Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Numbers 21:3

The Lord heard the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites; then they utterly destroyed them and their cities. Thus the name of the place was called Hormah.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

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

Adam Clarke Commentary

The Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel - The whole of this verse appears to me to have been added after the days of Joshua. It is certain the Canaanites were not utterly destroyed at the time here spoken of, for this did not take place till after the death of Moses. If, instead of utterly destroyed them, ויחרם vaiyacharem, we translate they devoted them to utter destruction, it will make a good sense, and not repugnant to the Hebrew; though some think it more probable that the verse was added afterwards by Joshua or Ezra, in testimony of the fulfillment of God's promise; for Arad, who is mentioned as being destroyed here, is mentioned among those destroyed by Joshua long after, (see Joshua 12:14;): but this is quite consistent with their being devoted to destruction, as this might be fulfilled any time after. See the note on Leviticus 27 (note).

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/numbers-21.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

He called the name of the place - Render it as: “the name of the place was called.” The transitive verb here is, by a common Hebrew idiom, equivalent to an impersonal one.

Hormah - i. e. “Ban.” See Numbers 14:45 and note. In Judges 1:17, we read that the men of Judah and Simeon “slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it;” and further, that “the name of the city was called Hormah.” But it does not follow that the name “Hormah” was first bestowed in consequence of the destruction of the place in the time of the Judges, and that in Numbers its occurrence is a sign of a post-Mosaic date of composition. The text here informs us that this aggression of the king of Arad was repelled, and avenged by the capture and sack of his cities; and that the Israelites “banned” them (compare Leviticus 27:28-29). But it was not the plan of the Israelites in the time of Moses to remain in this district. They therefore marched away southeastward; and no doubt for the time the Canaanites resumed possession, and restored the ancient name (Zephath). But Joshua again conquered the king of this district, and finally in the time of the early Judges the ban of Moses and his contemporaries was fully executed. We have therefore in the passage before us the history of the actual origin of the name “Hormah.”

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/numbers-21.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel,.... In their prayers and vows; with acceptance heard, and answered them according to their wish:

and delivered up the Canaanites: into their hands, gave them victory over them:

and they utterly destroyed them and their cities; that is, "anathematized" them, and devoted them to destruction; for as yet they did not actually destroy them, since we read of Arad afterwards, Joshua 12:14, but this they did in Joshua's time, when the whole land of Canaan came into their hands; for had they entered the land now, and took and destroyed the cities belonging to Arad, they would doubtless have proceeded, and pursued their conquests, and not have returned into the wilderness again to go round about Edom, in order to enter another way; many think, as Aben Ezra observes on Numbers 21:1 that this section was written by Joshua, after the land was subdued:

and he called the name of the place Hormah; which before was called Zephath, and it seems to have its name from various disasters which happened at this place; as the defeat of the Israelites by the Amalekites, Numbers 14:45, and here of the Canaanites by the Israelites, and afterwards of the inhabitants of this place by Judah and Simeon, Judges 1:17 it had its name from "Cherem", the anathema or destruction it was devoted to.

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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/numbers-21.html. 1999.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah.

They utterly destroyed them — Neither Moses nor the whole body of the people did this but a select number sent out to punish that king and people, who were so fierce and malicious that they came out of their own country to fight with the Israelites in the wilderness; and these, when they had done this work, returned to their brethren into the wilderness. But why did they not all now go into Canaan, and pursue this victory? Because God would not permit it, there being several works yet to be done, other people must be conquered, the Israelites must be farther humbled and tried and purged, Moses must die, and then they shall enter, and that in a more glorious manner, even over Jordan, which shall be miraculously dried up, to give them passage.

Hormah — That is, utter destruction.

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Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/numbers-21.html. 1765.

Scofield's Reference Notes

Hormah

i.e. utter destruction.

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These files are considered public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available in the Online Bible Software Library.
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Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Numbers 21:3". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/numbers-21.html. 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Numbers 21:3 And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah.

Ver. 3. Delivered up the Canaanites.] This King Arad, heartened with his former success, might - as Guicciardini saith of Charles VIII of France, in his expedition against Naples - come into the field like thunder and lightning, but go out like a snuff; more than a man at first, less than a woman at last.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/numbers-21.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Numbers 21:3. They utterly destroyed them, and their cities: They utterly devoted them and their cities; Dr. Waterland. Houbigant agrees with Dr. Waterland in this translation, ipsorum urbes anathemate devovit; a translation which entirely removes all those difficulties wherewith the text is incumbered by the present version, expressing that they now anathematised, or devoted them and their cities to destruction, and when the cities came into their possession paid their vow; it being undeniable that what our text expresses was not the fact, as appears from Joshua 12:14. Judges 1:16-17; Judges 1:36. See Wall on the Place.

He called the name of the place Hormah That is, anathema, or devotion: the word denotes a total separation of any thing or person from their former state and condition. This city of Hormah was situated in the south of Canaan.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". 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

They utterly destroyed them: when?

Answ. Either,

1. Some time after this, under Joshua, who subdued, among others, the king of Arad, Joshua 12:14. And so this is mentioned here by anticipation, that the vow being now made and mentioned, the effect or performance of it might be recorded, though out of its place; and so this verse must be supposed to be added by some of the prophets, and inserted into Moses’s history, as some other passages seem to be. Or,

2. At this time; and so this is not the same Arad with that, Joshua 12:14, nor this the same Hormah with that there mentioned, but another of the same name, which is most frequent in persons and places in Scripture. And this is the more probable, because that Arad and Hormah, Joshua 12:14, are two distinct places, and had divers kings, whereas here the same place is called both Arad and Hormah; and because that Arad seems to be at some good distance from this, and more within the country, and more northward, as may be gathered from the other places joined with it, Jos 12$. whereas this Arad was near Edom, Numbers 21:4, and in the south, Numbers 21:1.

