Chronicling a journey, as seen in ch. 33, was a form of record keeping employed widely in ancient times. These detailed records were a valuable resource for later historians. The detailed records in the Bible, in particular, help to confirm its historical accuracy.
Amorites. The Amorites inhabited the land west of the Euphrates River, which included Canaan. In fact, the name “Amorite” means “westerner.” They spoke a dialect similar to both the Canaanites and the Hebrews and were often considered to be a Canaanite tribe. However, many of the Canaanites considered the Amorites to be barbaric and uncivilized. Eventually Israel would conquer the Amorites and absorb them into Hebrew culture as servants.
Sharing the plunder. Soldiers in ancient times were regularly paid through the spoils of war. Contracts were often signed to guarantee that commanders would not interfere when it came time for their soldiers to “claim their pay.” In 31:25–47, Israelite soldiers are instructed to share the plunder.
During the Feast of Booths, the Israelites were to live in temporary dwellings (“booths”) as a reminder of their life in the wilderness. The large number of sacrifices offered during the eight days shows the importance of this feast. The Feast of Booths was celebrated in October, at the end of the agricultural year. It was also a time to pray for plenty of rain in the next year. In Israel, rain is expected only between October and April.
How wealthy would the Israelites become? The sacrifices described in chs. 28–29 called for a total of 113 bulls, 1,086 lambs, more than a ton of flour, and 1,000 bottles of oil and wine. Israel would have had to become a successful agricultural society after reaching the Promised Land in order to meet the requirements for these sacrifices.
Wild oxen (24:8) are believed to be the ancestors of domestic cattle. In the OT, the wild ox was a symbol of strength.
Aram. The pagan prophet Balaam described himself as being from Aram. Aram was a confederation of small towns in present-day Syria. It was named for Aram, the son of Shem and grandson of Noah. It was in this region that the Aramaic language developed.