Parashah 43: Masa’ei (Stages)

Parashah 43: Numbers 33:1-36:13

(In a regular year, read with Parashah 42;  in a leap year read separately.)

“These are the stages in the journey of the people of Isra’el as they left the land of Egypt divided into groups under the leadership of Moshe and Aharon. Moshe recorded each of the stages of their journey by order of Adonai ; here are the starting-points of each stage …” (Numbers 33:1-2).

Reviewing the Wilderness Lessons

Every stop on the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land was given a name.  Every name had significance to the stop – some which are known and some that can only be inferred. Each stop and camp may be compared to the spiritual growth of the nation being formed as well as an individual’s personal growth in that nation.  Some of the camps were overnight stays while others lasted months.  

From the beginning, Yahweh tabernacled with His people being their provider and protector. For most of the wilderness trek, they learned long-suffering as they watched members of their families die while new members were born knowing they themselves would never see the land of milk and honey.  By the end of the forty year hike, they were moving together as a nation, pressing toward the Promised Land  into regions beyond the wilderness.

When we are born again into His Kingdom, Yahweh tabernacles in our hearts through His Ruach.  He becomes our provider, protector, as well as our deliverer.  As we walk out our lives of faith in the world, we experience times of spiritual growth that sanctify us as part of the family of Elohim.  Some lessons take only moments to learn while others take longer.  We learn long-suffering in our trials along with the other fruits of the Ruach (Galatians 5:22-23).   Parts of our lives pass away while other parts take flight and grow in ways we could never have imagined.  Holding onto a walk of faith, we press on toward the goal, the upward high calling in Messiah, our glorious immortality that will bring us into the presence of Yahweh in His eternal Kingdom and the New Jerusalem (Philippians 3:14).

There were 42 encampments or in Hebrew מב meaning “mighty house” in word pictures.  Forty-two has been associated with persecution, judgment and death as well as redemption and salvation.  There were 42 young men who made fun of Elisha’s bald head and were torn to pieces by two bears (2 Kings 2:23-24).  There are 42 months for the gentiles to trample Jerusalem and the beast to speak blasphemies (Revelation 11:2, 13”5).   After 42 camps, before entering the Promised Land,  the Israelites are reminded of the lessons they should have learned through each stage of spiritual growth.

1. Ram’ses, Egypt (Begotten by Ra)

The Hebrews are delivered from slavery on the fifteenth day of the first month, the morning after Pesach.

Egypt or Mitzrayim – מצרים – mem, tzadik, resh, yod, mem

mighty pull toward authority, finished work of chaos

“The people left proudly in view of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying those among them whom Adonai had killed, all their firstborn; Adonai had also executed judgment on their gods” (Numbers 33:3-4)

2. Sukkot (Temporary Dwelling)

This is the first stop for the Israelites.  Elohim’s Sukkah began to cover them by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.

Sukkot – סכת – samech, kaf, tav

support and cover the covenant

“The people of Isra’el moved on from Ram’ses and camped at Sukkot” (Numbers 33:5).

3. Etam(Cleft)

A stop at the boundary between the sea and the desert some distance from Sukkoth.

Etam – עיטם – ayin, yod, tet, mem

see the finished work of twisted chaos

“They moved on from Sukkot and camped at Etam, by the edge of the desert” (Numbers 33:6).

4.  P’nei-Hachirot (Mouth of Caverns)

P’nei Hachirot – פני החירת – pey, yod – hey, chet, yod, resh, tav

– source of life’s finished work – reveal and protect the finished work, head of the covenant

“They moved on from Etam and turned back to Pi-Hachirot, in front of Ba’al-Tz’fon, and camped before Migdol” (Numbers 33:7).

5. Migdol (Watchtower)

This camp was near Pi-Hachirot in front of Ba’al Tz’fon in front of Migdol.

Migdol – מגדל – mem, gimel, dalet, lamed

mighty lifts up the pathway of the shepherd

“Between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Ba’al-zephon, opposite it, by the sea” (Exodus 14:2).

6. Marah (Bitterness)

Three days journey into the Etam desert, Elohim healed the waters of Marah so the Israelites would not become bitter (Exodus 15:23-26). 

Marah – מרה – mem, resh, hey

– mighty authority revealed

“They continued three days’ journey into the Etam Desert and camped at Marah” (Numbers 33:8).

7. Elim (Palm Grove)

There were twelve springs and seventy palm trees to refresh the 12 Tribes of Isra’el.

Elim – אלים  – alef, lamed, yod, mem

the first shepherd finished work of chaos

“They moved on from Marah and came to Eilim; in Eilim were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, so they camped there” (Numbers 33:9).

