Numbers 33:50-56 (I Have Given You the Land to Possess)

Numbers 33:50-56
I Have Given You the Land to Possess

In today’s passage, the people have the surety that they are entering Canaan. Verse 50 makes that perfectly clear. The Lord says, “When you have crossed the Jordan.” So there is no need to wonder if it will happen, it will.

However, no sooner does the Lord say this than He gives directions as to what should be done. That already seems a bit ominous. He has given them about seven jillion directions of things to do or not to do since they agreed to the covenant, and yet, they have consistently failed to do, or not do, those things which they were to not to, or to do.

The very fact that they have failed thus far calls into question their future in Canaan. History is often the best gauge of future performance. Further, the Lord tells them exactly what the consequences for failure will be.

Joseph Benson actually provides reasons for Israel to fail to do what they were supposed to do. He says, “Those of them whom ye suffer to remain in the land through your cowardice, slothfulness, or friendship toward them, shall be a great plague to you, and bring sore calamities upon you.”

Each of those can be a strong enticement for failure to comply. We are protective of self at times, even to the point of cowardice. It takes great reliance on our cause – whatever it may be – to step forward and face risk, even to the point of death.

As humans, we can be slothful in one area or another. As groups of people, we can be industrious in one way, and slothful in another. Often, it isn’t intentional. Rather, it can be cultural. In this way or that, we can slothfully fail to do what we should.

And friendship can be the greatest hindrance to doing what is right. That is seen in Scripture, and it is seen in our own lives. Few people have the moral grounding to go fully against any and all established friendships when it is the right thing to do.

Text Verse: “In that day ‘HOLINESS TO THE LORD’ shall be engraved on the bells of the horses. The pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. 21 Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the Lord of hosts. Everyone who sacrifices shall come and take them and cook in them. In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 14:20, 21

The Lord prophesied through Zechariah that a time was coming when Jerusalem would be the focus of the world’s attention, and that there would be no Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts. Why is that verse relevant to what we are looking at in our verses today?

One thing is for sure, the prophecies of Zechariah 14 have never been fulfilled in human history. Nor have many other prophesies been fulfilled which run throughout the Bible, a few of which we will see in our sermon today.

Unless you are adamant in being wrong about biblical theology, you must admit that these prophecies are to be taken literally, and that they point not to the church, but to Israel.

And, unless you want to continue being wrong by stating that the church has replaced Israel, you must admit that the reemergence of Israel in the modern world must have some prophetic significance which must be a part of what those verses are prophesying.

What is to be taken as an axiom in theology is that one plus one will always equal two. Prophecies about Israel will be fulfilled by Israel. That much is certain. So let’s stick to what is rational and look at things from that perspective. And… let’s get into the sermon. What is presented here is another marvelous part of 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. An Introductory Thought

This short passage is a transitional one between the record of the wilderness wanderings which preceded it, and the preparation for the division of land which will be seen in the coming chapter. There, the boundaries of the land will be stated, and the names of the leaders who are appointed to divide the land will be named.

Everything is being prepared for Israel, in advance of their entry into the land, but it is being done by the Lord through Moses. One can see a glimpse of salvation for the believer in how this is laid out, using Moses the man as typical of the law itself.

To understand this, we must first review what the purpose of the law was. Only then can we understand the symbolism of what is being relayed to us by the Lord now speaking to Moses about the inheritance.

The Lord gave the law to Israel. The law was intended to act as a means of bringing life to man. This was explicitly stated in Leviticus 18 –

“You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 18:5

Life could come through the law. However, the Lord said to them that this would only come about if one did the things found in His statutes and His judgments. As it says, “if a man does.”

As we saw when we were in that passage and that particular verse from Leviticus, it was given based on the holiness of God. The central theme of Leviticus, and thus the central theme of the giving of the law itself, is found in Leviticus 11:44. There it said, “…you shall be holy; for I am holy.”

It is a theme that Peter picked up on for those in Christ in 1 Peter 1:15 & 16. There he quoted Leviticus exactly. Holiness is the expectation of man in the presence of God. However, how is that obtained?

For those under law, the answer is found in doing the things of the law, as explained in Leviticus 18:5. That verse contains the main logical reason for man to be holy, and the promised outcome for him walking in holiness. In doing so, he would live.

Leviticus 18:5 is such an important verse, that it is incorporated into the thought of Genesis 2 & 3, and it is substantially repeated several times in both the Old and New Testaments. In Genesis 2, the Lord gave a command which promised death if disobeyed. The implication then is that life would result through obedience –

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16, 17

However, in Genesis 3, because man disobeyed the law given by the Lord, access to the tree of life, by which man could live forever, was denied, and death entered the world.

But in Leviticus, the Lord made a promise that through obedience to His law, the man shall live. As we saw at that time, many scholars simply pass this off as meaning living happily or possessing a higher life, or something like that.

But this was not at all what the Lord was saying. Rather, it is a promise that if a man keeps the requirements of the law, he will live and not die. Consequently, and on the flip side, if one does not keep the requirements of the law, he will die and not live.

The Lord dwelt among Israel. Access to Him at the tabernacle, and later at the temple, was restricted because of man’s sin-nature. But it was also restricted because of the law itself. Without meeting the law’s precepts, there could be no access.

However, in fulfillment of the law, access would naturally be granted once again. It could not be otherwise. The law was given to give life. If life is promised, then it must be granted.

If one doesn’t die, then he continues to live. If he lives forever, then he has eternal life. This is the implication of the words of Leviticus 18:5, and that thought, as we saw then, was solidified by the use of a definite article in front of the word “man.”

Leviticus 18:5 doesn’t say “if a man does.” It says, “if the man does.” During that sermon, I asked you to correct your Bible so you would see this on your next journey through Leviticus. Thus, that verse looks forward to Christ – The Man who, in fact, did keep the ordinances and judgments of Yehovah, and thus He is the Possessor of eternal life.

This is exactingly explained in the book of Romans and elsewhere in the New Testament as well. Christ fulfilled the law, and thus the law is fulfilled. In Him, life is granted.

Leviticus 18:5 is so important that Nehemiah 9:29 refers to it after the people’s return from the punishment of exile. Ezekiel 20 then repeats it three times to show that failure to keep the Lord’s law is what resulted in that punishment.

In the New Testament, Paul then cites this same verse twice, in Romans 10:5, and in Galatians 3:12 to show that Christ, who fulfilled the Law of Moses, is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes in Him.

It is faith in His completion of this law which grants eternal life. He did the work; we must do the believing. This, then, explains the thirty-eight years of wilderness wandering.

That was given, as was clearly seen in the earlier Numbers sermons, as a type or picture of the punishment of Israel rejecting Christ Jesus. Israel failed to do the believing, and they were punished for it, exactly as the Lord, through the law, said time and again would occur.

And so what does that have to do with the Lord now instructing Moses on what lies ahead in this passage? It is, as I said a few minutes ago, a transitional passage between the stops of Israel since leaving Sinai, and the appointment of the boundaries of the land, and the naming of the people who would divide it.

Israel was redeemed, Israel received the law, the law pointed to Christ, and Israel rejected Christ. Because of that, they went into the punishment of exile. Now, they are on the border of the land of inheritance with Moses being instructed on the layout and division of it.

It is Moses, representative of the law, who is given the instruction. And yet, Moses will not enter into the inheritance. The law has no part in the inheritance, except for the completion of it.

The man who does the things of the law will live. Christ accomplished the things of the law, and He lives. Thus, He is the embodiment of the law. Moses, standing representative of the law will die outside of the inheritance, in the land of Moab.

Christ did not die in heaven. Rather, He died outside of that inheritance in this fallen world. When He died, the law died with Him because it is fulfilled in Him. Further, His death was not for His sin under the law, but ours. Therefore, in Him is life, not death. Our sin for transgressions of the law dies in Him, and life is granted to us in exchange.

For Israel of today, the inheritance is yet ahead, but this is what this is picturing. They can either die under the law, represented by Moses dying outside of Canaan, or they can die in Christ, represented by the entering of the promise.

This is what this short transitional set of verses is anticipating. An inheritance awaits. However, the typology ends there with that thought in some respects. Once Israel actually crosses the Jordan, they will again be used to show countless examples of the spiritual battle which is being waged, the futility of life under the law, the hope of Messiah to come, and so on.

Each passage of a section builds up to a completion, and then the stories begin again, just as was seen in the many stories of Genesis. For now, the main lesson for us to remember – and it is one which has been repeated uncounted times already – is that we cannot obtain the inheritance through the law. Only Christ could do that.

For us, the inheritance is obtained through THE MAN who did the things of the law. If we step back from that premise and to the law itself, we only bring ourselves condemnation because – as we have seen – the man who does the things of the law will live by them, and we cannot do the things of the law.

What is it that will bring me life?
What thing must I do to be right with my God?
What will end this enmity and strife?
How shall I conduct my affairs on this path I trod?

Shall I stand before God and boast in what I have done?
Shall I rely on my deeds accomplished under the law?
Shall I reject the perfection of His Son?
Am I able to stand on my own, without spot or flaw?

Not on a bet would I so determine to do!
A single misdeed and I would be done in
I will trust in the work of the Lord, holy and true
Only through Him will I be freed from the penalty of sin

Thanks be to God for Christ Jesus my Lord
Only in Him will I to the judgment seat step forward

II. Instructions Concerning the Conquest (verses 50-56)

50 Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho, saying,

The picture is the same as has been seen several times already, even just last week as we closed that passage. Moses represents the law, of whom Christ is the embodiment. Moab means “From Father.” It is Christ who is From Father and who has been given the law as His responsibility to live out.

The Jordan, or “Descender” is typical of Christ who descended to accomplish His work in order to bring the people into their inheritance. Jericho, or Place of Fragrance, is typical of that step into a return to paradise because of Christ. As Paul says –

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?” 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

These are the types which the narrative anticipates in Christ and in His work.

There is also the reality of the passage which originally took place. Israel is, within a very short span, going to enter into Canaan. Once over the Jordan, the land must be subdued, those things which are unholy must be destroyed, the land must be divided among the tribes, and the people must be made aware of the penalties for not living holy in the presence of the holy God, who is the Lord.

A brief review of these principles will now be laid out, and then each will be further explained, detailed, or revealed in the short span of a few weeks before Moses dies.

For now, it is interesting to note that the general sentiment found in this verse is repeated again in Numbers 35:1 and it is also used to close out the book of Numbers at the very end of Chapter 36.

In other words, the substance of Numbers 33:50 through Numbers 36:13 forms its own unique addition to the body of law found in the books of Moses and which are a part of the law itself. It is that which is spoken of at their very last stopping point before entering the inheritance, and yet it is separate from the book of Deuteronomy which will also be put forth in this same spot.

This final section of Numbers is then subdivided into Numbers 33:50 through the end of Chapter 34, and then from Numbers 35:1 until the end of Chapter 36, which closes out the book.

51 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them:

This is what the Lord is said to have spoken to Moses in the previous verse. He is to “Speak to the children of Israel.” This is not merely something for the priests, but rather for all of the people.

As Israel is a group of people who are descended from a man, Jacob who is Israel, the words are spoken to all of his sons, meaning the twelve tribes, and all who descend from them.

The expectation is that what will be directed will be accomplished within a certain amount of time, but if it fails to be accomplished, that which is left undone will result in problems not specifically for this generation, but for all generations to follow.

Thus, the idea of speaking to the children of Israel here means the people now and at all times ahead. A matter left unattended to can be and must be corrected later, or it will continue to be a festering wound for the people. This will be seen in the words to Moses as the Lord continues.

That is a good lesson for us, even now. The Lord has spoken to the world through His word. He has also spoken to His church directly through His word. A matter which is left unattended to, or which is in violation of His word, is guaranteed to result in a wound.

The only way to heal such a wound is to correct what caused it, and what has caused it to continue and grow, which was a violation of His word in the first place. Faulty doctrine is such a violation. The church will suffer from it, just as Israel suffered from violations of the law of the Lord.

The only courses that will result are continued expansions of the trouble if left uncorrected, eventually leading to rejection by the Lord, or a correction of the problem and returning to what is expected by Him. This is why Moses is told to speak to the children of Israel. Everyone is to be aware because the matter will, eventually, affect all. And, the instructions are for…

51 (con’t) ‘When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan,

At other times, the Lord spoke in general terms concerning entry into the land, such as in Leviticus 23:10 –

“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.’” Leviticus 23:10

Now, the word from the Lord is that this general time spoken of before has arrived. With a simple crossing of the Jordan, the hope of the people will be realized. The imagery of Christ for the Christian is obvious. When we cross over Christ, meaning passing through what He has done for us, the journey home is complete. It may not be realized actually, but it is a done deal.

For Israel, Canaan is the anticipated inheritance. It is also the anticipated place of rest. Once they have entered the land, the people must act in accord with the word or the inheritance will be marred, and the rest will not be achieved. The question is then, how will this be achieved? The beginning to that answer is…

52 then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you,

The verb for “drive out” here is yarash. It speaks of occupying as a possession. In essence, “you shall dispossess them from the land before you.” The meaning of this is explained more fully in Deuteronomy –

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.” Deuteronomy 7:1, 2

To “drive out all the inhabitants” then means nothing less than destroying them. If they simply drove them out physically, they could regroup and attempt to retake the land they had been disinherited from.

Or, they could make an alliance with another nation and come back to destroy Israel. The remedy was not driving out physically, but driving out through extermination. Further, they were to…

52 (con’t) destroy all their engraved stones,

Here is a word which has only been seen once so far, maskith, or imagination. It is derived sekvi which speaks of the mind, and thus it refers to the imaginations of the mind in forming an image.

