Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Numbers 21:14

Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the Lord , "Waheb in Suphah, And the wadis of the Arnon,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Arnon;   Thompson Chain Reference - Brooks;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Books;   Brooks;   Desert, Journey of Israel through the;   War;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Book;   Canaanites;   Poetry of the Hebrews;   Serpents;   War;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Canon;   Pentateuch;   Reuben;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - War, Holy War;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Book;   Suph;   Suphah;   Wars of the Lord, the Book of the;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ar;   Arnon;   Jasher;   Jephthah;   Numbers, the Book of;   Poetry;   Writing;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Book(s);   Pentateuch;   Poetry;   Red Sea (Reed Sea);   Suphah;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Arnon;   Ban;   Canon of the Old Testament;   Dizahab;   God;   Israel;   Jephthah;   Numbers, Book of;   Sanctification, Sanctify;   Suphah;   Vaheb;   War;   Wars of the Lord, Book of the;   King James Dictionary - Rush;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Arnon ;   Book;   Moab, Moabites ;   Wars;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Ar'non;   Mo'ses;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Canon;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Bible, the;   King;   Moab;   Moses;   Numbers, Book of;   Pentateuch;   Poetry, Hebrew;   Suphah;   Text of the Old Testament;   Vaheb;   Wanderings of Israel;   War, Man of;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Ar;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Anonymous Works;   Arnon;   Deborah, the Song of;   Elohist;   Wars of the Lord, Book of the;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The book of the wars of the Lord - There are endless conjectures about this book, both among ancients and moderns. Dr. Lightfoot's opinion is the most simple, and to me bears the greatest appearance of being the true one. "This book seems to have been some book of remembrances and directions, written by Moses for Joshua's private instruction for the management of the wars after him. See Exodus 17:14-16. It may be that this was the same book which is called the book of Jasher, i. e., the book of the upright, or a directory for Joshua, from Moses, what to do and what to expect in his wars; and in this book it seems as if Moses directed the setting up of archery, see 2 Samuel 1:18, and warrants Joshua to command the sun, and expect its obedience, Joshua 10:13."

What he did in the Red Sea, and in the brooks of Arnon - This clause is impenetrably obscure. All the versions, all the translators, and all the commentators, have been puzzled with it. Scarcely any two agree. The original is בסופה והב את eth vaheb besuphah, which our translators render, what he did in the Red Sea, following here the Chaldee Targum; but not satisfied with this version, they have put the most difficult words in English letters in the margin, Vaheb in Suphah. Calmet's conjecture here is ingenious, and is adopted by Houbigant; instead of והב vaheb, he reads זרד zared . Now a ז zain may be easily mistaken for a ו vau, and vice versa; and a ה he for a ר , resh, if the left limb happened to be a little obliterated, which frequently occurs, not only in MSS., but in printed books; the ב beth also might be mistaken for a ד daleth, if the ruled line on which it stood happened in that place to be a little thicker or blacker than usual. Thus then והב vaheb might be easily formed out of זרד zared, mentioned Numbers 21:12; the whole might then be read, They encamped at the brook Zared, and they came to Suphah, and thence to the brook Arnon. Take the passage as we may, it is evidently defective. As I judge the whole clause to have been a common proverb in those days, and Vaheb to be a proper name, I therefore propose the following translation, which I believe to be the best: From Vaheb unto Suph, and unto the streams of Arnon. If we allow it to have been a proverbial expression, used to point out extensive distance, then it was similar to that well known phrase, From Dan even unto Beersheba.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/numbers-21.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Of “the book of the wars of the Lord” nothing is known except what may be gathered from the passage before us. It was apparently a collection of sacred odes commemorative of that triumphant progress of God‘s people which this chapter records. From it is taken the ensuing fragment of ancient poetry relating to the passage of the Arnon River, and probably also the Song of the Well, and the Ode on the Conquest of the Kingdom of Sihon Numbers 21:17-18, Numbers 21:27-30.

