names in vv. 16-36 contain not only the places of encampment at which the Israelites encamped in the second year of their march from Sinai to the desert of Paran at Kadesh, whence the spies were despatched into Canaan, but also those in which they encamped for a longer period during the thirty-eight years of punishment in the wilderness. This view is still further confirmed by the fact that the two first of the stations named after the departure from the wilderness of Sinai, viz., Kibroth-hattaavah and Hazeroth, agree with those named in the historical account in Numbers 11:34 and Numbers 11:35. Now if, according to Numbers 12:16, when the people left Hazeroth, they encamped in the desert of Paran, and despatched the spies thence out of the desert of Zin (Numbers 13:21), who returned to the congregation after forty days "into the desert of Paran to Kadesh" (Numbers 13:26), it is as natural as it well can be to seek for this place of encampment in the desert of Paran or Zin at Kadesh under the name of Rithmah, which follows Hazeroth in the present list (Numbers 33:18). This natural supposition reaches the highest degree of probability, from the fact that, in the historical account, the place of encampment, from which the sending out of the spies took place, is described in so indefinite a manner as the "desert of Paran," since this name does not belong to a small desert, just capable of holding the camp of the Israelites, but embraces the whole of the large desert plateau which stretches from the central mountains of Horeb in the south to the mountains of the Amorites, which really form part of Canaan, and contains no less than 400 (? 10,000 English) square miles. In this desert the Israelites could only pitch their camp in one particular spot, which is called Rithmah in the list before us; whereas in the historical account the passage is described, according to what the Israelites performed and experienced in this encampment, as near to the southern border of Canaan, and is thus pointed out with sufficient clearness for the purpose of the historical account. To this we may add the coincidence of the name Rithmah with the Wady Abu Retemat, which is not very far to the south of Kadesh, "a wide plain with shrubs and retem," i.e., broom (Robinson, i. p. 279), in the neighbourhood of which, and behind the chalk formation which bounds it towards the east, there is a copious spring of sweet water called Ain el Kudeirt. This spot was well adapted for a place of encampment for Israel, which was so numerous that it might easily stretch into the desert of Zin, and as far as Kadesh.
The seventeen places of encampment, therefore, that are mentioned in vv. 19-36 between Rithmah and Kadesh, are the places at which Israel set up in the desert, from their return from Kadesh into the "desert of the way to the Red Sea" (Numbers 14:25), till the reassembling of the whole congregation in the desert of Zin at Kadesh (Numbers 20:1).
(Note: The different hypotheses for reducing the journey of the Israelites to a few years, have been refuted by Kurtz (iii. 41) in the most conclusive manner possible, and in some respects more elaborately than was actually necessary. Nevertheless Knobel has made a fresh attempt, in the interest of his fragmentary hypothesis, to explain the twenty-one places of encampment given in vv. 16-37 as twenty-one marches made by Israel from Sinai till their first arrival at Kadesh. As the whole distance from Sinai to Kadesh by the straight road through the desert consists of only an eleven days' journey, Knobel endeavours to bring his twenty-one marches into harmony with this statement, by reckoning only five hours to each march, and postulating a few detours in addition, in which the people occupied about a hundred hours or more. The objection which might be raised to this, namely, that the Israelites made much longer marches than these on their way from Egypt to Sinai, he tries to set aside by supposing that the Israelites left their flocks behind them in Egypt, and procured fresh ones from the Bedouins at Sinai. But this assertion is so arbitrary and baseless an idea, that it is not worth while to waste a single word upon the subject (see Exodus 12:38). The reduction of the places of encampment to simple marches is proved to be at variance with the text by the express statement in Numbers 10:33, that when the Israelites left the wilderness of Sinai they went a three days' journey, until the cloud showed them a resting-place. For it is perfectly evydent from this, that the march from one place to another cannot be understood without further ground as being simply a day's march of five hours.)
