Numbers 14:45
Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.
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(45) Then the Amalekites came down . . . —The words “which dwelt in that hill” may refer to the Canaanites only, or to the Amalekites and the Canaanites, and may denote either permanent residence or temporary occupation. If the reference is, as seems most natural, to a permanent abode, it will follow Numbers 14:25, for the latter verse cannot be intended to describe the geographical position of the Canaanites.

Even unto Horman.—Or, the place of the ban. The definite article is used in this place, the Hormah. If the Hormah which is here mentioned is identical with the Hormah of Numbers 21:3, where the definite article is not used, and with the Hormah of Judges 1:17, we must conclude that the name is used proleptically, as is not unfrequently the case in Scripture. It is probable, however, that in each case a different place is denoted by a common name. The cognate verb is employed in Deuteronomy 20:17, where the command is given to devote the Canaanitish nations to utter destruction, i.e., to a state of hormah.

Numbers 14:45. The Canaanites — Largely so called, but strictly the Amorites. Hormah — A place so called afterward, (Numbers 21:3,) from the slaughter or destruction of the Israelites at this time.

14:40-45 Some of the Israelites were now earnest to go forward toward Canaan. But it came too late. If men would but be as earnest for heaven while their day of grace lasts, as they will be when it is over, how well would it be for them! That which has been duty in its season, when mistimed, may be turned into sin. Those who are out of the way of their duty, are not under God's protection, and go at their peril. God bade them go, and they would not; he forbade them, and they would go. Thus is the carnal mind enmity against God. They had distrusted God's strength; they now presume upon their own without his. And the expedition fails accordingly; now the sentence began to be executed, that their carcases should fall in the wilderness. That affair can never end well, which begins with sin. The way to obtain peace with our friends, and success against our enemies, is, to have God, as our Friend, and to keep in his love. Let us take warning from the fate of Israel, lest we perish after the same example of unbelief. Let us go forth, depending on God's mercy, power, promise, and truth; he will be with us, and bring our souls to everlasting rest.Unto Hormah - literally, "the Hormah:" i. e. "the banning," or "ban-place." Compare Numbers 21:3; Joshua 12:14. According to the view taken of Kadesh (see Numbers 13:26), Hormah is identified, through its earlier name, Zephath Judges 1:17, with es-Safah on the southeastern frontier of Canaan, by which the Israelites quitted the Arabah for the higher ground, (or with Sebaita, which lies further to the west, about 25 miles north of Ain Gadis). 45. even unto Hormah—The name was afterwards given to that place in memory of the immense slaughter of the Israelites on this occasion. The Canaanite; largely so called, but strictly the Arnorite, as appears from Deu 1:44.

Which dwelt; so they were a part and branch of those that dwelt in the valley, Numbers 14:25. Or, sat, i.e. placed themselves, lay in ambush, expecting your coming.

Hormah; a place so called afterwards Numbers 21:3, from the great slaughter or destruction of the Israelites at this time.

Then the Amalekites came down,.... The hill; met the Israelites as they ascended: and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill; the same with the Amorites, one of the seven nations of Canaan, Numbers 13:29,

and smote them; with the sword, having the advantage of them in coming down the hill upon them:

and discomfited them even unto Hormah; the name of a place, so called from what happened there; as Jarchi says; either from this destruction of the Israelites at this time by these their enemies, or from the destruction of the Canaanites by Israel, Numbers 21:4; and so here has its name by anticipation; or it may be from both these events, and seems to be confirmed by a third of the like kind, having been in former times called Zephath, Judges 1:17; see Joshua 15:30; though some take it to be an appellative here, and not the proper name of a place, and render it even unto destruction, as the Targum of Jonathan, denoting the very great destruction and havoc that were made among them: how many were destroyed is not certain; the judgment threatened them of God soon began to take place, that their carcasses should fall in that wilderness.

Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.
45. which dwelt in that hill country] See on Numbers 14:25.

Hormah] lit. ‘the Hormah’; but it occurs here only with the article. A town or district in the south of Palestine whose site is unknown. In Numbers 21:3 an explanation of the name is given: see notes there.

