Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The journeyings of the Israelites written out by Moses, according to the commandment of the Lord, Num 33:1, Num 33:2. They depart from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, on the day after the passover, the first-born of the Egyptians having been slain, Num 33:3, Num 33:4. Their forty-two stations enumerated, vv. 5-49. They are authorized to expel all the former inhabitants, and destroy all remnants of idolatry, Num 33:50-53. The land is to be divided by lot, Num 33:54. Should they not drive out the former inhabitants, they shall be to them as pricks in their eyes and thorns in their sides, Num 33:55. And if not obedient, God will deal with them as he has purposed to do with the Canaanites, Num 33:56.
And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys - We may consider the whole book of Numbers as a diary, and indeed the first book of travels ever published. Dr. Shaw, Dr. Pococke, and several others, have endeavored to mark out the route of the Israelites, through this great, dreary, and trackless desert, and have ascertained many of the stages here described. Indeed there are sufficient evidences of this important journey still remaining, for the descriptions of many are so particular that the places are readily ascertained by them; but this is not the case with all. Israel was the Church of God in the wilderness, and its unsettled, wandering state under Moses may point out the unsettled state of religion under the law. Their being brought, after the death of Moses, into the promised rest by Joshua, may point out the establishment, fixedness, and certainty of that salvation provided by Jesus Christ, of whom Joshua, in name and conduct, was a remarkable type. Mr. Ainsworth imagines that the forty-two stations here enumerated, through which the Israelites were brought to the verge of the promised land, and afterwards taken over Jordan into the rest which God had promised, point out the forty-two generations from Abraham unto Christ, through whom the Savior of the world came, by whose blood we have an entrance into the holiest, and enjoy the inheritance among the saints in light. And Mr. Bromley, in his Way to the Sabbath of Rest, considers each name and place as descriptive of the spiritual state through which a soul passes in its way to the kingdom of God. But in cases of this kind fancy has much more to do than judgment.
From Rameses - This appears to have been the metropolis of the land of Goshen, and the place of rendezvous whence the whole Israelitish nation set out on their journey to the promised land; and is supposed to be the same as Cairo. See the notes on Exo 12:37.
Here Follow the Forty-Two Stations
And pitched in Succoth - This name signifies booths or tents, and probably refers to no town or village, but simply designates the place where they pitched their tents for the first time after their departure from Rameses.
Etham, which is in the edge of the wilderness - This place is not well known; Dr. Shaw supposes it to have been one mile from Cairo. Calmet thinks it is the city of Buthum mentioned by Herodotus, which he places in Arabia, on the frontiers of Egypt.
Pi-hahiroth - See on Exo 14:1 (note), and Exo 14:2 (note). Baal-zephon Calmet supposes to be the Clysma of the Greeks, and the Kolzum of the Arabians.
And went three days' journey in the wilderness of Etham - Called the wilderness of Shur, Exo 15:22.
And pitched in Marah - Dr. Shaw supposes this place to be at Sedur, over against the valley of Baideah, on the opposite side of the Red Sea.
And came unto Elim - A place on the skirts of the deserts of Sin, two leagues from Tor, and nearly thirty from Corondel, a large bay on the east side of the Red Sea. Dr. Shaw, when he visited this place, found but nine of the twelve wells mentioned in the text, and instead of 70 palm trees, he found upwards of 2,000. See on Exo 15:27 (note).
Encamped by the Red Sea - It is difficult to assign the place of this encampment, as the Israelites were now on their way to Mount Sinai, which lay considerably to the east of Elim, and consequently farther from the sea than the former station. It might be called by the Red Sea, as the Israelites had it, as the principal object, still in view. This station however is mentioned nowhere else. By the Red Sea we are not to understand a sea, the waters of which are red, or the sand red, or any thing else about or in it red; for nothing of this kind appears. It is called in Hebrew ים סוף yam suph, which signifies the weedy sea. The Septuagint rendered the original by θαλασσα εραθρα, and the Vulgate after it by mare rubrum, and the European versions followed these, and, in opposition to etymology and reason, translated it the Red Sea. See the note on Exo 10:19.
The wilderness of Sin - This lies between Elim and Mount Sinai. Dr. Shaw and his companions traversed these plains in nine hours.
Dophkah - This place is not mentioned in Exodus and its situation is not known.
Alush - Neither is this mentioned in Exodus and its situation is equally unknown.
Rephidim - Remarkable for the rebellion of the Israelites against Moses, because of the want of water, Exodus 17.
The wilderness of Sinai - Somewhere northward of Mount Sinai, on the straight road to the promised land, to which they now directed their course.
Kibroth-hattaavah - No city, village, etc., but a place in the open desert, which had its name from the plague that fell upon the Israelites, through their murmuring against God, and their inordinate desire of flesh. See on Numbers 11 (note). But it appears that the Israelites had traveled three days' journey in order to reach this place, Num 10:33, and commentators suppose there must have been other stations which are not laid down here, probably because the places were not remarkable.
Hazeroth - This place Dr. Shaw computes to have been about thirty miles distant from Mount Sinai.