The NKJV wrongly says, “engraved stones.” Here, it is a single word signifying imagery of any type, not merely stone. Because this is dealing with the mind, it may be that it is some type of image used as a talisman or that which is intended to influence a person as in divination or the like. Using this same word in Leviticus 26:1, it said –

“You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 26:1

As can be seen, it is some type of imagery which could be bowed down to in idolatry. Therefore, any such imagery was to be destroyed. To have such images could, and would, inevitably lead the people to idolatry and/or sorcery. Further, they were told to…

52 (con’t) destroy all their molded images,

v’eth kal tsalme masekotam t’abedu – “and all images their molten you shall destroy.” Here, the word tselem speaks of an image of something else. The second word, masekah, speaks of that which is poured out, thus signifying molten. It is something cast into a shape which represents something else, like a Buddha, or a lion, or whatever. These were to be destroyed. Further…

52 (con’t) and demolish all their high places;

v’eth kal bamotam tashmidu – “and all high places desolate.” The word is shamad, which comes from a root signifying desolation. Thus it means to destroy until erased. The high places refer to places of worship which are on hilltops, mountains, and the like.

The idea is that the person goes up in order to bring himself closer to his god. This is contrary to the concept found in Scripture where God condescends to descend to His people. To elevate oneself through going to a high place signifies several things. First, it means that a person feels worthy enough to get closer to his god. Therefore, pride is involved.

Secondly, it means that the person has labored on his own to ascend to his god. Thus, personal works are involved in his communing with his deity. That obviously bears undertones of pride as well.

Thirdly, it denies the omnipresence of God because if God is truly God, He is everywhere. The symbolism of God descending, or “coming down to man,” is that of meeting man on his level, but it doesn’t actually mean that God is not omnipresent. But to go to a high place would give the mind that impression.

This offensive practice was never eradicated by Israel, even during the administration of Samuel, who is said to have gone to the high places to sacrifice, nor at the time of Solomon, who is said to have gone “to the high place that was in Gibeon” to meet with the Lord.

However, at times, kings of Judah such as Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah were noted as having obediently followed the Lord and destroyed these idolatrous places of worship. Unfortunately, as soon as a new king reigned, the people would go right back to their practices, sometimes even being spurred on by the king himself. In fact, of king Ahaz, it says –

“For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made molded images for the Baals. He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.” 2 Chronicles 28:2-4

Later, similar words were spoken concerning Manasseh. So wicked had he become that there was finally no remedy. Even after the good king, Josiah, brought great reforms to the land, the Lord’s anger was too hot, and so He spoke forth His words of doom –

“Nevertheless the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath, with which His anger was aroused against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him. 27 And the Lord said, “I will also remove Judah from My sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, ‘My name shall be there.’” 2 Kings 23:26, 27

The law was agreed to, the people were warned, and eventually there was no remedy left. Though Israel always revered Moses as their great lawgiver, they failed to revere the Lord who is the true Source of that law, and they failed to heed the words of law which came through Moses.

Indeed, the fickled state of Israel is mirrored in our own hearts, lives, and churches as well. For many, there will not be a happy end to their walk, all because of idolatry of the heart and of the mind, and because of a failing to simply put self aside and trust in Jesus. For now, the Lord continues His instruction to Moses…

53 you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess.

The same word, yarash, that was used in verse 52 is used twice in this verse. There is a dispossessing of the inhabitants, and then there is the possessing by Israel. And this possession is based on an inheritance…

54 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.

These words here are similar to words found in Numbers 26 –

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 53 ‘To these the land shall be divided as an inheritance, according to the number of names. 54 To a large tribe you shall give a larger inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a smaller inheritance. Each shall be given its inheritance according to those who were numbered of them. 55 But the land shall be divided by lot; they shall inherit according to the names of the tribes of their fathers. 56 According to the lot their inheritance shall be divided between the larger and the smaller.’” Numbers 26:52-56

What is obvious is that this inheritance is not by size of tribe. In Numbers 26, the NKJV inserted the word “tribe” twice by saying, “To a larger tribe you shall give,” and “to a small tribe you shall give.” That is, as we saw then, wholly incorrect.

As it says in this verse now, “And you shall divide the land by lot as an inheritance among your families.” It is not by tribe, but by family that the size of the inheritance is made. The tribe’s inheritance is not based on its given size, but rather it is based upon the lot.

As it says, “…everyone’s inheritance shall be whatever falls to him by lot. You shall inherit according to the tribes of your fathers.” The Lord, through the lot, determined where each tribe would be situated. The division of that tribal land was to then be divided by size according to the family within the tribe.

This was the whole purpose of the second census which was conducted based on family. The importance of this was that by the Lord choosing where the tribes would be located, the prophecies which had already been spoken concerning Judah and other tribes would be fulfilled.

What happened within the tribal land was of less consequence than the actual location of the tribal land itself. Regardless of location, though, the importance of clearing the land – and the reason for it – is again stated and expanded on…

55 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.

This is a solemn and dire warning to Israel. It is not a maybe. Nor is it something tolerable but which could be ignored. Rather, it is a surety, and it is something that would constantly afflict and torment Israel, if they failed to heed.

The consequences for not dispossessing all of the people of the land are threefold. The first is that they would be l’sikem b’enekhem, or something which affects the eyes.

The word here is sek, and it is only found here in the Bible. It is believed to come from the word sakak, meaning a covering. How that can be then translated as a thorn, as most translations say, is difficult to justify.

The NKJV steps out and says “irritants.” That probably comes closer to the meaning. It probably signifies something that causes the eyes to be covered over like getting pepper-sprayed, and so it is a constant irritant. But even more, it would keep the people from seeing what is right, and what was harmful. Thus, they would be people without discernment.

The second consequence is that they would be v’litsninim b’sidekhem – “and thorns in your sides.” This word, tsanin, is more certain. It is a thorn. It is only seen twice. The second time, interestingly, it is speaking of being a thorn in the eyes, showing that the first word is something other than a thorn –

“But they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the Lord your God has given you.” Joshua 23:13

The idea here is that no matter which way one turns, there will be the discomfort of sharp pains. Thus, there would be the constant spiritual needling of these people which would rob Israel of her ability to rightly pursue the Lord.

The third consequence is that “they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.” It is the same word which was used concerning the treatment of the Midianites when they troubled Israel, pulling them into physical and spiritual harlotry.

The harassing spoken of here would be both literal and spiritual. The word gives the sense of besieging. Thus Israel would be besieged by the very people they were to dispossess. Of these three consequences, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown wrongly states –

“This earnest admonition given to the Israelites in their peculiar circumstances conveys a salutary lesson to us to allow no lurking habits of sin to remain in us. That spiritual enemy must be eradicated from our nature; otherwise it will be ruinous to our present peace and future salvation.”

This is a poor analogy. They are equating collective Israel to us individually, which is not incorrect, but then they make the error of saying that what happened to Israel can be equated to a ruining of our own salvation.

People may argue over whether a believer can lose his salvation or not (which he cannot), but the analogy is still faulty because God has never forsaken Israel. If Israel is to be equated to the individual in Christ, which is acceptable and correct, the obvious conclusion is that the individual cannot lose his salvation – quite the opposite of their analysis.

What this can be equated to, is the state of individual churches which fail to deal with sin in their congregations. Eventually, judgment will come, and the church will have its lampstand removed. Regardless of that, for Israel, the words have been spoken, and they will assuredly come to pass.

Zechariah was a post-exilic prophet. What that verse implied is that the Canaanites remained in the land throughout the years of Israel prior to their exile, and they continued on in the land after the return of the exiles. This is even seen in Matthew 15:22 where he notes “a woman of Canaan” being in the region of Tyre and Sidon.

The Canaanites picture those who bring others into subjection, and thus false teachers who subject their people to false doctrines. What is seen of the inhabitants of Canaan troubling Israel in a physical way is directly equated to how false teachers brought Israel, and indeed many in the church, into spiritual bondage.

The promise of Zechariah 14 is that someday this will no longer be the case in Israel. They will be subject to the Lord, who is Jesus the Messiah.

The sad part for Israel here is that they had already seen the truth of what the Lord promises will occur when they were joined to Baal of Peor, and when they failed to eradicate the Midianites as expected. They were given advanced lessons in the consequences of their actions, and they failed to pay heed and learn. In their failing, the Lord finishes with this solemn promise…

*56 (fin) Moreover it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them.’”

The chapter ends with the introduction of a new word, damah, or to be like. The Lord told Israel to dispossess the inhabitants of the land. This can then only be taken in one way. In failing to do so, and in being overcome by those they should have overcome, the Lord would make a comparative exchange and, instead, dispossess Israel.

And what this means, without holding back for the sake of political correctness, is that Israel’s two exiles, and the punishment they received before and during those exiles, were wholly self-inflicted wounds.

What occurred to them could have been avoided. But they were selected to be the example for the world to see. The law can save no one through his own futile attempts to live by it. Rather, the law can save anyone when his trust is in Christ who fulfilled it in his stead.

Israel was told to cross over the Jordan and to do certain things in order to be secure and free from harm, but they missed the typology of what the Jordan, or the Descender, anticipated. When they crossed over, it was in anticipation of entering their inherited rest. However, the book of Hebrews, quoting the 95th Psalm, says of the wilderness generation, “They shall not enter My rest.” The psalmist then says later in the psalm, “Today, if you will hear His voice.” Understanding that the psalmist lived long after Israel crossed the Jordan, the author of Hebrews then says –

“For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.” Hebrew 4:8

The only logical conclusion, which is explained fully by the author of Hebrews, is that Joshua did not bring them into their rest, and that he was only used as a type of Christ to come. When Israel rejected Christ, they made the same pattern as when Israel rejected the Lord after leaving Sinai when they refused to enter Canaan.

The point of the author’s words, and indeed the point of Israel’s existence as the people called by God, is to demonstrate – without a doubt – that the law cannot save anyone apart from Christ, and that all need Christ, even Israel – collectively and individually.

And how can we know that this is correct? All we need to do is look at what the typology has brought us to. Israel was in the wilderness under punishment wandering for the past 40 years prior to crossing the Jordan. That clearly pointed to Israel’s punishment and exile for the past 2000 years.

At the end of the exile, there will be a great battle which will then usher in the time of the millennium. A time when Christ will physically rule from Jerusalem for 1000 years. But what does it say about the people of the land at that time? Not that Israel is to dispossess them. Rather, Ezekiel prophesies about it –

“Thus you shall divide this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. 22 It shall be that you will divide it by lot as an inheritance for yourselves, and for the strangers who dwell among you and who bear children among you. They shall be to you as native-born among the children of Israel; they shall have an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. 23 And it shall be that in whatever tribe the stranger dwells, there you shall give him his inheritance,” says the Lord God.” Ezekiel 47:21-23

The time of rest will be realized for this long wayward people, and that rest will include any who are there to dwell with them in the land. Both Jew and Gentile have been given, and continue to be offered, the same salvation. Someday, Israel will see this and reach out for what they have missed for so long.

God’s promised rest is what Israel anticipated, it is what they failed to obtain, and it is what is now realized in Christ Jesus. Hebrews says, “For we who have believed do enter that rest.” Have you called on Jesus? Have you entered into the rest promised by God? If not, today would be a great day for you to do so.

The fulfillment of the ages is coming quickly, and the time for the world, as it is now being run, is rapidly coming to a close. Be sure that you are ready for the day when things change, and God comes for His people and then judges the world in righteousness.

Closing Verse: “And there shall no longer be a pricking brier or a painful thorn for the house of Israel from among all who are around them, who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord God.” Ezekiel 28:24

Next Week: Numbers 34:1-29 Is it the same as heaven? No, not a chance… (The Earthly Inheritance) (67th 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.

I Have Given You the Land to Possess

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
———-as I am now relaying

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 too

You shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it
For I have given you the land to possess
And you shall divide the land by lot as an inheritance
———-among your families
As to you I now address

To the larger you shall give a larger inheritance
And to the smaller you shall give a smaller inheritance
———-so shall it be
There everyone’s inheritance shall be whatever falls to him by lot
You shall inherit according to the tribes of your fathers
———-as directed by Me

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, it is true

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, so to you I now tell

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…

50 Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho, saying, 51 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52 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; 53 you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess. 54 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. 55 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. 56 Moreover it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them.’”

Numbers 33:16-49 (The Journeys of Israel, Part II – From Sinai to the Plains of Moab)

Numbers 33:16-49
The Journeys of Israel, Part II
From Sinai to the Plains of Moab

In the record here in Numbers 33, from the departure from Egypt to where Israel finally ends, right at the doorstep to Canaan, there are 42 movements of the people. One can then say that there are 43 locations, but one is leaving Egypt.

If one includes entry into Canaan, that would make a final movement and a final stop, thus equaling 44 locations in 43 movements. But the record of Numbers 33 specifically refers only to these 42 movements, and thus it is certainly intended for us to look at where the number 42 may be seen elsewhere in Scripture.

And, indeed, there are a few. Two notable ones are found first in 2 Kings 2 where two bears killed forty-two rascally youths, and in 2 Kings 10, forty-two brothers of Ahaziah got whacked. EW Bullinger says of the Number 42 –

“FORTY-TWO is a number connected with Antichrist. An important part of his career is to last for 42 months (Rev 11:2, 13:5), and thus this number is fixed upon him. … Its factors are six and seven (6×7=42), and this shows a connection between man and the Spirit of God, and between Christ and Antichrist: … Being a multiple of seven, it might be supposed that it would be connected with spiritual perfection. But it is the product of six x seven. Six, therefore, being the number of Man, and man’s opposition to God, forty-two becomes significant of the working out of man’s opposition to God.”

That actually fits perfectly with the stops of Israel along the way to glory. It seems that at almost every stop, Israel was working in opposition to God, or they were in extended punishment for being in opposition to God. As Israel is a snapshot of the redemption of man from leaving Egypt, picturing life in bondage to sin, to entering Canaan, picturing coming to the place of rest promised by God through Christ, we can see how we stand in opposition to God even after having been redeemed by Him. That shows us of the wonderful marvel which is found in the grace of God in Christ.

For Israel, the last forty-two months of the tribulation period are reflective of this as well. It will take that period to finally break down their opposition and come to the point where they call out to Christ. But it will happen. Though there is opposition, there is still God’s powerful hand working through it. There is also one other interesting use of the number forty-two worth looking at today…

Text Verse: “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.” Matthew 1:17

The three sets of fourteen generations listed in Matthew 1 come to a total of forty-two generations. A promise was made, and from that time, all the way through until it was fulfilled, man stood in opposition to God.

