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2. The march from Kadesh to the Amorite frontier 2:1-23
Following Israel’s second departure from Kadesh (Numbers 20) the nation set out for "the wilderness" (Deuteronomy 2:1). This was probably the wilderness of Moab to the east of the Dead Sea. They traveled by "the way to the Red Sea" (Deuteronomy 2:1). This probably refers to the caravan route that ran from several miles south of the Dead Sea to Elath. Elath stood at the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqabah. Then they "circled" around to the mountains of the Seir range southeast of the Arabah (Deuteronomy 2:1).
When Israel lay camped at Kadesh, Moses had asked permission from the Edomites to pass through their land on the Arabah road (Deuteronomy 2:8). This route ran east from Kadesh to the King’s Highway, the main north-south road east of the Seir mountains (cf. Numbers 20:14-21). The Edomites denied Moses’ request. Apparently later when Israel was moving north toward Edom from Elath God told Moses that they would pass through Edom (Deuteronomy 2:4-6). They did this through "the way of the wilderness of Moab" (Deuteronomy 2:8), a secondary route east of and roughly parallel to the King’s Highway. We may assume that the Israelites did buy food and water from the Edomites at this time (Deuteronomy 2:6).
Verse seven is a testimony to God’s care for His people during their wilderness wanderings. The sites of Elath and Ezion-geber (Deuteronomy 2:8) seem to have been very close together.
". . . the main settlement was the oasis of Aqabah, at the northeast corner of the gulf, and . . . both names, Elath and Ezion-geber, referred to this place, perhaps to two parts of the oasis." [Note: Dennis Baly, "Elath, Ezion-geber, and the Red Sea," Biblical Illustrator 9:3 (Spring 1983):69.]
God’s care of Moab (Deuteronomy 2:9) and Ammon (Deuteronomy 2:19) as well as Edom (Deuteronomy 2:5) is traceable to the source of these nations in Abraham’s family. They were partakers in the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant. Note that God gave these nations their lands. The thrice repeated phrase, "I have given" (Deuteronomy 2:5; Deuteronomy 2:9; Deuteronomy 2:19), indicates Yahweh’s sovereign prerogative to assign His land to whomever He chose.
A later editor, under divine inspiration, may have added the parenthetic sections (Deuteronomy 2:10-12; Deuteronomy 2:20-23) to Moses’ narrative after Israel had settled in the land. They refer to events that happened after Israel crossed the Jordan (Deuteronomy 2:12; Deuteronomy 2:23).
"The Hurrians are referred to frequently in the Old Testament as the Horites [Deuteronomy 2:12; Deuteronomy 2:22] . . ." [Note: Peter Craigie, Ugarit and the Old Testament, p. 80.]
Deuteronomy 2:14 is a flashback. The crossing of the Zered was a benchmark event for the Israelites. It signaled the end of the wilderness wanderings as the crossing of the Red Sea had marked the end of Egyptian bondage. The crossing of the Jordan River would mark the beginning of a new era in the Promised Land.
"The reference to the demise of all the fighting men accomplishes at least two purposes: (1) it brings that whole era of desert sojourning to an end, and (2) it emphasizes more than ever that the impending victories of Israel in both the Transjordan and Canaan must be attributed not to Israel but to the Lord alone. With the heart of military capacity gone, there can be no doubt that victory is achievable only as he, the Warrior of Israel, leads them to triumph in holy war." [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 95.]
The Caphtorim (Deuteronomy 2:23) were part of the sea people who invaded Canaan from the northwest and settled in the southwest portion of that land. The Caphtorim came from Caphtor (Crete) as a result of the invasion of their northern Mediterranean homelands by the Dorians (Greeks). The Caphtorim became known as the Philistines. The whole land of Canaan became known as Palestine, the land of the Philistines. The Roman Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138) gave it this name.
3. The conquest of the kingdom of Sihon 2:24-37
This narrative closely parallels the one in Numbers 21:21-32. In this account Moses emphasized for the people God’s faithfulness to them. Note especially Deuteronomy 2:25; Deuteronomy 2:29-31; Deuteronomy 2:33; Deuteronomy 2:36.
"’All the nations under heaven’ (Deuteronomy 2:25) is an idiomatic hyperbole signifying all the nations in the vicinity; that is, at least from horizon to horizon (under heaven)." [Note: Kalland, p. 32.]
"The process of Sihon’s fall was much the same as that of the fall of . . . the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Each was approached with a request to favor the Israelites (Deuteronomy 2:26-29), which he refused, because ’the Lord . . . hardened his spirit’ (Deuteronomy 2:30). Each made a hostile advance against Israel (Deuteronomy 2:32) and suffered defeat, as the Lord fought for His people (Deuteronomy 2:31; Deuteronomy 2:33 ff.)." [Note: Kline, "Deuteronomy," p. 159.]
As God had promised His people, "No city was too high" for them (Deuteronomy 2:36). Moses gave God all the credit for this victory.
"Apart from the Lord’s intention to provide a home and land for God’s people, there are two criteria for the destruction of inhabitants of the land: (1) those who oppose God’s purpose and promise to Israel-that is, Sihon and Og; and (2) those who seem to pose in a special way the problem of religious contamination and syncretism-that is, the Canaanites and Amorites." [Note: Miller, p. 40.]
". . . the divine hardening described here [Deuteronomy 2:30] was part of Yahweh’s sovereign judgment on a morally corrupt culture." [Note: Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "Divine Hardening in the Old Testament," Bibliotheca Sacra 153:612 (October-December 1996):430.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26