Israel reviews her history, then sets her sights on Canaan by making final preparations. Moses summarizes the travels and key encampments of Israel.
Read Numbers 33:1-49
What we have here is a brief travelogue of the Israelites’ journey through the Wilderness. And we can learn several things from it beyond their simple route.
So the beginning point of the travelogue of Numbers 33 is Rameses (in the land of Goshen) in Egypt. And the day they left Egypt was the 15th day of the 1st month of the Hebrew ritual calendar year (remember, the Hebrews used several different calendars for various purposes), and this month was called Nisan.
We’re given only one other date: that of Aaron, the High Priest’s death on the 1st day of the 5th month of the 40th year in the Wilderness, and it happened at Mt. Hor.
That means that VERY little time elapsed from the date of Aaron’s death until Israel marched up to Moab, then the Balaam incident, then the Midian War (which probably lasted but a few days), and then Moses would die; perhaps a span of 3 or 4 months or so.
And we are told that Moses was instructed to write down this itinerary. Now, what was the purpose of doing this since the Torah has been recording it as we go? All we can do is speculate because we’re not told.
The reality is that if we go back and check on the name places that the Israelites camped at (the ones we’ve encountered up to now), we’ll find that this list of Numbers 33 does not match. We’ll find a few place names missing, and others added.
When we count them up, we find that 42 stations (places where they stopped, and something or another occurred) are listed in Numbers 33.
So this is a reminder to future readers of Israel’s arduous journey, and how the Lord at various points
- Instructed them,
- Punished them,
- Provided for them,
- Destroyed some of them, and
- Saved most of them.
It is a reminder of just how much they had to overcome to escape the grip of Egypt and to claim the land that the Lord set apart for them. And, I think it has achieved its purpose because I cannot think of a greater event in Israel’s history (an event of uplifting nature) that is seared into the mind and soul of every Jew, than their Exodus from Egypt.
Now, there are only a few of these 42 locations that are known to some degree of certainty, today.
As a result there are many maps with various routes of the Exodus indicated. I don’t think it’s worth our while to deal with it because to a fault these maps show the Israelites basically wandering around the Sinai, with the traditional Christian location of Mt. Sinai towards the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula as the hub of their travels.
The fact is the Sinai could never have supported a group of 3000 Israelites, let alone 3 million.
There is not a shred of archaeological evidence supporting an Exodus that follows the traditional itinerary. The long held and intractable stance that so many Christian scholars have take place on this issue of the route of the Exodus is the primary reason we have so many secular scholars (and even more liberal Christian scholars) doubting there even was an Exodus, because they insist on looking for artifacts of the Exodus in the wrong locations.
I am reasonably confident that the real Mt. Sinai is in Arabia, in an area at one time held by Midian, because that’s exactly where the Bible says it is. And, so do such notables as Philo and Josephus say the location is in Arabia (and they ought to know better than us).
Many artifacts have been found in the former area of Midian (on the south-western Arabian Peninsula) that fits the Hebrew culture and that period and the Bible descriptions of geographical characteristics of Mt. Sinai. And, there is a wealth of local Arabian folklore that supports it as well. No such folklore or tradition exists for the Sinai Peninsula.