Numbers 34
Pulpit Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof:)
Chapter 34:2. - Into the land of Canaan. Canaan has here its proper signification as the land (roughly speaking) between Jordan and the sea (so in Numbers 32:32; Joshua 22:11, 82). Nor is there any clear instance of its including the trans-Jordanic territories. In the prophets the word reverts to its proper (etymological) meaning, as the "flat country" along the Mediterranean coast (cf. Isaiah 19:18; Zephaniah 2:5; Matthew 15:22). This is the land that shall fall unto you. These words should not be placed in a parenthesis; it is a simple statement in the tautological style so common in these books. With the coasts thereof, or, "according to its boundaries," i.e., within the limits which nature and the Divine decree had set to the land of Canaan.
Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward:
Verse 3. - Then your south quarter. Rather, "and your south side." From the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom. This general preliminary definition of the southern frontier marks the "wilderness of Zin" as its chief natural feature, and asserts that this wilderness rested "upon the sides" (עַל־יְדֵי) of Edom. The wilderness of gin can scarcely be anything else than the Wady Murreh, with more or less of the barren hills which rise to the south of it, for this wady undoubtedly forms the natural southern boundary of Canaan. All travelers agree both as to the remarkable character of the depression itself and as to the contrast between its northern and southern mountain walls. To the south lies the inhospitable and un-cultivatable desert; to the north the often arid and treeless, but still partially green and habitable, plateau of Southern Palestine. The expression, "on the sides of Edom," can only mean that beyond the Wady Murreh lay territory belonging to Edom, the Mount Seir of Deuteronomy 1:2, the Seir of Deuteronomy 1:44; it does not seem possible that Edom proper, which lay to the east of the Arabah, and which barely marched at all with the land of Canaan, should be intended here (see on Joshua 15:1, and the note on the site of Kadesh). And your south border. This begins a fresh paragraph, in which the southern boundary, already roughly fixed, is described in greater detail. Shall be the utmost coast of the salt sea eastward. Rather, "shall be from the extremity (מִקְצֵה) of the salt sea eastward" (cf. Joshua 15:2). The easternmost point in this boundary was to be fixed at the southernmost extremity of the Salt Sea.
And your border shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and pass on to Zin: and the going forth thereof shall be from the south to Kadeshbarnea, and shall go on to Hazaraddar, and pass on to Azmon:
Verse 4. - Shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim. It is not at all clear what מִנֶּגֶב לִמַעַלֵה can mean in this sentence. The A.V., which follows the Septuagint and the Targums, does not seem to give any sense, while the rendering, "to the south side of the ascent," does not seem grammatically defensible. Moreover, it is quite uncertain where the "ascent of Akrabbim," i.e., the "Scorpion-pass," or "Scorpion-stairs," is to be placed. Some travelers have recognized both place and name in a precipitous road which ascends the northern cliffs towards the western end of the Wady Murreh, and which the Arabs call Nakb Kareb; others would make the ascent to be the steep pass of es Sufah, over which runs the road from Petra to Hebron; others, again, identify the Scorpion-stairs with the row of white cliffs which obliquely cross and close in the Ghor, some miles south of the Salt Sea, and separate it from the higher level of the Arabah. None of these identifications are satisfactory, although the first and last have more to be said in their favour than the second. Possibly the ascent of Akrabbim may have been only the Wady Fikreh, along which the natural frontier would run from the point of the Salt Sea into the Wady Murreh. Pass on to Zin. It is only here and in Joshua 15:3 that the name Zin stands by itself; it may have been some place in the broadest part of the Wady Murreh which gave its name to the neighbouring wilderness. From the south to Kadesh-barnea. Here again we have the expression מִנֶּגֶב לְאּ, of which we do not know the exact force. But if Kadesh was in the neighbourhood of the present Ain Kudes, then it may be understood that the frontier, after reaching the western end of the Wady Murreh, made a detour to the south so as to include Kadesh, as a place of peculiarly sacred memory in the annals of Israel. It is indeed very difficult, with this description of the southern frontier of Canaan before us, to believe that Kadesh was in the immediate neighbourhood of the Arabah, where many commentators place it; for if that were the case, then the boundary line has not yet made any progress at all towards the west, and the only points given on the actual southern boundary are the two unknown places which follow. Hazar-addar. In Joshua 15:3 this double name is apparently divided into the two names of Hezron and Addar, but possibly the latter only is the place intended here. A Karkaa is also mentioned there, which is equally unknown with the rest.
