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(MT versing)
Review of the Journey from Egypt to Jordan Israel's Journey from Egypt Reviewed Israel's Itinerary from Egypt to the Border of Canaan The Journey from Egypt to Moab Stages of the Exodus
33:1-4 33:1-4 33:1-4 33:1-2 33:1-2
33:3-4 33:3-4
33:5-16 33:5-37 33:5-37 33:5-9 33:5-49
33:38-39 33:38-39 33:38-39 33:38-39
33:40 33:40 33:40 33:40
33:41-49 33:41-49 33:41-49 33:41-49
Law of Possessing the Land Instructions for the Conquest of Canaan Warnings Against the Canaanite Cult Instructions Before Crossing the Jordan The Allocation of Canaan
33:50-56 33:50-56 33:50-56 33:50-56 33:50

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. Numbers 33:1-49 deals with the different campsites between the land of Goshen, in the delta of Egypt, and the plains of Moab, across from Jericho.
    1. from Goshen to Mt. Sinai (cf. Exod. 12:37-19:2)
    2. from Mt. Sinai (Num. 1:1-10:10) to Kadesh-Barnea (Num. 10:11-20:1)
    3. from Kadesh to the Plains of Moab (Num. 20:22-22:1)

    It is interesting that there are 40 locations, matching the "40 years" of Num. 33:38.

  2. Numbers 33:50-56 encourages the destruction of all of the Canaanite tribes and warns of the problems if they do not.

  3. Numbers 34:1-15 describes the boundaries of the Promised Land.

  4. Numbers 34:16-29 lists those who will divide the Promised Land among the individual tribal families (cf. Joshua 12-19).

  5. Numbers 35:1-8 discusses the cities of refuge and the regulations that will guide them (cf. Joshua 21).

  6. Numbers 35:9-34 discusses the cities of refuge and the regulations that will guide them (cf. Joshua 20).

  7. Numbers 36:1-12 further defines the property laws related to Zelophehad's daughters (cf. Numbers 27).


1These are the journeys of the sons of Israel, by which they came out from the land of Egypt by their armies, under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. 2Moses recorded their starting places according to their journeys by the command of the Lord, and these are their journeys according to their starting places. 3They journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the next day after the Passover the sons of Israel started out boldly in the sight of all the Egyptians, 4while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn whom the Lord had struck down among them. The Lord had also executed judgments on their gods.

33:1 "These are the journeys of the sons of Israel" There is a combined listing of forty geographical locations in Num. 33:1-49. Many of them are uncertain (i.e., 22 places not mentioned elsewhere). Some sites which are recorded elsewhere in Numbers 21:10-20 are not included here. The exact purpose of this list is uncertain but these are the major theories.

  1. a possible obituary for Moses
  2. an attempt to look back at YHWH's gracious dealings with the Israelites in order to encourage them to take full possession of the Promised Land
  3. to show that YHWH dwelt with them even amidst their rebellion.

The NASB translates the word "journeys" (BDB 65) in several ways.

  1. "stages" ‒ Gen. 13:3; Exod. 17:1
  2. "set out" ‒ Num. 10:2,28
  3. "journey" ‒ Deut. 10:11

Literally it means "to pull up tent stakes," so it is an idiom for breaking camp. The VERB (BDB 652, 704) is used in Gen. 35:5; Exod. 16:1; 19:2; Num. 12:16; 20:22; 32:7, 9; Deut. 1:7, 19; 2:24; etc.

33:2 "recorded their starting places" Three times in the Pentateuch, the Bible specifically states that "Moses wrote" (cf. Exod. 34:27; Num. 33:2; Deut. 31:9). This is biblical evidence of Moses' ability to write and also the historical fact that he did personally record some things. It is my presupposition that the vast majority of the material in the Pentateuch is Mosaic. This does not mean that it has not been edited, possibly by Ezra, or that there are not additions, possibly by Joshua or Eleazar. This does assert that I personally reject the J.E.D.P. theory of source criticism (cf. Josh McDowell's More Evidence That Demands A Verdict). See SPECIAL TOPIC: PENTATEUCH SOURCE CRITICISM.

