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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 2

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Deuteronomy 2:0


The Desert YearsHistorical Review (Deuteronomy 1:1-29) Deuteronomy 1:46-8aThe Years in the DesertDeuteronomy 1:46-1From Kadesh to the Arnon
Deuteronomy 2:1-7 Deuteronomy 2:1-7
Deuteronomy 2:2-6
Deuteronomy 2:7
Deuteronomy 2:8-15 Deuteronomy 2:8-9Deuteronomy 2:8-13a
Deuteronomy 2:8-13a
Deuteronomy 2:10-12
Deuteronomy 2:13-15Deuteronomy 2:13-15Deuteronomy 2:13-15
Deuteronomy 2:16-23Deuteronomy 2:16-25Deuteronomy 2:16-19Deuteronomy 2:16-25
Deuteronomy 2:20-23
Deuteronomy 2:24-25 Deuteronomy 2:24-25
King Sihon Defeated Israel Defeats King SihonConquest of the Kingdom of Sihon
Deuteronomy 2:26-37Deuteronomy 2:26-30Deuteronomy 2:26-27Deuteronomy 2:26-29
Deuteronomy 2:28-30Deuteronomy 2:30-37
Deuteronomy 2:31-37Deuteronomy 2:31-37

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Brief Outline of Chapter 2

A. Israel's relations with Edom, Deuteronomy 2:4-7

B. Israel's relations with Moab, Deuteronomy 2:8-15

C. Israel's relations with Ammon, Deuteronomy 2:16-19

D. Verses Deuteronomy 2:20-23 is a parenthesis related to the Rephaim (See Special Topic at Deuteronomy 1:28)

E. Israel's relations with Amorites on the eastern bank of Jordan, Deuteronomy 2:24-37

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 2:1-7 1”Then we turned and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea, as the LORDspoke to me, and circled Mount Seir for many days. 2And the LORD spoke to me, saying, 3'You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north, 4and command the people, saying, “You will pass through the territory of your brothers the sons of Esau who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful; 5do not provoke them, for I will not give you any of their land, even as little as a footstep because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. 6You shall buy food from them with money so that you may eat, and you shall also purchase water from them with money so that you may drink. 7For the LORDyour God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORDyour God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.”'

Deuteronomy 2:1 “the wilderness” There are several “wildernesses” connected to the exodus.


1. Wilderness of Shur - in northeast Egypt (e.g., Exodus 15:22)

2. Wilderness of Paran - central Sinai Peninsula (e.g., Genesis 21:21; Numbers 10:12; Numbers 12:16; Numbers 13:3, Numbers 13:26)

3. Wilderness of Sin - southern Sinai Peninsula (e.g., Exodus 16:1; Exodus 17:1; Numbers 33:11, Numbers 33:12, also called “wilderness of Sinai,” e.g., Exodus 19:1, Exodus 19:2; Numbers 1:1, Numbers 1:19; Numbers 3:4; Numbers 9:1, Numbers 9:5)

4. Wilderness of Zin - southern Canaan (e.g., Numbers 13:21; Numbers 20:1; Numbers 27:14; Numbers 33:36; Numbers 34:3; Deuteronomy 32:51)

“by the way of the Red Sea” This refers to the Arabah Road (cf. TEV “on the road to the Gulf of Aqaba”), in the Jordan Rift Valley, which runs north and south on both sides of the Dead Sea (cf. Deuteronomy 2:8). It is a wide valley which begins near the cities of Elath or Ezion-geber on the Gulf of Aqaba and goes through the heart of Edom and Moab and the kingdom of the Amorites to Damascus, Syria. In the OT it is called “the King's Highway” (e.g., Numbers 20:17 and Deuteronomy 21:22).

The term “Red Sea” (BDB 410 CONSTRUCT with 693) is literally “sea of reeds/weeds.” This term is used for “the unknown and mysterious waters to the south.” It can refer to the body of water that the Israelites crossed in the exodus and, as here and Deuteronomy 1:40, to the body of water called the Gulf of Aqaba on the eastern side of the Sinai Peninsula. In one OT passage the term refers to the Indian Ocean. See Special Topic: The Red Sea.

