Numbers 33



                  ITINERARY OF THE WANDERINGS (vs. 1-49)


1 “These are the journeys” - The Hebrew word y[es]m" is rendered staqmoi> -

stathmoi -  by the Septuagint, which means “stages” or “stations.” It is,

however, quite rightly translated “journeys,” for it is the act of setting out

and marching from such a place to such another which the word properly

denotes (compare Genesis 13:3; Deuteronomy 10:11) - “of the children of Israel,

which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand

of Moses and Aaron.”


2 “And Moses wrote their goings out  (ax;Wm. Septuagint, ajpa>rseiv aparseis

Goings out)  according to their journeys by the commandment of the LORD:” - 

The latter clause (hwO;hy] ypiAl[") 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 - “and these are

their journeys according to their goings out.”


3 “And they departed from Rameses-  Hebrew, Raemses. See on Exodus 1:11;

12:37. The brief description here given of the departure from Egypt touches upon

every material circumstance as related at large in Exodus chps. 11-12 -“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.”

The journey was begun by night (Exodus 12:42), but was of course continued on the

following day.


4 “For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the LORD had

smitten” – Literally, “were burying (Septuagint, e]qapton ethaptonwere

burying) those whom the Lord had smitten among them, viz., all the first-born.”

The fact that the Egyptians were so universally employed about the funeral rites of

Their first-born — rites to which they paid such extreme attention — seems to be

mentioned here as supplying one reason at least why the Israelites began their

outward march without opposition. It is in perfect accordance with what we know

of the Egyptians, that all other passions and interests should give place for the time

to the necessary care for the departed - “among them: upon their gods also

the LORD executed judgments.” - See on Exodus 12:12, and compare Isaiah

19:1. The false deities of Egypt, having no existence except in the imaginations of

men, could only be affected within the sphere of those imaginations, i.e.,

 by being made contemptible in the eyes of those who feared them.


5 “And the children of Israel removed from Rameses, and pitched in

Succoth.  6 And they departed from Succoth, and pitched in Etham,” - 

See on Exodus 13:20 -“which is in the edge of the wilderness.

7  And they removed from Etham, and turned again unto Pihahiroth,” -

Hebrew, “Hahi-roth,” without the prefix. See on Exodus 14:2 - “which is

before Baalzephon: and they pitched before Migdol.  8 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,” - This is called the wilderness of Shur in Exodus 15:22, nor is it

easy to explain the occurrence of the name Etham in this connection, for the

Etham mentioned in v.6 lay on the other side of the Red Sea. We do not,

however, know what physical changes have taken place since that time, and

it is quite possible that at Etham there may have been a ford, or some other

easy means of communication, so that the strip of desert along the opposite

shore came to be known as the wilderness of Etham -“and pitched in Marah.

9 And they removed from Marah, and came unto Elim:” - See on Exodus

15:27 - “and in Elim were twelve fountains of water, and threescore and

ten palm trees; and they pitched there.  10 And they removed from Elim,

and encamped by the Red sea.”  This encampment, like those at Dophkah and

at Alush (v. 13), is not mentioned in the narrative of Exodus. The phraseology,

however, used in Exodus 16:1; 17:1 leaves abundant room for intermediate

halting-places, at which it is to be presumed that nothing very noteworthy happened.

Nothing whatever is known of these three stations. 11 “And they removed from

the Red sea, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin.  12 And they took

their journey out of the wilderness of Sin, and encamped in Dophkah.

13 And they departed from Dophkah, and encamped in Alush.

14 And they removed from Alush, and encamped at Rephidim, where

was no water for the people to drink.  15 And they departed from Rephidim,

and pitched in the wilderness of Sinai.” See on Exodus 19:1.


16 “And they removed from the desert of Sinai, and pitched at

Kibrothhattaavah.  17 And they departed from Kibrothhattaavah, and

encamped at Hazeroth.”  Kibroth-hattaavahHazeroth. See on ch. 11:34-35.