Verse 45. - The Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites. See on Deuteronomy 1:44. They came down from the summit of the mountain country, and drove the Israelites off the saddle, or lower level, to which they had ascended. Discomfited them. Septuagint, κατέκοψαν αὐτούς, "cut them up." Unto Hormah. This mention of Hormah is extremely perplexing, especially when we find from Deuteronomy 1:44 that it was "in Serf" (בְּשֵׂעִיר), which is the ordinary name for the territory of the Edomites. The name Hormah meets us again in Numbers 21:3 (see the notes there), as having been bestowed by the Israelites upon the place where they destroyed the people of King Arad. If this be the same Hormah, it must be so named here by anticipation. It is, however, quite possible that it is another place altogether. Again, if the Seir of Deuteronomy 1:44 be the country usually so called, we must suppose that the Edomites had at this time occupied a part of the Azazimeh, contiguous to the Wady Murreh, and westwards of the Arabah. We should then represent the Israelites to ourselves as being driven off the mountain, and across the Wady Murreh, and cut down in the mountains beyond, as far as a place called Hormah, perhaps from this very slaughter. Others have found Hormah (or Zephath, Judges 1:17) and Seir among the multitudinous names of past or present habitation in the south of Palestine; the perplexing resemblances of which, coupled with the vagueness of the sacred narrative, lead to the rise of as many different theories as there are commentators. It must, however, be erroneous to represent this hasty incursion of the Israelites, without their leaders, and without their daily food from heaven, as a campaign in which they advanced for a considerable distance, and were only partially expelled at last. It is clear from this passage, and still more from the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 1, that the expedition was swiftly and ignominiously repelled and avenged. Compare the expression, "chased you as bees do." NOTE TO CHAPTERS XIII, XIV ON THE POSITION OF KADESH AND THE ROUTE TAKEN BY THE ISRAELITES. The old name of Kadesh was En-mishpat (Genesis 14:7), or the "Well of Judgment." Its later and more familiar name was equivalent to "the sanctuary" or "holy place" (compare the Arabic name for Jerusalem, "El Kuds"). It is possible that it received this name from the long sojourn of the tabernacle in its neighbourhood (Deuteronomy 1:46); but it is more likely that it possessed some character of sanctity from ancient times, a character which would very well harmonize with the fact that justice was administered there. It is evident that in order to obtain any clear and connected idea of the history of Israel between the departure from Sinai and the encampment upon the plains of Moab, it is above all necessary to fix approximately the position of this place, which for one generation was the most important place in the whole world. It was no doubt from the neighbourhood of Kadesh that the spies were sent, and it was certainly to Kadesh that they returned from searching the land (Numbers 13:26). From Kadesh the first disastrous attempt was made to invade the country, and from thence again the final journey began which led the nation round the coasts of Edom to the plains of Moab. Thus Kadesh was of all places, next to Mount Sinai, the one associated with the most momentous events of those momentous years, marking at once the terminus of their first journey (which should have been their last), the beginning of their tedious wanderings, and the starting point of their final march. So far, however, from there being any certainty or agreement as to the site of Kadesh, we find two sites proposed widely separated from one another, each maintained and each assailed by powerful arguments, which divide between them the suffrages of geographers and commentators; and besides these there are others less powerfully