But God worked all the way through that period to bring man back to Himself. God gives us these patterns so that we can know that He is in control, and despite our opposition to Him – either intentionally or unintentionally, He will bring us to His kingdom.

What He expects from us in the process is faith. Israel has proven that relying on the deeds of the law doesn’t work. They continue to prove it through their stubborn reliance on personal deeds of merit, and they will continue to do so right up until the point where the world is at its final stage of destruction. But they will give up on it someday, and they will call out, in faith, for relief.

That is what the Lord asks us to do now… have faith. He has made the promise. He has done the work. And now, He asks us to simply trust that His word is true and that He has made access to heaven open for us by His own work. We just need to do the believing. This is a lesson which is repeatedly 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.

From Sinai to the Plains of Moab

16 They moved from the Wilderness of Sinai and camped at Kibroth Hattaavah.

This is now the thirteenth movement of the people. The move now described is that which occurred after the extended stay at Sinai. They arrived in this area in Exodus 19:1 and the departure is recorded in Numbers 10 –

“Now it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle of the Testimony. 12 And the children of Israel set out from the Wilderness of Sinai on their journeys; then the cloud settled down in the Wilderness of Paran. 13 So they started out for the first time according to the command of the Lord by the hand of Moses.” Numbers 10:11-13

This chapter is a record of the places of encampment, and very little information about those places is given. But it is still surprising that not a single word is spoken of all that occurred between Exodus 19 and Numbers 10. It does show, however, how purposeful the record is.

The name Kibroth Hattaavah essentially means, Graves of the Lusting. It is the location where the people lusted after meat, the Lord gave them quail, and – as it says – “there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.” Without attempting to over-symbolize the passage, there is another passage which matches what occurs here.

If the time at Sinai is given as symbolic of the time of Christ’s cross, then what occurred with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 makes a good parallel to what occurred here. Instead of being satisfied with life in Christ, they lusted after the things of the world, died because of it, and were buried in the Graves of Lusting.

As a note, Taberah was mentioned as a stopping place in Numbers 11, but it is not the name of a place of encampment. Here in Numbers 33, no such place is named. Therefore, and as we noted at that time, Taberah is surely a location within the confines of Kibroth Hattaavah, not specifically a separate location.

17 They departed from Kibroth Hattaavah and camped at Hazeroth.

The fourteenth movement of the people is from Kibroth Hattaavah, or Graves of the Lusting, to Hazeroth. Khazeroth is the plural of khatser, or village. Therefore, it means “Villages.” As we saw in a Numbers 12 sermon, Hazeroth implies a place of many villages, and thus many people. It made a fitting description of the dispersion of Israel around the world among many settlements and a wide range of peoples. Next…

18 They departed from Hazeroth and camped at Rithmah.

The fifteenth movement of the people is from Hazeroth, or “Villages,” to Rithmah. Rithmah comes from rethem, meaning a type of broom, or juniper tree. That, in turn, comes from ratham, meaning “to bind” or “attach.”

From this point, Charles Ellicott explains many of the difficulties of the stops as recorded earlier, as are recorded now, and as will be recorded later in Deuteronomy. In the end, if you want to know an explanation for many of these difficulties, you can refer to his writings. For now, he notes that –

“…according to Numbers 12:16, the next encampment after Hazeroth was in the wilderness of Paran, from whence Moses, in obedience to the Divine command, sent the spies to search out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:3). If, then, we compare these two accounts, and take into further consideration the fact that the Wady Abu Retemat is not far distant from Kadesh, and that, according to Robinson (I., p. 279), it abounds with the retem, or broom, and that near it there is a copious spring of water called Ain el Kudeirât, it seems reasonable to infer that the encampment at Rithmah which is recorded in this chapter is the same as that at Kadesh, “in the wilderness of Paran,” as recorded in Numbers 12:16.” Charles Ellicott

In other words, and as we have seen at other times, there are places with names already given that are also given names based on what occurs at those places. As this is the location where in Numbers 14 the people accepted the words of the spies, and rejected the word of the Lord, it may be what the psalmist speaks of in Psalm 120 –

“What shall be given to you,
Or what shall be done to you,
You false tongue?
Sharp arrows of the warrior,
With coals of the broom tree!” Psalm 120:3, 4

Here, we can see a picture. The root, ratham, meaning to “bind” or “attach” as with a yoke, pictures the people attaching themselves to a yoke, meaning the law, having rejected Christ. Paul calls the law a yoke in Galatians 5:1, 2 –

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.”

Because of this yoke, a truth is seen in the next words…

19 They departed from Rithmah and camped at Rimmon Perez.

The sixteenth movement is from Rithmah, or “Place of the Broom” to Rimmon Perez. Rimmon is a pomegranate, perets signifies a breach. Therefore, it is “Pomegranate of the Breach.” The word rimmon is associated with the word rum – “to be high,” or “exalted.” Thus, the pomegranate carries the connotation of mental maturity and calling to remembrance. Paul says those under the law are under a tutor; they are not mature. On the contrary, he says in Galatians 3:25 that for those in Christ Jesus, “…after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

Based on Charles Ellicott’s words cited in the previous verse, he makes a logical assumption –

“If this inference be admitted, it is reasonable to conclude further that the seventeen places of encampment which are mentioned in Numbers 33:19-36 between Rithmah and Kadesh are those at which the Israelites pitched their camps during the thirty-eight years of wandering in the wilderness.”

And this is exactly what is seen in the naming of this next stop, Rimmon Perez. There was a breach between the coming of Christ and them going on to mental maturity. They instead clung to the yoke of the law. They chose the law and went into exile, perfectly pictured – as we saw in the earlier Numbers sermons – in the thirty-eight years of wandering. The account fits exactingly. Next…

20 They departed from Rimmon Perez and camped at Libnah.

The seventeenth movement is from Rimmon Perez, or “Pomegranate of the Breach,” to Livnah, or “Whiteness.” On the surface, that doesn’t seem to indicate anything connected to what we would expect of exile, however, Livnah comes from lavan, a verb meaning to make whiter, or make bricks because bricks whiten when they are made.

For those who have followed the use of this word since the early Genesis account where the people made lavan, or bricks, to build the tower of Babel, it has consistently been used to picture works-based salvation. Thus, this location follows the rejection of Christ, the breach in the people’s mental maturity, and their attempts at being justified by works, and not by faith in Christ.

This isn’t an arbitrary made up possibility, it is what lavan, or bricks, have consistently pictured, and it is exactly what occurred among Israel since they departed from Christ.

Admittedly, from this point on, the pictorial imagery for each stop, at times, is difficult to determine. Some of my analyses concerning the meanings for them are, therefore, my best guess. For the next stop…

21 They moved from Libnah and camped at Rissah.

The eighteenth movement is from Livnah, or “Whiteness,” to Rissah. The word comes from rasas, signifying to moisten. That, in turn, comes from rasiys which is used in Amos 6:11 –

“For behold, the Lord gives a command:
He will break the great house into bits,
And the little house into pieces.” Amos 6:11

Rissah thus means Dew, or a Ruin. Thus, one can see the ruin promised upon Israel in the day of the Lord’s wrath.

22 They journeyed from Rissah and camped at Kehelathah.

The nineteenth movement is from Rissah, or “A Ruin,” to Qehelathah, or Assembly. It comes from qahal, meaning a convocation or assembly. What appears to be the case for this name, is that despite being under punishment, and also being brought to ruin, the Lord kept Israel as a united people; an assembly. Thus, they move from Ruin to Assembly. It is a note of grace, hope, and promise.

23 They went from Kehelathah and camped at Mount Shepher.

The twentieth movement is from Qehelathah, or Assembly, to Mount Shepher, or Beautiful Mount. As complete speculation, I would guess that this could follow along with the previous stop as a note of hope and promise. Despite their wanderings in exile, they are given the hope of possessing the beautiful mountain, meaning that of God with Messiah, someday.

It could be the exact opposite though. Israel under exile finds a Beautiful Mount to reside, and yet they are quickly plucked up and moved again. It is speculation.

24 They moved from Mount Shepher and camped at Haradah.

The twenty-first movement is from Mount Shepher, or Beautiful Mount, to Kharadah. This comes from kharad, meaning Terror, or Trembling. It can be good trembling, such as in Hosea 11:11, or it can be terrified trembling. It is either a continued promise of restoration, or a picture of the state of the people in exile. If the former…

25 They moved from Haradah and camped at Makheloth.

The twenty-second movement is from Kharadah, or Terror, to Makheloth, Place of Assembly(ies). Hosea 11 says the following about the exiles of Israel using the same word, kharad, that is the basis for Haradah –

“They shall walk after the Lord.
He will roar like a lion.
When He roars,
Then His sons shall come trembling from the west;
11 They shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt,
Like a dove from the land of Assyria.
And I will let them dwell in their houses,”
Says the Lord.” Hosea 11:10,11

If the imagery follows concerning hope of future restoration, it is a note that, even in a time of exile and punishment, those who tremble will return to their place of assembly. However, the name could mean that in their place of assemblies they will face terror until their time of exile is over. This was certainly the case for the Jewish people over the past two thousand years. That actually seems likely based on the next two stops…

26 They moved from Makheloth and camped at Tahath.

The twenty-third movement is from Makehloth, or Place of Assembly, to Takhath. The name comes from takhath which means under or beneath, but it can also signify “in place of” because something that comes from under can replace, such as when Seth is said to have come in place of his murdered brother Abel.

Israel moves to Takhath, or In Place of, from the Place of Assemblies. This was certainly the case for Israel. They were taken out of their Place of Assembly, and they continued to be removed from each place they assembled, wandering from place to place throughout the generations. This is seen in the next move…

27 They departed from Tahath and camped at Terah.

The twenty-fourth movement is from Takhath, or “In Place Of,” to Terakh. The name Terakh is the same as that of the father of Abraham. Its meaning is a best guess, but it appears to come from two words, tur, which gives the sense of a broad sweeping motion, and ravakh which is to be wide, spacious, unconfined, and so on. Thus, it could signify Wanderer.

It makes complete sense that they were given wandering in place of a home and a place of assembly. Thus, the names suit the pattern of Israel’s exile. From there…

28 They moved from Terah and camped at Mithkah.

The twenty-fifth movement is from Terah or Wanderer, to Mithkah. The word comes from mathoq – to become sweet or pleasant. Thus, it means Sweetness. Though seemingly unlike something experienced in exile, it may be exactly the opposite.

When in exile, Israel found wonderful, pleasant places to dwell. However, in time, they were uprooted again and forced to move on. That is the case with the move here and then away from here…

29 They went from Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah.

The twenty-sixth movement is from Mithkah, or Sweetness, to Khasmonah. It comes from khashman which is some type of envoy. That comes from a root signifying wealthy. Thus, it may mean Fertile. Being uprooted from a pleasant place, they find themselves in a new location, a fertile one. But for people under punishment, there is nothing permanent or lasting, and thus…

30 They departed from Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth.

The twenty-seventh movement is from Khashmonah, or Fertile, to Moseroth. It is the plural of the same place, Moserah, which is seen in Deuteronomy 10:6 –

“(Now the children of Israel journeyed from the wells of Bene Jaakan to Moserah, where Aaron died, and where he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered as priest in his stead.” Deuteronomy 10:6

As it says elsewhere that Aaron died on Mount Hor, it follows that the names Moserah, Moseroth, and Hor are the same place, or that Mount Hor is located near a place called Moserah. Moserah means Bond or Bonds, as in those used on prisoners.

The picture of exile in bonds is obvious, and it is how the people often found themselves. They chose the yoke of the law, bound themselves to it, and in turn they were bound and imprisoned in the lands of their exile.

31 They departed from Moseroth and camped at Bene Jaakan.

The twenty-eighth movement is from Moseroth, or Bonds, to Bene Yaaqan. Bene means sons. Yaaqan comes from a root, aqal, meaning to twist. It is used in Habakkuk 1:4 –

“Therefore the law is powerless,
And justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.” Habakkuk 1:4

Thus, Bene Jaaqan signifies Sons of Twisting, meaning perverting. The picture is obvious. It speaks of a people who twist that which is right and proper and follow a contrary path. This continues to be seen, especially in the liberal Jews of the world, to this day. However, it speaks of any who would forsake the truth of God in Christ, which Israel famously did and continues to do.

32 They moved from Bene Jaakan and camped at Hor Hagidgad.

The twenty-ninth movement is from Bene-Yaaqan, or Sons of Twisting, to Khor Hagidgad. Khor signifies a cavern. Hagidgad is a tough word to be dogmatic about. It is derived from gadad, meaning to assemble or to gash. Maybe it means Cavern of the Gatherers.

At this point in the narrative, Israel is still under exile. They are still a united people, but they are exiles from their land. Despite having no home, they remain gathered as a people.

33 They went from Hor Hagidgad and camped at Jotbathah.

The thirtieth movement is from Khor Hagidgad, or Cavern of the Gatherers, to Yotbathah, meaning “Pleasantness.” In Deuteronomy 10:7, Yotbathah is said to be a land of rivers of waters. However, the word for “rivers” there is one signifying a wadi. It receives water at intermittent intervals. That word comes from a verb signifying to take possession or inherit.

Yotbathah is a land of inheritance, but it is not the land of inheritance. There is nothing permanent there for Israel, and so they move on. Israel is united, and they are being led, outside of their land of inheritance, to their future meeting with destiny…

34 They moved from Jotbathah and camped at Abronah.

The thirty-first movement is from Yotbathah, or Pleasantness, to Avronah, or Passage. It comes from avar, meaning to pass. The nah at the end is an imperative feminine plural. Thus, it would signify something like “Do Pass Over!”

If someone camps in a place that means “Do Pass Over!”, it means that they will not be staying in the place they have camped. The stops of Israel during their time of exile are temporary stops, as time urges them to continue on…

35 They departed from Abronah and camped at Ezion Geber.

The thirty-second movement is from Avronah, or Do Pass Over, to Ezion Geber. The word Etsyon comes from atseh, the backbone. Geber speaks of a man. Thus, it is literally “Backbone of a Man.” As the backbone is the foundation of man, one could logically assume that this means, “Foundation of a Man.”

