Pastoral Commentary for Numbers 33
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
Chapter 33 of Numbers is a careful enumeration of the stages of the journey that Israel made under the leadership of Moses and Aaron, when the Israelites made their Exodus from Egypt and wandered in the wilderness. The account emphasizes how God graciously set them free through the plague that brought about the death of every firstborn in Egypt. 40 places are listed between Rameses and the plains of Moab. At this point in history we are unable to accurately locate many of these positions, but the listing provides a grateful accounting of God's protection, provision and guidance for Israel as they went from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. Some new places are named, and some previously named places are omitted in styling this list of 40 stages that marked their journey of 40 years. Throughout all these travels the LORD was with His people - that is the primary emphasis of this account of the journey. When they reached the plains of Moab, God gave Israel their final marching orders: "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. And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it." It was important for Israel to rid the land of idols so their hearts could remain true to the LORD. Moses also warned them that if they did not drive out and destroy the pagan nations who inhabited the land they would be like "barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides."