Deuteronomy
Introduction 1-3 Command to Set out from Seir 4-8 Attitude Towards Esau 9 Attitude Towards Moab 10-12 Emim and the Horites 13-15 The Thirty-Eight Year Journey 16-19 Attitude Towards the Ammonites 20-23 The Rephaim and the Caphtorim 24-36 Sihon Given into the Hand of Israel 37 The Obedience of Israel
Introduction

Deuteronomy 2-3 show what the land is not. The people – and we – must learn to distinguish between what God’s land is and what is not and how they – and we – should deal with it. Our land, our inheritance, is heavenly. The life of the land is the eternal life and that is already our part. This will be elaborated further on in the book. We can already enjoy its richness in our hearts. But then we should not despise or confuse that heavenly land with other countries.

First they go along the countries of Edom – descendants of Esau – and of Moab and Ammon – both descendants of Lot. They are not allowed to attack them. Then come the kingdoms of Sihon (Gilead) and Og (Bashan). They must attack them and begin to inherit them, even if that is not yet the promised land. Both kinds of countries do not represent the heavenly blessings. From this there are lessons to be learned for our dealing with things on earth, how they relate to heavenly things. Some things we have to accept as they are, other things we have to conquer, subject them to us, because they are a danger to our heavenly blessings.

Edom, Moab and Ammon are related people. God’s providence has occupied itself with these peoples and has destined an inheritance for them that He has given them. Israel was not allowed to interfere with them, even if they would treat them as enemies.

Gilead and Bashan are hostile peoples. They are not part of the promised land, but they are close by. They are a constant danger and therefore they had to be overcome first, so that they would no longer be a danger to the enjoyment in the land. The immediate surroundings of the land have thus come under the rule of God’s people.


Command to Set out from Seir

1“Then we turned and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea, as the LORD spoke to me, and circled Mount Seir for many days. 2And the LORD spoke to me, saying, 3‘You have circled this mountain long enough. [Now] turn north,

By speaking in verse 11“Then we turned and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea, as the LORD spoke to me, and circled Mount Seir for many days. about “we”, Moses includes himself in this. Because of the unbelief of others, all of them, including Joshua and Caleb and Moses, had to ‘turn’. The unfaithfulness of the whole has consequences for everyone who is faithful to conform to what the LORD gives. Grumble is not good, nor is negative criticism. That’s why they have to roam the wilderness for thirty-eight years. In a single sentence, this is indicated: they circled Mountain Seir “for many days” – every day of the thirty-eight years is felt. Until the LORD finds it enough (cf. Deu 1:66“The LORD our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain.).

This circling is not only a punishment for disobedience, it is also a preparation for entry into the land. This preparation meant the death of the whole old generation who refused to enter the land. A new generation is about to enter the land. This new generation has also spent a certain time in the wilderness. When this preparation is ready in God’s eye, He commands to set course to the north.


Attitude Towards Esau

4and command the people, saying, “You will pass through the territory of your brothers the sons of Esau who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful; 5do not provoke them, for I will not give you any of their land, even [as little as] a footstep because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. 6You shall buy food from them with money so that you may eat, and you shall also purchase water from them with money so that you may drink. 7For the LORD your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.”‘ 8“So we passed beyond our brothers the sons of Esau, who live in Seir, away from the Arabah road, away from Elath and from Ezion-geber. And we turned and passed through by the way of the wilderness of Moab.

Moses had to inform the people about the route to follow. They had to pass through the area of the sons of Esau. Moses also told the people how to behave towards this relative people. They were not allowed to take possession of it, for the LORD had given Esau this land.

For us, this means that there are relationships that are established by God and that we have to acknowledge as established by Him. Even if people treat this in a totally wrong way, it does not change God’s intention. When people marry, for whatever reason, an institution of God is met. We have to acknowledge that. A believer should never insist on its dissolution, for then he touches something of which God has said: “Let no man separate” (Mt 19:66So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”).

