Numbers 33-34

Good morning! Today, Numbers 33-34 directs our attention to land—both that which was traveled after the Exodus and that which will be overrun in the conquest of Canaan.

Chapter 33 opens like a travelogue of Hebrew wilderness wanderings, only without descriptions of each place they stayed. The full list from Egypt to Canaan is given here, but since only some modern-day equivalents of these places are known the exact route is uncertain. Different conjectures are available by typing “Numbers 33 map” into your search engine, but they all end up with the Hebrew people on the east side of the Jordan, where it empties into the Dead Sea by the city of Jericho. Directions for the invasion of Canaan include driving out all the inhabitants of the land, and also emphasize the need to destroy the foreign gods of Canaan (“figured stones”, “cast images”, and “high places”). The promise of land here comes at the expense of those who were living on it already, just as with the “forty acres and a mule” promise in American history. God warns against allowing any “reservations” or pockets of Canaanite people to remain, lest God later wipe out the Israelites in the way God is doing here to the Canaanites. Such an invasion does occur much later in Hebrew history with the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests. This might be a foreshadowing of those events, complete with a theological explanation for why Israel itself will fall, centuries after these events.

The exact boundaries of that which is called “Promised Land” are listed in Chapter 34. Dimensions of the territory are mapped out before the people even enter into Canaan. The “map” also acknowledges land east of the Jordan River that’s been set aside by request (in chapter 32) of Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh. This chapter ends by listing the land agents for each tribe. They are instructed to apportion land holdings by casting lots once Canaan has been overtaken. Plans are nearly all in place for the invasion, though we won’t actually see that until the book of Joshua. Happy reading!

Read Numbers 33-34.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Tomorrow’s passage is Numbers 35-36. Thanks for reading!

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