Journey In The Wilderness Pt.5 (Numbers 32-36)

Part 5 of the overview of Numbers with commentary featuring chapters (32-36).

Numbers Chapter 32:
The tribes of Rueben and Gad had a lot of livestock and wanted the lands of east of the Jordan River, Jazer and Gilead, that they had recently conquered because they looked like good pasture land. This included the towns of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sibmah, Nebo, and Beon. They asked Moses if they could take this land east of the Jordan instead of the promised land west of the Jordan. Moses was suspicious about their request and wondered if this was an act of cowardice to avoid fighting in the land. He reminded them of how the previous generation didn’t make it except for Joshua and Caleb because of their lack of faith in God at the report of 10 scouts, who feared the Giants in the land. This is why the Israelites wandered for 40 years so that the faithless generation could die out, and Moses didn’t want a repeat of those events. Rueben and Gad’s leaders made it clear they just wanted a place to settle their livestock and the fortified cities would be a good place to protect their wives and children. They promised to help the rest of Israel conquer the land and wouldn’t return home to the eastern frontier until the land was possessed. They were not interested in taking land allotments in the promised land and were satisfied with the lands east of the Jordan.

Moses said if they keep their promise to help the rest of Israel conquer the promised land then they can have their forfeited cities east of Jordan, but if they fail to help, they will be condemned by God. They agreed with Moses and swore an oath to help when the time has come. Moses told Eleazar and Joshua, that if the tribes of Reuben and Gad help with fighting the Canaanites they get to keep Gilead and the land east of the Jordan river, but if they don’t they have to settle for a land allotment with everyone else west of the river. The tribes of Reuben and Gad again confirmed that they will help. Moses assigned Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh the land east of the Jordan, including all the territory taken from King Sihon of the Amorites and the land of King Og of Bashan and all the fortified cities. The descendants of Gad rebuilt the towns of Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, Atroth-shophar, Jazer, Jogbehah, Beth-nimrah, and Beth-haran which were all fortified towns for their pens and flocks. The descendants of Reuben rebuilt the towns of Heshbon, Elealeh, Kiriathaim, Nebo, Baal-meon, and Sibmah and changed the names of these towns. Then the descendants of Makir of the tribe of Manasseh conquered Gilead and drove out the Amorites, so Moses gave the Makirites the land of Gilead. The people of Jair, another clan of the tribe of Manasseh, captured many of the towns in Gilead and changed the name of that region to the “Towns of Jair”. Meanwhile, a man named Nobah captured the town of Kenath and its surrounding villages, and he renamed that area Nobah after himself.

Numbers Chapter 33:
This is the route of the journey of Israel in the wilderness laid out in stages by Moses as he wrote about their progress since coming out of Egypt.

They started their journey from the city of Rameses on the 15th day of the first month, the morning after the Passover. The Egyptians were mourning their firstborns while the Israelite’s emerged with reparations form their years of enslavement. God had defeated the gods of Egypt and Israel was victorious. After they left Rameses they camped at Succoth. They went from Succoth to Etham near the wilderness, but then they turned back to Pi-hahiroth, near Migdol the opposite the direction of Canaan. (This is when the pharaoh thought they were confused and chased them into the Red Sea and drowned.) The Israelites passed through the Red Sea, and after three days of traveling through the Etam desert, they made it to Marah. (This is when they complained about the bitter [“Marah”] water and Moses used a stick to sweeten it.) Afterward, they came to the oasis of Elim, with 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees.

