Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
From Ḳadesh-Barnea‘ round Mt Se‘îr
The discourse continues: After the repulse on Ḳadesh (Deuteronomy 1:45), Israel turned back towards the Red Sea, skirting Mt Se‘îr many days (Deuteronomy 2:1), when Jehovah said, Enough, turn N.! (Deuteronomy 2:2 f.); in crossing Esau’s land Israel must purchase bread and water (Deuteronomy 2:4-6); for—here the address changes from Pl. to Sg.—thou hast lacked nothing these 40 years (7); so they passed (Pl. resumed) through the sons of ‘Esau in Se‘îr, leaving the ‘Arabah with Elath and ‘Eṣion-Geber behind them (Deuteronomy 2:8 a). The many days of the skirting of Mt Se‘îr before they turned N. is to be defined, if not by the 40 years of Deuteronomy 2:7, then by the datum in Deuteronomy 2:14 : 38 years from Ḳadesh to the Moabite border. The section implies a slow drift of Israel from Ḳadesh along Mt Se‘îr and says nothing of a return to Ḳadesh.
In JE the same march is differently described. After the repulse on Ḳadesh comes the story of Dathan and Abiram (interlaced with one by P of Ḳorah’s rebellion), Numbers 16, the death of Miriam and strife of the people with Moses (interlaced with a parallel from P), Numbers 20:1-13. Still at Ḳadesh Moses requests a passage through Edom, promising not to harm vineyard or field and to pay for water, and is refused (Numbers 20:14-21 a). Israel then turn from Edom, journeying from Ḳadesh (id. Numbers 20:21 b, Numbers 20:22 a). Having defeated the Canaanite king of Arad in the Negeb (with another explanation of the name Ḥormah, Numbers 21:3; cp. above Deuteronomy 1:44) Israel journey towards the Red Sea, to compass Edom, and murmuring at the length of the way are bitten by fiery serpents, whereof many die till Moses makes a bronze serpent, to which whoever looks lives (Numbers 21:4 b – Numbers 21:9). Then they reach the wilderness E. of Moab (Numbers 21:11 b).
According to P, as we have seen, the spies were sent from and returned to—not Ḳadesh in the desert of Ṣin as JE and D report—but the desert of Paran (Numbers 12:16 b, Numbers 13:1-3; Numbers 13:25-26 a, Numbers 14:35) which lay S. of that of Ṣin (cp. Numbers 13:3 with Numbers 13:21 b); and it was in Paran that the sentence of 40 years wandering was pronounced (Numbers 14:33 f.). Some legislation follows (Numbers 15), the story of Ḳorah interlaced with JE’s of Dathan and Abiram (Deuteronomy 16:1-22), the miracle of Aaron’s rod (Deuteronomy 17:1-11), and other things (Deuteronomy 17:12-19). Only now do Israel move to the desert of Ṣin (Numbers 20:1 a) identified with Ḳadesh (Numbers 33:36). The date of the removal is given as the 1st month, but curiously no year is mentioned (Numbers 20:1 a). The last previous date in P was that of the start from Sinai, 2nd month of the 2nd year (Numbers 10:11), while the next stage after Ḳadesh is Mt Ḥor (Numbers 20:22 b), reached in the 40th year (Numbers 33:37 f.). But, since P notes at Ḳadesh only the people’s murmuring for water and the struck rock (interlaced with a parallel from JE, Numbers 20:1-13), the bulk of the time of wandering, all in fact from the 2nd to the 38th year was, according to P, spent by Israel in Paran. The reason of the curious omission of the year of arrival at Ḳadesh, Numbers 20:1 a, is now clear. It would not harmonise with J E, which brings Israel to Ḳadesh in the 2nd year, and was therefore omitted probably by the compiler of JE and P (Nöldeke, Untersuch. 83; Dillm.). After Mt Ḥor P mentions only one other stage ’Oboth, before ‘Iye-‘Abarim on the border of Moab (Numbers 21:4 a, Numbers 21:10-11 a). P thus says nothing of the march from Ḳadesh towards the Red Sea and round Mt Se‘îr. This agrees with the itinerary in Numbers 33, which carries Israel from Mt Ḥor across the N. (not the S.) end of Mt Se‘îr by Punon or Pinon, now Fenân in el-Gebâl, to ’Oboth and ‘Iye-‘Abarim (v. 41 f.).
Comparison of these three (or four?) traditions of Israel’s march from Sinai to Moab is hampered by the uncertainty whether we have them complete or only in fragments. D’s review is only a summary; if we had the JE account in its original form we might find the apparent difference between the two—JE assigning the bulk of the 38 years to Ḳadesh and its environs, but D to the march between Ḳadesh and the S. end of Mt Se‘îr—to be no real difference. They agree in carrying Israel from Sinai to Ḳadesh in the 2nd year; and as Dillm. remarks on Deuteronomy 2:1, D’s view of the progress after the repulse of the attack on the Amorites ‘is not so very different’ from that of JE. But whether we have the full account of P or not, it is very clear from what we have, that according to P Israel spent from the 2nd to the 38th year in the desert of Paran from which they then passed N. to the desert of ̣Ṣin or Ḳadesh, while JE and D bring them to Ḳadesh in the 2nd year and assign the years 2 to 40 to their residence there and their march to Moab. Again, the silence of P as to a return S. from Ḳadesh round Mt Se‘îr may be due to the compiler’s omission of this from P’s original narrative; but there remains the itinerary in Numbers 33 which undoubtedly brings Israel from Kadesh to Moab across the N. end of Mt Se‘îr. Further, there is D’s omission of the JE account of the embassy to Edom from Ḳadesh, with the request that Israel paying their way might pass through Edom, and obviously across the N. part of Mt Se‘îr, which was refused; and we have instead the statement in this section that from the ‘Arabah Israel, without previously seeking permission, passed round the S. part of Mt Se‘îr, charged by God to pay their way. Unless we are to assume the very improbable alternative, that both things happened, we must see in these two accounts variant traditions of the direction of Israel’s march from Ḳadesh to Moab.
Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days.1. Then we turned, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 1:7.
by the way to the Red Sea] Rather, in the direction of the Red Sea.
as the Lord spake unto me] Deuteronomy 1:40.
and we compassed mount Seir] The range E. of the ‘Arabah: see on Deuteronomy 1:2; Deuteronomy 1:44 JE, Numbers 21:4 b, by the way to the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom.
many days] As in Deuteronomy 1:46, indefinite; that a long time is intended is clear from Deuteronomy 2:14, which states that Israel spent 38 years between Ḳadesh and the Zered; while Deuteronomy 2:7, whether from the same hand or not, implies that the 40 years from Egypt had practically all passed when the people turned N.
And the LORD spake unto me, saying,
Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.3. Ye have compassed this mountain long enough] For the idiom see on Deuteronomy 1:6.
turn you northward] Marching from Ḳadesh down the W. of Mt Se‘îr, Israel had now reached not the sea, but probably the mouth of the W. el ’Ithm (or Yitm), which opens N.E. from the ‘Arabah across or round the S. end of Mt Se‘îr. By this natural avenue, along which the Hajj road from Damascus to Mecca runs, they would reach the plateau E. of Mt Se‘îr on their way to the Moab frontier. The W. el ’Ithm, opening from the ‘Arabah about 8 hours N. of the sea, cuts upwards through the southmost of the modern divisions into which the country anciently inhabited by Edom is divided, el-Ḥisma or Ḥesma. (See Doughty Ar. Des. i. 45; Musil, Edom, i. 2, 265, 270, etc.)
And command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore:4. Ye are to pass] The Heb. participle expressing, as often, the immediate future.
through the border] Rather through the territory. The preposition is the same as that used in Israel’s request in JE, Numbers 21:17, let us pass through thy land and in Edom’s reply, thou shall not pass through me. Had the meaning been on or along the border, another preposition would have been used. The territory of Edom appears to have reached the sea (1 Kings 9:26), and Israel must needs cross it on the way to Moab.
your brethren, the sons of Esau] Deuteronomy 23:7; Amos 1:11; Obadiah 1:10; Obadiah 1:12; Malachi 1:2.
which dwell in Seir] Se‘îr is here equivalent to Mt Se‘îr as the next verse shows; yet the range, running S., droops and gives way before the W. el ’Ithm is reached, up which we have supposed that Israel marched.
and they shall be afraid of you] Heb. so that they shall be afraid of you. This is the temper imputed to Edom by JE when Israel asked leave to cross their land from Ḳadesh, Numbers 10:18-20.
take ye good hed unto yourselves] Another favourite expression of the deuteronomic writers.
Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession.5. contend not with them] In its causative form the Heb. verb means to stir up, e.g. strife, Proverbs 15:18, etc.; here the reflex. form is to excite oneself against another, to quarrel with them. In the Pent. found only in this chapter, Deuteronomy 2:9; Deuteronomy 2:19; Deuteronomy 2:24.
for the sole of the foot to tread on] Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:3.
I have given] Note the claim made by the God of Israel over other peoples (cp. Amos 1:3 to Amos 2:3, Amos 9:7), also the memory or tradition that on their entry to Canaan Israel had not violated the rights of their kinsfolk. There is no hostile feeling towards Edom, such as became irrepressible in Israel after the Exile.
for a possession] Heb. yerushshah, in the Hex. found only in this discourse, Deuteronomy 2:5; Deuteronomy 2:8; Deuteronomy 2:12; Deuteronomy 2:19 bis, Deuteronomy 3:20, and in the deuteronomic Joshua 1:15; Joshua 12:6-7.
Ye shall buy meat of them for money, that ye may eat; and ye shall also buy water of them for money, that ye may drink.6. Ye shall purchase … ye shall buy] Heb. shabar, literally to deal in grain (Genesis 41:57, etc.), but also victuals (Genesis 42:7), and karah, to buy, only here Hosea 3:2 and in Job. JE, Numbers 20:19 : if we drink of thy water, I and my cattle, then I will give the price thereof. To-day nomad Arabs, who winter in the warm ‘Arabah, seek to cross Mt Se‘îr with their cattle by one or other of several passes to summer pastures on the E. plateau and the wilderness of Moab. The passes are easily defended by the peasants of the Mt, who seek to prevent them; yet they are glad when the nomads travel on the edge of the desert, for then they can barter with them (Musil, Edom, ii. 15). Where there are no brooks but only cisterns or easily guarded springs, the peasant possessors of these will refuse to sell even small draughts to one or two passing travellers, as the writer has more than once experienced; cp. Musil, Moab, 132. It is conceivable how water would be still more jealously guarded from a large caravan or host, with appetites sufficient to exhaust the cisterns. It is implied in Deuteronomy 2:29 that Edom agreed to supply food and water.
For the LORD thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the LORD thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing.7. For the Lord thy God hath blessed thee] Another formula recurrent in D.
in all the work of thy hand] Some Heb. MSS, LXX, Sam., hands: another recurrent phrase.
he hath known thy walking] Rather hath cared for. The Heb. verb to know means frequently, especially in a religious connection, to put the mind to, attend to, regard; cp. Genesis 39:6 : Potiphar had no thought or care, about anything in Joseph’s charge, 1 Samuel 2:12; Proverbs 9:13; Proverbs 27:23; Job 35:15. See Book of the Twelve Pr., i. 321 f. But LXX read the verb here as imperative, consider thy walking.
these forty years] So exactly Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 8:4, also in the Sg. address. The tradition that the time of the wandering was 40 years, stated by Amos 2:10; Amos 5:25, is common to D and P (Deuteronomy 1:3; Numbers 14:33; Numbers 32:13; cp. Numbers 33:38), also in editorial passages in JE, Joshua 5:6; Joshua 16:10. The Semites frequently reckoned by multiples of 4 and 40: the latter express many round numbers in O.T. chronology. Forty years seems to have been equivalent to a generation. That Israel was 40 years in the wilderness agrees with the tradition that a generation died out there. For the same equation in Babylonian chronology see Modern Criticism and the Preaching of the O.T., 90 f., n. 1.
