GOD GRANTS VICTORIES OVER POWERFUL FOES WHEN WE FOLLOW HIS GAME PLAN AND DON’T SHRINK BACK IN FEAR FROM THE CHALLENGE
Israel certainly had abundant testimony to God’s power and faithfulness. However, Israel also had a track record of disbelief and spiritual failure. But God continued to be patient and gracious and encouraged the nation to press forward with the divine agenda. Once the nation committed to God’s game plan and fully trusted His guidance, they began to see the types of military victories that prepared them to conquest the Promised Land.
Ronald Allen: The victories over Sihon and Og are celebrated throughout Israel’s history, even to our own day. These are the true beginning of victories. The defeat of Arad was a nuisance issue. Sihon and Og represented reputable opponents; their land became part of the inheritance of the tribes of Israel. There is a sense in which the area of Transjordan is somewhat touchy; we are ambivalent about these territories. They are a part of the promise; yet they are not the heart of the land. But they were the first of victories, a note of assurance from God that the real victories were still to come.
Raymond Brown: Subjugating the kingdoms of Sihon and Og was the greatest possible encouragement to a people challenged by greater tests in the land beyond Jordan. It ‘ranked with the Exodus as a paradigm of God’s miraculous intervention on behalf of his people’. Their victories east of the river went down in their history as a perpetual reminder of the Lord’s omnipotence in time of human vulnerability. The Lord who had given them victory on one side of the Jordan would not fail them on the other.
J. Ligon Duncan: The Wars of the Land
This whole passage is about God’s sovereignty and our responsibility. There is a theme which has been often explicit and sometimes implicit since the children of Israel have left the land of Egypt on the way to Canaan, and it is a theme that will only become more and more explicit as the journey to Canaan draws nearer and nearer to its final objective, and that theme is simply this: The land is yours; now take it…the land is yours; now take it. God expressly and repeatedly tells the children of Israel that He has given Canaan to them. He has given the land to them. He will give the kings and their armies and their cities, and their sons and their wealth to the children of Israel. But Israel has a responsibility to take the land which God has given to them, and so this theme becomes more and more explicit, repeated frequently: The land is yours; now take it. This whole passage bears the mark of that theme. In fact, this passage stresses that God is our guide, our provider, and our conqueror. He is the source of our provision and our success, and we have a responsibility to follow in trust and obedience as He makes promises to us.
I. (:21-32) TRIUMPH OVER THE AMORITES (INCLUDING KING SIHON)
A. (:21-22) Attempt at Diplomacy
1. Request for Passage Directed to Sihon, King of the Amorites
“Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, saying, 22 ‘Let me pass through your land.’”
Timothy Ashley: The term Amorite has various meanings in the OT: Canaanites generally (e.g, Genesis 15:16), inhabitants of the land west of the Jordan (e.g, Joshua 5:1), inhabitants of the regions of Judah (e.g, Joshua 10:5-6), inhabitants of the Negeb and the region to the southeast of the Dead Sea (e.g, Genesis 14:7), and very often, as here, the inhabitants east of the Jordan under the rule of Sihon and Og.
Bruce Hurt: What is notable about the passages related to the Amorites is that they describe the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy given to Abraham in Genesis 15:16 “Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” In these passages the time of judgment of the Amorite had come and would meted out on two Amorite kings, Sihon, king of Heshbon (Nu 21:22-32) and Og, the king of Bashan (Nu 21:33-35). Israel is not journeying north along the eastern edge of Moab and so Israel requests passage through the Amorite kingdom of Sihon.
2. Three Resolutions Proving Israel was No Economic or Military Threat
a. No Seizing of Food
“We will not turn off into field or vineyard;”
b. No Seizing of Water
“we will not drink water from wells.”
c. No Threatening Detours
“We will go by the king’s highway
until we have passed through your border.”
B. (:23) Attack Led by Sihon
1. Diplomacy Rejected
“But Sihon would not permit Israel to pass through his border.”
2. Deployment of Troops in Battle
“So Sihon gathered all his people and went out against Israel
in the wilderness,”
3. Deadly Combat Instigated
“and came to Jahaz and fought against Israel.”
