The Journeys of Israel, Part I
From Egypt to Sinai
In a Bible study some time ago, Mr. Magnuson pulled out a rather appropriate quote for the content of today’s verses. He said, “The only freedom each of us possesses is the freedom to choose who or what we will be a slave to.”
I didn’t ask if that was his quote, or if he was citing someone else, but no matter which, it is reflected in the march of Israel from Egypt to Canaan. The idea of slavery is something we find rather abhorrent, but it is actually something that we all face.
Israel was enslaved in Egypt. That pictured being a slave to sin. But it is by law that comes the knowledge of sin. Paul tells us that explicitly in Romans 3:20. If there is no law, there is no transgression. It is obvious on the surface. It is true that anyone of Israel could have stayed in Egypt. That was their choice to leave.
They were now free from Egypt, but they were not free from either sin or the Lord. He had brought them out, and they became His possession.
Further, anyone in Egypt could have left with Israel. That was their choice, and some accepted it, as the record tells. They left behind Egypt and headed towards Canaan. But on the way, they made several stops, the major one that the word deals with is the last verse of our passage today, the Wilderness of Sinai.
It was there that the law was received, and guess what, the people agreed to it – with their own mouths – several times. But by agreeing to the law, they did not obtain freedom. Rather, they went into another type of bondage. Because, as we have already heard, by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Text Verse: “Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’” John 8:34-36
Jesus is rather clear. When a person commits sin, he is a slave of sin. Sin is a transgression of the law, and therefore, by accepting the law, the people brought themselves into the bondage of the law. They became slaves to it. This is explained by Paul in Romans and Galatians especially.
When people today say we must observe the Law of Moses, they don’t obtain freedom, they cling to bondage, and they bring about condemnation. It is Christ who frees us from the law so that we are not imputed sin. Why would anyone want to go back under that slave master?
In Galatians 4, Paul equates the son of Abraham’s Egyptian bondwoman, Hagar, to the Old Covenant Law of Moses given at Mount Sinai. He equates Isaac, the son of promise through Sarah, to the New Covenant in Christ given in Jerusalem.
And what does Paul then do? He cites Scripture which says, “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman” (Galatians 4:30). In essence, “Cast out the Law of Moses and cling to the New Covenant in Christ.”
But we must remember what Mr. Magnuson said, “The only freedom each of us possesses is the freedom to choose who or what we will be a slave to.” He is right, you know. So, who is our Slave Master? Paul explains it in several ways, but the one which really sums it up is found in Romans 6 –
“And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:18-23
So, as we follow the travels of Israel in Numbers 33, I hope you will consider what they point to. Israel left one type of bondage and got themselves right into another – all seen in today’s travels.
They rejected what these things symbolically pointed to, and they continue in the same bondage today that they came under 3500 years ago. What a tragedy. Someday, they will realize this, and they will come to a new type of slavery – to that of righteousness and being slaves of God in Christ.
Which do you prefer? One brings a curse and condemnation; one brings blessing and salvation. Such is what we are to see, starting in today’s travels through the wilderness and towards the Promised Land. It’s all to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. The Day After the Passover (verses 1-4)
These are the journeys of the children of Israel,
Here we have a word not used since Numbers 10, masa, or “journey.” It signifies a departure because of the pulling up of the pegs of a tent. It isn’t simply leaving a tent to go on a journey, but the removal of the tent from one place to another.
This breaking up of the camp and setting out has occurred many times in the past 38 years, and some of the locations were already noted. However, we are now to be given a complete list of them, from Egypt right until the border of Canaan, counting them as we go. That begins with the words that it was Israel…
1 (con’t) who went out of the land of Egypt
Egypt is the starting point. They were in the land of bondage, and they were heading to their promised possession…
1 (con’t) by their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.
The words are well translated. They were structured into armies, or individual forces of fighting men, and they were b’yad, or under the hand, of Moses and Aaron. This means that they were under the direction or control of them.
At first, they were led out of Egypt with a word which describes being in orderly ranks, khamushim. Later, at Sinai, they were divided into the more defined armies under individual banners and as men prepared for war.
