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33. Stages in Israel's Journey

These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron. 2And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the Lord: and these are their journeys according to their goings out. 3And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians. 4For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the Lord had smitten among them: upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments. 5And the children of Israel removed from Rameses, and pitched in Succoth. 6And they departed from Succoth, and pitched in Etham, which is in the edge of the wilderness. 7And they removed from Etham, and turned again unto Pihahiroth, which is before Baalzephon: and they pitched before Migdol. 8And they departed from before Pihahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, and went three days’ journey in the wilderness of Etham, and pitched in Marah. 9And they removed from Marah, and came unto Elim: and in Elim were twelve fountains of water, and threescore and ten palm trees; and they pitched there. 10And they removed from Elim, and encamped by the Red sea. 11And they removed from the Red sea, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin. 12And they took their journey out of the wilderness of Sin, and encamped in Dophkah. 13And they departed from Dophkah, and encamped in Alush. 14And they removed from Alush, and encamped at Rephidim, where was no water for the people to drink. 15And they departed from Rephidim, and pitched in the wilderness of Sinai. 16And they removed from the desert of Sinai, and pitched at Kibrothhattaavah. 17And they departed from Kibrothhattaavah, and encamped at Hazeroth. 18And they departed from Hazeroth, and pitched in Rithmah. 19And they departed from Rithmah, and pitched at Rimmonparez. 20And they departed from Rimmonparez, and pitched in Libnah. 21And they removed from Libnah, and pitched at Rissah. 22And they journeyed from Rissah, and pitched in Kehelathah. 23And they went from Kehelathah, and pitched in mount Shapher. 24And they removed from mount Shapher, and encamped in Haradah. 25And they removed from Haradah, and pitched in Makheloth. 26And they removed from Makheloth, and encamped at Tahath. 27And they departed from Tahath, and pitched at Tarah. 28And they removed from Tarah, and pitched in Mithcah. 29And they went from Mithcah, and pitched in Hashmonah. 30And they departed from Hashmonah, and encamped at Moseroth. 31And they departed from Moseroth, and pitched in Benejaakan. 32And they removed from Benejaakan, and encamped at Horhagidgad. 33And they went from Horhagidgad, and pitched in Jotbathah. 34And they removed from Jotbathah, and encamped at Ebronah. 35And they departed from Ebronah, and encamped at Eziongaber. 36And they removed from Eziongaber, and pitched in the wilderness of Zin, which is Kadesh. 37And they removed from Kadesh, and pitched in mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom. 38And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the Lord, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the first day of the fifth month. 39And Aaron was an hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor. 40And king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the children of Israel. 41And they departed from mount Hor, and pitched in Zalmonah. 42And they departed from Zalmonah, and pitched in Punon. 43And they departed from Punon, and pitched in Oboth. 44And they departed from Oboth, and pitched in Ijeabarim, in the border of Moab. 45And they departed from Iim, and pitched in Dibongad. 46And they removed from Dibongad, and encamped in Almondiblathaim. 47And they removed from Almondiblathaim, and pitched in the mountains of Abarim, before Nebo. 48And they departed from the mountains of Abarim, and pitched in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho. 49And they pitched by Jordan, from Bethjesimoth even unto Abelshittim in the plains of Moab.

50And the Lord spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying, 51Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan; 52Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: 53And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it. 54And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families: and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance: every man’s inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit. 55But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. 56Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them.

1. These are the journeys of the children of Israel. Moses had not previously enumerated all the stations in which the people had encamped, but scarcely more than those in which something memorable had occurred, especially after the passage of the Red Sea; because it was of great importance that the actual localities should be set, as it were, before their eyes, until they were not only rescued from impending death by God’s amazing power, but a way unto life was opened to them through death and the lowest deep. In fact, in one passage he has as good as told us that he omitted certain stations, where he records that the people “journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the Lord,” to Rephidim, (Exodus 17:1) here, however, he more accurately states every place at which they stopped, as if he were painting a picture of their journey of forty years. His object in this is, first, that the remembrance of their deliverance, and so many accompanying blessings, might be more deeply impressed upon them, since local descriptions have no little effect in giving certainty to history; and, secondly, that they might be reminded by the names of the places, how often and in how many ways they had provoked God’s anger against them; but especially that, now they were on the very threshold of the promised land, they might acknowledge that they had been kept back from it, and had been wandering by various tortuous routes, in consequence of their own depravity and stubbornness, until they had received the reward of their vile ingratitude. Whilst, at the same time, they might reflect that God had so tempered the severity of their punishment, that He still preserved and sustained the despisers of his grace, notwithstanding their iniquity and unworthiness; and also that He carried on to the children (of the transgressors) the covenant which He had made with Abraham.

It is not without reason that Moses premises that “these were the journeys of the children of Israel;” for, at the period when they came out of the land of Goshen, they were affected with no ordinary fear and anxiety, when they saw themselves buried, as it were, in the grave; for they were shut in on every side either by the sea or the defiles of two mountains, or by the army of Pharaoh. Having entered the desert, they had seven stations before they arrived at Mount Sinai, in which they must have perished a hundred times over by hunger and thirst, and a dearth of everything, unless God had marvellously succoured them. And although they might have completed their whole journey in so many days, even then their obstinate perversity began to subject them to delay. If the lack of bread and water beset them, they ought to have been more effectually stirred up by it to have recourse humbly to God. So little disposed, however, were they to that humility, which might have taught them to ask of God by prayer and supplication a remedy for their need, that they rather rebelled against Moses: and not only so, but they petulantly assailed God Himself with their impious taunts, as if He were a cruel executioner instead of their Redeemer. Hence, therefore, it came to pass that it was not before the fortieth day that they were at length brought to Mount Sinai. Scarcely had the Law been promulgated, and whilst the awful voice of God was still ringing in their ears, whereby He had bound them to Himself as His people, when, behold, suddenly a base, nay, a monstrous falling away into idolatry, whence it was not their own fault that, having rejected God’s grace, and as far as depended upon themselves having annulled the promise, they did not perisist miserably as they deserved. By this impediment they were again withheld from further progress. With the same obstinacy they constantly raged against God, and, though warned by many instances of punishment, never returned to a sound mind. The climax of their insane contumacy was, that when arrived at the borders of the promised land, they repudiated God’s kindness, and exhorted each other to return, as if God were adverse to them, and His inestimable deliverance, which ought to have been a perpetual obligation to obedience, were utterly distasteful to them. The stations, which then follow, express in a more, lively manner how, — like a ship which is driven away from its port by a tempest, and whirled round by various currents, — they were carried away from approaching the land, and wandered by circuitous courses: as if they deserved that God should thus lead them about in mockery. It will be well for us to keep our eyes on this design of Moses, in order that we may read the chapter with profit.

He calls the order of their marches journeys (profectiones,) in contradistinction to their stations: for they did not strike their camp unless the signal were given, i.e., when the cloud left the sanctuary, and moved to another spot, as if God stretched forth His hand from heaven to direct their way: and hence it was more clearly apparent, that they were retained in the desert by this power.


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