And the border shall fetch a compass from Azmon unto the river of Egypt, and the goings out of it shall be at the sea.
Verse 5. - The river of Egypt, or "brook (נַחַל) of Egypt." Septuagint, χειμά ῤουν Αἰγύπτου. It was a winter torrent which drained the greater part of the western half of the northern desert of the Sinaitic peninsula. It was, however, only in its lower course, where a single channel receives the intermittent outflow of many wadys, that it was known as the "brook of Egypt," because it formed the well-marked boundary between Egypt and Canaan (cf. 2 Chronicles 7:8, and Isaiah 27:12, where the Septuagint has ἕως Ρινοκορούρων, from the name of the frontier fort, Rhinocorura, afterwards built there). So far as we are able to follow the line drawn in these verses, it would appear to have held a course somewhat to the south of west for about half its length, then to have made a southerly deflection to Kadesh, and from thence to have struck north-west until it reached the sea, almost in the same latitude as the point from which it started.
And as for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border: this shall be your west border.
Verse 6. - And as for the western border. The Hebrew word for "west" (יָם) is simply that for "sea," because the Jews in their own land always had the sea on their west. Thus the verse reads literally, "And the sea boundary shall be to you the great sea and boundary; this shall be to you the sea boundary." It would seem very unlikely that the Jews familiarly used the word "yam" for "west" after a residence of several centuries in a country where the sun set not over the sea, but over the desert. Nothing can of course be proved kern the use of the word here, but it cannot be overlooked as one small indication that the language of this passage at any rate is the language of an age subsequent to the conquest of Canaan (see on Exodus 10:19; 26:22, and Numbers 2:18) The line of coast from the brook of Egypt to the Leontes was upwards of 160 miles in length.
And this shall be your north border: from the great sea ye shall point out for you mount Hor:
Verse 7. - Ye shall point out for you, i.e., ye shall observe and make for, in tracing the boundary. Septuagint, καταμετρήσετε... παρά Mount Hor. Not of course the Mount Hor on which Aaron died, but another far to the north, probably in Lebanon. The Hebrew הֹר הָהָר, which the Septuagint had rendered Ὤς τὸ ὄρος in chapter 20, it renders here τὸ ὄρος τὸ ὄρος, taking הֹר as simply another form הָר, as it probably is. Her Ha-har is therefore equivalent to the English "Mount Mountain ;" and just as there are many "Avon rivers" on the English maps, so there were probably many mountains locally known among the Jews as Hor Ha-hat. We do not know what peak this was, although it must have been one clearly distinguishable from the sea. There is, however, no reason whatever for supposing (contrary to the analogy of all such names, and of the other Mount Hor) that it included the whole range of Lebanon proper.
From mount Hor ye shall point out your border unto the entrance of Hamath; and the goings forth of the border shall be to Zedad:
Verse 8. - From Mount Hor ye shall point out your border unto the entrance of Hamath. Literally, "from Mount Hor point out (תְּתָאוּ, as in the previous verse) to come to Hamath," which seems to mean, "from Mount Hor strike a line for the entrance to Hamath." The real difficulty lies in the expression לְבאֹ חַמָת, which the Septuagint renders εἰσπορευομέν ον εἰς Ἐμάθ, "as men enter into Hamath." The same expression occurs in Numbers 13:21, and is similarly rendered by the Septuagint. A comparison with Judges 3:3 and other passages will show that "Ibo Chamath" had a definite geographical meaning as the accepted name of a locality in the extreme north of Canaan. When we come to inquire where "the entrance to Hamath" was, we have nothing to guide us except the natural features of the country. Hamath itself, afterwards Epiphancia on the Orontes, lay far beyond the extremest range of Jewish settlement; nor does it appear that it was ever conquered by the greatest of the Jewish kings. The Hamath in which Solomon built store cities (2 Chronicles 8:4), and the Hamath which Jeroboam II. "recovered" for Israel (2 Kings 14:28), was not the city, but the kingdom (or part of the kingdom), of that name. We do not know how far south the territory of Hamath may have extended, but it is quite likely that it included at times the whole upper valley of the Leontes (now the Litany). The "entrance to Hamath" then must be looked for at some point, distinctly marked by the natural features of the country, where the traveler from Palestine would enter the territory of Hamath. This point has been usually fixed at the pass through which the Orontes breaks out of its upper valley between Lebanon and anti-Lebanon into