How is it possible that Numbers 33 talks about 48 camps instead of 42?

To what peshat did these mefarshim source this enumeration?

Some of these mefarshim conclude that instead of 42 locations, there were 48 encampments in Numbers 33. How is this possible?

In 42 camps and 42 non-refuge Levite cities (Masei) @y-e-z pointed-out in his comment "that according to some mefarshim (the Tur is one of them I think) there were an additional 6 waypoints due to backtracking".

Who were these mefarshim, and to what peshat did they source their 48 locations?

  • @y-e-z The "additional 6 waypoints due to backtracking" were previous stops that were already mentioned as being part of the first 42 stops? "Backtracking" means going back to a previously mentioned stop, right?
    – ninamag
    Jul 21, 2021 at 9:14

1 Answer 1


This idea is brought by Rashi in a few places, for example, here. This is also brought by Rabbeinu Bechayei a couple of times, for example, here. This is also brought by the Torah Temima and Kad Hakemach. A number of other commentators, such as Abarbanel and Ramban, bring the idea in the name of Rashi.

The idea is based on a midrash that appears in multiple sources. For example, Tanchuma Bamidbar 18:1:

"...You find that, when Aaron died, Amalek went out against them; and Israel retreated back seven stages [of their journey]. Thus it is stated (in Deut. 10:6), “Then from the wells of Bene-Jaakan the Children of Israel journeyed to Moserah; there Aaron died.” Did Aaron die there? Did he not die on Mount Hor, as stated (in Numb. 20:28) “and Aaron died there on Mount Hor?”121 And [so] the verses are evidence of seven stages backwards (from Mount Hor to Moserah) to teach you that [Israel] had retreated."

The idea is that they were forced to backtrack when they were attacked by Canaanites after Aharon's death.

  • looks like a good answer. How does backtracking seven times or "seven stages backwards (from Mount Hor to Moserah)" equivalent to there being 48 locations as opposed to the usual 42 encampments?
    – ninamag
    Jul 20, 2021 at 20:17
  • @ninamag I'm pretty sure that's a mistake. It should be 49 or 50 encampments (depends if you include Hor Hahar).
    – Harel13
    Jul 20, 2021 at 20:29
  • Are there any sages who do not consider Ramses a stop, since that is the beginning location from which they left Egypt? If so, the count of 48 stops can still be correct.
    – ninamag
    Jul 21, 2021 at 9:07
  • @ninamag that might make sense, although to be fair, I don't think any of the commentators actually say the number 48 in the context of the stops. I think that's something y e z said.
    – Harel13
    Jul 21, 2021 at 10:00

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