Numbers 34: Lessons Regarding the Promised Land

Introduction. Among other things, this chapter tells the Jews God’s intended borders for the Promised Land. Most Christians do not live in Israel or even in the Middle East. Thus, few Christians feel compelled to study this chapter. Yet, for at least three reasons, this chapter has great relevance to our lives. First, the blessings of our country turn on how we view this subject. No conflict in modern history has been more intractable than the borders of the state of Israel. Wars have been fought over this issue. And the Bible promises that future wars will be fought over this issue as well. God also tells us that those who are a blessing to Israel will be blessed, and those who become a curse to Israel will be cursed (Gen. 12:3). Second, this chapter tells us that God sets boundaries for His believers. Those who live within God’s boundaries will be blessed and protected. Those who live outside God’s boundaries stand on their own against Satan’s attacks. Finally, this chapter reveals that we each have a spiritual inheritance. God is looking for leaders to step forward to help others understand and realize their full inheritance.

1. God Promised the Jews the Land of Canaan. Nu. 34:1-12.

  • God’s land grant to the Jews. On many occasions, God promised the land of Canaan for the Jews: “To you I will give the land of Canaan, as your allotted inheritance.” (Ps. 105:8-11). “For all the land which you see [Abraham], to you will I give it, and to your seed forever...for I will give it unto you.” (Gen. 13:15, 17). “I am the LORD that brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give thee this land to inherit it.” (Gen. 15:4-7). “This is the land which I swore unto Abraham,...saying, I will give it unto your seed.” (Dt. 34:4). God commanded that the land of Canaan would be awarded as an inheritance “according to its borders.” (Nu. 34:1-2). So what were its intended borders?

The Promised Land1

  • The Southern Border. [Which includes Gaza and a portion of Northern Sinai.] Three times, God told the Jews of the southern border of the Promised Land. “1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Command the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance, even the land of Canaan according to its borders. Your southern sector shall extend from the wilderness of Zin along the side of Edom, and your southern border shall extend from the end of the Salt Sea eastward. Then your border shall turn direction from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim and continue to Zin, and its termination shall be to the south of Kadesh-barnea; and it shall reach Hazaraddar and continue to Azmon. The border shall turn direction from Azmon to the brook of Egypt, and its termination shall be at the sea.” (Nu. 34:1-5). Although the exact locations of some of these places are lost today, we know that they included the Gaza strip and parts of Northern Sinai. The south eastern border extended from “the wilderness of Zin” to the “Salt Sea eastward.” (Nu. 34:3). The border then continued to “Akrabbim”, to “Zin” and then “Kadesh-barnea.” It then reached “Hazaraddar” and continued to “Azmon.” The border then continued from “the brook of Egypt” until it reached the Mediterranean Sea (Nu. 34:4-5). God later repeated these borders to Joshua after he invaded the land (Josh. 15:1-4). Decades later, God repeated these border markings to Ezekiel (Ezk. 47:19-20). Israel recently gave up the Sinai and later the Gaza peninsula. Yet, Jesus will restore these lands during His Millennial Reign.

  • The Western Border. [The Mediterranean] The western border was the coastline of the “Great Sea,” known today as the Mediterranean. “As for the western border, you shall have the Great Sea, that is, its coastline; this shall be your west border.” (Nu. 34:6).

  • The Northern Border. [Parts of Southern Lebanon and Southern Syria.] For the northern border, God decreed: “And this shall be your north border: you shall draw your border line from the Great Sea to Mount Hor. You shall draw a line from Mount Hor to the Lebo-hamath, and the termination of the border shall be at Zedad; and the border shall proceed to Ziphron, and its termination shall be at Hazar-enan. This shall be your north border.’” (Nu. 34:7-9). Although the exact locations of some places on the northern border are debated, it is clear that it included parts of Southern Lebanon and Southern Syria. On the northwestern side, it ran from the “Great Sea” (the Mediterranean”) to “Mount Hor,” which is believed to be in Southern Lebanon (Nu. 34:7). From Mount Hor, the border extended to the “Lebo-Hamath.” The word signifies a defense or citadel. It is believed to have existed in what is now south western Syria next to the border of Lebanon. Previously, the 12 spies reached the edge of this city: “So they went up, and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, to the entrance of Hamath.” (Nu. 13:21). Joshua also referenced having conquered lands in Lebanon: “These are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the children of Israel struck beyond . . . in the valley of Lebanon even to Mount Halak . . .” (Josh. 12:7-8). Later, God reminded Joshua that more lands in Lebanon remained to be conquered: “yet very much land [remains] to be possessed . . . all Lebanon, toward the sunrise, from Baal Gad under Mount Hermon to the entrance of Hamath; all the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, even all the Sidonians; them will I drive out from before the children of Israel: only allocate it to Israel for an inheritance, as I have commanded you.” (Josh. 13:1-6). The Bible also repeatedly references the Syrian town of Hamath as part of the northern border of the Promised Land (Jdgs. 3:3; 1 Kgs. 8:65; 2 Kgs. 14:25; 1 Ch. 13:5; 2 Chr. 7:8; Ezek. 47:15; 47:20; 48:1; Amos 6:14). From Hamath, the northern border went to “Zedad,” which is also in Syria (Nu. 34:8). Ezekial later also referenced this as part of the northern border of Israel. From there, the border extended to “Ziphron.” (Ezek. 47:15). On the north eastern side, the border ended at “Hazar-enan,” which is about 60 miles northeast of Damascus, Syria (Nu. 34:9). Ezekial later made clear that Israel’s northern border would eventually run north of Damascus: “The boundary will extend from the sea to Hazar Enan, along the northern border of Damascus, with the border of Hamath to the north. This will be the north boundary.” (Ezek. 47:16-17; 34:9). Israel gave up the southern lands of Lebanon that it once occupied. Yet, Jesus will restore these lands during His Millennial Reign.

  • The Eastern Border. [Which includes the Golan Heights and the West Bank.] For the eastern border, God decreed: “10 For your eastern border you shall also draw a line from Hazar-enan to Shepham, 11 and the border shall go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain; and the border shall go down and reach to the slope on the east side of the Sea of Chinnereth. 12 And the border shall go down to the Jordan and its termination shall be at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land according to its borders all around.’” (Nu. 34:10-12). The eastern border ran from “Hazar-enan” to “Shepham,” which is also in modern Syria (Nu. 34:10). The name means “a treeless place”. It sat east of the Sea of Galilee, in the area of Hauran, which is in modern day Syria. From Shepham, the border extended to Riblah on the east side of Ain. From there, the border extended to the slope on the east side of the Sea of Chinnereth, which effectively drew a line around the Golan Heights (Nu. 34:11). From there, the border “shall go down to Jordan and its termination shall be at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land according to its borders all around.’” (Nu. 34:12). Today, in addition to the Golan Heights, Israel is also being pressured to give up the West Bank. Yet, during His Millennial Reign, these lands will be part of Israel.

2. God Will Bless Those Who Stand By Israel and Curse Those Who Don’t. Gen. 12:3.

  • Why Israel’s borders are important today. Although many may not care about the proper borders of Israel, God gives us a reason to all care about them. God promised to make Israel a great nation: “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.” (Gen. 18:18). To protect Israel, God also promised that the governments who oppose Israel will be cured while the governments which stand behind it will be blessed: “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen 12:3). To avoid any doubts as to whom this blessing extended to, the Bible is clear that it went through the line of Isaac and later Jacob “May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.” (Gen. 27:29; 25:23; Dt. 33:13; 33:28). Israel is free to make land peace treaties with others. Yet, the west should be careful about becoming an enemy of Israel if it disagrees with its land policies.

3. Living Outside of God’s Boundaries is Not Part Of God’s Plan For You. Nu. 34:13-15.

  • The Inheritance of Reuben, Gad, and Half of Manasseh. God made clear that Canaan was part of the Promised Land. “13 So Moses commanded the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the land that you are to apportion by lot among you as a possession, which the Lord has commanded to give to the nine and a half tribes.” (Nu. 34:13). Yet, Moses commanded that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh would not share in the division of the Promised Land. “14 For the tribe of the sons of Reuben have received theirs according to their fathers’ households, and the tribe of the sons of Gad according to their fathers’ households, and the half-tribe of Manasseh have received their possession. 15 The two and a half tribes have received their possession across the Jordan opposite Jericho, eastward toward the sunrising.” (Nu. 34:14-15). After receiving God’s many blessings, the tribes of Reuben and Gad noticed that they had “an exceedingly large number of livestock.” (Nu. 32:1). They also noticed that the conquered land in Jordan “was indeed a suitable place for livestock.” (Nu. 32:1, 4). The tribes of Reuben and Gad therefore pleaded with Moses: “do not take us across the Jordan.” (Nu. 32:5). They presumed that the land of Jordan was better than the Promised Land. Half of the tribe of Manasseh later decided that it would also live outside of the Promised Land (Nu. 32:33, 40-42). God cannot force people to live in His Promised Land. Yet, He warns that “[t]here is a way that seems right to a man. But it ends in the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). Are you looking to live within God’s protective boundaries?

