Sacred Texts  Bible  Bible Commentary  Index 
Numbers Index
  Previous  Next 

Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Numbers Chapter 34

Numbers 34:1

num 34:1

Boundaries of the Land of Canaan. - Num 34:2. "When ye come into the land of Canaan, this shall be the land which will fall to you as an inheritance, the land of Canaan according to its boundaries:" i.e., ye shall receive the land of Canaan for an inheritance, within the following limits.

Numbers 34:3

num 34:3

The southern boundary is the same as that given in Jos 15:2-4 as the boundary of the territory of the tribe of Judah. We have first the general description, "The south side shall be to you from the desert of Zin on the sides of Edom onwards," i.e., the land was to extend towards the south as far as the desert of Zin on the sides of Edom. על־ידי, "on the sides," differs in this respect from על־יד, "on the side" (Exo 2:5; Jos 15:46; Sa2 15:2), that the latter is used to designate contact at a single point or along a short line; the former, contact for a long distance or throughout the whole extent (= כּל־יד, Deu 2:37). "On the sides of Edom" signifies, therefore, that the desert of Zin stretched along the side of Edom, and Canaan was separated from Edom by the desert of Zin. From this it follows still further, that Edom in this passage is not the mountains of Edom, which had their western boundary on the Arabah, but the country to the south of the desert of Zin or Wady Murreh, viz., the mountain land of the Azazimeh, which still bears the name of Seir or Serr among the Arabs (see Seetzen and Rowland in Ritter's Erdk. xiv. pp. 840 and 1087). The statement in Jos 15:1 also agrees with this, viz., that Judah's inheritance was "to the territory of Edom, the desert of Zin towards the south," according to which the desert of Zin was also to divide the territory of Edom from that of the tribe of Judah (see the remarks on Num 14:45). With Num 34:3 the more minute description of the southern boundary line commences: "The south border shall be from the end of the Salt Sea eastward," i.e., start from "the tongue which turns to the south" (Jos 15:2), from the southern point of the Dead Sea, where there is now a salt marsh with the salt mountain at the south-west border of the lake. "And turn to the south side (מנּגב) of the ascent of Akrabbim" (ascensus scorpionum), i.e., hardly "the steep pass of es Sufah, 1434 feet in height, which leads in a south-westerly direction from the Dead Sea along the northern side of Wady Fikreh, a wady three-quarters of an hour's journey in breadth, and over which the road from Petra to Heshbon passes,"

(Note: See Robinson, vol. ii. pp. 587, 591; and v. Schubert, ii. pp. 443, 447ff.)

as Knobel maintains; for the expression נסב (turn), in Num 34:4, according to which the southern border turned at the height of Akrabbim, that is to say, did not go any farther in the direction from N.E. to S.W. than from the southern extremity of the Salt Sea to this point, and was then continued in a straight line from east to west, is not at all applicable to the position of this pass, since there would be no bend whatever in the boundary line at the pass of es Sufah, if it ran from the Arabah through Wady Fikreh, and so across to Kadesh. The "height of Akrabbim," from which the country round was afterwards called Akrabattine, Akrabatene (1 Macc. 5:4; Josephus, Ant. 12:8, 1),

(Note: It must be distinguished, however, from the Akrabatta mentioned by Josephus in his Wars of the Jews (iii. 3, 5), the modern Akrabeh in central Palestine (Rob. Bibl. Res. p. 296), and from the toparchy Akrabattene mentioned in Josephus (Wars of the Jews, ii. 12, 4; 20, 4; 22, 2), which was named after this place.)

is most probably the lofty row of "white cliffs" of sixty or eighty feet in height, which run obliquely across the Arabah at a distance of about eight miles below the Dead Sea and, as seen from the south-west point of the Dead Sea, appear to shut in the Ghor, and which form the dividing line between the two sides of the great valley, which is called el Ghor on one side, and el Araba on the other (Robinson, ii. 489, 494, 502). Consequently it was not the Wady Fikreh, but a wady which opened into the Arabah somewhat farther to the south, possibly the southern branch of the Wady Murreh itself, which formed the actual boundary.

