Numbers 21 (CEV)
Israel Defeats the Canaanites at Hormah
1The Canaanite king of Arad lived in the Southern Desert of Canaan, and when he heard that the Israelites were on their way to the village of Atharim, he attacked and took some of them hostage.
2The Israelites prayed, ” Our LORD, if you will help us defeat these Canaanites, we will completely destroy their towns and everything in them, to show that they belong to you.” 3The LORD answered their prayer and helped them wipe out the Canaanite army and completely destroy their towns. That’s why one of the towns is named Hormah, which means ” Destroyed Place.”
It is strange idea to our way of thinking, but Israel at this time would show that property was completely given to God by destroying it — thus making it unusable to anyone else. It was an expensive and whole-hearted way to give things to the Lord. This was Israel’s way of saying, “we’re not fighting this battle for our own profit, but for the glory of God.”
–David Guzik (and all following comments in green)
Moses Makes a Bronze Snake
4The Israelites had to go around the territory of Edom, so when they left Mount Hor, they headed south toward the Red Sea. But along the way, the people became so impatient 5that they complained against God and said to Moses, ” Did you bring us out of Egypt, just to let us die in the desert? There’s no water out here, and we can’t stand this awful food!”
Sadly, the new generation sounded like the old. If they continued in the steps of their fathers, this new generation would be no better able to enter the Promised Land than the previous generation was. In fact, they perhaps acted worse than their fathers here. In eight previous passages (Exodus 15:24, 16:2, 17:3; Numbers 12:1, 14:2, 16:3, 16:41 and 20:2), the children of Israel are described as speaking against Moses. In those situations, Moses knew (Exodus 16:7-8) and the Lord knew (Numbers 14:27) they were really speaking against God, but the people were not brazen enough to do it directly. Now they are brazen enough, because it says the people spoke against God and against Moses!
6Then the LORD sent poisonous snakes that bit and killed many of them.
7Some of the people went to Moses and admitted, ” It was wrong of us to insult you and the LORD. Now please ask him to make these snakes go away.”
If this new generation was capable of deeper sin (such as openly complaining against the Lord in Numbers 21:5), they also have hearts softer and quicker to repent — they quickly humble themselves before the Lord and Moses. They ask Moses to pray for them; they know their answer lies only in the saving work of God.
Moses prayed, 8and the LORD answered, ” Make a snake out of bronze and place it on top of a pole. Anyone who gets bitten can look at the snake and won’t die.”
9Moses obeyed the LORD. And all of those who looked at the bronze snake lived, even though they had been bitten by the poisonous snakes.
John 3:14-16 (NIV)
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
HERE is one of my favorite hymns! “Lift High the Cross” is a 19th-century English Christian hymn. It was written in 1887 by George Kitchin and revised in 1916 by Michael R. Newbolt. The arrangement here is by Sterling Procter and it is performed by The Chancel Choir, The Chapel Choir, Broadway Baptist Church and The Oratorio Chorus, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, and The Festival Brass.
“Lift High the Cross” was first published in the United States in 1974 by Donald Hustad in Hymns for the Living Church.
Israel’s Journey to Moab
10As the Israelites continued their journey to Canaan, they camped at Oboth, 11then at Iye-Abarim in the desert east of Moab, 12and then in the Zered Gorge. 13After that, they crossed the Arnon River gorge and camped in the Moabite desert bordering Amorite territory. The Arnon was the border between the Moabites and the Amorites. 14A song in The Book of the LORD’s Battles mentions the town of Waheb with its creeks in the territory of Suphah. It also mentions the Arnon River, 15with its valleys that lie alongside the Moabite border and extend to the town of Ar. 16From the Arnon, the Israelites went to the well near the town of Beer, where the LORD had said to Moses, ” Call the people together, and I will give them water to drink.”
17That’s also the same well the Israelites sang about in this song:
The well has given us water.
18With their royal scepters,
our leaders pointed out
where to dig the well.
from Morning and Evening,
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon
“Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it.” –Numbers xxi.17
Famous was the well of Beer in the wilderness, because it was the subject of a promise: “That is the well whereof the Lord spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water.” The people needed water, and it was promised by their gracious God. We need fresh supplies of heavenly grace, and in the covenant the Lord has pledged Himself to give all we require.
The well next became the cause of a song. Before the water gushed forth, cheerful faith prompted the people to sing; and as they saw the crystal fount bubbling up, the music grew yet more joyous. In like manner, we who believe the promise of God should rejoice in the prospect of divine revivals in our souls, and as we experience them our holy joy should overflow.
Are we thirsting? Let us not murmur, but sing. Spiritual thirst is bitter to bear, but we need not bear it—the promise indicates a well; let us be of good heart, and look for it.
The Israelites left the desert and camped near the town of Mattanah, 19then at Nahaliel, and then at Bamoth. 20Finally, they reached Moabite territory, where they camped near Mount Pisgah in a valley overlooking the desert north of the Dead Sea.
Israel Defeats King Sihon the Amorite
21The Israelites sent this message to King Sihon of the Amorites:
22Please let us pass through your territory. We promise to stay away from your fields and vineyards, and we won’t drink any water from your wells. As long as we’re in your land, we won’t get off the main road. 23But Sihon refused to let Israel travel through his land. Instead, he called together his entire army and marched into the desert to attack Israel near the town of Jahaz. 24Israel defeated them and took over the Amorite territory from the Arnon River gorge in the south to the Jabbok River gorge in the north. Beyond the Jabbok was the territory of the Ammonites, who were much stronger than Israel.
25The Israelites settled in the Amorite towns, including the capital city of Heshbon with its surrounding villages. 26King Sihon had ruled from Heshbon, after defeating the Moabites and taking over their land north of the Arnon River gorge. 27That’s why the Amorites had written this poem about Heshbon:
Come and rebuild Heshbon,
King Sihon’s capital city!
28His armies marched out
like fiery flames,
burning down the town of Ar
and destroying the hills along the Arnon River.
29You Moabites are done for!
Your god Chemosh
deserted your people;
they were captured, taken away
by King Sihon the Amorite.
30We completely defeated Moab.
The towns of Heshbon and Dibon,
of Nophah and Medeba
are ruined and gone. 31After the Israelites had settled in the Amorite territory, 32Moses sent some men to explore the town of Jazer. Later, the Israelites captured the villages surrounding it and forced out the Amorites who lived there.
We now better understand God’s favor and mercy to Israel. Before they face the hardened warriors of Canaan, God gave them smaller foes and smaller battles to fight. We see how foolish the unbelief of the previous generation was.
Israel Defeats King Og of Bashan
33The Israelites headed toward the region of Bashan, where King Og ruled, and he led his entire army to Edrei to meet Israel in battle.
34The LORD said to Moses, ” Don’t be afraid of Og. I will help you defeat him and his army, just as you did King Sihon who ruled in Heshbon. Og’s territory will be yours.”
35So the Israelites wiped out Og, his family, and his entire army–there were no survivors. Then Israel took over the land of Bashan.
Psalm 81:13-16 (NLT)
“Oh, that my people would listen to me!
Oh, that Israel would follow me, walking in my paths!
How quickly I would then subdue their enemies!
How soon my hands would be upon their foes!
Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him;
they would be doomed forever.
But I would feed you with the finest wheat.
I would satisfy you with wild honey from the rock.”