18 “And they departed from Hazeroth, and pitched in Rithmah.”  Comparing

this verse with chps.12:16 and 13:26, it would appear as if Rithmah were the station

in the wilderness of Paran from which the spies went up, and to which they

returned — a station subsequently known by the name of Kadesh. There are two

difficulties in the way of this identification. In the first place we should then

only have three names of stations between Sinai and the southern border of

Palestine, on what is at least eleven days’ journey. This is, however,

confessedly the case in the historical narrative, and it admits of explanation.

We know that the first journey was a three days’ journey (ch.10:33), and the

others may have been longer still, through a country which presented no facilities

for encamping, and possessed no variety of natural features. In the second place,

Rithmah is not Kadesh, and cannot be connected with Kadesh except through a

doubtful identification with the Wady Retemat in the neighborhood of Ain Kudes

(see note at end of ch. 13). It is, however, evident from ch. 12:16, as compared

with ch.13:26, that Kadesh was not the name originally given to the encampment

in the wilderness of Paran.” It seems to have got that name — perhaps owing

to some popular feeling with respect to an ancient sanctuary, perhaps owing to

some partial shifting of the camp — during the absence of the spies. Rithmah,

therefore, may well have been the official name (so to speak) originally given to the

encampment, but subsequently superseded by the more famous name of Kadesh;

this would explain both its non-appearance in the narrative of Numbers, and its

appearance in the Itinerary here.


19 “And they departed from Rithmah, and pitched at Rimmonparez.”

Rimmon-parez. The latter part of the name is the same as parats or perets,

which commonly signifies a breaking out of Divine anger. This place may possibly

have been the scene of the events related in chps. 16-17, but the Targum of

Palestine connects them with Kehelathah.


20 “And they departed from Rimmonparez, and pitched in Libnah.”

Libnah. Hebrew hn;b]li (“whiteness”) may perhaps be the same as the Laban (ˆb;l;,

white) mentioned in Deuteronomy 1:1. So many places, however, in that region are

distinguished by the dazzling whiteness of their limestone cliffs that the identification is

quite uncertain. The site of this, as of the next eight stations, is indeed utterly unknown;

and the guesses which are founded on the partial and probably accidental similarity of

some modern names (themselves differently pronounced by different travelers) are

utterly worthless..


21 “And they removed from Libnah, and pitched at Rissah.

22 And they journeyed from Rissah, and pitched in Kehelathah.

23 And they went from Kehelathah, and pitched in mount Shapher.

24 And they removed from mount Shapher, and encamped in


25 And they removed from Haradah, and pitched in Makheloth.

26 And they removed from Makheloth, and encamped at Tahath.

27 And they departed from Tahath, and pitched at Tarah.

28 And they removed from Tarah, and pitched in Mithcah.

29 And they went from Mithcah, and pitched in Hashmonah.”


Of these eight names, Kehelathah and Makheloth seem to be derived from

lh;q;, “an assembling,” and thus give some slight support to the supposition that

during the thirty-eight years the people were scattered abroad, and only assembled

from time to time in one place. Rissah is variously interpreted “heap of ruins,”

or “dew;” Shapher means “fair,” or “splendid;” Haradah, or Charadah, is

terror,” or “trembling” (compare I Samuel 14:15); ,Tahath is a “going down,”

or “depression;” Tarah is “turning,” or “delay;” Mithcah signifies “sweetness,”

and may be compared (in an opposite sense) to Marah – “bitterness” –

Exodus 15:23; here – vs. 8-9)


30 “And they departed from Hashmonah,” - This is possibly the Heshmon of

Joshua 15:27, since this was one of the “uttermost cities… toward the coast of

Edom, southward.” The name, however (“fruitfulness”), was probably

common on the edge of the desert - “and encamped at Moseroth.” This is simply

the plural form of Moserah (“chastisement”), and is no doubt the place so called in

Deuteronomy 10:6 - (see Numbers 33 – NOTE ON THE TWO LISTS OF



31 “And they departed from Moseroth, and pitched in Benejaakan.”