Before going on, one must look at the broader picture of what has happened, how it points to Israel, and how it points to each of us individually. God redeemed Israel out of Egypt at the Passover. No sooner had he brought them out, then they started to complain.
He brought them to Sinai and gave them the law. They failed at that time. Eventually, they headed toward the Land of Promise and they failed every step of the way, eventually being consigned to die in the wilderness. And yet, as a people, God preserved Israel all the way to their promised inheritance.
As we saw, all of that time of wilderness wandering – and the things that happened – picture Israel’s rejection of Christ, their time of punishment, and yet God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises, preserving Israel until they will someday call on Him and enter into the inheritance.
And Israel, as a collective whole, pictures our own individual salvation. We are redeemed from Egypt, our life of sin. We continuously fail the Lord in this life, turning from Him, sinning against Him, and failing to honor Him. And yet, because of His faithfulness (not ours!) He will never leave us nor break His covenant with us.
It was never up to Israel to obtain the inheritance, and it is not up to us to do so either. Despite failure on our part, God will faithfully keep us until we receive the inheritance.
The larger picture, both for collective Israel, and for each of us individually, is that of assurance of salvation. It is a doctrine taught all the way through this narrative – from Exodus to entry. Consider this as the many stations are named. Israel was faithfully unfaithful through them, and yet the Lord was ever faithful to them.
Here it speaks of the motsaehem l’masehem, or “the goings out of their departures.” Of these, it says that Moses wrote them down. But it also speaks of the mouth, or command, of the Lord. The question is, is the command of the Lord speaking of the act of writing down the starting points, or is it speaking of the act of departing. Which was as the command of the Lord?
The act of movement was certainly at the command of the Lord. That was explicitly stated in Numbers 9 –
“So it was, when the cloud was above the tabernacle a few days: according to the command of the Lord they would remain encamped, and according to the command of the Lord they would journey.” Numbers 9:20
It can be inferred, however, that this is also speaking of the act of writing down the starting points, simply because they are now recorded in the word. It logically follows that the Lord expected Moses to keep this list due to its insertion here.
2 (con’t) And these are their journeys according to their starting points:
As in the previous clause, the Hebrew signifies, “And these are the goings out of their departures.” This is probably more important than it sounds simply because there are irregularities between what has been recorded, and what is recorded here.
It is probable that the precision of wording is given to show that these are the main stops the Lord wanted recorded as an overall testimony to their travels. Of this record, the Pulpit Commentary says –
“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.” Pulpit Commentary
It follows the account from Exodus 12:37 which said –
“Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children.” Exodus 12:37
The name Rameses means “son of the sun” or “child of the sun.” The fifteenth day of the first month coincides with the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That day is…
3 (con’t) on the day after the Passover
The Passover was observed by Israel, and in that observance, none of the firstborn of Israel died. The Lord passed over the houses which had been marked with the blood of the lamb. After that observance, which ended at sundown, the fifteenth day of the month began, and at some point, the people gathered together in Rameses and departed Egypt. And…
3 (con’t) the children of Israel went out with boldness in the sight of all the Egyptians.
The words here correspond to what was said in Exodus 14:8 concerning the state of Israel –
“And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel; and the children of Israel went out with boldness.”
The statement that they were burying their firstborn as Israel left is new to the narrative. However, it is a worthy addition to show the distinction between Israel and Egypt. While all of Israel was marching out in boldness, the Egyptians were busy burying their dead. The Lord had passed over the firstborn of Israel, but the Egyptians were consigned to burying their firstborn under their own feet. That was the final blow of the ten plagues upon Egypt…
4 (con’t)Also on their gods the Lord had executed judgments.
This is what was promised in Exodus 12:12 –
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.” Exodus 12:12
The meaning in these words is debated. As a review from Exodus 12, some think that the word “gods” can also mean “princes” and so they say that this means that the nobles equally suffered in the plague. But that is obvious on the surface. Every household with the blood was exempted; every other suffered.
