This is an excerpt from week 5 of my weekly podcast. You can listen to the complete episode here: Journey – Exploring the world of the Bible – God’s Story or click the picture below.
In the book of Numbers the Israelites leave Mt. Sinai and head for the Promised Land. They will enter what is now Jordan, on the King’s Highway, which runs all the way to Damascus. From the highway, they will descend into the Rift Valley, cross the Jordan River, and enter the Promised Land. Today, you can drive that route in a day. How long does it take the Israelites to get there? 40 years! Why so long?
To possess power and wealth in the Ancient World you had to control the trade routes. The King’s Highway is a major trade route that in the south passes through two kingdoms, Edom and Moab. When Moses and all the Israelites come up the King’s Highway to the border of Edom, the king of Edom says, Stop! You can’t pass through here. He has the military might to enforce his response.
Why can’t the Israelites just go around Edom? The whole area around the Kings Highway is desert. Going around Edom is extremely dangerous. So Moses takes the Israelites back to the oasis of Kadesh Barnea.
So do the Israelites wander aimlessly in the desert for 40 years? No, in fact they spend roughly 37 of the 40 years at Kadesh Barnea. For most of the “wandering” period, they are semi-permanently settled at this oasis.
So what is the underlying reason they live in the desert for 40 years? The generation that came out of Egypt was not up to the task of conquest. They are constantly moaning, whining and complaining. In fact, Moses even comes to God saying, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers?” (Numbers 11:11–12 NIV)
These people are not up to the task of conquest as God’s covenant people.
A new generation, one that never new slavery or life in Egypt, is growing up entirely in the wilderness. It will be this generation that enters the Promised Land.
If you appreciate this post please listen to the full podcast by clicking this link: Journey – Exploring the world of the Bible – God’s Story. A new podcast will be posted each week through May, 2015.
Grace and peace.