"And shall pass over to Zin" (i.e., the desert of Zin, the great Wady Murreh, see at Num 14:21), "and its going forth shall be to the south of Kadesh-barnea," at the western extremity of the desert of Zin (see at Num 20:16). From this point the boundary went farther out (יצא) "to Hazar-Addar, and over (עבר) to Azmon." According to Jos 15:3-4, it went to the south of Kadesh-barnea over (עבר) to Hezron, and ascended (עלה) to Addar, and then turned to Karkaa, and went over to Azmon. Consequently Hazar-Addar corresponds to Hezron and Addar (in Joshua); probably the two places were so close to each other that they could be joined together. Neither of them has been discovered yet. This also applies to Karkaa and Azmon. The latter name reminds us of the Bedouin tribe Azazimeh, inhabiting the mountains in the southern part of the desert of Zin (Robinson, i. pp. 274, 283, 287; Seetzen, iii. pp. 45, 47). Azmon is probably to be sought for near the Wady el Ain, to the west of the Hebron road, and not far from its entrance into the Wady el Arish; for this is "the river (brook) of Egypt," to which the boundary turned from Azmon, and through which it had "its outgoings at the sea," i.e., terminated at the Mediterranean Sea. The "brook of Egypt," therefore, is frequently spoken of as the southern boundary of the land of Israel (Kg1 8:65; Kg2 24:7; Ch2 7:8, and Isa 27:12, where the lxx express the name by Ῥινοκοροῦρα). Hence the southern boundary ran, throughout its whole length, from the Arabah on the east to the Mediterranean on the west, along valleys which form a natural division, and constitute more or less the boundary line between the desert and the cultivated land.

(Note: On the lofty mountains of Madara, where the Wady Murreh is divided into two wadys (Fikreh and Murreh) which run to the Arabah, v. Schubert observed "some mimosen-trees," with which, as he expresses it, "the vegetation of Arabia took leave of us, as it were, as they were the last that we saw on our road." And Dieterici (Reisebilder, ii. pp. 156-7) describes the mountain ridge at Nakb es Sufah as "the boundary line between the yellow desert and green steppes," and observes still further, that on the other side of the mountain (i.e., northwards) the plain spread out before him in its fresh green dress. "The desert journey was over, the empire of death now lay behind us, and a new life blew towards us from fields covered with green." - In the same way the country between Kadesh and the Hebron road, which has become better known to us through the descriptions of travellers, is described as a natural boundary. Seetzen, in his account of his journey from Hebron to Sinai (iii. p. 47), observes that the mountains of Tih commence at the Wady el Ain (fountain-valley), which takes its name from a fountain that waters thirty date-palms and a few small corn-fields (i.e., Ain el Kuderat, in Robinson, i. p. 280), and describes the country to the south of the small flat Wady el Kdeis (el Kideise), in which many tamarisks grew (i.e., no doubt a wady that comes from Kadesh, from which it derives its name), as a "most dreadful wilderness, which spreads out to an immeasurable extent in all directions, without trees, shrubs, or a single spot of green" (p. 50), although the next day he "found as an unexpected rarity another small field of barley, which might have been an acre in extent" (pp. 52, 53). Robinson (i. pp. 280ff.) also found, upon the route from Sinai to Hebron, more vegetation in the desert between the Wady el Kusaimeh and el Ain than anywhere else before throughout his entire journey; and after passing the Wady el Ain to the west of Kadesh, he "came upon a broad tract of tolerably fertile soil, capable of tillage, and apparently once tilled." Across the whole of this tract of land there were long ranges of low stone walls visible (called "el Muzeirit," "little plantations," by the Arabs), which had probably served at some former time as boundary walls between the cultivated fields. A little farther to the north the Wady es Serm opens into an extended plain, which looked almost like a meadow with its bushes, grass, and small patches of wheat and barley. A few Azazimeh Arabs fed their camels and flocks here. The land all round became more open, and showed broad valleys that were capable of cultivation, and were separated by low and gradually sloping hills. The grass become more frequent in the valleys, and herbs were found upon the hills. "We heard (he says at p. 283) this morning for the first time the songs of many birds, and among them the lark.")

Numbers 34:6

num 34:6

The western boundary was to be "the great sea and its territory," i.e., the Mediterranean Sea with its territory or coast (cf. Deu 3:16-17; Jos 13:23, Jos 13:27; Jos 15:47).