8. Sea of Suf (Red Sea)

Isra’el crossed the Red Sea on dry ground and the Egyptian army was destroyed (Exodus 14).

Sea of Suf – ים סוף – yod, mem, samech, vav, peh

finished work of chaos, support tied to the mouth

“They moved on from Eilim and camped by the Sea of Suf” (Numbers 33:10).

9. Desert of Tzin (Prick, Crag)

Elohim sent manna and quail to feed Isra’el (Exodus 16).

Desert of Tzin – מדבר צן – mem, dalet, bet, resh – samech, noon

chaos pathway to the house head, draws toward life

“They moved on from the Sea of Su and camped in the Seen Desert” (Numbers 33:11).

10. Dofkah (A Knock)

Dofkah – דפכה – dalet, pey, kaf, hey

pathway of the mouth opens to reveal

“They moved on from the Seen Desert and camped at Dofkah” (Numbers 33:12).

11. Alush (Knead, as in bread)

Alush – אלוש – alef, lamed, vav, shin

the first shepherd bound to destruction

“They moved from Dofkah and camped at Alush” (Numbers 33:13).

12. Refidim (Spread, as to make a bed)

There was no water for the people to drink. Isra’el fought with Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16). 

Refidim – רפידים – resh, peh, yod, dalet, yod, mem

head and mouth finished work pathway of finished work of chaos

“They moved on from Alush and camped at Refidim, where there was no water for the people to drink” (Numbers 33:14).

13. Mount Horev (Waste or Desert)

Elohim gave Isra’el the Ten Commandments along with His Torah (Exodus 19-20).  they constructed the Mishkan (Exodus 25-30).  Seventy elders we called to help Moshe govern the nation (Numbers 11:16-17). 

Horev – הרב – hey, resh, bet

behold the head of the house

“They moved on from Refidim and camped in the Sinai Desert” (Numbers 33:15).

14.  Kivrot-HaTa’avah (Graves of Craving)

Many Israelites died because of a greedy craving for meat, hence an abundance of quail. 

Kivrot-HaTa’avah – קברות התאוה – qoof, bet, resh, vav, tav – hey, tav, alef, vav, hey

behind the house, head tied to the covenant – behold the sign, first binding revealed

“They moved on from the Sinai Desert and camped at Kivrot-Ha’Ta’avah” (Numbers 33:16).

15. Hatzerot (Courtyards)

The Israelites learned this world is nothing but a courtyard to the world to come. 

Hazerot – חצרת – chet, tzadik, resh, tav

– inner room (heart) draws toward the head of the covenant

“They moved on from Kivrot-Ha’Ta’avah and camed at Hatzerot” (Numbers 33:17).

16. Ritmah (Juniper)

‘Lashon hara’ or slander broke out in the camp against Moshe.

Ritmah – רתמה – resh, tav, mem, hey

authority of the sign of chaos revealed

“They moved on from Hazarot and camped at Ritmah” (Numbers 33:18).

17. Rimmon-Peretz (Pomegranate of the Breach)

Rimmon-Peretz – רמון פרץ – resh, mem, vav, noon – pey, resh, tzadik

head of mighty bound to life – mouth of head draws forward

“They moved on from Ritmah and camped at Rimmon-Peretz” (Numbers 33:19).

18. Livnah (White-ish tree)

Livnah – לבנה – lamed, bet, noon, hey

shepherd of the house of life revealed

“They moved on from Rimmon-Peretz and camped at Livnah” (Numbers 33:20).

19. Rissah (Dew)

Rissah – רסה – resh, samech, hey

head support revealed

“They moved on from Livnah and camped at Rissah” (Numbers 33:21).

20.  K’helah (Convocation)

Kehillah – קהילה – koof, hey, yod, lamed, hey

what is behind reveals the finished work of the shepherd, behold

“They moved on from Rissah and camped at K’helah” (Numbers 33:22).

21. Mount Shefer (Handsome)

Shefer – שפר – shin, pey, resh

consuming mouth of the head

“They moved on from K’helah and camped at Mount Shefer” (Numbers 33:23).

22. Haradah (Fear, Anxiety)

Haradah – הרדה  – hey, resh, dalet, hey

behold the head of the pathway, behold

“They moved on from Mount Shefer and camped at Haradah” (Numbers 33:24).

23. Mak’helot (Assemblies)

Machelot – מחלות – mem, chet, lamed, vav, tav

mighty inner room of the shepherd tied to the covenant

“They moved on from Haradah and camped at Mak’helot” (Numbers 33:25).

