Numbers 20:21
Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: why Israel turned away from him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Message of the Israelites to the King of Edom. - As Israel was about to start from Kadesh upon its march to Canaan, but wished to enter it from the east across the Jordan, and not from the south, where the steep and lofty mountain ranges presented obstacles which would have been difficult to overcome, if not quite insuperable, Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, to solicit from the kindred nation a friendly and unimpeded passage through their land. He reminded the king of the relationship of Israel, of their being brought down to Egypt, of the oppression they had endured there, and their deliverance out of the land, and promised him that they would not pass through fields and vineyards, nor drink the water of their wells, but keep to the king's way, without turning to the right hand or the left, and thus would do no injury whatever to the land (Numbers 20:14-16).

(Note: We learn from Judges 11:17, that Israel sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Moab also, and with a similar commission, and that he also refused to grant the request for an unimpeded passage through his land. This message is passed over in silence here, because the refusal of the Moabites had no influence upon the further progress of the Israelites. "For if they could not pass through Edom, the permission of the Moabites would not help them at all. It was only eventualiter that they sought this permission." - Hengstenberg, Diss.)

By the "angel" who led Israel out of Egypt we are naturally to understand not the pillar of cloud and fire (Knobel), but the angel of the Lord, the visible revealer of the invisible God, whom the messengers describe indefinitely as "an angel," when addressing the Edomites. Kadesh is represented in Numbers 20:16 as a city on the border of the Edomitish territory. The reference is to Kadesh-Barnea (Numbers 32:8; Numbers 34:4; Deuteronomy 1:2, Deuteronomy 1:19; Deuteronomy 2:14; Deuteronomy 9:23; Joshua 10:41; Joshua 14:6-7; Joshua 15:3). This city was no doubt situated quite in the neighbourhood of Ain Kudes, the well of Kadesh, discovered by Rowland. This well was called En-mishpat, the fountain of judgment, in Abraham's time (Genesis 14:7); and the name Kadesh occurs first of all on the first arrival of the Israelites in that region, in the account of the events which took place there, as being the central point of the place of encampment, the "desert of Paran," or "desert of Zin" (cf. Numbers 13:26 with Numbers 13:21, and Numbers 12:16). And even on the second arrival of the congregation in that locality, it is not mentioned till after the desert of Zin (Numbers 20:1); whilst the full name Kadesh-Barnea is used by Moses for the first time in Numbers 32:8, when reminding the people of those mournful occurrences in Kadesh in Numbers 13 and 14. The conjecture is therefore a very natural one, that the place in question received the name of Kadesh first of all from that tragical occurrence (Numbers 14), or possibly from the murmuring of the congregation on account of the want of water, which led Moses and Aaron to sin, so that the Lord sanctified (יקדּשׁ) Himself upon them by a judgment, because they had not sanctified Him before the children of Israel (Numbers 20:12 and Numbers 20:13); that Barnea was the older or original name of the town, which was situated in the neighbourhood of the "water of strife," and that this name was afterwards united with Kadesh, and formed into a composite noun. If this conjecture is a correct one, the name Kadesh is used proleptically, not only in Genesis 14:7, as a more precise definition of En-Mishpat, but also in Genesis 16:14; Genesis 20:1; and Numbers 13:26, and Numbers 20:1; and there is no lack of analogies for this. It is in this too that we are probably to seek for an explanation of the fact, that in the list of stations in Numbers 33 the name Kadesh does not occur in connection with the first arrival of the congregation in the desert of Zin, but only in connection with their second arrival (v. 36), and that the place of encampment on their first arrival is called Rithmah, and not Barnea, because the headquarters of the camp were in the Wady Retemath, not at the town of Barnea, which was farther on in the desert of Zin. The expression "town of the end of thy territory" is not to be understood as signifying that the town belonged to the Edomites, but simply affirms that it was situated on the border of the Edomitish territory. The supposition that Barnea was an Edomitish town is opposed by the circumstance that, in Numbers 34:4, and Joshua 15:3, it is reckoned as part of the land of Canaan; that in Joshua 10:41 it is mentioned as the southernmost town, where Joshua smote the Canaanites and conquered their land; and lastly, that in Joshua 15:23 it is probably classed among the towns allotted to the tribe of Judah, from which it seems to follow that it must have belonged to the Amorites. "The end of the territory" of the king of Edom is to be distinguished from "the territory of the land of Edom" in Numbers 20:23. The land of Edom extended westwards only as far as the Arabah, the low-lying plain, which runs from the southern point of the Dead Sea to the head of the Elanitic Gulf. At that time, however, the Edomites had spread out beyond the Arabah, and taken possession of a portion of the desert of Paran belonging to the peninsula of Sinai, which was bounded on the north by the desert of Zin (see at Numbers 34:3). By their not drinking of the water of the wells (Numbers 20:17), we are to understand, according to Numbers 20:19, their not making use of the wells of the Edomites either by violence or without compensation. The "king's way" is the public high road, which was probably made at the cost of the state, and kept up for the king and his armies to travel upon, and is synonymous with the "sultan-road" (Derb es Sultan) or "emperor road," as the open, broad, old military roads are still called in the East (cf. Robinson, Pal. ii. 340; Seetzen, i. pp. 61, 132, ii. pp. 336, etc.).

This military road led, no doubt, as Leake has conjectured (Burckhardt, Syr. pp. 21, 22), through the broad Wady el Ghuweir, which not only forms a direct and easy passage to the level country through the very steep mountains that fall down into the Arabah, but also a convenient road through the land of Edom (Robinson, ii. pp. 552, 583, 610), and is celebrated for its splendid meadows, which are traceable to its many springs (Burckhardt, pp. 688, 689); for the broad Wady Murreh runs from the northern border of the mountain-land of Azazimeh, not only as far as the mountain of Moddera (Madurah), where it is divided, but in its southern half as far as the Arabah. This is very likely the "great route through broad wadys," which the Bedouins who accompanied Rowland assured him "was very good, and led direct to Mount Hor, but with which no European traveller was acquainted" (Ritter's Erdk. xiv. p. 1088). It probably opens into the Arabah at the Wady el Weibeh, opposite to the Wady Ghuweir.

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