“as the LORDspoke to me” Deuteronomy depicts itself as a revelation from YHWH to Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 2:1, Deuteronomy 2:2, Deuteronomy 2:9, Deuteronomy 2:17, Deuteronomy 2:31). YHWH directed His people by:

1. direct revelation to Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 2:2)

2. the movement of the Shekinah cloud of glory

3. the use of the Urim and Thummim (i.e., High Priest)

“Mount Seir” This refers to the land of Edom (cf. Deuteronomy 2:5; Deuteronomy 1:2; Exodus 3:1; Exodus 17:6).

Deuteronomy 2:3

NASB“circled” NKJV, NRSV“skirted” TEV“wandering” NJB“gone far enough”

This VERB (BDB 685, KB 738, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT in Deuteronomy 2:3 and a Qal IMPERFECT in Deuteronomy 2:1) means “turn about,” “go around,” “surround.” The Israelites had no clear direction because of the evil unbelieving generation. They wandered around Kadesh-barnea for thirty-eight years, but YHWH is about to give specific, clear directions to Moses. “Go around” or “skirt” fits this text best.

Now turn north” This may refer to Numbers 20:0, where Israel asked if they could pass through the land of Edom, but the Edomites would not let them. They asked to pass through the land of the Moabites, and they also said no. This is recording an early event (cf. ICC p. 34). Here they are asking if they could go up the King's Highway, which ran through the center of these countries. They were willing to buy food and water, but the Edomites and the Moabites (the Israelites' relatives through Lot and Esau) said, “No.” Rather than go through Edom, they went around their border.

Like so many Hebrew terms, this one (BDB 815, KB 937) has a concrete, literal meaning (e.g., here) and a developed, metaphorical meaning. “Turn” is the Hebrew term often translated “repent” (e.g., 2 Kings 17:13; 2 Chronicles 30:6; Isaiah 44:22; Jeremiah 3:11-2; Hosea 14:1).

Deuteronomy 2:4 “command” This term (BDB 845, KB 1010, Piel IMPERATIVE), like “turn” (BDB 815, KB 937, Qal IMPERATIVE) in Deuteronomy 2:3, shows that Moses is recording the very commands of YHWH (as does the Hithpael IMPERFECT used as a JUSSIVE in Deuteronomy 2:5, “do not provoke them”). He personally directed their journey.

NASB“your brothers” NKJV“your brethren” NRSV“your kindred” TEV“your distant relatives” NJB“your kinsmen”

The English translation shows the implications of the Hebrew word “brother” (BDB 26). It is used several times of Edom (descendants of Esau, cf. Numbers 20:14; Deuteronomy 2:4, Deuteronomy 2:8; Obadiah 1:10).

“they will be afraid of you” This is a prophetic statement which goes back to the Song of Deliverance in which Miriam praises God for the miraculous Reed Sea crossing. God predicted that “Edom and Moab would be terrified of the Israelites” (cf. Exodus 15:15).

Deuteronomy 2:4, Deuteronomy 2:9, Deuteronomy 2:19 Throughout this chapter there are several noteworthy phrases connected to God's sovereignty:

“I will not give” (Deuteronomy 2:5, Deuteronomy 2:9, Deuteronomy 2:19)

“I have given” (Deuteronomy 2:5, Deuteronomy 2:9)

“the LORDgave” (Deuteronomy 2:12)

“the LORDour God is giving to us” (Deuteronomy 2:29)

“God delivered him over to us” (Deuteronomy 2:33)

This chapter shows the sovereignty of YHWH in international boundaries (cf. Deuteronomy 32:8; Nehemiah 9:22), because each of these phrases stresses that YHWH is the one who gave the land to certain people groups to inherit. This chapter shows that YHWH did not exclusively give land to Israel, but He gave some to every nation. Some lost their land because of their sins (e.g., Genesis 15:16) and Israel also lost her land for a period (i.e., Assyrian and Babylonian exiles) because of her sin. This is asserting that YHWH is the universal God. In a day of polytheism, this is a wonderful statement of monotheism. There is one and only one God, Deuteronomy 6:4-6. He is the One who gives the land even to the Edomites, Moabites, Amorites, etc. (esp. Deuteronomy 32:8 in the Septuagint [LXX]).

NASB, NRSV, REB“So be very careful” NKJV“Therefore watch yourselves carefully” TEV(combines this phrase with the next one in Deuteronomy 2:5, “but you must not start a war”) NJB“and you will be well protected”

The literal phrase is “so take good heed” (a CONJUNCTION, VERB [BDB 1036, KB 1581, Niphal PERFECT], and ADVERB [BDB 547]). The Septuagint is similar to TEV.