Others say that the term “gods” is explained by the firstborn of the people and the beasts. In other words, the firstborn of Pharaoh was considered the royal heir to the throne and thus he was a deity. And all of the beasts that were worshiped would have their firstborn killed as well. Thus, the judgment is against “all the gods of Egypt” in this sense.
One scholar changed the spelling of “gods” to “habitations” – “against all your habitations” – by reversing one letter in the Hebrew. Instead of elohe, it becomes ahley. But that is an unnecessary stretch. Another possibility is that as the Lord went through Egypt, he literally destroyed their idols such as He would later do to the false god Dagon of the Philistines.
And others take this statement as the individual plagues being judgments upon the individual gods of Egypt. In other words, the Egyptians worshiped the Nile. And so, in turning the Nile into blood, it was a judgment upon their god. Each plague corresponds to one of the gods of Egypt.
It is true that Egypt worshiped the things that were plagued by the Lord, proving them impotent during the plagues. The plague of darkness was a plague which covered over their sun god Ra. However, this is not what is being referred to here. First, the Nile still flows, and the sun is still in the sky.
Secondly, the ten plagues did not exhaust all of the false gods of Egypt. They had innumerable gods. And thirdly, the promise was that judgment would be executed upon the gods at the time of the Passover. Nine of the plagues had already come to pass. So, this is incorrect as well.
What is being referred to here is that when the plague began, Pharaoh and all of Egypt would petition all their false gods. But none would be able to save the firstborn. Thus, it would be a complete judgment on each and every god of Egypt in one fell swoop.
They were entreated for mercy, but no mercy would come because they had no ears to hear and no power to stave off the plague. Because of this, the gods of Egypt were therefore judged as false gods. This then would be the same type of judgment as when the Lord accepted Elijah’s offering on Mount Carmel.
The god of the worshipers of Baal was judged to be a false god before the Lord, exactly as the people acknowledged after seeing the Lord’s fire come down from heaven. This is the importance of repeating this thought, once again, which was stated in Exodus 12.
It was a long time, four hundred and thirty years
From Abraham until the exodus out of Egypt the land
But when it came, there were certainly many cheers
As the people beheld the marvel of the Lord’s powerful hand
And for all generations thereafter it came to be
That people would each year on that night recall
The marvel of the exodus; and of the Lord’s majesty
A Passover Seder each year at the nightfall
A solemn observance for the children of Israel
A time to remember the great acts of the Lord
A time to relate the story to the next generation as well
To repeat this marvelous account recorded in His word
II. From Rameses to the Wilderness of Sinai (verses 5-15)
This is now the fifth and final time the name Rameses is seen in Scripture. The first movement is from Rameses to Succoth or “Tabernacles.” This was their first place of encampment after departing their place of bondage. Because of this first taste of freedom, this is stated in Leviticus 23 in the instructions for the Feast of Tabernacles –
“…that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 23:43
The translation there, and in pretty much every other version, assumes the name of the feast is given based on the people living in temporary shelters. It is true that they did. But rather, the feast is named because of that fact that the name of the place where they stayed was given, which is Succoth, or Tabernacles.
In Leviticus 23, the Hebrew says, ki ba’sukkoth hovoshavti eth bene yisrael – “for in Sukkoth I made to dwell the sons of Israel.” The name was given not so much because they dwelt in temporary booths after leaving Egypt. It was because they had left Egypt! Their first stop was named Succoth.
The stop was purposeful to make a theological point and a picture of our state before God. We are redeemed, but we continue to live in temporary bodies – awaiting our final glorified bodies. This is what is being pictured by leaving Rameses or “Son of the Sun” and going to Sukkoth, or “Tabernacles.” In Malachi 4, Christ is called “the Sun of Righteousness.” We become sons of God through adoption because of the work of Christ. The Passover led the people to gather at Ramses for their departure – the people are now sons of the Sun, meaning Christ.