The location is at the very south of where Israel ends at Elath, just at the Red Sea. It is where the ships of Solomon went out from, and it is where the ships of Jehoshaphat were destroyed without ever leaving. Being this close to the land of Canaan, it is almost begging Israel to consider the Creator and how He has revealed Himself.

The foundation of a man is what he was created from and for. When man gets away from contemplating those things, the Lord works to redirect him so that there will be reconciliation. This was the purpose of Israel’s exile. Even though those in exile were destroyed along the way, the purpose of the exile was to bring the body of people back to Him in a restored relationship. He did this through the cross of Christ, and Israel will come to know that…

36 They moved from Ezion Geber and camped in the Wilderness of Zin, which is Kadesh.

The thirty-third movement is from Etsyon Geber, or Backbone of Man, to the Wilderness of Zin, which is at Kadesh. The name Tsin, signifies a thorn or a barb. It was seen several times already, when picturing the cross of Christ. The name Kadesh means “Holy.”

Israel has been confronted with the cross throughout their time of wandering, signified by the Wilderness of Zin. However, the name Kadesh or Holy was given not because the people were holy, but because of Moses’ failure to sanctify the Lord in the people’s eyes. That was seen in Numbers 27 –

“For in the Wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to hallow Me at the waters before their eyes.” (These are the waters of Meribah, at Kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin.) Numbers 27:14.

Israel is brought back to this location to remind them that the law is what brought about their exile. Moses struck the rock rather than speaking to it. In this, the sentence was pronounced –

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.’” Numbers 20:12

They were sentenced to die in the wilderness with Israel. The Law cannot obtain the inheritance. Israel rejected the Lord’s promise and was exiled. The Law fails to honor the Lord, pictured by Moses, and the law could not bring entry into the inheritance. Thus, all were exiled…

37 They moved from Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the boundary of the land of Edom.

The thirty-fourth movement is from Kadesh, or Holy, to Mount Hor, or “Mount of the Mountain.” In a previous sermon from Numbers 20, it was seen that Mount Hor pictured Christ who is the fulfillment of the law. Here Mount Hor is said to be “on the boundary of the land of Edom.”

Edom is given as a picture of Adam, the man who was made from the red soil of the earth. Israel has arrived at this spot, traveling from Holy to the Mount of the Mountain, bordering the land of Edom. It is here at this time…

38 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.

As we saw in a sermon from Numbers 20, Aaron’s death signified the ending of the law in Christ’s greater priesthood. It was in the 39th year of the wanderings of Israel, just as the Old Testament ends with 39 books. With the Aaronic priesthood ended, the time of the law was also ending. The pictures which followed this in the Numbers narrative clearly reflected this. With the death of Aaron recorded here, it now says…

39 Aaron was one hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor.

This statement is in exacting agreement with Exodus 7:7 which says. “Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.” That then agrees with Deuteronomy 34:7, which says, “Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died.” 

The year of Aaron’s death, then, is the year 2554 Anno Mundi, or from the creation of the world. The dates given show the reliability of the entire account concerning the lines of Adam until this point. The Aaronic priesthood has and will find its end in Christ. It is done, but there is still another seven years left for Israel to figure this out before they call on Christ…

40 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.

This is in agreement with Numbers 21:1 which said –

“The king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that Israel was coming on the road to Atharim. Then he fought against Israel and took some of them prisoners.” Numbers 21:1

All of the details of why this king is mentioned were given minutely in Chapter 21. If you missed that, it is a marvelous passage to go back and get updated on. In short, it was given to show that Israel will, at some point, go from personal works of the law to faith in Christ in order to enter into the promise. It speaks of the age in which we are now, and which will soon come to pass.

Though there have been some difficulties up to this point in the names of the locations, between accounts in Numbers and Deuteronomy, these are only difficulties because different names are used for the same places. Also, the account here is specifically chronological whereas, at times, this has not been the case.

41 So they departed from Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah.

The thirty-fifth movement is from Mount Hor, or Mount of the Mountain, to Zalmonah. The name Tsalmonah comes from tselem, which means image, or a likeness. When God created man, He did so in His tselem, or image. Tselem comes from a root meaning to shade and thus figuratively to make a resemblance. And so, it means Shady or Image.

This name, and because it is mentioned here in the narrative, may indicate the place where the Bronze Serpent was fashioned. It being an image of the serpents which had bit them. That is only conjecture though. For Israel in exile, it is a note that they too will go from the image of the earthy man to that of the heavenly Man, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 –

“The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.” 1 Corinthians 15:47-49

Next, it says…

42 They departed from Zalmonah and camped at Punon.

The thirty-sixth movement is from Tsalmonah, or Image, to Punon. This comes from pun, meaning “to be distraught.” That is only found in Psalm 88 –

“I have been afflicted and ready to die from my youth;
I suffer Your terrors;
I am distraught.” Psalm 88:15

Therefore, Punon means something like “Perplexity.” Despite being prepared for entry into the land, step by step, the people of Israel are, and will remain, in perplexity until they have come to God through Christ…

43 They departed from Punon and camped at Oboth.

The thirty-seventy movement is from Punon, or Perplexity, to Oboth, or Wineskins. This place was seen in Numbers 21:10. The oboth, or wineskins pictured the people of Israel. This is based on what Jesus said in the synoptic gospels –

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 39 And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’” Luke 5:37-39

Jesus was speaking of the law and grace. If one tries to put the grace the Lord provides into the law, the skins couldn’t handle it. They were incompatible and both are ruined in the attempt. The people are the wineskins, ready to be filled with the New Covenant grace found in Christ. From there…

44 They departed from Oboth and camped at Ije Abarim, at the border of Moab.

The thirty-eighth movement is from Oboth, or Wineskins, to Ije Abarim. This is recorded in Numbers 21:11. Iye comes from iy, meaning “a ruin.” Avarim comes from avar, meaning “to pass through.” Thus, iye ha’avarim means something like “Ruins of the Passers,” or “Ruins of the Crossing-over.”

There were some rather magnificent pictures of redemptive history which were recorded in the surrounding verses of Numbers 21. In short, Iye of the Abarim, or Ruins of the Passers, speaks of that which is past. In order to get to glory, one must pass through the ruins of his past life. Nobody starts in glory, and this is what is being seen here. The wineskin of grace means passing through that which is ruined. From there…

45 They departed from Ijim and camped at Dibon Gad.

The thirty-ninth movement is from Iyim, or “Heaps,” to Dibon Gad. Iyim is a shortened form of Iye Abarim. Dibon means “Pining.” Gad means “Troop” or “Fortune.” Thus, it may mean Pining of the Troop.

Coming to this place appears to be foreshadowing what it says in Zechariah 12. The pining, or mourning, of Israel will be great when they realize what they had missed –

“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. 11 In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.” Zechariah 12:10, 11


46 They moved from Dibon Gad and camped at Almon Diblathaim.

The fortieth movement is from Dibon Gad, or Pining of the Troop, to – as the Hebrew reads – Almon Diblathaimah. Almon comes from alam, meaning to conceal. Diblathaimah is a plural word coming from debelah, or fig cakes. Thus, it is something like “Hidden Cakes of Figs.”

The debelah, or fig cakes, are mentioned six times in the Old Testament. They are given to signify nourishment and healing. In the case of healing King Hezekiah, it was actually for the restoration of life itself. What is hidden in Christ is to be revealed to the people of Israel for their nourishment and their healing unto life. Next…

47 They moved from Almon Diblathaim and camped in the mountains of Abarim, before Nebo.

The forty-first movement is from Almon Diblathaim, or Hidden Fig Cakes, to the mountains of Abarim, before Nebo. ha’avarim, or the Abarim, means the Regions Beyond, or the Crossings. But, remembering from a previous sermon, Abarim is spelled the same as both ivrim, or Hebrews, and oberim, or transgressions. Both of those bear the sense of crossing over. Nebo means Interpreter or Foreteller.

The mountains of Abarim do not speak of being in the promise, but they are the regions outside of the promise. This is where Moses will die. Those Hebrews who come to Christ must cross over. And only in this will their crossings over of the law, or transgressions, be forgiven.

The law was given to be interpreted as something which foretells the coming Christ. It is not a means to an end. This stop anticipates crossing over from the law to the grace of Christ and into the land of promise.

48 They departed from the mountains of Abarim and camped in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho.

The forty-second movement is from the mountains of the Abarim, or the Regions Beyond to the plains of Moab, by the Jordan, across from Jericho. Moav means, “From Father.” Jordan means Descender. It is a picture of Christ who descended from the heavens, even to the lowest parts. Jericho means “Place of Fragrance,” or “Place of the Moon.”

Each of these anticipates Christ. It is He who is From Father. He is the Descender, and He leads His people into the Place of Fragrance, the heavenly kingdom. This last movement of Israel, which was recorded in Numbers 22:1, brings the Israelites to their last stop before entering into Canaan. This location is now further explained with the words…

*49 (fin) They camped by the Jordan, from Beth Jesimoth as far as the Abel Acacia Grove in the plains of Moab.

The NKJV incorrectly says here Beth Jesimoth. It is Beth Jeshimoth. Beth means “House.” ha’yeshimoth means, “The Desolations.” Thus, it is “House of the Desolations.” Abel means “Meadow,” and ha’shittim means “the Acacias.” Thus, it is “Meadow of the Acacias.”

However, shittim comes from a word, shotet, signifying a “scourge.” That root is used only once in the Bible. In Joshua 23:13, it says –

“…know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the Lord your God has given you.” Joshua 23:13

Thus, the scourges are that which draw the people away from faith in the Lord and to that which is false. Everything outside of the land of promise is a House of Desolations, and it is a place which will draw people away from the Lord.

It is at this spot that the Lord will give the people advice concerning their inheritance, in the verses and chapters to come, and it is also here that the Lord will speak out the words of Deuteronomy. After that, Moses will be taken up to the top of Nebo, see the land of promise, and there die.

The travels of Israel have been carefully documented to show us what Israel would do in her exile, and how the Lord would work slowly and methodically throughout the span of years to both punish them, and to also lead them back to Himself.

I will be as honest as I can, and tell you that the pictorial meaning for many of these stops are a best guess on my part, but as we saw with many that are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt, they are all given for the specific purpose of showing us snapshots of Israel’s history, including its future. This is absolutely assured.

The patterns we had seen in chapters 14-21 have been relived and expanded on, and yet the names and places carefully follow that same pattern of God’s tender care for Israel due to His covenant faithfulness, despite Israel’s deserved punishment for their covenant unfaithfulness.

In the end, and as I have shown you many times in the past, we can look to God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel under the Law of Moses, and compare it to us under the New Covenant in Christ’s blood. Though He punished them for their misdeeds, He never rejected them as His people.

How good that is to know when we fail to honor Him as we should. He has promised in the book of Hebrews that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and He has promised that any punishment we receive is because He loves us as His sons. What a glorious God we serve. What a faithful, wonderful Father we have.

When we come to this list of stops from Sinai to Canaan, we know this and cherish the thought as we read through the otherwise difficult and even obscure names of places that Israel really traveled through on their way back to the loving arms of their Lord and Father.

Closing Verse: “’And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.’

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” Hebrews 12:5-7

Next Week: Numbers 33:50-56 For this, Israel will forever the Lord bless… (I Have Given You the Land to Possess) (66th 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 Sinai to the Plains of Moab

They moved from the Wilderness of Sinai
And camped at Kibroth Hattaavah, by and by 

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
———-at Mithkah they temporarily did squat

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
———-a place worthy of note

They went from Hor Hagidgad and camped at Jotbathah
They moved from Jotbathah and camped at Abronah
———-maybe at Abronah the flowers were fresh
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, so says the word
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 as the record does tell

Aaron was one hundred and twenty-three years old
When he died on Mount Hor. He lived a good long spell
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
———-according to the order
They departed from Punon and camped at Oboth
They departed from Oboth and camped at Ije Abarim
———-at Moab’s border 

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 before Nebo in the mountains of Abarim

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, as we now know

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…

Numbers 33:1-15 (The Journeys of Israel, Part I – From Egypt to Sinai)

Numbers 33:1-15
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.

Now Moses wrote down the starting points of their journeys at the command of the Lord.

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

They departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month;

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.”

For the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had killed among them.

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)

Then the children of Israel moved from Rameses and camped at Succoth.

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…

They departed from Succoth and camped at Etham,

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, 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. 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.’

Thus says the Lord:

‘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.

They moved from Etham and turned back to Pi Hahiroth,

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…

They departed from before Hahiroth and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness,

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…

They moved from Marah and came to Elim. At Elim were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped 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-in-law of Judah who bore his children, twins. 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. … 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.

10 They moved from Elim and camped by the Red Sea.

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.

11 They moved from the Red Sea and camped in the Wilderness of Sin.

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.

12 They journeyed from the Wilderness of Sin and camped at Dophkah.

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.

13 They departed from Dophkah and camped at Alush.

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…

14 They moved from Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink.

This is the eleventh movement. Rephidim is a plural noun which comes from the verb raphad which meansto 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…

*15 (fin) They departed from Rephidim and camped in the Wilderness of Sinai.

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.

Closing Verse: “Behold, the former things have come to pass,
And new things I declare;
Before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Isaiah 42:9

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…

Numbers 32:20-42 (A Possession East of Canaan)

Numbers 32:20-42
A Possession East of Canaan

Of the first five verses of Chapter 32, Matthew Henry draws a parallel to the things of the world and the life which is found in Christ. He says –

“Here is a proposal made by the Reubenites and Gadites, that the land lately conquered might be allotted to them. Two things common in the world might lead these tribes to make this choice; the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. There was much amiss in the principle they went upon; they consulted their own private convenience more than the public good. Thus to the present time, many seek their own things more than the things of Jesus Christ; and are led by worldly interests and advantages to take up short of the heavenly Canaan.” Matthew Henry

This comparison is not unfounded, but to be fully understood, there has to be a parallel to the men who are noted in today’s verses who do, in fact, go over Jordan to help the rest of the tribes secure their inheritance in Canaan.

It’s not good to arbitrarily make comparisons in the Bible unless other parts of the narrative fit as well. And so, if these tribes who are making a claim east of the Jordan compare to people who reject what God offers in Christ, then who do the men armed for war who must go in to help subdue Canaan represent?

Text Verse:  “So the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession, which they had obtained according to the word of the Lord by the hand of Moses.” Joshua 22:9

Once the land of Canaan was subdued, the men of war who fought the battles along with the inheritors of Canaan went back to their possession outside of the land of promise. They were happy to walk away from what God had promised and get about the earthly life they had hoped for.

The only reasonable parallel that I can think of for such people are those who filled the synagogues of the past until Christ’s coming, and those who fill the church today. They are of the same caliber because they fail to simply have faith in God and receive His inheritance.

Jesus said in Matthew 23:15, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

These were people supposedly set to fight the Lord’s battles, and yet they had only this world as their inheritance. Paul was one of them until he was called out of that and into the light of Christ. But those types of people didn’t go away.

There are innumerable pastors, priests, and preachers who have led many to Christ, bringing them to their allotted inheritance, and yet they have already secured their inheritance in this earthly life. They do not believe, and indeed, they desire what this world offers far more than what God promises. What a sad, hollow existence.

John Wesley went as a missionary to Georgia in 1735. He was an ordained priest in the Anglican Church, and yet he knew nothing of the salvation found in Christ. In his journal he wrote, “I went to America, to convert the Indians; but oh! who shall convert me?”

Until he finally came to know Christ, his lot was in this world. He fought battles for the people to come to Christ, and yet he remained an earthly man, outside of the promise himself. Eventually, that changed. He crossed the Jordan and received his place in God’s promised inheritance, but countless others failed to do so.

Think on such people as we go through our verses today. Think on your own state as well. Have you truly entered into the promise that God offers in Christ? Or are your efforts simply helping others to get there while you remain apart from Him altogether? Only you and the Lord know. May your efforts be for others because you already have your inheritance, not despite lacking one yourself.

Such things need to be evaluated, and the place to do that is 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. If… (verses 20-30)

20 Then Moses said to them: “If you do this thing,

The excited anger of Moses from the previous verses begins to abate by the words of the children of Gad and the children of Reuben. This is apparent because he changes his tone from direct assault to a more subdued proclamation – “If you do this thing.”

Here, he is speaking directly to the leaders. He expects that what he will next say will apply to them personally. They will not be exempt from the overall directive given to the tribe as a whole. This is apparent from the words of verse 21.

Here, it is seen that he is willing to consider the request and grant these tribes what they desire, but his approval is conditional, and so he continues with…

20 (con’t) if you arm yourselves

He uses the same word they used in verse 17, khalats, translated here as “armed.” It is the same word used in 31:3 and 31:5 when speaking of arming men for the battle against Midian. The word comes from a primitive root signifying “to pull off.” And so, it gives the sense of being pulled off or separated. One could paraphrase Moses’ words as, “If you separate yourselves.” And this separation is to be…

20 (con’t) before the Lord for the war,

Again, this is the same preposition they used in verse 17 where it said, “before the children of Israel.” One can see that their term, “the children of Israel” is being equated by Moses to the Lord’s instrument for milkhama, or war.

The obvious meaning is to leave their homes and families and join the forces for battle, thus “arming” themselves. One concept directly leads to the next.

This term, “before the Lord,” is seen by some as meaning according to the order of the tribes as they marched in the wilderness. Numbers 2 showed that Reuben and Gad were under one banner, and that as they marched, it was in front of the most holy objects. Thus, they were literally “before the Lord.”

However, this is probably not what is being referred to. There is no reason to assume that the entire sanctuary was carried into battle. The term “before the Lord,” has two references. The first is that of verse 22 of this chapter where Moses spoke of the land being subdued “before the Lord.” It is a general expression.

The second reference is in Joshua 4, which says that the priests stood in the midst of the Jordan with the ark as the children of Israel crossed over. At that time, it says –

“And the men of Reuben, the men of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh crossed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses had spoken to them. 13 About forty thousand prepared for war crossed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho.” Joshua 4:12, 13  

This is what Moses is referring to. The leaders of these tribes would cross over first before the children of Israel, which means that they crossed over first before the Lord, because Israel is the Lord’s instrument of war. With it understood that he is not exempting the leaders from the directive, he next continues with…

21 and all your armed men cross over the Jordan before the Lord 

Though most translations have the word “all” qualify the word “men,” it only qualifies those men who do go. The Hebrew reads, “And cross over your men, every-armed.”

The Hebrew is even hyphenated to ensure that this mistake is not made, and yet most translations fail in this. This is important because it takes us back to what we saw last week, and what we just saw in the quote from Joshua.

Actually, only a portion of the men crossed over, about forty thousand out of almost one hundred and eleven thousand. Thus, one can see the importance of proper translation. A small change from “all men” to “all armed” makes a large difference in intent.

As you can see, the words of this verse were literally fulfilled in Joshua 4. However, it can still be debated whether the men of these tribes actually went first across the Jordan, or whether the term liphne Yehovah, or “before the Lord,” is being used, even there, in a general sense.

It is best to not get overly dogmatic because even though Israel let slip the dogs of war on Canaan, it is only a poetic term, and real dogs were not employed in their battles. No matter what, we have a sure record of the fulfillment of Moses’ words in Joshua. These tribes would go into battle, and that would last…

21 (con’t) until He has driven out His enemies from before Him,

Here, Moses uses the common word yarash, or dispossess. The idea is that Israel’s inheritance, meaning Canaan, involves the disinheritance of the Canaanites. Further, he makes this statement in the third person, singular – “until He (meaning the Lord) has dispossessed His (meaning the Lord’s) enemies from before Him (meaning the Lord).

The land is the Lord’s, and He has given it to Israel. The significance of this is not to be missed. Their inheritance, and their continuance in their inheritance, is completely conditional. The Lord is giving the land to Israel. They may dwell in it when they are obedient, and they may not when they are disobedient.

That this is certain is because here the inhabitants of the land are called oyevav, or “His enemies.” But Jeremiah, using the same word, oyev, says this in Lamentations –

“Standing like an enemy, He has bent His bow;
With His right hand, like an
He has slain all 
who were pleasing to His eye;
On the tent of the daughter of Zion,
He has poured out His fury like fire.
The Lord was like an enemy.
He has swallowed up Israel,
He has swallowed up all her palaces;
He has destroyed her strongholds,
And has increased mourning and lamentation
In the daughter of Judah.” Lamentations 2:4, 5

The Lord dispossessed His enemies, meaning Israel, sending them into captivity, some by the Assyrians, some by the Babylonians, and some by the Romans. But unlike the Canaanites, the Lord made a covenant with Israel.

Were it not for His faithfulness to that covenant, there would not be a single Hebrew left. Moses’ words concerning the Lord’s conquest, rather than Israel’s, is actually a stern warning to Israel. This continues to be seen next…

22 and the land is subdued before the Lord,

This is the first time since Genesis 1 that the word kabash, or subdue, has been seen. It is a possible choice for the root of kibosh, as in “putting the kibosh on something.” It signifies to bring into bondage or subdue. The Lord told man to subdue the earth and fill it. Now, Moses speaks of the land of Canaan being subdued before the Lord.

Here, it is apparent that Israel is the Lord’s instrument of warfare. It is to these tribes of Israel that the word from Moses is given. And yet, what they will do is ascribed to the presence of the Lord. When the land is subdued before the Lord…

22 (con’t) then afterward you may return and be blameless before the Lord and before Israel;

Moses has said that the land is to be subdued before the men of war from these tribes can return. Once that is accomplished, then they will be neqiyim m’Yehovah u-mi’Yisrael, or “innocent from Yehovah and innocent from Israel.” It is only upon completion of the conquest of Canaan that their innocence will be established. Technically only once that occurs will the next words be true…

22 (con’t) and this land shall be your possession before the Lord.

It would be unfair for Gad and Reuben to have the final granting of their possession proclaimed before the land of the other tribes was subdued. They are given it now, they are allowed to build on it now, but it only becomes a true possession at the end of the matter.

23 But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.

The idea here is of the personification of sin. Their promise is that they would go before the children of Israel until every one of them had received his inheritance. To not keep this promise would be sin, and it would overtake them and come upon them in the form of guilt. And with the guilt of sin will come punishment. With this understanding, Moses concedes to their request…

24 Build cities for your little ones and folds for your sheep, and do what has proceeded out of your mouth.”

Moses substantially repeats the words of Numbers 30:2 –

“If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” Numbers 30:2

Their words in verses 16 & 17 were, “We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, 17 but we ourselves will be armed, ready to go before the children of Israel until we have brought them to their place.”

Moses reprioritizes their words, placing the people above the animals, but he otherwise leaves them unchanged. And then he reminds them that the words of a vow are binding. They must be fulfilled.

25 And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben spoke to Moses, saying: “Your servants will do as my lord commands.

Here, their voices are united as one. It says, “Your servants (plural noun), will do (3rd person plural) as my (singular noun) lord commands.” One is probably speaking for the group, and so he affirms the vow for all.

26 Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our livestock will be there in the cities of Gilead;

Here both “wives” and “flocks” are mentioned for the only time in the chapter. Before, they were lumped into the general thought of “little ones” and “livestock,” but now they are separated.

The only thing I can think concerning this is that until this point some betrothals or anticipated marriages may have been at stake. Without the approval of Moses, other tribes may not have wanted to allow their daughters to marry into these tribes. But now, that will no longer be the case.

Also, the Hebrew doesn’t say Gilead, but rather, “the Gilead.” The term is being used to express the entire area where the tribes have been allowed to settle. The term then is synonymous with what was said in verse 1 – “the land of Gilead.” This land, the Gilead, has been granted as their future possession.

27 but your servants will cross over, every man armed for war, before the Lord to battle, just as my lord says.”

As in verse 21, the Hebrew specifically says, “every-armed.” It is only referring to those men who are separated for war. And again, as in verse 26, the voices are united. One person speaks for the whole. Here, he again finishes with “my lord” in the singular.

Also, in verse 17, these men said they were ready to go “before the children of Israel.” Since then, Moses has said, “before the Lord,” or “before Him,” meaning the Lord, six times. He also noted one time that they would sin against the Lord if they did not comply.

Now, these men acknowledge that they will go before the Lord. Their thinking has been corrected, their priorities have been corrected, and also their theology has been corrected.

28 So Moses gave command concerning them to Eleazar the priest, to Joshua the son of Nun, and to the chief fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel.

The decision is made by the Lord. This is certain based on verse 32. However, it is Moses who then passes the command on to the leaders who would be affected by it.

This is because he already knows he is not to enter Canaan. And so, the verse is given to show that there would be no confusion after that time. Israel was to allow these tribes the land, but these tribes were expected to fulfill their obligation first, as is next seen…

29 And Moses said to them: “If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben cross over the Jordan with you, every man armed for battle before the Lord, and the land is subdued before you, then you shall give them the land of Gilead as a possession.

Again, as has been seen twice already, Moses uses the same term, “every-armed.” The precise wording is needed to show that not all men will go, but every man that goes will be armed. Otherwise, after Moses died, a dispute could arise that Moses intended for every man to go, thus leaving the women and children to build and defend the cities. It would immediately force these tribes to give up this grant.

However, it is now a given that some will stay while others will go to battle. After the faithful service of these men, drawn off from the whole, they would then have earned their right to return and possess, with their brothers, the homes and lands which had been tended to during their time of war.

30 But if they do not cross over armed with you,

Here, the verb “armed” is plural, khalutsim. The plural is speaking of the very separation that we have been noting. As the word signifies “to draw off,” we could paraphrase these words as, “But if they do not cross over, drawings off, with you.” Those “drawings off” imply those that will be armed for war.

30 (con’t) they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan.”

The words here are passive. If they don’t actively go out to battle with the other tribes, they will be settled among the tribes in Canaan. John Lange argues that this means they would be settled among the inheritances of the other tribes, meaning that they would not be settled “as two separate and independent tribes.”

Whether that is correct or not is debatable. But if it was so, it would mean they would eventually be swallowed up and lose their identity. If that is a correct assumption, it would be a huge motivating factor for them to uphold their part of this vow.

31 Then the children of Gad and the children of Reuben answered, saying: “As the Lord has said to your servants, so we will do.

This shows that it is the Lord who gave the command, unless it is implying that Moses made the decision because he speaks for the Lord. But it seems unlikely that Moses would decide this without the Lord’s approval. Canaan was the land of promise and the goal to be obtained. For Moses to decide such a matter without the Lord seems quite out of place, but it is also not out of the question.

32 We will cross over armed before the Lord into the land of Canaan, but the possession of our inheritance shall remain with us on this side of the Jordan.”

The agreement is made, but the inheritance is conditional based on fulfillment of the promise. The land is theirs, if. And again, the word “armed,” is plural like in the previous verse. A group of the whole will be drawn off to cross over before the Lord.

Take note if you sin against the Lord
If you speak out a vow and do not follow through
The sin that you commit, for it wrath is stored
And He will repay trouble back to you

When you sin, your sin will find you out
And what you deserve will be catching up with you
Be sure of this; you need have no doubt
The Lord will require it, and He will follow through

But there is also grace with the Lord
And so, when you come to Christ, mercy is waiting there for you
The wrath will abate, every bit that was stored
When you heard the word of truth, you also followed though

Peace with God is found in Christ, so it is true
Come to God through Christ; yes, in this please follow through

II. Request Granted (verses 33-42)

33 So Moses gave to the children of Gad, to the children of Reuben, and to half the tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph,

With the approval of the agreement, Moses at this time gives the land as it was requested. However, it is a conditional grant. Along with the request of Gad and Reuben, something new is introduced.

For the first time, the half tribe of Manasseh is suddenly brought into the narrative. Their inclusion, though, is based on what has already occurred, but which is not recorded until verse 39 where it notes that some from Manasseh were instrumental in subduing Gilead.

