Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Numbers 21:18

"The well, which the leaders sank, Which the nobles of the people dug, With the scepter and with their staffs." And from the wilderness they continued to Mattanah,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Beer;   Mattanah;   Thankfulness;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Desert, Journey of Israel through the;   Wells;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Beer;   Poetry of the Hebrews;   Serpents;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Reuben;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Beer;   Mattanah;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Beer;   Birthright;   Jasher;   Mattanah;   Moses;   Prayer;   Shiloh (1);   Holman Bible Dictionary - Book(s);   Lawgiver;   Mattanah;   Music, Instruments, Dancing;   Pentateuch;   Poetry;   Well;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Beer;   Israel;   Jephthah;   Lawgiver;   Marshal;   Mattanah;   Moses;   Numbers, Book of;   Prince;   Wars of the Lord, Book of the;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Husbandman ;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Arnon ;   Beer ;   Lawgiver;   Mattanah ;   Moab, Moabites ;   Type;   Wanderings of the Israelites;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Beer-elim;   Mattanah;   Wells;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Be'er;   Birthright;   Mat'tanah;   Mo'ses;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Lawgiver;   Mattanah;   Moses;   Noble;   Numbers, Book of;   Sceptre;   Wanderings of Israel;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Beer;   Well, Song of the;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The princes digged the well - with their staves - This is not easily understood. Who can suppose that the princes dug this well with their staves? And is there any other idea conveyed by our translation? The word חפרו chapharu, which is translated they digged, should be rendered they searched out, which is a frequent meaning of the root; and במשענתם bemishanotham, which we render with their staves, should be translated on their borders or confines, from the root שען shaan, to lie along. With these corrections the whole song may be read thus: -

Spring up, O well! Answer ye to it.

The well, the princes searched it out.

The nobles of the people have digged it.

By a decree, upon their own borders

This is the whole of the quotation from what is called the book of the wars of the Lord. But see Dr. Kennicott's remarks at the end of this chapter.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Numbers 21:18". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/numbers-21.html. 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

The princes digged the well,.... The princes and heads of the several tribes:

the nobles of the people digged it; the seventy elders, according to the Targum of Jonathan:

by the direction of the lawgiver; either the Lord himself, the lawgiver of his people, who pointed out the spot, and directed the princes where to dig, that is, be did this by Moses; and who, as Jarchi thinks, is the lawgiver, and not amiss: the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem render the word by Scribes, in the plural number, and interpret them of Moses and Aaron: and this the princes and nobles "dug with their staves"; either their walking sticks, or their rods, the ensigns of their authority; with these they smote the ground, or stuck them in a soft and sandy place, upon which the waters bubbled up and flowed out. Dr. ShawF14Travels, p. 67. Ed. 2. chooses to render the words, "with their united applause", or "clapping of hands", as the word שען in Chaldee signifies; or it may be expressed, as by Dr. Hunt, quoted by him, "by describing" or "marking out" the figure or fashion of the well "with staves". Mr. Ainsworth thinks that this well signified Christ, the fountain of gardens, and well of living waters; and the waters of it the Spirit and his graces, which are a well of living water springing up unto everlasting life; the means of which are the labours of the governors of the church, the ministers of Christ,by preaching the word, and opening the Scriptures; and such grace is worthy of a song, and to be had with joy out of the wells of salvation, Isaiah 12:3,

and from the wilderness they went to Mattanah; from the wilderness near Arnon, which came out of the coasts of the Amorites, Numbers 21:13 to a place which signifies a gift. The Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem render it,"and from the wilderness it was given to them for a gift'that is, the well; and so the people of God, that are called out of the wilderness of this world, and come up from it, are called to partake of the gifts and blessings of grace, which are freely given unto them of God.

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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.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:18". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/numbers-21.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by [the direction of] the g lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness [they went] to Mattanah:

(g) Only Moses and Aaron, the heads of the people, struck the rock with the rod or staff, which gave water as a well that was deep digged.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Numbers 21:18". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/numbers-21.html. 1599-1645.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah:

With their staves — Probably as Moses smote the rock with his rod, so they struck the earth with their staves, as a sign that God would cause the water to flow out of the earth where they smote it, as he did before out of the rock. Perhaps they made holes with their staves in the sandy ground, and God caused the water immediately to spring up.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:18". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/numbers-21.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Numbers 21:18 The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by [the direction of] the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness [they went] to Mattanah:

