Deuteronomy 2:3
Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.
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(3) Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.—Apparently this command must have been issued when they were in Kadesh the second time, at the commencement of the fortieth year (Numbers 20:1). It was from this encampment that Moses sent messengers to the king of Edom asking permission to pass through his territory. It would be interesting to know when it was decided that Israel should enter the land of promise by passing over Jordan, instead of going through the Negeb. Did Mount Seir, or the territory of Edom, lie wholly on the east, or partly on the west of Israel when they were encamped in Kadesh? If Edom had acquired any territorial rights to the westward during the thirty-eight years’ wandering, it might have been necessary for Israel to ask his permission to go by the way of the spies, and in that case the decision to pass Jordan may have been taken in consequence of Edom’s refusal. But if, as Conder (Bible Handbook, p. 250) appears to think, the permission asked was to go eastward between the mountains by the W. el Ghaweir to the north of Mount Hor, or the W. Ghurundel to the south of it (see Stanley’s Map in Sinai and Palestine for these), then the decision to pass the Jordan must have been taken before this period. The reason for the step would then be similar to what we find in Exodus 13:17, that the people might not have to fight their way into the country through the land of the Amorites. The miraculous eisodus across Jordan would thus become still more analogous to the miraculous exodus from Egypt.

2:1-7 Only a short account of the long stay of Israel in the wilderness is given. God not only chastised them for their murmuring and unbelief, but prepared them for Canaan; by humbling them for sin, teaching them to mortify their lusts, to follow God, and to comfort themselves in him. Though Israel may be long kept waiting for deliverance and enlargement, it will come at last. Before God brought Israel to destroy their enemies in Canaan, he taught them to forgive their enemies in Edom. They must not, under pretence of God's covenant and conduct, think to seize all they could lay hands on. Dominion is not founded in grace. God's Israel shall be well placed, but must not expect to be placed alone in the midst of the earth. Religion must never be made a cloak for injustice. Scorn to be beholden to Edomites, when thou hast an all-sufficient God to depend upon. Use what thou hast, use it cheerfully. Thou hast experienced the care of the Divine providence, never use any crooked methods for thy supply. All this is equally to be applied to the experience of the believer.Deuteronomy 2:1 seems to refer in general terms to the long years of wandering, the details of which were not for Moses' present purpose. The command of Deuteronomy 2:2-3 relates to their journey from Kadesh to Mount Hor Numbers 20:22; Numbers 33:37, and directs their march around to the southern extremity of Mount Seir, so as to "compass the land of Edom" Judges 11:18; Numbers 21:4, and so northward toward the Arnon, i. e., "by the way of the wilderness of Moab," Deuteronomy 2:8. This circuitous path was followed because of the refusal of the Edomites to allow the people to pass through their territory. CHAPTER 2

De 2:1-37. The Story Is Continued.

1. Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea—After their unsuccessful attack upon the Canaanites, the Israelites broke up their encampment at Kadesh, and journeying southward over the west desert of Tih as well as through the great valley of the Ghor and Arabah, they extended their removals as far as the gulf of Akaba.

we compassed mount Seir many days—In these few words Moses comprised the whole of that wandering nomadic life through which they passed during thirty-eight years, shifting from place to place, and regulating their stations by the prospect of pasturage and water. Within the interval they went northward a second time to Kadesh, but being refused a passage through Edom and opposed by the Canaanites and Amalekites, they again had no alternative but to traverse once more the great Arabah southwards to the Red Sea, where turning to the left and crossing the long, lofty mountain chain to the eastward of Ezion-geber (Nu 21:4, 5), they issued into the great and elevated plains, which are still traversed by the Syrian pilgrims in their way to Mecca. They appear to have followed northward nearly the same route, which is now taken by the Syrian hadji, along the western skirts of this great desert, near the mountains of Edom [Robinson]. It was on entering these plains they received the command, "Ye have compassed this mountain (this hilly tract, now Jebel Shera) long enough, turn ye northward" [De 2:3].

Towards the land of the Amorites and Canaanites.

Ye have compassed this mountain long enough,.... It was time to be gone from thence, as from Horeb, Deuteronomy 1:6,

turn you northward; from the southern border of Edom towards the land of Canaan, which lay north. It was from Eziongeber in the land of Edom, from whence the Israelites came to Kadesh, where they sent messengers to the king of Edom, to desire a passage through his land; see Numbers 33:36.

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.)

Deuteronomy 2:3When they had gone through the Arabah to the southern extremity, the Lord commanded them to turn northwards, i.e., to go round the southern end of Mount Seir, and proceed northwards on the eastern side of it (see at Numbers 21:10), without going to war with the Edomites (התגּרה, to stir oneself up against a person to conflict, מלחמה), as He would not give them a foot-breadth of their land; for He had given Esau (the Edomites) Mount Seir for a possession. For this reason they were to buy victuals and water of them for money (כּרה, to dig, to dig water, i.e., procure water, as it was often necessary to dig wells, and not merely to draw it, Genesis 26:25. The verb כּרה does not signify to buy).
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