41. MOAB LET ME PASS THROUGH
One day in heaven history will be explained to us. God will show us how He led us. He will tearfully point us to the unbelieving sinful moments of our journey. But with joy He will also mention the good times when we trusted Him in obedience.
Net us continue our study of the journey of Israel from Egypt to Canaan
Numbers 21:10,11 Now the children of Israel moved on and camped in Oboth. 11 And they journeyed from Oboth and camped at Ije Abarim, in the wilderness which is east of Moab, toward the sunrise.
Ije Abarim. Literally, “the ruins of the Abarim.” The first word is from the same root as Ai, which means “stone heap,” or “ruins.” The second means “the other side,” and is the one from which we get the word “Hebrews,” that is, the ones who passed over from the other side—immigrants from beyond the Euphrates.
Accordingly, some would translate Ije Abarim as “the places of the Hebrews” (see on Gen. 10:21).
Which is east of Moab. The Israelites were now going northward. Let us look at another description of the route they travelled:
Deuteronomy 2:1-8 Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the LORD spoke to me, and we skirted Mount Seir for many days. 2 “And the LORD spoke to me, saying: 3 ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward. 4 And command the people, saying, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brethren, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. Therefore watch yourselves carefully. 5 Do not meddle with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as one footstep, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. 6 You shall buy food from them with money, that you may eat; and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink. 7 “For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.” ’8 “And when we passed beyond our brethren, the descendants of Esau who dwell in Seir, away from the road of the plain, away from Elath and Ezion Geber, we turned and passed by way of the Wilderness of Moab.
One is impressed when you visit places like Wadi Rum. Could this be the direction in which the huge pillar of cloud and fire took them?
Let us follow the itinerary of Israel:
Verse 12 From there they moved and camped in the Valley of Zered.
Literally, the “stream of Zared.” Its bed would be dry in the hot season. This word is in use in the Urdu language of India, derived through the Arabic, and applied to the canals of the Punjab.
The “valley of Zared” is now known as the Wadi el–Hesa, a stream that enters the Dead Sea at its southeastern corner. Anciently, the Zared divided Edom from Moab.
The Lord is so good. He first took them to Ezion Geber (modern Eilat/Aqaba) where they could see again the waters of the Red Sea that parted 40 years previous.
And now he brings them to one of the most beautiful place on the border of Edom and Moab. Many tourists come here to enjoy the exquisite beauty of the Wadi Zared or Wadi Hasa as it is also called.
Verse 13 From there they moved and camped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the wilderness that extends from the border of the Amorites; for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites.
The Arnon River flows through the present Wadi el Mujib. Every time I visit this impressive canyon my thoughts go out to Moses and his people who came through here.
Next to the Grand Canyon, this is the greatest.
The Israelites were still eastward of Moab, in the wilderness of Kedemoth (Deut. 2:26).
Between Moab and the Amorites.
The river Arnon rises in the highlands of Arabia and empties into the Dead Sea. The territory of Moab lay to the south of the river, and that of the Amorites to the north (see on Gen. 10:16). The Moabites had been forced south of the Arnon by Sihon Judges 11:22).
Numbers 21:2 For Heshbon was the city of Sihon king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and had taken all his land from his hand as far as the Arnon.
Verse 14 Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the LORD: “Waheb in Suphah, The brooks of the Arnon
“Waheb in Suphah.” Waheb was the name of a town. Suphah, literally, “whirlwind” perhaps a valley or region where whirlwinds were common
Whirlwinds generally came from the south (Job 37:9; Isa. 21:1). The other places mentioned in the context (Num. 21:12–16) lend weight to the suggestion that Suph lay to the north of the Arnon. Some have identified it with Khirbet Sufa, some 8 mi. southeast of Mt. Nebo.
Verse 15 And the slope of the brooks That reaches to the dwelling of Ar, And lies on the border of Moab.”
The border of Moab. The quotations in 14 and 15, from the book of the wars of Jehovah, suggest that the Amorites had forcibly taken these places from the Moabites. The Israelites were probably in Amorite territory and beyond the borders of Moab.
Verse 16 From there they went to Beer, which is the well where the LORD said to Moses, “Gather the people together, and I will give them water.”
Beer is the usual Hebrew word for “well” (Gen. 21:19, 25, 30; 26:15; etc.). It has been tentatively suggested that this is the Beer-elim, or the well of Elim (Isa. 15:8).
