Numbers 21:26
For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even to Arnon.
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(26) And taken all his land . . . —i.e., the land between the Arnon and the Jabbok, as it is explained in the last clause of the verse.

Numbers 21:26. Heshbon was the city of Sihon — This is added as a reason why Israel took possession of this land, because it was not now the land of the Moabites, but in the possession of the Amorites. The former king — The predecessor of Balak, who was the present king. See the wisdom of God’s providence, which prepares long before for the accomplishment of his purposes in their season! This country, being designed for Israel, is beforehand put into the hand of the Amorites, who little think they have it but as trustees, till Israel comes of age. We understand not the vast schemes of Providence: but known unto God are all his works!21:21-35 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.Heshbon - Now Heshban, a ruined city, due east of the point where the Jordan enters the Dead Sea; conspicuous from all parts of the high plateau on which it stands, but concealed, like the rest of the plateau, from the valley beneath. 26. Heshbon—(So 7:4)—situated sixteen English miles north of the Arnon, and from its ruins it appears to have been a large city. The city of Sihon: this is added as a reason why Israel took possession of this land, notwithstanding God’s prohibition of meddling with them or their land, Deu 2:9, because it was not now the land of the Moabites, but had been some time since taken from them, and in the possession of the Amorites.

The former king of Moab, i.e. the predecessor of Balak, who was the present king. For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites,.... His royal city, where he kept his palace, where he had resided for some time, and perhaps some of his predecessors; and therefore being now in his possession when taken by the Israelites, they had a good right and title to keep it, and dwell in it: and indeed this is here given as a reason of it:

who had fought against the former king of Moab; either the king that reigned before Balak, or some king of Moab, that reigned formerly, against whom one of the name of Sihon, which might be a common name to the kings of the Amorites, as Pharaoh to the Egyptians, had engaged in war:

and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon; and had been in the hands of the Amorites some years; and therefore the Moabites had no reason to object to the Israelites dwelling in it, and possessing it, which they had not taken from them, but from the Amorites in a lawful war. And for proof of this, reference is had to the bards and poets of those times, who were the persons that transmitted in verse the history of famous actions to posterity.

For {k} Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon.

(k) For if it had been the Moabites, the Israelites might not have possessed it, De 2:9.

26–30. The writer explains that Heshbon used to belong to the Moabites, but that Sihon had taken it from them. He quotes an ancient poem with which he was acquainted, having heard it from the lips of ‘those that speak in proverbs’ (see on Numbers 21:27).

The interpretation of the song is somewhat doubtful, and Numbers 21:30 is corrupt and almost untranslateable. The word ‘wherefore’ (Numbers 21:27) suggests that the poem is quoted in order to explain Numbers 21:26; the writer, as in Numbers 21:14, illustrates by an ancient song a statement which he has just made. This statement is that Moab had been previously conquered by the Amorites; and the song is a taunt to the Amorites whose capital Israel has destroyed. The taunt is, in effect, ‘Why do you not come and rebuild your fallen capital, for you shewed prowess enough in the past when you conquered Moab!’ All the verbs in Numbers 21:28 f. must therefore be rendered as aorists—‘a fire went out,’ ‘it devoured,’ ‘thou wast undone,’ ‘he gave.’ Another interpretation of the song will be mentioned after the notes on Numbers 21:30; but the above is much the more probable.Verse 26. - All his land. This is qualified by what follows: "even unto Arnon" (cf. Judges 11:13-19). From Bamoth they proceeded "to the valley, which (is) in the field of Moab, upon the top of Pisgah, and looks across the face of the desert." הפּסנּה ראשׁ, head, or height of the Pisgah, is in apposition to the field of Moab. The "field of Moab" was a portion of the table-land which stretches from Rabbath Ammn to the Arnon, which "is perfectly treeless for an immense distance in one part (viz., the neighbourhood of Eleale), but covered over with the ruins of towns that have been destroyed," and which "extends to the desert of Arabia towards the east, and slopes off to the Jordan and the Dead Sea towards the west" (v. Raumer, Pal. p. 71). It is identical with "the whole plain from Medeba to Dibon" (Joshua 13:9), and "the whole plain by Medeba" (Numbers 21:16), in which Heshbon and its cities were situated (Numbers 21:17; cf. Numbers 21:21 and Deuteronomy 3:10). The valley in this tableland was upon the height of Pisgah, i.e., the northern part of the mountains of Abarim, and looked across the surface of the desert. Jeshimon, the desert, is the plain of Ghor el Belka, i.e., the valley of desolation on the north-eastern border of the Dead Sea, which stretches from the Wady Menshalla or Wady Ghuweir (el Guer) to the small brook el Szume (Wady es Suweimeh on Van de Velde's map) at the Dead Sea, and narrows it more and more at the northern extremity on this side. "Ghor el Belka consists in part of a barren, salt, and stony soil; though there are some portions which can be cultivated. To the north of the brook el Szume, the great plain of the Jordan begins, which is utterly without fertility till you reach the Nahr Hesbn, about two hours distant, and produces nothing but bitter, salt herbs for camels" (Seetzen, ii. pp. 373, 374), and which was probably reckoned as part of Jeshimon, since Beth-jeshimoth was situated within it (see at Numbers 23:28). The valley in which the Israelites were encamped in the field of Moab upon the top of Pisgah, is therefore to be sought for to the west of Heshbon, on the mountain range of Abarim, which slopes off into the Ghor el Belka. From this the Israelites advanced into the Arboth Moab (see Numbers 22:1).

