Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Numbers 21:2

So Israel made a vow to the Lord and said, "If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Canaanites;   Hormah;   Israel;   Thompson Chain Reference - Covenants and Vows;   Vows;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Desert, Journey of Israel through the;   Vows;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Hormah;   Serpents;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Vow;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Funeral;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Anathema;   Hormah;   Wars of the Lord, the Book of the;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Anathema;   Booty;   Devoted Thing;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Accursed;   Arad;   Vows;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ban;   Israel;   Jephthah;   Moses;   Numbers, Book of;   Simeon;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Arad ;   Wanderings of the Israelites;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Jephthah;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - On to Canaan;   Moses, the Man of God;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Arad;   Genesis;   Moses;   Pentateuch;   Punishments;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Anathema;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Ban;   Hormah;  

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord,.... The Israelites made supplication to the Lord for help against their enemies, and that he would give them victory over them, and made promises to him:

and said, if thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand; certainly and entirely deliver them, so as that a complete victory shall be obtained over them:

then will I utterly destroy their cities; or "anathematize", or devote them to utter destructionF15והחרמתי "et anathematisabo", Montanus; "devovebo", Tigurine version. ; slay man and beast, burn their houses and take their goods, not for a spoil, for their own private use, but reserve them for the service of God; all which is implied in the vow made, as was done to Jericho, Joshua 6:21 and so it is a vow, as Abendana observes, of what they would do when they came to the land of Canaan.

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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 21:2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/numbers-21.html. 1999.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And Israel vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.

I will utterly destroy them — I will reserve no person or thing for my own use, but devote them all to total destruction.

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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 21:2". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/numbers-21.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Numbers 21:2 And Israel vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.

Ver. 2. And Israel vowed a vow.] This is the way to prevail with God, as Jacob found it, [Genesis 28:20] who is therefore called, the father of vows. Concerning vows, {See Trapp on "Genesis 28:20".}

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/numbers-21.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Numbers 21:2. I will utterly destroy their cities I will utterly devote their cities to destruction. They implored the divine aid by a solemn vow, thus obliging themselves to devote all the persons to death, and their goods to sacred uses. See Leviticus 27:28-29 and Joshua 6:17; Joshua 6:27. Instances of this kind of vow are frequently found amongst the heathens; among the rest, a very remarkable example may be met with in Tacitus. Ann. lib. xiii. c. 57. See also the note on ch. Numbers 22:5.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 21:2". 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

Being sensible of their own weakness, they endeavour to engage God to help them in the war, which they intended to renew.

I will utterly destroy their cities; I will reserve no person nor thing for my own use, but devote them all to total destruction, which was the consequent of such vows. See Leviticus 27:29 Deuteronomy 13:15

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 21:2". 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

2.Vowed a vow — The Hebrew has two verbs to express a vow, one to do, and the other to abstain from doing, a certain act. The former is used here.

Utterly destroy their cities — Consecrate or devote them all to destruction. The person or thing thus devoted could never be redeemed. The cities were razed to the foundations, and the inhabitants, both man and beast, were slain. See note on Leviticus 27:28-29. Up to this time we find no command to exterminate the Canaanites by the sword. But we have in the promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:16) an intimation of great judgments when the iniquity of the Amorites should be full. As this was the divine purpose, we are prepared for the record that the Lord hearkened — granted their desire.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Numbers 21:2". "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 21:2. Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord — Being unexperienced in war, and sensible of their own weakness, they were afraid of these Canaanites, and therefore thus endeavour to engage God to help them in the war which they intended to renew. I will utterly destroy their cities — I will reserve no person or thing for my own use, but devote them all to total destruction. The Israelites knew that the destruction of the seven nations of Canaan was predetermined in the counsels of heaven, on account of their excessive national wickedness, (Genesis 9:25-27,) and that it had only been deferred till their incorrigible iniquity, having baffled all the gentler methods of Providence, which, during the course of some hundreds of years, had been employed for their reformation, had proved itself to be full, as God himself expresses it, Genesis 15:16. They believed, it seems, that the time for effecting this destruction was now come, and hence made the vow here recorded.

