In 2011, a company called Liquid Robotics launched four Wave Glider robots from San Francisco. Their purpose was to gather scientific data while traveling under and across the world’s oceans. A year later, the first of these robots arrived in Australia, having completed a worldrecord 9,000-mile journey without fuel or outside propulsion.
Numbers 33 describes another epic journey: Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness. These were essentially desert campsites; the people never built fortified towns or put down permanent roots. These wanderings demonstrated God’s faithful care and provision for His people along the way (Deut. 2:7). The journey had begun with their miraculous liberation from slavery. “They marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians, who were burying their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods” (vv. 3–4). This history made their later grumbling all the more ridiculous.
Now the nation stood for the second time at the border of Canaan. The Lord charged them to drive out the Canaanites, destroy their idols, and settle in the land, dividing it fairly as they had been instructed (vv. 51–54). They should take heart, for the same God who had humbled the Egyptian gods could do the same to the Canaanite gods. And when they had conquered the land, they were not to take the credit but to remember the One who had given them victory.
God also cautioned them to obey His commands. If they spared any pagans and their idols, those would become “barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides” and “give you trouble” (v. 55). Then the Israelites would also come under divine judgment (v. 56), a warning that came true later in the Exile.