From Numbers 33-34
Today’s passage is one of those Im sure we all tend to skim without too much attention. I’ve tabulated the most of it to make it easier to pick out some interesting details.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
33 These are the stages of the people of Israel, when they went out of the land of Egypt by their companies under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. 2 Moses wrote down their starting places, stage by stage, by command of the LORD, and these are their stages according to their starting places. (Nu 33:1–2)
This is a record of Israel’s travels from Egypt to the Promised land.
3 They set out from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. On the day after the Passover, the people of Israel went out triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians, 4 while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the LORD had struck down among them. On their gods also the LORD executed judgments. (Nu 33:3-4)
The start of their journey is a key event in their life as a nation, as God’s people. It is the passover. When the LORD rescued them from slavery. Note how the LORD is described to have executed his judgments on the gods of the Egyptians also.
The initial journey mentions their starting place Rameses, which is in Egypt. They went to a few places including the ‘midst of the sea’ which was where the LORD finally defeated the Egyptians and Israel escaped their clutches. The story mentions places they visited including Elim (Ex 15.27) where they were watered and the LORD began to provide them with manna from heaven.
The next few entries are fairly low key, setting out and camping. Rephidim (Ex 17.1) was the place where people started quarreling with Moses about various issues and regretted leaving Egypt. Here Moses was instructed to strike the rock so water would come out of it.
The wilderness of Sinai is where they received the Law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments (Ex 19-20).
After they left Hazeroth (Nu 33.18; cf. Nu 12.16f) they sent spies into the promised land to check it out. When they returned Israel did not want to go in as the LORD wanted them. They refused to trust the LORD and consequently they had to wander around for years afterward till that generation expired.
Kadesh (Nu 33.37; cf Nu 20.1f) is where Miriam the sister of Moses died and Moses struck the rock instead of spoke to it.
The record hides a number of details about their journey.
38 And Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor at the command of the LORD and died there, in the fortieth year after the people of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, on the first day of the fifth month. 39 And Aaron was 123 years old when he died on Mount Hor. (Nu 33:38-39)
Aaron gets a greater mention. His death is a significant event in the record of their journey. As they went on their way, the neighbouring countries began to notice the million or so people moving around.
40 And the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the people of Israel. (Nu 33:40)
The people of the land no doubt began to fear them and their God.
All the while the LORD was leading them with cloud and fire.
48 And they set out from the mountains of Abarim and camped in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho; 49 they camped by the Jordan from Beth-jeshimoth as far as Abel-shittim in the plains of Moab. (Nu 33:48–49)
Before Jericho is where they stopped before they came into the land. Moses is about to die. Joshua is about to take over. The LORD has some final instructions for Moses.
50 And the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, 51
“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52 then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places. 53 And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it. 54 You shall inherit the land by lot according to your clans. To a large tribe you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a small inheritance. Wherever the lot falls for anyone, that shall be his. According to the tribes of your fathers you shall inherit. 55 But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. 56 And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.” (Nu 33:50–56)
The people are to drive out the current inhabitants. If they don’t they will corrupt them and instead the LORD will corrupt them.
Story of Israel
The account we have read is dry, but hopefully the tables and the drawing make it easier to understand what is going on.
According to his covenant promises the LORD saved Israel from slavery in Egypt. The first generation grumbled and lacked faith in the LORD. Consequently the LORD had them wander around for forty years until that generation had died and the next remained (except Moses, Joshua and Caleb). The LORD brought them into the land he promised. Now they had to enter in and take it. We will pick up this story in Joshua.
Story of Jesus
Jesus likewise has his own story. Jesus lived, did a lot of good, died and was raised on the third day. He is the risen Christ and he will come again to judge.
Those who believe he is the risen Christ have their own story. Perhaps we are not wandering the wilderness like the Israelites. But like them the LORD does guide his people through life. We are meant to keep faith in the LORD, to persevere.
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
4 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. (Heb 3:12–4:2)
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb 4:11–13)
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