At last, it was time for the Israelites to leave Sinai and begin their journey to the land of Canaan. The signal for them to move out was the movement of the cloud from its place over the tabernacle.
All of the preparations had been completed. The tribes had been counted by census and organized (chapters 1 – 4). The maintenance of the tabernacle had been detailed and the rituals that were to be observed when in the land of Canaan were described (chapters 5 – 9). So, it happened that in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month, the cloud was lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony (v. 11). Based on this, the Israelites left Sinai fourteen months after they departed Egypt and almost a year after they arrived at Mount Sinai.
As specified in Numbers 9:17, when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the sons of Israel set out on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai (v. 12). The phrase set out on their journeys is literally “journeyed on their journeys” in the Hebrew text. The moving of the LORD’s cloud caused the moving of the LORD’s people.
The cloud moved until it settled down in the wilderness of Paran. Their ultimate destination of this journey was Kadesh-Barnea. Later, this would be the entry point to the land of Canaan. The “wilderness of Paran” is traditionally held to be an area north of the traditional location of Mount Sinai on the Sinai Peninsula (See Map). According to Galatians 4:25, Mount Sinai was in Arabia. In any event, Paran was a camping spot en route to the Promised Land.
In response to the movement of the cloud, the Israelites moved out for the first time according to the commandment of the Lord through Moses (v. 13).
11 Now in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month, the cloud was lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony; 12 and the sons of Israel set out on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai. Then the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. 13 So they moved out for the first time according to the commandment of the Lord through Moses.
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