the open plain of Hamath. This point, however, is more than sixty miles north of Damascus (which confessedly never belonged to Israel), and nearly a hundred miles north-north-west from Dan. It would require some amount of positive evidence to make it even probable that the whole of the long and narrow valley between Lebanon and anti-Lebanon, widening towards the north, and separated by mountainous and difficult country from the actual settlements of the Jews, was yet Divinely designated as part of their inheritance. No such positive evidence exists, and therefore we are perfectly free to look for "the entrance to Hamath" much further to the south. It is evident that the ordinary road from the land of Canaan or from the cities of Phoenicia to Hamath must have struck the valley of the Leontes, have ascended that river to its sources, and crossed the watershed to the upper stream of Orontes. The whole of this road, until it reached the pass already spoken of leading down to the Emesa of after days, and so to Hamath, lay through a narrow valley of which the narrowest part is at the southern end of the modern district of el Bekaa, almost in a straight line between Sidon and Mount Hermon. Here the two ranges approach most nearly to the bed of the Litany (Leontes), forming a natural gate by which the traveler to Hamath must needs have entered from the south. Here then, very nearly in lat. 88° 80', we may reasonably place the "entrance to Hamath" so often spoken of, and so escape the necessity of imagining an artificial and impracticable frontier for the northern boundary of the promised land. Zedad. Identified by some with the present village of Sadad or Sudad, to the south-east of Emesa (Hums); but this identification, which is at best very problematic, is wholly out of the question if the argument of the preceding note be accepted.
And the border shall go on to Ziphron, and the goings out of it shall be at Hazarenan: this shall be your north border.
Verse 9. - Ziphron. A town called Sibraim is mentioned by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47:16) as lying on the boundary between Damascus and Hamath, and there is a modern village of Zifran about forty miles north-east of Damascus, but there is no probable ground for supposing that either of these are the Ziphron of this verse. Hazar-enan, i.e., "fountain court." There are of course many places in and about the Lebanon and anti-Lebanon ranges to which such a name would be suitable, but we have no means of identifying it with any one of them. It must be confessed that this "north border" of Israel is extremely obscure, because we are not told whence it started, nor can we fix, except by conjecture, one single point upon it. A certain amount of light is thrown upon the subject by the description of the tribal boundaries and possessions as given in Joshua 19, and by the enumeration of places left unconquered in Joshua 13 and Judges 3. The most northerly of the tribes were Asher and Naphtali, and it does not appear that their allotted territory extended beyond the lower valley of the Leontes where it makes its sharp turn towards the west. It is true that a portion of the tribe of Dan afterwards occupied a district further north, but Dan-Laish itself, which was the extreme of Jewish settlement in this direction, as Beersheba in the other, was southward of Mount Hermon. The passage in Joshua 13:4-6 does indeed go to prove that the Israelites never occupied all their intended territory in this direction, but as far as we can tell the line of promised conquest did not extend further north than alden and Mount Hermon. "All Lebanon toward the sunrising" cannot well mean the whole range from south to north, but all the mountain country lying to the east of Zidon. One other passage promises to throw additional light upon the question, viz., the ideal delimitation of the Holy Land in Ezekiel 47; and here it is true that we find a northern frontier (verses 15-17) apparently far beyond the line of actual settlement, and yet containing two names at least (Zedad and Hazar-enan) which appear in the present list. It is, however, quite uncertain whether the prophet is describing any possible boundary line at all, or whether he is only mentioning(humanly speaking at random)certain points in the far north; his very object would seem to be to picture an enlarged Canaan extending beyond its utmost historical limits. Even if it should be thought that these passages require a frontier further to the north than the one advocated above, it will yet be impossible to carry it to the northern end of the valley between Lebanon and anti-Lebanon. For in that case the northern frontier will not be a northern frontier at all, but will actually descend from the "entrance of Hamath" in a southerly or south-westerly direction, and distinctly form part of the eastern boundary.