From there, they move then to Succoth or Tabernacles. The picture is that though redeemed, we continue on in these earthly bodies or tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles was given for this purpose. Go back and refresh your minds by watching those Leviticus 23 sermons again sometime. The picture is made, and so…
This second movement is confirmed by Exodus 13:20 –
“So they took their journey from Succoth and camped in Etham at the edge of the wilderness.” Exodus 13:20
We must now take a moment to review the meaning of the name of Etham from Exodus 13. As I said then, scholars have attempted to define the name based on the meaning of the letters as they are structured – either from a Hebrew or an Egyptian context.
None of them, however, attempted to connect the meaning to the text itself. But, in doing that, the name seems likely. The name Succoth was given to us for a reason. Etham, like Succoth, doesn’t have to be the name of the place prior to their arrival, but the name given to the place upon their arrival.
They went from Succoth, meaning “Tabernacles” and its meaning was intended to show the state of Israel at the time. Now Etham is mentioned and it was for the same reason. Right after mentioning that Israel came to Etham, it then recorded –
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.” Exodus 13:21, 22
In that sermon, we noted that Albert Barnes said fire and smoke signals were used by Greeks and Persians in their marches. One ancient papyrus is said to call the commander of an Egyptian army “A flame in the darkness at the head of his soldiers.” As Barnes said, “By this sign then of the pillar of cloud, the Lord showed Himself as their leader and general.”
Israel was at the edge of the wilderness, camped and ready to move on, but there, for the first time, it mentions this new development. The term “Lord,” meaning Yehovah, was now reintroduced into the narrative instead of the word elohim or “God.” It is with this marvelous description – the cloud and the pillar of fire – that He was at that time described.
The introduction of the manifestation of the Lord is being tied to the name Etham. The word oth means “sign.” And so Etham means “Their Sign” because it was what was being portrayed. He was their Sign to move, where to move, and when to move. He was their Sign of comfort and reassurance. He was their Sign that He was with them.
As Etham was pointing to the manifestation of the Lord, and it means “Their Sign,” then Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians take on a much more meaningful sense –
“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” 1 Corinthians 10:1, 2
The people were baptized into the cloud as well as the sea. Thus, it was a sign to the people of the process of their redemption. As can be seen, this literal account prophetically pictures the work of the Lord Jesus on behalf of His people. This is with all certainty because Paul says in 1 Corinthians that it is Christ who led them in the wilderness.
6 (con’t) which is on the edge of the wilderness.
This statement is found in both Exodus 13 and here. The wilderness means an uncultivated area, not specifically a barren desert. It is a place of God’s grace and a closeness to God, but it is also a place of testing.
For some, such as Israel, the testing results in disobedience. For others, such as when Christ was tested, it is a place of fellowship through obedience. The wilderness and the law seem to be closely connected because it is by law that testing is accomplished. All of this is beautifully expressed in Deuteronomy 8 –
“Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:1, 2
Mentioning that they were on the edge of the wilderness looks to the fact that they would be brought into it, given the law, tested, given grace, and so forth.
As we know, looking back on later stops, this testing and time of punishment in the wilderness looks to the time of the testing and of punishment of Israel after the coming of Christ. That time for Israel had an end which we have already come to in the book of Numbers, but it also has an end for the people who were exiled after rejecting Christ. Jeremiah speaks of that –
“‘At the same time,’ says the Lord, ‘I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.’
‘The people who survived the sword
Found grace in the wilderness—
Israel, when I went to give him rest.’” Jeremiah 31:1, 2
Although getting ahead with that thought, it is helpful to see how these stops are being used to show us truths about God’s workings in and through redemptive history.
The fourth movement is from Etham, or “Their Sign,” to “Pi Hahiroth.” The word pi means “mouth” and ha’khiroth means “The Gorges.” It comes from the feminine plural of a noun which then comes from the word khor which means “hole.” Thus, the picture is that they camped in the face of the mouth of the gorges.
The name forms an exciting mental picture of what Israel faced. The Lord directed the children of Israel south with the Red Sea at their left to a place of encampment that has gorges facing them from the west. In other words, they were completely hemmed in.
