Numbers 21:21
And Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying,
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Numbers 21:21-22. Sent messengers — By God’s allowance, that so Sihon’s malice might be the more evident and inexcusable, and their title to his country more clear in the judgment of all men, as being gotten by a just war, into which they were forced for their own defence. Let me pass — They spoke what they seriously intended, and would have done, if he had given them a quiet passage.21:21-35 Sihon went with his forces against Israel, out of his own borders, without provocation, and so ran upon his own ruin. The enemies of God's church often perish by the counsels they think most wisely taken. Og, king of Bashan, instead of being warned by the fate of his neighbours, to make peace with Israel, makes war with them, which proves in like manner his destruction. Wicked men do their utmost to secure themselves and their possessions against the judgments of God; but all in vain, when the day comes on which they must fall. God gave Israel success, while Moses was with them, that he might see the beginning of the glorious work, though he must not live to see it finished. This was, in comparison, but as the day of small things, yet it was an earnest of great things. We must prepare for fresh conflicts and enemies. We must make no peace or truce with the powers of darkness, nor even treat with them; nor should we expect any pause in our contest. But, trusting in God, and obeying his commands, we shall be more than conquerors over every enemy.In the country of Moab - Rather, in the field of Moab: the upland pastures, or flat downs, intersected by the ravine of Wady Waleh.

Pisgah, which looketh toward Jeshimon - Or, "toward the waste." See Numbers 33:47. Pisgah was a ridge of the Abarim mountains, westward from Heshbon. From the summit the Israelites gained their first view of the wastes of the Dead Sea and of the valley of the Jordan: and Moses again ascended it, to view, before his death, the land of promise. The interest attaching to the spot, and the need of a convenient name for it, has led Christians often to designate it as "Nebo," rather than as "the mountain of, or near to, Nebo;" but the latter is the more correct: Nebo denoted the town Isaiah 15:2; Jeremiah 48:1, Jeremiah 48:22 on the western slope of the ridge.

21-23. Israel sent messengers unto Sihon—The rejection of their respectful and pacific message was resented—Sihon was discomfited in battle—and Israel obtained by right of conquest the whole of the Amorite dominions. By God’s allowance, that so Sihon’s malice might be the more evident and inexcusable, and that their title to his country more clear in the judgments of all men, as being gotten by a just war, into which they were forced for their own defence. And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites,.... Who were one of the nations of the Canaanites, and a principal and powerful one, and who were devoted to destruction, and their land designed for the people of Israel; see Genesis 15:16, at this time Sihon was their king, to whom Moses, in the name of Israel, sent a very peaceable message from the wilderness of Kedemoth, which lay near his country, Deuteronomy 2:26,

saying; as follows.

And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, saying,
21–25. Sihon, refusing passage through his territory, was conquered, and his towns were occupied.

21–35. The victories over Sihon and Og. See the parallel account in Deuteronomy 2:24 to Deuteronomy 3:13. The previous verses have described the Israelites’ march through the territory occupied by the Amorites on the north of the Arnon, and their arrival at one of the glens which cleave the western edge of the plateau, close to the spot where it ran into the Jordan valley. The narrative now returns to the earlier point, described in Numbers 21:13, when they were still on the eastern border of the Amorites.