This verse is the third in the Sg. address. Note that in harmony with other Sg. passages it affirms the well-being of Israel during the 40 years, while the Pl. passages emphasise their dangers and losses. It is not necessary to the context, and therefore regarded as a later insertion. Yet it would not be unnatural for the same writer to change from Pl. to Sg. when taking a conjunct view of Israel’s experience.
And when we passed by from our brethren the children of Esau, which dwelt in Seir, through the way of the plain from Elath, and from Eziongaber, we turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab.8. So we passed by from our brethren, etc.] The Heb. prep. me’eth is from with; but probably we should read merely ’eth the sign of the accus.: we crossed or passed through our brethren (cp. 4 and 29). So LXX. Sam. readings are various.
from the way of the Arabah] The ‘Arabah itself forms in winter the most convenient passage from ’Elath and the Gulf of ‘Aḳabah to the Dead Sea, with branch roads to Ḥebron and Kerak; but suffers from want of water and great heat in summer. It was much used in the early Moslem period, and probably by Hebrew commerce with the Red Sea under the monarchy.
Elath] A port on the N. end of the Gulf of ‘Aḳabah (1 Kings 9:26; 2 Kings 14:22), perhaps the same as El-Paran (Genesis 14:6). The name, translated by LXX Ailôn, and probably meaning palms, has persisted. Strabo, XVI. iv. 4, Ailana; Josephus, Ailana, Ilanis and Elathous (‘now called Berenice’?); Ptolemy, Elana; the Christian Fathers, Aila and Ailia; Moslem Geographers, Wailah, Aila and ‘Aḳabat Aila (Idrisi, ZDPV, viii. 121); now el-‘Aḳabah, a village amid ancient ruins on the N.E. corner of the Gulf, with Turkish fort and garrison. To the N.W. is a large grove of palms with numerous ruins, called Îla (Robinson, B.R. i. 250 ff.; Doughty Ar. Des. i. 44 f.; Musil, Edom, i. 256, 259 f.; ‘the culture of the palm flourishes … the types of the settled families are quite Jewish’). In Greek times it gave its name to the Gulf as its successor ‘Aḳabah does to-day.
Ezion-geber] Beside Elath on the Red Sea in Edom’s land; there Solomon built ships, 1 Kings 9:26, and a ship (so LXX) of Jehoshaphat was wrecked, 1 Kings 22:49. LXX Γασιὼν Γάβερ, and Ἐμαεσειὼν Γάβερ, 1 Kings 9:26, probably waters of ‘Eṣion-Geber. Eusebius states that in his day it was Αἰσία (Jerome Essia); Makrizi, 15th century, ‘a once important town ‘Aṣiûn.’ Robinson (B. R. i. 251) noted the corresponding consonants in the name W. Ghaḍiân, and Musil (Edom, i. 254, 2. 183 ff., 189) describes the oasis Ma’ Ghaḍiân in the ‘Arabah. This lies 18 miles N. of the Sea; while the O.T. data place ‘Eṣion-Geber beside Elath, whose site, as we have seen, is certainly on the present N.E. coast of the Gulf. Musil, however, reports that a tongue of the sea may once have reached Ma’ Ghaḍiân; there are remains of fortifications and gardens across what is now desert (II. 199). His guide told of a town there whose inhabitants had many ships; but a violent rain brought down such masses of stone from some of the wâdies that the sea was pushed back to el-‘Aḳaba (ii. 187). If the Ar. name be derived from the tree ghaḍa’, abundant in this region, it may have been attached to more places than one; or may have drifted as names easily do in Syria. The likeness between the LXX Ἐμαεσειὼν and Musil’s Ma’ Ghaḍiân is noteworthy. The meaning of the second half of ‘Eṣion-geber is uncertain, the transliteration of Josephus Γ. Γαβελός (viii. Ant. iv. 4) may be due to confusion with Γεβάλ, i.e. Edom or Mt Se‘îr.
8 b. And we turned] See Deuteronomy 1:7.
and passed by the way of] Rather, crossed (the land of Edom) in the direction of. Having come up N.E. by the W. el ’Ithm to the plateau they would turn due N. as the Hajj route does towards Moab.
the wilderness of Moab] More exactly JE, Numbers 21:11 : the w. which is before Moab towards the sunrising. For this region, see Doughty, Ar. Des. I; Musil, Moab, passim, full descriptions with map. Israel kept so far E. not only to avoid the fertile and settled districts of Edom and Moab, but for the same reason also as the Hajj does, so as not to have to cross the lower stretches of the great canon between Edom and Moab, the present Wâdy el-Ḥsa or ’Aḥsa. These lower stretches are deep, the sides steep and the roads over them difficult for laden caravans. The route of the Hajj, apparently that of Israel, crosses the much shallower head of this Wâdy on the desert border. Once over it they were in the wilderness E. of Moab. Probably in the Wâdy itself lay their station ‘Iyê ha-‘Abarim on the border of Moab, P, Numbers 21:11 a; cp. Numbers 33:44. For here lie still cairns or stone-heaps known by the same name, placed to show the way across the damp, sunken soil. This tempts one to emend ‘Iyê ha-‘Abarim, usually interpreted as heaps of the regions across Jordan (cp. Mts of the ‘Abarim), to distinguish the place from ‘Iyîm and ‘Ai in W. Palestine, to ‘Iyê-ha-‘Oberim, heaps of the passengers.
8b–15. Arrival on the Border of Moab
Israel, having crossed Edom from the ‘Arabah towards the wilderness of Moab (8 b), is charged not to treat Moab as a foe. Jehovah gave ‘Ar, their land, to the children of Lot: this is in Sg. address (9); and there follow notes on the predecessors of Moab in ‘Ar, and of Edom in Mt Se‘îr (10–12). The Pl. is resumed in a charge to Israel to cross the Wâdy Zered, which they did (13); their time from Ḳadesh to the Zered being 38 years, and all the condemned generation being now dead under Jehovah’s hand (14 f.).
For the parallels in JE and P (some of which have been already given) see below on the separate verses.