What he did … - The words which follow to the end of the next verse are a reference rather than a quotation. Contemporaries who had “the Book” at hand, could supply the context. We can only conjecture the sense of the words; which in the original are grammatically incomplete. The marg. is adopted by many, and suggests a better sense: supplying some such verb as “conquered,” the words would run “He” (i. e. the Lord) “conquered Vaheb in Suphah, and the brooks, etc.” Suphah would thus be the name of a district remarkable for its reeds and water-flags in which Vaheb was situated.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/numbers-21.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the Lord,.... A history of wars in former times, which the Lord had suffered to be in the world; and which, as Aben Ezra thinks, reached from the times of Abraham and so might begin with the battle of the kings in his time, and take in others in later times, and particularly those of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and his conquests of some parts of Moab; and to this book, which might be written by some one of those nations, Moses refers in proof of what he here says:

what he did in the Red sea; that is, what Sihon king of the Amorites did, or the Lord by him, "at Vaheb in Suphah", as the words may be rendered; either against a king, or rather city, of Moab, whose name was Vaheb, in the borders of the land of Moab, or how he destroyed that city Vaheb with a storm or terrible assaultF12Vid. L'Empereur. Not. in Mosis Kimchi οδοιπορια p. 195. :

and in the brooks of Arnon: some places situated on the streams of that river, which were taken by the Amorites from the Moabites, as the book quoted plainly testified.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/numbers-21.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Wherefore it is said in the e book of the wars of the LORD, What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon,

(e) Which seems to be the book of the Judges, or as some think, a book which is lost.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/numbers-21.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

book of the wars of the Lord — A fragment or passage is here quoted from a poem or history of the wars of the Israelites, principally with a view to decide the position of Arnon.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/numbers-21.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the LORD, What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon,

The book of the wars of the Lord — This seems to have been some poem or narration of the wars and victories of the Lord, either by: or relating to the Israelites: which may be asserted without any prejudice to the integrity of the holy scripture, because this book doth not appear to have been written by a prophet, er to be designed for a part of the canon, which yet Moses might quote, as St. Paul doth some of the heathen poets. And as St. Luke assures us, that many did write an history of the things done, and said by Christ, Luke 1:1, whose writings were never received as canonical, the like may be conceived concerning this and some few other books mentioned in the old testament.

The brooks — The brook, the plural number for the singular, as the plural number rivers is used concerning Jordan, Psalm 74:15, and concerning Tigris, Nahum 2:6, and concerning Euphrates, Psalm 137:1, all which may be to called because of the several little streams into which they were divided.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/numbers-21.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Numbers 21:14 Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the LORD, What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon,

Ver. 14. In the book of the wars of the Lord.] This book here cited by Moses, is now either lost, or at least latent. It was not any part of the Canon, - for God hath provided, that not one hair of that sacred head is diminished, - but as the chronicles of England, or some famous poem.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/numbers-21.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The book of the wars of the Lord seems to have been some poem or narration of the wars and victories of the Lord, either by or relating to the Israelites; which may be asserted without any prejudice to the integrity of the Holy Scripture, because this book doth not appear to have been written by a prophet, or to be designed for a part of the canon, but by some other ingenious person, who intended only to write an historical relation of these matters, which yet Moses might quote, as St. Paul doth some of the heathen poets. And as St. Luke assures us that many did write a history of the things done and said by Christ, Luke 1:1, whose writings were never received as canonical, the like may be justly conceived concerning this and some few other books mentioned in the Old Testament; though the words may be thus rendered, Wherefore it shall be said in the relation, or narration (for so the Hebrew sepher is confessed to signify)

of the wars of the Lord. In the Red Sea; or, at Vaheb in Suphah, or in the land of Suph. Vaheb seems to be the name not of a man, but of a city or place, and Suphah the name of the country where it was; and the Hebrew particle eth is oft rendered at. And whereas the sense seems to be imperfect, it must be noted, that he quotes only a fragment or piece of the book, and that principally to prove the situation of Arnon, which he had asserted Numbers 21:13, from which end the passage quoted is sufficient. And the sense is easily to be understood, for it is plain enough that this poet or writer is describing the wars and works of God by the several places where they were done; and having begun the sentence before, and mentioned other places, he comes to these here mentioned, at Vaheb in Suphah, and at the brooks of Arnon, &c. And it seems probable that the war here designed was that of Sihon against the Moabites, mentioned below, Numbers 21:26, which is fitly ascribed to the Lord, because it was undertaken and perfected by the singular direction and assistance of God, and that for the sake of the Israelites, that by this means that country might be invaded and possessed by them, without taking it away from the Moabites, which they were forbidden to meddle with or to disturb, Deuteronomy 2:9, and so their title to it might be more just and unquestionable. See Jude 11:12,13,27.

