Moses, in this chapter, proceeds in the rehearsal of God's providences
concerning Israel in their way to Canaan, yet preserves not the record
of any thing that happened during their tedious march back to the Red
Sea, in which they wore out almost thirty-eight years, but passes that
over in silence as a dark time, and makes his narrative to begin again
when they faced about towards Canaan
and drew towards the countries that were inhabited, concerning which
God here gives them direction,
I. What nations they must not give any disturbance to.
1. Not to the Edomites,
2. Not to the Moabites
of the antiquities of whose country, with that of the Edomites, he
gives some account,
And here comes in an account of their passing the river Zered,
3. Not to the Ammonites, of whose country here is some account given,
II. What nations they should attack and conquer. They must begin with
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
1. They had a fair occasion of quarrelling with him,
2. God gave them a complete victory over him,
|The Seed of Esau and Lot Spared.
||B. C. 1451.|
1 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.
2 And the LORD spake unto me, saying,
3 Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you
4 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
5 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.
6 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.
7 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.
I. A short account of the long stay of Israel in the wilderness: We
compassed Mount Seir many days,
Nearly thirty-eight years they wandered in the deserts of Seir;
probably in some of their rests they staid several years, and never
stirred; God by this not only chastised them for their murmuring and
1. Prepared them for Canaan, by humbling them for sin, teaching them to
mortify their lusts, to follow God, and to comfort themselves in him.
It is a work of time to make souls meet for heaven, and it must be done
by a long train of exercises.
2. He prepared the Canaanites for destruction. All this time the
measure of their iniquity was filling up; and, though it might have
been improved by them as a space to repent in, it was abused by them to
the hardening of their hearts. Now that the host of Israel was once
repulsed, and after that was so long entangled and seemingly lost in
the wilderness, they were secure, and thought the danger was over from
that quarter, which would make the next attempt of Israel upon them the
II. Orders given them to turn towards Canaan. Though God contend long,
he will not contend for ever. Though Israel may be long kept waiting
for deliverance or enlargement, it will come at last: The vision is
for an appointed time, and at the end it shall speak, and not
III. A charge given them not to annoy the Edomites.
1. They must not offer any hostility to them as enemies: Meddle not
(1.) They must not improve the advantage they had against them, by the
fright they would be put into upon Israel's approach: "They shall be
afraid of you, knowing your strength and numbers, and the power of
God engaged for you; but think not that, because their fears make them
an easy prey, you may therefore prey upon them; no, take heed to
yourselves." There is need of great caution and a strict government
of our own spirits, to keep ourselves from injuring those against whom
we have an advantage. Or this caution is given to the princes; they
must not only not meddle with the Edomites themselves, but not permit
any of the soldiers to meddle with them.
(2.) They must not avenge upon the Edomites the affront they gave them
in refusing them passage through their country,
Thus, before God brought Israel to destroy their enemies in Canaan, he
taught them to forgive their enemies in Edom.
(3.) They must not expect to have any part of their land given them for
a possession: Mount Seir was already settled upon the Edomites, and
they must not, under pretence of God's covenant and conduct, think to
seize for themselves all they could lay hands on. Dominion is not
founded in grace. God's Israel shall be well placed, but must not
expect to be placed alone in the midst of the earth,
2. They must trade with them as neighbours, buy meat and water of them,
and pay for what they bought,
Religion must never be made a cloak for injustice. The reason given
is, "God hath blessed thee, and hitherto thou hast lacked nothing; and
(1.) "Thou needest not beg; scorn to be beholden to Edomites, when thou
hast a God all-sufficient to depend upon. Thou hast wherewithal to pay
for what thou callest for (thanks to the divine blessing!); use
therefore what thou hast, use it cheerfully, and do not sponge upon the
(2.) "Therefore thou must not steal. Thou hast experienced the care of
the divine providence concerning thee, in confidence of which for the
future, and in a firm belief of its sufficiency, never use any indirect
methods for thy supply. Live by the faith and not by thy sword."
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 turned and passed by the way of the
wilderness of Moab.
9 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.