Rithmah - This place lay somewhere in the wilderness of Paran, through which the Israelites were now passing. See Num 13:1, Num 13:3. The name signifies the juniper tree; and the place probably had its name from the great number of those trees growing in that district.
Rimmon-parez - Unknown.
Libnah - The situation of this place is uncertain. A city of this name is mentioned Jos 10:29, as situated between Kadesh-barnea and Gaza.
Bissah - A place mentioned nowhere else in the sacred writings. Its situation utterly uncertain.
Kehelathah - Utterly unknown; though some conjecture that it might have been the place called Keilah, Sa1 23:1, etc., but this is unlikely.
Shapher - Where this mountain lay cannot be determined.
Haradah - Unknown, Calmet supposes that it may be the place called Bered, Gen 16:14, which was in the vicinity of Kadesh.
Makheloth - A name found nowhere else in Scripture.
Tahath - Unknown.
Tarah - Also unknown.
Mithcah - Calmet conjectures that this may be Mocha, a city in Arabia Petraea.
Hashmonah - Supposed by some to be the same as Azmon, Num 34:4.
Moseroth - Situation unknown. In Deu 10:6 it is said that the Israelites took their journey from Beeroth, the wells of the children of Jaakan, to Mosera, and there Aaron died. If so, Mosera, Moseroth, and Hor, must be different names of the same place; or Moseroth, or Mosera, must have been some town or village near Mount Hor, for there Aaron died. See Num 33:38.
Bene-jaakan - Unknown. The sons of Jaakan. See the preceding verse, Num 33:30 (note).
Hor-hagidgad - The hole or pit of Gidgad. Unknown. It was a place perhaps remarkable for some vast pit or cavern, from which it took its name.
Jotrathah - Situation unknown. It is said in Deu 10:7 to be a land of rivers of waters.
Ebronah - Nowhere else mentioned. Stat. 31.
Ezion-gaber - Dr. Shaw places this port on the western coast of the Elantic gulf of the Red Sea. It is now called Meenah el Dsahab, or the golden port, by the Arabs; because it was from this place that Solomon sent his ships for gold to Ophir, Kg1 9:26. He supposes it to be about sixty miles distant from Mount Sinai - Travels, p. 322, 4th. edition.
Zin, which is Kadesh - A place remarkable for the death of Miriam the prophetess, and bringing water out of the rock. As this place was on the borders of Edom, the Israelites, being denied permission to pass through their land, which lay on the direct road to the promised land, were obliged to turn to the right to Mount Hor, now called Accaba by the Arabs.
Hor - Famous for the death of Aaron. See on Numbers 20 (note). Perhaps Moseroth or Mosera, Num 33:30 (note), was a village near this mountain.
Zalmonah - Probably in the neighborhood of the land of Edom. As צלם tselem signifies an image, this place probably had its name from the brazen serpent set up by Moses. See Num 21:9 (note), etc. From the same root the word telesm, corruptly called talisman, which signifies a consecrated image, is derived.
Punon - A place in Idumea. Nowhere else mentioned.
Oboth - Mentioned before, Num 21:10.
Ije-abarim - The heaps of Abarim. See Num 21:11. Situation uncertain. It is called Iim in the following verse. As the word signifies heaps or protuberances, it probably means tumuil or small hills near some of the fords of Jordan.
Dibon-gad - Supposed to be the same as Dibon, Num 32:34, and to be situated on the brook Arnon.
Almon-diblathaim - Situation not known. It belonged to the Moabites in the time of the prophet Jeremiah. Jer 48:22.
Mountains of Abarim, before Nebo - The mountain on which Moses died. They came to this place after the overthrow of the Amorites. See Numbers 21.
The Plains of Moab - This was the scene of the transactions between Balaam and Balak; see Numbers 23, 24, 25.
From Beth-jesimoth even unto Abel-shittim - The former of these places fell to the Reubenites, Jos 13:15-20. The Israelites were now come to the edge of Jordan, over against Jericho, where they afterwards passed.
For further information on the subject of these different encampments, the reader is requested to refer to the extracts from Dr. Shaw at the end of the book of Exodus.
Ye shall - destroy all their pictures - משכיתם maskiyotham, from שחה sachah, to be like, or resemble, either pictures, carved work, or embroidery, as far as these things were employed to exhibit the abominations of idolatry. Molten images צלמי מסכתם tsalmey massechotham, metallic talismanical figures, made under certain constellations, and supposed in consequence to be possessed of some extraordinary influences and virtues.
Shall be pricks in your eyes - Under these metaphors, the continual mischief that should be done to them, both in soul and body, by these idolaters, is set forth in a very expressive manner. What can be more vexatious than a continual goading of each side, so that the attempt to avoid the one throws the body more forcibly on the other? And what can be more distressing than a continual pricking in the eye, harassing the mind, tormenting the body, and extinguishing the sight?
