Deuteronomy 2:8
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.
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(8) When we passed . . . from . . . Esau . . . through the way of the plain from Elath.—The route from Seir, after Esau’s refusal, was southward to Ezion-geber, at the head of the Gulf of Akabah, and Elath, a few miles south-east of Ezion-geber, on the same coast. They then turned northward, and going round the territory of Edom, reached the country of Moab.

Deuteronomy 2:8-9. We turned — From our direct road, which lay through Edom. Ar — The chief city of the Moabites, here put for the whole country which depended upon it. The children of Lot — So called to signify that this preservation was not for their sakes, for they were a wicked people, but for Lot’s sake, whose memory God yet honoured.

2:8-23 We have the origin of the Moabites, Edomites, and Ammonites. Moses also gives an instance older than any of these; the Caphtorims drove the Avims out of their country. These revolutions show what uncertain things wordly possessions are. It was so of old, and ever will be so. Families decline, and from them estates are transferred to families that increase; so little continuance is there in these things. This is recorded to encourage the children of Israel. If the providence of God has done this for Moabites and Ammonites, much more would his promise do it for Israel, his peculiar people. Cautions are given not to meddle with Moabites and Ammonites. Even wicked men must not be wronged. God gives and preserves outward blessings to wicked men; these are not the best things, he has better in store for his own children.Elath (Akaba) is at the northern extremity of the eastern arm of the Red Sea, and gives to that arm the name of the Elanitic Gulf. The name means "trees;" and is still justified by the grove of palm-trees at Akaba. 8-18. we passed … through the way of the plain—the Arabah or great valley, from Elath ("trees") (the Ailah of the Greeks and Romans). The site of it is marked by extensive mounds of rubbish.

Ezion-geber—now Akaba, both were within the territory of Edom; and after making a circuit of its southeastern boundary, the Israelites reached the border of Moab on the southeast of the Salt Sea. They had been forbidden by divine command to molest the Moabites in any way; and this special honor was conferred on that people not on their own account, for they were very wicked, but in virtue of their descent from Lot. (See on [113]De 23:3). Their territory comprised the fine country on the south, and partly on the north of the Arnon. They had won it by their arms from the original inhabitants, the Emims, a race, terrible, as their name imports, for physical power and stature (Ge 14:5), in like manner as the Edomites had obtained their settlement by the overthrow of the original occupiers of Seir, the Horims (Ge 14:6), who were troglodytes, or dwellers in caves. Moses alluded to these circumstances to encourage his countrymen to believe that God would much more enable them to expel the wicked and accursed Canaanites. At that time, however, the Moabites, having lost the greater part of their possessions through the usurpations of Sihon, were reduced to the small but fertile region between the Zered and the Arnon.

Ezion-gaber; of which see Numbers 33:35, which may be either that place upon the Red Sea, 1 Kings 9:26, or another of the same name.

We turned, to wit, from our direct road which lay through Edom’s land.

And when we passed by from our brethren the children of Esau, which dwelt in Self,.... Along their coasts, by the borders of their country:

through the way of the plain; the wilderness of Zin, where Kadesh was:

from Elath and Eziongeber; the two ports on the shore of the Red sea in the land of Edom; it was from the latter they came to Kadesh; see Numbers 33:35. Elath was ten miles from Petra, the metropolis of Edom, to the east of it, as Jerom says (z); it is by Josephus (a) called Aelana, and by the Septuagint here Ailon; from whence the Elanitic bay has its name; he speaks of it as not far from Eziongeber, which he says was then called Berenice:

we turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab; the wilderness which is before Moab, towards the sun rising or the east, Numbers 21:11.

(z) De loc. Heb. fol. 91. E. (a) Antiqu. l. 8. c. 6. sect. 4.

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.

Verse 8. - 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 Ezion-gaber, we, etc. Rather, And we passed by from (away from) our brethren the sons of Esau, who dwelt in Self, from (off from, i.e. alongside, but at some distance from) the way of the 'Arabah, from (off from) Elath and from Ezion-geber. And so, in obedience to the Divine command, the Israelites passed from the territory of the Edomites without entering it, and went by their border on the east side of the 'Arabah, and from beside Elath and Ezion-geber, both ports at the northern extremity of the Elanitie Gulf of the Red Sea (Numbers 33:35). Thus they came to where they were then encamped, in the steppes of Moab. "Probably they followed the still used caravan route to Damascus, between the east side of the cultivated laud, and the west side of Arabia Deserta" (Schroeder). Elath or Eloth (אֵילות אֵילַת, palmgrove) - the Αἰλὰθ of Josephus, 'Antiq.,' 9:12; the Αλανα of Ptolemy (5:17) - was a city of Idumea, situated on the eastern gulf of the Red Sea. Its ruins are still traceable near the modern fortress of Akabah, on the northwest (Burckhardt, p. 509; Robinson, 1:241). Ezion-geber (עֶצֶיון גֶבֶר, backbone of a man, so called probably from the rugged and jagged rocks in its vicinity), a seaport near to Elath (cf. 1 Kings 9:26; 2 Chronicles 20:36). Deuteronomy 2:8In accordance with this divine command, they went past the Edomites by the side of their mountains, "from the way of the Arabah, from Elath (see at Genesis 14:6) and Eziongeber" (see at Numbers 33:35), sc., into the steppes of Moab, where they were encamped at that time.

God commanded them to behave in the same manner towards the Moabites, when they approached their frontier (Deuteronomy 2:9). They were not to touch their land, because the Lord had given Ar to the descendants of Lot for a possession. In Deuteronomy 2:9 the Moabites are mentioned, and in Deuteronomy 2:19 the Amorites also. The Moabites are designated as "sons of Lot," for the same reason for which the Edomites are called "brethren of Israel" in Deuteronomy 2:4. The Israelites were to uphold the bond of blood-relationship with these tribes in the most sacred manner. Ar, the capital of Moabitis (see at Numbers 21:15), is used here for the land itself, which was named after the capital, and governed by it.

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