Quest. 1. How could this be done in the land of Canaan, when Moses neither entered himself, nor led the people into that land?

Answ. Neither Moses nor the whole body of the people did this exploit, but a select number sent out for this purpose to punish that king and people, who were so fierce and malicious that they came out of their own country to fight with the Israelites in the wilderness; and these, when they had done this work, returned to their brethren into the wilderness.

Quest. 2. Why did they not all now go into Canaan, when some of them had once entered it, and pursue this victory?

Answ. Because God would not permit it, there being several works yet to be done, other people must be conquered, the Israelites must be further humbled and tried and purged, Moses must die, and then they shall enter, and that in a more glorious manner, even over Jordan, which shall be miraculously dried up, and give them passage.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". 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

3.They utterly destroyed them and their cities — It is supposed by some that the actual destruction of the cities did not take place then, for two reasons: 1.) It would have required an entrance into Canaan in order to destroy Arad and its allied cities; and, 2.) it was standing after Joshua led in the nation, and its king was destroyed by him. Joshua 12:14. The difficulty all disappears when the word destroyed is rendered, as it should be, anathematized, or put under the ban. The identification of Hormah with Sebaita, (see below,) only twenty-five miles north of Kadesh, (Gadis,) leads others to interpret the ban as executed at that time. But when the Israelites retired the fugitive Canaanites returned and rebuilt the city, which was again taken and destroyed in the conquest of southern Canaan by Judah and Simeon after the death of Joshua.

Hormah — Derived from a Hebrew word signifying to anathema, or a devotement to destruction. Its earlier name was Zephath. Judges 1:17. Robinson identifies it with the pass Es-Sufa, both on account of the name and the situation in the mountain, which, running southwest and northeast, completes the plateau of southern Palestine. But the true identification is Sebaita, twenty-five miles southwest of Beer-sheba. See notes on Joshua 12:14, and Judges 1:17. It is evident, if it was not destroyed now, that till its actual conquest by Judah and Simeon it was called Hormah proleptically. Keil suggests that it may have been captured in the time of Joshua and retaken again by the Canaanites, who restored its old name, Zephath, and that it was subsequently permanently conquered by Judah and Simeon, and received its new name once for all.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". "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 21:3. They utterly destroyed them — That is, as many of them as they took at that time; but it is plain that all these Canaanites were not destroyed at this time, for we find the king of Arad and the king of Hormah mentioned among the kings whom Joshua smote some time after this, Joshua 12:14; and several of their cities were not taken and destroyed till after the death of Joshua, 1:16-17. Indeed, all that the Hebrew here ( יחרם, jacharem) signifies is, that they now devoted them and their cities to destruction, and when their cities came into their possession they fulfilled their vow. He called the name of the place Hormah — That is, devoted to destruction, or, Anathema.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/numbers-21.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Anathema. That is, a thing devoted to utter destruction. (Challoner) --- The explanation of Horma is inserted by St. Jerome. (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/numbers-21.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Canaanites. The Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch add "into his (i.e. Israel"s) hand".

and their cities. These destroyed after Israel came into the land. Compare Joshua 12:14. Judges 1:16, Judges 1:17.

Hormah = utter destruction.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". "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 the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah.

And they utterly destroyed them and their cities - [ wayachareem (Hebrew #2763), devoted to destruction; Septuagint, anathematisen.] It is clear that this is the import of the statement, because the overthrow of these doomed cities did not take place until a period considerably later (Joshua 12:14).

Hormah - [ Chaar

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". "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

(3) And they utterly destroyed them and their cities.—The meaning of the verb which is here employed is to devote to destruction, and hence to destroy utterly. It does not clearly appear whether this destruction was effected at once, or whether the fulfilment of the vow took place at a later period. (See Joshua 12:14; Judges 1:17.) If the attack of the Canaanites was made at the time of the final departure from Kadesh, the latter view must be maintained, as it can scarcely be supposed that the cities could have been rebuilt and again destroyed in so short an interval.

And he called the name of the place Hormah.—Better, And the name of the place was called Hormah. The word Hormah—i.e., a devoted thing—is cognate with the verb which occurs in this and the preceding verse, and which is rendered utterly destroy. The place is so called by anticipation in Numbers 14:45, and, as in regard to other names (e.g., Bethel and Jacob), the name was probably given anew to the place on a later occasion (Judges 1:17).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/numbers-21.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah.
hearkened
Psalms 10:17; 91:15; 102:17
and they utterly
Wyyacharem, rather with the LXX. [kai anethematisen] "and they anathematised, or devoted them to destruction;" for it is certain that these Canaanites and Arad were not utterly destroyed till the time of Joshua. (Jos 12:14.)
the name
14:45; Deuteronomy 1:44; 1 Samuel 30:30; {Hormah,} that is, utter destruction. {Chormah,} rather a devoting to destruction: so LXX. [Anathema] and Tremellius, {devotio sive anathema.}
Reciprocal: Genesis 28:20 - vowed;  Exodus 22:20 - utterly;  Leviticus 27:28 - no devoted;  Leviticus 27:29 - None;  Numbers 22:2 - GeneralDeuteronomy 2:34 - utterly destroyed;  Deuteronomy 13:16 - an heap;  Deuteronomy 20:16 - GeneralJoshua 6:17 - accursed;  Judges 1:17 - Hormah;  Psalm 68:14 - When;  Zechariah 14:11 - there

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Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Numbers 21:3". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/numbers-21.html.