  • The consequences of living outside of God’s protective boundaries. In 930 B.C, these tribes and others abandoned Judah after David’s grandson Rehoboam became king. But a divided kingdom cannot stand (Mk. 3:25). In 723 BC, the Assyrians conquered the tribes of Israel and deported them. After being deported, these tribes never returned. They became part of the lost tribes of Israel. Because they did not live in the Promised Land, returning to it had no meaning to them. More importantly, because God never promised Jordan to them, He did not clear it of foreign armies to allow for their return. These tribes likely form parts of the Diaspora that still live today in Iraq and Iran.

  • God has also given us boundaries for our protection. Each of the boundaries listed above symbolized the boundary of sin. The sea, for example, symbolizes both “the wicked people” (Is. 57:20-21) and a “boundary” (Prov. 8:29 (NASB/NIV)). When the evil people disappear in heaven, so will the sea (Rev. 21:1). Likewise, “Kadesh” was the place where the Jews twice rebelled against God, first believing that they would die if they entered the Promised Land and later doubting His provision of water in the desert (Nu. 14:1-4; 20:1-12). In other cases, the places formed physical barriers that the Jews were not meant to pass, like the Jordan River to the east and Mount Hor to the north. Before Satan was allowed to test Job, he complained to God that Job was protected by “a hedge about him…” (Job 1:10). If you walk within God’s “hedges”, He will also protect you. Yet, if you walk outside of His hedges, you place yourself at risk of spiritual attack. If you decide to live outside His boundaries, you will suffer from Satan’s attacks. Even worse, walking outside of His protections can impact your children as well.

4. God’s Land Promises to the Jews Were in Part Conditioned on Their Obedience.

  • The Jews only briefly realized God’s full gift. Although the Jews once held territory stretching to the northern border promised by God, they only held that territory briefly. Later, God would allow the Assyrians to deport the Jews. Later, the Romans deported them. Each time, their disobedience caused them to lose land that God had offered to them. Have you lost blessings that once existed in your life? If so, are you living a life of disobedience or rebellion?

  • Through obedience, God can restore blessings. When the Jews were obedient, God restored them to their land and the blessings that He promised for them: “...and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.” (Dt. 30:2-4). You too can have your blessings restored when your faith shows the fruit of obedience. Yet, you first need to repent and turn back to God. Is there any area of your life that you need to repent of to restore His blessings?

5. Through Faith and Obedience, God Can Enlarge the Jews’ Borders and Yours as Well.

  • The mere existence of Israel shows God’s faithfulness. Isaiah asked, “Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?” (Is. 66:8). That is exactly what God did. He was faithful to create a nation in a moment that did not exist previously. Each time the Jews were deported, against all odds, God rebuilt Israel. No other people on Earth have maintained their identity the way the Jews did after being deported. “He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving-kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” (Dt. 7:9). “He remembers His covenant forever, the word He commanded, for a thousand generations,” (Ps. 105:8). This of course has implications for us. If God was faithful in His promises to Israel, do we have any reason to doubt that He will be faithful to us as well? (1 Cor. 1:9).

  • Through faith-led obedience, God can also enlarge borders. When the Jews were obedient, God also promised to enlarge their borders: “For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders;” (Ex. 34:24). “When Yahweh your God shall enlarge your border, as He has promised you, and you shall say, I will eat flesh, because your soul desires to eat flesh; you may eat flesh, after all the desire of your soul.” (Dt. 12:20). “If Yahweh your God enlarges your border, . . .” (Dt. 19:8). “You have increased the nation, O Yahweh. You have increased the nation! You are glorified! You have enlarged all the borders of the land.” (Is. 26:15). If your faith causes you to be obedient to God, He can also enlarge your borders by giving you more responsibility. Yet, you must use it to glorify Him. If you want God to bless your ministry, your business, or your family, are you praying for Him to increase your borders?

6. God Will Expand The Boundaries of Israel During the Millennial Reign of the Messiah.

  • God’s Unfulfilled Promise to Abram. God’s unfulfilled land promises can also tell us about the future. God previously made a covenant with Abraham to give his descendants a territory stretching along the fertile crescent from modern day Syria to Egypt: “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates — the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites [Syria], Canaanites [Israel], Girgashites and Jebusites.’” (Gen. 15:18-21). “Every place whereon the sole of your foot shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness, and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even to the western sea shall be your border.” (Dt. 11:24). “From the wilderness, and this Lebanon, even to the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your border.” (Josh. 1:4). It may be hard to imagine Israel today stretching from Syria to Egypt. But the world will be radically reorganized during the Millennial Reign of the Messiah. Both Jews and Christians await the return of the Messiah to rule Israel. Christians differ only in identifying Jesus as the Messiah. God wants us to have faith in His promises, even if they presently seem impossible. “For without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6). Like Thomas, is your faith in God’s promises limited by what seems possible?