Verse 17 Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O well! All of you sing to it.
It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of a good well in Eastern countries. Wells were the objects of praise in song, and of violent dispute among men.
Verse 18 The well the leaders sank, Dug by the nation’s nobles, By the lawgiver, with their staves.” And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah
The lawgiver. From the same word translated “sceptre” in Gen. 49:10. This suggests a miracle on God’s part. The ground was soft sand. As the 70 elders and the heads of the tribes thrust their staves into the sand, God caused the water to flow abundantly, so as to form a well of living water.
Verse 19 From Mattanah to Nahaliel, from Nahaliel to Bamoth, 20
On the borders of Moab. Nahaliel, “the wadi of God,” which has been tentatively identified with the Wadi Zerga Ma‘in.
The Hot Springs of Ma’in in Jordan is a beautiful place. I think our friends took a dip in the hot mineral waters and enjoy it. Similarly, Bamoth, “heights,” may be the same as Bamoth–baal (Joshua 13:17, or “the high places of Baal”
Numbers 22:41 So it was, the next day, that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, that from there he might observe the extent of the people
Verse 20 And from Bamoth, in the valley that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah which looks down on the wasteland.
Country of Moab Literally, “the field of Moab,” probably referring to the region claimed by Moab.
Pisgah. Mt. Pisgah offers a magnificent view across the whole of western Palestine.
The name comes from a verb meaning “to cut,” “to split”; the related noun means “cliff,” and is applied to the broken, jagged edge of the Moabite plateau where it descends steeply toward the Dead Sea and the valley of the Jordan (Num. 23:14; Deut. 3:27; 34:1).
Situated near the northeastern end of the Dead Sea, opposite Jericho, Pisgah is now known as Râs es–Siyâghah.
When you visit Jordan you may go to this place and enjoy the view. No wonder they built a huge church on the spot.
looks down on the wasteland.
Looks down on the wasteland.
Literally, “which looks toward the face of the desert.” from the verb “to be desolate,” and is used of deserts through which Israel journeyed (Deut. 32:10; Ps. 68:7), and of the desolate land north of the Dead Sea (1 Sam. 23:19, 24; 26:1, 3).
King Sihon Defeated
Numbers 21:21,22 Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, “Let me pass through your land. We will not turn aside into fields or vineyards; we will not drink water from wells. We will go by the King’s Highway until we have passed through your territory.”
The Israelites were in the wilderness of Kedemoth, which lay on the borders of the kingdom of Sihon (Deut. 2:26). The land of the Amorites was included in the territory promised to Israel.
The Amorites were not akin to the Israelites as were the Ammonites, the Edomites, and the Moabites, but were of Canaanite stock (Gen. 10:16; Deut. 1:7, 19, 27).
Sihon is called king of the Amorites, as in this verse, or king of Heshbon (Deut. 2:26, 30), or is identified by a combination of the two names (Deut. 1:4; 3:2). Heshbon was the king’s residence or royal city.
Let me pass through your land.
The Israelites sent a message of peace similar to the one previously sent to Edom (20:14), although orders had been given to conquer Sihon (Deut. 2:26, 24).
Verse 23 But Sihon would not allow Israel to pass through his territory. So Sihon gathered all his people together and went out against Israel in the wilderness, and he came to Jahaz and fought against Israel.
Did the Lord promise them victory?
Deuteronomy 2:31 “And the LORD said to me, ‘See, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to possess it, that you may inherit his land.’
Are there promises in the Bible where victory is promised to us?
The Amorite people were destined to destruction (Joshua 3:10), and they themselves now invited disaster by coming out intending to destroy God’s people.
Verse 24 Then Israel defeated him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the people of Ammon; for the border of the people of Ammon was fortified.
A heartening victory for Israel, new to warfare, over an enemy who had recently been victorious over Moab.
From Arnon unto Jabbok. Arnon formed the southern boundary of Sihon’s territory (13), Jabbok the northern, and the river Jordan the western boundary. On the eastlay the Ammonites. The Jabbok still bears its ancient name in modern Hebrew.
Can you think of another victory that was fought at Jabbok and won?
Verse 25 So Israel took all these cities, and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon and in all its villages.
All the cities of the Amorites mentioned in verses 25 to 30.