▣ "by the command of the Lord" This shows the theological nature of this list. The campsites of the Hebrews were not arbitrary but were guided by the Shekinah cloud of glory which rested over the Tabernacle. When it moved the people moved. The very geographical difficulty of this list speaks of its genuineness.

33:3-8 This basically describes the journey from the land of Goshen to the Red Sea. Numbers 33:3 gives a very specific time reference, which is a textual marker for historical narrative.

33:3 "they journeyed from Rameses" This is a detailed geographical description of the movement from the land of Goshen to the plains of Moab, which covers Exodus 12 through Numbers. 12. See Special Topics: THE ROUTE OF THE EXODUS and THE DATE OF THE EXODUS.

▣ "started out boldly in the sight of all the Egyptians" This ADVERB "boldly" (BDB 926, KB 1202, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) has several connotations. See the note below from my exegetical commentary of Exodus 14:8:

The ADVERB (BDB 926, KB 1202, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) basically means "to be high." Here, of "an uplifted hand." It can refer to a geographical position, voice, or an attitude. Here it refers to the sense of victory the Israelis had (cf. Num. 33:3). The same form is found in Num. 15:30, translated "who sins defiantly."

▣ "in the first month" See SPECIAL TOPIC: ANE CALENDARS.

33:4 "while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn" This relates to the last devastating plague which befell Egypt (cf. Exodus 12-13). I am unsure about how old the "firstborn" are. Once they are married and have children, this plague may not have affected them.

▣ "The Lord also executed judgments on their gods" This shows that the ten plagues had theological significance. YHWH exposed the falsehood of each of the major Egyptian gods. It is significant that the death of the firstborn was a tremendous blow to the deity structure of ancient Egypt.

The term "gods" here is the Hebrew word Elohim. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

5Then the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses and camped in Succoth. 6They journeyed from Succoth and camped in Etham, which is on the edge of the wilderness. 7They journeyed from Etham and turned back to Pi-hahiroth, which faces Baal-zephon, and they camped before Migdol. 8They journeyed 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 camped at Marah. 9They journeyed from Marah and came to Elim; and in Elim there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there. 10They journeyed from Elim and camped by the Red Sea. 11They journeyed from the Red Sea and camped in the wilderness of Sin. 12They journeyed from the wilderness of Sin and camped at Dophkah. 13They journeyed from Dophkah and camped at Alush. 14They journeyed from Alush and camped at Rephidim; now it was there that the people had no water to drink. 15They journeyed from Rephidim and camped in the wilderness of Sinai. 16They journeyed from the wilderness of Sinai and camped at Kibroth-hattaavah.

33:5 "Rameses" The Hebrew slaves built "stone cities" in the delta. The first Pharaoh to move the capital to this region was Seti I, Rameses II's father (cf. Exod. 1:11). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DATE OF THE EXODUS.

I think Rameses is the Pharaoh of the exodus.

33:7 "Pe-hahiroth" This location is mentioned in Exod. 14:1-2. It is where YHWH showed His great power in delivering Israel through the water and destroying Pharaoh's elite honor guard by the same water.

NASB, NKJV  "from before Hahiroth"
 some medieval Hebrew MSS,
 Samaritan Pentateuch,
 Targum of Jonathan, Vulgate
 "from Pi-hahiroth"
TEV, NJB  "left Pi Hahiroth"
JPSOA  "from Pene-hahiroth"
LXX  "from before Heiroth"
Peshitta  "from the entrance of Heritha"

The MT has ינפמ תריחה, "before Hahiroth" (BDB 815 CONSTRUCT BDB 809). But because "Pi-hahiroth" (יפ תריחה) is mentioned in Num. 33:7 (cf. Exod. 14:1), the USB Text Project, p. 261, gives "from Pi-Hahiroth" (יפמ תריחה) a "B" rating (some doubt).

▣ "and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness" The exact route of the exodus and the body of water is uncertain. There are three basic theories.

  1. a northern marshy area near the Mediterranean Sea
  2. some bitter lakes in the middle of the land mass that separates the Sinai peninsula from Egypt
  3. the topmost tip of the body of water known as the Red Sea (see Num. 33:10)


▣ "the wilderness of Etham" From Exod. 15:22 we know that this is also called the wilderness of Shur. Be sure to locate on a map these different geographical sites when possible, but remember that the modern maps are very tentative and could be inaccurate. Not only are we not sure of the route of the exodus, we are also not sure of the exact locality of such major places as Mt. Sinai, Kadesh, Mt. Hor, etc. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WILDERNESSES OF THE EXODUS and SPECIAL TOPIC: ROUTE OF THE EXODUS.