There was no way to escape to the east because of the sea, or back to the north. Being on foot, if they had continued south along the Red Sea, it would have ended in futility as they would eventually run into more mountains and garrisons. They were literally hemmed in with their backs to the ocean. If only they could get through to the place on the other side…
7 (con’t) which is east of Baal Zephon;
The translation is incorrect. They are on the finger of the Red Sea facing east. Therefore, Baal Zephon is east, not west, of them. However, the Hebrew doesn’t even say “east.” It says, asher al pene baal tsephon, or “which against the face of Baal Zephon.” This is not only a translational, but also a scholarly error. And, it is, unfortunately, one followed by several translations. They were at Pi Hahiroth which is west (not east) of Baal Zephon, and they were facing Baal Zephon from across the waters of the Red Sea.
Baal Zephon means either Lord of Darkness, Lord of the North, or Lord of the Watch. The third seems appropriate. The root for this word is sapha, which “conveys the idea of being fully aware of a situation in order to gain some advantage or keep from being surprised by an enemy” (HAW).
It is exactly what the Lord was doing there. He was fully aware of the situation and He certainly gained advantage of it. Further, He was in no way surprised by the coming enemy. In fact, He was merely awaiting their arrival…
7 (con’t) and they camped near Migdol.
In Exodus 14, it said that they turned and camped before Pi Hahiroth, “between Migdol and the sea.” Here, it corresponds with that saying that they camped near Migdol.
Migdol comes from the word gadal which means to “grow up” or “become great.” Thus Migdol means “tower.” The location for the encampment was between the sea and a place with a large natural or man-made tower.
This would probably have been manned as an outpost and word of their travels would have easily been dispatched from there to Pharaoh. It seems intentional that Migdol was mentioned for this very purpose.
It is meant to show that a report made it back to Pharaoh that this giant contingent of people had taken up camp on the shores of the Red Sea. We all know what happened though. When the time of greatest stress and distress came upon the people, Moses declared to them in their trepidation –
“Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Exodus 14:13, 14
Relief would come, and it would be the Lord who provided it. And when it came is was directly to Baal Zephon, on the other side…
The fifth movement is from before Hahiroth, or Gorges, to Marah. Think of the symbolism. They were by a fortress, they couldn’t go in any direction, and so it seemed as if they would be swallowed up in the gorges, but on the other side from them was Baal Zephon – “Lord of the Watch.”
Nothing would swallow His treasured possession, Israel. Instead, He led them through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, a place of His grace and closeness to Him, but also a place of testing. In this area they…
8 (con’t) went three days’ journey in the Wilderness of Etham,
In Exodus 15:22 it said –
“So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water.” Exodus 15:22
What was called Shur is now called Etham. The changing of the name does not imply an error. The names used are given based on the original name, Shur, first. Shur was used to describe this place three times in Genesis. Here, it is given based on what has happened. They followed “Their Sign” in the wilderness – meaning the place of grace and testing – and so they called the place Etham. Here, they were tested with no water.
8 (con’t) and camped at Marah.
Marah means “Bitter.” The name was given based on the event. In Numbers 15:23 it said, “Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter.” Thus, it was named because of the waters which were bitter and undrinkable. But as we saw, there was a small note of grace there.
The name Marah is spelled with a hey or “h” at the end of it. Hey is the fifth letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet; five being the number of grace. It is the same letter that was added to Abraham and Sarah’s name as a sign of covenant grace.
However in the book of Ruth, when Naomi asked to be called Mara, it is spelled without this hey. In calling herself Mara, she was proclaiming her bitterness and it was as if she felt she was outside of the Lord’s covenant provision, wallowing alone in her bitterness.
This letter, hey has the meaning of “look,” “reveal,” or “breath.” And thus, the story took on a greater meaning, a gift of grace was revealed which took the people’s breath away. The bitter waters were healed and made sweet. From there…
In this verse, Sergio found an interesting acrostic. In the words elimah u-b’elim shetem esreh enot mayim v’shivim temarim v’yakhanu sham, or “and at Elim twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees so they camped there,” there is a forward running acrostic of the first letter of those words.