Afterward, they went back to the Red Sea to camp and went into the wilderness of Sin. They moved around in the wilderness of Sin going from Dophkah to Alush and eventually to Rephidim. At Rephidim, the people complained about their thirst and God provide water from a rock at Meribah. They left Rephidim and arrive in the wilderness of Sinai. (This is where they made contact with God on Mt. Sinai. and stayed for a year building the Tabernacle and establishing the priesthood with Aaron and setting apart the Levites.) Afterward, they left for Kibroth-hattaavah. (This is where they complained about eating so much manna and craved meat, so God cave them quail but some got sick from it and died). Then they went to Hazeroth. (This is where Miriam got a skin disease because she was bad-mouthing Moses’ new wife). They left Hazeroth for Rithmah (in the wilderness of Paran), and then Rimmon-perez, Libnah, Rissah, Kehelathah, and then camped at Mount Shepher. They left Mount Shepher and camped at Haradah, then Makheloth, Tahath, Terah, Mithcah, Hashmonah, Moseroth, Bene-jaakan, Hor-haggidgad, Jotbathah, Abronah, Ezion-geber, and finally made it to Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. [While in the wilderness of Paran, they sent out the 12 scouts and only 2 of them trusted God to help them take Canaan so God punished them and told them they will wander for 40 years until the next generation. Korah’s rebellion happened at this point as well.] (Eventually, they reached Kadesh, where Miriam died and Moses struck the rock when God said to speak to it, so he and Aaron were banned from entering the promised land. In addition, the Israelites were resisted by Edom.)

They left Kadesh for Mount Hor where Aaron climbed the mountain and anointed Eleazar his son to take his place, and died at 123 years old. This happened in the summer of the 40th year of their wilderness journey. At that time King Arad attacked the Israelites and took some captives but God gave them favor in defeating them. They destroyed Arad’s land and renamed it Hormah. The Israelites left Mount Hor for Zalmonah. (On the way to Zalmonah they complained about the detour and were attacked by venomous snakes, but God sparred them with the bronze serpent on Moses’ staff). From Zalmonah they went to Puon, then Oboth, and then Iye-abarim. (From Iye-abarim they went up the Arnon River which was the boundary between Moabites and the Amorites and Israel fought with King Sihon of the Amorites and King Og of Bashan.) From Iye-abarim they went to Dibon-gad, then Almon-diblathaim, and camped in the mountains of Abarim near Mount Nebo. (At some point after the defeat of Sihon and Og, Balaam tried to curse the Israelites for Balak King of Moab but failed, so he told the Moabites to use Midianite women to seduce them to break their covenant to make them vulnerable.) Finally, they left the mountains and camped at Beth-jeshimoth, beside the Jordan River across from Jericho.

While camped at Beth-jeshimoth, God told Moses to tell the people to drive out the Canaanites, and destroy all of the pagan shrines and idol statues. The larger tribes get larger land allotments and smaller tribes get smaller ones. The land wil lbe divided between the ancestral tribes. However, if they don’t drive the Canaanites out they will be a thorn in Israel’s eye. If the Israelites disobey and don’t drive them out, they will copy the Canaanite’s sins and be exiled just like the Canaanites.

Numbers Chapter 34:
God told Moses the boundary lines of the promised land for Israel. The southern border will stop at the wilderness of Zin along the edge of Edom and will span from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean sea. From the Dead Sea, it will cut through the Akrabbim Ascent, Kadesh-barnea, Hazar-addar, and Azmon. From Azmon it turns to the brook of Egypt and ends at the Mediterranean Sea. The western border will be the Mediterranean sea. The northern border will span from the Mediterranean sea in the west, eastward past Mount Hor, Lebo-hamath, through Zedad, to Ziphron, and finally at Hazar-enan. The eastern boundary will start at Hazar-enan and run south to Shepham, then to Riblah, and to the eastern side of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). From Kinneret, it goes south down the Jordan River to the Dead Sea.

The land is to be divided amongst the remaining 9 and a half tribes, since the tribes of Rueben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh have already gotten their land east of Jordan. God assigned Joshua son of Nun and Eleazar the high Priest to divide the land amongst the tribes and they start by appointing a tribal leader for each tribe.

These are the leaders: Caleb son of Jephunneh (Judah), Shemuel the son of Ammihud (Simeon), Elidad the son of Kislon (Benjamin), Bukki the son of Jogli (Dan), Hanniel the son of Ephod (half-tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph), Kemuel the son of Shiphtan (Ephraim son of Joseph), Elizaphan the son of Parnach (Zebulun), Paltiel son of Azzan (Issachar), Ahihud the son of Shelomi (Asher), and Pedahel the son of Ammihud (Naphtali).