24.  Tachat (Humble)

Tachat –  תחת – tav, chet, tav

the sign of the inner room (heart) of the covenant

“They moved on from Mak’helot and camped at Tachat” (Numbers 33:26).

25. Terach (Abraham’s father)

Terach – תרח – tav, resh, chet

sign of the head protects

“They moved on from Tachat and camped at Terach” (Numbers 33:27).

26. Mitkah (Sweetness)

Mitkah – מתק – mem, tav, qoof

mighty sign of what is behind

“They moved on from Terach and camped at Mitkah” (Numbers 33:28).

27.  HaShmonah (Fertile or The Eight)

Hashmonah – השמונה – hey, shin, mem, vav, noon, hey

behold the consuming might bound to life, behold

“They moved on from Mitkah and camped at HaShmonah” (Numbers 33:29).

28. Moserot (Correction)

Moserot – מיסרות – mem, yod, samech, resh, vav, tav

mighty finished work supports the head bound to the covenant

“They moved on from HaShmonah and camped at Moserot” (Numbers 33:30).

29. B’nei Ya’akan (Sons of Ya’akan)

B’nei Ya’akan – בני ייעקן – bet, noon,  yod – yod, yod, ayin, koof, noon

house of life finished work – finished work doubly understood what is behind life

“They moved on from Moserot and camped at Bnei-Ya’akan” (Numbers 33:31).

30. Hor-HaGidgad (Hole of the Cleft)

Moshe sees God panim el panim in the crevice of the rock (Exodus 33:18-23).

Hor HaGidgad – הר הגדגד – hey, resh – hey, gimel, dalet, gimel, hey

behold the head – behold, lift up the pathway, lift up, behold

“They moved on from B’nei-Ya’akan and camped at Hor-HaGidgad” (Numbers 33:32).

31. Yotvatah (Pleasantness)

Yotvatah – יטבתה – yod, tet, bet, tav, hey

finished work twisting the house to the covenant, behold

“They moved on from Hor-HaGidgad and camped at Yotvatah” (Numbers 33:33).

32. Avronah (Passage)

Abronah – עברנה – ayin, bet, resh, noon, hey

see the house of the head of life revealed

“They moved on from Yotvatah and camped at Avronah” (Numbers 33:34).

33. Etzyon-Gever  (City of the Rooster)

Near modern-day Elat.

Etzion Gever – עצין גבר – ayin, tzadik, yod, noon – gimel, bet, resh

understand the drawing toward the finished work of life – raise up the house of the head

“They moved on from Avronah and camped at ‘Etzyon-Gever” (Numbers 33:35).

34. Tzin Desert or Wilderness of Kadesh (Holy Sanctuary)

This is where Miriam died and Elohim told Moshe and Aaron they would not enter the Promised Land.  Kadesh comes from the same Hebrew root as chodesh or new.  According some interpretations, the New Moon of Yom Teruah happened in the fortieth year of the wilderness travels.

Kadesh (Holy) – קדש – koof, dalet, shin

– what is behind the pathway of glory

“They moved from ‘Etzyon-Gever and camped in the Tzin Desert, that is, Kadesh” (Numbers 33:36).

35. Mount Hor (Mountain of Mountain)

At Elohim’s command, Aaron went up on Mount Hor and died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the people of Isra’el had left Egypt.  Aaron was 123 years old.

Hor Ha-Har – הר ההר – hey, resh – hey, hey, resh

behold the authority – behold, behold the authority

“They moved on from Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, at the border of the land of Edom” (Numbers 33:37).

36. Tzalmonah (Shadow of Death)

The Israelites  complained against Moshe and fiery snakes attacked the community.

Tzalmonah – צלמנה – tzadik, lamed, mem, noon, hey

pulling toward the mighty shepherd of life revealed

“The Kena’ani king of ‘Arad, who lived in the Negev in the land of Kena’an, had heard that the people of Isra’el were coming; so they moved on from Mount Hor and camped at Tzalmonah” (Numbers 33:40-41).

37. Punon (Darkness)

Punon – פינן – peh, yod, noon, noon

mouth of the finished work of life, life

“They moved on from Tzalmonah and camped at Punon” (Numbers 33:42).

38. Ovot (Water Skins)

Ovot – אבת – alef, bet, tav

first family of the covenant

“They moved on from Punon and camped at Ovot” (Numbers 33:43).

39. Iyei-Ha’Avarim (Plain of the Passes)

At the border of Moab

Iyei Ha Abarim – עיי העברים – ayin, yod, yod – hey ayin, bet, resh, yod, mem

understand the finished work – behold, understand the house leader’s finished work of chaos

“They moved on from Ovot and camped at ‘Iyei-Ha’Avarim, by the border of Mo’av” (Numbers 33:44).

