In a few weeks I will be teaching the Torah Portion for Bridges for Peace, USA. My study will be on Numbers 33: 1- 36:13. In the Jewish world this is called Masei meaning ‘journeys’ or ‘travels.
Immediately in Numbers 33 we are met by something similar to the ‘begats.’ Moses lists significant places the Hebrews traveled after they left Egypt and that’s what it looks like … they wnt here, there and stopped, then moved on.
Overall, they journeyed from Rameses to Moab.
Num. 33:3 “They journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the next day after the Passover the sons of Israel started out boldly in the sight of all the Egyptians.”
Pharaoh was the leader of Egypt, the superpower of his day. He was mighty and strong. He commanded a great and formidable army but the people of God walked away from all of that to follow the one true God.
Rameses was named for Ra, the most central god of the Egyptian pantheon. He was the universally-worshipped king of the gods, according to ancient Egyptian tradition.
Ra was the sun god. It was said he commanded the chariot (the sun) that rode across the sky during the day. Obviously this was idolatry. God called His people out of this idolatrous influence.
It takes 46 verses to explain the journey they took.
Num. 33:49 “They camped by the Jordan, from Beth-jeshimoth as far as Abel-shittim in the plains of Moab.”
How on earth can this detail be of important? Why does it matter? It’s all in the name Moab and the syllable ‘ab’ is the key. Have you heard the word ‘abba’ – Yes it means father or daddy!
The Jewish sage (wise man) Rashi explains the word Mo’ab to mean “from the father”, since “ab” in Hebrew and Arabic and the rest of the Semitic languages means “father”. It could be translated ‘Who’s your father?’
Now get the significance of this. Those ancient Hebrews were called from the world of idolatry into the will of their father. I find that simple fact, nothing short of sensational.
Once they arrived in Moab, what followed speaks volumes.
Num. 33:50-52 “Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 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 live in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it.”
In other words the message said, you have left the land of idolatry and you will not allow idolatry to be travel with you. “You must destroy all the idolatrous, marble-floored temples, destroy their molten idols and demolish their altars.”
‘You shall have no other gods before me,” comes to mind.
All of this is part of the conditions put down for the people as they trek towards the land of Israel.
It’s easy to shrug it off, and say this is just old stuff, and refers only to the ancient Hebrews. But, we will never understand God or the Bible, if we have not left the idolatry of this world to gain worshipful, intelligent, life-preserving fellowship with the Father.