God’s Word for You
Numbers 10:11-28 Israel on the move
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, July 30, 2021
The Israelites Leave Sinai
11 On the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, the cloud lifted up above the Dwelling of the Testimony. 12 The Israelites set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sinai. The cloud settled in the Wilderness of Paran. 13 For the first time, they set out according to the command of the LORD through Moses.
The cloud lifted, and the people prepared to move. They didn’t know it yet, but they were headed northeast to the Desert of Paran. The mountains of the central Sinai climb up to a limestone plateau, today known as the Desert of et-Tih (“Tih” is Arabic for “the Wandering”). This plateau is wedge-shaped, just as the Sinai is wedge-shaped. It is “a great and terrible wilderness” (Nature Magazine, Report on the Desert of Tih, May 11, 1871, page 33). Its western side runs parallel with the Gulf of Suez (the Biblical “Red Sea”) and overlooks the modern Suez Canal. The Israelites were now headed northwest to the western side of Paran (the “Tih”), where rugged terrain would take them past several rain-fed gulches (Hebrew wadi) that run down to the Gulf of Aqaba.
Moses gives a chronology of the time Israel spent at Mount Sinai without taking too much time away from his primary function there, which was receiving and recording the Law of God.
15th of second month – Manna and quail begin (May, Exodus 16:1-18)
Third month – Israel arrives at Mt. Sinai (June, Exodus 19:1)
Three days later – God appears in the cloud on Sinai (June, Exodus 19:16)
7th day – God calls Moses up the mountain (June, Exodus 24:16)
Moses hears the Ten Commandments and the Law (June-July, Exodus 24:18)
Fourth month – After 39 days, the people grumble and Aaron builds the calf (July, Exodus 32:1-5)
Fourth month – 40th day, God gives Moses the tablets (July, Exodus 31:18).
Aaron and Israel begin to worship the golden calf (July, Exodus 32:6)
Moses returns, smashes the tablets. 3,000 die. (July, Exodus 24:18)
Fifth month – fashioning begins on tent and articles for the tabernacle (August, Exodus 35:4f.).
1st of first month – Tabernacle is set up (April, Exodus 40:2)
Ordination of Aaron and his sons begins (April, Leviticus 8:1-3)
8th of first month – Sacrifices begin (April, Leviticus 9:1-4)
Death of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu (April, Leviticus 10:1-3,19)
14th of first month – Second Passover (April, Numbers 9:1-2)
1st of second month – God commands the census (May, Numbers 1:1-2)
20th of second month – Cloud lifts; Israel moves (May, Numbers 10:11)
14 First, the standard for the camp of Judah’s descendants set out according to their military units. Nahshon son of Amminadab was over Judah’s unit. 15 Nethanel son of Zuar was over the unit for the tribe of Issachar’s descendants. 16 Eliab son of Helon was over the unit for the tribe of Zebulun’s descendants. 17 The Dwelling was then taken down. The sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari set out, carrying the Dwelling.
The people began to march. We have heard about their trumpet signal, and the cloud had lifted, so the Ark set out, followed by the eastern tribes and then two of the Levitical tribes.
18 The standard for the camp of Reuben set out according to their military units. Elizur son of Shedeur was over Reuben’s unit. 19 Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai was over the unit for the tribe of Simeon’s descendants. 20 Eliasaph son of Deuel was over the unit for the tribe of Gad’s descendants. 21 The Kohathites then set out, carrying the holy things. The others would set up the Dwelling before they arrived.
The trumpet sounded again. The southern tribes had been ready since they saw the cloud move. They fell into line behind the Levites of Gershon and Merari, and they were followed by the clan of Kohath:
22 The standard for the camp of Ephraim’s descendants set out according to their military units. Elishama son of Ammihud was over Ephraim’s unit. 23 Gamaliel son of Pedahzur was over the unit for the tribe of Manasseh’s descendants. 24 Abidan son of Gideoni was over the unit for the tribe of Benjamin’s descendants. 25 The standard for the camp of Dan’s descendants, serving as the rear guard for the entire camp, set out according to their military units. Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai was over Dan’s unit. 26 Pagiel son of Ochran was over the unit for the tribe of Asher’s descendants. 27 Ahira son of Enan was over the unit for the tribe of Naphtali’s descendants.
The western tribes were ready, having seen the lifting of the cloud in the distance and having heard the earlier trumpet blasts. Now they moved into position behind the Levites from Kohath. They were followed by the rearguard, the group led by Dan.
28 This was the marching order for the Israelites, according to their military units. This is how they set out.
This verse reminds us that the Israelites didn’t just follow this order of marching on this first move, but with every move they took throughout their journey through the wilderness. The trek up to the plateau of Paran would take them three days (Numbers 10:33), but it was still going to be forty years before they crossed the Jordan, even though that trip was only four or six marches like this one distant. What made it longer was the sin of the people.
There were salt deserts and sand deserts, mountain passes, and deep rocky valleys. There was no way to feed two million people, or to find fresh water for a day, let alone forty years. There were poisonous snakes and dangerous scorpions. There were jackals, lions, and other predators. Vultures are the constant companion of death in the desert as well as on the prairie. As they got closer to Canaan, they would discover fortified cities, and real live giants. But for God, not one of these things was really a problem at all. The people needed to trust in him; that was all.
There are obstacles before us still today, but we need to trust that the Lord will see us through them. There are those who want to quibble over their right to own killing weapons to defend themselves; this is not trust in God. “I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory” (Psalm 44:6). “I trust in God; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 56:4). “I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go” (Psalm 143:8). “I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word” (Psalm 119:42).
Take your worries today to the Lord himself. Recognize what a blessing it is to be able to do that, since God only hears the prayers of those who have faith in him. But he hears you. He will answer you, and he will guide you through the troubles of today, the worries of tomorrow, right into everlasting joy with him forever.
Pastor Timothy Smith