Numbers 21:3
And the LORD listened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah.
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(3) And they utterly destroyed them and their cities.—The meaning of the verb which is here employed is to devote to destruction, and hence to destroy utterly. It does not clearly appear whether this destruction was effected at once, or whether the fulfilment of the vow took place at a later period. (See Joshua 12:14; Judges 1:17.) If the attack of the Canaanites was made at the time of the final departure from Kadesh, the latter view must be maintained, as it can scarcely be supposed that the cities could have been rebuilt and again destroyed in so short an interval.

And he called the name of the place Hormah.—Better, And the name of the place was called Hormah. The word Hormahi.e., a devoted thing—is cognate with the verb which occurs in this and the preceding verse, and which is rendered utterly destroy. The place is so called by anticipation in Numbers 14:45, and, as in regard to other names (e.g., Bethel and Jacob), the name was probably given anew to the place on a later occasion (Judges 1:17).

Numbers 21:3. They utterly destroyed them — That is, as many of them as they took at that time; but it is plain that all these Canaanites were not destroyed at this time, for we find the king of Arad and the king of Hormah mentioned among the kings whom Joshua smote some time after this, Joshua 12:14; and several of their cities were not taken and destroyed till after the death of Joshua, Jdg 1:16-17. Indeed, all that the Hebrew here (יחרם, jacharem) signifies is, that they now devoted them and their cities to destruction, and when their cities came into their possession they fulfilled their vow. He called the name of the place Hormah — That is, devoted to destruction, or, Anathema.21:1-3 Before the people began their march round the country of Edom, the king of Arad, a Canaanite, who inhabited the southern part of the country, attacked them in the wilderness, and took some prisoners. This was to lead the Israelites to look more thoroughly to the Lord.He called the name of the place - Render it as: "the name of the place was called." The transitive verb here is, by a common Hebrew idiom, equivalent to an impersonal one.

Hormah - i. e. "Ban." See Numbers 14:45 and note. In Judges 1:17, we read that the men of Judah and Simeon "slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it;" and further, that "the name of the city was called Hormah." But it does not follow that the name "Hormah" was first bestowed in consequence of the destruction of the place in the time of the Judges, and that in Numbers its occurrence is a sign of a post-Mosaic date of composition. The text here informs us that this aggression of the king of Arad was repelled, and avenged by the capture and sack of his cities; and that the Israelites "banned" them (compare Leviticus 27:28-29). But it was not the plan of the Israelites in the time of Moses to remain in this district. They therefore marched away southeastward; and no doubt for the time the Canaanites resumed possession, and restored the ancient name (Zephath). But Joshua again conquered the king of this district, and finally in the time of the early Judges the ban of Moses and his contemporaries was fully executed. We have therefore in the passage before us the history of the actual origin of the name "Hormah."

2, 3. Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord—Made to feel their own weakness, they implored the aid of Heaven, and, in anticipation of it, devoted the cities of this king to future destruction. The nature and consequence of such anathemas are described (Le 27:1-34; De 13:1-18). This vow of extermination against Arad [Nu 21:2] gave name to the place Hormah (slaughter and destruction) though it was not accomplished till after the passage of the Jordan. Others think Hormah the name of a town mentioned (Jos 12:14). They utterly destroyed them: when?

Answ. Either,

1. Some time after this, under Joshua, who subdued, among others, the king of Arad, Joshua 12:14. And so this is mentioned here by anticipation, that the vow being now made and mentioned, the effect or performance of it might be recorded, though out of its place; and so this verse must be supposed to be added by some of the prophets, and inserted into Moses’s history, as some other passages seem to be. Or,

2. At this time; and so this is not the same Arad with that, Joshua 12:14, nor this the same Hormah with that there mentioned, but another of the same name, which is most frequent in persons and places in Scripture. And this is the more probable, because that Arad and Hormah, Joshua 12:14, are two distinct places, and had divers kings, whereas here the same place is called both Arad and Hormah; and because that Arad seems to be at some good distance from this, and more within the country, and more northward, as may be gathered from the other places joined with it, Jos 12. whereas this Arad was near Edom, Numbers 21:4, and in the south, Numbers 21:1.

Quest. 1. How could this be done in the land of Canaan, when Moses neither entered himself, nor led the people into that land?

Answ. Neither Moses nor the whole body of the people did this exploit, but a select number sent out for this purpose to punish that king and people, who were so fierce and malicious that they came out of their own country to fight with the Israelites in the wilderness; and these, when they had done this work, returned to their brethren into the wilderness.

Quest. 2. Why did they not all now go into Canaan, when some of them had once entered it, and pursue this victory?