In the brooks of Arnon, i.e. the brook, the plural number for the singular, as the plural number rivers is used concerning Jordan, Psalms 74:15, and concerning Tigris, Nahum 2:6, and concerning Euphrates, Psalms 137:1, and concerning Thermodoon in Virgil, all which may be so called because of the several little streams into which they were divided.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/numbers-21.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

14.Book of the wars of the Lord — This was probably a collection of ballads composed beside the watchfires of the camp in commemoration of the victories of the Israelites over their enemies. From the title we infer that religious inspiration mingled largely with the poetic. In the spirit of true piety the victories are ascribed, not to the prowess of Israel, but to the might of Jehovah. Possibly this book is referred to in Exodus 17:14-16. The fragment here quoted is obscure because it is sundered from the context. It is quoted simply to confirm the statement that the Arnon is the boundary of Moab.

What he did — This is an erroneous translation of והב, Vaheb, the name of a place on the border of the Amorite and Moabite territories where Israel conquered in battle.

In the Red Sea — This is another erroneous translation of Suphah, mistaken for Suph, the Red Sea. The exact location of Suphah is as little known as is that of Vaheb, both being found in no other place than in the following fragment of the old song:

“Vaheb in Suphah.

And the valleys of Arnon,

And the slope of the valleys

That inclineth toward the dwelling of Ar,

And leaneth upon the border of Moab.”

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/numbers-21.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Numbers 21:14. The book of the wars of the Lord — This seems to have been some poem or narration of the wars and victories of the Lord, either by, or relating to the Israelites: which may be asserted without any prejudice to the integrity of the holy Scripture, because this book doth not appear to have been written by a prophet, or designed for a part of the canon, but which Moses might quote, as St. Paul doth some of the heathen poets. And, as St. Luke assures us that many did write a history of the things done and said by Christ, (Luke 1:1,) whose writings were never received as canonical, the like may be conceived concerning this and some few other books mentioned in the Old Testament. The brooks — The brook, the plural number for the singular, as the plural number, rivers, is used concerning Jordan, (Psalms 74:15,) and concerning Tigris, (Nahum 2:6,) and concerning Euphrates, (<19D701>Psalms 137:1,) all which may be so called because of the several little streams into which they were divided.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/numbers-21.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

The book of the wars, &c. An ancient book, which, like several others quoted in Scripture, has been lost. (Challoner) --- St. Augustine (q. 42) thinks this book was written by one of that country. Others believe that Moses wrote a more detailed account of the wars which he had to wage with the Amalecites, (Exodus xvii. 14,) and these other nations, out of which he has only inserted some of the heads in the Pentateuch. But whether these two verses were taken from another work of Moses, or from the history of some other person, they are now of divine authority. Saul says to David, (1 Kings xviii. 17,) fight the battles of the Lord,....and the children of God and of Ruben pass all armed for war before the Lord, (chap xxxii. 29.; Calmet) whence it appears, that the wars of the Hebrews were attributed to God. Tostat is of opinion, that the Book of the Just, is the same with that to which Moses here refers. See Josue x. 13., and 2 Kings i. 18. But Theodoret thinks rather, that the former was a more extensive account of the transactions of Josue, out of which the book which bears his name was compiled. Such records certainly existed, to which the sacred historians frequently refer: and it is very probable, that a work of this nature was compiled in the days of Moses, or perhaps before his time. (St. Augustine, City of God xviii.) As it contained a prediction, respecting the future wars, in which the Hebrews were about to engage, it could not but make a suitable impression upon them. It might already be in every one's mouth, and the Hebrew may insinuate, that it would be handed down to the latest posterity: "Wherefore in the history, or account of the wars of the Lord, this also shall be mentioned," jamor, dicetur. According to this interpretation, it would not be necessary to suppose, that Moses refers to any more ancient book, as sepher means also, "a narration" by word of mouth; and Rabbi Menachem believes, that God had revealed this event to Moses, encouraging him with the assurance, that he would give him the victory over the nations bordering upon the Arnon, as he had done over the Egyptians and Amalecites at the Red Sea. See Sixt. Senens. (Haydock) --- Of Arnon, the waters of which are supposed to have given the Hebrews a passage, as the Chaldean asserts on the authority of Psalm lxxiii. 15. Habacuc (iii. 13) also mentions that several rivers were dried up by God. The Hebrew text is almost unintelligible, "From, or against, Vahab to Supha." As there is no verb, some translate, "he (Sehon) fought against Vaheb (Grotius reads Moab) at Supha, or he came to Veb." But Calmet would substitute Zared instead of Vaheb: "The encamped at the torrent of Zared, and came to Supha, (Deuteronomy i. 1, where we read the Red Sea) to the torrent of Arnon." Protestants translate, "What he did in the Red Sea, and in the brooks of Arnon, (16) and at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling or Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab." (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/numbers-21.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