It is two words, separated by the letter ayin. Taking that letter out, it says, “His death I will redeem.” As the account of the waters of Marah pictured the cross of Christ, it is an amazing confirmation of His work. But another interesting thing is that the additional letter ayin means “eye.” The verse speaks of the enot mayim, or “eyes of water,” meaning springs of water. So that additional letter seems more purposeful to the acrostic than a failure of it.
It is an interesting curiosity. Next, the sixth movement is from Marah to Elim. This is confirmed by Exodus 15:27 –
“Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters.” Exodus 15:27
The name Elim, comes from a root which indicates to protrude or stick out, such as a porch on a house, a ram in a flock, or a large tree. Therefore, we can call it, “The Protruders.”
There at Elim the Bible records 12 wells. The words in Hebrew say enot mayim, “eyes of water.” And so these are springs as noted here, but not really wells as it was translated in Exodus.
There are also seventy palm trees. The word is temarim, which is the plural of Tamar, the same name as the daughter of Judah who bore his child. The name pictures an upright or righteous person. At this location, it is said that the people camped there by the wells.
As we saw in Exodus 15, and which must be repeated again now because the Lord repeats it here in Numbers, there is great specificity in the description – twelve springs and seventy palms. As we saw, it was given to make a marvelous picture for us.
Christ is the Water of Life. It is He who made the bitter waters (Marah) sweet through His death on the cross. The story continued at Elim with the twelve springs.
They pictured those who send out the word of the water of life to the people. In Matthew 10, the apostles were given the power to heal, just as the Lord said that He would be Yehovah Rophekha, or the Lord who Heals, in the previous verse of Exodus 15 –
“And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.” Matthew 10:1
The seventy palms represented the 70 disciples, or righteous ones, chosen by Christ in Luke 10, to follow suit –
“After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. … 9 And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Luke 10:1 & 9
Again, like the apostles, they were given the power to heal by Yehovah Rophekha, the Lord Jesus. The name Elim pictures the work of Christ which protrudes out for all to see through these apostles and disciples who spread the message to Israel.
The movement of Israel made a picture of the Lord and His ministry to the people of Israel. It was a ministry which was intended for the healing of the people through the message of the twelve apostles and the seventy commissioned disciples if they would but pay heed to Him and to His words.
This is the seventh movement. From Elim, or, “The Protruders,” they then camped by the Red Sea, or yam suph – the “Sea of the Ending.” This stop is not recorded in Exodus as it obviously lacked any Christological significance in the on-going narrative that we followed. However, it is recorded here as an actual stop.
The word yam means “sea.” Suph comes from the verb suph which means, “come to an end,” or “cease.” This sea is where the land of Israel ends, and it is from Israel that the reference point is given. This stop makes a picture of the Protruders – the twelve and the seventy – carrying the message to the end of the land.
This is the eighth movement. From the Sea of the Ending, they come to the Wilderness of Sin, meaning “Thorn.” All of the contents of Exodus 16 occurred at this place, which in particular, details the giving of the Manna and the introduction of the Sabbath as a statute for Israel. Both of those pictured, in great detail, the Person and work of Christ.
If the stop at Elim pictured the words of the apostles and disciples, and the Red Sea stop pictured the word concerning Messiah going to the end of the land, and Sinai is for the giving of the law – meaning the covenant – then coming to the Wilderness of Sin is given as a precursor to that.
The Manna and the Sabbath point to Christ, our Bread and our Rest. Grace and also testing is found in the Wilderness of Sin, or the Thorn. Will Israel respond and pay heed? First, the law is given, and only then comes the New Covenant.
This is the ninth movement. It is not recorded in the Exodus account. Dophkah comes from the verb daphaq, to beat, knock, or press severely. It is used just three times in Scripture. Once it refers to pressing animals too hard so that they could die. Once to pounding on a door, and once to simply knocking on a door.
One can see the coming passion of Christ in this. There is the anticipation of the Bread and the Rest which are provided by Christ’s death. Likewise, the events which led to His death involved His being beaten and driven to the point of exhaustion.