Of all the seventeen places not a single one is known, or can be pointed out with certainty, except Eziongeber. Only the four mentioned in Numbers 33:30-33, Moseroth, Bene-Jaakan, Hor-hagidgad, and Jotbathah, are referred to again, viz., in Deuteronomy 10:6-7, where Moses refers to the divine protection enjoyed by the Israelites in their wandering in the desert, in these words: "And the children of Israel took their journey from Beeroth-bene-Jaakan to Mosera; there Aaron died, and there he was buried.... From thence they journeyed unto Gudgodah, and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land of water-brooks." Of the identity of the places mentioned in the two passages there can be no doubt whatever. Bene Jaakan is simply an abbreviation of Beeroth-bene-Jaakan, wells of the children of Jaakan. Now if the children of Jaakan were the same as the Horite family of Kanan mentioned in Genesis 36:27, - and the reading יעקן for ועקן in 1 Chronicles 1:42 seems to favour this-the wells of Jaakan would have to be sought for on the mountains that bound the Arabah on either the east or west.
Gudgodah is only a slightly altered and abbreviated form of Hor-hagidgad, the cave of Gidgad or Gudgodah; and lastly, Moseroth is simply the plural form of Mosera. But notwithstanding the identity of these four places, the two passages relate to different journeys. Deuteronomy 10:6 and Deuteronomy 10:7 refers to the march in the fortieth year, when the Israelites went from Kadesh through the Wady Murreh into the Arabah to Mount Hor, and encamped in the Arabah first of all at the wells of the children, and then at Mosera, where Aaron died upon Mount Hor, which was in the neighbourhood, and whence they travelled still farther southwards to Gudgodah and Jotbathah. In the historical account in Numbers 20 and 21 the three places of encampment, Bene-Jaakan, Gudgodah, and Jotbathah, are not mentioned, because nothing worthy of note occurred there. Gudgodah was perhaps the place of encampment mentioned in Numbers 21:4, the name of which is not given, where the people were punished with fiery serpents; and Jotbathah is probably to be placed before Zalmonah (Numbers 33:41). The clause, "a land of water-brooks" (Deuteronomy 10:7), points to a spot in or near the southern part of the Arabah, where some wady, or valley with a stream flowing through it, opened into the Arabah from either the eastern or western mountains, and formed a green oasis through its copious supply of water in the midst of the arid steppe. But the Israelites had encamped at the very same places once before, namely, during their thirty-seven years of wandering, in which the people, after returning from Kadesh to the Red Sea through the centre of the great desert of et Tih, after wandering about for some time in the broad desert plateau, went through the Wady el Jerafeh into the Arabah as far as the eastern border of it on the slopes of Mount Hor, and there encamped at Mosera (Moseroth) somewhere near Ain et Taiyibeh (on Robinson's map), and then crossed over to Bene-Jaakan, which was probably on the western border of the Arabah, somewhere near Ain el Ghamr (Robinson), and then turning southwards passed along the Wady el Jeib by Hor-gidgad (Gudgodah), Jotbathah, and Abronah to Eziongeber on the Red Sea; for there can be no doubt whatever that the Eziongeber in Numbers 33:35, Numbers 33:36, and that in Deuteronomy 2:8, are one and the same town, viz., the well-known port at the northern extremity of the Elanitic Gulf, where the Israelites in the time of Solomon and Jehoshaphat built a fleet to sail to Ophir (1 Kings 9:26; 1 Kings 22:49). It was not far from Elath (i.e., Akaba), and is supposed to have been "the large and beautiful town of Asziun," which formerly stood, according to Makrizi, near to Aila, where there were many dates, fields, and fruit-trees, though it has now long since entirely disappeared.
Consequently the Israelites passed twice through a portion of the Arabah in a southerly direction towards the Red Sea, the second time from Wady Murreh by Mount Hor, to go round the land of Edom, not quite to the head of the gulf, but only to the Wady el Ithm, through which they crossed to the eastern side of Edomitis; the first time during the thirty-seven years of wandering from Wady el Jerafeh to Moseroth and Bene Jaakan, and thence to Eziongeber.
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