Bene-Jaakan. The full name is given in Deuteronomy 10:6 as Beeroth-beni-Jaakan,

the wells of the children of Jaakan.” Jaakan, or Akan, was a grandson of Seir,

the legendary tribe father of the Horites of Mount Seir (Genesis 36:20, 27;

I Chronicles 1:42). The wells of the Beni-Jaakan may well have retained their

name long after their original owners had been dispossessed; or a remnant of

the tribe may have held together until this time.


32 “And they removed from Benejaakan, and encamped at Horhagidgad.” 

Hor-ha-gidgad. The MSS. and Versions are divided between Chor. (cave.”) and

Hor (“summit,” or “mountain”). Gid-gad is no doubt the Gudgodah of

Deuteronomy 10:7.


33 “And they went from Horhagidgad, and pitched in Jotbathah.”

Jotbathah. The meaning of this name, which is apparently “excellent,” is explained

by the note in Deuteronomy 10:7 Jotbath, a land of rivers of waters.” It would

be difficult to find such a land now in the neighbourhood of the Arabah, but there

are still running streams in some of the wadys which open into the Arabah towards

its southern end.


34 “And they removed from Jotbathah, and encamped at Ebronah.”

Ebronah, or Abronah,” a “beach,” or “passage,” called “the Fords” by the

Targum of Palestine. It is conjectured that it lay below Ezion-geber, just opposite

to Elath, with which place it may have been connected by a ford at low tide, but

this is quite uncertain.


35 “And they departed from Ebronah, and encamped at Eziongaber.”

Ezion-gaber, or rather Etsion-geber,” the “giant’s backbone.” This can

hardly be other than the place mentioned in I Kings 9:26; I Chronicles 8:17 as

the harbor of King Solomon’s merchant navy. At this later date it was at the head

of the navigable waters of the Elanitic Gulf, but considerable changes have taken

place in the shore line since the age of Solomon, and no doubt similar changes

took place before. It was known to, and at times occupied by, the Egyptians,

and the wretched village which occupies the site is still called Aszium by the Arabs.

The name itself would seem to be due to some peculiar rock formation —

probably the serrated crest either of a neighboring mountain or of a half-submerged



36 “And they removed from Eziongaber, and pitched in the wilderness

of Zin, which is Kadesh.”  See on chapter 20:1.


37 “And they removed from Kadesh, and pitched in mount Hor, in the

edge of the land of Edom.”  Mount Hor. See on ch.20:22.


38 “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.”  This is the only place where the date of Aaron’s death is given.

It is in strict accordance with the Divine intimation that Israel was to

 wander forty years in the wilderness (ch.14:33-34), that period being

understood, according to the usual mercy of God, which shortens the days

of evil, to include the time already spent in the wilderness.


39“And Aaron was an hundred and twenty and three years old when

he died in mount Hor.  He had been eighty-three years old when he first

stood before Pharaoh, forty years before (Exodus 7:7).


40 “And king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south in the land

of Canaan, heard of the coming of the children of Israel.” See on ch. 21:1.

The introduction of this notice, for which there seems no motive, and which has

no assignable connection with the context, is extremely perplexing. It is not simply

a fragment which has slipped in by what we call accident (like Deuteronomy 10:6-7),

for the longer statement in chapter 21:1-3 occupies the same position in the

historical narrative immediately after the death of Aaron. It is difficult to suppose

that Moses wrote this verse and left it as it stands; it would rather seem as if a later

hand had begun to copy out a statement from some earlier document — in which it

had itself perhaps become misplaced — and had not gone on with it.


41 “And they departed from mount Hor, and pitched in Zalmonah.”

Zalmonah. This place is not elsewhere mentioned, and cannot be identified.

Either this or Punon may be the encampment where the brazen serpent was

set up; according to the Targum of Palestine it was the latter.