This is the tenth movement. It is also not recorded in the Exodus account. Alush is not translated by most, but two sources give the meaning as “Mingling Together” or “A Crowd of Men.” One can see in this the crowd which gathered before Pilate and who then gathered again at the cross. And from that act, the judgment and crucifixion of the Lord, Israel moves again to reveal the picture…
This is the eleventh movement. Rephidim is a plural noun which comes from the verb raphad which means ‘to spread (a bed).’ And so, by implication it means “to refresh” or “comfort.” It also carries the sense of “support.” At this place where there was no water, but water was brought forth from the rock by striking it.
The picture was that of Christ being struck in order to bring forth the Water of Life. Christ, the Rock was struck, and from Him the waters, in fact, poured forth. Each stop has anticipated what would occur up until the time Christ died. In the death of Christ, a New Covenant was brought forth…
This is the twelfth movement. Sinai was where the Law of Moses was given. But that was anticipatory of the giving of the New Covenant in Christ. It was His cross, seen in the granting of the New Covenant, which the time at Sinai pictured.
Everything which occurred at this spot, over the next many months, was typologically representative of Christ. Every detail of the sanctuary, the priesthood, the sacrifices, even the arrangement and structure of the camp looked to Christ and His work.
Amazingly, as this is the twelfth stop, and as twelve represents perfection of government, we see at Sinai the perfection of God’s government, revealed in Christ, in astonishing detail.
All of that detail goes from Exodus 19:2 until the departure of Israel towards Canaan in Numbers 10:11. And yet, of all of that detail, nothing is stated. The next verse we will look at next week will simply state that Israel leaves this spot and heads to its first stop on the way to Canaan.
The details have been given already. In type, they look forward to what Christ accomplished. Israel has a choice to make. Will they accept Him and His work and enter into their promised rest? Or will they reject Him and go into exile and punishment?
History bears out that they rejected the Lord in the wilderness, and they rejected the Lord when He came. The stops will continue to be recorded, bringing us right up to where we are now in both the Biblical narrative, and also, surprisingly, in the course of Israel’s history as well.
It is rather amazing that we can be here, evaluating the word line by line, and have seen how it so closely mirrors where we are in human history in relation to Israel. The record of the stops is a snapshot of Israel’s history – from being redeemed from Egypt all the way through until the time they are about to enter into their long-missed rest.
And the center and focus of the entire record is that God entered into the stream of humanity and gave us hints of what He would do, and what He continues to do in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
Next Week: Numbers 33:16-49 This is what we are going to do, doing all of these verses at once, we will give a stab… (The Journeys of Israel, Part II, From Sinai to the Plains of Moab) (65th Numbers Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. It may seem at times as if you are lost in a desert, wandering aimlessly. But the Lord is there, carefully leading you to the Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
The Journeys of Israel, From Egypt to Sinai
These are the journeys of the children of Israel
Who went out of Egypt the land
By their armies
Under Moses’ hand and Aaron’s hand
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
As Moses did record
They departed from Rameses in the first month
On the fifteenth day of the first month, as was ending the night
On the day after the Passover the children of Israel
Went out with boldness in all the Egyptian’s sight
For the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn
Whom had killed among them the Lord
Also on their gods the Lord had executed judgments
All in accord with His word
Then the children of Israel moved from Rameses
And camped at Succoth as the word does address
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
As to us the record makes known
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, so the account does address
They moved from Marah and came to Elim
At Elim were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees
So they camped there
There they found rest and ease
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
———-at Alush they temporarily settled in
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
Of the coming marvels there, who could possibly think!
Lord God, we are even now in a wilderness
And we are wanting to be led by You
Without You to direct, our lives would be a mess
And so be our guide, O God; You who are faithful and true
We long for the water in this barren land
May it flow forth from the Rock, our souls to satisfy
Give us this refreshing, spiritual hand
And may we take it, and to our lives daily it apply
And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days
Hallelujah and Amen…