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Deeper Commentary

Deu 2:1 Then we turned and took our journey into the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea as Yahweh spoke to me, and we circled Mount Seir many days-
The territory of Edom / mount Seir was within the territory promised to Abraham. But they were told to circle around the southern part of it. And for a long time, to teach them that they were not being allowed to enter the land promised to them.

Deu 2:2 Yahweh spoke to me saying-
The directions for travel were apparently given directly to Moses at this point, rather than through simply following the cloud. This may be a tacit reflection of the peoples' disobedience, or because at this critical time they had to understand very clearly that they were to move away from the border of the promised land and retrace their steps back to Egypt- which they had earlier wished to do. They were being made to realize what their desire to return to Egypt really felt like. Their condemnation was in fact only what they themselves had asked for. And that will be equally true in the judgment of the last day.

Deu 2:3 You have circled this mountain long enough; turn to the north-
This may be a reference to mount Seir, or "mountain" is being used to refer to a kingdom, in this case that of Edom (:1).

Deu 2:4 Command the people saying, ‘You are to pass through the border of your brothers the children of Esau, who dwell in Seir, and they will be afraid of you-
Dt. 2:4 was but a conditional promise. For in Num. 20:18 we learn that "Edom said to him, You shall not pass through", and they came out against them. I suggest that instead of believing these words, and the promise that the hearts of all would fear them (Ex. 15:16), the Israelites feared Esau- just as faithless Jacob had done. And so things were transferred the other war around. Esau was not afraid of Israel, as potentially they could have feared.

Take good heed to yourselves therefore-
Paul's "Take heed therefore unto yourselves" (Acts 20:28) is quoted from many places in Deuteronomy (e.g. Dt. 2:4; 4:9,15,23; 11:16; 12:13,19,30; 24:8; 27:9).
Paul warned the new Israel that after his death ("after my departing", Acts 20:29) there would be serious apostasy. This is the spirit of his very last words, in 2 Tim. 4. it is exactly the spirit of Moses' farewell speech throughout the book of Deuteronomy, and throughout his final song (Dt. 32) and Dt. 31:29: "After my death you will utterly corrupt yourselves".

Deu 2:5 don’t meddle with them, for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau for a possession-
And yet it was within the territory promised to Abraham's seed, who were now interpreted as the Israelites. We have here another recalculation of God's purpose and intended scope of salvation with His people. The whole territory was eventually reduced to Canaan, and even that was limited- for Israel lacked the spiritual ambition to accept the full extent of God's potential Kingdom promise.

Deu 2:6 You shall purchase food of them for money that you may eat, and you shall also buy water of them for money that you may drink’-
Dt. 2:4,6 sounds like definite prophecy: “Command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau... and they shall be afraid of shall buy meat of them for money.... ye shall also buy water of them for money”. And yet when Israel came to these people and tried to pass through, and offered them money for bread and water, they were rejected by them (Num. 20:16-21; Jud. 11:17). The condition- that Edom had the freedom to reject them, and Israel had the faith to believe- isn’t mentioned, but it nonetheless stood. Prophecy is an imperative to action- it isn’t just a fascinating study of how predictions have been matched with reality.

Deu 2:7 For Yahweh your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand; He has known your walking through this great wilderness; these forty years Yahweh your God has been with you and you have lacked nothing-
Because God ‘knew’ Israel’s journey through the wilderness, therefore they “lacked nothing”. The Hebrew language reflects certain realities about the nature of God's ways. The common Hebrew word for 'to see', especially when used about God's 'seeing', means also 'to provide' (Gen. 16:13; 22:8,14; 1 Sam. 16:17; ). What this means in practice is that the fact God sees and knows all things means that He can and will therefore and thereby provide for us in the circumstances of life; for He sees and knows all things. 

We must remember that the 40 years wandering were punishment for sin, it was the experience of condemnation, and serves as the basis for later Biblical pictures of the rejected. Unable to enter the Kingdom they so wanted to enter, wandering until they died. But Moses in Deuteronomy perceives that even for those condemned people, Yahweh provided and they "lacked nothing" by His grace. Dt. 8 says He ensured their clothes didn't wear out and their feet didn't swell. He ensured the condemned had comfortable footwear. How staggeringly gracious is that. We see something of God's essence here- that He cares even for the condemned. Such a far cry from the classical picture of "hell". A soldier, a man, a boxer, an army... is known by how they treat their wounded, especially their enemy. This is the measure of the man. And we see here how it is the measure of God.