Answ. Because God would not permit it, there being several works yet to be done, other people must be conquered, the Israelites must be further humbled and tried and purged, Moses must die, and then they shall enter, and that in a more glorious manner, even over Jordan, which shall be miraculously dried up, and give them passage. And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel,.... In their prayers and vows; with acceptance heard, and answered them according to their wish:

and delivered up the Canaanites: into their hands, gave them victory over them:

and they utterly destroyed them and their cities; that is, "anathematized" them, and devoted them to destruction; for as yet they did not actually destroy them, since we read of Arad afterwards, Joshua 12:14, but this they did in Joshua's time, when the whole land of Canaan came into their hands; for had they entered the land now, and took and destroyed the cities belonging to Arad, they would doubtless have proceeded, and pursued their conquests, and not have returned into the wilderness again to go round about Edom, in order to enter another way; many think, as Aben Ezra observes on Numbers 21:1 that this section was written by Joshua, after the land was subdued:

and he called the name of the place Hormah; which before was called Zephath, and it seems to have its name from various disasters which happened at this place; as the defeat of the Israelites by the Amalekites, Numbers 14:45, and here of the Canaanites by the Israelites, and afterwards of the inhabitants of this place by Judah and Simeon, Judges 1:17 it had its name from "Cherem", the anathema or destruction it was devoted to.

And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah.
3. the name of the place was called Hormah] In view of the expression ‘destroyed them and their cities,’ Hormah would seem to be a district and not a town; and perhaps it is so in Numbers 14:45 (‘the Hormah’) and Dt. 1:441 [Note: This is the more probable if we read ‘from Seir’ with LXX., Syr., Vulg.] . But in other passages Hormah is a city; cf. Joshua 12:14; Joshua 15:30; Joshua 19:4, 1 Samuel 30:30, 1 Chronicles 4:30; and in Jdg 1:17 it is said that its former name was Ẓephath.Verse 3. - They utterly destroyed them and their cities. Rather, "they banned (יַּחַרֵם - ἀναθεμάτισεν) them and their cities." No doubt the banning implies here their utter destruction, because it is not the vow before the battle, but the carrying of it out after the victory, which is here spoken cf. And he called the name of the place Hormah. Rather, "the name of the place was called (impersonal use of the transitive) Charmah." חָרְמָה. Septuagint, Ἀνάθεμα. It is not very clear what place received this name at this time. It does not appear to have been Arid itself, as would have seemed most natural, because Arid and Hormah are mentioned side by side in Joshua 12:14. It is identified with Zephath in Judges 1:17. It may have been the place where the victory was won which gave all the cities of Arid to destruction. Whether it was the Hormah mentioned in chapter Numbers 14:45 is very doubtful (see note there). The nomenclature of the Jews, especially as to places, and most especially as to places with which their own connection was passing or broken, was vague and confused in the extreme, and nothing can be more unsatisfactory than arguments which turn upon the shifting names of places long ago perished and forgotten. It must be added that the three verses which narrate the chastisement of this Canaanite chieftain have caused immense embarrassment to commentators. If the incident is narrated in its proper order of time, it must have happened during the stay of the Israelites under Mount Hor, when they had finally left the neighbourhood of the Negeb, and were separated from the king of Arid by many days' march, and by a most impracticable country. It is therefore generally supposed that the narrative is out of place, and that it really belongs to the time when Israel was gathered together for the second time at Kadesh, and When his reappearance there in force might well have given rise to the report that be was about to invade Canaan from that side. This is unsatisfactory, because no plausible reason can be assigned for the insertion of the notice where it stands, both here and in Numbers 33:40. To say that Moses wished to bring it into juxtaposition with the victories recorded in the latter part of the chapter, from which it is separated by the incident of the fiery serpents, and the brief record of many journeys, is to confess that no explanation can be invented which has the least show of reason. If the narrative be displaced, the displacement must simply be due to accident or interpolation. Again, it would seem quite inconsistent with the position and plans of Israel since the rebellion of Kadesh that any invasion and conquest, even temporary, of any part of Canaan should be made at this time, and that especially if the attack was not made until Israel was lying in the Arabah on his way round the land of Edom. It is therefore supposed by some that the vow only was made at this time, and the ban suspended over the place, and that it was only carried out as part of the general conquest under Joshua; that, in fact, the fulfillment of the vow is narrated in Joshua 12:14; Judges 1:16, 17. This, however, throws the narrative as it stands into confusion and discredit, for the ban and the destruction become a mockery and an unreality if nothing more was done to the towns of the king of Arad than was done at the same time to the towns of all his neighbours. It would be more reverent to reject the story as an error or a falsehood than to empty it of the meaning which it was obviously intended to convey. We are certainly meant to understand that the vow was there and then accepted by God, and was there and then carried into effect by Israel; the towns of Arad were depopulated and destroyed as far as lay in their power, although they may have been immediately reoccupied. There are only two theories which are worth considering. 1. The narrative may really be displaced, for what cause we do not know. If so, it would he more satisfactory to refer it, not to the time of the second encampment at Kadesh, but to the time of the first, during the absence of the spies in Canaan. It is probable that their entry was known, as was the case with Joshua's spies (Joshua 2:2); and nothing could be more likely than that the king of Arad, suspecting what would follow, should attempt to anticipate invasion by attack. If it were so it might help to account for the rash confidence shown by the people afterwards (Numbers 14:40), for the mention of Hormah (Numbers 14:45), and for the reappearance of kings of Hormah and of Arad in the days of Joshua 2. The narrative may after all be in place. That the Israelites lay for thirty days under Mount Hor is certain, and they may have been longer. During this period they could not get pasture for their cattle on the side of Edom, and they may have wandered far and wide in search of it. It may have been but a comparatively small band which approached the Negeb near enough to be attacked, and which, by the help of God, was enabled to defeat the king of Arad, and to lay waste his towns. It had certainly been no great feat for all Israel to overthrow a border chieftain who could not possibly have brought 5000 men into the field. CHAPTERS 21:4-9 THE FIERY SERPENTS (verses 4-9). Death of Aaron at Mount Hor. - The Israelites left Kadesh, and passed along the road just mentioned to Mount Hor. This mountain, which was situated, according to Numbers 33:37, on the border of the land of Edom, is placed by Josephus (Ant. iv. 4, 7) in the neighbourhood of Petra; so also by Eusebius and Jerome: "Or mons, in quo mortuus est Aaron, juxta civitatem Petram." According to modern travellers, it is Mount Harun, on the north-western side of Wady Musa (Petra), which is described by Robinson (vol. ii. p. 508) as "a cone irregularly truncated, having three ragged points or peaks, of which that upon the north-east is the highest, and has upon it the Muhammedan Wely, or tomb of Aaron," from which the mountain has received its name "Harun," i.e., Aaron (vid., Burckhardt, Syr. pp. 715, 716; v. Schubert, Reise, ii. pp. 419ff.; Ritter, Erdkunde, xiv. pp. 1127ff.). There can be no doubt as to the general correctness of this tradition;

