Deuteronomy 2
Pulpit Commentary
Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days.
Verses 1-23. - THE NEW BEGINNING AND REVIEW OF THE JOURNEYINGS OF ISRAEL FROM KADESH TO THE RIVER ARNON, THE FRONTIER OF THE AMORITES. At this point the language of address is exchanged for that of narrative. The change of subject from "ye abode" to "we turned," became necessary when Moses passed from exhorting and warning the people to narrating what happened after they resumed their journeyings; and gives no support to the notion of some recent German critics, that Moses left Kadesh with only a portion of the people, while the rest remained there, so that no entire departure of Israel from Kadesh ever took place - a notion which the whole tenor of the subsequent narrative contradicts. In obedience to the Divine command (Deuteronomy 1:40), the people, after tarrying for a while at Kadesh, took their departure and marched in the direction of the Yam-suph (Numbers 14:25). Verse 1. - And we compassed mount Seir many days. These "many days" are the thirty-eight years during which the people wandered in the wilderness before they camped the second time at Kadesh; their going round Mount Seir, which was in Edom (Genesis 36:8, 9, 20), is descriptive of their nomadic wanderings in various directions, west, south, and south-east of that mountain (Numbers 21:4). "Crossing the long, lofty mountain chain to the eastward of Ezion-geber (Numbers 21:4, 5), the Israelites issued into the great and elevated plains which are still traversed by the Syrian pilgrims on their way to Mecca; and appear to have followed northward nearly the same route which is now taken by the Syrian Hadgi along the western skirts of this great desert near the mountains of Edom" (Robinson, 'Bib. Res.,' 1:253, 559). Mount Seir is now Jebal and esh-Sherah. This mountain range is a continuation of that which surrounds the eastern side of the Dead Sea. The details of this protracted wandering are passed over by Moses as not required by his purpose here.
And the LORD spake unto me, saying,
Verses 2, 3. - When Israel, after their long and disheartening wandering, were at the southeastern end of the 'Arabah, God gave them the word to turn their march northward towards Canaan. The route they pursued was along the eastern boundary of Edom (comp. Numbers 21:10, etc.).
Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.
And command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore:
Verse 4. - It would appear that the Edomites made preparations to resist the passage of the Israelites through their territory (Numbers 20:18-20). As the Israelites, however, kept on the outskirts of their country, and did not attempt to penetrate into the interior, the Edomites did not attack them or seek to hinder their progress. The Israelites, on the other hand, were strictly forbidden to invade that country in a hostile manner; they were to watch over themselves, so as not to be tempted to make war on the Edomites, who were their brethren; as God would not give them any part, not so much as a foot-breadth, of that laud, for he had given Esau (i.e. the race descended from Esau, the Edomites - LXX, τοῖς υἱοῖς Ησαῦ) Mount Seir for a possession. They shall be afraid of you (see Exodus 15:15).
Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession.
Verse 5. - Meddle not with them; literally, Excite not yourself against them, i.e. so as to strive in battle with them; comp. the use of the verb in Jeremiah 50:24, "hast striven" (Authorized Version); Daniel 11:25 (where מִלְחָמָה, war, is added), "shall be stirred up to battle" (Authorized Version). Accordingly, they were enjoined to buy from them for money food and water as they required. Two different words in the Hebrew are rendered here by "buy" in the Authorized Version; the former, שָׁבר, a denominative from שֶׁבֶר, grain, properly means to deal in grain, whether as buyer or seller, and so to buy food; the latter, שָׁרָה, means primarily to dig (a well, e.g., Genesis 26:25), and, as used here, probably conveys the idea that the Israelites were to pay for permission to dig wells in the country of the Edomites to supply themselves with water as they passed along; this, however, does not necessarily follow from the use of this word, for it has also the meaning to buy (comp. Hosea 3:2, and the corresponding Arabic verb, kara, which in certain conjugations has the meaning to borrow or hire).
Ye shall buy meat of them for money, that ye may eat; and ye shall also buy water of them for money, that ye may drink.
For the LORD thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the LORD thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing.
