Numbers 21

1 And it came to the ears of the Canaanite, the king of Arad, living in the South, that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, and he came out against them and took some of them prisoners.
2 Then Israel made an oath to the Lord, and said, If you will give up this people into my hands, then I will send complete destruction on all their towns.
3 And the Lord, in answer to the voice of Israel, gave the Canaanites up to them; and they put them and their towns completely to destruction: and that place was named Hormah.
4 Then they went on from Mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, going round the land of Edom: and the spirit of the people was overcome with weariness on the way.
5 And crying out against God and against Moses, they said, Why have you taken us out of Egypt to come to our death in the waste land? For there is no bread and no water, and this poor bread is disgusting to us.
6 Then the Lord sent poison-snakes among the people; and their bites were a cause of death to numbers of the people of Israel.
7 Then the people came to Moses and said, We have done wrong in crying out against the Lord and against you: make prayer to the Lord to take away the snakes from us. So Moses made prayer for the people.
8 And the Lord said to Moses, Make an image of a snake and put it on a rod, and anyone who has been wounded by the snakes, looking on it will be made well.
9 So Moses made a snake of brass and put it on a rod; and anyone who had a snakebite, after looking on the snake of brass, was made well.
10 Then the children of Israel went on and put up their tents in Oboth.
11 And journeying on again from Oboth, they put up their tents in Iye-abarim, in the waste land before Moab looking east.
12 And moving on from there, they put up their tents in the valley of Zered.
13 From there they went on and put up their tents on the other side of the Arnon, which is on the waste land at the edge of the land of the Amorites; for the Arnon is the line of division between Moab and the Amorites:
14 As it says in the book of the Wars of the Lord, Vaheb in Suphah, and the valley of the Amon;
15 The slope of the valleys going down to the tents of Ar and touching the edge of Moab.
16 From there they went on to Beer, the water-spring of which the Lord said to Moses, Make the people come together and I will give them water.
17 Then Israel gave voice to this song: Come up, O water-spring, let us make a song to it:
18 The fountain made by the chiefs, made deep by the great ones of the people, with the law-givers' rod, and with their sticks. Then from the waste land they went on to Mattanah:
19 And from Mattanah to Nahaliel: and from Nahaliel to Bamoth:
20 And from Bamoth to the valley in the open country of Moab, and to the top of Pisgah looking over Jeshimon.
21 And Israel sent men to Sihon, king of the Amorites, saying,
22 Let me go through your land: we will not go into field or vine-garden, or take the water of the springs; we will go by the highway till we have gone past the limits of your land.
23 And Sihon would not let Israel go through his land; but got all his people together and went out against Israel into the waste land, as far as Jahaz, to make war on Israel.
24 But Israel overcame him, and took all his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the country of the children of Ammon, for the country of the children of Ammon was strongly armed.
25 And Israel took all their towns, living in Heshbon and all the towns and small places of the Amorites.
26 For Heshbon was the town of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who had made war against an earlier king of Moab and taken from him all his land as far as the Arnon.
27 So the makers of wise sayings say, Come to Heshbon, building up the town of Sihon and making it strong:
28 For a fire has gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the town of Sihon: for the destruction of Ar in Moab, and the lords of the high places of the Arnon.
29 Sorrow is yours, O Moab! Destruction is your fate, O people of Chemosh: his sons have gone in flight, and his daughters are prisoners, in the hands of Sihon, king of the Amorites.
30 They are wounded with our arrows; destruction has come on Heshbon, even to Dibon; and we have made the land waste as far as Nophah, stretching out to Medeba.
31 So Israel put up their tents in the land of the Amorites.
32 And Moses sent men secretly to Jazer, and they took its towns, driving out the Amorites who were living there.
33 Then turning they went up by the way of Bashan; and Og, king of Bashan, went out against them with all his people, to the fight at Edrei.
34 And the Lord said to Moses, Have no fear of him: for I have given him up into your hands, with all his people and his land; do to him as you did to Sihon, king of the Amorites, at Heshbon.
35 So they overcame him and his sons and his people, driving them all out: and they took his land for their heritage.

Numbers 21 Commentary

Chapter 21

The Canaanites of Arad destroyed. (1-3) The people murmuring, are plagued with fiery serpents, They repenting, are healed through the brazen serpent. (4-9) Further journeys of the Israelites. (10-20) Sihon and Og overcome, Their land possessed. (21-35)

Verses 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.