And the LORD said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession.9. Vex not Moab] Treat not Moab as a foe.
neither contend with them] See on Deuteronomy 2:5.
Ar] ‘Ar (Numbers 21:15) or ‘Ar of Mo’ab (id. 28) is in these passages a township, probably the same as ‘Ir, or City of, Mo’ab, on the border of Arnon at the end of the border (JE, Numbers 22:36). Musil identifies it with the strong site and ruins of Medeyyneh on an upper tributary of the W. Môjeb or Arnon (see below on Deuteronomy 2:24; Deuteronomy 2:36) on the edge of the desert (Moab 247, 338 ff. with photo. and plan; cp. the present writer in Enc. Bibl., art. ‘Ar’ and Expositor, seventh series, vol. vii. 138 ff.). But in Syria names have been at all times apt to extend from towns, especially capitals, to their districts and vice versâ. Here ‘Ar obviously is a district: the territory of Mo’ab. So in Isaiah 15:1, LXX render ‘Ar Mo’ab by ἡ Μωαβεῖτις. At the time of Israel’s march the name would cover all the land between the W. el-Ḥsa and the W. Môjeb or Arnon, to the S, of which Mo’ab were confined by the Amorites.
children of Lot] Genesis 19:37; Psalm 83:8 (9).
Deuteronomy 2:9 is in the Sg. address and elided by Steuern. as the addition of a later hand. But some such warning as it gives in regard to the relations of Israel to Mo’ab was to be expected in this discourse, similar to that on Israel’s relations to Edom and ‘Ammon. The change to the Sg. may be due either to the fact that Moses himself is addressed or because for the moment Israel, in relation to Mo’ab, is regarded as a single whole. Sam. confirms the Heb. Sg.; but LXX has the Pl.
The Emims dwelt therein in times past, a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims;10. The Emim] Only here and Genesis 14:5 which places the Emîm in Shaweh-Ḳiriathaim, probably the plain of the present Ḳureiyât, N. of Arnon. Whether the name is of an actual people or of mythical formation like Repha’îm, Nephilîm, etc. as if from ’emah, fear, or Ar. ’iyam ‘serpent’ (Schwally, ZATW, xviii. 135 f.), is uncertain.
10–12. An archaeological note, rightly put in brackets by R.V., written after the settlement in W. Palestine, as is clear from the end of Deuteronomy 2:12. This of course does not in itself prove that the note is by a later hand than the rest of the discourse.
Which also were accounted giants, as the Anakims; but the Moabites call them Emims.11. Rephaim … Anakim] See on Deuteronomy 1:28.
The Horims also dwelt in Seir beforetime; but the children of Esau succeeded them, when they had destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their stead; as Israel did unto the land of his possession, which the LORD gave unto them.12. The Horites] Heb. the Ḥorîm; Sam. LXX, Ḥorî. Possibly cave-dwellers, cp. Heb. ḥôr, Ar. ḥawr, cave or hole. Cave-dwelling is ascribed by Jerome (on Obadiah 1:6) to the Edomites of his day; and is fully verified for the Nabatean period, at least, by the remains about Petra; but it is precarious to reason back from these facts to the meaning of the name of the primitive race, which preceded ‘Esau in Mt Se‘îr, especially as other etymologies of Ḥorî are possible. Sayce (Higher Criticism and the Monuments, 204) derives it from a root = white as if in contrast to the red-skinned ‘Edom. R. A. S. Macalister has discovered at Gezer the remains of a pre-Semitic, cave-dwelling race, using stone-implements, and identifies these with the Ḥorîm.
Now rise up, said I, and get you over the brook Zered. And we went over the brook Zered.13. Now rise up] Sam., LXX, And now rise and break camp; cp. Deuteronomy 2:24.
and get you over the brook Zered] Wâdy, or torrent-valley, Zered. JE, Numbers 21:12, they marched thence, the E. desert of Mo’ab, and camped in the W. Zered. The name, LXX Zaret, does not occur again in the O.T. nor is it in Josephus. Euseb. and Jer. give it only as the name of a desert wâdy. On the Mâdabâ Mosaic map (5th century) a wâdy flowing to the Dead Sea, S. of Kerak, bears the letters -ΑΡΕΔ, according to some, but if this reading be correct it maybe no more than a conjecture. The theory that the Zered was the W. el-Ḥsa is impossible; as we have seen, Israel was already N. of that S. frontier of Mo’ab. Equally impossible is the view substituted for this by most commentaries, that it was an upper stretch of the W. Kerak; for Brünnow and Musil have shown that the W. Kerak runs up E. but a short distance from Kerak. N. of the W. el-Ḥsa the Hajj road crosses the W. es-Sulṭanî, the great S. affluent of the Môjeb or Arnon, and proper frontier between the fertile land of Mo’ab and the E. desert. The W. es-Sulṭanî forms a distinct landmark on this route, and, because of the water always to be found by digging in its bed, is a suitable camping-place. So Musil, Moab, 316, 319 n., 15. But if this be the Zered, Israel crossed it not, as Musil implies, from E. to W.—for in that case they would have had to bend E. again to his probable site for ‘Ar at Medeyyneh (see Deuteronomy 2:9), or cross the difficult lower stretches of the Arnon—but from S.W. to N.E. as the Hajj road does now.
And the space in which we came from Kadeshbarnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the LORD sware unto them.14. thirty and eight years] See above, introd. to Deuteronomy 2:1-8 a.
until all the generation of the men of war were consumed] See Deuteronomy 1:35; Deuteronomy 1:39.
For indeed the hand of the LORD was against them, to destroy them from among the host, until they were consumed.15. the hand of the Lord] It was no natural death of the whole generation, but by special plagues from Jehovah; cp. JE, Numbers 14:31 ff; Numbers 21:6; P, Numbers 14:32; Numbers 14:37.