7. God Has a Spiritual Inheritance for Each One of Us. Nu. 34:16-29.

  • God is looking for leaders to help others learn of their spiritual inheritance. Along with Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun, God commanded 10 men, one from each tribe, to apportion the inheritance to the sons of Israel in the land of Canaan (Nu. 34:17-18, 29). The collective total of 12 men symbolized God’s perfect government. There were 12 tribes and 12 apostles. The ten men appointed directly from the tribes correspond to the ten commandments. They were leaders for God. Through their names, we learn more about the spiritual inheritance that awaits each one of us. With the fourth through tenth appointed men, we learn that each man is also called a “leader.” God is looking for leaders of faith and courage, like Eleazar and Joshua, to help people find their spiritual inheritance. Eleazar was a man of faith and purity. Joshua was also a man of faith, courage, and fidelity. To serve God, we should aspire to have qualities like them.

(1) God has prepared the way forward for those of humble origin. The first leader came from the tribe of Judah, the fourth tribe and descendant of Leah (Gen. 29:35). (It became the leadership tribe by default) (Nu. 34:19).

  • Jephunneh. (the father) (Nu. 34:19). His name means either “for whom a way is prepared” or “he has turned.” (Nu. 13:6).

  • Caleb (the son) (Nu. 34:19). His name meant “dog.” Dogs are considered dirty animals in Middle Eastern culture. Caleb’s name suggests that he was not a great man at first. But, just as the father’s name suggests, “he turned” to God in faith (along with Joshua from the tribe of Ephraim) when others feared the giants in the Promised Land (Nu. 13:30). God called Caleb “my servant.” (Nu. 14:24). It is therefore fitting that Joshua and Caleb would be the primary persons responsible for apportioning the land. Many believe that his family came from an Edomite tribe called the Kenizzites (See, Nu. 13:6; 32:12; Josh 14:14; 1 Chr. 4:15).

  • Application. Part of our spiritual inheritance is having our sins forgiven and forgotten (Heb. 8:12; 10:17). Caleb’s name suggests that God can use you even if you come from ignoble origins. Are you holding yourself back from serving because of your past?

(2) When you are in fellowship with God, God can clearly hear your prayers. Next came the leader from the tribe of Simeon. This was the second tribe and descendant of Leah (Gen. 29:33; Nu. 34:20).

  • Ammihud (the father) (Nu. 34:20). His name means “my kinsman is majesty.”

  • Samuel (the son) (Nu. 34:20). His name means “Heard of God” or God has heard.”

  • Application. Part of our spiritual inheritance is having God hear the prayers of the righteous (Prov. 15:29; Ps. 34:17). Yet, if you live in open rebellion, your sins may “hinder” your prayers (1 Pet. 3:7; Jo. 9:31; Is. 59:2; Prov. 28:9). If you are willing to live in fellowship with God by following His law, He will clearly hear your prayers.

(3) Those whom God loves, He strengthens. Tribe of Benjamin: the 12th tribe and descendant of Rachel (Gen. 35:18; Nu. 34:21).

  • Chislon (the father) (Nu. 34:21). His name means “strength.”

  • Elidad (the son) (Nu. 34:21). His name means “whom God has loved.”

  • Application. Another part of our spiritual inheritance is having God give us strength when we are weary or weak (Is. 40:29; 2 Cor. 4:16; Ps. 29:11; 68:35; Is. 41:10). Yet, if you want to be made strong, you must first humble yourself before God (Matt. 5:5).

(4) Rejoice for God has provided “a leader.” The tribe of Dan: (the fifth tribe and descendant of Rachel’s maid Bilhah) (Gen. 30:6; Nu. 34:22).

  • Jogli (the father) (Nu. 34: 22). His name means “passing over; turning back; rejoicing”

  • Bukki (The son and “a leader”) (Nu. 34:22). His name is the shortened version of the name Bukkiah, which means, “Yahweh proved” or “Yahweh has emptied.” A person by this same name later became a high priest (1 Chr. 6:5, 51).

  • Application. Part of our spiritual inheritance is having God’s Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us (Jo. 16:13). Yet, to claim this inheritance, we must study the Word to guide our feet (Ps. 119:105). We must also seek Him in prayer (Jam. 1:5).

