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Numbers 21:21-26

Context
The Victory over Sihon and Og

21:21 1 Then Israel sent messengers to King Sihon of the Amorites, saying, 2 

21:22 “Let us 3  pass through your land; 4  we will not turn aside into the fields or into the vineyards, nor will we drink water from any well, but we will go along the King’s Highway until we pass your borders.” 21:23 But Sihon did not permit Israel to pass through his border; he 5  gathered all his forces 6  together and went out against Israel into the wilderness. When 7  he came to Jahaz, he fought against Israel. 21:24 But the Israelites 8  defeated him in battle 9  and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the Ammonites, for the border of the Ammonites was strongly defended. 21:25 So Israel took all these cities; and Israel settled in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all its villages. 10  21:26 For Heshbon was the city of King Sihon of the Amorites. Now he had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken all of his land from his control, 11  as far as the Arnon.

1 sn For this section, see further J. R. Bartlett, “Sihon and Og of the Amorites,” VT 20 (1970): 257-77, and “The Moabites and the Edomites,” Peoples of Old Testament Times, 229-58; S. H. Horn, “The Excavations at Tell Hesban, 1973,” ADAJ 18 (1973): 87-88.

2 tc Smr and the LXX have “words of peace.”

3 tn The Hebrew text uses the singular in these verses to match the reference to “Israel.”

4 tc Smr has “by the King’s way I will go. I will not turn aside to the right or the left.”

5 tn Heb “Sihon.”

6 tn Heb “people.”

7 tn The clause begins with a preterite with vav (ו) consecutive, but may be subordinated to the next preterite as a temporal clause.

8 tn The Hebrew text has “Israel,” but the verb is plural.

9 tn Heb “with the edge of the sword.”

10 tn Heb “its daughters.”

11 sn There is a justice, always, in the divine plan for the conquest of the land. Modern students of the Bible often think that the conquest passages are crude and unjust. But an understanding of the ancient Near East is critical here. This Sihon was not a part of the original population of the land. He himself invaded the territory and destroyed the population of Moab that was indigenous there and established his own kingdom. The ancient history is filled with such events; it is the way of life they chose – conquer or be conquered. For Israel to defeat them was in part a turning of their own devices back on their heads – “those that live by the sword will die by the sword.” Sihon knew this, and he did not wait, but took the war to Israel. Israel wanted to pass through, not fight. But now they would either fight or be pushed into the gorge. So God used Israel to defeat Sihon, who had no claim to the land, as part of divine judgment.



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