10 The Emims dwelt therein in times past, a people great, and
many, and tall, as the Anakims;
11 Which also were accounted giants, as the Anakims; but the
Moabites call them Emims.
12 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.
13 Now rise up, said I, and get you over the brook Zered. And
we went over the brook Zered.
14 And the space in which we came from Kadesh-barnea, 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.
15 For indeed the hand of the LORD was against them, to destroy
them from among the host, until they were consumed.
16 So it came to pass, when all the men of war were consumed
and dead from among the people,
17 That the LORD spake unto me, saying,
18 Thou art to pass over through Ar, the coast of Moab, this
19 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
20 (That also was accounted a land of giants: giants dwelt
therein in old time; and the Ammonites call them Zamzummims;
21 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:
22 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:
23 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.)
It is observable here that Moses, speaking of the Edomites
calls them, "our brethren, the children of Esau." Though they
had been unkind to Israel, in refusing them a peaceable passage through
their country, yet he calls them brethren. For, though our relations
fail in their duty to us, we must retain a sense of the relation, and
not be wanting in our duty to them, as there is occasion. Now in these
verses we have,
I. The account which Moses gives of the origin of the nations of which
he had here occasion to speak, the Moabites, Edomites, and Ammonites.
We know very well, from other parts of his history, whose posterity
they were; but here he tells us how they came to those countries in
which Israel found them; they were not the aborigines, or first
1. The Moabites dwelt in a country which had belonged to a numerous
race of giants, called Emim (that is, terrible ones), as
tall as the Anakim, and perhaps more fierce,
2. The Edomites in like manner dispossessed the Horim from Mount Seir,
and took their country
of which we read,
3. The Ammonites likewise got possession of a country that had formerly
been inhabited by giants, called Zamzummim, crafty men, or
probably the same that are called Zuzim,
He illustrates these remarks by an instance older than any of these;
the Caphtorim (who were akin to the Philistines,
drove the Avim out of their country, and took possession of it,
The learned bishop Patrick supposes these Avites, being expelled hence,
to have settled in Assyria, and to be the same people we read of under
2 Kings 17:31.
Now these revolutions are recorded,
(1.) To show how soon the world was peopled after the flood, so well
peopled that, when a family grew numerous, they could not find a place
to settle in, at least in that part of the world, but they must drive
out those that were already settled.
(2.) To show that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the
strong. Giants were expelled by those of ordinary stature; for
probably these giants, like those before the flood
were notorious for impiety and oppression, which brought the judgments
of God upon them, against which their great strength would be on
(3.) To show what uncertain things worldly possessions are, and how
often they change their owners; it was so of old, and ever will be so.
Families decline, and from them estates are transferred to families
that increase; so little constancy or continuance is there in these
(4.) To encourage the children of Israel, who were now going to take
possession of Canaan, against the difficulties they would meet with,
and to show the unbelief of those that were afraid of the sons of Anak,
to whom the giants, here said to be conquered, are compared,
If the providence of God had done this for the Moabites and Ammonites,
much more would his promise do it for Israel his peculiar people.
II. The advances which Israel made towards Canaan. They passed by
the way of the wilderness of Moab
and then went over the brook or vale of Zered
and there Moses takes notice of the fulfilling of the word which God
had spoken concerning them, that none of those that were numbered at
Mount Sinai should see the land that God had promised,
According to that sentence, now that they began to set their faces
towards Canaan, and to have it in their eye, notice is taken of their
being all destroyed and consumed, and not a man of them left,
Common providence, we may observe, in about thirty-eight years,
ordinarily raises a new generation, so that in that time few remain of
the old one; but here it was entirely new, and none at all remained but
Caleb and Joshua: for indeed the hand of the Lord was against
Those cannot but waste, until they were consumed, who have the hand of
God against them. Observe, Israel is not called to engage with the
Canaanites till all the men of war, the veteran regiments, that had
been used to hardship, and had learned the art of war from the
Egyptians, were consumed and dead from among the people
that the conquest of Canaan, being effected by a host of new-raised
men, trained up in a wilderness, the excellency of the power might the
more plainly appear to be of God and not of men.