This phrase, in various forms, is used several times in Deuteronomy (cf. Deuteronomy 2:4; Deuteronomy 4:9, Deuteronomy 4:15, Deuteronomy 4:23; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 11:16; Deuteronomy 12:13, Deuteronomy 12:19, Deuteronomy 12:30; Deuteronomy 15:9; Deuteronomy 24:8). It implies, “keep your mind alert,” “watch what you are doing,” “think clearly about the implications of your actions.”

Deuteronomy 2:5

NASB“even as little as a footstep” NKJV“not so much as one footstep” NRSV, NJB“even so much as a foot's length” TEV“as much as a square foot”

This is a rare Hebrew term (BDB 204). It refers to a stepping place. The same root is used in Deuteronomy 11:24 and Joshua 1:3. In a sense this was an encouraging word from YHWH. He had given land to both Edom and Moab. It was theirs, every inch of it! He was in the process of giving land to Israel. His land grant gifts were secure.

Now it must be added that eventually, because of sin, these nations (i.e., Edom and Moab) lost their land and perished as a people. All land gifts were conditional. This is also true of Israel (i.e., the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles). All of God's covenants (except Genesis 6:0 and 15) are conditional.

His promises of redemption are sure (unconditional), but each person/nation must respond and continue to respond appropriately! A continuing, obedient faith relationship is crucial. YHWH requires faith, repentance, obedience, and perseverance, in both the OT and the NT.

Deuteronomy 2:6 Israel was to purchase both food and water as a gesture of their recognition of Edom's sovereignty over their land, which was given by YHWH.

1. “Buy food” (BDB 991, KB 1404, Qal IMPERFECT)

2. “Purchase water” (BDB 500, KB 497, Qal IMPERFECT)

Deuteronomy 2:7 “These forty years the LORDyour God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing” This passage describes the love of God even in the midst of Israel's rebellion against Him (i.e., lack of faith in His promise to give them the land of Canaan).

The Wilderness Wandering Period was a judgment to a generation of Israelites with little faith, but it turned into a time of YHWH's personal presence and provision. The rabbis call it the honeymoon period between YHWH and Israel. YHWH provided:

1. protection

2. personal guidance

3. food

4. water

5. clothes that did not wear out

6. victory in battle

Verses 8-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 2:8-15 8”So we passed beyond our brothers the sons of Esau, who live in Seir, away from the Arabah road, away from Elath and from Ezion-geber. And we turned and passed through by the way of the wilderness of Moab. 9Then the LORDsaid to me, 'Do not harass Moab, nor provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the sons of Lot as a possession. 10(The Emim lived there formerly, a people as great, numerous, and tall as the Anakim. 11Like the Anakim, they are also regarded as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim. 12The Horites formerly lived in Seir, but the sons of Esau dispossessed them and destroyed them from before them and settled in their place, just as Israel did to the land of their possession which the LORDgave to them.) 13Now arise and cross over the brook Zered yourselves.' So we crossed over the brook Zered. 14Now the time that it took for us to come from Kadesh-barnea until we crossed over the brook Zered was thirty-eight years, until all the generation of the men of war perished from within the camp, as the LORD had sworn to them. 15Moreover the hand of the LORD was against them, to destroy them from within the camp until they all perished.”

Deuteronomy 2:8 “So we passed beyond our brothers, the sons of Esau who live in Seir” This use of “brothers” is somewhat ironic. They were kin. They did come from the same ancestors, Isaac and Rebekah, but they were acting like anything except relatives.

“Seir” refers to the mountain range in the country of Edom. So “Seir” and “Edom” are synonymous.

Deuteronomy 2:8, Deuteronomy 2:27 “Arabah road” This refers to “the Kings Highway,” from the Gulf of Aqaba to Damascus (cf. Deuteronomy 2:1 and Numbers 20:17, Numbers 20:19; Numbers 21:22).

Deuteronomy 2:8 “Elath” This is literally “palm trees” (BDB 19). This is probably close to Ezion-geber (cf. 1 Kings 9:26), which is at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba.

“the way of the wilderness of Moab” The Macmillan Bible Atlas, map 10, shows this desert road as parallel to “the King's Highway,” but to the east. The southern end passes through Edom and is known as “the way of the wilderness of Edom” (cf. 2 Kings 3:8). The King's Highway and this smaller desert road meet at Rabbath-bene-ammon, which is to the east of Jericho.