The reader will observe, that it appears from all historical records of the seven Canaanitish nations, that before they were given up to utter destruction they were sunk into the deepest degeneracy and depravity. Thus (Leviticus 18.) where the Israelites are cautioned against the commission of several enormous crimes, such as offering their children to Moloch, lying with mankind as with womankind, lying with beasts, and women standing before beasts to lie down to them, it is added, For in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you. And again, — For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you. Thus it appears that the destined period for their extirpation was arrived; their iniquities were full, and they brought down this desolation upon themselves. It must be observed, however, that this decree of utter destruction only extended to the seven nations of Canaan, all, it seems, equally sunk in guilt and depravity. The Israelites were at liberty to offer, nay, were commanded to offer, peace to other cities or states that were not of those nations, on condition that they became tributaries to them. See the whole command on this subject, (Deuteronomy 20:10-18,) with the reason assigned for destroying the seven nations, which is thus expressed: That they teach you not to do after their abominations, which they have done unto their gods, so should you sin against the Lord your God. It may be proper to observe further here, that the extirpation of this people, so sunk in idolatry and wickedness, was intended to be a warning to the Israelites themselves, and a most awful one it certainly was; and it was one which they had great need of; for such was their proneness to idolatry in that age of the world, that nothing less seemed likely to be effectual to restrain them from it, than to impress their minds with the most horrid idea of that crime, as what rendered nations accursed in the sight of God and men, and destined to be utterly extirpated from the face of the earth.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 21:2". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/numbers-21.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Cities. Hebrew, "I will subject their cities to anathema, or utter destruction." This vow they probably made at the place called Horma, or "Anathema," which was anciently called Saphaad, Judges i. 17. They fully executed their threat under Josue, who defeated the king of Hered, (Josue xii. 14,) though they destroyed, at present, whatever they could. Arad was afterwards rebuilt by Hobab.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Numbers 21:2". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/numbers-21.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

vowed a vow. Figure of speech Polyptoton (App-6), for emphasis = made a solemn vow.

the LORD. Hebrew. Jehovah. App-4.

wilt indeed deliver = same Figure of speech Polyptoton (App-6), only here it is translated and emphatically expressed by the word "indeed". Hebrew = "a delivering Thou wilt deliver".

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Numbers 21:2". "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

And Israel vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.

Israel vowed a vow. Made to feel their own weakness, they implored the aid of Heaven, and, in anticipation of it, devoted the cities of this king to future destruction. The nature and consequence of such anathemas are described, Leviticus 27:1-34; Deuteronomy 13:1. This vow of extermination against Arad gave name to the place Hormah (slaughter and destruction), though it was not accomplished until after the passage of the Jordan (Joshua 12:14.)

I will utterly destroy - [ w

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Numbers 21:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/numbers-21.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And Israel vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.
vowed
Genesis 28:20; Judges 11:30; 1 Samuel 1:11; 2 Samuel 15:7,8; Psalms 56:12,13; 116:18; Psalms 132:2
I will
Leviticus 27:28,29; Deuteronomy 13:15; Joshua 6:17,26; 1 Corinthians 16:22
Reciprocal: Numbers 30:2 - vow a vow;  Deuteronomy 2:34 - utterly destroyed;  Deuteronomy 3:6 - we utterly;  Deuteronomy 13:16 - an heap;  Deuteronomy 20:16 - General1 Samuel 14:24 - Cursed

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Numbers 21:2". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/numbers-21.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

2.And Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord. This was a manifestation of piety, when they had sustained a loss, not to cast away hope, nor to murmur against God; but to encourage themselves by entreating His aid. To this slate of submissiveness they had been subdued by the chastisements of God, although the continuance of their obedience, as we shall presently see, was not of long duration. Any one at first sight would say that there was something absurd in this vow; but we gather from the result, that it was lawful and approved by God; for the sign of His approbation was that tie hearkened to the vows and cry of the people. I admit, indeed, that God sometimes answers defective prayers, but there is no doubt whatever but that Moses here commends their piety in the vow. We must consider, then, how it was lawful for them to offer the destruction of cities and the wasting of lands to God as a sacrifice of sweet savor; and the reply to this question will be easy, if we bear in mind that the vow did not originate in inconsiderate zeal, but rather in the command of God. It seems cruel to destroy an entire nation; but God had not only decreed its destruction, but had appointed the Israelites to execute His sentence. Hence the vow, of which we are now treating, was not idly spoken, being founded on God’s word, which is the first rule for vowing rightly. It was, indeed, allowable for them to spare the cities, in order to possess them themselves; but it was also allowable to devote them as an offering (in anathema) of first-fruits to God, as we are elsewhere told of the city of Jericho. This at any rate we must conclude, that although God had not openly and expressly commanded the cities to be utterly destroyed, still this vow was dictated by the Holy Spirit, lest the people should yield to sloth, and set themselves down in a single corner, but that, having desolated and wasted this region, they might encourage themselves the more to further progress. The vero חרם charam, which Moses employs, signifies, indeed, to destroy, and from it is derived the word, חרמה chormah, or Hormah, which implies a species of anathema, as if they devoted the land to the curse of God. Moses, however, adds, that the people performed the vow, under the obligation of which they had laid themselves; and praiseworthy indeed was their magnanimity, in refusing to avail themselves of a comfortable home by destroying the cities, which they had acquired by the right of war.

We know not whether the cities were destroyed immediately after the victory over their enemies; indeed, I rather conjecture that there was some interval of time, because the people did not straightway enter the boundaries of the promised land. And this more clearly appears from chapter 33, where, after this battle was fought, certain stations are enumerated, which are in another direction. It is probable, therefore, that they fought outside the boundaries of the Canaanites, and that, when the people came here soon afterwards, the land was finally put to the sword.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:2". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/numbers-21.html. 1840-57.