42 “And they departed from Zalmonah, and pitched in Punon.”

Punon. Perhaps connected with the Pinon of Genesis 36:41. The Septuagint has

Finw> - PhinoPunon -  and it is identified by Eusebius and Jerome with Phaeno,

a place  between Petra and Zoar where convicts were sent to labor in the mines.

Probably, however, the march of the Israelites lay further to the east, inasmuch as

they scrupulously abstained from trespassing upon Edom.


43 “And they departed from Punon, and pitched in Oboth.

44  And they departed from Oboth, and pitched in Ijeabarim, in the border

of Moab.” – (See on ch. 21:11)


45 “And they departed from Iim, and pitched in Dibongad.” - Dibon-gad.

This encampment may have been the same as that previously called by the name

of Nabaliel or Bamoth (ch. 21:19). Several stages are here passed over in the

Itinerary. At a time when the conquest and partial occupation  of large districts

was going on, it would be hard to say what regular stages were made by the host

as such (see Numbers 33 – NOTE ON THE TWO LISTS OF STATIONS



46 “And they removed from Dibongad, and encamped in Almondiblathaim.”

Almon-diblathaim. Probably the same as the Beth-diblathaim mentioned in

Jeremiah 48:22 as a Moabitish town contignous to Dibon, Nebo, and Kiriathaim.

The name, which signifies “hiding-place of the two circles” or “cakes,” was

doubtless due either to some local legend, or more probably to the fanciful

interpretation of some peculiar feature in the landscape.


47 “And they removed from Almondiblathaim, and pitched in the

mountains of Abarim, before Nebo.”  The same locality is called “the top

of Pisgah, which looketh toward the waste,” in ch. 21:20 (see note there,

and at ch.27:12). Nebo is the name of a town here, as in ch.32:3, 38,

Deuteronomy 32:49; 34:1 and in the later books); in it is the name of the

mountain, here included in the general designation Abarim.


48 “And they departed from the mountains of Abarim, and pitched in

the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.  (See on ch. 22:1)


49 And they pitched by Jordan, from Bethjesimoth even unto

Abelshittim  Beth-jesimoth, “house of the wastes,” must have been very

near the point where Jordan empties itself into the Dead Sea, on the verge of

the salt desert which bounds that sea on the east. It formed the boundary of

Sihon’s kingdom at the south-west corner. Abel-shittim, “meadow of acacias,”

is better known by the abbreviated name Shittim (ch. 25:1; Micah 6:5). Its

exact site cannot be recovered, but the Talmud states that it was twelve

miles north of the Jordan mouth. Probably the center of the camp was

opposite to the great fords, and the road leading to Jericho -“in the plains of Moab.”



The Journey Home (vs. 1-49)


We have here a brief summary of the stages by which Israel traveled

onwards from Egypt to Canaan; spiritually, therefore, we have an epitome

of the Church’s progress, or of the progress of a soul, through this world

to the world to come. Hence it follows that all the lessons,

encouragements, and warnings which belong to these forty years weave

themselves about this Itinerary, which might to the careless eye seem a

bare list of names. “Per has (mansiones) currit verus Hebraeus, qui de terra

transire festinat ad coelum,” says Jerome. And in this connection it can

hardly be an accident that as there are forty-two stations in this list, so

there are forty-two generations in the first Gospel from Abraham (the

starting-point of the faithful) to Christ (in whom they find rest). And,

again, it may be more than a coincidence that the woman in the Apocalypse

who represents the Church militant (Revelation 12) was in the wilderness

forty-two months. In all three cases (as certainly in the last) it is likely that

the number forty-two was designedly chosen because it is 12 X 3½, and

3½, or the half of 7, is the number which expresses trial, probation, and

imperfection. Consider, therefore —




FAITHFULNESS. Even so it is the will of God that every Church and

every soul should keep in memory the stages of its own spiritual progress,

for these are full of holy memories and needful lessons, all being eloquent

of our own insufficiency and of his goodness. No one, being in plenty and

at rest, should ever forget the straitness and the trial through which the

good hand of God hath led him.




