Numbers 10:11-36 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. Where are the people of Israel presently encamped? See Numbers 10:12 (printed below) For how long have they been camped here (compare Numbers 10:11 with Exodus 19:1 printed below?)

Then the children of Israel set out from the wilderness of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the wilderness of Paran. (Numbers 10:12)

On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the Testimony. (Numbers 10:11)

In the third month after the children of Israel came out of Egypt—on that very day—they came into the wilderness of Sinai. (Exodus 19:1)

When we come to the 10th chapter of Numbers we find the people of Israel encamped in the wilderness of Sinai at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Their present situation had become a semi-permanent settlement; they had been encamped here for about a year, from the third month after the Exodus until the second month of the next year. They were encamped at the base of the mount of God. It was here that they saw the glory of the Lord, and it was here that they had become His covenant people. But now comes the commandment of the Lord to break camp and press on to their final destination, the promised land of Canaan.

2. As the people journey through the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula to the Promised Land of Canaan, what are some of the things they will encounter? See especially Numbers 11:4-5, Numbers 20:1-2, and Deuteronomy 8:15 (all printed below).

The foreigners who were among them had great cravings for different foods, and also the children of Israel wept again and said, Who will give us meat to eat? (5) We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. (Numbers 11:4-5)

In the first month the children of Israel, the whole congregation, arrived at the wilderness of Zin, and they camped at Kadesh. (2) Now there was no water for the congregation, so they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. (Numbers 20:1-2)

He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. (Deuteronomy 8:15)

The people of Israel will make their journey from Mt. Sinai through the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula to the promised land of Canaan. At times there will be a scarcity of food (Numbers 11:4-5). At times there will be a scarcity of water (Numbers 20:1-2). Furthermore, it is a wilderness inhabited by fiery snakes (Deuteronomy 8:15).

3. What other obstacles will Israel encounter before they enter the land of Canaan? See Numbers 20:18,21; Numbers 21:1; and Numbers 21:23,33 (all printed below)

Edom answered, You may not pass through my country. If you attempt to do so, I will come out against you with the sword….(21) So it was that Edom refused to allow Israel to pass through his territory; therefore, Israel turned away from them. (Numbers 20:18, 21)

When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked them and took some of them captive (Numbers 21:1)

Sihon would not allow Israel to pass through his territory. He mustered his entire army and marched out into the wilderness against Israel. When he reached Jahaz, he attacked Israel…(33) Then they turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan and his whole army marched out to meet them in battle at Edrei. (Numbers 21:23,33)

Israel will not only have to cope with the scarcity of natural resources in the wilderness and the danger of wild beasts and poisonous reptiles. Israel will also encounter the hostility of the pagan nations, including the descendants of their forefather’s own twin brother, the people of Edom. On the way through the wilderness Israel will encounter rejection by Edom (Numbers 20:18,21), attack by the king of Arad (Numbers 21:1), and opposition from Sihon the king of the Amorites and Og the king of Bashan (Numbers 21:23,33).

4. Numbers 10:12 mentions “the wilderness of Paran” which was the last point of their journey, located on the border of Canaan. What is significant about it being mentioned at the very outset of Israel’s journey?

As pointed out, Paran was not the next stop on their journey, it was the last point; it was the final stop on the southern edge of Canaan (Old Testament Commentaries, The Pentateuch, Vol. 3, Keil and Delitzsch, pp.56-57). What is being presented from the very outset of the narrative is the fact that the Lord faithfully brought His people through the wilderness to their final destination. As Christians we may take note of such a passage as Philippians 1:6, “Of this I am sure, namely, that he who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.”

5. What divine assistance and assurance did the people of Israel receive on their journey to the Promised Land of Canaan? See Numbers 10:33-36 (printed below)

So they set out from the mountain of Jehovah and traveled for three days. The ark of the covenant of Jehovah went ahead of them during the three-day journey to find a resting place for them. (34) But the cloud of Jehovah was over them by day when they set out from their camp. (35) Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, Rise up, O Jehovah, and cause your enemies to be scattered! Cause those who hate you to flee from your presence! (36) Whenever it came to rest, he said, Return, O Jehovah, to the countless thousands of Israel. (Numbers 10:33-36)

Verse 33 informs us that the ark of the covenant went before them three days’ journey to seek out a resting place for them, and verse 34 tells us that the divine cloud was over them day by day. In verses 35-36 there is recorded for us Moses’ prayer of intercession: that the Lord would scatter His enemies (thereby protecting His people) and abide with His people (thereby providing for them His own divine protection).