Numbers 20:21
Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.
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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.The Israelites, without awaiting at Kadesh the return of their ambassador, commenced their eastward march. At the tidings of their approach the Edomites mustered their forces to oppose them; and on crossing the Arabah they found their ascent through the mountains barred. The notice of this is inserted here to complete the narrative; but in order of time it comes after the march described in Numbers 20:22. 21. Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border, &c.—A churlish refusal obliged them to take another route. (See on [81]Nu 21:4; [82]De 2:4; and [83]Jud 11:18; see also 1Sa 14:47; 2Sa 8:14, which describe the retribution that was taken.) Through his border, but permitted them to go by their border, Deu 2:4,8 Jud 11:18, and furnished them with victuals for their money, Deu 2:29.

Israel turned away, according to God’s command, Deu 2:5.

Notwithstanding their near relation to each other, and the fair promises Israel made:

wherefore Israel turned away from him: patiently bearing the refusal, and not resenting it; being ordered, as the Targum of Jonathan expresses it, by the Word of heaven, not to make war with them, because the time was not yet come to take vengeance on Edom by their hands; and to the same purpose the Targum of Jerusalem.

Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel {k} turned away from him.

(k) To pass by another way.

Numbers 20:21To give emphasis to his refusal, Edom went against Israel "with much people and with a strong hand," sc., when they approached its borders. This statement, as well as the one in Numbers 20:21, that Israel turned away before Edom, anticipates the historical order; for, as a matter of course, the Edomites cannot have come at once with an army on the track of the messengers, for the purpose of blocking up the road through the Wady Murreh, which runs along the border of its territory to the west of the Arabah.
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