If Israel were to ask Esau’s favor, they should not beg for it, but pay for it. They were amply able to do so. In spite of all the grumble, God had been with them, and they did not lack anything (Lk 22:3535And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “[No], nothing.”). If we look back on our journey through the wilderness, we can only say that the Lord has fulfilled His promise that He is with us (Mt 28:2020teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”).

Israel is a people interested in the land of promise. In this way it is distinct from other peoples who do not have this interest. But this must not exalt the people of God above the other peoples. God also has His involvement with these other peoples. He also gave the nations land (verses 9,199Then the LORD said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab, nor provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the sons of Lot as a possession.’19When you come opposite the sons of Ammon, do not harass them nor provoke them, for I will not give you any of the land of the sons of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot as a possession.’). So God is not only concerned with Israel. Israel has to respect what God has given others.

If by grace we may be among those who have understood anything of heavenly blessings, we must not look down overbearing on other believers. God has also given something to others, even though they do not know for example (spiritual) sacrifice service. In Christianity one meets regularly to listen to God’s Word, but the general priesthood of the believers is hardly exercised. God has given a lot in the Reformation. Certain truths then came to the fore again, such as the justification based on faith alone. But the heavenly part of the believers, the blessing of eternal life, only later, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, did it come to light again as truth.

In certain circumstances, the people could be dependent on relative peoples. They asked if they could use their land, not to live there, but to go through it. The call for a favor did not make them charge a debt on themselves. God’s people, on the way to the blessing of the land, is a rich people. They can use their wealth to give something back for what a relative people has given them. If we may benefit from believers who do not know the blessings of heaven, we in turn may give them the riches God has given us in knowing the things of heaven.


Attitude Towards Moab

9Then the LORD said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab, nor provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the sons of Lot as a possession.’

Israel’s attitude towards Moab should be like that towards Esau. Moab was also a relative people. The LORD reminds of their origin by calling them “the sons of Lot”.


Emim and the Horites

10(The Emim lived there formerly, a people as great, numerous, and tall as the Anakim. 11Like the Anakim, they are also regarded as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim. 12The Horites formerly lived in Seir, but the sons of Esau dispossessed them and destroyed them from before them and settled in their place, just as Israel did to the land of their possession which the LORD gave to them.)

Here Israel is informed about the original inhabitants of the area where the Moabites and Edomites now live. From this they can see that God governs everything and gives each nation its own place to live (Deu 32:88“When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
When He separated the sons of man,
He set the boundaries of the peoples
According to the number of the sons of Israel.
; Acts 17:2626and He made from one [man] every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined [their] appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,).

The Moabites called the inhabitants “Emim”, which means “terrible” or “frightening”. They were enemies to be deeply impressed by. The fact that these terrifying peoples had been driven out of the land should have been an encouragement to Israel. As God has helped relative peoples of Israel to expel large and numerous nations, so He will also help Israel to do so. Unfortunately, it underlines the cowardice of Israel forty years ago, because even with God’s help it was afraid of these enemies (Deu 1:2828Where can we go up? Our brethren have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are bigger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified to heaven. And besides, we saw the sons of the Anakim there.”‘; Num 13:28,3328Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified [and] very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there.33There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”). But now they get a new chance.

He also used these conquests as a chastisement for the original inhabitants. The lesson is that God takes away a blessing in case of unfaithfulness and can give it to another person who himself is put to the test again. It also points to the temporary nature that acquired property has.


The Thirty-Eight Year Journey

13‘Now arise and cross over the brook Zered yourselves.’ So we crossed over the brook Zered. 14Now the time that it took for us to come from Kadesh-barnea until we crossed over the brook Zered was thirty-eight years, until all the generation of the men of war perished from within the camp, as the LORD had sworn to them. 15Moreover the hand of the LORD was against them, to destroy them from within the camp until they all perished.

