Wanderings in the Wilderness
1 Then we turned back and set out toward the wilderness along the route to the Red Sea, as the Lord had directed me. For a long time we made our way around the hill country of Seir.
2 Then the Lord said to me, 3 “You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north. 4 Give the people these orders: ‘You are about to pass through the territory of your relatives the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. They will be afraid of you, but be very careful. 5 Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land, not even enough to put your foot on. I have given Esau the hill country of Seir as his own. 6 You are to pay them in silver for the food you eat and the water you drink.’”
Continuing the story from chapter 1, the Israelites- upon spying out the promised land, and becoming fearful of its inhabitants, God has them turn around to go back towards the wilderness, back to the route to the Red Sea, for as long as the Lord directs them.
Verse 1 says; “For a long time we made our way around the hill country of Seir” This “long time” is the 38 years of wandering in the wilderness.
From there God has them turn north to pass through their relatives, the descendants of Esau (Edomites), who live in Seir. God warns them (since a long time has passed, and they do not know these (Israelite) people, besides their numbers are so great and word of their strength and might) to not provoke them to war, for the land there was given as promised to Esau as his very own.(Gen. 25, 27) God further instructs them to pay for any food or drink they may consume, with silver as payment. God had blessed them with so much that He encouraged them to pay for things rather then- to steal them.
7 The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.
“The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands.” It is suggested by these words, that through the many years of wandering the desert, that the Israelites acquired wealth whether by trade or by ordinary occupations during their journey. Their flocks and herds had increased greatly during this time of wandering; they may have gained wealth by cultivating the soil in places that they stayed for lengthly periods of time, or for services from the many skilled Israelites. Regardless, it is important to note that God supplied all their needs and wants for those 40 years of wandering through the wilderness. The Israelites must show respect for the Esau’s descendants and must trade with them as neighbors, buy meat and water and to pay for it, not steal or beg for it, for God has blessed them.
8 So we went on past our relatives the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. We turned from the Arabah road, which comes up from Elath and Ezion Geber, and traveled along the desert road of Moab.
9 Then the Lord said to me, “Do not harass the Moabites or provoke them to war, for I will not give you any part of their land. I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.”
10 (The Emites used to live there—a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. 11 Like the Anakites, they too were considered Rephaites, but the Moabites called them Emites. 12 Horites used to live in Seir, but the descendants of Esau drove them out. They destroyed the Horites from before them and settled in their place, just as Israel did in the land the Lord gave them as their possession.)
Moses then continues the story of the Israelites leaving their relatives, the Edomites in Seir, and headed towards the desert road of Moab. Moses instructs them that when they get to the land of the Moabites, to not provoke them to war, for they are also relatives of theirs, they are descendants of Lots’.
In these verses 10-12 Moses gives the origins of nations, the Moabites, the Edomites and the Ammonites. All these lands mentioned here were originally occupied by wicked- giant sized races, of which Goliath came from for example, however history tells us that Gods people drove them out if not destroyed them all.
13 And the Lord said, “Now get up and cross the Zered Valley.” So we crossed the valley.
14 Thirty-eight years passed from the time we left Kadesh Barnea until we crossed the Zered Valley. By then, that entire generation of fighting men had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them. 15 The Lord’s hand was against them until he had completely eliminated them from the camp.
After Moses tells us a brief history lesson of the origins of the nations, the Lord has them cross over to the Zered Valley. The Zered Valley was a brook that formed the boundary line between Edom and Moab, and was the limit of Israel’s wandering. 38 years have passed at this point, and the older generation who had rebelled had completely died out.
16 Now when the last of these fighting men among the people had died, 17 the Lord said to me, 18 “Today you are to pass by the region of Moab at Ar. 19 When you come to the Ammonites, do not harass them or provoke them to war, for I will not give you possession of any land belonging to the Ammonites. I have given it as a possession to the descendants of Lot.”
The generation that sinned against the Lord had died out, the people were now to cross the border of Moab and advance to the conquest of the Promised Land. God warns them to not harass or provoke the Ammonites to war, for their land was promised to the descendants of Lot.
20 (That too was considered a land of the Rephaites, who used to live there; but the Ammonites called them Zamzummites. 21 They were a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. The Lord destroyed them from before the Ammonites, who drove them out and settled in their place. 22 The Lord had done the same for the descendants of Esau, who lived in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites from before them. They drove them out and have lived in their place to this day. 23 And as for the Avvites who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorites coming out from Caphtor destroyed them and settled in their place.)
More history lessons
Defeat of Sihon King of Heshbon
24 “Set out now and cross the Arnon Gorge. See, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his country. Begin to take possession of it and engage him in battle. 25 This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven. They will hear reports of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you.”
God commands the Israelites to now go and cross the Arnon Gorge and begin to engage in battle with the Amorites and take possession of their land. This is the first step towards possessing the Promised Land, by assailing Sihon, King of Heshbon, assuring them that from that day he would “put the dread and fear of them upon all nations under heaven. The other nations will hear the reports of God Almighty’s people, and they will tremble with fear.
26 From the Desert of Kedemoth I sent messengers to Sihon king of Heshbon offering peace and saying, 27 “Let us pass through your country. We will stay on the main road; we will not turn aside to the right or to the left. 28 Sell us food to eat and water to drink for their price in silver. Only let us pass through on foot— 29 as the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir, and the Moabites, who live in Ar, did for us—until we cross the Jordan into the land the Lord our God is giving us.” 30 But Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through. For the Lord your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done.
31 The Lord said to me, “See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his country over to you. Now begin to conquer and possess his land.”
32 When Sihon and all his army came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz, 33 the Lord our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army. 34 At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them—men, women and children. We left no survivors. 35 But the livestock and the plunder from the towns we had captured we carried off for ourselves. 36 From Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the gorge, even as far as Gilead, not one town was too strong for us. The Lord our God gave us all of them. 37 But in accordance with the command of the Lord our God, you did not encroach on any of the land of the Ammonites, neither the land along the course of the Jabbok nor that around the towns in the hills.
Moses, in the first instance, sent a message of peace to Sihon, proposing to pass through his territory on the same terms as he had made with the Moabites and Edomites, traveling by the highway, and paying for food and drink as his followers required. But King Sihon refused, and came out against Israel with all his people, to battle.
God delivered them completely over to the Israelites. The Israelites completely destroyed them with NO survivors- men, women and children all gone. The Israelites captured all his towns, took all their cattle and plundered the towns for their wealth, thus the Israelites took possession of that entire territory. The Israelites also made sure not to take any land belonging to the Ammonites as agreed.