Deuteronomy 2:9 “Do not harass Moab, nor provoke them to war” This is parallel to Deuteronomy 2:5 about Edom. The terms are different, but the thought is the same.

Both of the VERBS are JUSSIVES:

1. “harass” (BDB 849 III, KB 1015, Qal JUSSIVE, cf. Exodus 23:22; Esther 8:11)

2. “provoke” (BDB 173, KB 202, Hithpael JUSSIVE, Deuteronomy 2:19, Deuteronomy 2:24; Proverbs 28:4; Daniel 11:10)

“Ar” This is either a reference to Moab in general or its capital city (cf. Numbers 21:15, Numbers 21:28; Deuteronomy 2:9, Deuteronomy 2:18, Deuteronomy 2:29; Isaiah 15:1). It was located on the left bank of the Arnon River.

“sons of Lot as a possession” See Genesis 19:37-38.

Deuteronomy 2:10-12 These verses are an editorial comment, as are Deuteronomy 2:20-23; Deuteronomy 3:9, Deuteronomy 3:11, Deuteronomy 3:13-14. The following are all terms for giants: (1) Emim (Deuteronomy 2:10, Deuteronomy 2:11); (2) Anakim (v. Deuteronomy 2:10, Deuteronomy 2:11, Deuteronomy 2:21); and (3) Rephaim (Deuteronomy 2:11, Deuteronomy 2:20). These terms can mean either (a) large or tall in size; (b) of a particular ethnic origin; or (c) later in Isaiah and Jeremiah, it is used for the realm of the dead. Here it probably refers to size. See Special Topic: Terms Used for Tall/Powerful Warriors or People Groups (Giants).

Deuteronomy 2:12 “Horites” There is some debate concerning the relation between the Horites (BDB 360) and the Hurrians (ABD, vol. 3, pp. 335-338). I do not think that they are the same (ABD, vol. 3, p. 288). I believe there were two different peoples, although there is no way to be dogmatic (NET Bible, p. 348 #5). The Horites were a tribal group that lived in the region of Edom/Seir before Edom was a nation (cf. Genesis 14:6; Genesis 36:20-30).

Deuteronomy 2:13 “Now arise and cross over” These two VERBS (BDB 877, KB 1086 and BDB 716, KB 778) are both Qal IMPERATIVES. YHWH is still telling Moses exactly what to do.

“brook Zered” This is the name of a wadi between Moab and Edom (cf. Numbers 21:12). A wadi is a silt-filled ravine where water runs during the rainy season, a seasonal brook, not a river. The silt often forms a “road.” It formed the border between Edom and Moab.

The meaning of the term “Zered” (BDB 279) is unknown.

Deuteronomy 2:14 “Now the time that it took for us. . .was thirty-eight years” This is a summary verse of the wilderness wandering period (cf. Deuteronomy 2:7).

Deuteronomy 2:14, Deuteronomy 2:16 “all the generation of the men of war” The “men of war” included every male between 20 and 50 years of age (cf. Exodus 30:14; Exodus 38:26; Numbers 1:3; Numbers 14:29). All of this evil unbelieving generation (i.e., lack of faith in YHWH's promises) had to die (cf. Deuteronomy 2:15) before the younger Israelis could possess the Promised Land.

“as the LORD had sworn” See Numbers 14:28-29; Deuteronomy 1:34-35.

Deuteronomy 2:15 “the hand of the LORD” See Special Topic below.


Verses 16-25

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 2:16-25 16”So it came about when all the men of war had finally perished from among the people, 17that the LORD spoke to me, saying, 18'Today you shall cross over Ar, the border of Moab. 19When you come opposite the sons of Ammon, do not harass them nor provoke them, for I will not give you any of the land of the sons of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot as a possession.' 20(It is also regarded as the land of the Rephaim, for Rephaim formerly lived in it, but the Ammonites call them Zamzummin, 21a people as great, numerous, and tall as the Anakim, but the LORD destroyed them before them. And they dispossessed them and settled in their place, 22just as He did for the sons of Esau, who live in Seir, when He destroyed the Horites from before them; they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day. 23And the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorim who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and lived in their place.) 24Arise, set out, and pass through the valley of Arnon. Look! I have given Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land into your hand; begin to take possession and contend with him in battle. 25This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.'

