And at the stream of the brooks that goes down to the dwelling of Ar, and lies on the border of Moab.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Numbers 21:15-16. Ar — A chief city in Moab. Beer — This place, and Mattanah, Nahaliel, and Bamoth, named here, (Numbers 21:19,) are not mentioned among those places where they pitched or encamped, chap. 33. Probably they did not pitch or encamp in these places, but only pass by or through them. I will give them water — In a miraculous manner. Before they prayed, God granted, and prevented them with the blessings of goodness. And as the brazen serpent was the figure of Christ, so is this well a figure of the Spirit, who is poured forth for our comfort, and from him flow rivers of living waters.Numbers 21:28; Isaiah 15:1) was on the bank of the Arnon, lower down the stream than where the Israelites crossed. Near the spot where the upper Arnon receives the tributary Nahaliel Numbers 21:19, there rises, in the midst of the meadow-land between the two torrents, a hill covered with the ruins of the ancient city (Joshua 13:9, Joshua 13:16; compare Deuteronomy 2:36). Ar; a chief city in Moab, as appears from Isaiah 15:1, of which Numbers 21:28. Isaiah 15:1,
and lieth upon the border of Moab; as that city did; so far goes the quotation out of the aforesaid book, as a proof of what was taken by the Amorites from the Moabites, and were not in their possession when Israel were upon their borders; and therefore, in taking them from the Amorites, did no wrong to Moab.And at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)15. the slope] Probably something steeper, such as a cliff, is intended. The sing. is not found elsewhere; the plural always in the expression ‘the slopes of the Pisgah’ (Deuteronomy 3:17; Deuteronomy 4:49, Joshua 12:3; Joshua 13:20) except in Joshua 10:40.
the dwelling of Ar] A poetical expression for the site of Ar, the city being personified. ‘Ar means ‘city’ (LXX. Ἤρ represents ‘Ir, the ordinary Heb. form of the word); in Numbers 21:28 it is ‘Ar of Moab,’ equivalent to the ‘city of Moab’ (Numbers 22:36); cf. Isaiah 15:1. The site of Ar is unknown, but its locality is indicated in Numbers 22:36 (see note there).
leaneth upon] A poetical parallel to the preceding ‘inclineth towards.’Verse 15. - And at the stream of the brooks. Rather, "and the pouring (וְאֶשֶׁד) of the brooks," i.e., the slope of the watershed. Ar. עָר is an archaic form of עִיר, a city. The same place is called Ar Moab in verse 28. It was situate on the Arnon somewhat lower down than where the Israelites crossed its "brooks." The peculiarity of the site, "in the midst of the river" (Joshua 13:9, cf. Deuteronomy 2:36), and extensive ruins, have enabled travelers to identify the spot on which it stood at the junction of the Mojeb (Arnon) and Lejum (Nahaliel, verse 19). It is uncertain whether the Greeks gave the name of Areopolis, as Jerome asserts, to Ar, but in later times it was Rabbah, a town many miles further south in the heart of Moab which bore this name. Ar was at this period the boundary town of Moab, and as such was respected by the Israelites (Deuteronomy 2:9, 29).
(Note: For the different views held by early writers concerning the brazen serpent, see Buxtorf, historia serp. aen., in his Exercitt. pp. 458ff.; Deyling, observatt. ss. ii. obs. 15, pp. 156ff.; Vitringa, observ. Songs 1, pp. 403ff.; Jo. Marck, Scripturariae Exercitt. exerc. 8, pp. 465ff.; Iluth, Serpens exaltatus non contritoris sed conterendi imago, Erl. 1758; Gottfr. Menken on the brazen serpent; Sack, Apologetick, 2 Ausg. pp. 355ff. Hoffmann, Weissagung u. Erfllung, ii. pp. 142, 143; Kurtz, History of the Old Covenant, iii. 345ff.; and the commentators on John 3:14 and John 3:15.)
Whoever then of the persons bitten by the poisonous serpents looked at the brazen serpent with faith in the promise of God, lived, i.e., recovered from the serpent's bite. The serpent was to be made of brass or copper, because the colour of this metal, when the sun was shining upon it, was most like the appearance of the fiery serpents; and thus the symbol would be more like the thing itself.
