God’s Word for You
Numbers 34:1-6 Boundaries, part 1
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, February 1, 2022
The Boundaries of Canaan
34 The Lord told Moses 2 to deliver these commands to the Israelites: When you come into the land of Canaan (this is the land that will fall to you as an inheritance, the land of Canaan as defined by its boundaries), 3 your southern border will extend from the Wilderness of Zin along the border of Edom. Your southern border on the east will start from the south end of the Dead Sea. 4 Your border will turn south of the Ascent of Akrabbim, pass through to Zin, and it will end south of Kadesh Barnea. Then it will go out to Hazar Adda and pass through to Azmon. 5 The border will turn from Azmon to the Stream of Egypt, and it will end at the Mediterranean Sea.
The Lord presented the borders of the land so that there wouldn’t be any question about what territory he was giving to them. In fact, these borders were never this broad until the days of King Solomon, four hundred forty years later (1 Kings 6:1).
The southern border was set much further south than we usually think of. It was actually south of Kadesh, one of the more important stopping places of their forty-year sojourn and the place where Miriam died and was buried. However, on the east of the country, it was simply the southern end of the Dead Sea. But from there, heading west, it turned sharply south.
The Ascent of Akrabbim means “Scorpion Pass” (see NIV). It is probably, as Keil describes it, “the lofty row of white cliffs sixty or eighty feet in height, which run obliquely across the Arabah at a distance of about eight miles below the Dead Sea and, as seen from the southwest point of the Dead Sea, appear to shut in the Ghor, and which form the dividing line between the two sides of the great valley” (Numbers p. 251). That “great valley” is called the Ghor (deep cleft) on one side and the Arabah on the other side. It is a deep cutting valley that parallels the Jordan on the West Bank and then runs down past the Dead Sea and beyond.
The Wilderness of Zin was the last narrow strip of desert between the Wilderness of Paran and the Arabah or lowland in the south of Canaan.
A couple of stopping points heading west from there would lead to a gulch known commonly as the Wadi or Stream of Egypt, which emptied into the southeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea.
6 For the western border, you will have the Mediterranean Sea as your border. This will be your western border.
The western border was the simplest of Israel’s boundaries. It was simply the Mediterranean Sea. Although sea levels were a little different 3500 years ago, the Mediterranean coastline was not much different than it is now.
This was their promised territory, south and west. This was a fenceline for their God-commanded holy war against false gods, false teaching, and false doctrine. They were to destroy the gods of the nations within these boundaries and all of those who held to a belief in those false gods. Of course, non-Israelites (Gentiles) who found themselves on the hostile side of the fence could also ask to enter into Israel, show their conversion through circumcision, and be accepted as proselytes.
How carefully and intently did God watch over these boundaries? Were they truly important? “The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord” (Psalm 18:15). “He will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Psalm 72:8). This was the land that God himself called “the land I promised them on oath” again and again: Genesis 24:7, 50:24; Exodus 33:1; Numbers 11:12, 14:23, 32:11; Deuteronomy 8:1, 31:20-23 and 34:4. God cared about this land as a part of his creation, but we also remember that while he “rejoices in his world” (Proverbs 8:31a), even more so “he delights in mankind” (Proverbs 8:31b). The creation was made for its crown, which is man, and the Lord is most especially concerned about the souls of mankind. In the same way, God has placed you where he wants you to be. Give him glory and praise for all of the blessings in your life, even the geographical blessings, but especially for his Son Jesus. He sent Jesus to atone for our sins and to restore our relationship with our heavenly Father. Praise the Holy Spirit for bringing you to faith through baptism and the preaching of the Word. And use the gifts God has given to you to give him glory, even to the point of taking care of the little plot of ground where you live. His gifts bring us many opportunities to praise him.
Pastor Timothy Smith