Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
ATTACKED BY THE
1. King Arad the Canaanite--rather, "the Canaanite king of Arad"--an
ancient town on the southernmost borders of Palestine, not far from
Kadesh. A hill called Tell Arad marks the spot.
heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies--in the way or
manner of spies, stealthily, or from spies sent by himself to ascertain
the designs and motions of the Israelites. The Septuagint and others
consider the Hebrew word "spies" a proper name, and render it: "Came
by the way of Atharim towards Arad" [KENNICOTT].
he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners--This
discomfiture was permitted to teach them to expect the conquest of
Canaan not from their own wisdom and valor, but solely from the favor
and help of God
Ps 44:3, 4).
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
This vow of extermination against Arad
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
4. they journeyed from mount Hor--On being refused the passage
requested, they returned through the Arabah, "the way of the Red Sea,"
to Elath, at the head of the eastern gulf of the Red Sea, and thence
passed up through the mountains to the eastern desert, so as to make
the circuit of the land of Edom
(Nu 33:41, 42).
the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the
way--Disappointment on finding themselves so near the confines of
the promised land without entering it; vexation at the refusal of a
passage through Edom and the absence of any divine interposition in
their favor; and above all, the necessity of a retrograde journey by a
long and circuitous route through the worst parts of a sandy desert and
the dread of being plunged into new and unknown difficulties--all this
produced a deep depression of spirits. But it was followed, as usually,
by a gross outburst of murmuring at the scarcity of water, and of
expressions of disgust at the manna.
5. our soul loatheth this light bread--that is, bread without substance
or nutritious quality. The refutation of this calumny appears in the
fact, that on the strength of this food they performed for forty years
so many and toilsome journeys. But they had been indulging a hope of the
better and more varied fare enjoyed by a settled people; and
disappointment, always the more bitter as the hope of enjoyment seems
near, drove them to speak against God and against Moses
6. The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people--That part of the
desert where the Israelites now were--near the head of the gulf of
Akaba--is greatly infested with venomous reptiles, of various kinds,
particularly lizards, which raise themselves in the air and swing
themselves from branches; and scorpions, which, being in the habit of
lying in long grass, are particularly dangerous to the barelegged,
sandaled people of the East. The only known remedy consists in sucking
the wound, or, in the case of cattle, in the application of ammonia.
The exact species of serpents that caused so great mortality among the
Israelites cannot be ascertained. They are said to have been "fiery,"
an epithet applied to them either from their bright, vivid color, or
the violent inflammation their bite occasioned.
7-9. the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned--The severity
of the scourge and the appalling extent of mortality brought them to a
sense of sin, and through the intercessions of Moses, which they
implored, they were miraculously healed. He was directed to make the
figure of a serpent in brass, to be elevated on a pole or standard,
that it might be seen at the extremities of the camp and that every
bitten Israelite who looked to it might be healed. This peculiar method
of cure was designed, in the first instance, to show that it was the
efficacy of God's power and grace, not the effect of nature or art, and
also that it might be a type of the power of faith in Christ to heal
all who look to Him because of their sins
(Joh 3:14, 15;
see also on
10. the children of Israel set forward--along the eastern frontier
of the Edomites, encamping in various stations.
12. pitched in the valley--literally, the "woody brook-valley" of
This torrent rises among the mountains to the east of Moab, and flowing
west, empties itself into the Dead Sea. Ije-Abarim is supposed to have
been its ford [CALMET].
13. pitched on the other side of Arnon--now El-Mojib, a deep, broad,
and rapid stream, dividing the dominions of the Moabites and Amorites.
14. book of the wars of the Lord--A fragment or passage is here
quoted from a poem or history of the wars of the Israelites,
principally with a view to decide the position of Arnon.
15. Ar--the capital of Moab.
16. from thence they went to Beer--that is, a "well." The name was
probably given to it afterwards [see
as it is not mentioned
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.
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
24. from Arnon unto Jabbok--now the Zurka. These rivers formed the
southern and northern boundaries of his usurped territory.
for the border of . . . Ammon was strong--a reason stated for Sihon
not being able to push his invasion further.
25. Israel dwelt in all the cities--after exterminating the
inhabitants who had been previously doomed
--situated sixteen English miles north of the Arnon, and from its ruins
it appears to have been a large city.
27-30. Wherefore they that speak in proverbs--Here is given an extract
from an Amorite song exultingly anticipating an extension of their
conquests to Arnon. The quotation from the poem of the Amorite bard
two following verses
appear to be the strains in which the Israelites expose the impotence
of the usurpers.
29. people of Chemosh--the name of the Moabite idol
he--that is, their god, hath surrendered his worshippers to the
victorious arms of Sihon.
33. they turned and went up by the way of Bashan--a name given to
that district from the richness of the soil--now Batanea or
El-Bottein--a hilly region east of the Jordan lying between the
mountains of Hermon on the north and those of Gilead on the south.
Og--a giant, an Amoritish prince, who, having opposed the progress
of the Israelites, was defeated.
34, 35. The Lord said unto Moses, Fear him not--a necessary
encouragement, for Og's gigantic stature
was calculated to inspire terror. He and all his were put to the