Verses 4-9 The children of Israel were wearied by a long march round the land of Edom. They speak discontentedly of what God had done for them, and distrustfully of what he would do. What will they be pleased with, whom manna will not please? Let not the contempt which some cast on the word of God, make us value it less. It is the bread of life, substantial bread, and will nourish those who by faith feed upon it, to eternal life, whoever may call it light bread. We see the righteous judgment God brought upon them for murmuring. He sent fiery serpents among them, which bit or stung many to death. It is to be feared that they would not have owned the sin, if they had not felt the smart; but they relent under the rod. And God made a wonderful provision for their relief. The Jews themselves say it was not the sight of the brazen serpent that cured; but in looking up to it, they looked up to God as the Lord that healed them. There was much gospel in this. Our Saviour declared, ( john 3:14 john 3:15 ) , that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up, that whatsoever believeth in him, should not perish. Compare their disease and ours. Sin bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder. Compare the application of their remedy and ours. They looked and lived, and we, if we believe, shall not perish. It is by faith that we look unto Jesus, ( Hebrews 12:2 ) . Whosoever looked, however desperate his case, or feeble his sight, or distant his place, was certainly and perfectly cured. The Lord can relieve us from dangers and distresses, by means which human reason never would have devised. Oh that the venom of the old serpent, inflaming men's passions, and causing them to commit sins which end in their eternal destruction, were as sensibly felt, and the danger as plainly seen, as the Israelites felt pain from the bite of the fiery serpents, and feared the death which followed! Then none would shut their eyes to Christ, or turn from his gospel. Then a crucified Saviour would be so valued, that all things else would be accounted loss for him; then, without delay, and with earnestness and simplicity, all would apply to him in the appointed way, crying, Lord, save us; we perish! Nor would any abuse the freeness of Christ's salvation, while they reckoned the price which it cost him.

Verses 10-20 We have here the removes of the children of Israel, till they came to the plains of Moab, from whence they passed over Jordan into Canaan. The end of their pilgrimage was near. "They set forward." It were well if we did thus; and the nearer we come to heaven, were so much the more active and abundant in the work of the Lord. The wonderful success God granted to his people, is here spoken of, and, among the rest, their actions on the river Arnon, at Vaheb in Suphah, and other places on that river. In every stage of our lives, nay, in every step, we should notice what God has wrought for us; what he did at such a time, and what in such a place, ought to be distinctly remembered. God blessed his people with a supply of water. When we come to heaven, we shall remove to the well of life, the fountain of living waters. They received it with joy and thankfulness, which made the mercy doubly sweet. With joy must we draw water out of the wells of salvation, ( Isaiah 12:3 ) . As the brazen serpent was a figure of Christ, who is lifted up for our cure, so is this well a figure of the Spirit, who is poured forth for our comfort, and from whom flow to us rivers of living waters, ( john 7:38 john 7:39 ) . Does this well spring up in our souls? If so, we should take the comfort to ourselves, and give the glory to God. God promised to give water, but they must open the ground. God's favours must be expected in the use of such means as are within our power, but still the power is only of God.

Verses 21-35 Sihon went with his forces against Israel, out of his own borders, without provocation, and so ran upon his own ruin. The enemies of God's church often perish by the counsels they think most wisely taken. Og, king of Bashan, instead of being warned by the fate of his neighbours, to make peace with Israel, makes war with them, which proves in like manner his destruction. Wicked men do their utmost to secure themselves and their possessions against the judgments of God; but all in vain, when the day comes on which they must fall. God gave Israel success, while Moses was with them, that he might see the beginning of the glorious work, though he must not live to see it finished. This was, in comparison, but as the day of small things, yet it was an earnest of great things. We must prepare for fresh conflicts and enemies. We must make no peace or truce with the powers of darkness, nor even treat with them; nor should we expect any pause in our contest. But, trusting in God, and obeying his commands, we shall be more than conquerors over every enemy.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS 21

This chapter gives an account of the defeat of King Arad, the Canaanite, Nu 21:1-3 of the murmurings of the children of Israel, because of difficulties in travelling round, the land of Edom, for which they were punished with fiery serpents, Nu 21:4-6 and how that upon their repentance a brazen serpent was ordered to be made, and to be erected on a pole, that whoever looked to it might live, Nu 21:7-9 and of the several journeys and stations of the children of Israel, until they came to the land of the Amorites, Nu 21:10-20, when they sent a message to Sihon their king, to desire him to grant them a passage through his country; but he refusing, they fought with him, smote him, and possessed his land, concerning which many proverbial sayings were used, Nu 21:21-32 and the chapter is concluded with the defeat of Og, king of Bashan, Nu 21:33-35.

Numbers 21 Commentaries