Deu 2:8 So we passed by from our brothers the children of Esau who dwell in Seir, from the way of the Arabah from Elath and from Ezion Geber. We turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab-
The brotherhood between Jacob and Esau is stressed (:4). Perhaps this was to remind rejected Israel that they were no better than faithless Esau. And yet God later shows His awareness that Esau was indeed Jacob's brother, and condemns them for joining in the desecration of Jerusalem. We see here the way that the ties that bind in family life are respected by God over the generations.  

Deu 2:9 Yahweh said to me, Don’t bother Moab, neither contend with them in battle, for I will not give you of his land for a possession, because I have given Ar to the children of Lot for a possession-
Moab was within the territory promised to Abraham's seed, who were now interpreted as the Israelites. We have here another recalculation of God's purpose and intended scope of salvation with His people. I suggest that this statement is a 'new' decision of God. The whole territory was eventually reduced to Canaan, and even that was limited- for Israel lacked the spiritual ambition to accept the full extent of God's potential Kingdom promise.

Deu 2:10 (The Emim lived there before, a people great and many and tall as the Anakim-
The Israelites were aware of the existence of unusually large people – the Zamzumin, Zumin, Rephaim, Nephilim, Emim, and Anakim (Dt. 1:28; 2:10,11,20,21; 3:11). The bed of Og, King of Bashan, a Rephaim, was nine cubits long, over four meters (14 feet) – Dt. 3:11. In Canaanite mythology these giants came from intermarriage between human beings and the gods; but Moses in Genesis 6 is surely addressing this myth and correcting it. He’s saying (by implication) that this didn’t happen, but rather the Godly seed and the wicked intermarried; and yes, at that time, there were giants in the earth, but they were judged and destroyed by the flood, and the implication surely was that the Israel who first heard Moses’ inspired history could take comfort that the giants they faced in Canaan would likewise be overcome by God.

Deu 2:11 these also are accounted Rephaim, as the Anakim, but the Moabites call them Emim-
As noted on :12, the point is that unbelieving Moab drove out these tribes, and so how much more should Israel be able to, with God on their side and the weight of the promises to Abraham behind them. But as so often happens, the unbelieving secular world have more faith, hope and brave commitment to their principles than do God's people.

Deu 2:12 The Horites also lived in Seir before, but the children of Esau succeeded them, and they destroyed them from before them and lived in their place, as Israel did to the land of his possession, which Yahweh gave to them.)-
This history had been arranged by God to encourage His people; if those in the unbelieving world could do this, then how much more could they with God behind them. God arranges our lives so that we sometimes encounter others who without faith in God have achieved great things in their lives- in order to inspire us that if they can do it, how much more can we. See on Dt. 2:21.

Deu 2:13 Now rise up and cross over the brook Zered. We went over the brook Zered-
This was a tiny brook that could be walked over easily without hardly getting the feet wet. The idea is that they had been unable to cross this tiny river which was seen as the boundary of the promised land- for 38 years (:14). The tiny brook is given such significance to demonstrate to them how easy entrance into the land really was. It seems this was when the manna and water from the rock ceased (hence :28).

Deu 2:14 The days in which we came from Kadesh Barnea until we had come over the brook Zered were thirty-eight years, until all the generation of the men of war were consumed from the midst of the camp, as Yahweh swore to them-
Gen. 15:13 had predicted 400 years of bondage in Egypt, a period which was increased to 430 (Ex. 12:40,41). The "fourth generation" were to return to the land of Canaan, when the iniquity of the Amorites was "full" (Gen. 15:16). That is exemplified in the genealogy given at Ex. 6:16-20: (1) Levi, (2) Kohath, (3) Amram, (4) Moses. But the extra 38 years stretch this, and is an example of where time periods can be expanded or decreased. The 70 years captivity in Babylon was thus reinterpreted to 70 x 7 in Dan. 9. It is all multi factorial, and we cannot discern all the variables; only God can. Perhaps in this case, the sin of the Amorites took a bit longer to fill up [witness the repentant attitude of Rahab, an Amorite]; and the sin of Israel took longer to punish. 

Deu 2:15 Moreover the hand of Yahweh was against them, to destroy them from the midst of the camp until they were consumed-
AV "from among the host" [i.e. army], seeing the reference was to men of military age being destroyed (:16 "the men of war").

Deu 2:16 So it happened. When all the men of war were consumed and dead from among the people-
LXX "when all the men of war dying out of the midst of the people had fallen". We get the impression of these men dying in the midst of the people, falling as warriors fall in battle, but dying when no man pursued them. Ps. 91:5-7 describes Joshua surviving this kind of destruction of that generation: "You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day; nor of the plagues that stalks in darkness, nor of the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you".

