Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
March from Kadesh to the Frontier of the Amorites. - Deu 2:1. After a long stay in Kadesh, they commenced their return into the desert. The words, "We departed...by the way to the Red Sea," point back to Num 14:25. This departure is expressly designated as an act of obedience to the divine command recorded there, by the expression "as Jehovah spake to me." Consequently Moses is not speaking here of the second departure of the congregation from Kadesh to go to Mount Hor (Num 20:22), but of the first departure after the condemnation of the generation that came out of Egypt. "And we went round Mount Seir many days." This going round Mount Seir includes the thirty-eight years' wanderings, though we are not therefore to picture it as "going backwards and forwards, and then entering the Arabah again" (Schultz). Just as Moses passed over the reassembling of the congregation at Kadesh (Num 20:1), so he also overlooked the going to and fro in the desert, and fixed his eye more closely upon the last journey from Kadesh to Mount Hor, that he might recall to the memory of the congregation how the Lord had led them to the end of all their wandering.
When they had gone through the Arabah to the southern extremity, the Lord commanded them to turn northwards, i.e., to go round the southern end of Mount Seir, and proceed northwards on the eastern side of it (see at Num 21:10), without going to war with the Edomites (התגּרה, to stir oneself up against a person to conflict, מלחמה), as He would not give them a foot-breadth of their land; for He had given Esau (the Edomites) Mount Seir for a possession. For this reason they were to buy victuals and water of them for money (כּרה, to dig, to dig water, i.e., procure water, as it was often necessary to dig wells, and not merely to draw it, Gen 26:25. The verb כּרה does not signify to buy).
And this they were able to do, because the Lord had blessed them in all the work of their hand, i.e., not merely in the rearing of flocks and herds, which they had carried on in the desert (Exo 19:13; Exo 34:3; Num 20:19; Num 32:1.), but in all that they did for a living; whether, for example, when stopping for a long time in the same place of encampment, they sowed in suitable spots and reaped, or whether they sold the produce of their toil and skill to the Arabs of the desert. "He hath observed thy going through this great desert" (ידע, to know, then to trouble oneself, Gen 39:6; to observe carefully, Pro 27:23; Psa 1:6); and He has not suffered thee to want anything for forty years, but as often as want has occurred, He has miraculously provided for every necessity.
In accordance with this divine command, they went past the Edomites by the side of their mountains, "from the way of the Arabah, from Elath (see at Gen 14:6) and Eziongeber" (see at Num 33:35), sc., into the steppes of Moab, where they were encamped at that time.
God commanded them to behave in the same manner towards the Moabites, when they approached their frontier (Deu 2:9). They were not to touch their land, because the Lord had given Ar to the descendants of Lot for a possession. In Deu 2:9 the Moabites are mentioned, and in Deu 2:19 the Amorites also. The Moabites are designated as "sons of Lot," for the same reason for which the Edomites are called "brethren of Israel" in Deu 2:4. The Israelites were to uphold the bond of blood-relationship with these tribes in the most sacred manner. Ar, the capital of Moabitis (see at Num 21:15), is used here for the land itself, which was named after the capital, and governed by it.
To confirm the fact that the Moabites and also the Edomites had received from God the land which they inhabited as a possession, Moses interpolates into the words of Jehovah certain ethnographical notices concerning the earlier inhabitants of these lands, from which it is obvious that Edom and Moab had not destroyed them by their own power, but that Jehovah had destroyed them before them, as is expressly stated in Deu 2:21, Deu 2:22. "The Emim dwelt formerly therein," sc., in Ar and its territory, in Moabitis, "a high (i.e., strong) and numerous people, of gigantic stature, which were also reckoned among the Rephaites, like the Enakites (Anakim)." Emim, i.e., frightful, terrible, was the name given to them by the Moabites. Whether this earlier or original population of Moabitis was of Hamitic or Semitic descent cannot be determined, any more than the connection between the Emim and the Rephaim can be ascertained. On the Rephaim; and on the Anakites, at Num 13:22.