Numbers Chapter 35:
[All measurements are estimates from the NLT translation]|
While the Israelites were camped at the Jordan River across from Jericho, God gave Moses instructions on city and land distribution to the Levites. The Levites are to have their own towns and own the pastureland around the perimeter of these towns for their livestock. The pasture land will extend 460 meters outward from the walls of the town in all directions. 920 meters from the 460-meter line will be their inner suburbs used for vineyards. Six of the towns given to the Levites will function as cities of refugees for someone who accidentally killed someone to escape the vengeance of the victim’s family. In addition, they will get 42 other towns, so 48 altogether for the Levites. The towns will be given to them by the people of Israel, larger tribes will give more and smaller ones will give less.

God gave Moses instructions on cities of refuge. These cities of refuge will be safe places for people who have accidentally killed someone to hide from the victim’s family. The accused must stay in a city of refuge until the community tries their case. The Israelites must designate six cities of refuge for themselves, three in the land of Canaan, and three east of the Jordan River. These cities are for the protection of Israelites, foreigners living among you, and traveling merchants. Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety.

For the trial of a person that has taken refuge, these are the rules: If the accused hit the victim with a metal object, a stone, or a wooden object then that person is a murderer and must be executed. If he has malice in his heart and ambushes and pushes or throws something at a person and they die, it is murder. Or if a person strikes someone in hate with his fist and that person dies, it is murder. The murderer will be executed by a member of the family of the victim. If the person accidentally dropped something on or threw something at a person, or bumped into someone and they died then they are not guilty. The community is to hear out the accused and judge each situation on a case-by-case basis. If the person is not guilty then they are to stay in the city of refuge until the high priest dies. However, if the slayer leaves the city of refuge before the high priest dies, he is vulnerable and the victim’s family will not be guilty of murder if they kill the slayer, because he left the city of refuge too soon. Once the high priest dies then that person will be free and they can’t be killed by the victim’s family at that point. This law is to be in practice for future generations.

All murderers get the death penalty but only if there is more than one witness. In addition, if a murderer is guilty, his death cannot be bought off with a ransom. Nor should anyone except a ransom for a slayer to leave the city of refuge and return to his home before the high priest has died. Murder pollutes the land and following these rules will keep the land pure. Only the execution of a murderer can purify the land if they are known. Since they are living among God’s presence they must not defile the land.

Numbers Chapter 36:
Then the heads of the clans of Gilead from Manasseh’s tribe came to Moses with a dilemma. Since the daughters of Zelophehad had no brothers when he died, a new rule was established to allow women to inherit land rights when there was no male relative. However, if they married, those land rights will transfer to their husbands and if the daughters marry men from other tribes then the tribal land allotment boundaries will be broken. The dilemma is that each tribe was supposed to have its own allotment of the land but those allotments can be absorbed by other tribes at Jubilee if the daughters then inherited and marry into other tribes. Moses consulted with God and the solution is that women who inherit land can only marry men who are in their father’s tribe. This way their inheritance through their father will stay within the tribe and the allotments won’t get transferred between tribes. Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah all married cousins on their father’s side, in order to preserve the land of Manasseh. This became a regulation for future generations and it was given while the Israelites were camped east of the Jordan across from Jericho.

Comment: In Numbers 27:1-11, the daughters of Zelophehad came to Moses because their father died and he had no male heirs. Moses went to God and he declared that if there were no sons to inherit property, then it will go to the daughters. If the deceased man has no offspring then it will go to his brothers, if he has no siblings, then it will go to his uncles and other male relatives. Once daughters who inherit got married, the daughters would transfer it to their husbands. This is a problem if they married men who are of a different tribe. So in Numbers 36:1-13, they solve that by having those daughters only marry men from within the tribe that way the land stays there with them.

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