Deu 2:17 Yahweh spoke to me saying-
Some texts read "to us", hence GNB "the LORD said to us". What was spoken to Moses was spoken to the people. He was fully their representative, looking ahead to the nature of the Lord Jesus.

Deu 2:18 You are today to pass over Ar, the border of Moab-
It could be implied in Num. 21:13-15 that some significant action occurred here, perhaps even a miraculous parting of the waters similar to that at the Red Sea (Num. 21:14). The essence of the Red Sea deliverance continues throughout our wilderness journey, just as the cloud of water which enveloped them at the Red Sea actually continued over them throughout the journey. This was the spot where Balak and Balaam were to later meet (Num. 22:36), at the border of Moab. The internal agreement of geographical details within the Bible is significant, seeing that the writers lacked maps and geographical information. The chances of a contradiction are huge- but these records are Divinely inspired. 

Deu 2:19 and when you come near to the children of Ammon, don’t bother them or contend with them, for I will not give you of the land of the children of Ammon for a possession, because I have given it to the children of Lot for a possession-
As also commanded about other areas in :5 and :9. I suggested on those verses that these areas were within the land promised to Abraham, but God was now recalculating the land intended for Israel, in accordance with their own lack of vision. Or perhaps the idea was that Israel weren’t to take anything less than the real promised land; they weren’t to seek to develop their own kingdom wherever seemed easier and more convenient to them, they weren't to be satisfied with anything less than the Kingdom intended for them. Likewise we are surrounded by temptation to have our own pseudo-Kingdom of God in this life; but we are to keep focused on the one and only true Kingdom of God which is yet to come.

Deu 2:20 That also is accounted a land of Rephaim. Rephaim lived there before, but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim-
Again the point is made that the Ammonites had cast out giants, and Israel should do likewise in their intended territory. They were given these encounters with those who had done so in order to encourage them that it was possible. We too are given such meetings with people and situations in our lives; people who have already done what we are intended to do.

Deu 2:21 a people great and many and tall, as the Anakim; but Yahweh destroyed them before them and they succeeded them and lived in their place-
If giants weren’t a barrier to the children of Lot taking land for a possession, neither should they be for Israel; but they greatly feared them (Num. 13:28,33). If worldly people can achieve as they do, quitting alcoholism, achieving amazing goals... how much more can we with God on our side. 

Deu 2:22 as He did for the children of Esau, who dwell in Seir, when He destroyed the Horites from before them and they succeeded them and lived in their place to this day-
Although Esau had chosen the way of idolatry, God still worked with him and his seed in order to destroy the tribes of giants in his intended inheritance. It seems God at times works with those who are not truly His people; and this is all encouragement for us to go ahead in His strength, as His true people.

Deu 2:23 and the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorim, who came out of Caphtor, destroyed them and lived in their place-
The point is that giants as far as Gaza had been destroyed by Edom. But Jacob's sons were to struggle to subdue Gaza; it was a continual source of Philistine opposition to them until the days of David.

Deu 2:24 Rise up, take your journey and pass over the valley of the Arnon. Behold, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite king of Heshbon and his land; begin to possess it and contend with him in battle-
The implication could be that Moses was disobedient to this and tried to avoid confrontation with him (:27). But we can’t ultimately avoid the confrontations which God at times puts in our path (:32). Moses seems to express his own weakness in his final speeches to Israel in Deuteronomy. He recalls how even towards the end of the wilderness journey, God told him to contend with Sihon in battle (Dt. 2:24); and yet Moses admits: "I sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemoth unto Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying, Let me pass through thy land: I will go along by the highway, I will turn neither unto the right hand nor to the left. Thou shalt sell me food for money, that I may eat; and give me water for money, that I may drink: only let me pass through on my feet" (Dt. 2:26-28). And yet God by grace to Moses hardened Sihon's heart so that there was a battle in which, again by grace, he gave Israel victory.


Deu 2:25 This day will I begin to put the dread of you and the fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole sky, who will hear the report of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you-
Just as all the animals and everything in the eretz promised to Abraham was 'delivered into the hands' of Noah (s.w. Gen. 9:2), and were given fear and dread of humans, so the nations of that eretz were delivered into the hands of Israel (s.w. Ex. 6:8; 23:31; Dt. 2:24; 3:2,3; 7:24; 21:10; Josh. 2:24; Jud. 1:2). Tragically, like Adam in Eden [perhaps the same eretz promised to Abraham] and Noah in the new, cleansed eretz, Israel didn't realize this potential. What was delivered into the hand of Joshua (Josh. 2:24) actually wasn't delivered into their hand, because they disbelieved (Jud. 2:23); and this looks ahead to the disbelief of so many in the work of the Lord Jesus, who has indeed conquered the Kingdom for us. They considered the promise of the nations being delivered into their hand as somehow open to question, and only a possibility and not at all certain (Jud. 8:7; Num. 21:2 cp. Num. 21:34). Some like Jephthah (s.w. Jud. 11:32; 12:3), Ehud (Jud. 3:10,28), Deborah (Jud. 4:14), Gideon (Jud. 7:15) did, for a brief historical moment; but as individuals, and their victories were not followed up on. Instead they were dominated by the territory. And so instead, they were delivered into the hands of their enemies within the eretz (s.w. Lev. 26:25; Jud. 13:1).   