supported. The view adopted in the notes to this book is that of the travelers Rowland and Williams, and of the great majority of the German commentators: it is fully stated and minutely argued in Kurtz's 'History of the Old Covenant' (volume 3 in Clark's 'Foreign Theol. Lib.'). According to these authorities Kadesh is to be recognized in the plain and fountain of Kudes, just within the north-west corner of the mountains of the Azazimeh (see note on Numbers 10:12). This desert plain, some ten miles by six in extent, is screened from ordinary observation by the outer mountain walls of the Azazimat, which shut it off on the west from the desert road from Sinai to Hebron, on the north from the Wady Murreh. At the north-east of the plain is a bold and bare rock, a promontory of the northern mountain rampart, from the. foot of which issues a copious spring, which begins by falling in cascades into the bed of a torrent, and ends by losing itself in the sands. Amongst the Wadys which open into the plain is one which bears the name of Redemat (see note on Numbers 12:16). It is uncertain whether there is any easy communication between this plain and the Wady Murreh, but there are several passes on the western side which lead by a slight circuit to the southern table-lands of Palestine. The view adopted by the majority of English commentators is that of the traveler Robinson. According to these authorities Kadesh must be sought in the Arabah, the broad depression which runs northward from the head of the Elanitic Gulf until it meets the Ghor below the Dead Sea. By most of those who hold this view the site of Kadesh is placed at Ain-el-Weibeh, ten miles to the north of Mount Hor, and opposite the opening (from the east)of the Wady el Ghuweir, which affords the only easy passage through Edom to the north-west. Others, however, prefer Ain Hash, a few miles further north. The local peculiarities of either place are such as to satisfy the requirements of the narrative, although they would not by themselves have recalled the scenes with which Kadesh is associated. Of other theories none perhaps need to be considered here, because none can reasonably enter into competition with the two already mentioned; they avoid none of the difficulties with which these are beset, while they incur others of their own. If, indeed, Rabbinical tradition (followed in this case by Jerome) were worth anything, it would decide the question in favour of Petra, the Aramaic name of which (Rekem) uniformly takes the place of Kadesh in the Syriac and Chaldee, and in the Talmud. Kadesh-Barnea in the Targums is Rekem-Geiah. Petra itself (of which the ancient name apparently was Selah (2 Kings 14:7), the very word used in Numbers 20:10, 11) stands in a gorge famous for its giant cliffs, still called the Wady Musa, concerning which the local tradition is that it was cleft by the rod of Moses. But apart from these resemblances of name, which are so fallacious, and these legends, which are so worthless, there is absolutely nothing to connect Kadesh with Petra; on the contrary, the position of Petra, far away from Palestine, on the skirts of Mount Hor, and in the heart of Edom, distinguish it sharply from the Kadesh of the Bible story. The two can only be identified on the supposition that the sacred narrative, as it stands, is mistaken and misleading. In examining briefly the arguments by which the western and eastern sites respectively are maintained and assailed, it will be better to dismiss the evidence (such as it is) afforded by modern nomenclature, which is always open to grave suspicion, and is at best of very variable value. The Wady Retemat, e.g., is so named from the broom plant, which is very plentiful in the peninsula, and may have lent a similar name to many another place. In favour of the western site, that of the so-called plain of Kudes, we have the following arguments in addition to the marked natural features which suggested the identification.