The origin of the Horites (i.e., the dwellers in caves) of Mount Seir, who were driven out of their possessions by the descendants of Esau, and completely exterminated (see at Gen 14:6, and Gen 36:20), is altogether involved in obscurity. The words, "as Israel has done to the land of his possession, which Jehovah has given them," do not presuppose the conquest of the land of Canaan or a post-Mosaic authorship; but "the land of his possession" is the land to the east of the Jordan (Gilead and Bashan), which was conquered by the Israelites under Moses, and divided among the two tribes and a half, and which is also described in Deu 3:20 as the "possession" which Jehovah had given to these tribes.
For this reason Israel was to remove from the desert of Moab (i.e., the desert which bounded Moabitis on the east), and to cross over the brook Zered, to advance against the country of the Amorites (see at Num 21:12-13). This occurred thirty-eight years after the condemnation of the people at Kadesh (Num 14:23, Num 14:29), when the generation rejected by God had entirely died out (תּמם, to be all gone, to disappear), so that not one of them saw the promised land. They did not all die a natural death, however, but "the hand of the Lord was against them to destroy them" (המם, lit., to throw into confusion, then used with special reference to the terrors with which Jehovah destroyed His enemies; Exo 14:24; Exo 23:27, etc.), sc., by extraordinary judgments (as in Num 16:35; Num 18:1; Num 21:6; Num 25:9).
When this generation had quite died out, the Lord made known to Moses, and through him to the people, that they were to cross over the boundary of Moab (i.e., the Arnon, Deu 2:24; see at Num 21:13), the land of Ar (see at Deu 2:9), "to come nigh over against the children of Ammon," i.e., to advance into the neighbourhood of the Ammonites, who lived to the east of Moab; but they were not to meddle with these descendants of Lot, because He would give them nothing of the land that was given them for a possession (Deu 2:19, as at Deu 2:5 and Deu 2:9). - To confirm this, ethnographical notices are introduced again in Deu 2:20-22 into the words of God (as in Deu 2:10, Deu 2:11), concerning the earlier population of the country of the Ammonites. Ammonitis was also regarded as a land of the Rephaites, because Rephaites dwelt therein, whom the Ammonites called Zamzummim. "Zamzummim," from זמם, to hum, then to muse, equivalent to the humming or roaring people, probably the same people as the Zuzim mentioned in Gen 14:5. This giant tribe Jehovah had destroyed before the Ammonites (Deu 2:22), just as He had done for the sons of Esau dwelling upon Mount Seir, namely, destroyed the Horites before them, so that the Edomites "dwelt in their stead, even unto this day."
As the Horites had been exterminated by the Edomites, so were the Avvaeans (Avvim), who dwelt in farms (villages) at the south-west corner of Canaan, as far as Gaza, driven out of their possessions and exterminated by the Caphtorites, who sprang from Caphtor (see at Gen 10:14), although, according to Jos 13:3, some remnants of them were to be found among the Philistines even at that time. This notice appears to be attached to the foregoing remarks simply on account of the substantial analogy between them, without there being any intention to imply that the Israelites were to assume the same attitude towards the Caphtorites, who afterwards rose up in the persons of the Philistines, as towards the descendants of Esau and Lot.
The Help of God in the Conquest of the Kingdom of Sihon. - Deu 2:24. Whereas the Israelites were not to make war upon the kindred tribes of Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites, or drive them out of the possessions given to them by God; the Lord had given the Amorites, who had forced as way into Gilead and Bashan, into their hands.
