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In this next chapter, Moses outlines the Israelites’ journey to this point, and in doing so reminds them of the events that have brought them to this place. In that walk down memory lane, it can be difficult to place the locations within a linear reference of time. The entire book moves through a few months in the first 14 chapters, and suddenly it is 38 years later. After that, time seems to stand still as the people are prepared to go into the promised land. It is hard to determine when things happened in those 38 years.

33 1-2 Based on the meticulous records of departure points Moses kept, at the direction of the Eternal One, he reported that the Israelites’ wilderness journey from Egypt led by Moses and Aaron followed this itinerary: They started out from Rameses in Egypt on Month 1, day 15 (the day after observing the Passover), and were exalted before the Egyptians’ eyes (who were burying their firstborn dead, struck down by God, and whose gods the Eternal was punishing). The Israelites’ first camp after Rameses was Succoth. The next, Etham, was right where the wilderness begins. From Etham, they went toward Pi-hahiroth, facing Baal-zephon, and camped in front of Migdol. From Pi-hahiroth, they crossed the sea and entered the wilderness proper. For three days, they crossed that Etham Wilderness, stopping over at Marah and then Elim. That was a good spot to camp. Elim was an oasis with 12 springs and 70 palm trees. 10 After Elim, their next stop was at the coast of the Red Sea;[a] 11 then they camped in the Sin Wilderness. 12 After leaving Sin, they traveled to Dophkah, 13 then Alush, 14 and then Rephidim. At that point, the people were getting desperate for water and ornery on account of their discomfort and thirst. There, God told Moses to produce water for them from out of a rock.[b] 15 After that, the Sinai Wilderness. 16-17 Their stopping places after Sinai were first Kibroth-hattaavah, then Hazeroth. 18-23 They camped as they moved from place to place through Rithmah, Rimmon-perez, Libnah, Rissah, Kehelathah, and Mount Shepher. 24-27 From there they moved through Haradah, Makheloth, Tahath, and Terah. 28-33 Continuing their journey from place to place, they went through Mithkah, Hashmonah, Moseroth, Bene-jaakan, Hor-haggidgad, and Jotbathah. 34-37 They camped in Abronah, Ezion-geber, Kadesh (in the Zin Wilderness), and then Mount Hor (on the Edomite border). 38 It was at Mount Hor that Aaron the priest went up the mountain and died as the Eternal said he would. That was in the 40th year after the Israelites had left Egypt, and it happened on the first day of the fifth month. 39 Aaron was 123 years old when he died on Mount Hor. 40 That was also when the Canaanite king of Arad, from the Negev region, caught wind of the Israelites’ arrival and attacked them.

One battle between the Amorites (a people of Canaan) and the Israelites seems to be mentioned in four different passages (14:45; 21:1; 33:40; Deuteronomy 1:44). In this chapter, Moses is looking back at what has brought them to this place, ready to enter the land. He rehearses the death of Aaron (20:27–29) and the battle that followed. Initially, the Amorites overcome the Israelites at Hormah (14:45; 33:40; Deuteronomy 1:44) and take prisoners (21:1). Then with the Lord’s help, the Israelites rebound to defeat the king of Arad and rescue the people who have been captured (21:2–4). For some reason, this battle is mentioned in different contexts three times and with two different outcomes.

41-47 After Mount Hor, their next camp site was Zalmonah, then Punon, Oboth, Iye-abarim (on Moab’s border), Dibon-gad, Almon-diblathaim, and Nebo’s foothills of Abarim. 48 From Abarim, they set up camp on the flatlands of Moab, on the western banks of the Jordan River, east of Jericho. 49 Their camp stretched from Beth-jeshimoth on the riverbank to Abel-shittim in the flatlands.

50 In that Moabite flatland, next to the Jordan, east of Jericho, the Eternal One told Moses to speak to the people.

Moses is instructed to remind the people of their mission to take the land and utterly decimate the peoples who are presently living there.

Eternal One: 51 Tell this new generation of Israelites that as soon as they cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 they must make its inhabitants flee. They must obliterate any carved or molded images of other gods and goddesses and the high places where they’re worshiped. 53 Tell them they must take that land. I promised it to them and have determined they should live in it as their own. 54 Divide it up among the people by clan, and make decisions about who gets what partly based on the size of the groups. But once you’ve made that rough distinction, draw lots for the specific territories. Whatever you draw, that’s how the land shall be allotted. Each of the tribes from Jacob’s extended families shall have their own land. 55 If they do not fully conquer and take the land from its native inhabitants, those remaining people will be a constant irritation, causing trouble and annoyance like thorns in their eyes and barbs in their sides 56 because if they don’t fully dispossess the present occupants, I will do to the Israelites what I would have done to the Canaanites.


  1. 33:10 Literally, Sea of Reeds
  2. 33:14 Exodus 17:1

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