OF JORDAN IN FULL VIEW OF CANAAN. Even so all spiritual life

histories begin with the redemption from bondage through the blood of the

Lamb, and end with the sure hope of immortality on the verge of the river

of death.



MATTER OF DISPUTE. Even so, while we know whence all Christian

progress leads men at the first, and whither it being, s men at the last, yet

the intermediate course (sometimes a very long one) is for the most part

strangely indiscernible, its points of contact with the outer world having

little meaning or interest save for the travelers themselves. Just as maps

help us little to follow the forty-two stages, so do religious theories give us

small assistance in tracing the actual course of a soul through the trials and

perplexities of real life.





FRO, WHERE AARON DIED. Even so there are in the history of most

souls these three conspicuous epochs to be Doted:

(1) where the obligation to obey the higher law of God’s will came upon


(2) where after much drawing back and consequent failure a new call to

advance was heard;

(3) where the old outward associations, upon which they had all along

leaned, failed them, and yet left them none the weaker.



SELECTED ARBITRARILY. Some other places certainly had, and many

others probably had, more interesting associations for the Israelites. Even

so it is not only or chiefly those passages which attract attention and secure

comment in the history of a Church or of a soul which are of deep interest

and profound importance to itself; names and facts which have no

associations for others may for it be full of the deepest meaning.

And note that all the stations named in this list have their own signification

in the Hebrew, but the spiritual teaching founded on such signification is

too arbitrary and fanciful to be seriously dealt with.




         ALLOTMENT OF CANAAN (vs. 50-56)


50 “And the LORD spake unto Moses” -  It is quite obvious that a new section

begins here, closely connected, not with the Itinerary which precedes it, but with the

delimitation which follows. The formula which introduces the present command is

repeated in ch.35:1, and again in the last verse of chapter 36, thus giving a character

of its own to this concluding portion of the Book, and to some extent isolating it from

the rest - “in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,”


51 “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are

passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan;” Previous legislation had

anticipated the time when they should have come into their own land (compare

ch.15:2; Leviticus 23:10), but NOW THE CROSSING OF THE RIVER



52 “Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before

you,” The Hebrew word (from vr"y;) translated here “drive out” is the same

which is translated “dispossess” in the next verse. The Septuagint has in both

cases ajpolei~te apoleitedrive out; destroy, take possession - supplying

(like the A.V.) the word “inhabitants” in v. 53. The Hebrew word, however,

seems to have much the same sense as the  English phrase “clear out,” and is,

therefore, equally applied to the land and the occupants of it. No doubt it implies

extermination as a necessary condition of the clearance -“and destroy all their

pictures,” -  μt;YOKic]m". Septuagint, ta<v skopia<v aujtw~ntas skopias

autonall their figured stones -  (their outlooks, or high places). The Targums of

Onkelos and Palestine have “the houses of their worship;” the Targum of

Jerusalem has “their idols.” The same word occurs in Leviticus 26:1, in

the phrase tyKic]m" ˆb,ae, which is usually rendered “a stone image,” i.e., a

stone shaped into some likeness of man. If so, tyKic]m" by itself has

probably the same meaning; at any rate it can hardly be “a picture,” nor is

there the least evidence that the art of painting was at all practiced among

the rude tribes of’ Canaan. The same word, maskith, is indeed found in

Ezekiel 8:12 in connection with gravings (from qq"j;; compare Isaiah

22:16; 49:16 with Ezekiel 4:1; 23:14 – I guess the pornography of their

Day – CY – 2012) on a wall; but even this belonged to a very different age –

“and destroy all their molten images,” -  μt;koSem" ymel]x", “images cast

 of brass.” Septuagint, ta< eijdwla ta< coneuta> - ta eidola ta choneuta

 and destroy all their molten images.  The word tselem is only elsewhere

used in the Pentateuch for that “likeness’’ which is reproduced in Divine

creation (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6) or in human generation (Ibid. ch.5:3); in the later

books, however (especially in Daniel), it is freely used for idols. On massakah,”

 see on Exodus 32:4; Isaiah 30:22 -“and quite pluck down all their high places:”