Heshbon. The royal city, the dwelling place of the king and the seat of his government. The mound Tell Heṣbân, preserves the ancient name.
What a thrill to walk over the ruins of these ancients tells Hisban. The Bible mentions them and archaeology confirms it.
All its villages. Literally, “all her daughters,” referring to the city of Heshbon as the metropolis, or mother city, and to the villages as her offspring, dependent upon her for their economic and social health.
Verse 26 For Heshbon was the city of Sihon king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and had taken all his land from his hand as far as the Arnon. 27
Therefore those who speak in proverbs say:
“Come to Heshbon, let it be built;
Let the city of Sihon be repaired.
Speak in proverbs. Or, “ballad singers” Revised Standard Version. The reference is to the song of vs. 27 to 30 referring to the victory of Sihon over the Moabites. The territory now taken by Israel belonged to the Amorites.
Verse 28 “For fire went out from Heshbon, A flame from the city of Sihon; It consumed Ar of Moab. The lords of the heights of the Arnon.
The fire refers to the conquests by Sihon of the territories surrounding Heshbon, the fire and flames being a symbol of war (see Amos 1:7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5).
Verse 29 Woe to you, Moab!
You have perished, O people of Chemosh!
He has given his sons as fugitives,
And his daughters into captivity,
To Sihon king of the Amorites.
Chemosh was the god of the Moabites (1 Kings 11:7; Jer. 48:7), to whom human sacrifices were offered (2 Kings 3:26, 27), but who did not deliver his devotees in this crisis.
Given his sons. Meaning that Chemosh was displeased with his worshipers and did not save them from their enemies (see Jer. 48:13).
Verse 30 “But we have shot at them;
Heshbon has perished as far as Dibon.
Then we laid waste as far as Nophah,
Which reaches to Medeba.”
There is a modern Diban 5 kilomoters north of the Arnon adjacent to the ancient Dibon, which lies in ruins today. It was here that the famous Moabite Stone was found in 1868.
Medeba. Identified with modern Madeba. Its name appears in the Moabite stone as Mehedeba.
Verse 31 Thus Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites. 32
The land of the Amorites. The territory Israel now occupied on the east side of the Jordan was that of the Amorites, and not of the Moabites, who had been driven from it.
Verse 32 Then Moses sent to spy out Jazer; and they took its villages and drove out the Amorites who were there.
Jaazer. The site of Jaazer is not known. Various places have been suggested, but none can be definitely identified. It was not far from Mt. Gilead (2 Sam. 24:5, 6; 1 Chron. 26:31). With the taking of this city Israel completed the conquest of the Amorites.
Verse 33 And they turned and went up by the way to Bashan. So Og king of Bashan went out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei.
Bashan was famous for its fine pasturelands, on which thrived large herds of cattle, and also for its oak forests Deut. 32:14; Ps. 22:12; Eze. 27:6).
Og. A descendant of the mighty Rephaims Gen. 14:5; Joshua 12:4; 13:12).
Edrei. It was apparently the second royal city of Bashan (see Deut. 1:4; Joshua 12:4; 13:12), 50 kilometers east-southeast of the Sea of Tiberias, and 50 kilometers west of the Hauran range on the southern border of Bashan (Deut. 3:1, 10), near a branch of the Jarmuk.
The ruins of the city are buried beneath the modern village. Had Og remained behind his fortified towers, Israel could scarcely have touched him. In the divine Providence he left his fortifications and gave battle in open country.
Verse 34 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have delivered him into your hand, with all his people and his land; and shall do to him as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon.”
Verse 35 So they defeated him, his sons, and all his people, until there was no survivor left him; and they took possession of his land.
After defeating the army of Og, Israel occupied the whole country, except for some parts of it that held out awhile longer. The final conquest was accomplished by Jair, the son of Manasseh, who received the region of Argob as his reward (Num. 32:39, 41; Deut. 3:14).
Possessed his land. This included some 60 fortified cities in addition to a number of smaller towns (Deut. 3:4, 5; Joshua 13:30). This was given to the half tribe of Manasseh, as already stated (Deut. 3:13; Joshua 13:29, 30; 1 Kings 4:13).
After a series of defeats and privations and lack of faith, the children of Israel at last began to trust God. And the results. Victory.
After the break we continue walking in the footsteps of ancient Israel.
May God help us to learn from their mistake and learn from thei success.