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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 21


1 When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb, heard that the Israelites were coming along the way of Atharim, he engaged them in battle and took some of them captive.


Israel then made this vow to the LORD: "If you deliver this people into my hand, I will doom their cities."


2 Later, when the LORD heeded Israel's prayer and delivered up the Canaanites, they doomed them and their cities. Hence that place was named Hormah.


From Mount Hor they set out on the Red Sea road, to by-pass the land of Edom. But with their patience worn out by the journey,


3 the people complained against God and Moses, "Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!"


4 In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents, which bit the people so that many of them died.


Then the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you. Pray the LORD to take the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people,


5 and the LORD said to Moses, "Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks at it, he will recover."


6 Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he recovered.


The Israelites moved on and encamped in Oboth.


7 Setting out from Oboth, they encamped in Iye-abarim in the desert fronting Moab on the east.


Setting out from there, they encamped in the Wadi Zered.


Setting out from there, they encamped on the other side of the Arnon, in the desert that extends from the territory of the Amorites; for the Arnon forms Moab's boundary with the Amorites.


8 Hence it is said in the "Book of the Wars of the LORD": "Waheb in Suphah and the wadies,


Arnon and the wadi gorges That reach back toward the site of Ar and slant to the border of Moab."


9 From there they went to Beer, where there was the well of which the LORD said to Moses, "Bring the people together, and I will give them water."


Then it was that Israel sang this song: "Spring up, O well! - so sing to it - 


The well that the princes sank, that the nobles of the people dug, with their scepters and their staffs." From Beer they went to Mattanah,


from Mattanah to Nahaliel, from Nahaliel to Bamoth,


10 from Bamoth to the cleft in the plateau of Moab at the headland of Pisgah that overlooks Jeshimon.


Now Israel sent men to Sihon, king of the Amorites, with the message,


"Let us pass through your country. We will not turn aside into any field or vineyard, nor will we drink any well water, but we will go straight along the royal road until we have passed through your territory."


Sihon, however, would not let Israel pass through his territory, but mustered all his forces and advanced into the desert against Israel. When he reached Jahaz, he engaged Israel in battle.


But Israel defeated him at the point of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok and as far as the country of the Ammonites, whose boundary was at Jazer.


Israel seized all the towns here and settled in these towns of the Amorites, in Heshbon and all its dependencies.


Now Heshbon was the capital of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had seized all his land from Jazer to the Arnon.


That is why the poets say: "Come to Heshbon, let it be rebuilt, let Sihon's capital be firmly constructed.


For fire went forth from Heshbon and a blaze from the city of Sihon; It consumed the cities of Moab and swallowed up the high places of the Arnon.


11 Woe to you, O Moab! You are ruined, O people of Chemosh! He let his sons become fugitives and his daughters be taken captive by the Amorite king Sihon.


Their plowland is ruined from Heshbon to Dibon; Ar is laid waste; fires blaze as far as Medeba."


When Israel had settled in the land of the Amorites,


Moses sent spies to Jazer; Israel then captured it with its dependencies and dispossessed the Amorites who were there.


Then they turned and went up along the road to Bashan. But Og, king of Bashan, advanced against them with all his people to give battle at Edrei.


The LORD, however, said to Moses, "Do not be afraid of him; for into your hand I will deliver him with all his people and his land. Do to him as you did to Sihon, king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon."


So they struck him down with his sons and all his people, until not a survivor was left to him, and they took possession of his land.


1 [1-3] The account of this episode seems to be a later insertion here, for Numbers 21:4, belongs logically immediately after Numbers 20:29. Perhaps this is the same event as that mentioned in Judges 1:16-17.

2 [3] Hormah: related to the Hebrew word herem, meaning "doomed." See notes on Numbers 14:45; 18:14.

3 [5] This wretched food: apparently the manna is meant.

4 [6] Saraph: the Hebrew name for a certain species of venomous snakes; the word probably signifies "the fiery one," these snakes being so called from the burning effect of their poisonous bite.

5 [8] If anyone who has been bitten looks at it, he will recover: "and as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting" ( John 3:14-15).

6 [9] King Hezekiah, in his efforts to abolish idolatry, "smashed the bronze serpent which Moses had made" ( 2 Kings 18:4).

7 [11] lye-abarim probably means "the ruins in the Abarim (Mountains)." See note on Numbers 27:12.

8 [14] The "Book of the Wars of the LORD": an ancient collection of Israelite songs, now lost. Waheb in Suphah: since neither place is mentioned elsewhere, it is quite uncertain whether these dubious Hebrew words are even to be considered as place names; some Hebrew words apparently lost must have preceded this phrase.

9 [16] Beer means a well.

10 [20] Jeshimon: "the wasteland"; in 1 Sam 23:19, 24; 26:1, 3 this is the desert of Judah, on the western side of the Dead Sea, but here and in Numbers 23:28, it seems to refer to the southern end of the Jordan valley where Beth-jeshimoth was situated.

11 [29] Chemosh: the chief god of the Moabites, and mentioned as such in the famous inscription of Mesha, king of Moab, who was the contemporary of the dynasty of Omri in Israel. Cf 1 Kings 11:7, 33; 2 Kings 23:13; Jeremiah 48:7, 13.

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