C. (:24-26) Appropriation of Captured Cities
1. (:24) Widespread Military Victories
“Then Israel struck him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the sons of Ammon; for the border of the sons of Ammon was Jazer.”
Wiersbe: The Lord wanted Israel to possess the land east of the Jordan, so He permitted Sihon to attack Israel. Sihon’s capital was at Heshbon, but he and his army came south to Jahaz, about twenty miles north of the Arnon River, and there challenged Israel. God’s people won the battle and possessed the land from the Arnon to the Jabbock River. Before Israel entered the Promised Land, the territory east of the Jordan River was given to Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (Num. 32).
2. (:25) Widespread Inhabitation of Amorite Cities
“And Israel took all these cities and Israel lived in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all her villages.”
3. (:26) Well-known Significance of Heshbon
“For Heshbon was the city of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken all his land out of his hand, as far as the Arnon.”
D. (:27-30) Assimilation of Taunt Song to Boast about Israelite Victory
1. (:27) Commitment to Build Heshbon as City of Sihon, King of Amorites
“Therefore those who use proverbs say, ‘Come to Heshbon! Let it be built!
So let the city of Sihon be established.’”
MacArthur: These words came from the wise men, probably among the Amorites. The words of vv. 27-30 describe the Amorites’ defeat of the Moabites N of the Arnon River. Ironically, as the Amorites had taken the land from the Moabites, the Israelites had taken the land form the Amorites. The purpose of these words cited by Moses was to substantiate Israel’s right to the land. According to God’s commandments, the territory belonging to the Moabites was not to be taken by Israel because the Moabites were descendants of Lot (Dt 2:9). However, what belonged to the Amorites had been promised to Israel and was theirs for the taking.
2. (:28) Fiery Judgment from Heshbon Against Moabite Cities
“For a fire went forth from Heshbon, A flame from the town of Sihon;
It devoured Ar of Moab, The dominant heights of the Arnon.”
David Thompson: The proverb of Heshbon really was a secular proverb that ends up presenting truth about God. It is an “Amorite War Taunt” that was originally written by an Amorite composer, after Sihon had conquered Heshbon and the Moabites. Jeremiah would actually quote this many centuries later (Jer. 48:45-46).
This was a proud proverb. It is comprised of six stanzas. The first five all have to do with what Sihon did to the Moabites, and the last one what Israel did to Sihon.
Stanza #1 – The Amorites may come and build Heshbon. 21:27a
Stanza #2 – Heshbon is now established as the city of Sihon. 21:27b
Stanza #3 – Fiery judgment came from Sihon and destroyed Heshbon and other Moabite cities. 21:28
Stanza #4 – Woe judgments have hit the Moabites and Chemosh, their false deity, didn’t save them. 21:29a
Stanza #5 – Sihon the Amorite King took the Moabite sons and daughters captive. 21:29b
These people were proud. Singing their songs about how great they were, how great their city and king were. But that all changed right here. Israel added a stanza.
Stanza #6 – The Israelites cast them down and took their land. 21:30-31
The Amorite proverb just took on a new ending. Instead of Sihon using this composition to celebrate his Moabite victory, Israel used it to celebrate their victory over the Amorites.
3. (:29) Proclamation of Woes as Moabites Taken Captive by Amorites
“Woe to you, O Moab! You are ruined, O people of Chemosh! He has given his sons as fugitives, And his daughters into captivity, To an Amorite king, Sihon.”
Ronald Allen: In the Taunt Song of Heshbon, it was not just the people of Moab who had been defeated by Sihon in the earlier engagement; it was their god Chemosh as well (v. 29). But now a new God had come on the scene. His name was Yahweh, and his power was not limited by geography at all!
Bruce Hurt: Chemosh was the god of the Moabites (Numbers 21:29; Jeremiah 48:7, 13, 46). Scripture calls him “the abomination of Moab” (1 Kings 11:7). Unfortunately, Chemosh-worship was introduced into Israelite culture by King Solomon, who had wives from other cultures who turned his heart to other gods (1 Kings 11:4–7). Chemosh was one of those gods worshiped by Solomon’s wives. The cult of Chemosh was eventually destroyed in Judah by King Josiah (2 Kings 23).