Deuteronomy 2:16 “all the men of war had finally perished” This shows a balance between the love of God and the justice of God. God's purpose is not just to punish, but to help His people learn from their mistakes. Therefore, He made these people, under His death sentence, wander around for 38 years, but He fed them, He loved them and He provided for them. It wasn't sudden death, but it was an untimely death. Everyone of the men who came up to Kadesh-barnea, 20 years of age and up, were now dead, except Joshua and Caleb.

Deuteronomy 2:19 This is parallel to Deuteronomy 2:5 and 2:9. These are the same VERBS as Deuteronomy 2:9. Here the first (BDB 849, KB 1015) is JUSSIVE in meaning, but not form. The second (BDB 173, KB 202) is a Hithpael JUSSIVE. The Ammonites were also relatives of the Israelites through Lot.

Deuteronomy 2:20 “(It is also regarded as the land of the Rephaim)” This was an ethnic group who lived in this place. They were also called Zamzummin. Verse Deuteronomy 2:21 shows us they were part of the giants (cf. Deuteronomy 2:9.) See Special Topic: Terms Used for Tall/Powerful Warriors or People Groups (Giants).

“Zamzummin” See Genesis 14:5.

Deuteronomy 2:21 YHWH had been faithful to the descendants of Esau (Deuteronomy 2:5, Deuteronomy 2:22) and Lot (Deuteronomy 2:9-10, Deuteronomy 2:21-22). The same “holy war” vocabulary used to describe Israel's victories of conquest are used to describe Edom and Ammon's conquest of their tribal lands.

Deuteronomy 2:23

NASB, NRSV, TEV, REB“Avvim” NKJV “Avim” NJB “Avvites”

This term (BDB 732) has two meanings:

1. A people group which inhabited the land south of Palestine. They were conquered by Aegean people (i.e., Philistines). Albright even associates them with Hyksos settlements (cf. ABD, vol. 1, p. 531). This chapter has listed original inhabitants of places who were defeated and dispossessed.

2. Later in Joshua this term becomes the name of a city in the tribal allocation of Benjamin (cf. Joshua 18:23). Some scholars have surmised that they were people from Ai.

“the Caphtorim who came from Caphtor” This term (BDB 499) could possibly be the island of Crete, Cyprus, Cappadocia, or northern Egypt (cf. Genesis 10:13-14). We do not know exactly. The Caphtorim (plural of Caphtor) were possibly neighbors or relatives of the Philistines (cf. Genesis 10:14; Jeremiah 47:4; Amos 9:7).

Deuteronomy 2:24 This verse has several commands:

1. “Arise” - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Genesis 13:17

2. “Set out” - BDB 652, KB 704, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Deuteronomy 1:19; Deuteronomy 2:1

3. “Pass through” - BDB 716, KB 778, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Isaiah 23:12

4. “Look” - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal IMPERATIVE

5. “Begin” - BDB 320 III, KB 319, Hiphil IMPERATIVE, cf. Deuteronomy 2:31

6. “To take possession” - BDB 439, KB 441, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Deuteronomy 1:8, Deuteronomy 1:21; Deuteronomy 2:31; Deuteronomy 9:23

7. “Contend” - BDB 173, KB 202, Hithpael IMPERATIVE, cf. Deuteronomy 2:5, Deuteronomy 2:9, Deuteronomy 2:19; Daniel 11:10

YHWH is commanding, encouraging, and challenging His people to trust Him and obey His word as their parents did not. The land was theirs if they exercised faith!

“Amorite” See note at Deuteronomy 1:4. The capital of this kingdom was Heshbon. It became the allotted tribal territory of Reuben.

Deuteronomy 2:25 “I will begin to put” These two terms are IMPERATIVES in Deuteronomy 2:24. God was ready to act as warrior on their behalf if they would trust Him and enter into battle with the local inhabitants!

“dread and fear” The first term (BDB 808) means “to be in awe” or “dread”:

1. Israel's enemies will dread them - Deuteronomy 2:25; Deuteronomy 11:25; Psalms 105:38

2. the Israelis will be afraid of YHWH if they sin - Deuteronomy 28:66, Deuteronomy 28:67

3. YHWH is to be awed - Psalms 119:120

The second term (BDB 432) means “to fear”:

1. the fear of God - Exodus 20:20

2. reverence of God - Psalms 2:11; Psalms 5:0:; Psalms 90:11; Psalms 119:38

3. fear of death - Psalms 55:4-5

4. fear of Israel - Deuteronomy 2:25

“everywhere under the heavens” This is an obvious hyperbole (i.e., whole earth, Deuteronomy 4:19; Daniel 9:12). This is referring to the inhabitants of Canaan.

