Deuteronomy 2 – Moses Remembers the Desert Years and the March On to Canaan
A. Moses remembers the desert years.
1. (1-7) Moses remembers the journey through the land of Edom.
“Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the LORD spoke to me, and we skirted Mount Seir for many days. And the LORD spoke to me, saying: ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward. And command the people, saying, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brethren, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. Therefore watch yourselves carefully. Do not meddle with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as one footstep, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. You shall buy food from them with money, that you may eat; and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink. For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.”’”
a. You are about to pass through the territory of your brethren, the descendants of Esau: The descendants of Esau were distant relatives to the people of Israel (400 years earlier, the brother of Jacob was Esau). God didn’t want Israel to take the land that He gave to Esau and his descendants, the Edomites (Edom was a nickname for Esau).
i. Perhaps the most famous Edomite in the New Testament was Herod the Great. He was hated by the Jews because he was an Edomite, but he wanted to be received and respected as a Jew.
b. Do not meddle with them, for I will not give you any of their land: Israel was not just some conquering army, out to get whatever land it could take. It probably was strong enough to simply take the land of Edom, but Israel only received what God had promised to them.
c. You shall buy food from them with money… you shall also buy water: God commanded Israel to treat the Edomites with respect, even though they could have dominated them as a stronger nation.
i. How we treat those weaker than ourselves is always a good measure of character. When we have the capability to dominate or abuse others and do not, it shows that we have good character. For some of these reasons, God commanded Israel to treat the weaker nation of Edom well.
2. (8-15) Moses remembers the journey through Moab.
“And when we passed beyond our brethren, the descendants of Esau who dwell in Seir, away from the road of the plain, away from Elath and Ezion Geber, we turned and passed by way of the Wilderness of Moab. Then the LORD said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab, nor contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.’” (The Emim had dwelt there in times past, a people as great and numerous and tall as the Anakim. They were also regarded as giants, like the Anakim, but the Moabites call them Emim. The Horites formerly dwelt in Seir, but the descendants of Esau dispossessed them and destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their place, just as Israel did to the land of their possession which the LORD gave them.) ‘Now rise and cross over the Valley of the Zered.’ So we crossed over the Valley of the Zered. And the time we took to come from Kadesh Barnea until we crossed over the Valley of the Zered was thirty-eight years, until all the generation of the men of war was consumed from the midst of the camp, just as the LORD had sworn to them. For indeed the hand of the LORD was against them, to destroy them from the midst of the camp until they were consumed.”
a. Passed by way of the Wilderness of Moab: The Moabites were also distant relatives to Israel; they descended from Lot, who was the nephew of Abraham. And as with Edom, God did not want Israel to harass Moab, nor contend with them in battle – their land was not the land God intended to give Israel.
i. One of the more famous Moabites in the Bible was Ruth. She was a Moabite woman who married an Israelite man name Ruth and became grandmother to King David and one of the ancestors of the Messiah.
b. The Emim had dwelt there in times past: The Moabites were of note because they defeated a Canaanite people known as the Emim, who were a large, fearsome race as were the Anakim.
i. The term translated giants here is actually the Hebrew word rephaim. The term rephaim is often translated “giants,” but it actually means “fearsome ones.”
ii. The Rephaim were a group of large, warlike people who populated Canaan before the Israelites. In the area east of the Jordan River, they were known by many names: The Moabites called them Emim, the Ammonites called them Zamzummin (Deuteronomy 2:20).
c. Thirty-eight years: In these brief verses, Moses covered thirty-eight years of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. This was a period when they just took up time, waiting for the generation of unbelief to die so that the generation of faith could take the Promised Land.
B. Moses remembers the nations they encountered on their way to Canaan.
1. (16-23) Going through the land of the Ammonites.
“So it was, when all the men of war had finally perished from among the people, that the LORD spoke to me, saying: ‘This day you are to cross over at Ar, the boundary of Moab. And when you come near the people of Ammon, do not harass them or meddle with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the descendants of Lot as a possession.’” (That was also regarded as a land of giants; giants formerly dwelt there. But the Ammonites call them Zamzummim, a people as great and numerous and tall as the Anakim. But the LORD destroyed them before them, and they dispossessed them and dwelt in their place, just as He had done for the descendants of Esau, who dwelt in Seir, when He destroyed the Horites from before them. They dispossessed them and dwelt in their place, even to this day. And the Avim, who dwelt in villages as far as Gaza; the Caphtorim, who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and dwelt in their place.)
a. I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon: As with the Edomites and the Moabites, the land of the Ammonites was also not for the people of Israel.
2. (24-37) Moses remembers the conquest of Sihon, king of the Amorites.
“‘Rise, take your journey, and cross over the River Arnon. Look, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to possess it, and engage him in battle. This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the nations under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’ And I sent messengers from the Wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon king of Heshbon, with words of peace, saying, Let me pass through your land; I will keep strictly to the road, and I will turn neither to the right nor to the left. You shall sell me food for money, that I may eat, and give me water for money, that I may drink; only let me pass through on foot, just as the descendants of Esau who dwell in Seir and the Moabites who dwell in Ar did for me, until I cross the Jordan to the land which the LORD our God is giving us.’ But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass through, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into your hand, as it is this day. And the LORD said to me, ‘See, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to possess it, that you may inherit his land.’ Then Sihon and all his people came out against us to fight at Jahaz. And the LORD our God delivered him over to us; so we defeated him, his sons, and all his people. We took all his cities at that time, and we utterly destroyed the men, women, and little ones of every city; we left none remaining. We took only the livestock as plunder for ourselves, with the spoil of the cities which we took. From Aroer, which is on the bank of the River Arnon, and from the city that is in the ravine, as far as Gilead, there was not one city too strong for us; the LORD our God delivered all to us. Only you did not go near the land of the people of Ammon; anywhere along the River Jabbok, or to the cities of the mountains, or wherever the LORD our God had forbidden us.”
a. Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass through: Because of this refusal, Israel fought a battle recorded in Numbers 21. They simply asked for safe passage through the land of the Amorites, but they were refused.
b. The LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into your hand: God worked behind the scenes in hardening the heart of Sihon, the King of the Amorites.
i. It was right for God to do this because the Creator has the right to do whatever He pleases with His creatures. But it was also right because of the way God did it. God did not persuade a reluctant Sihon to act out against Israel; God simply let Sihon’s heart take the evil way it wanted to take. God did not change Sihon’s heart from good to bad but hardened it in its malice towards Israel.
c. That He might deliver him into your hand: This explains why God hardened the heart of Sihon. God led Sihon into the destructive course that his heart desired so that the land of the Amorites became the possession and inheritance of Israel.
d. Utterly destroyed the men, women, and little ones of every city; we left none remaining: The war against the Amorites was one of the unique wars of judgment God told Israel to fight. In it, Israel was not just to defeat the Amorites on the field of battle, but to bring judgment against their whole society.
e. There was not one city too strong for us: Thirty-eight years before, Israel refused to go into the Promised Land because they felt they were over-matched militarily. Here, when they began to enter the land by faith, God showed them how it could have been 38 years before – if they had only believed Him.
i. There was not one city too strong for us is actually, “there was not one city too high for us.” The high walls of the Canaanite cities had intimidated Israel 38 years before (see Deuteronomy 1:28). But walking in faith, they were now nothing before the LORD.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission