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Deeper Commentary


Num 33:1 These are the journeys of the children of Israel, when they went forth out of the land of Egypt by their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron-
Israel moved only 33 times in the first 39 years of wandering, meaning that they stayed on average for over a year in each of their resting places. Yet in the fortieth, final year, Israel moved nine times- and at least eight of those moves were in the last seven months of the fortieth year (:38). The tempo of God's activity increases towards the end of our lives and in the final entry period into God's Kingdom during the tribulation. The temp is also strong at the start of our journey- the first nine stops on the journey were relatively soon after leaving Egypt, within the first year.

Num 33:2 Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of Yahweh, and these are their journeys according to their goings out-
Heb.: "Moses recorded the starting points of their various marches as directed by the Lord; their marches, by starting point, were as follows". Each stage of the journey [Heb. 'departure'] was a starting point- each day is the first day of the rest of our lives. Israel perhaps wanted to move on from a sense of boredom, a desire for something new- just as many do today, kidding themselves that this is a spiritual 'journey'. For those truly on a journey to the Kingdom, our moving on is "at the commandment of the Lord" (Ex. 17:1).

Moses kept this record of their journeys in the spirit of how God commanded His people to each one remember the way by which God had brought them out from Egypt to Canaan (Dt. 8:2). We need to keep at least a mental diary of how God has led us in our lives, to look back with feelings of gratitude and grace as we see how He has led us, how life for us is no mere succession of chance events, but has a definite direction and end point in entering the Kingdom.

"Goings out"[AV] suggests that each stage of our journey, even if it at times seems two steps back and three forward, is in fact a 'going out' from Egypt. And yet we know from Acts 7 and Ez. 20 that Israel took the idols of Egypt with them and in their hearts turned back to Egypt (Acts 7:39), even though the external journey was a going out, away from Egypt. And so our church life can have the same semblance, whilst in our hearts we have turned back.

The Hebrew word is used about the entire ‘going out’ of Israel from Egypt to the promised land. Our total journey from the world through the Red Sea of baptism to the Kingdom of God involves much wandering, backwards and forwards (32:13). But it’s all under God’s control and part of our total exodus from Egypt to the Kingdom. Although humanly the journey was a zigzag and circular route, it is described in Ps. 107:7 as a “right” or ‘straight’ way- from God’s perspective.

God wanted Moses to record the journey so that Israel could recount it when they entered the land: "You shall remember [Heb. 'to recount', to mark] all the way which Yahweh your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not" (Dt. 8:2). The command to recount the way was perhaps a command to recite Numbers 33. In the type, it may well be that in the Kingdom age we look back on this brief life so that we never forget 'how we got here'. What may seem now an endless chasing of our tails in a desert we will then perceive to have been purposeful strides towards the Kingdom. There is meaning attached to event in our lives, even if we will only perceive that meaning when the record is written up.

Num 33:3 They travelled from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the next day after the Passover the children of Israel went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians-
Israel crossing the Red Sea is one of the most well-known types of baptism / the new creation (1 Cor. 10:1). They were being chased by the Egyptians, and were trapped against the sea. The only way of escape was for that water to open and allow them to go through it. If any Israelite had refused to go through, there would have been no salvation.

The people of Israel as a body were going through the death and resurrection experience of the Lord Jesus, through the process of the Passover and Exodus through the Red Sea. Israel ate Passover (Ex. 12:6) [14th Abib], as the Lord died on the cross as the Passover lambs were slain; Israel left Egypt the next day (Num. 33:3) [15th Abib] and journeyed three days (Ex. 8:27) [15th-17th Abib], and the Lord Jesus was three days in the tomb. Israel then came through the Red Sea [17th Abib], connecting with the Lord's being resurrected. As we come out of the baptismal water, we really are united with the resurrected Lord- a new creation. His newness of life, His deliverance and successful exodus from the world- all this becomes ours.

Num 33:4 while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom Yahweh had struck among them. On their gods also Yahweh executed judgments-
Each of the plagues targeted a specific Egyptian god, and it seems that on Passover night something dramatic happened to all the gods- maybe the idols to them fell over or were destroyed. Yet Israel still took the gods of Egypt with them through the Red Sea and worshipped them on the wilderness journey (Ez. 20:7; Acts 7:43). The pull of idolatry is against all reason, and yet there is such a strong tendency within us not to devote ourselves to only one God.

"Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am Yahweh” (Ex. 12:12; 15:11; Num. 33:4). The “gods” are spoken of for a moment as real and existing, in order to show Yahweh’s total superiority over them to the point that they didn’t exist. Note how it was the Egyptian people who were judged (Gen. 15:14); their idols (“gods”) are used by metonymy to stand for those who believed in them. Likewise “demons” is sometimes put by metonymy for those who believed in them (e.g. Mk. 2:32,34). The judgment upon Egypt’s gods is brought out by an otherwise obscure reference in Ex. 7:19 to how “there shall be blood in all the land of Egypt on wood and in stone”. “Wood and stone” is a term usually used in the Bible for idols; and “the Egyptian priests used

The plagues specifically targeted Egyptian gods: Nile water turned to blood = HAPI – the god of the spirit of the Nile; Frogs = HEKOT – the goddess of magic who had a frog’s head; “The dust of the land” turned to lice or gnats (Ex. 8:16) = SEB – god of the dust of the earth; “Swarms of beetles” (Ex. 8:21 Hebrew) = RA and the forerunner of BEELZEBUB were likened to beetles; much pagan Egyptian jewelry features beetles; Murrain of cattle = APIS – the sacred bull god; Boils (Ex. 9:8–9) = NEIT – the queen of the heavens; Thunder and hail = SHU – god of the atmosphere; Darkness = RA – the sun god; Locusts = SERAIJA – protector of Egypt from locusts.

Num 33:5 The children of Israel travelled from Rameses, and encamped in Succoth-
The distance was about 120 miles. It would appear there was no stopping place. The longest segment of their journey was immediately after they left Egypt and had started upon the salvation journey. It's tempting to imagine that Rameses was the city which they were employed building by slave labour, and it was named after the Pharaoh called Rameses. But Egyptology and Egyptian chronology is hopelessly confused. But we note the similarity between "Rameses" and "Meses", the Egyptian name for Moses. And thus we perceive how the two men were set up in antithesis to each other- Moses / Meses, the one drawn out by Yahweh, and Ra-Meses, the man drawn out to Ra, the Egyptian sun god.  

Num 33:6 They travelled from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, which is in the edge of the wilderness-
It could be that Etham is a form of Khetam, fortress, which was part of the great wall of Egypt. In this case, there was another deliverance or miracle involved in that the people were allowed through it.

Num 33:7 They travelled from Etham, and turned back to Pihahiroth, which is before Baal Zephon: and they encamped before Migdol-
The "turning back" is typical of how our path towards the Kingdom makes no sense in secular terms. There are points at which we turn back upon ourselves, and wonder why we weren't led more directly to the destination. We shall never be able to fully attach meaning to event in this life, and only in the Kingdom will we realize how there could have been no other way.

Num 33:8 They travelled from before Hahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness; and they went three days’ journey in the wilderness of Etham, and encamped in Marah-
Their dramatic passage through the Red Sea is described in the same way as any other stage on their journey; our baptism into Christ is our Red Sea crossing (1 Cor. 10:1,2), but the other stages of our journey are no less led by God and part of our final deliverance into His Kingdom.

Num 33:9 They travelled from Marah, and came to Elim. In Elim were twelve springs of water, and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there-
There were twelve wells- one for each of the tribes. The lesson was that God had foreseen Israel's need for water long ago, and arranged those wells for them. As for us in our wilderness journeys. Yet 70 is the number of the Gentile nations in Gen. 10. They were being shown that God's intention was to combine Israelites and Gentiles within a new multiethnic people of God. Perhaps this arrangement of 12 springs and 70 palms was to help Israel to better incorporate the "mixed multitude" amongst them, as being equally God's people. Hence "Elim" implies "holy trees", or "trees of God", as if to remind Israel that He accepted the mixed multitude of Gentiles as equally His redeemed people.   

Num 33:10 They travelled from Elim, and encamped by the Red Sea-
This stop next to the Red Sea was perhaps to help them reflect further upon the wonder of their deliverance through that sea. And God arranges our wanderings likewise.

Num 33:11 They travelled from the Red Sea, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin-
This was the point at which they murmured against Moses and were given manna (Ex. 16:1,2). But there's no mention of that, nor of other events on the journey which we might consider significant. And so it is with our own journeys to the Kingdom. There are things we might consider highly significant towns along the way; but in God's spiritual mapping of our lives they weren't that significant. And what we considered insignificant was to His mind highly significant.

Ex. 15:22 adds: "Moses led Israel onward from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water". "Shur" means 'the wall', and may refer to the wall built to define the boundary of Egypt by an earlier dynasty. Num. 33:8 defines the part of the wilderness as being near Etham, where there was a garrison of Egyptians (see on Ex. 13:20). It had been God's intention that they would go three days journey from Egypt into the wilderness and then worship Him (Ex. 8:27). But they didn't. It seems God purposefully didn't provide water for them- because this great trial was intended to lead them to worship and faith. But instead they rebelled, and His intention they would worship Him then didn't come to fruition. How many billions of such plans are made and frustrated each day by human short-sightedness... We note that very soon after their baptism (1 Cor. 10:1,2), they ran into testing. Just as the Lord did, and as we do.

Num 33:12 They travelled from the wilderness of Sin, and encamped in Dophkah-
Dophkah means to knock, beat or hit hard. Clearly enough a message that the school of hard knocks is required to lead us to the Kingdom. Through much tribulation we shall enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22).

Num 33:13 They travelled from Dophkah, and encamped in Alush-
The exodus through the Red Sea represented our baptism into Christ, and so the wilderness journey to the Kingdom represents our journey there (1 Cor. 10:1,2). We can therefore legitimately look for meaning in the names of the places they camped in. But the 42 stopping places may connect as well with the 42 generations to the birth of Jesus recorded in Matthew's genealogy. This means that the wilderness journey looks ahead somehow to Israel's intended journey to the Lord Jesus.

Num 33:14 They travelled from Alush, and encamped in Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink-
The events of Ex. 17 are the basis for Ps. 95. This is largely a Psalm of praise for what God did for Israel in the wilderness, whilst also commenting on the way they tragically put God to the test, and complained about His care for them. Now the words of Ps. 95:7- 11 are directly quoted in Heb. 3:7- 11 concerning the experience of the new Israel. The simple conclusion from this is that we are really intended to see the events of Ex. 17 as directly relevant for us.  

Num 33:15 They travelled from Rephidim, and encamped in the wilderness of Sinai-
Ex. 19:2 adds: "When they had departed from Rephidim, and had come to the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mountain". We are intended to connect this with how they had arrived in Rephidim and rebelled (Ex. 17:1). They moved on from there apparently repentant, and now encamp before Yahweh in the mountain. The impression is of a repentant people, now suitably humble to receive God's law. At least that is the idealized picture given. For God fell in love with Israel in the wilderness and spread His skirt over them at Sinai, accepting them as His wife, despite all their idolatry and weakness.

Num 33:16 They travelled from the wilderness of Sinai, and encamped in Kibroth Hattaavah-
No mention is made of the giving of the law and entry into covenant with Yahweh. We could conclude that this itinerary actually focuses upon their weaknesses, building up the impression that this is an account of God's patience and grace which had led them all the way to the Kingdom.

Num 33:17 They travelled from Kibroth Hattaavah, and encamped in Hazeroth-
"The graves of lust". It is a theme of the Bible that in essence, God gives men their own desires, just as the prodigal son was given what he wrongfully demanded. Here, Israel lusted (s.w. Ps. 78:29) and God gave them what they lusted after. Those who lusted for meat were given it; yet “they were not estranged from their lust” (Ps. 78:30 AV). Sin never satisfies. Giving in to temptation will not lead to the craving being permanently resolved. This is to point up the huge importance of our innermost desires, our heart, our dominant passions- being upon the things of God and His Kingdom. David could say that all his desire was for the things of God (s.w. Ps. 38:9; Is. 26:8). More than anything else we should desire to please Him and be in His Kingdom. And all who thus love the Lord's appearing will be eternally with Him (2 Tim. 4:8).

Num 33:18 They travelled from Hazeroth, and encamped in Rithmah-
Num. 33:18 says that "They departed from Hazeroth, and pitched in Rithmah", whilst Num. 12:16 has "the people travelled from Hazeroth, and encamped in the wilderness of Paran". Rithmah was in the wilderness of Paran, which covered a large area. The intellectual desperation of Bible critics in raising this kind of supposed "contradiction" speaks more about them than anything else. Such intellectual desperation is symptomatic of a struggling, uneasy conscience.

Num 33:19 They travelled from Rithmah, and encamped in Rimmon Perez-
Rithmah is identified by some with Kadesh Barnea, to where the spies returned with their evil report of the land. "Rithmah" means "juniper", a symbol of bitterness and hard words (Job 30:4; Ps. 120:4). Perhaps because this itinerary focuses upon their sins, it is given this name rather than Kadesh Barnea, which means 'the sanctuary of the wandering son'. See on :20.

Num 33:20 They travelled from Rimmon Perez, and encamped in Libnah-
Libnah is perhaps that of Josh. 10:29, between Kadesh-Barnea and Gaza. This confirms the idea that Rithmah is Kadesh Barnea (:19).

Num 33:21 They travelled from Libnah, and encamped in Rissah-
The continued stress upon the word "encamped" is perhaps alluded to in the later comment that believers are like the patriarchs and always on the move, having "no continuing city" in this life (Heb. 13:14)- even if we lived all our days in the same house in which we were born.

Num 33:22 They travelled from Rissah, and encamped in Kehelathah-
Kehelathah is 'place of gathering / assembly', and is the word commonly used for how the congregation gathered themselves together before the tent of meeting. Perhaps there was some significant gathering held at this place. See on :25.

Num 33:23 They travelled from Kehelathah, and encamped in Mount Shepher-
The 42 stopping places were not necessarily the only places they stopped at. In Revelation, the faithful are to be 42 months or three and a half years in the wilderness (Rev. 11-13), and 42 is 12 [the number of tribes, God's people] times three and a half. And 42 months are three and a half years. This is clearly a period associated with testing and tribulation. And so Israel's 42 stopping places in the wilderness are likely selected in order to develop the number 42.

Num 33:24 They travelled from Mount Shepher, and encamped in Haradah-
"Haradah" is 'place of fear / trembling'. As the theme seems to be the failures of Israel, this may refer to some place where they greatly feared / trembled before God. Perhaps this is one of the many scenes of failure the details of which aren't recorded in the other records.

Num 33:25 They travelled from Haradah, and encamped in Makheloth-
'Makheloth' is a form of 'Kehelathah' (:22). It could mean that that they returned to this point, having travelled in a circle. Just as our wilderness journeys feature an element of going in circles. Although the word means 'assembly / gathering', so perhaps these place names were both memorializing some significant gathering of the people.

Num 33:26 They travelled from Makheloth, and encamped in Tahath-
Looking back on all these various moves and places, Moses in his final maturity concluded that Yahweh "went before you in the way, to seek you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night to show you by what way you should go, and in the cloud by day" (Dt. 1:33). "Pitch your tents" is s.w. "encamped". The wanderings even of the condemned generation were not random. All was part of God's progressive intention to bring the body of His people to His Kingdom. 

Num 33:27 They travelled from Tahath, and encamped in Terah-
"Terah" could mean 'wild goat', and goats are associated with rejection. Again we have the impression that this itinerary reflects the guidance of God of His people, even through the history of their failures and rejection.

Num 33:28 They travelled from Terah, and encamped in Mithkah-
"Mithkah" is 'place of sweetness', as if God was giving them some respite in the otherwise harsh environment. In wrath with His people [for their wanderings were a result of His judgment], He still remembered mercy. We see here His essentially kind and gracious nature.

Num 33:29 They travelled from Mithkah, and encamped in Hashmonah-
'Hashmonah' can mean pleasant or fertile place; see on :28. It was a sign of God's grace to them even in their experience of condemnation.

Num 33:30 They travelled from Hashmonah, and encamped in Moseroth-
'Moseroth' is 'place of correction'. As if it was God's intention that the condemned generation would still be corrected, so that ultimately they could be resurrected to eternal inheritance of the Kingdom.

Num 33:31 They travelled from Moseroth, and encamped in Bene Jaakan-
Dt. 10:6 comments about Moseroth that "There Aaron died and there he was buried". "Moserah" means 'place of chastisement / correction'. Aaron and Moses will be in the Kingdom despite their sin, but it needed Aaron's death for them to be corrected. The punishment was therefore their correction, and was not the angry lashing out of an offended Deity. Moses only mentions this place name at the end of his life, indicating how he looked back and perceived that indeed he had been corrected and learned his lesson, even if it cost him his life.

Num 33:32 They travelled from Bene Jaakan, and encamped in Hor Haggidgad-
Haggidgad' is literally 'water holes', and is called "Gudgodah" in Dt. 10:7. "A land of brooks of water" is precisely the phrase used of Canaan (Dt. 8:7). They were constantly given foretastes of the Kingdom before entering it, just as we are on our wilderness journey

Num 33:33 They travelled from Hor Haggidgad, and encamped in Jotbathah-
Dt. 10:8 comments about Jotbathah that "At that time Yahweh set apart the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of Yahweh, to stand before Yahweh to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day". Although the Levites had been set apart for Divine service immediately after God's meeting with Israel at Sinai, as outlined in Leviticus and Numbers, it seems that not until Aaron died at the end of the 40 years wandering did they actually in practice begin to serve as intended. This might imply that Jotbathah was visited near to the end of the wanderings. Another option is that Jotbathah was visited twice, because their condemnation involved wandering in circles. It could be that the reason was that the Levites were ever slow to accept their responsibilities. And they generally failed in their calling over Israel's history, climaxing in the priests arranging the murder of God's own Son. 

Num 33:34 They travelled from Jotbathah, and encamped in Abronah-
They went from "Jotbathah, a land of brooks of water (Dt. 10:7) to "Abronah", which is from the root for word for 'Hebrew', 'the place of crossing over'. So perhaps there was here some incident of crossing over water, to prepare them for the later miraculous crossing of Jordan. God continually works to prepare us for future stages in our wilderness walk.

Num 33:35 They travelled from Abronah, and encamped in Ezion Geber-
This was on the Red Sea. This was to remind them of the great work God had done in bringing them across the Red Sea. Constantly God sought to remind them of their spiritual history and beginnings, which were all of His grace. He does the same with us.  

Num 33:36 They travelled from Ezion Geber, and encamped in the wilderness of Zin (the same is Kadesh)-
They appear to have visited Kadesh several times; just as we tend to revisit the same places during our wilderness wanderings.

Num 33:37 They travelled from Kadesh, and encamped in Mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom-
"Hor" and "mount" are the same word in Hebrew. Num. 20:20,21 comment: "He said, You shall not pass through. Edom came out against him with many people, and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border, so Israel turned away from him". We must put this together with Ex. 15:15: "Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed the way". So when Edom "refused to give Israel passage through his border" (Num. 20:21), their refusal was because they were "dismayed" and terrified, not because they had some nonchalant confidence against Israel. This is an example of where we must place scripture together to get an accurate picture. Soon after this incident, Israel were commanded not to despise an Edomite (Dt. 23:7)- although this is just what Edom had done to them. We aren’t to treat others as they treat us, but leave their judgment with God. These incidents took place in the 40th year of their wanderings (Num. 33:38), and the commands of Deuteronomy were given at the same time. Moses could have reasoned that "the elder (Esau) shall serve the younger (Jacob)" (Gen. 25:23) and engaged him in battle. But the way of wisdom is to always walk away from conflict with our brethren, even if they are unreasonable.

Num 33:38 Aaron the priest went up into Mount Hor at the commandment of Yahweh and died there in the fortieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fifth month, on the first day of the month-
"Come out" is s.w. "brought forth". Israel were "brought forth" from Egypt by God; they had been unwilling to leave Egypt, preferring to serve the Egyptians rather than Yahweh (Ex. 14:12). God had as it were forced through His project of saving Israel by bringing them out of Egypt. And He had done so largely for the sake of Moses, by whose faith the Red Sea parted and they were delivered (Heb. 11:28,29). Therefore Yahweh's bringing Israel out of Egypt was what He did for Moses, and only thereby for His people. We too are brought out of this world towards God's Kingdom by His grace alone, with His consistently taking the initiative in our hearts and life circumstances, in accord with the loving intercession of the Lord Jesus [represented by Moses]. Thus Yahweh brought Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 18:1; 19:1; Lev. 23:43; 25:55; Num. 26:4; 33:1,3,38; Dt. 4:45,46), but Moses did (Ex. 3:10,11).

Num 33:39 Aaron was one hundred and twenty-three years old when he died in Mount Hor-
The death of Aaron was typical of the end of the Mosaic system and priesthood, able to only bring Israel to see the Kingdom, but unable to enable them to enter it. That was the work of Joshua / Jesus. Eleazar could be seen then as the priest who replaced Aaron, and also a type of the Lord Jesus. Aaron, an apparently Egyptian name with no clear meaning and not used about any other Biblical character, was replaced by Eleazar, 'helped by God' or 'helper of God', seeing that God was ultimately Israel's saviour. The numerical value [gematria] of "Eleazar the priest" is the same as "Joshua", the Greek form of which is "Jesus". 

Num 33:40 The Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the South in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the children of Israel-
Num. 21:1 adds that "he fought against Israel, and took some of them captive". Again we have the impression that this itinerary focuses upon their failures, and God's grace. The promise that an obedient Israel would make their enemies flee before them was not operational here. The conclusion is surely that Israel had sinned and therefore were defeated. These words are frequently used about Israel's judgment at the hand of their enemies because of their sinfulness. All this lends weight to the conclusion that this was another attempt by Israel to enter Canaan as happened immediately after the news of their rejection (Dt. 1:44). Those rejected from the Kingdom at judgment day will likewise desperately want to be there, nobody will be passive in that day, nor shrugging their shoulders as people do today when encountering the possibility that they may not be there. The wilderness journey speaks of our lives after baptism. It's not a story of glorious victory after glorious victory. There are defeats and failures, partly from our failures, and partly because God in His wisdom knows that this too is part of our path towards the Kingdom. The initial defeat was required in order to make the people trust in Yahweh for victory (Num. 21:2); and we have multiple such experiences in life.  

Num 33:41 They travelled from Mount Hor and encamped in Zalmonah-
Num. 21:4 again makes it clear that this was a time of spiritual weakness for the people: "They travelled from Mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom; and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way". "Much discouraged" is Heb. 'reaped down', the same word used about how they felt in Egypt (Ex. 6:9). They adopted the same attitude they had in Egypt, ever searching for something better, and now not wanting to accept what God had planned for them, not looking at the end of their journey but just caught up in the immediacy of their daily feelings. Yet they had just had the exhilaration of having made a vow to God about the cities of Canaan, obeying it, and seeing God answer them. Before that, they had sinned (see on :1). And now, they were again discouraged and low. This is the yo-yo path through the wilderness we all experience. It's not going to be entirely positive. They likely reasoned that God should have spared them this awful part of the journey because they had just been obedient to Him. But that's not how the path to the Kingdom is. 

Their route took them back on themselves at this point, heading back towards Egypt. This may have been the psychological trigger for their desire to be back in Egypt (Num. 21:5). We must try to avoid things and situations which may stimulate a desire to leave the way to the Kingdom and return to the world. "Because of the way" reflects how this was indeed geographically one of the worst parts of Israel's journey, through shifting sands blown by the strong sirocco winds. Only camels can survive here, so it's likely that the sheep and oxen Israel had brought from Egypt would've died at this point. And this was just immediately prior to their entry of Canaan (Num. 33:41, so this may look forward to the final tribulation for His people before the Lord's return.

Num 33:42 They travelled from Zalmonah, and encamped in Punon-
Punon" means 'perplexity'; there should have been no such perplexity as they were now approaching Canaan. Again, we are left with the impression that this list of places in Num. 33 focuses upon incidents of their spiritual weakness.

Num 33:43 They travelled from Punon, and encamped in Oboth-
"Oboth" is 'water skins'. Perhaps here too we have a hint at their problems with water, which would have been provided by God. But they used water skins perhaps to preserve what they saw as more tasty water at this place.

Num 33:44 They travelled from Oboth, and encamped in Iye Abarim, in the border of Moab-
Iyeabarim means heaps or ruins. Perhaps now as they approached the promised land, they were being encouraged that once mighty civilizations all rise and fall, so nothing is invincible- even if at one stage it may appear that way. We too are constantly given encouragement, even if apparently obliquely, along the route of our journey towards the Kingdom. 

Num 33:45 They travelled from Iyim, and encamped in Dibon Gad-
Dibon was settled by Gad but this territory was lost to them in the long term (Is. 15:2; Jer. 48:18,22). Their short termist desire for land other than that God planned to give them in His Kingdom didn't have long term blessing. And it will be the same for us.

Num 33:46 They travelled from Dibon Gad, and encamped in Almon Diblathaim-
Diblathaim, 'place of the holy cakes', clearly has idolatrous associations. The word is used for the cakes of raisins used in idol rituals (Hos. 3:1). And it is from this word for "cakes", dibla, the raisin cakes used in the Baal cult, from which the word Diblaim comes, the father of Gomer. Again we have the3 sense of weakness at every point of their journey to the Kingdom.

Num 33:47 They travelled from Almon Diblathaim, and encamped in the mountains of Abarim, before Nebo-
Moses seeing the Kingdom but being unable to enter it, nor himself lead God's people into it, points forward to how the law of Moses gave a vision of the Kingdom, but was unable to bring us into it. That required the work of Joshua / Jesus. "Abarim" means 'the regions beyond'. Moses and his law gave an insight into the Kingdom, the region beyond him. For the culture of grace and kindness, centered around the sacrificed future Messiah, the Lord Jesus, was the outcome of the law. But it was unattainable by weak men.

Num 33:48 They travelled from the mountains of Abarim, and encamped in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho-
"By" is "beyond" (Num. 22:1). To describe the Israelite encampment as beyond Jordan implies the author is west of Jordan. Moses' writing here may well have been edited under inspiration later. It was at this point that the apostacy connected with Balaam happened; and again we see how their faith was deeply weak and compromised at every point of their journey, right up to entrance to the Kingdom. They only entered the land by grace alone.