Deu 2:26 I sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace saying-
See on :24. The Divine intention was that the victory over Sihon would put fear into the hearts of all the other tribes (:25). But it was God's ideal intention that Sihon would have accepted the message of peace- perhaps implying peace with God, as "peace" often means in the Bible. We see here the complexity of God's workings with men. Little surprise, therefore, that at times we fail to perceive what God is doing in our lives. Things appear to be left hanging, or events lack apparent meaning, or things could have various possible outcomes, some of which are quite contradictory when compared against each other. This offering of peace before fighting was to be typical of Israel's approach (Dt. 20:10).

Deu 2:27 Let me pass through your land; I will go along by the highway; I will turn neither to the right hand nor to the left-
The king's highway; they promised not to eat food from the fields nor drink water from the wells (Num. 21:22). Such a large body of people would have required a huge amount of food and water each day. 

Deu 2:28 You shall sell me food for money, that I may eat and give me water for money, that I may drink; only let me pass through on my feet-
The implication would be that the water from the rock "which followed them" and the manna had ceased- as soon as they entered the land by crossing the brook Zered (:13). To drink water for money was a sign of being subservient to the seller of the water (Lam. 5:4). Water was to be freely provided to travellers; Israel were being taught humility by offering to pay for it.

Deu 2:29 as the children of Esau who dwell in Seir, and the Moabites who dwell in Ar, did to me, until I shall pass over the Jordan-
Dt. 2:29 says that the Edomites and Moabites sold Israel food and water as they passed through. But Dt. 23:3,4 says that the Moabites didn't do this and were cursed because of it. Perhaps a few Moabites did do so, but Moab generally didn't. Or perhaps the sense of Dt. 2:29 is that Moab and Edom did let Israel pass through without harassing them, hence GNB "All we want to do is to pass through your country... The descendants of Esau, who live in Edom, and the Moabites, who live in Ar, allowed us to pass through their territory". But Edom didn't let Israel pass through (Num. 20:18). So the point of Dt. 2:29 may be that Sihon was warned that Edom and Moab had been asked to do this but had not done so, and Sihon was to take warning from this, to learn from the mistakes of others. However, we should note that Dt. 2:29 speaks of "the children of Esau who dwell in Seir". These Edomites perhaps did let Israel pass through, whereas the Edomites in the Kadesh area didn't.

Into the land which Yahweh our God gives us-
This phrase or idea occurs many times in Deuteronomy. Moses was urging the people to believe the most basic reality- that God would really give them the promised Kingdom. And we too are likewise continually encouraged by God’s word. In this particular example, Moses quite openly tells a Gentile people about their destination, in the same way as we should be unashamed to speak of our hope of the Kingdom to unbelievers.

Deu 2:30 But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for Yahweh your God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into your hand, as at this day-
The same Hebrew words used of the hardening of Gentile heart occur in a positive context- for God also hardens or strengthens the hearts of the righteous (Ps. 27:14; Is. 35:4). Indeed, Is. 35:4 speaks of how the righteous shouldn’t have a weak or [Heb.] ‘fluid’ heart, but rather a hardened one. Clearly enough, God solidifies human attitudes, one way or the other, through the work of His Spirit upon our spirit. This is a sobering thought- for He is prepared to confirm a person in their weak thinking. But on the other hand, even the weakest basic intention towards righteousness is solidified by Him too. "Obstinate" in Dt. 2:30 is the word used when appealing for Israel and Joshua to be "of good courage" (Dt. 31:6,7). The strength of heart in Dt. 2:30 was given by God's activity upon the heart of Sihon, confirming him in the way he wanted to go, 'hardening his spirit' in that way. And so the exhortation to have a courageous of strengthened heart was an appeal to let God's Spirit work upon their spirit, to allow themselves to be strengthened in their mind, that they might inherit the Kingdom. And that appeal comes to us too.