“tremble and be in anguish” This is parallel to “dread and fear.” The first VERB (BDB 919, KB 1182, Qal PERFECT) means “quake” or “quiver” (cf. Proverbs 29:9; Isaiah 14:9). The second VERB (BDB 296, KB 297, Qal PERFECT) means “dance,” “whirl” (cf. Lamentations 4:6) or “writhe” (cf. Isaiah 23:4; Isaiah 26:18 [giving birth]).

Verses 26-31

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 2:26-31 26”So I sent messengers from the wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying, 27'Let me pass through your land, I will travel only on the highway; I will not turn aside to the right or to the left. 28You will sell me food for money so that I may eat, and give me water for money so that I may drink, only let me pass through on foot, 29just as the sons of Esau who live in Seir and the Moabites who live in Ar did for me, until I cross over the Jordan into the land which the LORDour God is giving to us.' 30But Sihon king of Heshbon was not willing for us to pass through his land; for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, in order to deliver him into your hand, as he is today. 31The LORDsaid to me, 'See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to occupy, that you may possess his land.'“

Deuteronomy 2:26 “Kedemoth” This refers to an area (or settlement) north of the Arnon River, but exactly where is uncertain. This later became a Levitical city (cf. Joshua 21:37).

Deuteronomy 2:27 “Let me pass through your land, I will travel only on the highway” The first VERB (BDB 716, KB 778, Qal COHORTATIVE) is used often in this historical summary (cf. Deuteronomy 2:4, Deuteronomy 2:8, Deuteronomy 2:13, Deuteronomy 2:14, Deuteronomy 2:18, Deuteronomy 2:24, Deuteronomy 2:27, Deuteronomy 2:28, Deuteronomy 2:29, Deuteronomy 2:30; Deuteronomy 3:18, Deuteronomy 3:21, Deuteronomy 3:25, Deuteronomy 3:27, Deuteronomy 3:28; Deuteronomy 4:14, Deuteronomy 4:21, Deuteronomy 4:22, Deuteronomy 4:26). Another textual feature is that the Hebrew word 'way” or “road,” with the PREPOSITION is doubled. This is a way of emphasizing that they would not deviate off the main highway. This refers to the King's Highway, which goes through Edom, Moab, and the Kingdom of Sihon. Moses asserts that they had passed through these kingdoms without causing trouble even when their king would not let Israel pass through. This was the very same offer (cf. Deuteronomy 2:29) that Moses made to Edom (cf. Deuteronomy 2:6).

“I will not turn aside to the right or to the left” Notice Moses is speaking in a corporate sense. Much of the misunderstanding of the Bible can be attributed to the loss of the corporate nature of biblical revelation versus the individual focus of modern, western societies. The rights and privileges of the individual have eclipsed the social collectiveness of the OT.

The phrase is based on the OT idiom of biblical faith as a path or way (e.g., Psalms 119:105). God's will is clearly marked. This concept is literal here (i.e., a highway). So the phrase, “turn to the right or left” is literal. Usually this is used metaphorically for the spiritual life (e.g., Numbers 20:17; Numbers 22:26; Deuteronomy 5:32; Deuteronomy 17:11, Deuteronomy 17:20; Deuteronomy 28:14; Joshua 1:7; Joshua 23:6; 1 Kings 22:2).

Deuteronomy 2:30 “the LORDyour God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate” The first VERB (BDB 904, KB 1151, Hiphil PERFECT) means “to be hard” in the sense of stubbornness or stiffneckedness:

1. the Qal IMPERFECT is used in Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 15:18

2. the Hiphil is used in Exodus 7:3; Exodus 13:15 in relation to God hardening Pharaoh's heart just before the exodus

3. the Hiphil is used in Deuteronomy 10:16 of YHWH warning the Israelites not to harden their hearts or not to be stiffnecked

Number 2 is a parallel to this context's divine hardening of Sihon's heart (i.e., will).

The second VERB (BDB 54, KB 69, Piel PERFECT) means “to be strong.” It is usually used in a positive sense (cf. Deuteronomy 3:28; Deuteronomy 31:6, Deuteronomy 31:7, Deuteronomy 31:23), but here it is used parallel to “stiffnecked” (cf. Deuteronomy 15:7; 2 Chronicles 36:13).

