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Numbers 31-33

Supplemental notes for the Daily Bible Study Bible Reading Plan

by Wayne Blank

Numbers Chapter 31

Israel was about to be established as a country; they already existed as a nation (see Country and Nation). Like any country, Israel sought peace with their neignbors, by making peace, peace through victory - a principle that Jesus Christ will Himself apply at His return (see Christ the Conqueror For Peace), a principle that He also commanded the Israelites to do back then (i.e. "I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ," 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 RSV).

Moses From their base just across The Jordan River from Jericho (see also Jesus In Jericho), the Israelites rendered the Midianites into peaceful neighbors. It would be one of the last leadership duties of Moses before he would die, east of the Jordan.

"The Lord said to Moses, "Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites; afterward you shall be gathered to your people."

And Moses said to the people, "Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian, to execute The Lord's vengeance on Midian. You shall send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war." So there were provided, out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand from each tribe, together with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand.

They warred against Midian, as The Lord commanded Moses, and slew every male. They slew the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian; and they also slew Balaam the son of Beor with the sword [see notes for Numbers 22-24]. And the people of Israel took captive the women of Midian and their little ones; and they took as booty all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods. All their cities in the places where they dwelt, and all their encampments, they burned with fire, and took all the spoil and all the booty, both of man and of beast. Then they brought the captives and the booty and the spoil to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the people of Israel, at the camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho." (Numbers 31:1-12 RSV)

How many troops did Israel lose in the battle? None. It was a total victory.

"Then the officers who were over the thousands of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, came near to Moses, and said to Moses, "Your servants have counted the men of war who are under our command, and there is not a man missing from us." (Numbers 31:48-49 RSV)

Numbers Chapter 32

The promised land of Israel was actually much more than just west of the Jordan River; two tribes, and part of another, at their own request, settled east of the Jordan River. All of the tribes fought together however; the western tribes helped the eastern tribes to secure their land as they passed through, then warriors from the eastern tribes crossed the Jordan to help the western tribes to secure their lands.

Israelite Tribal Lands

"Now the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle; and they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, and behold, the place was a place for cattle. So the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben came and said to Moses and to Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the congregation, "Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon, the land which The Lord smote before the congregation of Israel, is a land for cattle; and your servants have cattle." And they said, "If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession; do not take us across the Jordan." (Numbers 32:1-5 RSV)

Moses agreed to the request. Perhaps he was even a little relieved, since he knew that he would himself not cross the Jordan (see Why Did Christ Put Moses To Death?); he may have been comforted to know that he would at least, even east of the Jordan, be buried near, or within, territory held by Israelites (see also The Valley of Moses' Grave).

"So Moses said to them, "If you will do this, if you will take up arms to go before The Lord for the war, and every armed man of you will pass over the Jordan before The Lord, until he has driven out his enemies from before him and the land is subdued before The Lord; then after that you shall return and be free of obligation to The Lord and to Israel; and this land shall be your possession before The Lord.

But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against The Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out. Build cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep; and do what you have promised."

And the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben said to Moses, "Your servants will do as my lord commands. Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our cattle, shall remain there in the cities of Gilead; but your servants will pass over, every man who is armed for war, before The Lord to battle, as my lord orders." (Numbers 32:20-27 RSV)

Numbers Chapter 33

The journey from Egypt had been a very long one; instead of a matter of months, it took them over forty years, because of their rebellion (see A Journey Without A Destination). The beginning of the journey:

Map Of Israel's Wilderness Journey

"These are the stages of the people of Israel, when they went forth out of the land of Egypt by their hosts under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Moses wrote down their starting places, stage by stage, by command of The Lord; and these are their stages according to their starting places. They set out from Rameses [see In The Land of Rameses] in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the day after the passover the people of Israel went out triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying all their first-born, whom The Lord had struck down among them; upon their gods also The Lord executed judgments. So the people of Israel set out from Ram'eses, and encamped at Succoth." (Numbers 33:1-5 RSV)

The end of the journey, over forty years later, with insructions and a warning:

"And The Lord said to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, "Say to the people of Israel, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan [see the fact Finder question below], then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images, and demolish all their high places; and you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it. You shall inherit the land by lot according to your families; to a large tribe you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a small inheritance; wherever the lot falls to any man, that shall be his; according to the tribes of your fathers you shall inherit.

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as pricks in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them." (Numbers 33:50-56 RSV)

Fact Finder: What does The Word of God tell us about "when you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan"?
See The Land Of Canaan

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