Verse 7. - They were enabled to buy what they required - For the Lord thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand; their flocks and herds had increased during their wanderings (Numbers 32:1); and they may have gained wealth by cultivating the soil at places where they had made a lengthened sojourn, or by traffic with the tribes of the desert with whom they came in contact. Jehovah their God had known - had noted, observed, had regard to, had cared for (setup. Genesis 39:6; Psalm 1:6; Proverbs 27:23) - their walking - their peregrinations - through this great wilderness; he had been their Leader, had chosen for them places to rest in, had provided food for them, and had been their Protector and Guardian all through the forty years of their pilgrimage, so that they had wanted for nothing (Deuteronomy 1:33; Deuteronomy 8:2, 3, 15, 16; comp. Psalm 23:1-6). "He sufficiently supplied what was needful for thee when thou walkedst through this great wilderness; for these forty years the Word of Jah thy God hath sustained thee; nor hath anything been wanting to thee" (Chaldee Paraphrase). Forty years (Numbers 14:33). "From the fifteenth day of the first month in which their fathers came out of Egypt (Numbers 33:3), to the tenth day of the same month in which they went over Jordan into Canaan (Joshua 4:19), there were but five days wanting of complete forty years" (Patrick).
And when we passed by from our brethren the children of Esau, which dwelt in Seir, through the way of the plain from Elath, and from Eziongaber, we turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab.
Verse 8. - And when we passed by from our brethren the children of Esau, which dwelt in Seir, through the way of the plain from Elath, and from Ezion-gaber, we, etc. Rather, And we passed by from (away from) our brethren the sons of Esau, who dwelt in Self, from (off from, i.e. alongside, but at some distance from) the way of the 'Arabah, from (off from) Elath and from Ezion-geber. And so, in obedience to the Divine command, the Israelites passed from the territory of the Edomites without entering it, and went by their border on the east side of the 'Arabah, and from beside Elath and Ezion-geber, both ports at the northern extremity of the Elanitie Gulf of the Red Sea (Numbers 33:35). Thus they came to where they were then encamped, in the steppes of Moab. "Probably they followed the still used caravan route to Damascus, between the east side of the cultivated laud, and the west side of Arabia Deserta" (Schroeder). Elath or Eloth (אֵילות אֵילַת, palmgrove) - the Αἰλὰθ of Josephus, 'Antiq.,' 9:12; the Αλανα of Ptolemy (5:17) - was a city of Idumea, situated on the eastern gulf of the Red Sea. Its ruins are still traceable near the modern fortress of Akabah, on the northwest (Burckhardt, p. 509; Robinson, 1:241). Ezion-geber (עֶצֶיון גֶבֶר, backbone of a man, so called probably from the rugged and jagged rocks in its vicinity), a seaport near to Elath (cf. 1 Kings 9:26; 2 Chronicles 20:36).
And the LORD said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession.
Verse 9. - The Moabites, being the descendants of Lot, and so allied by race to the Israelites, the latter were commanded to pass through their country without offering them any injury or assault. Ar, a border-town of Moab (Numbers 21:15), here put for the country itself. It is the Areopolis of the Greeks, and was, as Jerome tells us, destroyed in a single night by an earthquake. A hill with ruins a short distance southwest from Ara'ir, is supposed to be its site.
The Emims dwelt therein in times past, a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims;
Verses 10-12. - The mention of the Moabites gives occasion to the author to introduce some notices of the ancient inhabitants of Edom and Moab. In Moab dwelt, in the earlier times, the Emim, a giant race, potent and numerous, like the 'Anakim. They were also, like the 'Anakim reckoned among the Rephaim, but were by the Moabites called Emim. The word Emim means frightful, and was given to these men probably because of their huge stature and fierce aspect. Anakims (see Deuteronomy 1:28). Rephaim seems to have been a generic name of these gigantic Canaanitish tribes (see Genesis 14:5; Genesis 15:20). The Horim appear from the name (from חוד, a cave) to have been a Troglodyte race, inhabiting the caves which abound in the Edomite range, and with whom, perhaps, originated the conception which was at a later period carried out in the marvelous rock city of Petra. Of their own origin nothing is known. As Israel did [or has done] unto the land of his possession. This cannot be regarded as uttered proleptically; it must either be the insertion of a later age, or it must refer to the conquest which had actually been made before this by the Israelites of the land to the east of the Jordan. and which is, in Deuteronomy 3:20, described as the possession which the Lord had given to the two tribes and a half to whom it had been assigned. The latter is the preferable supposition.
Which also were accounted giants, as the Anakims; but the Moabites call them Emims.
The Horims also dwelt in Seir beforetime; but the children of Esau succeeded them, when they had destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their stead; as Israel did unto the land of his possession, which the LORD gave unto them.
Now rise up, said I, and get you over the brook Zered. And we went over the brook Zered.
