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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 2

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days.

Then we turned, and took our journey ... by the way of the Red sea. After their unsuccessful attack upon the Canaanites, the Israelites broke up their encampment at Kadesh, and journeying southward over the west desert of Tih, as well as through the great valley of the Arabah, they extended their removals as far as the Gulf of Akaba.

We compassed mount Seir many days. In these few words Moses comprised the whole of that wandering nomadic life which they passed during 38 years, shifting from place to place, and regulating their stations by the prospect of pasturage and water. Within the interval they went northward a second time to Kadesh; but being refused a passage through Edom, and opposed by the Canaanites and Amalakites, they again had no alternative but to traverse once more the great Arabah southwards to the Red Sea, where, turning to the left and crossing the long, lofty mountain chain to the eastward of Ezion-gaber (Numbers 21:4-5), they issued into the great and elevated plains which are still traversed by the Syrian pilgrims on their way to Mecca; and appear to have followed northward nearly the same route which is now taken by the Syrian Hadj, along the western skirts of this great desert, near the mountains of Edom (Robinson). It was on entering these plains they received the command, "Ye have compassed this mountain (this hilly tract, now Jebel Sherah) long enough, turn you northward."

Verses 2-3

And the LORD spake unto me, saying,

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 4

And command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore:

The children of Esau ... shall be afraid of you. The same people who had haughtily repelled the approach of the Israelites from the western frontier were alarmed now that they had come round upon the weak side of their country. It seems, from the Israelites having free access to the pastures on mount Hor and its neighbourhood, that the Edomites would have laid them under no restriction or prohibition so long as they did not encroach on the cultivated parts of their country.

Verse 5

Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession.

Meddle not with them - i:e., "which dwell in Seir" (Deuteronomy 2:4; Deuteronomy 32:8: cf. Genesis 36:8), now Esh-sherah, a rugged highland country, called by Josephus Gebalene-for there was another branch of Esau's posterity, namely, the Amalekites, who were to be fought against and destroyed (Genesis 36:16; Exodus 17:14; Deuteronomy 25:17). But the people of Edom were not to be injured either in their persons or property, the rule here prescribed being founded on the originally fraternal relation of the two peoples, as well as the well-known grant of mount Seir to Esau (Genesis 27:39; Genesis 32:3). And although the approach of so vast a nomadic horde as the Israelites naturally created apprehension, they were to take no advantage of the prevailing terror to compel the Edomites to accept whatever terms they imposed. They were merely to pass "through" or along their border, and to buy meat and water of them for money (Deuteronomy 2:6).

The people, kinder than their king, did sell them bread, meat, fruits, and water in their passage along their border (Deuteronomy 2:29), in the same manner as the Syrian caravan of Mecca is now supplied by the people of the same mountains, who meet the pilgrims as at a fair or market on the Hadj route (Robinson); or purchases might be made from the depots at the sea-ports by which they passed (see the note at Deuteronomy 2:8). Although the Israelites still enjoyed a daily supply of the manna, there was no prohibition against their eating other food when opportunity afforded, but only they were not to cherish an inordinate desire for it.

Water is a scarce commodity, and is often paid for by travelers in those parts. It was the more incumbent on the Israelites to do so, as, by the blessing of God, they possessed plenty of means to purchase, and the long-continued experience of the extraordinary goodness of God to them should inspire such confidence in Him as would suppress the smallest thought of resorting to fraud or violence in supplying their wants.

Verse 6

Ye shall buy meat of them for money, that ye may eat; and ye shall also buy water of them for money, that ye may drink.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 7

For the LORD thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the LORD thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing.

Thou hast lacked nothing (see the notes at Deut. 8:24; Deuteronomy 29:4).

Verse 8

And when we passed by from our brethren the children of Esau, which dwelt in Seir, through the way of the plain from Elath, and from Eziongaber, we turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab.

We passed ... through the way of the plain, [ haa-`Araabaah (H6160); Septuagint, Araba] - the Arabah or great valley. They passed along on the east side of it, around the southern boundary of Edom, to which they had been compelled to go from Kadesh.

From Elath (trees) - an Edomite or Horite city (the Ailah of the Greeks and Romans), now Eyleh. The site of it is marked by extensive mounds of rubbish. Elath, the sea-port of the Edomites, situated on the northern extremity of the gulf of Elath, stood at the southern border of Edom.

Ezion-gaber - now Akaba. Both were within the territory of Edom; and after making a circuit of its south eastern boundary, the Israelites, journeying in a northward direction, reached the border of Moab on the southeast of the Salt Sea.

Verse 9

And the LORD said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession.