Numbers 34:7

num 34:7

The northern boundary cannot be determined with certainty. "From the great sea, mark out to you (תּתאוּ, from תּאה = תּוה, to mark or point out), i.e., fix, Mount Hor as the boundary" - from thence "to come to Hamath; and let the goings forth of the boundary be to Zedad. And the boundary shall go out to Ziphron, and its goings out be at Hazar-enan." Of all these places, Hamath, the modern Hamah, or the Epiphania of the Greeks and Romans on the Orontes (see at Num 13:21, and Gen 10:18), is the only one whose situation is well known; but the geographical description of the northern boundary of the land of Israel חמת לבא (Num 13:21; Jos 13:5; Jdg 3:3; Kg1 8:65; Kg2 14:25; Ch1 13:5; Ch2 7:8; Amo 6:14; Eze 47:15, Eze 47:20; Eze 48:1) is so indefinite, that the boundary line cannot be determined with exactness. For no proof can be needed in the present day that חמת לבא cannot mean "to Hamath" (Ges. thes. i. p. 185; Studer on Jdg 3:3, and Baur on Amo 6:2), in such a sense as would make the town of Hamath the border town, and בּא a perfectly superfluous pleonasm. In all the passages mentioned, Hamath refers, not to the town of that name (Epiphania on the Orontes), but to the kingdom of Hamath, which was named after its capital, as is proved beyond all doubt by Ch2 8:4, where Solomon is said to have built store cities "in Hamath." The city of Hamath never belonged to the kingdom of Israel, not even under David and Solomon, and was not reconquered by Jeroboam II, as Baur supposes (see my Commentary on the Books of Kings, and Thenius on Kg2 14:25). How far the territory of the kingdom of Hamath extended towards the south in the time of Moses, and how much of it was conquered by Solomon (Ch2 8:4), we are nowhere informed. We simply learn from Kg2 25:21, that Riblah (whether the same Riblah as is mentioned in Num 34:11 as a town upon the eastern boundary, is very doubtful) was situated in the land of Hamath in the time of the Chaldeans. Now if this Riblah has been preserved in the modern Ribleh, a miserable village on the Orontes, in the northern part of the Bekaa, ten or twelve hours' journey to the south-west of Hums, and fourteen hours to the north of Baalbek (Robinson, iii. p. 461, App. 176, and Bibl. Researches, p. 544), the land of Canaan would have reached a little farther northwards, and almost to Hums (Emesa). Knobel moves the boundary still farther to the north. He supposes Mount Hor to be Mons Casius, to the south-west of Antioch, on the Orontes, and agrees with Robinson (iii. 461) in identifying Zedad, in the large village of Zadad (Sudud in Rob.), which is inhabited exclusively by Syriac Christians, who still speak Syriac according to Seetzen (i. 32 and 279), a town containing about 3000 inhabitants (Wetstein, Reiseber. p. 88), to the south-east of Hums, on the east of the road from Damascus to Hunes, a short day's journey to the north of Nebk, and four (or, according to Van de Velde's memoir, from ten to twelve) hours' journey to the south of Hasya (Robinson, iii. p. 461; Ritter, Erdk. xvii. pp. 1443-4).

Ziphron, which was situated upon the border of the territory of Hamath and Damascus, if it is the same as the one mentioned in Eze 47:16, is supposed by Knobel and Wetstein (p. 88) to be preserved in the ruins of Zifran, which in all probability have never been visited by any European, fourteen hours to the north-east of Damascus, near to the road from Palmyra. Lastly, Hazar-enan (equivalent to fountain-court) is supposed to be the station called Centum Putea (Πούτεα in Ptol. v. 15, 24), mentioned in the Tabul. Peuting. x. 3, on the road from Apamia to Palmyra, twenty-seven miles, or about eleven hours, to the north-west of Palmyra. - But we may say with certainty that all these conclusions are incorrect, because they are irreconcilable with the eastern boundary described in Num 34:10, Num 34:11. For example, according to Num 34:10, Num 34:11, the Israelites were to draw (fix) the eastern boundary "from Hazar-enan to Shepham," which, as Knobel observes, "cannot be determined with exactness, but was farther south than Hazar-enan, as it was a point on the eastern boundary which is traced here from north to south, and also farther west, as we may infer from the allusion to Riblah, probably at the northern end of Antilibanus". From Shepham the boundary was "to go down to Riblah," which Knobel finds in the Ribleh mentioned above. Now, if we endeavour to fix the situation of these places according to the latest and most trustworthy maps, the incorrectness of the conclusions referred to becomes at once apparent. From Zadad (Sudad) to Zifran, the line of the northern boundary would not have gone from west to east, but from north to south, or rather towards the south-west, and from Zifran to Centum Putea still more decidedly in a south-westerly direction. Consequently the northern boundary would have described a complete semicircle, commencing in the north-west and terminating in the south-east. But if even in itself this appears very incredible, it becomes perfectly impossible when we take the eastern boundary into consideration. For if this went down to the south-west from Hazar-enan to Shepham according to Knobel's conclusions, instead of going down (Num 34:11) from Shepham to Riblah, it would have gone up six or seven geographical miles from south to north, and then have gone down again from north to south along the eastern coast of the Lake of Gennesareth. Now it is impossible that Moses should have fixed such a boundary to the land of Israel on the north-east, and equally impossible that a later Hebrew, acquainted with the geography of his country, should have described it in this way.

