Numbers 33 – Review of the Exodus, Preview of the Conquest
A. Looking back: What God had already done.
1. (1-2) The account of Israel’s journey, written by the command of the Lord.
These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went out of the land of Egypt by their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron. Now Moses wrote down the starting points of their journeys at the command of the Lord. And these are their journeys according to their starting points:
2. (3-4) The departure from Egypt.
They departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the day after the Passover the children of Israel went out with boldness in the sight of all the Egyptians. For the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had killed among them. Also on their gods the Lord had executed judgments.
a. The children of Israel went out with boldness in the sight of all the Egyptians: Though they were slaves, they did not have to shrink out of Egypt; God gave them the boldness to leave as conquerors, not as escaping slaves.
b. On their gods the Lord had executed judgments: The plagues the Lord brought upon Egypt were not randomly chosen; they were specifically intended to humble the people and rebuke their belief in the bizarre and demonic Egyptian deities.
3. (5-15) From Egypt to Mount Sinai.
Then the children of Israel moved from Rameses and camped at Succoth. They departed from Succoth and camped at Etham, which is on the edge of the wilderness. They moved from Etham and turned back to Pi Hahiroth, which is east of Baal Zephon; and they camped near Migdol. They departed from before Hahiroth and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, went three days’ journey in the Wilderness of Etham, and camped at Marah. They moved from Marah and came to Elim. At Elim were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there. They moved from Elim and camped by the Red Sea. They moved from the Red Sea and camped in the Wilderness of Sin. They journeyed from the Wilderness of Sin and camped at Dophkah. They departed from Dophkah and camped at Alush. They moved from Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink. They departed from Rephidim and camped in the Wilderness of Sinai.
a. Then the children of Israel moved from Rameses… and camped in the Wilderness of Sinai: This portion of the journey took them more than a year, but most of the time was not spent traveling, but in receiving the law at Mount Sinai.
4. (16-49) From Mount Sinai to the shores of the Jordan River.
They moved from the Wilderness of Sinai and camped at Kibroth Hattaavah. They departed from Kibroth Hattaavah and camped at Hazeroth. They departed from Hazeroth and camped at Rithmah. They departed from Rithmah and camped at Rimmon Perez. They departed from Rimmon Perez and camped at Libnah. They moved from Libnah and camped at Rissah. They journeyed from Rissah and camped at Kehelathah. They went from Kehelathah and camped at Mount Shepher. They moved from Mount Shepher and camped at Haradah. They moved from Haradah and camped at Makheloth. They moved from Makheloth and camped at Tahath. They departed from Tahath and camped at Terah. They moved from Terah and camped at Mithkah. They went from Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah. They departed from Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth. They departed from Moseroth and camped at Bene Jaakan. They moved from Bene Jaakan and camped at Hor Hagidgad. They went from Hor Hagidgad and camped at Jotbathah. They moved from Jotbathah and camped at Abronah. They departed from Abronah and camped at Ezion Geber. They moved from Ezion Geber and camped in the Wilderness of Zin, which is Kadesh. They moved from Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the boundary of the land of Edom. Then Aaron the priest went up to Mount Hor at the command of the Lord, and died there in the fortieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, on the first day of the fifth month. Aaron was one hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor. Now the king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the children of Israel. So they departed from Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah. They departed from Zalmonah and camped at Punon. They departed from Punon and camped at Oboth. They departed from Oboth and camped at Ije Abarim, at the border of Moab. They departed from Ijim and camped at Dibon Gad. They moved from Dibon Gad and camped at Almon Diblathaim. They moved from Almon Diblathaim and camped in the mountains of Abarim, before Nebo. They departed from the mountains of Abarim and camped in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho. They camped by the Jordan, from Beth Jesimoth as far as the Abel Acacia Grove in the plains of Moab.
a. They moved from the Wilderness of Sinai: This portion of the journey took them some 38 years; not because the distance was so long, but because God led them in wanderings because the generation of unbelief had to die in the wilderness before a generation of faith could be raised up to take possession of the Promised Land.
b. Kibroth Hattaavah… Hazeroth… Rithmah: The listing of Israel’s encampments comes rapidly; more than 30 place-names are given in quick succession. During this time, there was a lot of activity for the people of Israel – but no progress. They weren’t coming any closer to the Promised Land and would not come closer until the generation of unbelief had passed away.
B. Looking ahead: The conquest of Canaan.
1. (50-53) The command to conquer the inhabitants of Canaan.
Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places; you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess.’”
a. You shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you: God had a unique role for the nation of Israel in regard to the people of Canaan. He used them as a unique instrument of judgment against the Canaanites.
b. Drive out all the inhabitants of the land, and to destroy all their engraved stones… their molded images… their high places: This unique purpose explains why Israel was commanded not only to defeat them militarily, but to erase the remains of the idolatrous culture. Modern archaeology has documented the corrupt and demonic worship practices of the Canaanites. They were truly a culture ripe for the judgment of God.
2. (54-56) The command to possess the land of Canaan.
And you shall divide the land by lot as an inheritance among your families; to the larger you shall give a larger inheritance, and to the smaller you shall give a smaller inheritance; there everyone’s inheritance shall be whatever falls to him by lot. You shall inherit according to the tribes of your fathers. But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell. Moreover it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them.
a. You shall divide the land by lot as an inheritance among your families: God’s intent was not only to bring judgment on the corrupt culture of the Canaanites, but also to give the land to Israel to possess.
b. If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides: If Israel failed to drive the Canaanites out of the land, they could still occupy the Promised Land – but the corrupt practices and heart of the Canaanites would find a place among Israel, and Israel itself would eventually be driven out of the land (it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them).
i. This became true of Israel’s history. They did not fully drive out the Canaanites, and though they possessed the land, the corruption of the Canaanites continued among Israel until eventually God allowed Israel to be driven out of the land in exile.
ii. It is of no use for the church to succeed in the eyes of man – as Israel had succeeded when they occupied the land and became a legitimate nation, instead of an enslaved people – if it merely allows the corrupt practices and attitudes of the world to take root. If this happens, the church should expect to be eventually driven from its place of success.