The Lord said ... Distress not the Moabites. Their relations with Edom compelled them to keep a line of march on the very outskirts of the great sandy, shadeless waste, stretching far into the Persian Gulf, which was even more terrible than the desert highway they had just left beyond the mountains that now stood low, compared with their elevation as they had been seen on the west. In truth, their circumstances at this time were more trying, and even apparently more desperate, than any their ancestors had ever encountered in their marching, (see the notes at Numbers 21:1-35). (See the route described-the southern part in Laborde's 'Voyage,' and the, northern part in Burckhardt's 'Travels in Syria, pp. 395-440; also 656-662; Irby and Mangles' 'Travels,' chs. 7:, 8:) 'The road of the Israelites nearly coincided with the present Hadj route from Damascus to Mecca, and the few small towns and villages situate in it now supply the pilgrim caravans as the Edomites supplied the marching Hebrews, selling to them water and their field produce as it was required' (Drew, supplied the marching Hebrews, selling to them water and their field produce as it was required' (Drew, 'Scripture Lands,' p. 86).

They had been forbidden by divine command to molest the Moabites in any way; and this special honour was conferred on that people, not on their own account, because they were very wicked, but in virtue of their descent from Lot (see the note at Deuteronomy 23:3). Their territory comprised the fine country on the south, and partly on the north of the Arnon. They had won it by their arms from the original inhabitants, the Emims-a race terrible, as their name imports, for physical power and stature [see the note at Genesis 14:5, where the Septuagint has: gigantes, while our translators have retained the original Rªpaa'iym (H7497), Rephaim; but in this passage our version has 'giants', while the Septuagint has Rafain]. The translation 'giants' has no etymological support; see the note at (Genesis 50:2) - in like manner as the Edomites had obtained their settlement by the overthrow of the original occupiers of Seir, the Horims (Genesis 14:6), who were Troglodytes, or dwellers in caves; and Moses alluded to these circumstances to encourage his countrymen to believe that God would much more enable them to expel the wicked and accursed Canaanites. At that time, however, the Moabites, having lost the greater part of their possessions through the usurpations of Sihon, were reduced to the small but fertile region between the Zered and the Arnon (see the note at Numbers 21:26).

Verses 10-12

The Emims dwelt therein in times past, a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims;

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 13

Now rise up, said I, and get you over the brook Zered. And we went over the brook Zered.

Now rise up ... and get you over the brook Zered. The southern border of Moab, Zered (woody), now wady Ahsy, separates the modern district of Kerak from Jebal, and indeed forms a natural division of the country between the north and south.

Verses 14-15

And the space in which we came from Kadesh-barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the LORD sware unto them.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 16

So it came to pass, when all the men of war were consumed and dead from among the people,

All the men of war were consumed and dead. The outbreak at Kadesh on the false report of the spies had been the occasion of the fatal decree by which God doomed the whole grown-up population to die in the wilderness; but that outbreak only filled up the measure of their iniquities. For that generation, though not universally abandoned to paganish and idolatrous practices, yet had all along displayed a fearful amount of ungodliness in the desert, which this history only hints at obscurely, but which is expressly asserted elsewhere (Ezekiel 20:25-26; Amos 5:25; Amos 5:27; Acts 7:42-43). "When all the men of war were consumed and dead," then, and not before, was the Jewish host permitted to invade the country in which they were finally to settle-then, not before, were they permitted to combat and to conquer, (Graves, 'Dissertation,' 1:, Lect. 6:)

Verse 17

That the LORD spake unto me, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 18

Thou art to pass over through Ar, the coast of Moab, this day:

Thou art to pass over through Ar, the coast of Moab. Ar, called in later times Rabbah, was the capital of Moab, and situated 25 miles south of the Arnon, on the banks of a small but shady stream-the Beni-Hamed, now Rabba-between Kerek and Wady-Mizgeb. It is here mentioned as representative of the country dependent on it-a rich and well-cultivated country, as appears from the numerous ruins of cities, as well as from the traces of tillage still visible on the fields. [The Septuagint has: Aroeer.]

Verse 19

And when thou comest nigh over against the children of Ammon, distress them not, nor meddle with them: for I will not give thee of the land of the children of Ammon any possession; because I have given it unto the children of Lot for a possession.

When thou comest nigh over against the children of Ammon. The Ammonites, being kindred to the Moabites, were, from regard to the memory of their common ancestor, to remain undisturbed by the Israelites. The two people are mentioned as brother tribes, "the children of Lot" (cf. 2 Chronicles 20:1; Zephaniah 2:8). The territory of this people had been directly north of that of Moab, and extended as far as the Jabbok, having been taken by them from a number of small Canaanite tribes-namely, the Zamzummins, a bullying, presumptuous band of Rephaim (see the note at Deuteronomy 2:11). The etymology of this name is not known, though many conjectures are made. Gesenius considers it to mean 'noisy people,' from zimzam, 'to make a noise.' Ewald and others view it as a compound of Zuwziym (H2104) 'eeymiym (H368), 'the terrible Zuzim:' see the note at Genesis 14:5.)

