Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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.3. After the Forty Years and From Conflict to Conquest
1. From Kadesh to the land of the Amorites (Deuteronomy 2:1-23)
2. The command to possess (Deuteronomy 2:24-25)
3. The conquest of Sihon (Deuteronomy 2:26-37)
The many days in the first verse are the thirty-eight years. We must notice the little word “we.” “We turned and took our journey into the wilderness.” Moses, Aaron, his sons, Joshua, Caleb and the faithful Levites turned back with the unfaithful, murmuring Israelites. Moses and all who had not shared in the unbelief of the people submitted to the sovereign will of the Lord. How strange it would have been if they had complained in sharing in the judgment of the mass of the people. This is true obedience and humility. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble; submit yourselves, therefore, to God” (James 4:6-7). The faithful ones shared the trials, the sorrows, the hardships of the murmuring multitudes. And Jehovah was with them and in gracious tenderness. Can there be anything more beautiful than the testimony of Moses he gives in verse 7! “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 has been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing.” Well may we ponder over it. The people, who had accused Him, insulted Him, disbelieved His word, this people He carried through the great wilderness so that they lacked nothing. May we take courage. Our failures, our short-comings, our unbelief do not arrest the gracious tenderness of His loving heart.
Intensely interesting is the divine injunction not to molest Edom, Moab and Ammon. The great principle which goes through Deuteronomy is very outstanding in this command of Jehovah. He guided them, gave His instructions and they were to depend on Him and be obedient to His will. They might have coveted to possess the plains of Moab or Mount Seir and the lands of Ammon. The Lord forbade them to do so. Disobedience would have been disastrous. Though Edom had harrassed Israel greatly and displayed an arrogant pride, yet Jehovah would not give Edom’s possession to Israel. He remembered His word “I have given Mount Seir unto Esau for a possession” (Genesis 32:3; Genesis 36:6-8; Joshua 24:4). They were, therefore, not to seek what the Lord had not given to them. And this is obedience and a lesson of faith. What happy contentment there would be among God’s people, if this rule were followed.
The same command not to distress the Moabites and Ammonites (blood relations to Israel) is given. The races of giants are mentioned, which occupied the territories of Moab, Ammon and Edom. They had different names as stated in the text. Emim means “the terrible ones;” Zamzumim has the meaning “to murmur and meditate.” This may have some reference to demon possession as seen in some of the present day mediums of spiritism. They were powerful and extremely vicious beings, given up to the control and service of Satan.
Then Jehovah called to action. “Rise 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.” (In verse 13, “Now rise up, _said _I”--the words in italics “said I” must be omitted. Not Moses, but Jehovah gave the command.)
Obedience is again the demand. While the statement in verse 25 “I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven” has been taken as hyperbolical, it also has a prophetic meaning. The Gentiles fear the Jews and the nations stand in dread of them. Some day the Jewish race will be the head of the nations of the world. Sihon’s measure of wickedness and cruelty was full. His spirit was hardened like Pharaoh’s and Israel completely overthrew him and his kingdom. “The LORD our God delivered all unto us” (verse 36). Read Psalm 136:19-26. It was His mercy. And His mercy endureth forever and is blessedly on our side. May we walk in obedience and find His mercy acting in our behalf.