Deu 2:31 Yahweh said to me, Behold, I have begun to deliver up Sihon and his land before you; begin to possess, that you may inherit his land-
The victory against Sihon was a beginning, in that it was a guarantee of further success (:25,26).
"Drive out" is s.w. "possess". We must note the difference between the  Canaanite peoples and their kings being "struck" and their land "taken" by Joshua-Jesus; and the people of Israel permanently taking possession. This is the difference between the Lord's victory on the cross, and our taking possession of the Kingdom. Even though that possession has been "given" to us. The word used for "possession" is literally 'an inheritance'. The allusion is to the people, like us, being the seed of Abraham. The Kingdom was and is our possession, our inheritance- if we walk in the steps of Abraham. But it is one thing to be the seed of Abraham, another to take possession of the inheritance; and Israel generally did not take possession of all the land (Josh. 11:23 13:1; 16:10; 18:3; 23:4). The language of inheritance / possession is applied to us in the New Testament (Eph. 1:11,14; Col. 3:24; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Pet. 1:4 etc.). Israel were promised: "You shall possess it" (Dt. 30:5; 33:23). This was more of a command than a prophecy, for sadly they were "given" the land but did not "possess" it. They were constantly encouraged in the wilderness that they were on the path to possessing the land (Dt. 30:16,18; 31:3,13; 32:47), but when they got there they didn't possess it fully.

Deu 2:32 Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Jahaz-
"Jahaz" is the word for 'threshing floor', and suggests the victory was therefore a foretaste of judgment upon the tribes opposing Israel. But they could have avoided that condemnation- for peace was offered to them first (:26).

Deu 2:33 Yahweh our God delivered him up before us and we struck him and his sons and all his people-
This would have been Israel's first battle experience. And God gave them a total victory, in order to encourage them that the opposition in Canaan would likewise crumble before them. We continually sense His hand working to educate us in the path of faith.

Deu 2:34 We took all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed every inhabited city, with the women and the little ones. We left none remaining-
Even on our wilderness journey, before we have possessed the Kingdom, we do have some foretastes of that Kingdom; in the same way as Israel began to possess the promised land in some limited sense whilst still in the desert.

There is a harder side of God, the side we'd rather not see. God almost seems to underline the hardness of it in the way He records His word; thus He emphasizes that the "little ones" of the Canaanite cities were to be killed by the sword (Dt. 2:34), the male babies of the Midianites were to be killed by God's command (Num. 31:17; which was exactly what Herod ordered). The unfulfilled believer will accept the gracious side of God (which is undoubtedly the aspect more emphasized in the Bible), but refuse to really accept this other side, while passively admitting that this harder aspect of God is revealed in His word. But it's all or nothing. We either accept the self-revelation of God in the Bible, or we reject it- that's how He sees it. Our temptation is to think that God sees things as we see them, to think that God is merely an ideal human being. But the day of judgment will reveal otherwise (Ps. 50:21). He is God, not man. It is not for us to set the terms.

Deu 2:35 Only the livestock we took for a prey to ourselves, with the spoil of the cities which we had taken-
We see here the widely differing possible outcomes for Sihon and his people. They were offered peace with God and fellowship with His people (:26); and the opportunity to materially benefit by selling Israel a huge amount of food and water for money. They refused, and so they ended up losing their lives, families, cattle- everything. In the end, these are the choices facing those who encounter the gospel of peace.

Deu 2:36 From Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of the Arnon, and the city that is in the valley, to Gilead, there was not a city too high for us; Yahweh our God delivered up all before us-
"Too high" recalls how earlier the people had turned away from Canaan because they thought that walled cities were impossible to conquer. These victories were to lead them towards faith that even the legendary walls of Jericho would fall before them. God likewise gently educates us in the path of faith; victory over a relatively small wall leads us to believe in victory against far taller walls which we will later encounter in life.

Deu 2:37 Only to the land of the children of Ammon you didn’t come near, all the side of the river Jabbok, and the cities of the hill country, and wherever Yahweh our God forbad us-
Paul speaks of how he had been given areas in which it was potentially possible for him to preach in, and he didn’t enter into those areas which had either already been preached in, or which were another brother’s responsibility (2 Cor. 10:16). This seems to suggest that God does indeed look down from Heaven and as it were divide up the world amongst those who could preach in it. This is why Paul perceived that he had been ‘forbidden’ from preaching in some areas [e.g. Macedonia] and yet a door was opened to him in Achaia. This language is allusive to the way in which the Lord forbad Israel to conquer certain areas on their way to the promised land (Dt. 2:37). The point is, between us, our preaching is a war of conquest for Jesus, pulling down strong holds and fortresses as Paul put it; or, as Jesus expressed it, taking the Kingdom by force, as storm troopers.