Going back to the second census in Chapter 26, we noted that Manasseh bore Machir to a concubine from Aram. From there, Machir named his son Gilead. It is this same area which is now under discussion, and which they had valiantly subdued, probably because of their heritage.

When the request was granted by Moses, this half tribe of Manasseh either came forward hoping to obtain what they had won in battle, or Moses simply gave it to them before they even asked about it. Either way, the ironic element is that the same place from which Machir’s son was named based on his mother being from this location – Gilead – has become their possession.

33 (con’t) the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, the land with its cities within the borders, the cities of the surrounding country.

The land of these two kings was subdued by Israel as is recorded in Numbers 21. That area, which Gad and Reuben so desired, and which Manasseh so valiantly strived to subdue, is now their grant. The inheritance of areas within this larger area are now described in order. First Gad, then Reuben, then the half tribe of Manasseh…

34 And the children of Gad built Dibon and Ataroth and Aroer,

Dibon probably means “Pining.” Ataroth means “Crowns.” Aroer means “Stripped,” “Bare,” or “Naked.”

35 Atroth and Shophan and Jazer and Jogbehah,

There is no “and” between Atroth and Shophan. It is more likely one location called Atroth-Shophan. It means something like “Surrounded by the Rock Badger,” or maybe “Crowns of the Rock Badger,” or something entirely different. Jazer means “Helpful,” or “He Shall Help.” Jogbehah means “Lofty,” or “Exalted.”

36 Beth Nimrah and Beth Haran, fortified cities, and folds for sheep.

Beth Nimrah means “House of the Leopard,” or “House of Clean Water.” Beth Haran means “House of the Lofty,” or maybe “Mountain House.” These cities are all said to be fortified cites. Along with them gidrot, or folds for the sheep, were constructed.

Much of the building, or rebuilding, of these cities probably occurred while the men of war were fighting the campaign. The other two-thirds of the men remained behind and built.

37 And the children of Reuben built Heshbon and Elealeh and Kirjathaim,

Heshbon means something like “Intelligence.” Elealeh means “God has ascended.” Kirjathaim means “Twin Cities,” or “Double Cities.”

38 Nebo and Baal Meon (their names being changed) and Shibmah;

Nebo means Interpreter or Foreteller (?). Baal Meon means Master of the House (?). The name Shibmah should read Sibmah, and it may mean “Spice.”

38 (con’t) and they gave other names to the cities which they built.

The Hebrew more closely reads, “and they called in names, names of the cities.” It means they renamed the cities. A reason for this is because the conqueror or builder of a city has the right to name it what he wishes. And secondly, some of the city names are of pagan gods. And so, to adhere to the law of not invoking the names of other gods (Ex 23:13), the names of the cities would be changed.

39 And the children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead and took it, and dispossessed the Amorites who were in it.

This verse speaks of what occurred in the battles against Sihon and Og in Numbers 21, and which was explained earlier. It is the reason that the half tribe of Manasseh has been granted this land…

40 So Moses gave Gilead to Machir the son of Manasseh, and he dwelt in it.

The meaning of this is that the land was given to the family of Machir, not specifically to Machir. Machir was Manasseh’s son, and was long since gone. But being the head of the family, he is remembered in this way. The Gilead is granted by Moses to this family, and so this is where they settled.

41 Also Jair the son of Manasseh

Here, Jair is introduced as a “son of Manasseh.” This means that he is a descendant of Manasseh. 1 Chronicles 2:21, 22 shows that he is a descendant of Manasseh, Machir, Machir’s daughter, her son Segub, and then came Jair. Thus, Manasseh is his great, great, grandfather. Yair, means “He enlightens.”

The surprising part of his genealogy is that he is reckoned as a son of Manasseh, rather than a son of Judah, despite Machir’s daughter having married Hezron, a grandson of Judah. This could be because Hezron was old when he married her and already had other children. He may not have wanted this son to interfere with the inheritance rights of his other children, so their son was reckoned through Manasseh.

41 (con’t) went and took its small towns, and called them Havoth Jair.

This person, Jair, is said to have taken these small towns, and renamed them after himself. The word Khavoth is the plural of the name Khavah, or “Life.” It is the same name as Khavah, or Eve, Adam’s wife. It is often translated as “the towns of Jair,” probably because a town or city is where the bustle of life occurs.

In 1 Chronicles 2, Jair is said to have twenty-three cites. However, in Deuteronomy 3, Moses says there are sixty. People look to this as a contradiction, but that is because they don’t see that the term Khavoth Jair is being used in both a wider and a narrower sense. That is next seen with our final verse of the day…

*42 (fin) Then Nobah went and took Kenath and its villages, and he called it Nobah, after his own name.

Novakh means “To Bark.” He is said to have gone and taken Kenath and its surrounding villages. Kenath means “Acquisition.” In 1 Chronicles 2, it says –

“(Geshur and Syria took from them the towns of Jair, with Kenath and its towns—sixty towns.) All these belonged to the sons of Machir the father of Gilead.” 1 Chronicles 2:23

What this means is that when Moses speaks of the sixty towns of Jair in Deuteronomy 3, he is referring to everything taken by both Jair and Nobah. Here in Numbers, it is used in its stricter sense, meaning only the cities captured by Jair. But the wider sense used in Deuteronomy is inclusive of what Nobah has taken here in Kenath and its daughter villages.

A simple example would be that Tom Thumb has 15 McDonald’s franchises in Sarasota. Those are Tom’s McDonald’s. However, there are 25 McDonald’s in Sarasota. One might say, I’m going to Tom’s McDonald’s for lunch, while actually going to one that isn’t Tom’s. The term is simply used for the whole. This is the case here. And to throw in a monkey wrench, in Judges 10, it says –

“After him arose Jair, a Gileadite; and he judged Israel twenty-two years. Now he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys; they also had thirty towns, which are called “Havoth Jair” to this day, which are in the land of Gilead. And Jair died and was buried in Camon.” Judges 10:3-5

There is no contradiction in this. The sons of Jair were given thirty of the sixty towns in this area to rule, and they were called by the name of their father within the wider sense of the term mentioned above. And so, once again, the Bible passage ends with no contradictions. It just takes research to find this out.

What we have recorded here is the first granting of land to any people found in Israel. It seems as if it is a notable thing, and that their decision to stay to the east of Canaan was a good one. They were set in their towns and villages, and did not have to wait any time at all to get started with the work of settling the land.

But what starts well outside of the land of promise is also destined to end badly in the same way. In 1 Chronicles 5, this is recorded –

And they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers, and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. 26 So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, that is, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria. He carried the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh into captivity. He took them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river of Gozan to this day.” 1 Chronicles 5:25-26

The first to settle in their granted land were also the first to be dispossessed from it. The majority of the people of these tribes disappeared into obscurity. Any that were left were assimilated into the last remaining named tribe of Israel, that of Judah.

The people had rejected the promised land of the Lord at the beginning, and they had rejected the Lord, the God of their fathers, after that. The land they thought was fair and nice was only a temporary possession, and without keeping their faith and trust in the Lord, it was taken from them.

The scene is played out in the countless human souls that have heard the message of Christ and determined that life outside of His promise is better than life in it. We might look to the abundance of the fields, the possibilities for wealth and possessions, but we don’t stop to consider how temporary and fleeting it all is.

In the passing of a breath, our lives are done, and there is nothing left but death and separation from God, who we have already separated ourselves from. Is this to be your sad lot, or are you looking to the better, eternal inheritance that comes by faith in God and in His provision found in Christ?

The same God who created the land east of the Jordan also created the land west of it. And the same God who offered rest to Israel offers rest to us today. We just have to be wise enough to accept what He has already set apart for us.

In the short term, the hills and pasture lands of the world are certainly enticing, but they require work. However, what God offers requires faith. One seems harder at the outset, and yet it is so much easier in the end. The other seems so rewarding at first, but it leads to a life which can never satisfy. We can work the fields for a thousand years, and yet the fields still need work. But faith in Christ leads us to the restful fields which lay by still waters.

Choose what you will do with Christ, but choose wisely. The work He worked is one-time and for all time. The land of promise is just ahead if you will reach out by faith and receive it.

Closing Verse: “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” Hebrews 9:15

Next Week: Numbers 33:1-15 Israel trekked and trekked, but eventually the trekking was done… (The Journeys of Israel, Part I – From Egypt to Sinai) (64th 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.

A Possession East of Canaan

Then Moses said to them:
“If you do this thing; if you arm yourselves
———-before the Lord for the war
And all your armed men cross over the Jordan
Before the Lord until He has driven out His enemies
———-from Him before

And the land is subdued before the Lord, as to you I now tell
Then afterward you may return and be blameless
———-it shall be as a reward
Before the Lord and before Israel
And this land shall be your possession before the Lord

But if you do not do so, then take note
You have sinned against the Lord
And be sure your sin will find you out
Pay close heed now to my word

Build cities for your little ones and folds for your sheep too
And do what has proceeded out of your mouth, so you shall do

And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben
Spoke to Moses, saying:
“Your servants will do as my lord commands
Just as you have been conveying

Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our livestock
Will be there in the cities of Gilead, according to your word
But your servants will cross over, every man armed for war
Before the Lord to battle, just as says my lord

So Moses gave command concerning them
To Eleazar the priest, to Joshua the son of Nun as well
And to the chief fathers of the tribes
Of the children of Israel

And Moses said to them:
“If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben
———-cross over the Jordan with you in your procession
Every man armed for battle before the Lord
———-and the land is subdued before you
Then you shall give them the land of Gilead as a possession

But if they do not cross over armed with you
They shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan too

Then the children of Gad and the children of Reuben
———-answered, saying
“As the Lord has said to your servants, so we will do
We will cross over armed before the Lord into the land of Canaan
But the possession of our inheritance shall remain with us
———-on this side of the Jordan, our word shall be true

So Moses gave to the children of Gad, to the children of Reuben
———-and to half the tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph
The kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites
———-and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan
The land with its cities within the borders
The cities of the surrounding country
———-which they had set their hopes on

And the children of Gad built Dibon and Ataroth and Aroer
Atroth and Shophan and Jazer and Jogbehah too
Beth Nimrah and Beth Haran
Fortified cities, and folds for sheep, so they did do

And the children of Reuben built Heshbon and Elealeh
And Kirjathaim, Nebo and Baal Meon also
(Their names being changed) and Shibmah
And they gave other names to the cities which they built
———-as we now know

And the children of Machir the son of Manasseh
Went to Gilead and took it, he kept going and didn’t quit
And dispossessed the Amorites who were in it
So Moses gave Gilead to Machir the son of Manasseh
———-and he dwelt in it 

Also Jair the son of Manasseh went and took its small towns
And called them Havoth Jair, that name he did claim
Then Nobah went and took Kenath and its villages
And he called it Nobah, after his own name

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…

Numbers 32:1-19 (Do Not Take Us Over the Jordan)

Numbers 32:1-19
Do Not Take Us Over the Jordan

In the verses today, it is readily apparent that Moses becomes almost enraged at the words brought to his ears. He was eighty years old when he last stood this close to entering Canaan. Now he is one hundred and twenty, and except for Joshua and Caleb, he has seen the death of every adult around him since that time.

And even though he will not enter into Canaan, he wants the assurance in his heart that his beloved people will. His appeals to God over these many years have constantly been on their behalf. He has led them like a shepherd and petitioned the Lord for them on his face many times.

But now a possible obstacle has arisen once again that puts their entrance into the promise in jeopardy. It is apparent that he is ready to go to battle to ensure this will not be the case. What will be the outcome? And what is it that has him so upset that he would immediately scold those who have come before him?

Text Verse: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” Romans 3:27-31

Moses is Israel’s lawgiver, and yet he saw the very thing which kept Israel from entrance into the land of promise forty years earlier. It wasn’t an infraction of the law at all. It was a lack of faith in the promises of the Lord.

Moses came to understand that the law had a particular purpose, but it was not that which got the people into Canaan. Rather, their faith in the Lord is what got them in or kept them out. Moses discovered this, and he added it onto what has already been said about his predecessors.

This is a certain truth which is revealed 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. A Brood of Sinful Men (verses 1-15)

Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of livestock; and when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that indeed the region was a place for livestock,

The Hebrew of this first verse of the chapter sets the tone for what is coming. The way it is laid out, there is an emphasis on the word “livestock” which begins and ends the verse. It says, “And livestock many (rav) had sons Reuben and sons Gad mighty very (atsum meod). And when they saw land Jazer and land Gilead – and behold – the place a place for livestock.”

Because of the great amount of livestock, which is especially highlighted by the use of the two descriptions – many and mighty very – and because of the nature of the land being especially suited for livestock, the stage is set for what lies ahead.

It is to be noted that according to Numbers 2, both Reuben and Gad were situated on the south of the camp, along with Simeon. Thus, for almost 40 years these people had grown up together, lived together, and probably shared a very close bond through marriage and the like.

Simeon is probably not included in this joining because they had the largest reduction of men in the second census. They were at this time a small clan and thus their destiny is tied in with the majority of Israel, not a group who desires to branch out from the whole.

Jazer means Helpful, or He Shall Help. In Numbers 21:32, it was seen to be a city of the Amorites which was taken by Israel. Gilead means Perpetual Fountain. When Gilead is referred to, it is more of a great area which extends to both the north and south of the Jabbok River. Here it is identified with the area south of the river.

The area was said to have been taken from Sihon, king of the Amorites in Numbers 21. From there, it said that Israel took possession of the land and dwelt in the cities. It is possibly during those wars that the greatness of the livestock was obtained by Reuben and Gad.

As far as the terrain, scholars noted that even during the time of the desolation of the land for the past 2000 years, it was always an area that remained rich and fertile. During that time, it was known as the Belka, and Arabs had a saying, “You cannot find a country like the Belka.” It was such an enticing place to Reuben and Gad that…

the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying,

Reuben is both the firstborn and the larger of the two tribes. He is also the main tribe of the southern divisions, and yet Gad is placed first in this verse. It indicates that it was probably they who were the chief instigators of what follows. This appears to be borne out in verses we will see next week.