The memory of the thirty-eight years journey through the wilderness should lead them to humiliation. It should make them aware that they will not get the land on the basis of their faithfulness.

The hand of the LORD was against them as long as there was any of the unbelieving generation alive. They had despised his caring hand; therefore they were given to do with his disciplining hand. When the last one had died, His hand was no more against them. This also means that these people often did not die a natural death. Now the LORD could move on with them, again on the way to the promised land.


Attitude Towards the Ammonites

16“So it came about when all the men of war had finally perished from among the people, 17that the LORD spoke to me, saying, 18‘Today you shall cross over Ar, the border of Moab. 19When you come opposite the sons of Ammon, do not harass them nor provoke them, for I will not give you any of the land of the sons of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot as a possession.’

Israel’s attitude towards the Ammonites had to be the same as towards the Moabites and Edomites. The Ammonites were also related to the Israelites via Lot, the nephew of Abraham.


The Rephaim and the Caphtorim

20(It is also regarded as the land of the Rephaim, [for] Rephaim formerly lived in it, but the Ammonites call them Zamzummin, 21a people as great, numerous, and tall as the Anakim, but the LORD destroyed them before them. And they dispossessed them and settled in their place, 22just as He did for the sons of Esau, who live in Seir, when He destroyed the Horites from before them; they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day. 23And the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorim who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and lived in their place.)

The area that now belongs to the Ammonites, used to belong to the Rephaim (or: giants). Despite their size and number, the LORD has freed their area for the Ammonites to live there. That too could be an encouragement for Israel, which was also confronted with giants. For the LORD, no opponent is too big or too numerous. He exceeds everything in size and number.


Sihon Given into the Hand of Israel

24‘Arise, set out, and pass through the valley of Arnon. Look! I have given Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land into your hand; begin to take possession and contend with him in battle. 25This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.’ 26“So I sent messengers from the wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying, 27‘Let me pass through your land, I will travel only on the highway; I will not turn aside to the right or to the left. 28You will sell me food for money so that I may eat, and give me water for money so that I may drink, only let me pass through on foot, 29just as the sons of Esau who live in Seir and the Moabites who live in Ar did for me, until I cross over the Jordan into the land which the LORD our God is giving to us.’ 30But Sihon king of Heshbon was not willing for us to pass through his land; for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, in order to deliver him into your hand, as [he is] today. 31The LORD said to me, ‘See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to occupy, that you may possess his land.’ 32“Then Sihon with all his people came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz. 33The LORD our God delivered him over to us, and we defeated him with his sons and all his people. 34So we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor. 35We took only the animals as our booty and the spoil of the cities which we had captured. 36From Aroer which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon and [from] the city which is in the valley, even to Gilead, there was no city that was too high for us; the LORD our God delivered all over to us.

In the face of relative peoples, Israel has had to respect their possession. They were not allowed to take possession of anything from their inheritance, for that those relative peoples have received from the LORD. There are also peoples whom they have met on their way to the promised land, to whom they have had to adopt a very different attitude. With those peoples they had to fight if they were not willing to give the land. These peoples, too, the Israelites were not allowed to approach with haughtiness.

Sihon first got the chance to surrender the land without battle. But he refused to, and thus, through his own fault, lost his land, his empire and his life. The hardening of his heart by the LORD is the affirmation of his inflexible attitude.

Sihon was the king of the Amorites. Heshbon originally belonged to the Moabites, but the Amorites had conquered it (Num 21:26-2926For Heshbon was the city of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken all his land out of his hand, as far as the Arnon.27Therefore those who use proverbs say,
“Come to Heshbon! Let it be built!
So let the city of Sihon be established.
28“For a fire went forth from Heshbon,
A flame from the town of Sihon;
It devoured Ar of Moab,
The dominant heights of the Arnon.
29“Woe to you, O Moab!
You are ruined, O people of Chemosh!
He has given his sons as fugitives,
And his daughters into captivity,
To an Amorite king, Sihon.
) and expelled the Moabites. Already in the area on the wilderness side of the Jordan the Amorites had to be destroyed and the land inherited.