Verses 13-15. - Ver. 13 connects with ver. 9, the intermediate verses being a parenthesis, introduced for the purpose of reminding the Israelites that the Edomites and Moabites had received their territory by gift from God, the earlier inhabitants having been cast out by him that they might take their lands (see vers. 21-23). There is no need, therefore, for the insertion "I said," in ver. 13; the words are those of Jehovah, not of Moses. Verse 13. - The brook Zered; either the stream of the Wady cf. Ahsy (Robinson, 2:157; Ritter, 3:78), or that of the Wady Kerab (Keil, Kurz, etc.); see Numbers 21:11, and Smith's 'Dictionary.' 3:1842. This brook formed the boundary line between Edom and Moab, and was the limit of Israel's wanderings in the wilderness. They crossed it thirty-eight years after the doom had been pronounced upon them at Kadesh, and during that period the entire generation of those who had rebelled had died out.
And the space in which we came from Kadeshbarnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the LORD sware unto them.
Verse 14. - Men of war; those of age sufficient to go forth to war, viz. twenty y. ears old and upwards (Numbers 1:3; Numbers 14:29). These, as the responsible transgressors, all perished; the whole generation passed away, and was consumed (תֹּן; cf. Deuteronomy 5:15; Psalm 73:19), as God had sworn (Numbers 14:28, 29).
For indeed the hand of the LORD was against them, to destroy them from among the host, until they were consumed.
Verse 15. - For indeed; rather, And also; not by natural causes alone, but by the hand of God, i.e. by special penal judgments also, were they troubled and destroyed (cf. Numbers 16:31, etc.; Numbers 17:12, 13; 21:6; 25:1-9).
So it came to pass, when all the men of war were consumed and dead from among the people,
Verses 16-19. - The generation that sinned having quite died out, the people were now to cross the border of Moab and advance to the conquest of the Promised Land. To the east of Moab was the country of the Ammonites; these, also, the Israelites were to leave unassailed, for the Lord had given to them their land for a possession (cf. ver. 9).
That the LORD spake unto me, saying,
Thou art to pass over through Ar, the coast of Moab, this day:
Verse 18. - Coast of Moab; the boundary of Moab, which was the river Arnon, hod. Mujeb (Numbers 21:13-15; Numbers 22:36).
And when thou comest nigh over against the children of Ammon, distress them not, nor meddle with them: for I will not give thee of the land of the children of Ammon any possession; because I have given it unto the children of Lot for a possession.
Verse 19. - Over against the children of Ammon. As the Israelites were passing eastward of Moab; when they crossed the Arnon, the Ammonites, whose dwelling was in the wilderness east of the Jordan, would be almost in front of them. The Israelites came over against them after they conquered Sihon (cf. Numbers 21:24).
(That also was accounted a land of giants: giants dwelt therein in old time; and the Ammonites call them Zamzummims;
Verses 20-23. - Another parenthetical insertion, containing some ethnographical notices, intended, probably, to confirm the assertion that to the children of Ammon God had given their land for a possession. There is no sufficient reason for supposing that this paragraph is an interpolation, or gloss, inserted by some later writer. It lay as much in the way of Moses to introduce such ethnographical notices as in that of any writer of a later age. Verse 20. - Before the Ammonites, the laud was occupied by a gigantic race, called by them, Zamzummim (probably noisy ones, from זָמַם to hum, mutter; or, as the verb also signifies, to muse or meditate, perhaps moody ones; whether the same as the Zuzim of Genesis 14:5 - LXX., ἔθνη ἰσχυρά, as if from זוּז, to overflow, to abound - is uncertain). The colossal stone monuments, resembling what in Europe are known by the Celtic names of dolmen, menhir, and cromlech, still to be found in the land of Moab, are supposed to be the work of these aboriginal inhabitants of the country, the gigantic Emim and Zamzummim. This giant tribe the Lord had destroyed before the Ammonites, just as he had destroyed the Horim before the children of Esau in Seir.
A people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims; but the LORD destroyed them before them; and they succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead:
As he did to the children of Esau, which dwelt in Seir, when he destroyed the Horims from before them; and they succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead even unto this day:
And the Avims which dwelt in Hazerim, even unto Azzah, the Caphtorims, which came forth out of Caphtor, destroyed them, and dwelt in their stead.)