40. Divon-Gad (Pining, Sorrow)

Divon Gad – דיבן גד – dalet, yod, bet, noon – gimel, dalet

pathway finished work house of life – raise up the pathway

“They moved on from ‘Iyim and camped at Divon-Gad” (Numbers 33:45).

41. Almon-Divlatayim (Hidden )

Almon Divlatayim – אלמן דבלתים – alef, lamed, mem, noon – dalet, bet, lamed, tav, yod, mem

– strong shepherd mighty life – pathway house of the shepherd, the mighty sign

“They moved on from Divon-Gad and campled at ‘Almon-Divlatayim” (Numbers 33:46).

42. Avarim Range  (Dividing Line)

Ha Abarim – העברים – hey, ayin, bet, resh, yod, mem

behold and understand the house authority finished work of chaos

“They moved on from Almon-Divlatayim and camped in the ‘Avarim Range, in front of N’vo” (Numbers 33”47).

Plains of Moab

“They moved on from the ‘Avarim Range and camped in the plains of Mo’av by the Yarden, across from Yericho.  Their camp by the Yarden extended from Beit-HaYeshimot all the way to Avel-HaSheetim in the plains of Mo’av.  Adonai spoke to Moshe …” (Numbers 33:48-50).

When the community of Isra’el crossed the Jordan and entered the Promised Land, they were to expel all the nations – no negotiations, diplomacy or compromise.  They were to remove all stone or metal idols and destroy every high place of pagan worship. 

“If you don’t drive out the inhabitants of the land from in front of you, then those you allow to remain will become like thorns in your eyes and thistles in your sides – they will harass you in the land where you are living” (Numbers 33:50-56).

Hebrew Word Pictures


House of the Deserts – בית הישמת – bet, yod, tav – hey, yod, shin, mem, tav

– house finished work of covenant – behold the finished work consumed by the mighty covenant


Iniquity-Acacia Tree – עול שטים – ayin, vav, lamed – shin, tet, yod, mem

understand binding of the shepherd – consume and twist the finished work of chaos

Plains of Moab

Desert or aravah of Moab –  ערבה מואב – ayin, resh, bet, hey – mem, vav, alef, bet

– see the head of the house, behold – mighty binding of the strong house

The Borders of the Promised Land

The borders of the land inheritance given to Isra’el are very specific. Though some of the places can be located on a modern-day map, many of them cannot and are disputed by scholars who study the ancient writings.  One fact, however, is certain: the land of Isra’el today does not encompass the entirety of the land promised by El Shaddai to Abraham.   

Southern Border

The southern side will include some of the desert of Tzin along the border of Edom.  It will begin at the southern end of the Dead Sea on the eastern side, cross south of the Akrabbim ascent (Scorpion Pass) and continue on to Tzin.  Then it heads south of Kadesh-Barnea to Hatzar-Adar and on to Atzmon where it will turn and join the Vadi of Egypt and end at the Mediterranean Sea.

Western Border

The western side is the Mediterranean Sea.

Northern Border

A line from the Mediterranean Sea goes to Mount Hor and from Mount Hor to the entrance of Hamat.  The border goes out to Ze, then to Zifron and finally to Hatzar-Einan.

Eastern Border

From Hatzar-‘Enan to Shepham, the border goes south from Shepham to Riblah, on the eastern side of Ain, then down until it hits the slope east of Sea of Galilee.  From there it goes down the Jordan until it flows into the Dead Sea.

The Tribes Possess the Land

When the land is divided into tribal inheritance, there are only 10 tribes listed.  This is because Gad and Reuben had already received their inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan River.   Eliezer, the cohen, and Y’hoshua will take possession of the Promised Land along with one leader from each of the tribes:

From the Tribe of Judah, Kalev; from the Tribe of Simeon, Sh’mu’el; from the Tribe of Benjamin, Elidad; from the Tribe of Dan, Buki; from the Tribe of Joseph: M’nasheh, Hani’el and Efrayim, K’muu’el; from the Tribe of Zebulun, Elitzafan; from the Tribe of Issachar, Paltu’el; from the Tribe of Asher, Achidhud; from the Tribe of Naftali, P’dah’el. 

The daughters of Tz’lof’chad who had received land inheritance were not allowed to marry outside the Tribe of Manasseh so their land would never pass on to another tribe in a Yovel.  This regulation set a precedent for other women who were given land inheritance so that no inheritance would move from one tribe to another through intermarriage.   The daughters of Tz’lof’chad obeyed the command and married sons of their father’s brothers.

