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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 21

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-35



With Israel prepared to renew the journey, what now does Moses do (Numbers 20:14-18 )? In what spirit does Edom meet this request (18:20)? For the reason why Israel was not permitted to force a passage through Edom, refer to Deuteronomy 2:1-8 .

What event in Israel’s history takes place at this juncture (Numbers 20:23-28 )? In what sense was this a chastisement on Aaron (Numbers 20:24 )? Who succeeded him (Numbers 26:28 )? (Note the manner in which this incident is used in Isaiah 22:20-25 .) Compare Hebrews 7:23-25 . A tomb has been erected near the spot where Aaron was buried.


What event is narrated in the opening of chapter 21? We wonder why this discomfiture of Israel at the first was permitted, but perhaps to teach them

the lesson of their weakness and of dependence solely upon God (Psalms 44:1-8 ). The phrase “utterly destroy” (Numbers 21:2 ) might be rendered by “devote.” In what earlier lesson was this subject of devotement considered?

What prolongation of their journey was necessitated by Edom’s refusal (Numbers 21:4 )? What effect had this on the people? What previous cause of murmuring was renewed (Numbers 21:5 )? What chastisement followed (Numbers 21:6 )? What effect had it (Numbers 21:7 )? How did God provide for their deliverance (Numbers 8:9 )? In what way did this show that the deliverance was not the effect of nature or art, but of God’s power and grace? How is it used in the New Testament as a type of our salvation from sin through Christ? (See John 3:14-15 .) How did this “brazen serpent” subsequently become a snare to Israel? (See 2 Kings 18:1-4 .) That part of the desert where the Israelites now were near the head of the gulf of Akaba is infested with reptiles of various kinds, particularly lizards, which raise themselves in the air, and swing from branches; and scorpions which lying among long grass, are particularly dangerous to the bare-legged, sandaled people of the East. The species that caused so great mortality amongst the Israelites cannot be ascertained. They are described as fiery, either from their bright color, or the inflammation their bite caused. In studying the verses that follow it will be desirable to have a good map. Note what is said (Numbers 21:14 ) about the book of The Wars of the Lord as indicating a writing of some sort of which we have little record. The words following to the end of Numbers 21:16 are apparently a quotation from this book, and presumably inserted to decide the position of Arnon.

What discovery was made near this point, and how was it celebrated (Numbers 21:17-18 )? What country did the Israelites now obtain by right of conquest (Numbers 21:21-32 )?


1. How does this lesson teach that trials sometimes come for our good?

2. Quote John 3:15-16 .

3. Why is “fiery” used of the serpents?

4. What ancient historical writing is quoted in this lesson?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Numbers 21". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/numbers-21.html. 1897-1910.
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