Verse 23. - So also the Caphtorim, who came from Caphtor (Genesis 10:14), probably the island of Crete (Ritter, 3:262), drove out the Avim, a Canaanitish race, who dwelt in villages (Hazerim, חֲצֵרִים) as far as Gaza (Azzah), and took possession of their land; though it would appear some of them still remained among the Philistines (who were Caphtorites, Amos 9:7; Jeremiah 47:4), and were among the tribes not subdued by the Israelites under Joshua (Joshua 13:3). These Caphtorim were, like the Israelites, immigrants, who drove out the original occupants of the country; and on this account, probably, are referred to by Moses here. "This is so often repeated, to possess the minds of the Israelites with a sense of God's providence, which rules everywhere; displacing one people, and settling another in their stead, and fixing their bounds, also, which they shall not pass without leave" (Patrick).
Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle.
Verses 24-37. - CONQUEST OF THE KINGDOM OF SIHON. Sihon and his people were Amorites, who had settled on the east of the Jordan in Gilead. But though not included in the original promise to Abraham, God had assigned this territory to the Israelites; and, therefore, he commanded the people under Moses to cross the Amen, and take the first step towards possessing the Promised Land, by assailing Sihon, King of Heshbon, assuring them that from that day he would "put the dread and fear of them upon all nations under the whole heaven," that is, all nations, wherever placed, to whom the fame of the Israelites should come (comp. Exodus 23:27; Deuteronomy 11:16), so that on hearing thereof, they should tremble and writhe as in pain (וְחָלוּ, comp. Isaiah 13:8). Moses, however, in the first instance, sent a message of peace to Sihon, proposing to pass through his territory on the same terms as he had made with the Moabites and Edomites, traveling by the highway, and paying for such provisions as his followers required. But this Sihon refused, and came out against Israel, with all his people, to battle. The issue was that he was utterly discomfited; all his towns were captured, he and all his people utterly destroyed, and the cattle and spoil of the whole country taken for booty. Israel thus became possessed of that entire territory, though it did not lie within the bounds of the land promised by God to Abraham, which was the reason, probably, why Moses made overtures of peace to Sihon, and would have passed through his country amicably, had he been permitted; but comp. Deuteronomy 20:10.
This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee.
And I sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemoth unto Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying,
Verse 26. - The wilderness of Kedemoth (comp. Numbers 21:13); so named from the town of Kedemoth, an old Amorite town, on the right bank of the Upper Arnon; at a later period, a Levitical city in the tribe of Reuben (Joshua 13:18; Joshua 21:37; 1 Chronicles 6:79). The name (from קֶדֶם, the east), signifying eastern parts, indicates that it was situated on the eastern boundary of the Amorite region, so that the desert named from it must have bordered on the great Arabian desert; it may have been on what is now the Derb cf. Haj, or Pilgrims' Road, probably, at Kal'at Balua.
Let me pass through thy land: I will go along by the high way, I will neither turn unto the right hand nor to the left.
Verse 27. - Along by the high way; literally, by the way, by the way, i.e. always, continuously by the way, the public road, called in Numbers 20:17 and Numbers 21:22, "the king's way," probably because made and kept up by the king.
Thou shalt sell me meat for money, that I may eat; and give me water for money, that I may drink: only I will pass through on my feet;
(As the children of Esau which dwell in Seir, and the Moabites which dwell in Ar, did unto me;) until I shall pass over Jordan into the land which the LORD our God giveth us.
Verse 29. - As the... did unto me. This refers expressly to the fact that the Edomites and Moabites did not hinder the Israelites from passing through their country, though they were far from friendly, and dealt in an unbrotherly way with them, for which the Moabites were afterwards placed under a ban (Deuteronomy 23:3).
But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day.
Verse 30. - Heshbon, the chief city of the Amorite king, Sihon. Some ruins on a hill east of the upper end of the Dead Sea, and bearing the name Chesban, mark the site of this once large and important city. Sihon rejected Moses' overtures of peace, because God had hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate; literally, had sharpened his heart, had made his determination keen. It is not to be supposed that any influence was directly exerted on him, to make him obdurate and persistent in his hostility to the people of God; the expression "he would not" indicates that it was of his own will that Sihon acted; but it was the will and purpose of God that Sihon should be destroyed, and his country taken by the Israelites, and so he was placed in circumstances by which, "given over to a reprobate mind," he was confirmed and strengthened m his determination to pursue a course which led to his destruction; like Pharaoh, by the circumstances in which God placed him, he found scope for the display and for the confirmation of a stubborn, pertinacious pride of spirit, which led ultimately to his ruin. Nothing so hardens the heart as resistance to God's overtures of peace. As appeareth this day; i.e. as present experience shows; in Sihon's refusing to let them pass, there was already an actual beginning of the fulfillment of God's purpose to deliver him into the hand of the Israelites.
