Numbers 20:14
And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, Thus said your brother Israel, You know all the travail that has befallen us:
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(14) And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh . . . —The date of the occurrence related in this and the following verses is not stated. It might be inferred frem Judges 11:16-17 that the message to the Kings of Edom and Moab was sent soon after the exodus, and that it was in consequence of their refusal that the sojourn in Kadesh was prolonged: “And (or, So) Israel abode in Kadesh” (Judges 11:17). The account, however, is too summary to admit of any certain inference in regard to time. No difficulty is involved in the fact that Edom is represented in Genesis 36 as being governed by dukes, or chiefs (alluphim), whilst in this place we read of a king. It is possible that the form of government may have been changed, or, as in the case of the rulers of Midian, the same persons who in one place are described as kings may, in another place, be described as dukes, duces, or leaders. Comp. Numbers 31:8, where the five rulers of Midian are described as kings, with Joshua 13:21, where the same persons are described as princes or chiefs.

Thus saith thy brother Israel.—The Edomites, as the descendants of Esau, who received the name of Edom (Genesis 25:30), were closely connected with the descendants of Jacob.

Numbers 20:14. All the travail — All the wanderings and afflictions of our parents, and of us their children, which doubtless have come to thine ears.20:14-21 The nearest way to Canaan from the place where Israel encamped, was through the country of Edom. The ambassadors who were sent returned with a denial. The Edomites feared to receive damage by the Israelites. And had this numerous army been under any other discipline than that of the righteous God himself, there might have been cause for this jealousy. But Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing; and now the hatred revived, when the blessing was about to be inherited. We must not think it strange, if reasonable requests be denied by unreasonable men, and if those whom God favours be affronted by men.Compare the marginal reference. It appears from comparing Numbers 20:1 with Numbers 33:38, that the host must have remained in Kadesh some three or four months. No doubt time was required for re-organization. In order to gain the banks of Jordan by the shortest route they had to march nearly due east from Kadesh, and pass through the heart of the Edomite mountains. These are lofty and precipitous, traversed by two or three narrow defiles. Hence, the necessity of the request in Numbers 20:17.

Thy brother - An appeal to the Edomites to remember and renew the old kindnesses of Jacob and Esau Genesis 33:1-17.

It appears from Judges 11:17 that a similar request was addressed to the Moabites.

14-16. Moses sent messengers … to the king of Edom—The encampment at Kadesh was on the confines of the Edomite territory, through which the Israelites would have had an easy passage across the Arabah by Wady-el-Ghuweir, so that they could have continued their course around Moab, and approached Palestine from the east [Roberts]. The Edomites, being the descendants of Esau and tracing their line of descent from Abraham as their common stock, were recognized by the Israelites as brethren, and a very brotherly message was sent to them. Moses sent messengers, by God’s direction, Deu 2:1-3

Thy brother; for was not Esau (who is Edom, Genesis 36:1) Jacob’s brother? Malachi 1:2. All the travel; all the wanderings and afflictions of our parents, and of us their children, which doubtless have come to thine ears. And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom,.... This country was sometimes governed by kings, and sometimes by "dukes", see Genesis 36:14. At the time of the passage of the Israelites through the Red sea, we read of the dukes of Edom, Exodus 15:15, and here, thirty nine years after, of a king of Edom, but who he was is not certain. Bishop Usher takes him to be the same with Hadar, the last of the race of kings mentioned in Genesis 36:39, to him Moses sent messengers with a request, which follows after a preamble to it; who were the messengers is not said; the place from whence they were sent is Kadesh, a city on the borders of the land of Edom; but not Kadeshbarnea, Aben Ezra says, though some are of opinion it is the same, see Numbers 20:1,

thus saith thy brother Israel; the Israelites and Edomites springing from two men, Jacob and Esau, who were twin brothers, and is observed to ingratiate themselves to the Edomites, and gain their request, pleading relation to them:

thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us; what an uncomfortable condition they had been in for many years, which was well known to Edom, a neighbouring country, as is reasonable to suppose; since the fame of the children of Israel coming out of Egypt, passing through the Red sea, and being so long in the wilderness, was spread everywhere; this was said to move their pity.

And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of {i} Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us:

(i) Because Jacob or Israel was Esau's brother, who was called Edom.

14. thy brother Israel] Edom was a Semitic tribe, closely connected with Israel by blood. In Genesis 25:21-26 Esau (= Edom) and Jacob (= Israel) are represented as twin brothers.

the travail] lit. ‘the weariness’; the hardships of the long weary journey.

14–21. Permission to pass through Edom refused.

The Edomites occupied territory to the south of the Dead Sea, westward as far as Kadesh (Numbers 20:16) and southward as far as the eastern arm of the Red Sea (Numbers 21:4). The Israelites having failed long before to enter Canaan from the south, did not attempt it again (see, however, n. on Numbers 21:1-3), but proposed to enter it from the east. And if they could pass straight through Edom, their route would be greatly shortened. Edom’s refusal forced them to work round the south of the hostile country, and then northwards along its eastern border.Verse 14. - And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom. On the kings of Edom see on Genesis 36:31. It would seem probable from Exodus 15:15 that the government was at that time (forty years before the present date) still in the hands of "dukes," and that the change had but recently taken place. It is stated in Judges 11:17 that Moses sent messengers at this time with a like request to the king of Moab. We are not indeed obliged to suppose that Jephthah, living 300 years after, stated the facts correctly; but there is no particular reason to doubt it in this case. That no mention of it is made here would be sufficiently explained by the fact that the refusal of Edom made the answer of Moab of no practical moment. That Moses asked a passage through the territory of Edom implies that he had renounced the idea of invading Canaan from the south. This was not on account of any insuperable difficulties presented by the character of the country or of its inhabitants, for such did not exist; nor on account of any supposed presence of Egyptian troops in the south of Palestine: but simply on account of the fact that Israel had deliberately refused to take the straight road into their land, and were therefore condemned to follow a long and circuitous route ere they reached it on an altogether different side. The dangers and difficulties of the road they actually traversed were, humanly speaking, far greater than any they would have encountered in any other direction; but this was part of their necessary discipline. Thy brother Israel. This phrase recalled the history of Esau and Jacob, and of the brotherly kindness which the former had shown to the latter at a time when he had him in his power (Genesis 33). Thou knowest all the travel that hath befallen us. Moses assumed that Edom would take a fraternal interest in the fortunes of Israel. The parallel was singularly close between the position of Jacob when he met with Esau, and the present position of Israel; we may well suppose that Moses intended to make this felt without directly asserting it. The Lord relieved the want of water. Moses was to take the staff, and with Aaron to gather together the congregation, and speak to the rock before their eyes, when it would give forth water for the congregation and their cattle to drink.
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