Numbers 33-36: Itinerary, manslaying

Long list of places that the Israelites had been, starting with Egypt and ending with the steppes of Moab.  In the steppes of Moab, the LORD tells the Israelites that they shall exterminate all the Canaanites, destroy their sacred objects, and demolish their altars.  Lots shall be drawn to apportion land among the tribes.  The LORD describes the borders of the Israelite people–roughly speaking, it is to be the territory delineated in this map.  The LORD further instructs the Israelites to designate 48 towns for the Levites, along with surrounding pasture to a radius of 2000 cubits.   6 towns are to be towns of refuge for manslayers to flee to.  When someone kills intentionally, or intentionally strikes another with an object so that death results, that person is guilty of murder and must be put to death.  When someone kills unintentionally, he may flee to a city of refuge, which he shall be save from the blood-avenger.  He must live there until the death of the high priest.  If he leaves before that, the blood-avenger may kill him.

The LORD allows the daughters of Zelophehad to marry anyone they wish, provided it is within their father’s tribe.  That way, their share of land will not be cut off from their tribe.

Commentary:

  • The itinerary in Numbers 33 smooths out geographical problems in the preceding chapters.  For example, 33:41-49 suggest a route through Edomite and Moabite territory.  This is consistent with Deuteronomy 2-13, but contradicts Numbers 20:19-21.
  • According to 35:33-34, murderers must be killed because bloodshed is religious pollution.  This pollution of the land cannot be cleansed except by the blood of the murderer.
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