Even in the book of Wis. (Numbers 16:6-7), the brazen serpent is called "a symbol of salvation; for he that turned himself toward it was not saved by the thing that he saw, but by Thee, that art the Saviour of all." It was not merely intended, however, as Ewald supposes (Gesch. ii. p. 228), as a "sign that just as this serpent hung suspended in the air, bound and rendered harmless by the command of Jehovah, so every one who looked at this with faith in the redeeming power of Jehovah, was secured against the evil, - a figurative sign, therefore, like that of St. George and the Dragon among ourselves;" for, according to this, there would be no internal causal link between the fiery serpents and the brazen image of a serpent. It was rather intended as a figurative representation of the poisonous serpents, rendered harmless by the mercy of God. For God did not cause a real serpent to be taken, but the image of a serpent, in which the fiery serpent was stiffened, as it were, into dead brass, as a sign that the deadly poison of the fiery serpents was overcome in this brazen serpent. This is not to be regarded as a symbol of the divine healing power; nor is the selection of such a symbol to be deduced and explained, as it is by Winer, Kurtz, Knobel, and others, from the symbolical view that was common to all the heathen religions of antiquity, that the serpent was a beneficent and health-bringing power, which led to its being exalted into a symbol of the healing power, and a representation of the gods of healing. This heathen view is not only foreign to the Old Testament, and without any foundation in the fact that, in the time of Hezekiah, the people paid a superstitious worship to the brazen serpent erected by Moses (2 Kings 18:4); but it is irreconcilably opposed to the biblical view of the serpent, as the representative of evil, which was founded upon Genesis 3:15, and is only traceable to the magical art of serpent-charming, which the Old Testament abhorred as an idolatrous abomination. To this we may add, that the thought which lies at the foundation of this explanation, viz., that poison is to be cured by poison, has no support in Hosea 13:4, but is altogether foreign to the Scriptures. God punishes sin, it is true, by sin; but He neither cures sin by sin, nor death by death. On the contrary, to conquer sin it was necessary that the Redeemer should be without sin; and to take away its power from death, it was requisite that Christ, the Prince of life, who had life in Himself, should rise again from death and the grave (John 5:26; John 11:25; Acts 3:15; 2 Timothy 1:10).
The brazen serpent became a symbol of salvation on the three grounds which Luther pointed out. In the first place, the serpent which Moses was to make by the command of God was to be of brass or copper, that is to say, of a reddish colour, and (although without poison) altogether like the persons who were red and burning with heat because of the bite of the fiery serpents. In the second place, the brazen serpent was to be set up upon a pole for a sign. And in the third place, those who desired to recover from the fiery serpent's bite and live, were to look at the brazen serpent upon the pole, otherwise they could not recover or live (Luther's Sermon on John 3:1-15). It was in these three points, as Luther has also clearly shown, that the typical character of this symbol lay, to which Christ referred in His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:14). The brazen serpent had the form of a real serpent, but was "without poison, and altogether harmless." So God sent His Son in the form of sinful flesh, and yet without sin (Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22-24). - 2. In the lifting up of the serpent as a standard. This was a δειγματίζειν ἐν παρρησίᾳ, a ́ (a "showing openly," or "triumphing"), a triumphal exhibition of the poisonous serpents as put to death in the brazen image, just as the lifting up of Christ upon the cross was a public triumph over the evil principalities and powers below the sky (Colossians 2:14-15). - 3. In the cure effected through looking at the image of the serpent. Just as the Israelites had to turn their eyes to the brazen serpent in believing obedience to the word of the Lord, in order to be cured of the bite of the poisonous serpents, so much we look with faith at the Son of man lifted up upon the cross, if we would be delivered from the bite of the old serpent, from sin, death, the devil, and hell. "Christ is the antitype of the serpent, inasmuch as He took upon Himself the most pernicious of all pernicious potencies, viz., sin, and made a vicarious atonement for it" (Hengstenberg on John 3:14). The brazen image of the serpent was taken by the Israelites to Canaan, and preserved till the time of Hezekiah, who had it broken in pieces, because the idolatrous people had presented incense-offerings to this holy relic (2 Kings 18:4).
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