Ver. 18. The princes digged the well.] Called therehence Beerelim, i.e., the well of the mighty ones. [Isaiah 15:8] Nunquam vilior erat annona Romae, quam cum terram colerent iidem qui remp. regerent: quasi gauderet terra laureato vomere scilicet, et aratore triumphali. (a)

With their staves.] Those ensigns of their honour they made to be instruments of the common good. See the Epist. Dedicat. set before my notes upon John.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:18". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/numbers-21.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Numbers 21:18. By the direction of the law-giver, with their slaves Houbigant renders this verse, This is the well which the princes digged; which the nobles of the people digged in that place which their staff assigned, or pointed out. The Hebrew is, word for word, says he, in indicio facto per baculos ipsorum; expressing, that the princes with their staves marked out the ground where the well might be found. Syrus gives nearly the same translation, et indicaverunt eum baculis suis; and they shewed it with their staves. Those who follow our version understand the meaning to be, either that the waters sprung up with such ease and speed that the princes no sooner directed with their staves where to dig than their labours were successful; or that the princes, and those who bore staves, the badges of dignity, joined with the multitude in digging it.

They went to Mattanah Le Clerc takes this to be the same place with that called Vaheb; Numbers 21:14 for vaheb in Arabic signifies a gift, as matthan does in the Hebrew.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 21:18". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/numbers-21.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The princes digged; either by themselves, or by others whom they commanded to do it. By the direction of the lawgiver, or, with the lawgiver, i.e. Moses; they together with Moses, or they by Moses’s direction and appointment, which is signified Numbers 21:16.

Their staves are here mentioned, either,

1. As the ensigns of their authority, Jude 5:14, by which they gave this command of digging.

2. As the instruments of their work; not that they, did formally and effectually dig the well or receptacle for the water, for which spades were more proper than staves, but that as Moses smote the rock with his rod, so they struck the earth with their staves, making only some small impression for form sake, or as a sign that God would cause the water to flow forth out of the earth where they smote it, as he did before out of the rock.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 21:18". 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

18.Mattanah cannot be identified. Le Clerc suggests that it may be the same as the mysterious Vaheb, (Numbers 21:14, note,) since its meaning in Arabic is the same as that of Mattanah in Hebrew. Neither this nor the other names occurring in this context are found in the catalogue of stations in chap. 33. This discrepancy may arise from the fact that the same station had several names, or from two contiguous stations being occupied at the same time. Kurtz thinks that the object of the writer in the thirty-third chapter is statistical, that is, to set forth, not all the halting places but the regular camps where the tabernacle was erected, while in earlier passages the object is historical. Hence more places are enumerated, as in Numbers 21:11 and Numbers 22:1, seven places are mentioned between Ije-abarim and the plains of Moab; in Numbers 33:44-48, only three places.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Numbers 21:18". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/numbers-21.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Mathana. Perhaps they did not stop here, though all the encampments are not specified, chap. xxxiii. Nahaliel, "God my torrent," and Bamoth, "the heights," are also situated upon the Arnon.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Numbers 21:18". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/numbers-21.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

they went. No mention is made of any of these places in the itinerary in Num 33. Why not supply "[the waters or streams] went" into all these places? See Numbers 21:16. The Structure shows the scope of this member to be an "event"; "journeys" are the subject of the preceding member. Compare note on Exodus 15:27. Note the Alternation, which gives the interpretation: The princes digged the well; The nobles of the people digged it, With the lawgiver [They digged it] with their staves.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Numbers 21:18". "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

The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah:

By the direction of the lawgiver, [ bim

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Numbers 21:18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/numbers-21.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(18) By the direction of the lawgiver.—Better, with the ruler’s staff. The same word occurs in Genesis 49:10, where it stands in parallelism to “the sceptre.” (See Note in loc.)

And from the wilderness they went to Mat-tanah.—The Targums interpret this and Numbers 21:19-20 of the well, And from the wilderness it was given to them for a gift, and from thence it was given to them in Mattanah, &c. The Targum of Onkelos is as follows: “And from the time that it was given to them, it descended with them to the rivers, &c.” The Targum of Palestine is—“And from the wilderness, &c.” (as above).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:18". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/numbers-21.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah:
princes
2 Chronicles 17:7-9; Nehemiah 3:1,5; 1 Timothy 6:17,18
the lawgiver
Deuteronomy 5:31; 33:4; Isaiah 33:22; John 1:17; James 4:12
And from
33:45-47
Reciprocal: Genesis 49:10 - lawgiver;  Exodus 24:11 - nobles;  Numbers 20:8 - the rod

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Numbers 21:18". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/numbers-21.html.