Their high places.  μt;womb;. See on Leviticus 26:30. The Septuagint translates

Bamoth in both places by sth~lai staelaihigh places  -  and of course it was

not the high places themselves, which were simply certain prominent elevations, but

the monuments (of whatever kind) which superstition had erected upon them,

which were to be plucked down. As a fact, it would seem that the Jews,

instead of obeying this command, APPROPRIATED THE BAMOTH

TO THEIR OWN RELIGIOUS USES  (compare I Samuel 9:12; I Kings 3:2;

Psalm 78:58). The natural result was, as in all similar cases, that not only the





53 “And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein:

for I have given you the land to possess it.” “The earth is the Lord’s,”

and no one, therefore, can dispute his right in the abstract to evict any of his

tenants and to put others in possession (Psalm 24:1).  But while the whole earth

was the Lord’s, it is clear that He assumed a special relation towards the land of

Canaan, as to which He chose to exercise directly the rights and duties of

landlord (see on Deuteronomy 22:8 for a small but striking instance).  The first duty of

a landlord is to see that the occupancy of his property is not abused for illegal or

immoral ends; and this duty excuses, because it necessitates, eviction under certain

circumstances. (Genesis 15:13-16 where this eviction is foretold – CY – 2012).

It is not, therefore, necessary to argue that the Canaanites were more infamous than

Many others; it is enough to remember that God had assumed towards the land

which they occupied (apparently by conquest) a relation which did not

allow Him to overlook their enormities, as He might those of other nations

(see on Exodus 23:23-33; 34:11-17, and compare Acts 14:16; 17:30). It was

(if we like to put it so) the misfortune of the Canaanites that they alone of

all nations” could not be suffered to “walk in their own ways,” because

they had settled in a land which the Lord had chosen to administer directly

as His own earthly kingdom.


54 “And ye shall divide the land by lot” -  These directions are repeated

in substance from ch.26:53-56 - “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” – Not only the tribe, but the

family and the household, was to receive its special inheritance by lot; no doubt in such

a way that the final settlement of the country would correspond with the blood

relationships of the settlers - “shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according

to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit.”


55 “But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you;” –

As was in fact the case (Judges 1:27-36). The warning is here given for the first time,

because the danger was now near at hand, and had indeed already shown itself in the

matter of the Midianitish women and children at Baal-peor (ch. 25) - “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,” -  Natural symbols of dangerous annoyances.

Possibly the thickets which fringe the Jordan supplied them with present examples.

In Joshua 23:13 we have “scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes,” which

sounds somewhat more artificial. In Judges 2:3, where this warning is quoted, the

figure is not expressed at all: “they shall be in your sides.” - “and shall vex you

in the land wherein ye dwell.”


56 “Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do

unto them.” - i.e., I shall execute by other hands upon you the sentence of

dispossession which ye shall have refused to execute upon the Canaanites. The threat

(although in fact fulfilled) does not necessarily involve any prophecy, since to settle

down among the remnants of the heathen was a course of action which

would obviously and for many reasons commend itself to the Israelites.

Indolence and cowardice were consulted by such a policy as much as the

natural feelings of pity towards vanquished and apparently harmless foes.

The command to extirpate was certainly justified in this case (if it could be

in any) by the unhappy consequences of its neglect. Israel being what he

was, and so little severed in anything but religion from the ancient heathen,

his only chance of future happiness lay in keeping himself from any

contact with them. 


For homilies on vs. 50-56 – see “The Holy Land” at the end of ch.34


"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."


This material can be found at:


If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.