33:9-15 This shows the journey from the Red Sea to Mt. Sinai.

33:9 "Elim" See Exodus 15:27.

33:12 "Dophkah. . .Alush" There is no mention of these campsites at all in the book of Exodus.

33:15 "the wilderness of Sinai" The traditional site of Mt. Sinai in the wilderness of Sin seems to be an attempt to relate the two terms etymologically. Many believe that because Moses mentions that Sinai is a three-day journey from Egypt (cf. Exod. 5:3; 8:27), that the traditional site cannot be the exact biblical locality and tend to locate it around Kadesh-Barnea, while others place it close to Mt. Seir. It seems to me that a three-day journey is a metaphor for a long extended period of time. It is obvious that this was the same mountain where Moses met God in the burning bush experience. Moses was prepared for forty years in this wilderness. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE LOCATION OF MT. SINAI.

33:16-36 This shows the geographical movement from Mt. Sinai to what we believe is Kadesh-Barnea, a very significant water hole just southwest of Beer-Sheba. In Num. 10:33-13:25, which describes this same journey, only three stops are mentioned and of those three stops, one of them is omitted in this summary. The exact relationship and origin of this chapter is simply uncertain when compared to other geographical movements recorded in the Pentateuch.

33:16 "Kibroth-kattaavah" See Num. 11:34-35.

17They journeyed from Kibroth-hattaavah and camped at Hazeroth. 18They journeyed from Hazeroth and camped at Rithmah. 19They journeyed from Rithmah and camped at Rimmon-perez. 20They journeyed from Rimmon-perez and camped at Libnah. 21They journeyed from Libnah and camped at Rissah. 22They journeyed from Rissah and camped in Kehelathah. 23They journeyed from Kehelathah and camped at Mount Shepher. 24They journeyed from Mount Shepher and camped at Haradah. 25They journeyed from Haradah and camped at Makheloth. 26They journeyed from Makheloth and camped at Tahath. 27They journeyed from Tahath and camped at Terah. 28They journeyed from Terah and camped at Mithkah. 29They journeyed from Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah. 30They journeyed from Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth. 31They journeyed from Moseroth and camped at Bene-jaakan. 32They journeyed from Bene-jaakan and camped at Hor-haggidgad. 33They journeyed from Hor-haggidgad and camped at Jotbathah. 34They journeyed from Jotbathah and camped at Abronah. 35They journeyed from Abronah and camped at Ezion-geber. 36They journeyed from Ezion-geber and camped in the wilderness of Zin, that is, Kadesh. 37They journeyed from Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, at the edge of the land of Edom.

33:20-28 These localities are absolutely unknown.

33:20 "Libnah" This word means "whiteness" (BDB 526) and some think it is related to limestone, which would give an idea as to its locality. Unfortunately, limestone is quite common in the desert and, again, this does not help much.

33:31 "Moseroth" When one compares Deut. 10:6, 7 with Num. 33:31-33, there seems to be a discrepancy concerning the location of Aaron's death. Numbers 33:37-38 mentions that Mt. Hor, on the edge of the land of Edom, is where Aaron died. However, Deut. 10:10 asserts that it was Moserah, which is a SINGULAR form of the PLURAL found here. Some have assumed that it is simply the district that is being referred to and not a particular campsite.

▣ "Bene-jaakan" This is related to the father of the Horites and is mentioned in Gen. 36:27; 1 Chr. 1:42. It also relates this area to Mt. Seir. This would affirm that Mt. Hor was in the area of Edom.

33:33 "Jotbathah" This means "excellent" (BDB 406) and, if so, may be a reference to Deut. 10:7.

33:36 "the wilderness of Zin, that is, Kadesh" Be sure to look at a map because there is a wilderness of Sin located in the southern Sinai peninsula to which the name "Mt. Sinai" seems to relate to and a wilderness of Zin, which is on the southern border of Judah. Although they are pronounced similarly, they are two distinct geographical areas. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WILDERNESSES OF THE EXODUS.