III. The caution given them not to meddle with the Moabites or
Ammonites, whom they must not disseize, nor so much as disturb in their
possessions: Distress them not, nor contend with them,
Though the Moabites aimed to ruin Israel
yet Israel must not aim to ruin them. If others design us a mischief,
this will not justify us in designing them a mischief. But why must not
the Moabites and Ammonites be meddled with?
1. Because they were the children of Lot
righteous Lot, who kept his integrity in Sodom. Note, Children often
fare the better in this world for the piety of their ancestors: the
seed of the upright, though they degenerate, yet are blessed with
temporal good things.
2. Because the land they were possessed of was what God had given them,
and he did not design it for Israel. Even wicked men have a right to
their worldly possessions, and must not be wronged. The tares are
allowed their place in the field, and must not be rooted out until the
harvest. God gives and preserves outward blessings to wicked men, to
show that these are not the best things, but he has better in store for
his own children.
|History of the Moabites.
||B. C. 1451.|
24 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.
25 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.
26 And I sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemoth unto
Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying,
27 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.
28 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
29 (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.
30 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.
31 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.
32 Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to
fight at Jahaz.
33 And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote
him, and his sons, and all his people.
34 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:
35 Only the cattle we took for a prey unto ourselves, and the
spoil of the cities which we took.
36 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:
37 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.
God having tried the self-denial of his people in forbidding them to
meddle with the Moabites and Ammonites, and they having quietly passed
by those rich countries, and, though superior in number, not made any
attack upon them, here he recompenses them for their obedience by
giving them possession of the country of Sihon king of the Amorites. If
we forbear what God forbids, we shall receive what he promises, and
shall be no losers at last by our obedience, though it may seem for the
present to be to our loss. Wrong not others, and God shall right
I. God gives them commission to seize upon the country of Sihon king of
This was then God's way of disposing of kingdoms, but such particular
grants are not now either to be expected or pretended. In this
1. Though God assured them that the land should be their own, yet they
must bestir themselves, and contend in battle with the enemy. What God
gives we must endeavour to get.
2. God promises that when they fight he will fight for them. Do you
begin to possess it, and I will begin to put the dread of you
upon them. God would dispirit the enemy and so destroy them, would
magnify Israel and so terrify all those against whom they were
II. Moses sends to Sihon a message of peace, and only begs a passage
through his land, with a promise to give his country no disturbance,
but the advantage of trading for ready money with so great a body,
Moses herein did neither disobey God, who bade him contend with Sihon,
nor dissemble with Sihon; but doubtless it was by divine direction that
he did it, that Sihon might be left inexcusable, though God hardened
his heart. This may illustrate the method of God's dealing with those
to whom he gives his gospel, but does not give grace to believe it.
III. Sihon began the war
God having made his heart obstinate, and hidden from his eyes
the thing that belonged to his peace
that he might deliver him into the hand of Israel. Those that meddle
with the people of God meddle to their own hurt; and God sometimes
ruins his enemies by their own resolves. See
IV. Israel was victorious.
1. They put all the Amorites to the sword, men, women, and children
this they did as the executioners of God's wrath; now the measure of
the Amorites' iniquity was full
and the longer it was in the filling the sorer was the reckoning at
last. This was one of the devoted nations. They died, not as Israel's
enemies, but as sacrifices to divine justice, in the offering of which
sacrifices Israel was employed, as a kingdom of priests. The case being
therefore extraordinary, it ought not to be drawn into a precedent for
military executions, which make no distinction and give no quarter:
those will have judgment without mercy that show no mercy.
2. They took possession of all they had; their cities
and their land,
The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just. What a new world did
Israel now come into! Most of them were born, and had lived all their
days, in a vast howling wilderness, where they knew not what either
fields or cities were, had no houses to dwell in, and neither sowed nor
reaped; and now of a sudden to become masters of a country so well
built, so well husbanded, this made them amends for their long waiting,
and yet it was but the earnest of a great deal more. Much more joyful
will the change be which holy souls will experience when they remove
out of the wilderness of this world to the better country, that is,
the heavenly, to the city that has foundations.