Numbers 20:18
And Edom said to him, You shall not pass by me, lest I come out against you with the sword.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Numbers 20:18-19. By me — Through my country: I will not suffer thee to do so; which was an act of policy, to secure themselves from so numerous a host. Said — That is, their messengers replied what here follows.20:14-21 The nearest way to Canaan from the place where Israel encamped, was through the country of Edom. The ambassadors who were sent returned with a denial. The Edomites feared to receive damage by the Israelites. And had this numerous army been under any other discipline than that of the righteous God himself, there might have been cause for this jealousy. But Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing; and now the hatred revived, when the blessing was about to be inherited. We must not think it strange, if reasonable requests be denied by unreasonable men, and if those whom God favours be affronted by men.An angel - See Genesis 12:7, note; Exodus 3:2, note. The term is to be understood as importing generally the supernatural guidance under which Israel was. 17. we will go by the king's highway—probably Wady-el-Ghuweir [Roberts], through which ran one of the great lines of road, constructed for commercial caravans, as well as for the progress of armies. The engineering necessary for carrying them over marshes or mountains, and the care requisite for protecting them from the shifting sands, led to their being under the special care of the state. Hence the expression, "the king's highway," which is of great antiquity. i.e. Through my country, as thou desirest; I will not suffer time to do so: which was an act of common policy to secure themselves from so numerous a host. And Edom said unto him,.... The king of Edom replied to Israel, represented by the messengers sent in their name:

thou shall not pass by me; through my country:

lest I come out against thee with the sword; or with those that use the sword, as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan; that is, with an army of soldiers with their drawn swords in their hands, to slay them as enemies.

And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 18. - And Edom said... Thou shalt not pass by me. This was the first of a series of hostile acts, prompted by vindictive jealousy, which brought down the wrath of God upon Edom (compare the prophecy of Obadiah). See, however, on Deuteronomy 2:29. The Lord then said to both of them, both Moses and Aaron, "Because ye have not trusted firmly in Me, to sanctify Me before the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them." The want of belief or firm confidence in the Lord, through which both of them had sinned, was not actual unbelief or distrust in the omnipotence and grace of God, as if God could not relieve the want of water or extend His help to the murmuring people; for the Lord had promised His help to Moses, and Moses did what the Lord had commanded him. It was simply the want of full believing confidence, a momentary wavering of that immovable assurance, which the two heads of the nation ought to have shown to the congregation, but did not show. Moses did even more than God had commanded him. Instead of speaking to the rock with the rod of God in his hand, as God directed him, he spoke to the congregation, and in these inconsiderate words, "Shall we fetch you water out of the rock?" words which, if they did not express any doubt in the help of the Lord, were certainly fitted to strengthen the people in their unbelief, and are therefore described in Psalm 106:33 as prating (speaking unadvisedly) with the lips (cf. Leviticus 5:4). He then struck the rock twice with the rod, "as if it depended upon human exertion, and not upon the power of God alone," or as if the promise of God "would not have been fulfilled without all the smiting on his part" (Knobel). In the ill-will expressed in these words the weakness of faith was manifested, by which the faithful servant of God, worn out with the numerous temptations, allowed himself to be overcome, so that he stumbled, and did not sanctify the Lord before the eyes of the people, as he ought to have done. Aaron also wavered along with Moses, inasmuch as he did nothing to prevent Moses' fall. But their sin became a grievous one, from the fact that they acted unworthily of their office. God punished them, therefore, by withdrawing their office from them before they had finished the work entrusted to them. They were not to conduct the congregation into the promised land, and therefore were not to enter in themselves (cf. Numbers 27:12-13; Deuteronomy 32:48.). The rock, from which water issued, is distinguished by the article הסּלע, not as being already known, or mentioned before, but simply as a particular rock in that neighbourhood; though the situation is not described, so as to render it possible to search for it now.

(Note: Moses Nachmanides has given a correct interpretation of the words, "Speak to the rock before their eyes" (Numbers 20:8): viz., "to the first rock in front of them, and standing in their sight." The fable attributed to the Rabbins, viz., that the rock of Rephidim followed the Israelites all about in the desert, and supplied them with water, cannot be proved from the talmudical and rabbinical passages given by Buxtorf (historia Petrae in deserto) in his exercitatt. c. v., but is simply founded upon a literal interpretation of certain rabbinical statements concerning the identity of the well at Rephidim with that at Kadesh, which were evidently intended to be figurative, as Abarbanel expressly affirms (Buxtorf, l. c. pp. 422ff.). "Their true meaning," he says, "was, that those waters which flowed out in Horeb were the gift of God granted to the Israelites, and continued all through the desert, just like the manna. For wherever they went, fountains of living waters were opened to them as the occasion required. And for this reason, the rock in Kadesh was the same rock as that in Horeb. Still less ground is there for supposing that the Apostle Paul alluded to any such rabbinical fable when he said, "They drank of that spiritual rock that followed them" (1 Corinthians 10:4), and gave it a spiritual interpretation in the words, "and that rock was Christ.")

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