Numbers 21:17
Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Numbers 21:17-18. Spring up — Hebrew, ascend; that is, let thy waters, which now lie hid below in the earth, ascend for our use. It is either a prediction that it should spring up, or a prayer that it might. With their staves — Probably as Moses smote the rock with his rod, so they struck the earth with their staves, as a sign that God would cause the water to flow out of the earth where they smote it, as he did before out of the rock. Or, perhaps, they made holes with their staves in the sandy ground, and God caused the water immediately to spring up.

21:10-20 We have here the removes of the children of Israel, till they came to the plains of Moab, from whence they passed over Jordan into Canaan. The end of their pilgrimage was near. They set forward. It were well if we did thus; and the nearer we come to heaven, were so much the more active and abundant in the work of the Lord. The wonderful success God granted to his people, is here spoken of, and, among the rest, their actions on the river Arnon, at Vaheb in Suphah, and other places on that river. In every stage of our lives, nay, in every step, we should notice what God has wrought for us; what he did at such a time, and what in such a place, ought to be distinctly remembered. God blessed his people with a supply of water. When we come to heaven, we shall remove to the well of life, the fountain of living waters. They received it with joy and thankfulness, which made the mercy doubly sweet. With joy must we draw water out of the wells of salvation, Isa 12:3. As the brazen serpent was a figure of Christ, who is lifted up for our cure, so is this well a figure of the Spirit, who is poured forth for our comfort, and from whom flow to us rivers of living waters, Joh 7:38,39. Does this well spring up in our souls? If so, we should take the comfort to ourselves, and give the glory to God. God promised to give water, but they must open the ground. God's favours must be expected in the use of such means as are within our power, but still the power is only of God.This song, recognized by all authorities as dating from the earliest times, and suggested apparently by the fact that God in this place gave the people water not from the rock, but by commanding Moses to cause a well to be dug, bespeaks the glad zeal, the joyful faith, and the hearty cooperation among all ranks, which possessed the people. In after time it may well have been the water-drawing song of the maidens of Israel.17, 18. Then Israel sang—This beautiful little song was in accordance with the wants and feelings of travelling caravans in the East, where water is an occasion both of prayer and thanksgiving. From the princes using their official rods only, and not spades, it seems probable that this well was concealed by the brushwood or the sand, as is the case with many wells in Idumea still. The discovery of it was seasonable, and owing to the special interposition of God. Israel sang this song, to praise God for giving them such a seasonable blessing, before they asked it, or complained for the want of it.

Spring up; give forth thy waters that we may drink. Heb. Ascend, i.e. let thy waters, which now lie hid below in the earth, ascend for thy use. It is either a prediction that it should spring up, or a prayer that it might, or a command in the name of God directed to the well, by a usual prosopopaeia, as when God bids the heavens hear, and the earth give ear, Isaiah 1:2. Any of these ways it shows their faith. Sing ye unto it; or, sing ye of it; or, answer to it or concerning it; it being the manner of the Jewish singers that one should answer to another, of which see Exodus 15:21 1 Samuel 18:7.

Then Israel sang this song,.... Being affected with the free favour and good will of God towards them:

spring up, O well; for the springing up of which they prayed in faith, believing in the promise of God, that it would spring up; and so encouraged one another not only to believe it, but even to sing on account of it before it actually did:

sing ye unto it; or on account of it praise the Lord for it; or "answer to it" (m), it being their manner to sing their songs by responses, or alternately.

(m) "respondete ei", Montanus; "alternis canite ei", Tigurine version, Piscator.

Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; {f} sing ye unto it:

(f) You that receive the convenience of it, give praise for it.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 17. - Then Israel sang this song. This song of the well may be taken from the same collection of odes, but more probably is quoted from memory. It is remarkable for the spirit of joyousness which breathes in it, so different from the complaining, desponding tone of the past. Numbers 21:17They proceeded thence to Beer (a well), a place of encampment which received its name from the fact that here God gave the people water, not as before by a miraculous supply from a rock, but by commanding wells to be dug. This is evident from the ode with which the congregation commemorated this divine gift of grace. "Then Israel sang this song: Spring up, O well! Sing ye to it! Well which princes dug, which the nobles of the people hollowed out, with the sceptre, with their staves." ענה, as in Exodus 15:21 and Exodus 32:18. מחקק, ruler's staff, cf. Genesis 49:10. Beer, probably the same as Beer Elim (Isaiah 15:8), on the north-east of Moab, was in the desert; for the Israelites proceeded thence "from the desert to Mattanah" (Numbers 21:18), thence to Nahaliel, and thence to Bamoth. According to Eusebius (cf. Reland, Pal. ill. p. 495), Mattanah (Μαθθανέμ) was by the valley of the Arnon, twelve Roman miles to the east (or more properly south-east or south) of Medabah, and is probably to be seen in Tedun, a place now lying in ruins, near the source of the Lejum (Burckhardt, pp. 635, 636; Hengstenberg, Balaam, p. 530; Knobel, and others). The name of Nahaliel is still retained in the form Encheileh. This is the name given to the Lejum, after it has been joined by the Balua, until its junction with the Saide (Burckhardt, p. 635). Consequently the Israelites went from Beer in the desert, in a north-westerly direction to Tedun, then westwards to the northern bank of the Encheileh, and then still farther in a north-westerly and northerly direction to Bamoth. There can be no doubt that Bamoth is identical with Bamoth Baal, i.e., heights of Baal (Numbers 22:4). According to Joshua 13:17 (cf. Isaiah 15:2), Bamoth was near to Dibon (Dibn), between the Wady Wale and Wady Mojeb, and also to Beth-Baal Meon, i.e., Myun, half a German mile (2 1/2 English) to the south of Heshbon; and, according to Numbers 22:41, you could see Bamoth Baal from the extremity of the Israelitish camp in the steppes of Moab. Consequently Bamoth cannot be the mountain to the south of Wady Wale, upon the top of which Burckhardt says there is a very beautiful plain (p. 632; see Hengstenberg, Balaam, p. 532); because the steppes of Moab cannot be seen at all from this plain, as they are covered by the Jebel Attarus. It is rather a height upon the long mountain Attarus, which runs along the southern shore of the Zerka Maein, and may possibly be a spot upon the summit of the Jebel Attarus, "the highest point in the neighbourhood," upon which, according to Burckhardt (p. 630), there is "a heap of stones overshadowed by a very large pistachio-tree." A little farther down to the south-west of this lies the fallen town Kereijat (called Krriat by Seetzen, ii. p. 342), i.e., Kerioth, Jeremiah 48:24; Amos 2:2.
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