Bible Commentary: Numbers 34

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Numbers 34

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Boundaries and Tribal Allotments 

Eleazar the priest and Joshua are given the responsibility of dividing up the inheritance of the land. Eleazar is chosen because he was the high priest and had the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim. Joshua is selected because he would soon be successor to Moses (verse 17). The boundaries of the entire area are described. East of the Jordan River, Reuben, Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh have already received their inheritance (verse 14; Numbers 32). The other half of Manasseh will have its inheritance in Canaan. It should be noted that the land is not actually divided up in Numbers 34. That actually occurs in Joshua 14-19, after the land is surveyed.

Some of the more modern names will help in defining the territory described here. The Salt Sea (Numbers 34:3) is, of course, the Dead Sea. The Great Sea (verse 6), from the perspective of the Promised Land, is the Mediterranean. The Sea of Chinnereth (verse 11) is better known by us as the Sea of Galilee. The River or Brook of Egypt (verse 5) is probably the Wadi al-Arish, in the western Sinai Peninsula, not too far from the present Israeli-Egyptian border. Some have argued that no other river than the Nile could properly be called the River of Egypt. However, this cannot be true since the Israelites had to leave Egypt and go to the Promised Land. If the boundary of the Promised Land were the Nile, then the Israelites would have been in the Promised Land while they were yet in Goshen! Finally, "Mount Hor," located in the north (verse 7), cannot be the same Mount Hor upon which Aaron died in the south. According to the Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary: "The Hebrew words...Hor-ha-hor, properly signify 'the mountain of the mountain'—'the high double mountain,' which, from the situation, can mean nothing else than the mountain Amana (Song 4:8), a member of the great Lebanon range" (note on Numbers 34:7-9).

Don't worry if you cannot trace the borders accurately. Some of the names are lost to us today. Notice that the Levites did not receive a land territory for their inheritance as all the other tribes did. Their locations are described in the next chapter.