Numbers 21

1 And Arad the Chananitish king who dwelt by the wilderness, heard that Israel came by the way of Atharin; and he made war on Israel, and carried off some of them captives.
2 And Israel vowed a vow to the Lord, and said, If thou wilt deliver this people into my power, I will devote it and its cities .
3 And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered the Chananite into his power; and devoted him and his cities, and they called the name of that place Anathema.
4 And having departed from mount Or by the way to the Red Sea, they compassed the land of Edom, and the people lost courage by the way.
5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, saying, Why is this? Hast thou brought us ought of Egypt to slay us in the wilderness? for there is not bread nor water; and our soul loathes this light bread.
6 And the Lord sent among the people deadly serpents, and they bit the people, and much people of the children of Israel died.
7 And the people came to Moses and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee: pray therefore to the Lord, and let him take away the serpent from us.
8 And Moses prayed to the Lord for the people; and the Lord said to Moses, Make thee a serpent, and put it on a signal- ; and it shall come to pass that whenever a serpent shall bite a man, every one bitten that looks upon it shall live.
9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a signal- : and it came to pass that whenever a serpent bit a man, and he looked on the brazen serpent, he lived.
10 And the children of Israel departed, and encamped in Oboth.
11 And having departed from Oboth, they encamped in Achalgai, on the farther side in the wilderness, which is opposite Moab, toward the east.
12 And thence they departed, and encamped in the valley of Zared.
13 And they departed thence and encamped on the other side of Arnon in the wilderness, which extends from the coasts of the Amorites; for Arnon is the borders of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites.
14 Therefore it is said in a book, A war of the Lord has set on fire Zoob, and the brooks of Arnon.
15 And he has appointed brooks to cause Er to dwell ; and it lies near to the coasts of Moab.
16 And thence the well; this the well of which the Lord said to Moses, Gather the people, and I will give them water to drink.
17 Then Israel sang this song at the well, Begin of the well;
18 the princes digged it, the kings of the nations in their kingdom, in their lordship sank it in the rock: and from the well to Manthanain,
19 and from Manthanain to Naaliel, and from Naaliel to Bamoth, and from Bamoth to Janen, which is in the plain of Moab from the top of the quarried that looks toward the wilderness.
20 And Moses sent ambassadors to Seon king of the Amorites, with peaceable words, saying,
21 We will pass through thy land, we will go by the road; we will not turn aside to the field or to the vineyard.
22 We will not drink water out of thy well; we will go by the king's highway, until we have past thy boundaries.
23 And Seon did not allow Israel to pass through his borders, and Seon gathered all his people, and went out to set the battle in array against Israel into the wilderness; and he came to Jassa, and set the battle in array against Israel.
24 And Israel smote him with the slaughter of the sword, and they became possessors of his land, from Arnon to Jaboc, as far as the children of Amman, for Jazer is the borders of the children of Amman.
25 And Israel took all their cities, and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Esebon, and in all cities belonging to it.
26 For Esebon is the city of Seon king of the Amorites; and he before fought against the king of Moab, and they took all his land, from Aroer to Arnon.
27 Therefore say they who deal in dark speeches, Come to Esebon, that the city of Seon may be built and prepared.
28 For a fire has gone forth from Esebon, a flame from the city of Seon, and has consumed as far as Moab, and devoured the pillars of Arnon.
29 Woe to thee, Moab; thou art lost, thou people of Chamos: their sons are sold for preservation, and their daughters are captives to Seon king of the Amorites.
30 And their seed shall perish Esebon to Daebon; and their women have yet farther kindled a fire against Moab.
31 And Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites.
32 And Moses sent to spy out Jazer; and they took it, and its villages, and cast out the Amorite that dwelt there.
33 And having returned, they went up the road thhebraismat leads to Basan; and Og the king of Basan went forth to meet them, and all his people to war to Edrain.
34 And the Lord said to Moses, Fear him not; for I have delivered him and all his people, and all his land, into thy hands; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst to Seon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Esebon.
35 And he smote him and his sons, and all his people, until he left none of his to be taken alive; and they inherited his land.

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.

Footnotes 5

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