While they were encamped on the Arnon, the border of the Amoritish king of Sihon, He directed them to cross this frontier and take possession of the land of Sihon, and promised that He would give this king with all his territory into their hands, and that henceforward ("this day," the day on which Israel crossed the Arnon) He would put fear and terror of Israel upon all nations under the whole heaven, so that as soon as they heard the report of Israel they would tremble and writhe before them. רשׁ החל, "begin, take," an oratorical expression for "begin to take" (רשׁ in pause for רשׁ, Deu 1:21). The expression, "all nations under the whole heaven," is hyperbolical; it is not to be restricted, however, to the Canaanites and other neighbouring tribes, but, according to what follows, to be understood as referring to all nations to whom the report of the great deeds of the Lord upon and on behalf of Israel should reach (cf. Deu 11:25 and Exo 23:27). אשׁר, so that (as in Gen 11:7; Gen 13:16; Gen 22:14). וחלוּ, with the accent upon the last syllable, on account of the ו consec. (Ewald, 234, a.), from חוּל, to twist, or writhe with pain, here with anxiety.
If Moses, notwithstanding this, sent messengers to king Sihon with words of peace (Deu 2:26.; cf. Num 21:21.), this was done to show the king of the Amorites, that it was through his own fault that his kingdom and lands and life were lost. The wish to pass through his land in a peaceable manner was quite seriously expressed; although Moses foresaw, in consequence of the divine communication, that he would reject his proposal, and meet Israel with hostilities. For Sihon's kingdom did not form part of the land of Canaan, which God had promised to the patriarchs for their descendants; and the divine foreknowledge of the hardness of Sihon no more destroyed the freedom of his will to resolve, or the freedom of his actions, than the circumstance that in Deu 2:30 the unwillingness of Sihon is described as the effect of his being hardened by God Himself. The hardening was quite as much the production of human freedom and guilt, as the consequence of the divine decree; just as in the case of Pharaoh. On Kedemoth, see Num 21:13. בּדּרך בּדּרך, equivalent to "upon the way, and always upon the way," i.e., upon the high road alone, as in Num 20:19. On the behaviour of the Edomites towards Israel, mentioned in Deu 2:29, see Num 21:10. In the same way the Moabites also supplied Israel with provisions for money. This statement is not at variance with the unbrotherly conduct for which the Moabites are blamed in Deu 23:4, viz., that they did not meet the Israelites with bread and water. For קדּם, to meet and anticipate, signifies a hospitable reception, and the offering of food and drink without reward, which is essentially different from selling for money. "In Ar" (Deu 2:29), as in Deu 2:18. The suffix in בּו (Deu 2:30) refers to the king, who is mentioned as the lord of the land, in the place of the land itself, just as in Num 20:18.
The refusal of Sihon was suspended over him by God as a judgment of hardening, which led to his destruction. "As this day," an abbreviation of "as it has happened this day," i.e., as experience has now shown (cf. Deu 4:20, etc.).
Defeat of Sihon, as already described in the main in Num 21:23-26. The war was a war of extermination, in which all the towns were laid under the ban (see Lev 27:29), i.e., the whole of the population of men, women, and children were put to death, and only the flocks and herds and material possessions were taken by the conquerors as prey.
מתם עיר (city of men) is the town population of men.
They proceeded this way with the whole of the kingdom of Sihon. "From Aror on the edge of the Arnon valley (see at Num 32:34), and, in fact, from the city which is in the valley," i.e., Ar, or Areopolis (see at Num 21:15), - Aror being mentioned as the inclusive terminus a quo of the land that was taken, and the Moabitish capital Ar as the exclusive terminus, as in Jos 13:9 and Jos 13:16; "and as far as Gilead," which rises on the north, near the Jabbok (or Zerka, see at Deu 3:4), "there was no town too high for us," i.e., so strong that we could not take it.
Only along the land of the Ammonites the Israelites did not come, namely, along the whole of the side of the brook Jabbok, or the country of the Ammonites, which was situated upon the eastern side of the upper Jabbok, and the towns of the mountain, i.e., of the Ammonitish highlands, and "to all that the Lord had commanded," sc., commanded them not to remove. The statement, in Jos 13:25, that the half of the country of the Ammonites was given to the tribe of Gad, is not at variance with this; for the allusion there is to that portion of the land of the Ammonites which was between the Arnon and the Jabbok, and which had already been taken from the Ammonites by the Amorites under Sihon (cf. Jdg 11:13.).