It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea. (Deuteronomy 1:2)
Two hundred years ago, before the invention of automobiles and other modern modes of transportation, a pilgrim to the Holy Land decided to make the journey from Horeb to the south of Israel riding a camel; it took him exactly eleven days. The distance, in fact, from the traditional Mount Sinai to the southern edge of Israel is only about 160 – 170 miles — a long way to walk but not an insurmountable obstacle. Even traveling with 2 million people, the journey could have been accomplished in a reasonably short time period.
Of course, Israel was being led by the Angel of the LORD and their course did not follow the direct path from Egypt to Canaan — they had to go to Sinai first. Even then, after only two years in the wilderness, Israel was poised to enter the land at Kadesh Barnea — and so what is the point? This passage emphasizes the consequence of disobedience. In this case they were forced to live in the wilderness an additional thirty-eight years because they would not internalize and believe the Word of the LORD.
Think of it: thirty eight years of hardship didn’t have to happen had they been willing to face the giants and fortified cities of the land. So many struggle could have been avoided had they possessed the courage to take God at His Word and follow His instructions. And while it’s easy for us to shake our heads in disdain at their unbelief, do we not do the same thing? How many heartaches have we experienced that did not have to be were it not for our lack of faith and bad choices?
That being said, we must resolve that the past is the past and nothing can be done to change it. However, we can choose to learn from the past and strive not to make the same bad decisions, thus changing the trajectory of our life. It seems appropriate, then, to recall the words of Paul who said:
“Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Messiah Yeshua.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
Blessings and Shalom,