And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land.
Verses 31-37. - God had determined to give Sihon and his land to the Israelites, and so certainly should this be done, that Moses is exhorted already to begin to seize, in order to possess the land. Sihon initiated hostilities by coming out with all his host to fight against Moses and the Israelites. The battle took place at Jahaz (or Jahazah, or Jahza), a town between Medeba and Dibon (Euseb.; cf. Numbers 33:45), afterwards belonging to the tribe of Reuben (Joshua 13:18), and assigned to the Levites of the line of Merari (Joshua 21:36; 1 Chronicles 6:78). The war was one of extermination, in which all the people of Sihon were destroyed, from one cad of his dominion to the other; all his cities were devoted irredeemably (comp. Leviticus 27:29), and only the cattle and the material property were preserved as booty by the conquerors (Numbers 21:23-26).
Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz.
Verse 32 (cf. Numbers 21:23). - Jahaz (יַהַז, downtrodden), elsewhere Jahazah (יַהְצָה), a city of Moab, afterwards assigned to the tribe of Reuben, and allotted to the priests (Joshua 13:18; Joshua 21:36; 1 Chronicles 6:63; Isaiah 15:4; Jeremiah 48:34).
And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people.
Verses 33, 34 (cf. Numbers 22:24, 25; Numbers 32:34, 35, etc.). - And utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones.... we left none to remain. As the Amorites came out of Canaan, they belonged to the race which God had doomed to destruction. The Israelites, therefore, had a commission to extirpate them. Utterly destroyed; literally, devoted or placed under a ban, which of course implied utter destruction. The men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city; literally, every city of men and women and little children. The phrase "city of men" can hardly mean, as Rosenmüller affirms, "men of a city;" the hypallage here would be too violent. It rather means "a peopled city," "a city inhabited by men." The word rendered "men" (מְתִים) does not designate males as opposed to females, but is a designation of human beings in general (cf. Job 11:3; Job 24:12 [Hebrews 20:48]; 31:31; Psalm 26:4, "vain persons," Authorized Version, literally, men of emptiness or of falsehood, etc.). The passage might be rendered, every inhabited city, even the women and the little children.
And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain:
Only the cattle we took for a prey unto ourselves, and the spoil of the cities which we took.
From Aroer, which is by the brink of the river of Arnon, and from the city that is by the river, even unto Gilead, there was not one city too strong for us: the LORD our God delivered all unto us:
Verse 36. - Aroer, one of the Amorite cities, on the right bank of the river Arnon (cf. Joshua 12:2; Joshua 13:16). On the Moabite Stone, King Mesha says, "I built Aroer;" but this can only mean that, after some temporary condition of decay or ruin, he rebuilt it. On the borders of the northern side of the Wady Mojeb, there are heaps of ruins bearing the name of Ara'ir, which probably mark the site of this ancient town. There was another Aroer, belonging at a later period to the tribe of Gad, and opposite to Rabba, the chief city of the Ammonites (Joshua 13:25; 2 Samuel 24:5); and still another in the south of Judah (1 Samuel 30:28), probably in what is now known as the Wady A'rarah. The city that is by the river; properly, in the river or wady; i.e. At, the capital of Moab, which was in the valley of the Arnon, and which is mentioned here as marking the exclusive limit of the country that was captured. The word rendered "river" (נַחַל) is used of the valley or ravine (Arabic, wady) through which a stream flows, as well as of the stream itself (cf. Genesis 26:19; Numbers 24:6, etc.). Ar is elsewhere called Ar of Moab (Isaiah 15:1). Even unto Gilead, i.e. Mount Gilead, which rises to the north of the Jabbok (hod. Zerka).
Only unto the land of the children of Ammon thou camest not, nor unto any place of the river Jabbok, nor unto the cities in the mountains, nor unto whatsoever the LORD our God forbad us.
Verse 37. - In obedience to the Divine injunction, the Israelites left untouched the country of the Ammonites, situated on the eastern side of the Upper Jabbok. Cities in the mountains; the towns in the Ammonitish highlands. In Joshua 13:25, half of the laud of the Ammonites is said to be assigned to the tribe of Gad; but that refers to the part of the land between the Arnon and the Jabbek, which had been taken from the Ammonites by the Amorites, and was in the possession of the latter at the time of the Israelitish invasion (Judges 11:13, etc.). Whatsoever the Lord our God forbad us: Finally, all that Jehovah our God commanded not to come into.

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