So it came to pass, when all the men of war were consumed and dead from among the people,16–25. Approach to the ‘Ammonites and Amorites
The adult generation having died out (Deuteronomy 2:16), Jehovah charged Moses that, being about to pass the border or cross the territory of Mo’ab (Deuteronomy 2:17 f.) and to approach ‘Ammôn, Israel (Sg. address) must not fight the latter, for Jehovah gave that land to the sons of Lot (Deuteronomy 2:19). Follows an archaeological note on the predecessors of ‘Ammôn (Deuteronomy 2:20-23); and then the command, in the Pl. address, to cross the Arnon (Deuteronomy 2:24 a); then, in the Sg., an assurance that Sîḥôn should be given into Israel’s hands, they must fight him (Deuteronomy 2:24 b); for the dread of Israel would Jehovah put on all peoples at the mere report of Israel’s approach (Deuteronomy 2:25).
This section is perplexing, because of the apparently proleptic mention of ‘Ammôn, the use of the Pl. address only in Deuteronomy 2:24 a, and the discrepancy between Deuteronomy 2:24 b, Deuteronomy 2:25 and the next section, especially Deuteronomy 2:27-30. On these grounds, combined with the fact that there are no parallels in JE, on which document the rest of this discourse is based, there is a strong case for the opinion that this section is for the most part from another hand than the rest of the discourse. Steuern. indeed takes only Deuteronomy 2:16-17; Deuteronomy 2:24 a as original. For details see notes.
That the LORD spake unto me, saying,
Thou art to pass over through Ar, the coast of Moab, this day:18. Thou art … to pass over). See on Deuteronomy 9:1.
Ar, the border of Moab] See on Deuteronomy 2:9. Here as there it is doubtful whether ‘Ar is to be understood as the territory of Mo’ab, their crossing of which Israel are completing this day; or the N. limit of that territory which they are about to cross. Probably the latter.
And when thou comest nigh over against the children of Ammon, distress them not, nor meddle with them: for I will not give thee of the land of the children of Ammon any possession; because I have given it unto the children of Lot for a possession.19. when thou comest nigh over against the children of Ammon] And thou shalt approach to the front of the Bnê ‘Ammôn. The expression is vague and the mention of ‘Ammôn at this stage perplexing. It is true that, acc. to Jdg 11:13, the ‘Ammonites declared to Jephthah that Israel coming out of Egypt took away their land from Arnon even unto Jabboḳ. But the passage to which this belongs, Jdg 11:12-28, generally regarded as late and confused, repels the ‘Ammonite claim and affirms (Deuteronomy 2:22) that the land between Arnon and Jabboḳ had been held by the Amorites. This, too, is the testimony of the oldest traditions JE, Numbers 21:13; Numbers 21:24; Numbers 21:31 f., which also relate that the Amorites had taken that territory not from ‘Ammôn, but from Mo’ab (id. Numbers 21:26-30); cp. the evidence both of JE and P in Numbers 22 ff., that the land N. of Arnon was Moabite. The evidence thus preponderates that ‘Ammôn was confined to a small territory on the upper Jabboḳ, where Rabbath-‘Ammôn (chief town of ‘A.) was situated (though before the ‘Amorite invasion of E. Palestine they may have held the whole course of Jabboḳ immediately S. of that). On the Arnon, therefore, Israel was still some 35 miles from Ammonite territory and the Amorites lay between. The mention of ‘Ammôn at this stage thus appears proleptic, and coinciding as it does with a change to the Sg. address, may plausibly be maintained to be the insertion of a later writer, perhaps influenced by Jdg 11:13. On the other hand it is just possible that the reference to ‘Ammôn at this stage was held by the author of the discourse himself to be necessary, as intended to divert Israel from the due northerly direction which they had been pursuing and which, if continued, would bring them into conflict with ‘Ammôn; and to turn them N.W. through the Amorites to the Jordan.
(That also was accounted a land of giants: giants dwelt therein in old time; and the Ammonites call them Zamzummims;20–23. Another Archaeological Note. On the Repha’im, see Deuteronomy 1:28. Zamzummim, a name held by some to be formed on the analogy of the Gk ‘Barbaroi,’ as of a people whose speech sounded uncouth; Ar. zamzamah is a distant, confused sound. Others suggest identification with the Zuzîm of Genesis 14:5, of which Musil (Moab, i. 275, 318, etc.) is reminded by the present Zîzâ, Ptolemy’s Ziza on the N.E. frontier of Mo’ab. But the Ar. zizim is applied to rustling sounds in the desert by night, supposed to be the noise of the Jinn (see Driver’s note, with communication from W. R. Smith, and Schwally, D. Leben nach d. Tode, 64 f., 137 ff.). The name would thus be another of those mythological terms for pre-historic races given above on Deuteronomy 1:28. On the Ḥorites, see Deuteronomy 2:12. On the ‘Avvîm or ‘Awwîm cp. Joshua 13:3 f.; whether the name be ethnic or indicative of a stage of culture is uncertain. They dwelt in villages, Heb. ḥaṣerîm (mostly in P and Levit. writers), used both in parallel to circles of tents, Genesis 25:16, and to collections of houses without surrounding walls, Leviticus 25:31, and the dependencies of cities, Joshua 15:46 etc. Kaphtôr is most probably Crete, see HGHL 135, 170 f.
A people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims; but the LORD destroyed them before them; and they succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead:
As he did to the children of Esau, which dwelt in Seir, when he destroyed the Horims from before them; and they succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead even unto this day:
And the Avims which dwelt in Hazerim, even unto Azzah, the Caphtorims, which came forth out of Caphtor, destroyed them, and dwelt in their stead.)
Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle.24. Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over] In this section the one clause in the Pl. address. Steuernagel connects it immediately with 16 f. On these formulas cp. Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 1:19.
the valley of Arnon] No one doubts that the Naḥal Arnôn and the modern W. el-Môjeb are the same stream and valley. It is more than a coincidence that Arnon = sounding, and that some forms of the root of Môjeb, wajaba, mean to ‘fall with a noise or rush.’ The greatest of all the cañons that cut the plateau of Mo’ab, one understands how it has so often been a political frontier. A little W. of the Hajj road a valley is formed some 250 ft below the plateau by the conjunction of several wâdies, which have risen among the desert hills to the E. of the road. Under the successive names of W. Sa‘ideh, Seil eṣ-Ṣefei, and W. el-Môjeb, it runs with a mainly W. direction, and a rapidly increasing depth (at ‘Aro‘er 1800 or 2000 feet below the plateau) between almost precipitous walls to the Dead Sea, about 3500 ft below the plateau. The valley is entered from N. and S. by other cañons, of which two are almost as long as itself. About 15 miles from its mouth it receives from the S. its chief tributary, a stream which with its valley has already for some stretch above the confluence borne the name el Môjeb, but higher up is known as W. es-Sulṭâni; probably (see Deuteronomy 2:13) the Zered of Israel’s march. About 2 miles from its mouth enters from the N. the W. el-Wâleh, which draining all N.E. Mo’ab has cut the plateau in a S.W. direction. All these three cañons, with their tributaries, appear to be included in the (plural) valleys of Arnon, Numbers 21:14. But the valley of Arnon in the present verse is probably the direct E. and W. cañon on its upper stretch, W. Sa‘ideh, on which ‘Ar stood (see on Deuteronomy 2:9); this is certain if the identification of Ḳedemoth, stated below, Deuteronomy 2:26, is correct. Musil, Moab, 9 ff.; the present writer in PEFQ, 1904, 373–377.
behold, I have given into thine hand, etc.] Sg. address resumed: so too Sam., LXX. Cp. Deuteronomy 1:27.
Sihon the Amorite] For Sîḥôn, see below on Deuteronomy 2:26; for Amorite, see on Deuteronomy 1:7.
contend with him in battle] This does not agree with, or at least it should not come before, Deuteronomy 2:26 ff., the efforts of Moses to obtain a peaceable passage through Amorite territory; its originality is questionable if we are to assign to the discourse a reasonable measure of consistency.
This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee.25. This day will I begin to put the dread of thee] Nor is this verse in harmony with Deuteronomy 2:29. The trembling and anguish which it predicts on all people at the mere report of Israel is the opposite effect from that produced in Sîḥôn, Deuteronomy 2:29, by Israel’s request to cross his land, for this simply provoked him to armed resistance. Is it more reasonable to suppose that the author of the discourse inconsistently penned both verses so near to each other; or that a compiler, with different documents before him and wishing to use all his materials, put them together? Here then we have an instance in which the difference in the form of address coincides with a difference of attitude to the same event. The triumphant tone of Deuteronomy 2:25 is characteristic of the Sg. passages; note, too, the hyperbole peoples under the whole heaven.
And I sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemoth unto Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying,26. And I sent messengers, etc.] E, Numbers 21:21, Israel sent messengers, etc.
the wilderness of Kedemoth] So only here. A Levite city Ḳedemoth, belonging to Re’uben, is given along with Yahaṣ and Mepha‘ath, P, Joshua 13:18; Joshua 21:37; 1 Chronicles 6:79 . The name is a plur. = East parts; it must have lain N. of Arnon on the edge of the desert. Musil (Moab, 110, 122) compares the ruins el-Meshreik, ‘The Orient,’ 7½ miles N. of W. Sa‘ideh (Deuteronomy 2:24) and looking towards the desert.
Sihon king of Heshbon] E, Numbers 21:21 : king of the Amorites; cp. Deuteronomy 2:26. Sîḥôn is transliterated Sîḥûn in the Ar. Pent. (ed. Lagarde) but the proper Ar. analogue is Shîḥan, a man’s name, also that of the saint venerated by the ‘Ajêlât tribe as the builder of the Ḳări‘at Shîhan, extensive ruins on the conspicuous Jebel Shîḥân, S. of W. el-Môjeb. See the present writer in PEFQ, 1904, 371 f.; Musil, Moab. 376, 382 with citations from Abu-l-fida and Yaḳût, Ethnol. Bericht (Ar. Petr. iii.) 110, 218.
Heshbon] was his city. The mod. Ḥesbân, with ruins of the Byzantine age and a Greek inscription, near the W. edge of the Moab plateau, at the head of a glen descending to the W. Ḥesbân, and 600 ft below the town, the copious ‘Ain Ḥesban. A little S. of the latitude of Jericho, Ḥeshbôn lay on the main road, almost half-way between Arnon and Jabboḳ, a suitable site for the Amorite capital. See PEF Mem. E. Palestine, 104 ff.
26–37. The Victory over Sîḥôn
From the desert N. of Arnon Moses sent to Sîḥôn asking leave to cross his land in peace, purchasing food and water (Deuteronomy 2:26-29). Sîḥôn refused, Jehovah hardening bis spirit that he might be delivered into Israel’s hands (Deuteronomy 2:30 f.). They met at Yahaṣ and Sîḥôn was defeated (Deuteronomy 2:32 f.). Israel took his towns, put the population to the ban, but reserved cattle and spoil for themselves (Deuteronomy 2:34 f.), and occupied his land from the Arnon to Gile‘ad, and up to the Ammonite border on the Jabboḳ (Deuteronomy 2:36 f.).
The parallel JE, Numbers 21:21-32 (for the analysis of which into two narratives see the Comm. in this series), contains besides an old mashal or ode on the subject (Deuteronomy 2:27-30). E agrees in substance with D and there are verbal parallels, for which see below. As elsewhere D seems here based on E, with the usual variations of style and one or two details of fact.
On the relation of this section of Moses’ discourse to the preceding see introd. and notes to the latter. On the historicity of the story see the present writer’s HGHL, 662 ff.; and Early Poetry of Israel, 64 ff.
Let me pass through thy land: I will go along by the high way, I will neither turn unto the right hand nor to the left.27. Let me pass, etc.] So E, Numbers 21:22; LXX, we will pass.
I will go along by the highway] Heb. and Sam. here by the way by the way; E, by the king’s way, the main road, like the Ar. term Sulṭani.
I will neither turn, etc.] E, Numbers 21:22 : we will not turn aside into field or vineyard, nor drink the water of the wells.