(Note: There is no force whatever in the arguments by which Knobel has endeavoured to prove that it is incorrect. The first objection, viz., that the Hebrews reached Mount Hor from Kadesh in a single march, has no foundation in the biblical text, and cannot be inferred from the circumstance that there is no place of encampment mentioned between Kadesh and Mount Hor; for, on the one hand, we may clearly see, not only from Numbers 21:10, but even from Exodus 17:1, as compared with Numbers 33:41. and Numbers 33:12., that only those places of encampment are mentioned in the historical account where events occurred that were worthy of narrating; and, on the other hand, it is evident from Numbers 10:33, that the Israelites sometimes continued marching for several days before they formed an encampment again. The second objection - viz., that if Hor was near Petra, it is impossible to see how the advance of the Hebrews from Kadesh to Hor could be regarded by the king of Arad, who lived more than thirty hours' journey to the north, as coming (Numbers 33:40), not to mention "coming by the way of the spies" (Numbers 21:1), and how this king could come into conflict with the Hebrews when posted at Petra - rests upon the erroneous assumption, that the attack of the king of Arad did not take place till after the death of Aaron, because it is not mentioned till afterwards. Lastly, the third objection - viz., that a march from Kadesh in a south-westerly direction to Wady Musa, and then northwards past Zalmona to Phunon (Numbers 33:41), is much too adventurous - is overthrown by Numbers 21:4, where the Israelites are said to have gone from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea. (See the notes on Numbers 21:10.))

for even if the Mohammedan tradition concerning Aaron's grave is not well accredited, the situation of this mountain is in perfect harmony with the statement in Numbers 20:23 and Numbers 33:37, viz., that the Israelites had then reached the border of the land of Edom. The place where the people encamped is called Mosera in Deuteronomy 10:6, and Moseroth in the list of stations in Numbers 33:30, and is at all events to be sought for in the Arabah, in the neighbourhood of Mount Hor, though it is altogether unknown to us. The camp of 600,000 men, with their wives, children, and flocks, would certainly require a space miles wide, and might therefore easily stretch from the mouths of the Wady el Weibeh and Wady Ghuweir, in the Arabah, to the neighbourhood of Mount Harun. The place of encampment is called after this mountain, Hor, both here and in Numbers 33:37., because it was there that Aaron died and was buried. The Lord foretold his death to Moses, and directed him to take off Aaron's priestly robes, and put them upon Eleazar his son, as Aaron was not to enter the promised land, because they (Aaron and Moses) had opposed the command of Jehovah at the water of strife (see at Numbers 20:12). "Gathered to his people," like the patriarchs (Genesis 25:8, Genesis 25:17; Genesis 35:29; Genesis 49:33).

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