▣ "Ezion-geber" This city is on the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba. Today it is inland but in the ANE it was a sea port.

33:37 "Mt. Hor" This word means "summit" (BDB 249) and there were several mountains by this name, as can be seen from Num. 34:7, which is obviously another mountain far to the north.

38Then Aaron the priest went up to Mount Hor at the command of the Lord, and died there in the fortieth year after the sons of Israel had come from the land of Egypt, on the first day in the fifth month. 39Aaron was one hundred twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor.

33:38 "at the command of the Lord, and died there" There is an interesting comment from Rashi (a Jewish commentator during the Middle Ages) that since the text says literally "at the mouth of the Lord," it refers to the way Aaron (and Moses, cf. Deut. 34:5) died (i.e., YHWH kissed him on the mouth and took his breath away).

▣ ""in the fortieth year after the sons of Israel had come from the land of Egypt" The number 40 is a round number used of time. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE, #7.

40Now the Canaanite, the king of Arad who lived in the Negev in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the sons of Israel.

33:40 See Numbers 21:1.

41Then they journeyed from Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah. 42They journeyed from Zalmonah and camped at Punon. 43They journeyed from Punon and camped at Oboth. 44They journeyed from Oboth and camped at Iye-abarim, at the border of Moab. 45They journeyed from Iyim and camped at Dibon-gad. 46They journeyed from Dibon-gad and camped at Almon-diblathaim. 47They journeyed from Almon-diblathaim and camped in the mountains of Abarim, before Nebo. 48They journeyed from the mountains of Abarim and camped in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho. 49They camped by the Jordan, from Beth-jeshimoth as far as Abel-shittim in the plains of Moab.

33:46 NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 687, mentions that Almon-diblathaim was very close to the site of Israel's apostasy at the Baal-Peor site on the plains of Moab.

33:49 "Abel-shittim" This is where Israel crossed the Jordan River (cf. Josh. 3:1), close to Jericho, to begin the conquest of Canaan (cf. Gen. 15:12-22).

50Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, 51"Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places; 53and you shall take possession of the land and live in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it. 54You shall inherit the land by lot according to your families; to the larger you shall give more inheritance, and to the smaller you shall give less inheritance. Wherever the lot falls to anyone, that shall be his. You shall inherit according to the tribes of your fathers. 55But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live. 56And as I plan to do to them, so I will do to you.'"

33:52 "the inhabitants of the land" There are several listings of the Canaanite tribes. Sometimes they are summarized either under the name "Amorite" (cf. Gen. 15:16) or "Canaanite." However, at other times, they are listed in groups of five, seven, and even ten (cf. Exod. 23:23-33; 34:10-17; Deut. 7:1-5). See SPECIAL TOPIC: PRE-ISRAELITE INHABITANTS OF PALESTINE.

▣ "and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places" These are different items which relate to the Canaanite fertility cults (cf. Deut. 7:5; 12:3; 16:21-22). Israel was to totally exterminate and destroy idolatry from the land or the warning from Num. 33:55 would come upon them. See SPECIAL TOPIC: CONSEQUENCES OF IDOLATRY.

33:53 There is a paradox stated here.

  1. the conquest was by YHWH's power (Joshua)
  2. but each tribe had to possess their own land allotment (Num. 33:54) and destroy the local pagan population (Judges)

33:54 "You shall inherit the land by lot according to your families" Apparently the Urim and Thummim of the High Priest was involved in the division of the land among the tribes. Possibly some means of casting lots was used to divide the land among the tribal units. See SPECIAL TOPIC: URIM AND THUMMIM.

33:55 "as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides" This same metaphor is used by Joshua in his farewell address to the people of Israel (cf. Josh. 23:13). The failure of the Hebrews to drive out the Canaanites is reflected in Israel's history of idolatry that caused them to also be removed from the Promised Land (i.e., the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why do the locations mentioned in Num. 21:10-20 differ from this list?
  2. How does the mentioning of the city of Rameses affect the dating of the exodus?
  3. How did YHWH show His power over the Egyptian gods (Num. 33:4)?
  4. Where is the Red Sea?
  5. Why can we not be sure of the route of the exodus?
  6. Why was Israel instructed to kill all the Canaanites?

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