1. It has been usual among pious men to consider these Canaanites remaining in the land, as emblems of indwelling sin; and it must be granted that what those remaining Canaanites were to the people of Israel, who were disobedient to God, such is indwelling sin to all those who will not have the blood of the covenant to cleanse them from all unrighteousness. For a time, while conscience is tender, such persons feel themselves straitened in all their goings, hindered in all their religious services, and distressed beyond measure because of the law - the authority and power of sin, which they find warring in their members: by and by the eye of their mind becomes obscured by the constant piercings of sin, till at last, fatally persuaded that sin must dwell in them as long as they live, they accommodate their minds to their situation, their consciences cease to be tender, and they content themselves with expecting redemption where and when it has never been promised, viz., beyond the grave! On the subject of the journeyings of the Israelites, the following observations from old Mr. Ainsworth cannot fail to interest the reader.
2. "The Travels of Israel through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water, Deu 8:15, which was a land of deserts, and of pits, a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt, Jer 2:6, signified the many troubles and afflictions through which we must enter into the kingdom of God, Act 14:22. The helps, comforts, and deliverances which God gave unto his people in their distresses, are examples of his love and mercy towards his followers; for he comforts them in all their tribulation, that as the sufferings of Christ abound in them, so their consolation also abounds in Christ, Co2 1:5. The punishments which God inflicted upon the disobedient, who perished in the wilderness for their sins, happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come, Co1 10:1, Co1 10:11; Heb 3:17, Heb 3:18, Heb 3:19; Heb 4:1, Heb 4:2. By the names of their encamping places, and histories adjoined, it appears how Israel came sometimes into straits and troublesome ways, as at Pihahiroth, Exo 14:2, Exo 14:3, Exo 14:10, etc.; and at Zalmonah, Num 2:1, Num 2:4, etc.; sometimes into large and ample room, as at the plains of Moab; sometimes to places of hunger and thirst, as at Rephidim and Kadesh, Exodus 16, 17; Numbers 20; sometimes to places of refreshing, as at Elim and Beer, Exo 15:27; Num 21:16; sometimes where they had wars, as at Rephidim, Kadesh, Edrei, Exo 17:8; Num 21:1, Num 21:33; sometimes where they had rest, as at Mount Sinai: sometimes they went right forward, as from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea; sometimes they turned backward, as from Kadesh-barnea to the Red Sea: sometimes they came to mountains, as Sinai, Shapher, Hor-Gidgad; sometimes to valleys, as Tahath, etc.; sometimes to places of bitterness, as Marah; sometimes, of sweetness, as Mithcah.
3. "The Sins which they committed in the wilderness were many and great; as open Idolatry by the calf, at Horeb, Exodus 32, and with Baal-peor, Numbers 25. Unbelief, at Kadesh, Numbers 14; and afterwards Presumptuous Boldness in the same place; Murmuring against God sundry times, with tempting of Christ, (as the apostle speaks, 1 Corinthians 15). Contention and Rebellion against their governors often; lusting for flesh to fill their appetites, and loathing manna, the heavenly food; Whoredom with the daughters of Moab, and many other provocations; so that this complaint is after made of them, How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! Psa 78:40. All sorts of persons sinned against God; the multitude of people very often; the mixed multitude of strangers among them, Numbers 11. The princes, as the ten spies, Dathan, Abiram, etc. The Levites, as Korah and his company; Miriam the prophetess, Numbers 12; Aaron the priest with her, besides his sin at Horeb, Exodus 32; and at the water of Meribah, Numbers 20. Moses also himself at the same place, for which he was excluded from the land of Canaan.
4. "The Punishments laid on them by the Lord for their disobedience were many. They died by the sword of the enemy, as of the Amalekites, Exodus 17, and of the Canaanites, Num 14:45; and some by the sword of their brethren, Exodus 32. Some were burned with fire, Numbers 11, 16; some died with surfeit, Numbers 11; some were swallowed up alive in the earth, Numbers 16; some were killed with serpents, Numbers 21; many died of the pestilence, Num 16:46, and Num 5:25; and generally all that generation which were first mustered, after their coming out of Egypt, perished, Num 26:64, Num 26:65. God consumed their days in vanity, and their years in terror, Psa 78:33.
5. "Nevertheless, for his name's sake, he magnified his Mercies unto them and their posterity. He had divided the sea, and led them through on dry land, drowning their enemies, Exodus 14. He led them with a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, continually. He gave them manna from heaven daily. He clave the rock, and gave them water for their thirst. He fed them with quails, when they longed for flesh. He sweetened the bitter waters. He saved them from the sword of their enemies. He delivered them from the fiery serpents and scorpions. Their raiment waxed not old upon them, neither did their foot swell for forty years, Deu 8:4. He delivered them from the intended curse of Balaam, and turned it into a blessing, because he loved them, Numbers 22; Deu 23:5. He came down from Mount Sinai, and spake with them from heaven, and gave them right judgments and true laws, good statutes and commandments, and gave also his good Spirit to instruct them, Neh 9:13, Neh 9:20. In the times of his wrath he remembered mercy; his eye spared them from destroying them, neither did he make an end of them in the wilderness, Eze 20:17, Eze 20:22. He gave them kingdoms and nations, and they possessed the lands of their enemies; and he multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and brought them into the land promised unto their forefathers. Neh 9:22, Neh 9:23. Now whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope, Rom 15:4." Let him that readeth understand."