Numbers 33 Commentary: The long trip summarized.
We should be grateful to the LORD for this chapter. It gives us a summary of the long trip from Egypt to the boundary of the Promised Land. The LORD had commanded Moses to put it in writing. The LORD is concerned about history. Future generations must hear about the miraculous works of the LORD. What is true about the Bible is that men were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the scriptures – but only generally true. Huge portions were written in response to a direct command from the LORD to record these historic events.
Verse 4 explains that the LORD had brought judgment on Egyptian gods. So we can look back and appreciate the choice of signs against Egypt. For example, we can see that the sign of complete darkness was a sign to defy the Egyptian sun-god.
The Israelites left Rameses and camped at Sukkoth. Between Sukkoth and the plains of Moab, Israel camped and decamped dozens of times. The lengthy list of stoppages tells its own story. But at last Israel is here.
The LORD repeats Israel’s mandate: destroy and possess. More appropriately, destroy then possess. Destruction needed to be complete. As history would have it, they didn’t destroy it completely. Instead they mixed in. The bad influences of Canaan infiltrated the Community of God’s people. But that is for later history.
Possession was important but only after destroying. The saint today is warned that you cannot have a clean walk with the LORD without completely destroying sinful elements in your life. As someone has said, you cannot escape a swarm of bees with honey in your hands.
When you read the Bible in pieces (which is very bad), you get the temptation to think that the LORD was cruel in ordering Israel to destroy Canaan completely. But if you have been through the book Exodus and Numbers you know that Israel suffered the same punishment each time she sinned. In fact the same punishment was awaiting Israel, just in case. The generation receiving these instructions is very different from the one that we started with in Exodus.
The consequence of sin is always death. This brings us to a point of understanding and appreciating the value of the cross. How grateful we should be for one who died on our behalf – the LORD Jesus.
We do have a hint here regarding the events of Judges. The LORD promises to punish Israel for any holiness failures – the same punishment that Canaan is about to suffer.
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