Verse 20

(That also was accounted a land of giants: giants dwelt therein in old time; and the Ammonites call them Zamzummims;

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 21

A people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims; but the LORD destroyed them before them; and they succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead:

But the Lord destroyed them. The extinction of that branch of the ancient Rephaim, which was known by the name of the Zuzim, and provincially Zamzummim, is generally ascribed to their conquest by the Ammonites, who supplanted them in their Transjordanic possessions. But here it is distinctly asserted to have resulted from some unrecorded dispensations of Providence; and what these probably were, may now be learned from the monumental annals of Egypt, which relate the early wars waged by the Egyptian kings against the aborigines of the eastern desert, and by which their numbers and political strength were so reduced that they became an easy prey to the bands of roving Canaanites who were ready to colonize their lands.

Verse 22

As he did to the children of Esau, which dwelt in Seir, when he destroyed the Horims from before them; and they succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead even unto this day:

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 23

And the Avims which dwelt in Hazerim, even unto Azzah, the Caphtorims, which came forth out of Caphtor, destroyed them, and dwelt in their stead.)

And the Avims - the aborigines of the district.

Which dwelt in Hazerim - i:e., in nomadic villages.

Even unto Azzah, [ `Azaah (H5804), strong, powerful] - a fortified border town on the edge of the southern desert. The Avim, or Avites (Joshua 13:8), were a pastoral people, whose domain extended to the immediate neighbourhood of Gaza, and the capital of their kingdom was Gerar (Genesis 20:1; Genesis 26:1). But this ancient kingdom seems to have been overthrown, and is not mentioned in later history; and the new Philistines, as they are found in the times of the Judges and of David, subsist under a totally different political constitution.

The Caphtorims - (see Genesis 10:14). Their immigration into Philistia seems to have occurred before the Hebrew exodus; but their conquest of the Avim was not completed until a later period (see the note at Joshua 13:3). 'Probably there were different immigrations of the same tribe of Mizraites into Palestine, as there were different immigrations of Danes or Saxons into England, or as there have been, and are, from the old world into the new, America and Australia. The first immigration may have been that of the Casluhim (out of whom came Philistim) (Genesis 10:14); a second from the Caphtorim, a kindred people, since they are named in that passage next to the Casluhim, as descendants of Mizraim; a third was that of the Cherethim (1 Samuel 30:14). But all were united under the one name of Philistines-as Britons, Danes, Saxons, Normans, are united under the one name, English' (Pusey 'On Amos,' 9: 7).

The limits of the Ammonites were now compressed; but they still possessed the mountainous region beyond the Jabbok (Joshua 11:2). What a strange insight does this parenthesis of four verses give into the early history of Palestine! How many successive wars of conquest had swept over its early state-what changes of dynasty among the Canaanite tribes had taken place long prior to the transactions recorded in this history!

Verse 24

Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle.

Rise ye up ... and pass over the river Arnon. At its mouth, this stream is 82 feet wide, and 4 feet deep: It flows in a channel banked by perpendicular cliffs of sandstone. At the date of the Israelite migration to the east of the Jordan, the whole of the fine country lying between the Arnon and the Jabbok, including the mountainous tract of Gilead, had been seized by the Amorites, who being one of the nations doomed to destruction (see Numbers 21:21; also Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 20:16: cf. Hengstenberg, 'Pentateuch,' vol. 2:, pp. 347, 348; Kurtz, sec. 451, on the supposed inconsistency between this verse and Deuteronomy 2:24), were utterly exterminated, and their country fell by right of conquest into the hands of the Israelites. Moses, however, considering this doom as referring solely to the Amorite possessions west of Jordan, sent a peaceful message to Sihon, requesting permission to go through his territories, which lay on the east of that river. It is always customary to send messengers ahead to prepare the way.

Verses 25-28

This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 29

(As the children of Esau which dwell in Seir, and the Moabites which dwell in Ar, did unto me;) until I shall pass over Jordan into the land which the LORD our God giveth us.

And the Moabites which dwell in Ar, did unto me. This passage represents the Moabites as brotherly and hospitable (see, however, the note at Deuteronomy 23:4; Judges 11:17). But the rejection of Moses' request by Sihon, and his opposition to the advance of the Israelites (Numbers 21:23; Judges 11:26), drew down on himself and his Amorite subjects the predicted doom in the first pitched battlefield with the Canaanites, and secured to Israel not only the possession of a fine pastoral country, but, what was of more importance to them, a free access to the Jordan on the east.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/deuteronomy-2.html. 1871-8.
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