1. Previous mentions of Kadesh would certainly dispose us (in the absence of any indication that there was more than one place of that name) to look for it to the south of Palestine, and rather to the south-west than to the southeast. In Genesis 14:7 it is mentioned in connection with the "country of the Amalekites," which was apparently between Canaan and Egypt. In the same region we may place with more confidence the well of Hagar (Genesis 16:14), which is placed between "Kadesh and Bered." It is difficult to think that this Kadesh could possibly have been in the Arabah. Gerar, again, which was certainly near to Beersheba, is placed (Genesis 20:1) "between Kadesh and Shut." These notices are indeed indefinite, but they certainly point to the western rather than to the eastern site.

2. Subsequent mentions of Kadesh point in the same direction. In chapter Numbers 34:4, 5 and Joshua 15:3, 4 the southern frontier of Judah, which was also that of Canaan, is traced from the scorpion cliffs at the head of the Ghor to the Mediterranean (see note on the first passage). On this frontier Kadesh occurs in such a way that we should look for it not at one extremity, but somewhere about the middle of the line. The same is still more clearly the case in Ezekiel 47:19, where only three points are given on the southern frontier, of which Kadesh is the middle one. It is, again: very difficult to imagine that this Kadesh could have been in the Arabah.

3. It is a weaker argument, but still of some moment, that Kadesh is pointedly said to have been in the "wilderness of Paran" (Numbers 12:16; Numbers 13:3), and also to have been in or near the wilderness of Zin (chapter 13:21; 20:1). But the eastern site of Kadesh far up the Arabah does not seem to answer to this double description near]y as well as the western. The plain of Kudes is strictly within the limits of that southern desert now called et-Tih, and yet it is quite close to the Wady Murreh, which with its sandy expansions towards the east may well have been the wilderness of Zin (see note on Numbers 13:21). In favour of the eastern site, the only argument of real weight is founded upon the repeated statement that Kadesh was close upon the territory of Edom. In Numbers 20:16, e.g., it is spoken of to the king of Edom as "a city in the uttermost of thy borders." But the only position in which the children of Israel would be at once on the borders of Canaan and on the borders of Edom as commonly understood, would be in the neighbourhood of Ain el-Weibeh, with the pass of es-Safah on their left, and the Wady Ghuweir on their right, as they looked northwards. With this agrees the statement that they came to Kadesh "by the way of Mount Seir" (Deuteronomy 1:2), and the fact that there is no station mentioned between Kadesh and Mount Her (Numbers 33:37), although the western site is seventy miles from that mountain. The necessity indeed of placing Kadesh on the border of Edom must be conclusive in favour of the eastern site, if the common assumption is correct that the name and territory of Edom were bounded westwards by the Arabah. It is, however, contended, with some show of reason, that the kings of Edom had extended their authority at this time over the country of the Azazimeh as far as the plain of Kudes. There is, at any rate, nothing improbable in this, because this great mountain fastness is almost as sharply severed from Canaan as from Mount Seir, properly so called; and in fact it never appears to have been in possession of the Canaanites. When, however, the southern boundary line is traced in detail (Numbers 34:3, 4; Joshua 15:1, 2, 21), it is said to have extended עַל־יְדֵי, "on the sides," or אֶל־גְּבוּל, "to the borders," of Edom, and this expression can hardly be satisfied by the single point of contact at the south-east corner of Judah, especially when we consider the long list of cities which were on or near this border (Joshua 15:21-32). Again, when the extreme southern and northern points of Joshua's conquest are mentioned (Joshua 11:17; Joshua 12:7), the former is "the bald mountain which goeth up Seir" - a natural feature which we look for in vain (for it cannot possibly be the low line of the scorpion cliffs), unless it be the northern rampart of the Azazimat. We have seen that the Hormah to which the Israelites were repelled on their first invasion is placed (Deuteronomy 1:44) "in Seir," which can hardly be Mount Seir in its ordinary restricted sense. If the name Seir has to be sought anywhere outside of Edom proper, it would seem more natural to find it in the northern part of the wilderness of Paran, where it is said to be still common, than anywhere else. And if this extension of Edom can be established, there appears to be no further objection of any moment to the western site. Mount Hor would still be on the coast or edge of the land of Edom, because it would be the meeting-point of the two boundaries, the one striking westwards across the Arabah, the other southwards down the Arabah. The absence of any name between Kadesh and Her is not conclusive, because the people certainly made journeys of several days without any regular halt (see note on chapter Numbers 10:33). Upon the whole the question may fairly be stated thus: -

1. The general tenor of the narrative would lead us to suppose that the host of Israel had marched from Sinai through the midst of the desert of Paran, by the route which led most directly to the extreme south of Palestine; and if they did this, they must have passed near to Rowland's Kadesh.

2. The natural features of this site, its position with regard to the desert of et-Tih and the Wady Murreh, its distance from Sinai (Deuteronomy 1:2), and its proximity to the Negeb and the plateau of Rakhmah, seem to harmonize better with all that we read about Kadesh than the corresponding characteristics of the rival site.

3. The general effect of the various mentions of Kadesh, both before and after, is undeniably, though not decidedly, in favour of the western site.

4. The minor arguments which are urged on one side or the other may be allowed to balance one another, for it is certain that neither is free from difficulty.