The LORD has given his people the land. His people only had to take possession of it. What God gives must be conquered by us. He could have thrown it into our laps without a fight, but He has chosen that we have to conquer it. He wants us to show that we appreciate what He gives, by striving to acquire it. He also teaches us that we also depend on Him for the battle.

We must learn where to fight and where to avoid the fight. It is not a fight against believers, but against systems and teachings. The area before the Jordan is as much the inheritance as the promised land on the other side of the Jordan. There are more blessings than the actual blessings of the land. Besides the blessings of the land – for us: the heavenly blessings – there are also earthly blessings, such as food, clothing, health. Of these last blessings, the area before the Jordan, the area on the wilderness side of the Jordan, is a picture.

Also a spiritual blessing like born again is an earthly blessing, a blessing for the earth. Such spiritual blessings can be found for example in the letter to the Romans. When we read there about justification and other consequences of the death of the Lord Jesus, it has to do with our life as a righteous person on earth which has become a wilderness.

When the Lord Jesus speaks in John 3 of “the earthly things” (Jn 3:1212If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?), He does so in response to what He said earlier about “born again” (Jn 3:3-83Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”4Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.7Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’8The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”). Then He speaks of the “heavenly things” and then tells of eternal life (Jn 3:13-1613No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.14As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;15so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.16“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.). God wants us to receive the earthly blessings from His hand as well.

Taking possession of the area before the Jordan is presented here as the will of God. The end of the book of Ezekiel describes the division of the land in the future, when the Lord Jesus will reign. There we see that all tribes have a large part of the land and also a part of area in the wilderness side of the Jordan.

The problem of the two and a half tribe is not that they wanted the area before the Jordan, on the wilderness side thereof, but that they only wanted that area and nothing of the land. All the people despised the land eight-thirty years ago and because of that wandered in the wilderness all this time. The two and a half tribe didn’t learn anything and even now they didn’t want to enter the land. It is God’s intention that we own the ‘area before the Jordan’, but then as He has given it.

In the Reformation there was little eye for the heavenly blessings. Only the earthly blessings were seen. How about us? How is the relationship between enjoying the earthly blessing and the heavenly blessing with us? Our prayers give an indication of this. What are the topics? Are we praying primarily for health, work and family, or are we talking to the Lord mainly about the spiritual growth and well-being of ourselves, our family members and the members of God’s church? It’s not that hard to say anything about the two and a half tribe, but what about us?

We can possess the earthly blessings like Sihon and Og. Then we possess the earthly blessings as the world possesses them. Many disbelievers also have good health and clothing, while believers can be ill and suffer lack. Taking possession of the heavenly blessings begins with taking possession of the earthly blessings. Therefore the LORD says in verse 2424‘Arise, set out, and pass through the valley of Arnon. Look! I have given Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land into your hand; begin to take possession and contend with him in battle. and in verse 3131The LORD said to me, ‘See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to occupy, that you may possess his land.’: “Begin to take possession” and “begin to occupy”.

God gives Sihon over to Israel. In this way we too can continue in spiritual strength in the awareness that no spiritual city is too high for us (verse 3636From Aroer which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon and [from] the city which is in the valley, even to Gilead, there was no city that was too high for us; the LORD our God delivered all over to us.). The Lord also makes everything available to us. That is not dogma, but something we learn in practice. Paul is at the end of his life, as it were, in the plains of Moab, looking back on his wilderness journey and can say: “I have fought the good fight” (2Tim 4:77I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;), where no city was too high.


The Obedience of Israel

37Only you did not go near to the land of the sons of Ammon, all along the river Jabbok and the cities of the hill country, and wherever the LORD our God had commanded us.

Israel did not go near to areas for which the LORD has given a prohibition. Here Moses underlines Israel’s obedience. There is not only a pointing to unbelief and its consequences. Also the doing of the will of God is remembered.


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