God’s Word for You
Numbers 33:36-49 The stages of the exodus, Part 4
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 28, 2022
36 They set out from Ezion Geber and camped in the Wilderness of Zin, that is, at Kadesh. 37 They set out from Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the edge of the land of Edom. 38 Aaron the priest went up onto Mount Hor at the Lord’s command and died there in the fortieth year after the Israelites had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fifth month, on the first day of the month. 39 Aaron was one hundred twenty-three years old when he died at Mount Hor.
Kadesh was the high valley where God’s judgment of forty years’ wandering was pronounced because the Israelites would not trust in him (Numbers 14:33). Here we learn some specific details about the chronology of events.
1, It was now the fortieth of the forty years.
2, Aaron died on the first of Ab (the fifth month), approximately July 15th.
3, Aaron was 123 when he died.
4, Moses was 120 when he died, later the same year (Deuteronomy 31:2; 34:7).
5, Since Aaron did not die in the Egyptian purge of boys, the Scriptures prove the Scriptures, that the midwives had been sparing children for some time (Exodus 1:17), but just before Moses’ birth, the Pharaoh ordered the boys to be thrown into the Nile (Exodus 1:22).
40 The Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev in the land of Canaan, heard that the Israelites were coming.
Moses does not flesh out this event, but simply states that this was the moment, just after Aaron’s death, when the king of Arad heard about them. The story is told in Numbers 21:1-3, how the king attacked Israel, took some prisoners as slaves, but then Israel attacked and completely destroyed Arad, renaming it Hormah “destruction.”
41 They set out from Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah.
42 They set out from Zalmonah and camped at Punon.
Punon is about 30 miles south of the Dead Sea. It was either at Zalmonah or Punon, or between the two, that Israel was attacked by snakes, and Moses was instructed to make a bronze snake on a pole for the people to see and be saved. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,” Jesus said, “so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).
43 They set out from Punon and camped at Oboth.
44 They set out from Oboth and camped at Iye Abarim, on the border of Moab.
45 They set out from Iyim and camped at Dibon Gad.
46 They set out from Dibon Gad and camped at Almon Diblathaim.
47 They set out from Almon Diblathaim and camped by the mountains of the Abarim range, near Nebo.
48 They set out from the mountains of Abarim and camped on the Plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho.
These verses tell only the names of the camps, but Moses’ readers would recognize the wars that took place at these times, and the victories over Sihon in the south and Og in the north. It was after the second victory that Israel moved down to the Plains of Moab opposite Jericho (Numbers 22:1)
49 They camped by the Jordan, from Beth Jeshimoth to Abel Shittim, on the Plains of Moab.
This stopping-place was a dangerous time for Israel, for it was here that the king of Moab hired Balaam to curse Israel. When his curses were all turned aside into blessings, Balaam enticed the Moabite women to seduce the Israelite men into sleeping with them, in a perverted worship of the idolatrous Baal of Peor.
Beth Jeshimoth means “House of the Wasteland.” It was “the flank of Moab” (Ezekiel 25:9). Elsewhere it is simply called Jeshimon, “The Wasteland,” the inhospitable stony furnace around the Dead Sea where David often hid from Saul (1 Samuel 23:19,24, 26:1). This is probably the place where Jesus went to be tempted for forty days by Satan (Matthew 4:2; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2). Where Israel grumbled, the Savior was silent. Where Israel lifted up their words against God and complained about the monotonous food, the Son of God looked to the Word of God for comfort, strength, and true nourishment.
This list of camps ends here at verse 49. It is both a geographical reminder (or gazetteer) and a litany, a religious reminder of God’s gracious acts on behalf of his people. In this way, this list has a lot in common with the liturgical songs and prayers we sing and say together on Sunday mornings. The glorious actions of God are remembered and sung, because God is not simply a nameless entity to whom we credit with creation, but the actual Creator who loves us, who has done such things for his people as lead them through the Red Sea, guide them in their wanderings for forty years, give to all mankind his Ten Commandments, and provide the one and only Savior for all sins of all people for all time. We put our faith in him because he has rescued us, because he forgives us, and because he loves us. His love endures forever.
Pastor Timothy Smith