5. The difficulty with respect to Edom is a very serious one, and with many will be decisive against Rowland's Kadesh.

6. What must turn the scale one way or the other is the independent evidence that the border of Edom extended at this time across the Arabah, and included the northeast portion of the desert of Paran, viz., the mountain mass which fronted the southern edge of Canaan. There is some evidence that this was the case, and it cannot be met by the simple assertion that the territory of Edom consisted only of Mount Seir, and that Mount Seir lay wholly to the east of the Arabah. It is to be expected that travel and research in these regions now so inaccessible, and, after all said and written, so little known, will before long bring fresh and more decisive evidence to light. In the mean time that view is consistently maintained in these notes which, if it had apparently the greatest difficulty to surmount, yet receives the greatest amount of positive support from the general and incidental testimony of the Scripture record. One lesson emerges clearly from the obscurity involving this question, which appears to us so important to the understanding of God's holy word: the geography of the Bible must be of very small importance indeed as compared with its moral and religious teachings. These are not affected by any ignorance of localities and routes. The rebellion of Kadesh has exactly the same moral for us (Hebrews 3:19; Hebrews 4:11) whether Kadesh was in the Azazimat or the Arabah; and the very uncertainty in which its site is involved may be designed to remind us that it is very easy to exaggerate the value of these outward details to the neglect of those inward teachings which alone are in the highest sense important.

Numbers 14:45

(cf. Deuteronomy 1:41-44). The announcement of the sentence plunged the people into deep mourning. But instead of bending penitentially under the judgment of God, they resolved to atone for their error, by preparing the next morning to go to the top of the mountain and press forward into Canaan. And they would not even suffer themselves to be dissuaded from their enterprise by the entreaties of Moses, who denounced it as a transgression of the word of God which could not succeed, and predicted their overthrow before their enemies, but went presumptuously (לעלות יעפּלוּ) up without the ark of the covenant and without Moses, who did not depart out of the midst of the camp, and were smitten by the Amalekites and Canaanites, who drove them back as far as Hormah. Whereas at first they had refused to enter upon the conflict with the Canaanites, through their unbelief in the might of the promise of God, now, through unbelief in the severity of the judgment of God, they resolved to engage in this conflict by their own power, and without the help of God, and to cancel the old sin of unbelieving despair through the new sin of presumptuous self-confidence, - an attempt which could never succeed, but was sure to plunge deeper and deeper into misery. Where "the top (or height) of the mountain" to which the Israelites advanced was, cannot be precisely determined, as we have no minute information concerning the nature of the ground in the neighbourhood of Kadesh. No doubt the allusion is to some plateau on the northern border of the valley mentioned in Numbers 14:25, viz., the Wady Murreh, which formed the southernmost spur of the mountains of the Amorites, from which the Canaanites and Amalekites came against them, and drove them back. In Deuteronomy 1:44, Moses mentions the Amorites instead of the Amalekites and Canaanites, using the name in a broader sense for all the Canaanites, and contenting himself with naming the leading foes with whom the Amalekites who wandered about in the Negeb had allied themselves, as Bedouins thirsting for booty. These tribes came down (Numbers 14:45) from the height of the mountain to the lower plateau or saddle, which the Israelites had ascended, and smote them and יכּתוּם (from כּתת, with the reduplication of the second radical anticipated in the first: see Ewald, 193, c.), "discomfited them, as far as Hormah," or as Moses expressed it in Deuteronomy 1:44, They "chased you, as bees do" (which pursue with great ferocity any one who attacks or disturbs them), "and destroyed you in Seir, even unto Hormah." There is not sufficient ground for altering "in Seir" into "from Seir," as the lxx, Syriac, and Vulgate have done. But בּשׂעיר might signify "into Seir, as far as Hormah." As the Edomites had extended their territory at that time across the Arabah towards the west, and taken possession of a portion of the mountainous country which bounded the desert of Paran towards the north (see at Numbers 34:3), the Israelites, when driven back by them, might easily be chased into the territory of the Edomites. Hormah (i.e., the ban-place) is used here proleptically (see at Numbers 21:3).
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