Thou shalt sell me meat for money, that I may eat; and give me water for money, that I may drink: only I will pass through on my feet;28. Thou shalt sell me food, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 2:6.
(As the children of Esau which dwell in Seir, and the Moabites which dwell in Ar, did unto me;) until I shall pass over Jordan into the land which the LORD our God giveth us.29. as the children of Esau … and the Moabites] In JE Numbers 20:18 ff. Esau refused Israel’s request made from Ḳadesh, but appears to have sold them bread and water when, later, Israel crossed the S. end of Mt Se‘ir, Deuteronomy 2:6. In Deuteronomy 23:5  Mo’ab is blamed for not meeting Israel with bread and water on the way—but does that mean did not sell them these?
But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day.30. But Sihon … would not let us pass by him) E, Numbers 21:23 : S. would not allow (another verb) Israel to cross his territory.
for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit] Sg. address; it is at least remarkable that the change coincides with a religious explanation of Sîḥôn’s resistance, for which E has here no parallel. The phrase is found elsewhere in P, Exodus 7:3, but with heart for spirit.
made his heart obstinate] Heb. strong, usually in a good sense, in a bad only here, Deuteronomy 15:7 and 2 Chronicles 36:13. In E, Exodus 4:21, the same meaning with another verb.
as at this day] Another deuteronomic formula: Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 4:38, Deuteronomy 6:24, Deuteronomy 8:18, Deuteronomy 10:15, Deuteronomy 29:28; 1 Kings 3:6; 1 Kings 8:24, etc. Here its appropriateness is not obvious; these formulas tend to creep in where they are not required.
And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land.31. deliver up before thee] See Deuteronomy 1:8. The Sg. is retained as original by Steuern. presumably on the ground of its being addressed to Moses.
Sihon] LXX. Sam. add king of Ḥeshbon, the Amorite.
Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz.32. unto battle at Jahaz] E, Numbers 21:23; went out to meet I. towards the wilderness, came to Yahaṣ and fought Israel. See on Ḳedemoth, Deuteronomy 2:26. The Moabite stone (Deuteronomy 2:18-21) implies that Yahaṣ was near Dîbôn; Jeremiah 48:21 places it on the Mishôr or Moab plateau (see Deuteronomy 3:10); and Isaiah 15:4 some distance S. of Ḥeshbon. In Eusebius’ day it was pointed out between Madaba1 and Dibon (On. Sacr. Ιασσα). Musil (Moab, 107, 122) suggests Umm-el-Walîd, ruins on a strong site S.E. of Mâdabâ on the right bank of the W. el-Heri, undoubtedly a suitable place for Sîḥôn to meet Israel. But there are other ruined sites equally suitable on the probable line of Israel’s march and on the E. of the plateau.
 The various forms of this name are:—Heb. Mêdebâ; Moabite Mehçdebâ; Arab. Mâdabâ; Greek Μαἱδαβα, Μεδαβα, Μηδαβα!; Lat. Medaba.
And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people.33. delivered him up before us] See on Deuteronomy 1:8.
his sons] So the Heb. vowels, LXX, Sam. E, Numbers 21:24 a: smote him with the edge of the sword.
And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain:34. And we look all his cities] E, Numbers 21:24 a, possessed his land from Arnon unto Jabboḳ; J, id. 25: Israel took all these cities and dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, Ḥeshbon and her towns. Anciently this part of the Plateau was thickly populated. From almost every elevation several groups of ruins are visible, mostly Byzantine, but how much older each site may be cannot yet be said. The land is very good for corn.
utterly destroyed every inhabited city, with the women and the little ones] Devoted—put to the ḥerem or ban—every city-full of males, with, etc. The first mention in Deut. of a custom practised also by other Semites. Mesha (Moabite Stone, 14–17) records that having taken Nebo from Israel he slew the whole population for he ‘had devoted it to Ashtar-Chemosh’; the same verb as in Heb. To Israel as to other peoples a war was from first to last a religious process (see on Deuteronomy 20:1 ff.) and the ḥerem was the climax of a series of solemn rites. It consisted of the devotion to the deity, by destruction, of the captives and spoil. The name is from the root ḥrm, ‘to set apart’ or ‘shut off’ (cp. Ar. ḥaram ‘sacred precincts’ and ḥarîm) and was not confined to war. By the earliest code every idolatrous Israelite was put to the ḥerem, E, Exodus 22:20 ; cp. Deuteronomy 13:6-11 of idolaters, and Deuteronomy 13:12-18 [13–19] of an idolatrous city; P, Leviticus 27:28 f. In war the full process was the slaughter of the conquered population and their cattle, the burning of combustible spoil, and the oblation of the rest to the sanctuary. So in the story of the fall of Jericho and Achan’s trespass, Joshua 6 f. (especially Deuteronomy 6:17-19; Deuteronomy 6:21; Deuteronomy 6:24, Deuteronomy 7:1; Deuteronomy 7:11 ff.), which however contains many editorial additions. But as we see from several narratives and laws, the actual practice varied from time to time under the competing influences of religious feeling, material considerations and humane impulses. The most illustrative passage is 1 Samuel 15. Samuel charges Saul to devote all ‘Amaleḳ and their cattle; Saul spares the king and the best of the cattle. Either his excuse, that he reserved them for sacrifice, is an afterthought; or from the first he had been unwilling that the best cattle should be rendered by the ḥerem unusable by the people in sacrificial feasts. Was the king moved by feelings of humanity? Samuel condemns his action as disobedience against Jehovah; so absolutely at that time was the ḥerem conceived by the religious leaders. The deuteronomic directions, all in the Sg. address, distinguish between Israel’s treatment of the seven Canaanite nations and of Israelite idolaters on the one side, and their treatment of other nations at a distance:—(a) Deuteronomy 7:2 : the seven nations are to be put to the ḥerem because of their idolatry and no league with them is allowed; Deuteronomy 2:25 f. their idols are to be burned with the silver and gold on them, for they are ḥerem and if used by Israel would make the people ḥerem or devoted to destruction. Similarly in Deuteronomy 13:15 f. every Israelite community falling to idolatry shall be devoted, and their city, cattle, and spoil burned to Jehovah thy God. But (b) Deuteronomy 20:10 ff directs that distant enemies if they submit shall be spared, though they must become tributary; while if they resist only the males shall be slain, the women, children, cattle and spoil being treated as booty. And in Deuteronomy 20:16-17 it is repeated that the nations of Palestine shall be devoted. Religious feeling, the desire that Israel shall not be infected by the idolatry from which they ran most risk of infection, is obviously the paramount motive of these laws. But it is remarkable that the only instances of the ḥerem recorded in Deut., those against Sîḥôn and ‘Ôg, fully agree neither with the treatment enjoined by the deuteronomic laws against the seven nations, nor with that enjoined against distant enemies, but combine features of both. The captive men, women, and children were slain, but the cattle and spoil reserved for booty, Deuteronomy 2:34 f., Deuteronomy 3:6 f. So too in Jos. (outside the story of Achan):—Joshua 8:2; Joshua 8:27 spoil and cattle reserved, Joshua 10:28 ff., only the people devoted; Joshua 11:9 horses houghed, chariots burned; Joshua 11:11-15, people devoted, cattle and spoil reserved. Except Joshua 11:9 these passages appear to be editorial.—In connection with this subject note that Amos (Amos 1:6; Amos 1:9) condemns as inhuman the selling into captivity of a whole population, just as to-day it is contrary to the Arab conscience to extinguish a ḳabîla or tribe in war (Doughty, Ar. Des. i. 335). Yet, just as by Samuel in the case of Saul, and in Deut., this natural conscience has often been overborne by the rigorous religious demands of Islam. The parallel is instructive; cp. Deuteronomy 20:10-18.—See on the use of the term in a criminal case, Exodus 22:20, with Driver’s note.