Since the town of Heshbon commanded the glens, it would have been impossible to penetrate into them unless the town had first been captured; but the writer has arranged his material in the present order for the sake of convenience. The battles with Sihon and Og being the last struggles before the promised land could be reached, the remembrance of them was cherished; see Jdg 11:19-22, 1 Kings 4:19, Nehemiah 9:22, Psalm 135:11; Psalm 136:19 f.Verse 21. - And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon. The narrative here returns to the point of time when the Israelites first reached the Upper Arnon, the boundary stream of the kingdom of Sihon (see on verse 13, and cf. Deuteronomy 2:24-37). The list of stations in the preceding verses may probably have been copied out of some official record; it may be considered as marking the movements of the tabernacle with Eleazar and the Levites and the mass of the non-combatant population. In the mean time the armies of Israel were engaged in victorious enterprises which took them far afield. King of the Amorites. The Amorites were not akin to the Hebrews, as the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites were, who all claimed descent from Terah. They were of the Canaanitish stock (Genesis 10:16), and indeed the name Amorite often appears as synonymous with Canaanite in its larger sense (Deuteronomy 1:7, 19, 27, &c.). If at one time they are mentioned side by side with five or six other tribes of the same stock (Exodus 34:11), yet at another they seem to be so much the representative race that "the Ammorite" stands for the inhabitants of Canaan in general whom Israel was commissioned to oust on account of his iniquity (Genesis 15:16). It is not, therefore, possible to draw any certain distinction between the Amorites of Sihon's kingdom and the mass of the Canaanites on the other side Jordan. Both Sihon and his people appear as intruders in this region, having come down perhaps from the northern parts of Palestine, and having but recently (it would seem) wrested from the king of Moab all his territory north of Arnon. It was the fact of the Amorites being found here which led to the conquest and settlement of the trans-Jordanic territory. That territory was not apparently included in the original gift (compare Numbers 34:2-12 with Genesis 10:19 and Genesis 15:19-21), but since the Amorite had possessed himself of it, it must pass with all the rest of his habitation to the chosen people. "Therefore," sc., because the Lord had thus given king Sihon, with all his land, into the hand of Israel, "it is written in the book of the wars of the Lord: Vaheb (Jehovah takes) in storm, and the brooks of Arnon and the valley of the brooks, which turns to the dwelling of Ar, and leans upon the border of Moab." The book of the wars of Jehovah is neither an Amoritish book of the conflicts of Baal, in which the warlike feats performed by Sihon and other Amoritish heroes with the help of Baal were celebrated in verse, as G. Unruh fabulously asserts in his Zug der Isr. aus Aeg. nach Canaan (p. 130), nor a work "dating from the time of Jehoshaphat, containing the early history of the Israelites, from the Hebrew patriarchs till past the time of Joshua, with the law interwoven," which is the character that Knobel's critical fancy would stamp upon it, but a collection of odes of the time of Moses himself, in celebration of the glorious acts of the Lord to and for the Israelites; and "the quotation bears the same relation to the history itself, as the verses of Krner would bear to the writings of any historian of the wars of freedom, who had himself taken part in these wars, and introduced the verses into his own historical work" (Hengstenberg).

(Note: "That such a book should arise in the last days of Moses, when the youthful generation began for the first time to regard and manifest itself, both vigorously and generally, as the army of Jehovah, is so far from being a surprising fact, that we can scarcely imagine a more suitable time for the commencement of such a work" (Baumgarten). And if this is the case, the allusion to this collection of odes cannot be adduced as an argument against the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, since Moses certainly did not write out the history of the journey from Kadesh to the Arboth Moab until after the two kings of the Amorites had been defeated, and the land to the east of the Jordan conquered, or till the Israelites had encamped in the steppes of Moab, opposite to Jericho.)

The strophe selected from the ode has neither subject nor verb in it, as the ode was well known to the contemporaries, and what had to be supplied could easily be gathered from the title, "Wars of Jehovah." Vaheb is no doubt the proper name of an Amoritish fortress; and בּסוּפה, "in storm," is to be explained according to Nahum 1:3, "The Lord, in the storm is His way." "Advancing in storm, He took Vaheb and the brooks of Arnon," i.e., the different wadys, valleys cut by brooks, which open into the Arnon. הנּחלים אשׁד, lit., pouring of the brooks, from אשׁד, effusio, the pouring, then the place where brooks pour down, the slope of mountains or hills, for which the term אשׁדה is generally used in the plural, particularly to denote the slopes of the mountains of Pisgah (Deuteronomy 3:17; Deuteronomy 4:49; Joshua 12:3; Joshua 13:20), and the hilly region of Palestine, which formed the transition from the mountains to the plain (Joshua 10:40 and Joshua 12:8). שׁבת, the dwelling, used poetically for the dwelling-place, as in 2 Samuel 23:7 and Obadiah 1:3. ער (Ar), the antiquated form for עיר, a city, is the same as Ar Moab in Numbers 21:28 and Isaiah 15:1, "the city of Moab, on the border of the Arnon, which is at the end of the (Moabitish) territory" (Numbers 22:36). It was called Areopolis by the Greeks, and was near to Aror (Deuteronomy 2:36 and Joshua 13:9), probably standing at the confluence of the Lejum and Mojeb, in the "fine green pasture land, in the midst of which there is a hill with some ruins," and not far away the ruin of a small castle, with a heap of broken columns (Burckhardt, Syr. p. 636). This Ar is not to be identified with the modern Rabba, in the midst of the land of the Moabites, six hours to the south of Lejum, to which the name Areopolis was transferred in the patristic age, probably after the destruction of Ar, the ancient Areopolis, by an earthquake, of which Jerome gives an account in connection with his own childhood (see his Com. on Isaiah 15:1-9), possibly the earthquake which occurred in the year a.d. 342, and by which many cities of the East were destroyed, and among others Nicomedia (cf. Hengstenberg, Balaam, pp. 525-528; Ritter, Erdkunde, xv. pp. 1212ff.; and v. Raumer, Palstina, pp. 270, 271, Ed. 4).

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