(5) When we act as leaders, God will clothe us in grace and majesty. The tribe of Joseph / Manasseh: (the second tribe replacing Joseph (the eleventh tribe and descendant of Rachel)) (Gen. 30:23; Nu. 34:23).

  • Ephod. (The father) (Nu. 34:23). The High Priest normally dressed in a special tunic, a sash, a robe, a sacred headpiece with gold letters, and an ephod (apron) with 12 precious stones worn over the priest’s heart (Lev. 8:7-9; Ex. 28:4, 15-20, 36).

  • Hanniel (The son and “a leader”) (Nu. 34:23). His name means “grace of God.”

  • Application: Our own acts for ourselves are filthy rags before God (Is. 64:6). Yet, God will clothe us in brilliant garments (Is. 61:10; Lk. 15:22; Rev. 3:5). You only need to believe in faith and do His will and not your own.

(6) Judgment will come through “a leader” of God’s congregation. The tribe of Joseph / Ephraim: (the first of two tribes replacing Joseph (the eleventh tribe and descendant of Rachel)) (Gen. 30:23; Nu. 34:24).

  • Shiphtan (The father) (Nu. 34:24). His name meant “judgment.”

  • Kemuel (The son and “a leader”) (Nu. 34:24). Others in the Bible also had the same name. The first Kemuel mentioned is a son of Nahor with Milcah (Gen. 22:21). Another was a Levite leader in the days of David (1 Chr. 27:17). The first part of the name “Kemu” likely means “gather together”, or “to collect.” The second part of the name “el” is an abbreviation of Elohim. Some translate this as “Congregation Of God.” Some believe that the name also means “God’s Rising.”

  • Application. God’s leaders will be the instruments of God’s wrath (Rom. 13:3-4). Part of our inheritance is to be leaders for morality, truth, and light in this world.

(7) One who brings light to others is a “leader” whom God protects. The tribe of Zebulun: (the tenth tribe and descendant of Leah) (Gen. 30:20; Nu. 34:25).

  • Parnach (The father) (Nu. 34:25). The name means “the bright one.”

  • Elizaphan (The son and “a leader”) (Nu. 34:25). The name means “God has hidden / protected”. The name can also mean whom God protects, or God of treasure.

  • Application. Another part of our inheritance is to spread the Word of God to others (Matt. 28:19-20). Those who spread the Gospel will have beautiful feet (Rom. 10:15).

(8) God, the source of our strength, will deliver “a leader” for God. The tribe of Issachar: (the ninth tribe and descendant of Leah) (Gen. 30:20; Nu. 34:26).

  • Azzan (The father) (Nu. 34:26). The name means “strong one, powerful’ or “very strong.”

  • Paltiel (The son and “a leader”) (Nu. 34:26). The name means “God is my deliverance” or “deliverance of God.”

  • Application. The Messiah’s return is also part of our inheritance. He will deliver us from His impending wrath upon the world (1 Thess. 1:10).

(9) God’s peace will fall upon “a leader” for God’s people. The tribe of Asher: (the eighth tribe and descendant of Leah’s maid Zilpah) (Gen. 30:12; Nu. 34:27).

  • Shelomi (The father) (Nu. 34:27). Shlomi means “My Shalom” where “Shalom” is well-being or peace. It may also mean “The Shalom of ‘Y’” where “Y” is the Hebrew short for Jehovah, or possibly “having the property of Shalom.” (= “Shalom-ful” in English).

  • Ahihud (The son and “a leader”) (Nu. 34:27). The Ahihud comes from the word (ah), meaning “brother” or figuratively “friend”. With the added letter yod this element is identical to the name Ahi, and means brother of. It can mean “brother (i.e., ‘friend’) of union.” Other translations include “Brother Of The Jews”, “Brother Of Majesty” and “Brother Is Majesty”.

  • Application. Another part of our inheritance is the peace of God when we act as a leader for Him (Phil. 4:7; Jo. 14:27; Phil. 4:9; Col. 3:15).

(10) God’s people of glory are redeemed by Him. The tribe of Naphtali: the sixth tribe and descendant of Rachel’s maid Bilhah (Gen. 30:8; Nu. 34:28).

  • Ammihud (The father) (Nu. 34:28). His name means people of glory; i.e., “renowned.”

  • Pedahel (The son and “a leader”) (Nu. 34: 28). The name means “redeemed by God”.

  • Application. Our final inheritance is to be redeemed by Christ’s blood and glorified in heaven (Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 4:5). We should rejoice at what Christ has done. We can do this by being a living sacrifice for others (Rom. 12:1). We can also do this by showing others the spiritual inheritance that awaits when they turn their lives to Him.