Num 33:49 They encamped by the Jordan, from Beth Jeshimoth even to Abel Shittim in the plains of Moab-
Beth Jeshimoth is an example of how some of the places they had known in their wilderness journeys (cp. our life now after baptism, which is like crossing the Red Sea, 1 Cor. 10:1,2) were revisited and taken by Joshua (Josh. 12:3), and incorporated into God's Kingdom. Perhaps situations and places we know in this life will then become eternally ours when we possess them in God's Kingdom. 

Num 33:50 Yahweh spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying-
We wonder why the command to destroy idols etc. is here defined as specifically concerning the territory on the west of Jordan. We wonder why the same commandment wasn't given regarding the territory on the east of Jordan which the two and a half tribes had claimed. It was of course implicit in earlier statements that they were to do so there too. But the lack of specific commandment and reminder was perhaps another example of where inheritance east of Jordan wasn't God's ideal intention for Israel, and so they were making their path to eternal inheritance of the land that much harder. Any short cut to the Kingdom ends up actually making the journey far more difficult.

Num 33:51 Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan-
Despite the very long list of places where they had failed and sinned, God urges them to inherit the Kingdom and always speaks as if they are going to make it ultimately. He is similarly positive with us.

Num 33:52 then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their stone idols, destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places-
We must compare this command to drive out all the inhabitants of the land with the fact God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and apparently offered the local inhabitants the chance of covenant relationship with Him. Perhaps the people in view were those who had rejected that; or had refused to become tributary in the terms of Dt. 20:10,11. Or perhaps they are peoples other than the seven nations of Canaan specifically mentioned elsewhere. Or again, maybe there were some they should slay, and others they should "drive out" beyond the borders of Canaan. Or maybe Israel and the local inhabitants were given this range of outcomes- because it was God's desire they accept covenant relationship with Him. If they refused, they were to be forced to leave the land, and if they refused that, then they were to be totally destroyed as in Dt. 20:16. The Mosaic law continually assumes the presence of Gentiles within Israel on a permanent basis. So we have to really conclude that this driving out was of those who refused to repent and accept covenant with Yahweh. For it is mentioned along with the need to destroy idolatry.  

Num 33:53 You shall take possession of the land and dwell therein; for I have given the land to you to possess it-
They were to possess the land because God had given them the land- we are to inherit the Kingdom because God has given it to us to inherit. Believing that God has really given us the Kingdom and accepting this is so hard to do.

Num 33:54 You shall inherit the land by lot according to your families; to the more you shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer you shall give the less inheritance. Wherever the lot falls to any man, that shall be his. You shall inherit according to the tribes of your fathers-
They were not to seek to exchange or ammend the lot given them. There is an element to which our lives, our talents, our portion of intended service and inheritance is from God- and yet we so often seek to change this.

Num 33:55 But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those you let remain of them will be as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will harass you in the land in which you dwell-
What can appear mere harmless associations with the world can in the end destroy us. Whilst we are to be in this world in the same sense as the Lord Jesus was, mixing and identifying with them to bring them too to God, the basic principle of separation from unbelievers must never be forgotten.

Num 33:56 It shall happen that as I thought to do to them, so will I do to you-
That is, drive them out of the land. And this is what happened to Israel. There is a theme in the Bible that the judgments of this world will come upon the unfaithful amongst the children of God; there’s a need to be radically different from this world or else we will share this world’s condemnation (1 Cor. 11:32; Rev. 18:4).

God has had various intentions which He ‘thought’ to do, but because of human weakness they don’t actually become reality. He told Israel about His plan / intention / logos of driving out the Canaanites: “If ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land… I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them” (Num. 33:55,56). He ‘thought’ to do things to them through the agency of His people; but those ‘thoughts’ never became flesh. The extent to which Jesus made the word flesh needs some reflection.