Gad means both “Troop,” meaning a large group, and “Fortune.” It could be that using Gad as the main tribe being referred to is to show that these people are seeking their fortune, represented by Gad, instead of seeking the Lord’s will. Reuben means, “See A Son.” Together, they come forward to the leadership of all of the congregation with words to consider…

“Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Shebam, Nebo, and Beon,

They are the names of nine cities. In the Bible, nine is the number of finality or judgment. The names don’t appear to form any pattern, and this is especially so because the meaning of several of them are almost impossible to determine. They are listed again later in this chapter, with some being named slightly differently.

For a best guess – Ataroth – Crowns; Dibon – Pining; Jazer – Helpful; Nimrah – Place of Leopard or Clear Water; Heshbon – Intelligence; Elealeh – God ascends; Shebam should read Sebam – Spice (?); Nebo – Interpreter or Foreteller (?); Beon – May be a contraction of Baal Meon – Master of the House (?).

the country which the Lord defeated before the congregation of Israel,

ha’arets asher hikah Yehovah – “The land which struck Yehovah.” After naming the towns, they note that it is the Lord who struck the country. This is true, and it is probably intended to show that they expect all such conquests to end in the same manner, but what is also true is that it is Israel who is the Lord’s arm for striking the nations in warfare.

The Lord didn’t just strike them with a plague or send hailstones down on the Amorites. Rather, the battles which defeated Sihon and Og were waged by Israel. This is again attested to in Deuteronomy 2:33 where it says, “And the Lord our God delivered him over to us; so we defeated him, his sons, and all his people.”

(con’t) is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.”

It is apparent already that their proposal is based on the fact that they desire this land as their own. The Lord defeated it, and now it is at the disposal of the leaders of Israel to do with it as they best determined. How far their desire goes is what is next stated…

Therefore they said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession.

The words are in the singular, and thus the address is to Moses alone. They have noted that the Lord gave the land to Israel, and Moses is the one to speak on behalf of the Lord. And so they say, “If we have found grace in your eyes.”

It is a common expression first introduced when Abraham spoke to the Lord in Genesis 18. Its meaning is obvious. “We have a request, and we look to you for approval if it is your will to favor us in the matter.” In this case, it is for their own possession east of the Jordan instead of in the land of Canaan.

(con’t) Do not take us over the Jordan.”

ha’yarden, or the Jordan, meaning the Descender, is the dividing line between the hope of the promise and the realization of it. It gets its name from the great descent it makes. It goes from the top of Mount Hermon all the way down to the lowest elevation on earth, the Dead Sea.

In typology, the Jordan pictures Christ who descended from the heights of heaven to come to earth, and who even descended to death itself. Passing over the Jordan means to pass over to what God has promised.

To Israel, it is an earthly inheritance. To those whom Israel look to in type, it is restoration and fellowship with God. Moses probably had no idea about the typology, but he certainly had an idea about rejecting the promise, and doing so at the expense of others…

And Moses said to the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben:

As occurred in verse 2, and as will continue throughout the chapter, Gad is again placed first. The text appears to be showing that it is Gad who is the main tribe behind the plan, and thus the main tribe to be addressed first in the incident. For them, there is the seeking of a fortune east of the Jordan to which Moses now responds…

(con’t) “Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here?

There is a rather sharp dividing line between what scholars see as the intent behind this request by Gad and Reuben. Some see it in the negative. They are cowardly and self-seeking, or at best uncaring about the plight of the other tribes who must go in and subdue Canaan.

Others see it as a trust in the fact that the Lord won all of the battles so far for them, and thus the conquest of Canaan is a foregone conclusion, of which they need not even be present in order for it to come about.

We can only speculate on which is correct, and we can’t even know if what transpires later in the passage was already considered by them and is something they would have voluntarily acted upon. It is certain, however, that they are content with what they possess.

We have seen how profitable it is to have men of war win in battle. The amount of plunder that came to the soldiers as it was divided would have been an enormous enticement to join all of Israel in each battle. If they did not intend to assist in the battles, it means that they felt what they had was sufficient for them.

But two things are for sure to Moses. The first is that Israel is a collective whole, and secondly, Moses takes their words in the most negative light possible. Rightly or wrongly, he sees this as an act of cowardice and/or uncaring greed.

Because what they have said so far is at best vague as to any other intentions, he takes their request as basically asking for land that has been subdued by the entire congregation of fighting men while they can sit and enjoy the spoils of others’ efforts.

At the same time, the rest of Israel still has to fight its way through its inheritance. And there is good reason for his attitude. And so he begins with…

Now why will you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord has given them?

Here Moses uses a word, nu, seen only four times in Numbers 30. That was concerning a father or a husband forbidding a vow which was made by a woman under his authority. It would appear that it should be taken in a similar way.

It is as if these two tribes have the authority to forbid the hearts of the children of Israel from going over the Jordan. It isn’t just that they would merely discourage the hearts of the people, but that they would be the force behind them being incapable of going over.

Moses even says that it is “the land which the Lord has given them.” It is their possession, but he acts as if these two tribes are actively forbidding Israel to enter. To support this, he says…

Thus your fathers did when I sent them away from Kadesh Barnea to see the land.

This goes back to the last time that Israel was at the door of Canaan. They had arrived at the Wilderness of Paran, and Moses had sent men to spy out the land. Here, he calls them “your fathers.”

He is directly tying Gad and Reuben into the family that transgressed against the Lord, showing that they are of the same seed that brought about great woe to the people. Upon their return, they brought back a bad report, thus causing the people to turn their hearts away from advancing into Canaan.

Here, the spot is called Kadesh Barnea for the first time. Before, it was called simply Kadesh, or Holy, and the reason for that was that while in that spot Moses had failed to hallow the Lord before the people’s eyes. Now it is called Kadesh Barnea which means either “Sacred Desert of Wandering,” or maybe in the active sense, “Holy Purifying Wanderings.”

The reason for using the term Kadesh Barnea now for the first time seems to be an indictment on the attitude of the people which caused them to become fugitives, wandering in the desert for thirty-eight years. Moses is reminding them that this was the result of Israel’s previous disobedience while standing right at the door of entrance into Canaan.

His words are intended to wake them up to the severity of the situation and to remind them of the consequences of the actions of the people. With this in mind, he continues with…

For when they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land,

Moses could have chosen any point among the journeys of the twelve spies, but his words single out the Valley of Eshcol. And so it needs to be re-explained what nakhal eshkol, or the Valley of Eshcol, means.

The word nakhal signifies a wadi where water would flow through during the seasons of rain. That word comes from nakhal meaning, “to take possession,” or “inherit.” Eshcol means “cluster.” But that comes from the word eshek, meaning testicle.

As we learned, this pictured Christ’s work. Once having been accepted, He took possession of that which proceeds from the spot where man is generated from. In other words, it is a picture of the overriding of original sin in man.

Sin transfers from father to child. The semen, which is generated in man, is what transfers that sin. Christ has, through His work, taken possession of that in all who move from Adam to Him. It is the realization of the kingdom for His people through this act.

This, however, was rejected by Israel, just as the spies who went into the Valley of Eshcol had rejected the promises of the Lord. The Lord, through Moses’ words to these men, is giving us a recounting of what brought them to the disaster that followed – both for that generation, and for the generation who would come and reject the work of Christ. For the wilderness generation…

(con’t) they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel,

Moses again uses the word nu, to forbid, which he used in verse 7. This is its last use in the books of Moses, and he is essentially saying, “…they forbid the heart of the children of Israel.” The word “heart” is in the singular. The people are a collective whole with one undivided heart.

The spies had discouraged that heart, forbidding it to have faith in the promises of the Lord, and causing them to instead disbelieve. One can clearly see the parallel which caused Israel to disbelieve in the work of Christ which is found in Matthew 28 –

“‘“Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. 12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.”’” Matthew 28:11-15

The spies in the wilderness, leaders among the people, forbid the people to trust in the Lord through their negative report, and the leaders of Israel at the time of Jesus did the same. They spread a bad report which caused their own extended punishment.

Moses’ final two uses of this word nu here, after its introduction just two short chapters ago, is intended to show us this. It isn’t just that the collective heart of the people was discouraged, but that it was forbidden from faith by the actions of the leaders. This is also exactly repeated by the author of Hebrews.

In Hebrews 4, which is a book directed to the end times Jews, those who are exactly being pictured in these Numbers sermons, we read this in Hebrews 4:1-13 (Please read these verses). Because of this, Moses continues with…

(con’t) so that they did not go into the land which the Lord had given them.

The word that Moses uses here, though not uncommon, is one which is stronger than simply not doing something. It is a failure to do something. One might paraphrase this as, “so that they failed to go into the land.”

Moses is recounting what occurred before directly speaking what is on his mind concerning the request of Gad and Reuben in order to set the stage for why it is on his mind at all. The spies forbid the hearts of Israel, and therefore Israel failed to obtain the promise.

This is what Paul speaks of concerning Israel in Romans 11, where he calls Israel’s rejection of Christ – meaning the promise – a failure, which in turn meant riches for the Gentiles.

The pattern is obvious. Israel’s earthly rejection of Canaan here in Numbers is a direct picture of Israel’s rejection of Christ and thus a spiritual rejection of restoration with God. Canaan the land is representative of restored paradise and fellowship with God. This is seen in the next words…

10 So the Lord’s anger was aroused on that day,

v’yikhar aph Yehovah ba’yom – “And burned nostril Yehovah that day.” The imagery is that of Yehovah’s nostrils flaring with anger and shooting forth flames.

Imagine the anger of the Lord at the faithless people who had seen all of His great wonders cowering at the report and rejecting the Lord and His promises there in Kadesh Barnea. It was a faithless act which brought them punishment, exile, and rejection.

Now imagine the anger of the Lord at the faithless people who had seen all of the miracles and wonders of Christ the Lord, and then rejected Him and His promises. And so…

10 (con’t) and He swore an oath, saying,

The word of the Lord is an oath in and of itself. He does not need to say, “I swear,” for His word to be confirmed. But when He does, it is a sign to the people that what He says will come about.

In Numbers 14, He added an extra confirmation to what he will next say in verse 11 with the words, “‘As I live,’ says the Lord.” It was His way of saying that what He was to utter would be performed. The substance of what He then said in Numbers 14 is repeated by Moses now…

11 ‘Surely none of the men who came up from Egypt, 

Here Moses speaks to them concerning those who “came up from Egypt.” They were redeemed from Egypt. Egypt pictures bondage to sin. The Lord, in fact, redeemed Israel from their sin through His work. But there is a difference between being redeemed potentially and being redeemed actually.

Jesus redeemed Israel potentially, but they had to accept His redemption to be redeemed actually. In this, Moses calls them ha’anashim ha’olim. The word olim is a verb. Thus it reads, “the men, the ‘coming uppers’ from Egypt.” They were brought up, but they would not continue on the trek into Canaan…

11 (con’t) from twenty years old and above,

Twenty is the number of expectancy. Those who expect have not yet attained. In this case, they never would. Theirs was to be an expectancy which will end in futility.

It is a curse upon the people which was then executed, day by day and step by step through the wildness. For thirty-eight years, they suffered under the curse, leaving none of that generation left to enter into the inheritance.

11 (con’t) shall see the land

Here Moses uses the term ha’adamah, or the land, when speaking of the land the Lord promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, in Genesis 12, 13, and 15, and elsewhere when the promises were spoken to Abraham, the Lord used the term ha’aretz, the land. It is also used by Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and etc.

This is not without purpose. ha’aretz, or “the land,” speaks of the area. ha’adamah, or “the land,” speaks of the soil; the ground. However, the word comes from the same source as “Adam.” This is an obvious picture of the coming Christ. Paul calls Jesus “the last Adam” in 1 Corinthians 15:45.

Moses’ use of the word ha’adamah here is a picture of Christ, the last Adam. He was the hope of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Messiah to come was their anticipation. The Lord, through the inspiration of these words spoken by Moses, is prophetically looking forward to the generation who would reject Jesus and He is saying that “none of these shall see the Messiah.”

This doesn’t mean they wouldn’t see Jesus. They saw Him, rejected Him, and crucified Him. It is saying that they wouldn’t see what He offered them – meaning Himself. They rejected Jesus and they did not see the last Adam.

It is then reminiscent of what the Lord promised to Israel if they rejected His coming Messiah in Malachi 4. At the end of that chapter, as the Old Testament closes out, He told the people –

“Remember the Law of Moses, My servant,
Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel,
With the statutes and judgments.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:4-6

The people turned away from the Lord and He sentenced them to die in the wilderness over the next thirty-eight years. The people rejected Christ, and the Lord struck their land with a curse, exiling them for the next two thousand years. Their expectancy would end in futility.

11 (con’t) of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because they have not wholly followed Me,

This is the only time in the book of Numbers that Abraham or Isaac is mentioned. It is also the only time that Jacob is mentioned as the man, Jacob. Seven other times Jacob is mentioned, but in those instances, it is speaking of Jacob the people who are Israel. There is an important reason for naming Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob here.

The question that must be asked is, “When did the Lord swear the land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Was it before the giving of the law, or after?” It was not after, but before. Therefore, the promise is not of the law, but of grace. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob wholly followed the Lord, because they believed the Lord. They demonstrated faith.

The law is not of faith, but of works. However, those under law can still demonstrate faith. It is by faith, and by faith alone that the promise is obtained. That is why Paul said this in Galatians 3 –

“And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” Galatians 3:17, 18

Abraham was given the promise. He believed. Isaac received the promise. He believed. Jacob received the promise. He believed. Israel received the promised, and they failed to have faith in the promise.

This is why Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are mentioned here, and only here, in the book of Numbers. Moses is reminding the people of their responsibility as they stand at the very borders of Canaan. Nobody of that faithless generation was to enter the promise…

12 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun,

The Lord uses the same word as in verse 9 where it said they did not go into the land. They failed to do so. Here, he uses the same word with an attached preposition, translated as “except.” Where Israel failed, they are the exception.