This is similar to what happened to Pharaoh: (1) God hardened his heart (cf. Exodus 7:3; Exodus 9:12; Exodus 10:1, Exodus 10:20, Exodus 10:27; Exodus 11:10; Exodus 14:4, Exodus 14:8, Exodus 14:17) or (2) Pharaoh hardened his own heart (cf. Exodus 8:15, Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:34). These verses show both God's sovereignty and mankind's God-given free will. The context implies that Pharaoh (in Exodus) and Sihon (in Deuteronomy) had a free will or why would Moses take the time to offer a peace initiative to them? The implication is that God is in control of all things. God set up the circumstances, but they refused (see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 142-143). Romans 9:0 and 10 show this same paradox. Chapter 9 focuses on the sovereignty of God while chapter 10 has several universal offers (cf. Deuteronomy 2:4, “everyone”; Deuteronomy 2:11, Deuteronomy 2:13, “whosoever”; Deuteronomy 2:12, “all”[twice]). See Special Topics below.



Deuteronomy 2:31 Three of the IMPERATIVES of Deuteronomy 2:24 are repeated:

1. “See” - BDB 906, KB 115, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “Begin” - BDB 320, KB 319, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

3. “Occupy” - BDB 439, KB 441, Qal IMPERATIVE

Verses 32-37

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 2:32-37 32”Then Sihon with all his people came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz. 33The LORD our God delivered him over to us, and we defeated him with his sons and all his people. 34So we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor. 35We took only the animals as our booty and the spoil of the cities which we had captured. 36From Aroer which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon and from the city which is in the valley, even to Gilead, there was no city that was too high for us; the LORDour God delivered all over to us. 37Only you did not go near to the land of the sons of Ammon, all along the river Jabbok and the cities of the hill country, and wherever the LORD our God had commanded us.”

Deuteronomy 2:32 “came out to meet us” Sihon lost because he left his fortified cities and was defeated on the plains. This is a good example of where God used human pride to accomplish His purpose.

“Jahaz” The exact site is uncertain, but it is on the eastern side of Jordan in the kingdom of Sihon and probably south of the capital, Heshbon, because the Israelites were coming from the south.

Deuteronomy 2:33 “God delivered him over to us” As in Deuteronomy 2:31, God's sovereignty (Deuteronomy 2:32a, “God delivered” BDB 678, KB 733, Qal IMPERFECT) and human freedom (Deuteronomy 2:32b, “we defeated” BDB 645, KB 697, Hiphil IMPERFECT) are both plainly asserted.

Deuteronomy 2:34 “We left no survivor” This was a tenet of holy war (herem, BDB 355 I, cf. Deuteronomy 3:6). All were killed because these people had been sinful for a long time (cf. Deuteronomy 7:16; Deuteronomy 20:14). Genesis 15:16 says that “the sin of the Amorite is not yet full” and, therefore, God had waited a long time for them to respond to Him. They did not repent and judgment finally came. If they had not been destroyed, they would have corrupted the worship and theology given on Mt. Sinai. “Holy War' was a judgment and a protective hedge!

Deuteronomy 2:35 “We took only the animals as our booty and the spoil of the cities” Here is an example of a limited ban (e.g., Deuteronomy 3:6-7; Joshua 8:2, Joshua 8:27; Joshua 11:14). They could take some spoils after they destroyed the people. This was a part of the OT concept of holy war. The battle belonged to YHWH and so, too, the spoils (e.g., Jericho, Joshua 7:0).

Deuteronomy 2:36

NASB “the city which is in the valley” NKJV “the city that is in the ravine” NRSV “the town that is in the wadi itself” TEV “the city in the middle of that Valley” NJB “the town down in the valley”

The variety in the English translations shows the possibilities. For me, a city would never have been built in a wadi because of the danger of flash floods, so valley seems best.

“no city that was too high for us” God's people had balked because the cities were too well fortified, the inhabitants were too tall. Now the Jews are saying, “Those people are big, but we will do it with God's help” (cf. Deuteronomy 1:28).

Deuteronomy 2:37 The area of conquest was very precise (by divine command, cf. Deuteronomy 2:5, Deuteronomy 2:9, Deuteronomy 2:19).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Follow the route of the conquest on a map.

2. Who were the giants?

3. How does one deal with Deuteronomy 2:34?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 2". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/deuteronomy-2.html. 2021.
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