The meaning of the name Chemosh is not understood, though some scholars believe it may have meant “destroyer” or “subduer.” Chemosh was also seen as a fish-god. He was the national deity of the Moabites and the Ammonites, and, according to the Moabite Stone (the Mesha Stele), Chemosh was associated with the goddess Ashteroth, another false god worshiped by wayward Israelites. Chemosh is thought to have been a deity similar to Baal, and there is also evidence, both from the Moabite Stone and from Scripture, that Chemosh may have been the same deity as the Ammonite Moloch (1 Kings 11:7, 33). At least, Chemosh and Moloch were two manifestations of the same false god. King Solomon built “high places” to both gods in the same location, the mountain east of Jerusalem. The worship of Chemosh was truly an abomination. One place in Scripture records Chemosh demanding human sacrifice: in the days of Judah’s King Jehoram, the king of Moab faced military defeat, and the Moabite ruler “took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall” (2 Kings 3:27).
4. (:30) Ruin of Heshbon by Israelites
“But we have cast them down, Heshbon is ruined as far as Dibon, Then we have laid waste even to Nophah, Which reaches to Medeba.”
Eugene Merrill: A boastful Amorite song celebrating their victory over the hapless Moabites now was sung by Israel to celebrate her victory over the Amorites.
[like the Baltimore Ravens dancing in revenge on the Titans logo Jan. 10, 2021]
E. (:31-32) Amorites Further Defeated
1. (:31) Domination by Israel
“Thus Israel lived in the land of the Amorites.”
2. (:32) Dispossession of the Amorites
“And Moses sent to spy out Jazer, and they captured its villages
and dispossessed the Amorites who were there.”
Wiersbe: After a “mop-op” operation around Jazer, Israel turned its attention to Bashan, a very fertile region east of the Sea of Galilee and south of Mount Hermon.
II. (:33-35) TRIUMPH OVER BASHAN (INCLUDING KING OG)
A. (:33) Battle Against Og at Edrei in Bashan
“Then they turned and went up by the way of Bashan,
and Og the king of Bashan went out with all his people, for battle at Edrei.”
Thomas Constable: Heshbon was a city, but Bashan was a territory. Bashan lay north of the Yarmuk Wadi. Evidently at the time of Israel’s conquest Og controlled the territory south of the Yarmuk as far as the Jabbok, the area known as Gilead. [Note: Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, p89.] Og’s domain lay north of the Jabbok Wadi and extended north as far as Mt. Hermon, about 60 miles north of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee). The town of Edrei (Numbers 21:33) stood near the border of Bashan. See Deuteronomy 3:1-17 for a fuller description of this victory.
B. (:34) Assurance of Victory from the Lord
“But the LORD said to Moses, ‘Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand, and all his people and his land; and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon, king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.’”
Raymond Brown: Although victorious over Sihon’s army, the travelers had every reason to be fearful. The territory ahead was inhabited by those warriors of gigantic stature who, decades earlier, had terrified the older generation (13:28, 32–33). King Og of Bashan had enormous physical proportions. His bed was ‘more than thirteen feet long and six feet wide’ but, though mere men might be terrorized by his massive physique, the Lord told Moses that he was no threat to an omnipotent God: ‘Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you, with his whole army and his land’ (34).
Dennis Cole: The counsel from the Lord is introduced by the secondary introductory formula for divine instruction used in the Book of Numbers (wayyoʾmer YHWH ʾel-mōšeh). The message from the Lord, that they should not fear the oncoming enemies, was the same one given to the people by Moses, Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua when they were faced with the prospects of entering the Promised Land, a task that seemed to them frightening and formidable (Num 14:9). To hesitate in fear would be to rebel against God, but to advance against a foe just like the one they had just defeated would afford evidence of their faith in a God who fights for them.
C. (:35) Victory Over Og and His People
“So they killed him and his sons and all his people,
until there was no remnant left him; and they possessed his land.”