of the wars of the LORD. This may commence the quotation, thus: "the wars of Jehovah [were with] Eth-Vaheb by the Red sea (or with a whirlwind. Hebrew. Supha. Compare Amos 1:14. Isaiah 66:15. Nahum 1:3. Jeremiah 4:13) and by the brooks of Arnon". Eth-Vaheb may be the proper name of the king of the Amorites, who took Heshbon, as in Numbers 21:26.

the Red sea. Hebrew. Suphah, a city situated as described here, and in Deuteronomy 1:1. Compare 1 Kings 9:26.

the brooks of Arnon = the outpouring of the torrents.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/numbers-21.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the LORD, What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon,

Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the Lord. A fragment or passage is here quoted from a historical poem, descriptive of the wars of the Israelites, principally with a view to decide the position of Arnon. Various opinions have been advanced respecting this book. Le Clerc, Grotius, and Dr. Patrick, instead of "book," render the original word, 'writing,' 'narrative;' so that, according to them, the passage should stand thus: 'Wherefore in the narration of the wars of the Lord,' etc.

Lightfoot supposes "the book of the wars of the Lord" to be that record which, on the defeat of the Amalekites, Moses was commanded to make as a memorial of it, and to rehearse it in the ears of Joshua (Exodus 17:14-16), with continuations for Joshua's private instructions toward the prosecution of the wars on the lawgiver's decease. Hengstenberg considers this work was of a much more comprehensive description, embracing a record of all that the Lord had done from the commencement of the plagues, which was a war against the king and the people and the gods of Egypt-the destruction of the Egyptian host at the Red Sea-the encounter with the Amalekites, the king of Arad, etc.

These victories, as they were achieved by the help of Yahweh, were celebrated in song, as Miriam's ode after the passage through, the Red Sea, (Exodus 15:1-27.) 'The triumph of the idea over the reality will always call forth poetry: and hence, there was opened a source of popular lyrical poetry, which flowed so richly even in the age of Moses that an entire collection of such songs then sprang into existence, called "the wars of the Lord." They re-echoed the impression which the Lord's dealings with His people were fitted to produce, but in a manner as different from the Psalms as the songs of Korner (or the war-song of Burns) differ from church songs' (Hengstenberg, 'Pentateuch,' vol. 2:, p. 182; also, 'Beitrage,' vol. 3:, p. 223; 'Psalms,' vol. 3:, Appendix 2:; Kurtz, 'History of the Old Covenant, vol. 3:, p. 37.

What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon, [ 'et (Hebrew #854) waaheeb (Hebrew #2052) b

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/numbers-21.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the LORD, What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon,
in the book
Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18
What he did
or, Vaheb in Suphah. The following seems to be the sense of this passage: "From Vaheb in Suphah, and the torrents of Arnon, even the effusion of the torrents, which goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth for the boundary of Moab; even from thence to the well; (which is the well of which Jehovah spake unto Moses, Gather the people, and I will give them water. Then sang Israel this song: Spring up, O Well! Answer ye to it. The well, princes digged it; even nobles of the people digged it, by a decree, upon their borders;) and from the wilderness (or the well, as in LXX.) to Mattanah; and from Mattanah," etc. The whole of this, from ver. 14-20, is a fragment from "the book of the wars of Jehovah," probably a book of remembrances or directions written by Moses for the use of Joshua, and describes the several boundaries of the land of Moab. This rendering removes every obscurity, and obviates every difficulty.
Reciprocal: Numbers 21:13 - GeneralNumbers 21:27 - GeneralNumbers 22:36 - the border;  Deuteronomy 1:1 - Red Sea;  Psalm 44:1 - in the times;  Jeremiah 48:20 - Arnon

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Numbers 21:14". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/numbers-21.html.