Book of Numbers Chapter Thirty-Four Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The Land Of Canaan
Israel was poised to attack Canaan, not by their decision, but at the command of God. It was a place promised to Abram in Genesis 17:8, and isn't it interesting that he received a promise that would not be realized during his lifetime? We know from Genesis 15:13-18 that the existing Canaanites had no faith in the Lord whatsoever, which is why they were to be eliminated—Abram was told that his descendants were to be enslaved for 400-years because "the iniquity of the Amorites (was) not yet complete." We see in Exodus 12:40 that the time of enslavement actually became 430 years, likely because of some person or persons among the Canaanites who trusted in the Lord during that extra time. It's also possible that Moses was not yet ready. At the moment of Numbers 34, Canaan had become a place of idolators where NOBODY had faith in the Lord, and if our country rejects the Lord, if we won't pray to Him or have faith in Him, we will be destroyed also.
We saw in Numbers 32 that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh decided to settle east of the Jordan River instead of moving into Canaan, but they promised to FIGHT with and for the other tribes. Especially note here that God was already in the future, directly leading all this, handling events bigger than our understanding, coming from a place greater than space and time. As to the tribes of Canaan, the existing peoples of the land, note carefully who God is. God the Father would not spare these idolators, any more than He would spare His beloved God the Son, who would later come to die for our sins, our idolatry. God is pure and holy and He will not allow sin to remain within humanity. No matter what the cost, God did and is doing everything to save us and take us with Him into the promised land.
In Verses 1-3, the Lord commenced a discourse to Moses, alerting the nation to His immediate intentions for the occupation of Canaan: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 'Command the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance, even the land of Canaan according to its borders. 3 Your southern sector shall extend from the wilderness of Zin along the side of Edom, and your southern border shall extend from the end of the Salt Sea eastward." To the south, their border would include a familiar place, the Wilderness of Zin. It was where they had wandered in the past, at the southern tip of the Dead (Salt) Sea, continuing east to the border of the nation Edom. They KNEW the southern border of Canaan for they had traveled along it many times. It was to be their own border in the near future.
The Lord's description of Israel's land of the future continued into Verses 4-5: "Then your border shall turn direction from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim and continue to Zin, and its termination shall be to the south of Kadesh-barnea; and it shall reach Hazaraddar and continue to Azmon. 5 The border shall turn direction from Azmon to the brook of Egypt, and its termination shall be at the sea." "Ascent of Akrabbim" meant "steep" or possibly "ascent of the scorpions," and it was a point in the south next to the wilderness of Zin at the border of Edom. "Kadesh-barnea" ("holy")
was the familiar place in the south where Moses struck the rock twice instead of merely speaking to it as the Lord commanded (Numbers 20:7-13). "Hazaraddar" ("threshing floor") and "Azmon" ("strong" or "bones") were recognizable places, further defining their potential border to the south. The river or "brook of Egypt" was an intermittent stream west of Kadesh-barnea, eventually emptying itself into the Mediterranean Sea. It was a place of outflow for the many wadis (gulches) which were sometimes full of water and other times dry.
Verses 6-9: "As for the western border, you shall have the Great Sea, that is, its coastline; this shall be your west border. 7 And this shall be your north border: you shall draw your border line from the Great Sea to Mount Hor. 8 You shall draw a line from Mount Hor to the Lebo-hamath, and the termination of the border shall be at Zedad; 9 and the border shall proceed to Ziphron, and its termination shall be at Hazar-enan. This shall be your north border." The word "Hor" means "mountain," and it is thought to be Mount Hermon, straddling the border between Syria and Lebanon, with a summit over 9,000 feet. Its southern slopes reach the Golan Heights. The location of "Lebo-hamath" is less certain, but "Zedad" is today called Sedad, located 62 miles north of Damascus. "Ziphron" and "Hazar-enan" were well-known and all concerned would understand at that time where the northern border of Israel was supposed to be.
The eastern border is delineated in Verses 10-12: "For your eastern border you shall also draw a line from Hazar-enan to Shepham, 11 and the border shall go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain; and the border shall go down and reach to the slope on the east side of the Sea of Chinnereth. 12 And the border shall go down to the Jordan and its termination shall be at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land according to its borders all around." There are lots of opinions about the place names in these verses and some which were well-known then are less certain today. What's important here is that Israel clearly was to be located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. "Chinnereth" translated "lyre," was the ancient name for the lake now called "Galilee," fed by the Jordan River which then continues and empties into the Dead ("Salt") Sea, as it has for thousands of years.
Verses 13-15: "So Moses commanded the sons of Israel, saying, 'This is the land that you are to apportion by lot among you as a possession, which the Lord has commanded to give to the nine and a half tribes. 14 For the tribe of the sons of Reuben have received theirs according to their fathers’ households, and the tribe of the sons of Gad according to their fathers’ households, and the half-tribe of Manasseh have received their possession. 15 The two and a half tribes have received their possession across the Jordan opposite Jericho, eastward toward the sunrising.'" Each tribe of Israel was to be given a large segment of land within Canaan, as described in the preceding verses. The land was to be apportioned "by lot," and of course, God would have the outcome of those lots for the nation's tribes. He knew where they would be. It is noted without further comment that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the "half-tribe of Manasseh" which was descended from Jacob's son, Joseph, already had decided to remain east of the Jordan River.
Verses 16-29: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 'These are the names of the men who shall apportion the land to you for inheritance: Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun. 18 You shall take one leader of every tribe to apportion the land for inheritance. 19 These are the names of the men: of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh. 20 Of the tribe of the sons of Simeon, Samuel the son of Ammihud. 21 Of the tribe of Benjamin, Elidad the son of Chislon. 22 Of the tribe of the sons of Dan a leader, Bukki the son of Jogli. 23 Of the sons of Joseph: of the tribe of the sons of Manasseh a leader, Hanniel the son of Ephod. 24 Of the tribe of the sons of Ephraim a leader, Kemuel the son of Shiphtan. 25 Of the tribe of the sons of Zebulun a leader, Elizaphan the son of Parnach. 26 Of the tribe of the sons of Issachar a leader, Paltiel the son of Azzan. 27 Of the tribe of the sons of Asher a leader, Ahihud the son of Shelomi. 28 Of the tribe of the sons of Naphtali a leader, Pedahel the son of Ammihud.' 29 These are those whom the Lord commanded to apportion the inheritance to the sons of Israel in the land of Canaan." Dr. J. Vernon McGee said about the men of this section, "I won't quote these verses because it is a little monotonous to us today." He then continued, "But it was very important to Israel in that day." And it was. Some of these men we know quite well. Others are more obscure. Eleazar was a surviving son of Aaron, Moses' brother, and he was now Israel's high priest. Joshua was Moses' assistant for many decades and soon was to be the leader of Israel. Caleb and Joshua were the only two out of twelve who, after spying on the land of Canaan, came back with a good report. And they were the only two still alive (except for Moses) from the generation that left Egypt so many years ago.
These men were to choose the locations of the various tribes within Canaan. Notice the confidence of God that they were the right people for the task. See His confidence that Israel would actually cross the River Jordan and conquer Canaan. If you are called by God for some task, be assured that you are not up to it. None of us are. But He is and He is able to bring us through. What we lack, He has. What we can't do, He can. The confidence we need is His in abundance, and here's what you need: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). We can do it—through faith in the strength, the character and the love of our Lord.
Father, if You call me, I will go. But I also know, Lord, that I cannot do it in my own strength. So I commit my way to You, with the understanding in faith that You can do what I can't accomplish alone. I am Yours, Lord. In Jesus Name. Amen.