Only the cattle we took for a prey unto ourselves, and the spoil of the cities which we took.35. See previous note on Deuteronomy 2:24
From Aroer, which is by the brink of the river of Arnon, and from the city that is by the river, even unto Gilead, there was not one city too strong for us: the LORD our God delivered all unto us:36. From Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon] The Naḥal ’Arnon = Wâdy Môjeb, see above Deuteronomy 2:24. Edge, Heb. lip. ‘Arô‘er is frequently given in the O.T. as a S. limit:—e.g. of the territory taken by Israel from Sîḥôn (here, and Deuteronomy 3:12, Deuteronomy 4:48, Joshua 12:2; Joshua 13:9; Joshua 13:16); of the kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 24:5 emended after LXX; 2 Kings 10:33). ‘I built,’ says Mesha (Moabite Stone, 27), ‘‘Arô‘er and made the high-way by the ’Arnon.’ Jeremiah 48:19 connects ‘Arô‘er with a high-road. Eusebius describes it as above ’Arnon, ‘on the eyebrow of the hill.’ To-day the Khirbet ‘Arâ‘er, ruins of a walled town on the N. edge of the W. Môjeb, here nearly 2000 feet deep, with an ancient zig-zag road down the precipitous slopes to the bed of the Wâdy (Tristram, Moab, 125 ff.; Musil, Moab, 331, with plan and views). It lies nearly 2 miles E. of the Roman road, the present high road across ’Arnon, and must not be confounded with the ruins called ‘Aḳraba close to the latter (cp. Brünnow, Provincia Arabia, i. 31; and the present writer, PEFQ, 1905, 41); an error into which several travellers have fallen.
the city that is in the valley] The valley or naḥal is, of course, the ’Arnon or Wâdy Môjeb, the S. frontier of Sîḥôn’s kingdom. The site of the unnamed city is uncertain. Its frequent association with ‘Arô‘er as on a S. frontier (e.g. here, Joshua 13:9; Joshua 13:16, 2 Samuel 24:5) may imply that it lay close under ‘Arô‘er on the stream; where to-day ruins stand with the name Khreibet ‘Ajam1; in which case the city has been added to ‘Arô‘er in order to define the exact border as the stream, and its namelessness is explicable by its having been a mere suburb or the toll-town of ‘Arô‘er. Or else, since ‘Arô‘er lay towards the W. end of the S. frontier of Sîḥôn’s kingdom formed by the ’Arnon, the city in the valley lay further up the ’Arnon and so defined the E. extremity of the S. border. Musil suggests Medeyyneh on the upper stretch of ’Arnon, now the W. Sa‘ideh or Sa‘îdeh (Moab, 328 ff.). It lies on a projection of the plateau into the Wâdy, and might well be described as the city in, or in the midst of, the naḥal. This is the same site as Musil proposes for ‘Ar or ‘Ir of Mo‘ab, also given as a limit (see on Deuteronomy 2:18); the identification of which had already been made on Biblical data alone (Dillm. in loco).
 There are other ruins a little further E. up the stream at its confluence with that from the S. and these Grove (Smith’s D.B. 1st ed.) takes as the city in question.
even unto Gilead] E, Numbers 21:24, defines more exactly unto the Jabboḳ, the next great natural frontier N. of Arnon. Gile‘ad lay on both sides of Jabboḳ, which divided it into halves.
too high for us] The Heb. phrase is found in prose only here, and elsewhere in the O.T. only in Job 5:11. Further see Deuteronomy 1:28.
before us] Sam. LXX: into our hands.
Only unto the land of the children of Ammon thou camest not, nor unto any place of the river Jabbok, nor unto the cities in the mountains, nor unto whatsoever the LORD our God forbad us.37. Change to the Sg. address. This, with the fact that the clause is a mere qualification not necessary to the context, has led some to take it for a later addition.
all the side of the river Jabboḳ, and the cities of the hill country] This defines the land of ‘Ammôn, which lay at that time on the upper stretch of Jabboḳ, where the stream runs from S.W. to N.E. before turning in its main course W. to Jordan; cp. JE, Numbers 21:24. The country there is hilly in contrast with the Mo‘ab plateau.
and wheresoever] So Sam.; LXX according to all that.
forbad us] Rather commanded us: suitable to the preceding reading of the LXX. Us is wanting in Heb. but is given by Sam. and LXX.