Here, Caleb, or “Dog,” is named first. He is identified by his father’s name Yephunneh, or “He will be beheld.” He is also identified here as a Kenizzite, a descendant of Canaan, or a son of Kenaz, which is an Edomite name. Later in Joshua, his brother Othniel is identified as a son of Kenaz.

Thus, it is likely that he was of foreign birth and brought into the people of Israel and the tribe of Judah. The emphasis on him being a Kenizzite is to show his Gentile heritage.

Next Joshua, or “The Lord is Salvation,” is named. He is identified as the son of Nun, or “To propagate” or “Increase.” These two then, as was seen in Numbers 14, picture both Gentiles and faithful Jews who would receive the inheritance in Christ, even while collective Israel was in their time of punishment.

This is not to say that Caleb himself was a Gentile, but the identification of him as a Kenizzite is given to show this in typology. Where Jews regarded Gentiles as dogs, seen in Caleb, the Lord accepted them because of Christ. His father’s name further shows this, “He will be beheld.”

For those faithful Jews who have come to Christ, they are represented by Joshua, or “the Lord is Salvation.” Naming his father, Nun, shows that the Lord, would propagate, or increase His offspring through these faithful Jews. As always, the typology is given to show Christ and His redemptive plans for His people. This is because His people are represented by them. As He says…

12 (con’t) for they have wholly followed the Lord.’

Moses now takes the words he just cited from the Lord in the previous verse and turns them. Quoting the Lord, he said, ki lo milu aharai – “for no fully followed after Me.” But of Caleb and Joshua, he says, ki milu ahare Yehovah – “for they fully followed after Yehovah.”

The question is, “How did they fully follow after the Lord?” The answer is simple – They believed in Him, and they believed Him. They demonstrated faith in the promise of the Lord, just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did. They were men of faith, and it is by their faith that they would receive the promise. Those of the law are shown to be excluded from the promise because the law is not of faith, but of works.

13 So the Lord’s anger was aroused against Israel,

Moses repeats the same thought as in verse 10. There he said, “And burned nostril Yehovah that day.” Now he says, “And burned nostril Yehovah in Israel.” The spies discouraged the heart of the people which caused the people to not wholly follow Him. The one action led to the other, and the Lord’s anger was aroused…

13 (con’t) and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years,

The number forty in Scripture points to a period of probation, trial, and chastisement. Israel failed to believe, and they were judged for that, receiving the Lord’s chastisement for their unbelief. The pattern follows through with Israel’s rejection of the Lord.

Though Israel could be considered to have been punished, they were not destroyed. God had promised to never forsake His covenant with them, and He has kept that promise. Though chastised, they were not destroyed. Instead, they died off…

13 (con’t) until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord was gone.

The question must be asked, “What evil did they do which brought about their state?” The fact is that Israel did a lot of evil, but the specific evil that the Lord, and now Moses, imputes to them is the evil of unbelief. Whereas Caleb and Joshua demonstrated faith, Israel was faithless. It is that simple. One is deemed right through belief, or he is deemed as out of the Lord’s favor through unbelief.

And it is not enough to simply believe in God. That is something most people do. One must also believe God. When He speaks, His word is to be accepted. Israel failed with the exception of Caleb and Joshua.

14 And look! You have risen in your fathers’ place,

v’hinneh qamtem takhat abotekhem – “And behold! You have risen up under your fathers.” Moses’ words in verse 14 are direct, specific, and powerful. The meaning of this clause is that they have now risen up in the same way as their fathers did who came before them. The God’s Word Translation paraphrases this as, “You’re just like your parents!” Or, as John Gill says, “Like fathers, like sons.”

14 (con’t) a brood of sinful men,

tarbut anashim khataim – “an increase of men – sinners.” God’s Word Translation again gives a resounding paraphrase – “You’re a bunch of sinners…”

The idea here is that just as their fathers were sinners, so they have risen up in place of their fathers and are simply adding more sinners to that heap of sinners who came before them. It is evident that Moses is severely upset with these people. He is even beside himself. And so he goes on…

14 (con’t) to increase still more the fierce anger of the Lord against Israel.

lispot od al kharon aph Yehovah el Yisrael – “to scrape up still more upon the burning nostril of Yehovah towards Israel.” The words must have been like arrows coming off of Moses’ lips.

The word he uses, and which is translated as “increase,” is saphah. It comes from a root meaning to scrape or to shave. Thus, there is an increase of what is scraped, or there is a removal of what is scraped. In this case, it is combined with the word od, or “again,” and so it is an increase.

Moses has already twice mentioned the burning nostril of Yehovah. Now, his words show that the anger has not gone away. It is still alive from the actions of the faithless men almost forty years earlier. And now, the action of Gad and Reuben is adding fuel to that fire, which has been – and will be – directed towards Israel. This is so certain that Moses continues with…

15 For if you turn away from following Him, He will once again leave them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all these people.”

The words take them back to the time when the spies returned from Canaan. The people awaited word about the land, and the spies gave a bad report. In this, they caused the people to turn away from following the Lord.

Moses is saying that exactly the same thing will happen. The people will get disheartened by the display of cowardice on Gad and Reuben’s part, and they will turn from following the Lord. In this, He will again consign them to their fate in the wilderness, and the people will again wander until they are destroyed. Moses speaks out the general substance of Ecclesiastes 1:9 –

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.

Moses hopes to avoid that through his rebuke of what has come before him.

The Lord desires to show His favor to you
He will open the Door and lead you to glory
This is what He is set to do
If you will but believe the gospel story

In fact, the door is open if you will just but believe
And through that Door, you can enter into glory
All He asks is that His Son you will receive
Yes, He asks you to accept the truth of the gospel story

And when you do, the Door will never again be shut
Your access through Him is a guarantee of glory
This is His promise without an “if,” “and,” or “but”
It is yours forever because you trusted the gospel story

II. The Proposal and Promise (verses 16-19)

16 Then they came near to him and said:

It says, “And they came near him.” It seems to be that they may have shrunk back from Moses at his rebuke, or they retired from him to talk the matter over, or something such as this.

Whatever the intent is, they had either already determined to take this course of action and had not been given the chance to speak, or they decided on the course of action they will present, and they now bring it forward as a proposal for Moses to hear.

16 (con’t) “We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones,

The Hebrew term translated as “sheepfolds” is gidrot tson. It means, “walls livestock,” and thus an enclosure of stones which livestock would be led into when they were not grazing.

It is interesting that they mention building the sheepfolds even before mentioning cities for their families. The chapter began with the thought of the tribes possessing much livestock, and that the land was a region for livestock. It seems that these people are almost possessed by their possessions.

In his response to them in verse 24, Moses will place the little ones first before the livestock. After that, in verse 34, it will confirm that they built the cities, along with the sheepfolds following the order of Moses’ words.

Here, the term taph, or “little ones,” normally speaks of children, but in this case it extends out to any who are weak or defenseless.

And finally, the word translated as “build,” signifies the process of building. It can be from scratch, or to fortify. In this case, it is probably the latter. They had gone into a land already occupied and subdued it. They would simply need to repair that which was broken down. It is a process that would not take a great deal of time if so. Once the task was complete, or as it was ongoing…

17 but we ourselves will be armed,

In contrast to the families who are secured in cities with their livestock, the males promise to instead stand withdrawn from them, implying armed for battle. And to show their determination in the matter, they then say…

17 (con’t) ready to go before the children of Israel

Here is a new word, khush which is certainly an onomatopoetic expression. It means to make haste. Figuratively, it means to be eager with excitement.

To prove they had no intent on cowardice, they show that they are, in fact, eager to go forward with Israel. And so, they will hasten to be set so that there will be no delay for Israel because of them.

They further state that they are ready to go liphne, or “before” them. The word can mean “before,” “in the presence of,” and so on, but it surely indicates “before,” as “in front of.” They have been accused of cowardice, and their response is to indicate that they are exactly the opposite. They will set the pace of the battles for all others to emulate. And this will last…

17 (con’t) until we have brought them to their place;

This means they will be with them during the entire campaign. They will not break ranks with their brothers until the land is subdued. But they must first put up fortifications in the land…

17 (con’t) and our little ones will dwell in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land.

With the cities being fortified, they could be defended. It is certain that a large portion of the fighting men stayed for that purpose, and neither Moses, nor anyone else, found that unreasonable. The census of the tribes showed that Reuben had 43,730 fighting-aged men. Gad had 40,500, and Manasseh had 52,700. Half of Manasseh would be about 26,350 men. In total, they then had about 110,580 men of battle age, and yet we read this in Joshua 4 –

“And the men of Reuben, the men of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh crossed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses had spoken to them. 13 About forty thousand prepared for war crossed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho.” Joshua 4:12, 13

Therefore, almost two thirds of the fighting aged men stayed behind, continued to build, defended the people, and so on. These probably rotated in and out of the battles during the campaign to conquer Canaan.

The same would be true for the families of the other tribes west of the Jordan, and it is almost to be understood without being mentioned to or by Moses now.

18 We will not return to our homes until every one of the children of Israel has received his inheritance.

Again, like the previous verse, these words mean the tribe as a whole. It cannot mean that individuals would not return home for a vacation, a family death, or the like. The campaign to subdue Canaan is to last seven years.

Gad and Reuben as tribes of fighting men will remain until all the tribes also have what they are now about to possess. This is their word of assurance to Moses now because of their hope of what the future will provide…

*19 (fin) For we will not inherit with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has fallen to us on this eastern side of the Jordan.”

The words here are given a precision that actually confuses some scholars. The men now speaking state that they will not take an inheritance me’ever, or on the side of the Jordan. It does not mean specifically, “on the other side.” The term simply means, “on the side,” and it can mean, “on this side,” or, “on the other side.”

In this case, the verse itself twice explains the meaning when they say, “on the side of the Jordan and beyond.” This indicates that the land on the side of Canaan may be extended beyond the original boundaries, towards Lebanon perhaps.

They then say – using the same expression – that their inheritance will fall me’ever ha’yarden mizrakhah, or “on side the Jordan, eastward.” The land of Canaan is the reference point in both. It makes no difference which side is being referred to as long as the point of reference is understood.

However, in an astonishingly inept comment, the normally sound Pulpit Commentary says of this –

“All we can say is, that the awkward use of the phrase in two opposite meanings, with words of clearer definition added, points more or less strongly towards a probability that the passage as it stands was written or revised at a later date.” Pulpit Commentary

The entire point of revision is to fix that which is broken, not to further muddy the waters. The commentator must have slipped in his bathtub and then passed out under the water too long, depriving him of oxygen, to make such a statement. Comparing the term me’ever elsewhere makes the meaning here plain and obvious.

They state that the inheritance of Israel is in Canaan, but their inheritance shall be east of the Jordan. Whether their words are presumptuous, or whether they are in the form of a petition for approval, they (and thus we) will now wait for Moses’ response.

The important point to understand in our verses today is that of what was seen earlier. It is the exemplary note of the Bible concerning a relationship with God, which is that we are to come before Him without adding anything to our request for restoration apart from what He has done in Jesus Christ.

We cannot come to Him saying, “I received Jesus and continued to obey the law to make sure that You would accept me.” Such a presentation does not give God the glory. Rather, it robs it from Him by saying that what He did is insufficient for our restoration.

We also cannot come to Him and say, “I waited for you to regenerate me before receiving Christ.” That puts an onus on God not found in Scripture. The Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

However, if God regenerating man first is true, then it means that He must make a second move beyond the giving of His Son, a concept not taught in Scripture. Rather, He has given His Son, and He expects us to receive Him. Israel failed at that; we must not fail unless we too are set to perish.

God has opened the doors of restoration, and He has paved the way to paradise. Be wise and discerning and receive what He has done. Come to Christ and be reconciled to God through Christ’s precious shed blood.

Closing Verse: “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” Galatians 2:15, 16

Next Week: Numbers 32:20-42 This is the land they will for themselves be a’gainin’… (A Possession East of Canaan) (63rd 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.

Do Not Take Us Over the Jordan

Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad
Had a very great multitude of livestock
And when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead
That indeed the region was a place for livestock
———-of the herd and the flock 

The children of Gad and the children of Reuben
Came and spoke to Moses, with words to be conveying
To Eleazar the priest
And to the leaders of the congregation, saying 

“Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon
Elealeh, Shebam, Nebo, and Beon – nine cities in which to walk
The country which the Lord defeated
———-before the congregation of Israel
Is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock

Therefore they said
If we have found favor in your sight
Let this land be given to your servants as a possession
Do not take us over the Jordan; we think this is right

And Moses said to the children of Gad
———-and to the children of Reuben: Let me get this clear…
“Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here? 

Now why will you discourage the heart
Of the children of Israel
From going over into the land
Which the Lord has given them? Please do tell!

Thus your fathers did when I sent them away
From Kadesh Barnea to see the land; listen now, I pray

For when they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land
They discouraged the heart of the children of Israel
So that they did not go into the land
Which the Lord had given them. That didn’t go so well

So the Lord’s anger was aroused on that day
And He swore an oath. Here’s what He did say…

‘Surely none of the men who came up from Egypt
From twenty years old and above, yes from twenty
Shall see the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
Because they have not wholly followed Me

Except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite
———-and Joshua the son of Nun, according to His word
For they have wholly followed the Lord

So the Lord’s anger was aroused against Israel
And He made them wander in the wilderness forty years
Until all the generation that had done evil
In the sight of the Lord was gone, wandering on a trail of tears

And look! You have risen in your fathers’ place
A brood of sinful men
To increase still more the fierce anger of the Lord
Against Israel once again

For if you turn away from following Him
He will once again leave them in the wilderness
And you will destroy all these people
We’re talking here one giant mess

Then they came near to him and said:
We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock
———-as to you we now tell
And cities for our little ones
But we ourselves will be armed, ready to go
———-before the children of Israel

Until we have brought them to their place
And our little ones will dwell, please now understand
In the fortified cities
Because of the inhabitants of the land

We will not return to our homes, no not even by chance
Until every one of the children of Israel
———-has received his inheritance

For we will not inherit with them
On the other side of the Jordan and beyond
Because our inheritance has fallen to us
On this eastern side of the Jordan of which we are fond

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…