And ye shall point out your east border from Hazarenan to Shepham:
And the coast shall go down from Shepham to Riblah, on the east side of Ain; and the border shall descend, and shall reach unto the side of the sea of Chinnereth eastward:
Verse 11. - Shepham is unknown. Riblah cannot possibly be the Riblah in the land of Hamath (Jeremiah 39:5), now apparently Ribleh on the Orontes. This one example will serve to show how delusive are these identifications with modern places. Even if Ribleh represents an ancient Riblah, it is not the Riblah which is mentioned here. On the east side of Ain, i.e., of the fountain. The Targums here imply that this Ain was the source of Jordan below Mount Hermon, and that would agree extremely well with what follows. The Septuagint has ἐπὶ πηγάς, and there is in fact more than one fountain from which this head-water of Jordan takes its rise. Immediately before the Septuagint has Βηλά where we read Riblah. It has been supposed that the word was originally Ἀρβηλά, a transliteration of "Har-bel," the mountain of Bel or Baal, identical with the Harbaal-Hermon (our Mount Hermon) of Judges 3:3. The Hebrew הָרִבְלָה being differently pointed, and the final ה taken as the suffix of direction, we get הָר־בֵל; but this is extremely precarious. Shall reach unto the side of the sea of Chinnereth eastward. Literally, "shall strike (מָחָה) the shoulder of the sea," &c. The line does not seem to have descended the stream from its source, but to have kept to the east, and so to have struck the lake of Galilee at its north-eastern corner. From this point it simply followed the water-way down to the Salt Sea. The lands beyond Jordan were not reckoned as within the sacred limits.
And the border shall go down to Jordan, and the goings out of it shall be at the salt sea: this shall be your land with the coasts thereof round about.
And Moses commanded the children of Israel, saying, This is the land which ye shall inherit by lot, which the LORD commanded to give unto the nine tribes, and to the half tribe:
For the tribe of the children of Reuben according to the house of their fathers, and the tribe of the children of Gad according to the house of their fathers, have received their inheritance; and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance:
The two tribes and the half tribe have received their inheritance on this side Jordan near Jericho eastward, toward the sunrising.
Verse 15. - On this side Jordan near Jericho. Literally, "on the side (מֵעֵבֶר) of the Jordan of Jericho." It was not of course true that the territory which they had received lay eastward of Jericho, but it was the case that the tribe leaders had there asked and received permission to occupy that territory, and it was in this direction that the temporary settlements of Reuben and Gad lay, perhaps also those of half Manasseh.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
These are the names of the men which shall divide the land unto you: Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun.
Verse 17. - Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun. As the ecclesiastical and military heads respectively of the theocracy (see on Numbers 32:28).
And ye shall take one prince of every tribe, to divide the land by inheritance.
Verse 18. - One prince of every tribe. This was arranged no doubt in order to insure fairness in fixing the boundaries between the tribes, which had to be done after the situation of the tribe was determined by lot; the further subdivision of the tribal territory was probably left to be managed by the chiefs of the tribe itself. Of these tribe princes (see on Numbers 13:1; Joshua 14:1), Caleb is the only one whose name is known to us, and he had acted in a somewhat similar capacity forty years before. This may of itself account for the tribe of Judah being named first in the list, especially as Reuben was not represented; but the order in which the other names follow is certainly remarkable. Taken in pairs (Judah and Simeon, Manasseh and Ephraim, &c.), they advance regularly from south to north, according to their subsequent position on the map. Differing as this arrangement does so markedly from any previously adopted, it is impossible to suppose that it is accidental. We must conclude either that a coincidence so apparently trivial was Divinely prearranged, or that the arrangement of the names is due to a later hand than that of Moses.
And the names of the men are these: Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh.
And of the tribe of the children of Simeon, Shemuel the son of Ammihud.
Verse 20. - Shemuel. This is the same name as Samuel. Of the rest, every, one except the last occurs elsewhere in the Old Testament as the name of some other Israelite.

Of the tribe of Benjamin, Elidad the son of Chislon.
And the prince of the tribe of the children of Dan, Bukki the son of Jogli.
The prince of the children of Joseph, for the tribe of the children of Manasseh, Hanniel the son of Ephod.
And the prince of the tribe of the children of Ephraim, Kemuel the son of Shiphtan.
And the prince of the tribe of the children of Zebulun, Elizaphan the son of Parnach.
And the prince of the tribe of the children of Issachar, Paltiel the son of Azzan.
And the prince of the tribe of the children of Asher, Ahihud the son of Shelomi.
And the prince of the tribe of the children of Naphtali, Pedahel the son of Ammihud.
These are they whom the LORD commanded to divide the inheritance unto the children of Israel in the land of Canaan.
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