on Numbers 21 :35
So they smote him, and his sons - There is a curious note of Dr. Lightfoot here, of which I should think it wrong to deprive the reader.
"Sihon and Og conquered, A. M. 2553. Of the life of Moses, 120. From the Exodus, 40. It is now six and twenty generations from the creation, or from Adam to Moses; and accordingly doth Psalm 136, rehearse the durableness of God's mercy six and twenty times over, beginning the story with the creation, and ending it in the conquest of Sihon and Og. The numerals of the name יהוה Jehovah amount to the sum of six and twenty."
On some difficulties in this chapter Dr. Kennicott makes the following observations: -
"This one chapter has several very considerable difficulties; and some verses, as now translated, are remarkably unintelligible, A true state of this chapter is not, however, to be despaired of; and it has in it some circumstances which merit more than common attention. It contains the history of the last part of the travels of the Israelites in their way to the promised land; beginning with them at Mount Hor, the thirty-fourth encampment, and concluding with them, as in their forty-second and last encampment, near Jordan, in the country which they had acquired by conquest over Sihon, king of the Amorites.
"It begins with saying - that King Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the south, (in the land of Canaan, Numbers 33:40), attacked Israel and was defeated, and that Israel destroyed their cities; and that, after destroying these Canaanite cities, and consequently after being in a part of Canaan, a part of the very country they were going to, on the west of the Dead Sea, they returned towards the Red Sea, and near the eastern tongue or gulf of the Red Sea, on the south of Edom, marched round Edom to the east of the Dead Sea, in order to enter Canaan from the east side of Jordan!
"This surprising representation of so vast and dangerous a march, quite unnecessarily performed, is owing to two circumstances. The first is, (Numbers 21:1), the Canaanites heard that Israel was coming by the way of the spies, meaning, by the way the spies went from Kadesh-Barnea into Canaan. But this being impossible, because Israel had now marched from Meribah-Kadesh to Mount Hor, beyond Ezion-gaber, and were turning round Edom, to the south-east; it is happy that the word rendered spies, in our version, is in the Greek a proper name, (Atharim), which removes that difficulty: and the other difficulty (Numbers 21:2, Numbers 21:3) is removed by the Greek version likewise, according to which, the vow made, with the facts subsequent, does not signify destroying the Canaanite cities, but devoting them to destruction at some future time. See Wall's Crit. Notes.
"It proceeds with saying, that after defeating the Canaanites at Mount Hor, they journeyed from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, (in the road from Ammon, Midian, etc., to the eastern gulf of the Red Sea), to compass the land of Edom; that on their murmuring for want both of bread and of water they were punished by fiery serpents, after which they marched to Oboth, and thence to Ije-abarim in the wilderness, east of Moab. The encampments of the Israelites, amounting to forty-two, are recorded all together, in historical succession, in Numbers 33, where Ije-abarim is the 38th; Dibon-gad, 39; Almon-Diblathaim, 40; mountains of Abarim, 41; and the plains of Moab, by Jordan, 42. This regular detail in Numbers 33 has occasioned great perplexity as to Numbers 21, where, after the stations at Oboth and Ije-abarim, in Numbers 21:10, Numbers 21:11, we have, in Numbers 21:19, Numbers 21:20, the words Mattanah, Nahaliel, and Bamoth; which are usually considered as the proper names of three places, but widely different from the three proper names after Ije-abarim in the catalogue at Numbers 33.
"But there is, in reality, no inconsistency here. In the plain and historical catalogue (Numbers 33). the words are strictly the proper names of the three places; but here the words Mattanah, Nahaliel, and Bamoth follow some lines of poetry, and seem to form a continuation of the song. They evidently express figurative and poetical ideas. The verbs journeyed from and pitched in are not found here, though necessary to prose narration: see Numbers 33:10 and Numbers 33:11 here, and Numbers 33. Lastly, Numbers 21:20, (in this 21st chapter), usually supposed to express the last encampment, does not. Pisgah signifies a hill; and the Israelites could not encamp on the top of any single hill, such as this is described. Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, which looketh toward Jeshimon, (Numbers 23:28), which Peor undoubtedly was in Moab. He took him to another hill in Moab, when he took him (Numbers 23:14) to the top of Pisgah, in the field of Zophim. And if the Pisgah or hill in Numbers 21:20, was in the country of Balak, it could not point out the last encampment, which was not in Balak's country, but north of Arnon.
"The word Mattanah probably alludes to a place distinguished by some gift or blessing from God. Fagius says:
Nomen loci, ab eventu aquarum quas Dominus ibi dedit, sic appellati; מתנה nam significat donum-
'The name of the place was so called, from the circumstance of the waters which the Lord gave there; for Mattanah signifies a gift.' נהליאל Nahaliel is torrentes Dei; i. e., great streams, particularly seasonable or salutary. And במות Bamoth (Numbers 21:20) may point out any high places of signal benefit in the country of Moab, or it may answer to the last station but one, which was the mountains of Abarim.
If, therefore, these words were meant to express poetically some eminent blessing, what blessing was so likely to be then celebrated as copious streams of water? And after they had wandered nearly forty years through many a barren desert, and after (compare Deuteronomy 8:15) having passed through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents and drought, where there was no water, it is no wonder they should shout for joy at finding water in plenty, and finding it almost on the banks of Arnon, the last river they were to pass, in their way to their last station, east of Jordan. No wonder they should sing in poetic rapture, that after the wilderness was (Mattanah) the Gift Of God; meaning the great well in Moab, dug by public authority; and no wonder that, after such a gift, there were (Nahaliel) blessed streams, by which they passed, till they came to (Bamoth) the high places from which, perhaps, these streams descended. And the thanksgiving ends, where the blessing was no longer wanted, on their coming down into the valley, along the banks of Arnon, which was then the north boundary of Moab.
"The Israelites had spent no less than thirty-eight years in coming from Kadesh-Barnea to their encampment north of Zared. Here, at this fortieth station, they were commanded to pass through Moab by ער Ar, the chief city; but were not to stop till they came to the valley on the south of Arnon. At this last station but one they probably continued no longer than was necessary for sending messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, at Heshbon, and receiving his answer. They then crossed the Arnon; and having vanquished Sihon and Og, took possession of the forty-second and last encampment.
"This one chapter has three pieces of poetry, either fragments or complete; and poetry, seldom found in a historical narrative, may be here accounted for from the exuberance of joy which must have affected these wearied travelers, when arriving thus happily near their journey's end. What occurs first is in Numbers 21:14; and has often been called the fragment of an old Amorite song. But it may have been Amorite or Moabite, or either or neither, for the subject matter of it, as it is generally understood, if indeed it can be said to be understood at all. The words את והב בסופה ואת הנתליס ארנו, usually supposed to contain this fragment, do not signify, as in our English version, What he did in the Red Sea, and in the brooks of Arnon. Without enumerating the many interpretations given by others, I shall offer a new one, which seems to make good sense, and a sense very pertinent.
on Numbers 21 :35
on Numbers 21 :35