Numbers 21:26
For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon.
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(26) And taken all his land . . . —i.e., the land between the Arnon and the Jabbok, as it is explained in the last clause of the verse.

Numbers 21:26. Heshbon was the city of Sihon — This is added as a reason why Israel took possession of this land, because it was not now the land of the Moabites, but in the possession of the Amorites. The former king — The predecessor of Balak, who was the present king. See the wisdom of God’s providence, which prepares long before for the accomplishment of his purposes in their season! This country, being designed for Israel, is beforehand put into the hand of the Amorites, who little think they have it but as trustees, till Israel comes of age. We understand not the vast schemes of Providence: but known unto God are all his works!

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.Heshbon - Now Heshban, a ruined city, due east of the point where the Jordan enters the Dead Sea; conspicuous from all parts of the high plateau on which it stands, but concealed, like the rest of the plateau, from the valley beneath. 26. Heshbon—(So 7:4)—situated sixteen English miles north of the Arnon, and from its ruins it appears to have been a large city. The city of Sihon: this is added as a reason why Israel took possession of this land, notwithstanding God’s prohibition of meddling with them or their land, Deu 2:9, because it was not now the land of the Moabites, but had been some time since taken from them, and in the possession of the Amorites.

The former king of Moab, i.e. the predecessor of Balak, who was the present king.

For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites,.... His royal city, where he kept his palace, where he had resided for some time, and perhaps some of his predecessors; and therefore being now in his possession when taken by the Israelites, they had a good right and title to keep it, and dwell in it: and indeed this is here given as a reason of it:

who had fought against the former king of Moab; either the king that reigned before Balak, or some king of Moab, that reigned formerly, against whom one of the name of Sihon, which might be a common name to the kings of the Amorites, as Pharaoh to the Egyptians, had engaged in war:

and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon; and had been in the hands of the Amorites some years; and therefore the Moabites had no reason to object to the Israelites dwelling in it, and possessing it, which they had not taken from them, but from the Amorites in a lawful war. And for proof of this, reference is had to the bards and poets of those times, who were the persons that transmitted in verse the history of famous actions to posterity.

For {k} Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon.

(k) For if it had been the Moabites, the Israelites might not have possessed it, De 2:9.

26–30. The writer explains that Heshbon used to belong to the Moabites, but that Sihon had taken it from them. He quotes an ancient poem with which he was acquainted, having heard it from the lips of ‘those that speak in proverbs’ (see on Numbers 21:27).

The interpretation of the song is somewhat doubtful, and Numbers 21:30 is corrupt and almost untranslateable. The word ‘wherefore’ (Numbers 21:27) suggests that the poem is quoted in order to explain Numbers 21:26; the writer, as in Numbers 21:14, illustrates by an ancient song a statement which he has just made. This statement is that Moab had been previously conquered by the Amorites; and the song is a taunt to the Amorites whose capital Israel has destroyed. The taunt is, in effect, ‘Why do you not come and rebuild your fallen capital, for you shewed prowess enough in the past when you conquered Moab!’ All the verbs in Numbers 21:28 f. must therefore be rendered as aorists—‘a fire went out,’ ‘it devoured,’ ‘thou wast undone,’ ‘he gave.’ Another interpretation of the song will be mentioned after the notes on Numbers 21:30; but the above is much the more probable.

Verse 26. - All his land. This is qualified by what follows: "even unto Arnon" (cf. Judges 11:13-19). Numbers 21:26Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, i.e., without quarter (see Genesis 34:26), and took possession of his land "from Arnon (Mojeb) to the Jabbok, unto the children of Ammon," i.e., to the upper Jabbok, the modern Nahr or Moiet Ammn. The Jabbok, now called Zerka, i.e., the blue, does not take its rise, as Seetzen supposed, on the pilgrim-road by the castle of Zerka; but its source, according to Abulfeda (tab. Syr. p. 91) and Buckingham, is the Nahr Ammn, which flowed down from the ancient capital of the Ammonites, and was called the upper Jabbok, and formed the western border of the Ammonites towards the kingdom of Sihon, and subsequently towards Gad (Deuteronomy 2:37; Deuteronomy 3:16; Joshua 12:2). "For the border of the Ammonites was strong" (firm), i.e., strongly fortified; "for which reason Sihon had only been able to push his conquests to the upper Jabbok, not into the territory of the Ammonites." This explanation of Knobel's is perfectly correct; since the reason why the Israelites did not press forward into the country of the Ammonites, was not the strength of their frontier, but the word of the Lord, "Make not war upon them, for I shall give thee no possession of the land of the children of Ammon" (Deuteronomy 2:19). God had only promised the patriarchs, on behalf of their posterity, that He would give them the land of Canaan, which was bounded towards the east by the Jordan (Numbers 34:2-12; compared with Genesis 10:19 and Genesis 15:19-21); and the Israelites would have received no settlement at all on the eastern side of the Jordan, had not the Canaanitish branch of the Amorites extended itself to that side in the time of Moses, and conquered a large portion of the possessions of the Moabites, and also (according to Joshua 13:25, as compared with Judges 11:13) of the Ammonites, driving back the Moabites as far as the Arnon, and the Ammonites behind the Nahr Ammn. With the defeat of the Amorites, all the land that they had conquered passed into the possession of the Israelites, who took possession of these towns (cf. Deuteronomy 2:34-36). The statement in Numbers 21:25, that Israel settled in all the towns of the Amorites, is somewhat anticipatory of the history itself, as the settlement did not occur till Moses gave the conquered land to the tribes of Reuben and Gad for a possession (Numbers 32). The only places mentioned here are Heshbon and her daughters, i.e., the smaller towns belonging to it (cf. Joshua 13:17), which are enumerated singly in Numbers 32:34-38, and Joshua 13:15-28. In explanation of the expression, "Heshbon and her daughters," it is added in Numbers 21:26, that Heshbon was the city, i.e., the capital of the Amorite king Sihon, who had made war upon the former king of Moab, and taken away all his land as far as the Arnon. Consequently, even down to the time of the predecessor of Balak, the king of the Moabites at that time, the land to the north of the Arnon, and probably even as far as the lower Jabbok, to which point the kingdom of Sihon extended (see Deuteronomy 3:12-13; Joshua 12:5), belonged to the Moabites. And in accordance with this, the country where the Israelites encamped opposite to Jericho, before crossing the Jordan, is reckoned as part of the land of Moab (Deuteronomy 1:5; Deuteronomy 29:1; Deuteronomy 32:49; Deuteronomy 34:5-6), and called Arboth Moab (see Numbers 22:1); whilst the women who seduced the Israelites to join in the idolatrous worship of Baal Peor are called daughters of Moab (Numbers 25:1).
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