Cities for the Levites and Refuge

“Order the people of Isra’el to give to the L’vi’im cities to live in from the heritage they will possess, and you are also to give the L’vi’im some of the open land surrounding the cities. They are to have the cities to live in, while their open land will be for their livestock, for growing crops and for all their animals” (Numbers 35:2-3).

Though the Levites didn’t receive an allotment of land, they were given 48 cities in which to live as well as land outside the city walls so they could have livestock and gardens.  The land began 1,500 feet outside the city wall and ended at 3,000 feet.  Six of these Levite cities became cities of refuge for those who had accidentally killed someone. 

“In this way you will not defile the land in which you are living. For blood defiles the land, and in this land no atonement can be made for the blood shed in it except the blood of him who shed it.  No, you are not to defile the land in which you live and in which I live; for I, Adonai, live among the people of Isra’el” (Numbers 35:33-34).

Murder is defined as intentional if the death was caused by an iron stone or wooden object large enough to cause death.  If an individual shoved another out of hate, threw something intentionally or punched them and the person dies, it is considered murder.  The murderer must be put to death, but only upon the testimony of two or three witnesses (Numbers 35:30).  One witness does not constitute a testimony and is not sufficient evidence for a death sentence.  There was no ransom for the life of a murderer condemned to death or for a murderer who fled a city of refuge before the death of the high priest.

If a death sentence was rendered, the murderer was put to death by the family of the victim. They were allowed to avenge their family member if they encountered the murderer who had left a city of refuge.

If an individual, native born or foreigner,  threw an object unintentionally without seeing the other person, even it was an enemy, and caused death, the community (like a selected jury) would render justice between the individual who threw the object and the family of the victim. This is not murder, but manslaughter without intent to kill.  If the individual fled to a city of refuge, he could live there until the high priest died.  If the individual went beyond the city limits and was found by a family member of the victim, the family member would not be guilty of murder for avenging their blood, because the one who committed manslaughter must remain in the city of refuge until after the death of the high priest.  After the death of the high priest, all murderers were considered acquitted and were allowed to return to their land inheritance. 

The six cities of refuge were Bezer, Ramot and Golan on the eastern side of the Jordan River;  Kedesh in the Galilee, Shechem, and Hebron were on the western side.

“These things shall constitute your standard for judgment through all your generations, wherever you live” (Numbers 35:29).

Yeshua and Witness of Two

“He told him, “‘You are to love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ This is the greatest and most important mitzvah.  And a second is similar to it, ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’ All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent on these two mitzvot” (Matthew 22:37-40).

“Yeshua said to them, “This is what I meant when I was still with you and told you that everything written about me in the Torah of Moshe, the Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds, so that they could understand the Tanakh … (Luke 24:44-45).

“Standing up, Yeshua said to her, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, sir.” Yeshua said, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go, and don’t sin any more” (John 8:10-11).

“But now, you who were once far off [gentiles] have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood.  For he himself is our shalom — he has made us both one [Jew and non-Jew] and has broken down the m’chitzah which divided us … in order to create in union with himself from the two groups a single new humanity and thus make shalom …” (Ephesians 2:13-15).

“You have been built on the foundation of the emissaries [apostles] and the prophets, with the cornerstone being Yeshua the Messiah himself” (Ephesians 2:20).

“Never listen to any accusation against a leader unless it is supported by two or three witnesses”(1 Timothy 5:19).

Haftarah (Readings of the Prophets)

Jeremiah 2:4-28

Jeremiah 4:1-2

B’rit Chadashah (New Testament Readings)

James 4:1-12

Midrash Masa’ei: Cities of Refuge

Discuss Elohim’s favor  and compassion for the ‘murderer’ in the context of Yeshua being a ‘city of refuge.’ Give examples.

©2018 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this Torah portion or the complete Torah cycle, please purchase Open My Eyes: Wonders of Torah.

3 Responses to “Parashah 43: Masa’ei (Stages)”

  • Vonnie says:

    Wonderful. I didn’t know that each place was named. There is so much information here. Thanks Julie. 😀

  • Ricky Jackson says:

    I was reading the parashah this morning (Shabbat) and decided to do a study that I had thought about for years – to list each phase of their journey, and the Paleo-Hebrew word picture meaning. I found this website almost immediately, so now I have access to this material without having to put in the time. Bless you for your dedicated work!

    • Thank you, Ricky! I’m glad you found my website and the Torah portion will bless your study. I really love languages and the paleo-Hebrew word pictures are fun to work with. I use them in all of my writings when I want to go deeper or ‘see’ something different. You might find my Torah study book, Open My Eyes: Wonders of Torah beneficial if you like this type of studying. It can be found on Shabbat Shalom!

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