If, in order to obtain a more accurate view of the extent of the land towards the north and north-east, we compare the statements of the book of Joshua concerning the conquered land with the districts which still remained to be taken at the time of the distribution; Joshua had taken the land "from the bald mountain which ascends towards Seir," i.e., probably the northern ridge of the Azazimeh mountains, with its white masses of chalk (Fries, ut sup. p. 76; see also at Jos 11:17), "to Baal-Gad, in the valley of Lebanon, below Mount Hermon" (Jos 11:17; cf. Num 12:7). But Baal-Gad in the valley (בּקעה) of Lebanon is not Heliopolis (now Baalbek in the Bekaa, or Coelesyria), as many, from Iken and J. D. Michaelis down to Knobel, suppose; for "the Bekaa is not under the Hermon," and "there is no proof, or even probability, that Joshua's conquests reached so far, or that Baalbek was ever regarded as the northern boundary of Palestine, nor even that the adjoining portion of Anti-Lebanon was ever called Hermon" (Robinson, Biblical Researches, p. 409). Baal-Gad, which is called Baal-Hermon in Jdg 3:3 and Ch1 5:23, was the later Paneas or Caesarea Philippi, the modern Banias, at the foot of the Hermon (cf. v. Raumer, Pal. p. 245; Rob. Bibl. Res. pp. 408-9, Pal. iii. pp. 347ff.). This is placed beyond all doubt by Ch1 5:23, according to which the Manassites, who were increasing in numbers, dwelt "from Bashan to Baal-hermon, and Senir, and the mountains of Hermon," since this statement proves that Baal-hermon was between Bashan and the mountains of Hermon. In harmony with this, the following places in the north of Canaan are mentioned in Jos 13:4-5, and Jdg 3:3, as being left unconquered by Joshua: - (1.) "All the land of the Canaanites (i.e., of the Phoenicians who dwelt on the coast), and the cave of the Sidonians to Aphek;" מערה, probably the spelunca inexpugnabilis in territorio Sidoniensi, quae vulgo dicitur cavea de Tyrum (Wilh. Tyr. xix. 11), the present Mughr Jezzin, i.e., caves of Jezzin, to the east of Sidon upon Lebanon (Ritter, Erdk. xvii. pp. 99, 100); and Aphek, probably the modern Afka, to the north-east of Beirut (Robinson, Bibl. Res.). (2.) "The land of the Giblites," i.e., the territory of Byblos, and "all Lebanon towards the east, from Baal-Gad below Hermon, till you come to Hamath," i.e., not Antilibanus, but Lebanon, which lies to the east of the land of the Giblites. The land of the Giblites, or territory of Gebal, which is cited here as the northernmost district of the unconquered land, so that its northern boundary must have coincided with the northern boundary of Canaan, can hardly have extended to the latitude of Tripoli, but probably only reached to the cedar grove at Bjerreh, in the neighbourhood of which the highest peaks of the Lebanon are found. The territory of the tribes of Asher and Naphtali (Josh 19:24-39) did not reach farther up than this. From all these accounts, we must not push the northern boundary of Canaan as far as the Eleutherus, Nahr el Kebir, but must draw it farther to the south, across the northern portion of the Lebanon; so that we may look for Hazar-enan (fountain-court), which is mentioned as the end of the northern boundary, and the starting-point of the eastern, near the fountain of Lebweh. This fountain forms the water-shed in the Bekaa, between the Orontes, which flows to the north, and the Leontes, which flows to the south (cf. Robinson, Bibl. Res. p. 531), and is not only a very large fountain of the finest clear water, springing at different points from underneath a broad piece of coarse gravel, which lies to the west of a vein of limestone, but the whole of the soil is of such a character, that "you have only to dig in the gravel, to get as many springs as you please." The quantity of water which is found here is probably even greater than that at the Anjar. In addition to the four principal streams, there are three or four smaller ones (Robinson, Bibl. Res. p. 532), so that this place might be called, with perfect justice, by the name of fountain-court. The probability of this conjecture is also considerably increased by the fact, that the Ain, mentioned in Num 34:11 as a point upon the eastern boundary, can also be identified without any difficulty (see at Num 34:11).