If we compare the places of encampment named in Numbers 21:11-20 with the list of stations in Numbers 33:41-49, we find, instead of the seven places, mentioned here between Ijje Abarim and the Arboth Moab,-viz., Brook Zared, on the other side of the Arnon in the desert, Beer, Mattana, Nahaliel, Bamoth, and the valley in the field of Moab upon the top of Pisgah-only three places given, viz., Dibon of Gad, Almon Diblathaim, and Mount Abarim before Nebo. That the last of these is only another name for the valley in the field of Moab upon the top of Pisgah, is undoubtedly proved by the fact that, according to Deuteronomy 34:1 (cf. Numbers 3:27), Mount Nebo was a peak of Pisgah, and that it was situated, according to Deuteronomy 32:49, upon the mountains of Abarim, from which it is evident at once that the Pisgah was a portion of the mountains of Abarim, and in fact the northern portion opposite to Jericho (see at Numbers 27:12). The two other differences in the names may be explained from the circumstance that the space occupied by the encampment of the Israelites, an army of 600,000 men, with their wives, children, and cattle, when once they reached the inhabited country with its towns and villages, where every spot had its own fixed name, must have extended over several places, so that the very same encampment might be called by one or other of the places upon which it touched. If Dibon Gad (Numbers 33:45) was the Dibon built (i.e., rebuilt or fortified) by the Gadites after the conquest of the land (Numbers 32:3, Numbers 32:34), and allotted to the Reubenites (Joshua 13:9, Joshua 13:17), which is still traceable in the ruins of Dibn, an hour to the north of the Arnon (v. Raumer, Pal. p. 261), (and there is no reason to doubt it), then the place of encampment, Nahaliel (Encheile), was identical with Dibon of Gad, and was placed after this town in Numbers 33:45, because the camp of the Israelites extended as far as Dibon along the northern bank of that river. Almon Diblathaim also stands in the same relation to Bamoth. The two places do not appear to have been far from one another; for Almon Diblathaim is probably identical with Beth Diblathaim, which is mentioned in Jeremiah 48:22 along with Dibon, Nebo, and other Moabite towns, and is to be sought for to the north or north-west of Dibon. For, according to Jerome (Onom. s. v. Jassa), Jahza was between Medaba and Deblatai, for which Eusebius has written Δηβούς by mistake for Διβών; Eusebius having determined the relative position of Jahza according to a more southerly place, Jerome according to one farther north. The camp of the Israelites therefore may easily have extended from Almon or Beth-diblathaim to Bamoth, and might very well take its name from either place.

(Note: Neither this difference in the names of the places of encampment, nor the material diversity, - viz., that in the chapter before us there are four places more introduced than in Numbers 33, whereas in every other case the list in Numbers 33 contains a larger number of stations than we read of in the historical account-at all warrants the hypothesis, that the present chapter is founded upon a different document from Numbers 33. For they may be explained in a very simple manner, as Kurtz has most conclusively demonstrated (vol. iii. pp. 383-5), from the diversity in the character of the two chapters. Numbers 33 is purely statistical. The catalogue given there "contains a complete list in regular order of all the stations properly so called, that is to say, of those places of encampment where Israel made a longer stay than at other times, and therefore not only constructed an organized camp, but also set up the tabernacle." In the historical account, on the other hand, the places mentioned are simply those which were of historical importance. For this reason there are fewer stations introduced between Mount Hor and Ijje Abarim than in Numbers 33, stations where nothing of importance occurred being passed over; but, on the other hand, there are a larger number mentioned between Ijje Abarim and Arboth Moab, and some of them places where no complete camp was constructed with the tabernacle set up, probably because they were memorable as starting-points for the expeditions into the two Amorite kingdoms.)

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