Numbers 34:10

num 34:10

The Eastern Boundary. - If we endeavour to trace the upper line of the eastern boundary from the fountain-place just mentioned, it ran from Hazar-enan to Shepham, the site of which is unknown, and "from Shepham it was to go down to Riblah, on the east of Ain" (the fountain). The article הרבלה, and still more the precise description, "to the east of Ain, the fountain, or fountain locality" (Knobel), show plainly that this Riblah is to be distinguished from the Riblah in the land of Hamath (Kg2 23:33; Kg2 25:21; Jer 39:9; Jer 52:27), with which it is mostly identified. Ain is supposed to be "the great fountain of Neba Anjar, at the foot of Antilibanus, which is often called Birket Anjar, on account of its taking its rise in a small reservoir or pool" (Robinson, Bibl. Res. p. 498), and near to which Mej-del-Anjar is to be seen, consisting of "the ruins of the walls and towers of a fortified town, or rather of a large citadel" (Robinson, p. 496; cf. Ritter, xvii. pp. 181ff.).

(Note: Knobel regards Ain as the source of the Orontes, i.e., Neba Lebweh, and yet, notwithstanding this, identifies Riblah with the village of Ribleh mentioned above. But can this Ribleh, which is at least eight hours to the north of Neba Lebweh, be described as on the east of Ain, i.e., Neba Lebweh?)

From this point the boundary went farther down, and pressed (מחה) "upon the shoulder of the lake of Chinnereth towards the east," i.e., upon the north-east shore of the Sea of Galilee (see Jos 19:35). Hence it ran down along the Jordan to the Salt Sea (Dead Sea). According to these statements, therefore, the eastern boundary went from Bekaa along the western slopes of Antilibanus, over or past Rasbeya and Banyas, at the foot of Hermon, along the edge of the mountains which bound the Huleh basin towards the east, down to the north-east corner of the Sea of Galilee; so that Hermon itself (Jebel es Sheikh) did not belong to the land of Israel.

Numbers 34:13

num 34:13

This land, according to the boundaries thus described, the Israelites were to distribute by lot (Num 26:56), to give it to the nine tribes and a half, as the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh had already received their inheritance on the other side of the Jordan (Num 32:33.).

Numbers 34:16

num 34:16

List of the Men Appointed to Distribute the Land. - In addition to Eleazar and Joshua, the former of whom was to stand at the head as high priest, in accordance with the divine appointment in Num 27:21, and the latter to occupy the second place as commander of the army, a prince was selected from each of the ten tribes who were interested in the distribution, as Reuben and Gad had nothing to do with it. Of these princes, namely heads of fathers' houses of the tribes (Jos 14:1), not heads of tribes (see at Num 13:2), Caleb, who is well known from Num 13, is the only one whose name if known. The others are not mentioned anywhere else. The list of tribes, in the enumeration of their princes, corresponds, with some exceptions, to the situation of the territory which the tribes received in Canaan, reckoning from south to north, and deviates considerably from the order in which the lots came out for the different tribes, as described in Josh 15-19. נחל in the Kal, in Num 34:17 and Num 34:18, signifies to give for an inheritance, just as in Exo 34:8, to put into possession. There is not sufficient ground for altering the Kal into Piel, especially as the Piel in Num 34:29 is construed with the accusative of the person, and with the thing governed by ב; whereas in Num 34:17 the Kal is construed with the person governed by ל, and the accusative of the thing.

Next: Numbers Chapter 35