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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Deuteronomy 2


Moses relates to the Israelites how God commanded them to spare the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites; and how they conquered Sihon, king of the Amorites, and took his cities.

Before Christ 1451.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. And we compassed mount Seir The meaning is, they spent near thirty-eight years in the encampments and slow marches made in the wilderness, which lies round the south and west borders of the country of Edom, into which they had not hitherto entered, ver. 4. By mount Seir is meant the mountainous part of Edom, or Idumea. The whole country of Edom, in the times of the kings, reached from the confines of Canaan unto Ezion-gaber on the Red Sea; 1 Kings 9:26. On which account the Arabian gulf was called the sea of Edom, or the Red Sea; but in Moses's time, the land of Edom appears to have been of a much smaller extent, reaching no further south than mount Hor, which is said to have been in the edge of the land of Edom. It was at the end of the thirty-ninth year after their coming out of Egypt that the Lord spake unto Moses, as mentioned in the second and following verses. See Dr. Shaw's Travels, p. 320.

Verse 7

Ver. 7. For the Lord thy God hath blessed thee People who had such proofs of the care of an immediate providence over them, as the Jews had, would have been extremely culpable if, contrary to the orders of God, they had had recourse to violence to procure them such things as they wanted. They came out of Egypt loaden with the riches of that country: they had many excellent workmen among them; and it is very probable that they carried on a commerce with the Arabians and other neighbouring nations. See Le Clerc. Moses uses the term forty years as a round number. See chap. Deu 8:2 Deuteronomy 29:5. Indeed, from the fifteenth day of the first month, on which the Israelites left Egypt, to the tenth of the same month, on which their descendants passed the Jordan to enter into Canaan, was exactly forty years, save five days.

REFLECTIONS.—God hath his appointed times for exercising his people's faith, and permitting his enemies' prosperity. When he says it is long enough, then cometh the end. Israel is now advancing to Canaan. Edom lay in their way; but they are forbidden to molest the people of that country. They might not take advantage over their fears, nor revenge for their unkindness. Note; The people of God are ever generous, forgiving, and disinterested. They must treat them kindly, and with strict justice: as they wanted nothing from them which they were not well able to pay for, they must not take their water without a price. It is the spirit of the Gospel, not only to do no injury to our enemies, but to keep ourselves from being unnecessarily burdensome to our friends. Every thing mean and mercenary is as much forbidden as every thing malignant.

Verse 9

Ver. 9. I have given Ar unto the children of Lot Ar, the capital of Moab, is here put for the whole country. Though the Moabites were now a wicked people; yet, for the sake of their pious ancestor, God would not have them dispossessed. Respecting the Emims, &c. mentioned in the following verses, see Genesis 14:5. The history of the expulsion of the Emims by the Moabites, and of the Horites by the Edomites, is no where else recorded: but it seems to be mentioned here, as an encouragement to the Israelites, not to fear the stoutest enemies that should oppose their taking possession of the promised land.

Verse 12

Ver. 12. As Israel did unto the land of his possession Some would render this, as Israel shall do unto the land of his possession; but there seems to be no necessity for this alteration, as the sacred writer seems manifestly to refer to the conquest already made by the Israelites. The meaning plainly is, that the two last-named people possessed each his country, by expelling thence the ancient inhabitants, as the Israelites lately rooted out the two Amoritish princes, Sihon and Og, who had taken their countries from the Moabites. Houbigant is of opinion, that Moses inserts these words, not as a speaker, but as an historian. In the former character, they might be rendered, as Israel now doth, &c. but the 10th, 11th, and 12th verses, as well as from the 20th to the 23rd following, seem rather a remark of the historian, than a part of a speaker's address.

Verse 20

Ver. 20. Zamzummims Supposed to be the same with those called Zuzims. Genesis 14:5.

Verse 23

Ver. 23. And the Avims, which dwelt in Hazerim, &c.— The Avims are mentioned, Jos 13:3 as the ancient inhabitants of Palestine: Hazerim is no where else read of. Calmet supposes it to be the same place with Hazeroth, Numbers 33:17. But Azza, or Gaza, is well known, being one of the cities of the Philistines, on the northern coast. The Caphtorims were a branch of the Philistines, so called from their founder, who settled in Caphtor, a country in or about Egypt. See Gen 10:14 and Shaw's Travels, p. 286. Le Clerc thinks that the Caphtorims came from the northern coast of Africa: Calmet believes them to have been originally from the island of Cyprus. The translation here is awkward; it would be better, and the Caphtorims, who came forth out of Caphtor, destroyed the Avims, &c. and dwelt in their stead. By producing these instances of God's displacing one people, settling another, and fixing bounds which they should not pass without his leave, Moses designed to strengthen the faith of the Israelites in the divine promise of giving them the victory over all their enemies, and settling them in the land of Canaan. Besides, in this view of things, these nations, who themselves had dispossessed others, could not with justice reproach those who dispossessed them. See Calmet.

REFLECTIONS.—Moses proceeds, 1. To recount their marches by the borders of Moab and Ammon, with some historical account of the former inhabitants, whom they had dispossessed. They were giants, great in statute, and terrible to look upon as the Anakims, yet fell before the sons of Lot and Esau; why, then, should the seed of Jacob fear that God would not more gloriously assist them in destroying the giants of Canaan? Note; In the world we have no sure and abiding portion. The more vain and changeable its possession, the more solicitous should we be to secure a kingdom which cannot be moved. 2. He mentions the remarkable fulfilment of God's sentence, in cutting off entirely the former generation, except Caleb and Joshua, in the wilderness. God's counsel will stand, and woe to the soul against whom he contendeth in anger. 3. They are strictly forbidden to distress the children of Lot. Note; (1.) Relations have a title to a particular regard. (2.) The blessing of godly parents descends to children's children.

Verse 25

Ver. 25. Upon the nations that are under the whole heaven i.e. Upon such nations under the whole heaven as shall hear of thee. See Joshua 2:10-11.

Verse 26

Ver. 26. Kedemoth This was a city in that tract situated on the north side of the river Arnon, which fell to the lot of the Reubenites, Joshua 13:18. It gave name to the wilderness here mentioned.

Verse 29

Ver. 29. (As the children of Esau which dwell in Seir, and the Moabites which dwelt in Ar, did unto me)— There are great difficulties attending this verse; it being certain, that the Edomites and Moabites granted not, but refused, the Israelites a passage through their country. Therefore some commentators say, that the giving them meat and drink for money only is to be understood. Though they denied Israel a passage through their land, yet they suffered them to buy necessaries as they passed along their coasts. So Calmet and Le Clerc understand it. But, as Houbigant justly observes, it is not food only, but a passage which is required. He thinks that the words, who dwell in Seir, lead to the true interpretation of the place, and imagines, that by these children of Esau are not understood those who are called Edom, and who denied the Israelites a passage, but some other descendants of Esau, who dwelt about Seir, to the east, near the Amorites. See his note.

Verse 30

Ver. 30. Hardened his spirit See Exodus 9:34.

Verse 37

Ver. 37. Only unto the land of the children of Ammon thou camest not That is, into no part of the country which was then in their possession. See ver. 19. The river Jabbok was the border of the children of Ammon. Dr. Beaumont observes, that though the Moabites and Ammonites were thus spared by Israel, yet we read that they ill rewarded them afterwards, when they waged war against them to wrest them out of their possession: Judges 11:4-5; Judges 11:40. 2Ch 1:10-11 compare with Amo 1:13 and Jer 49:1 for which the Lord plagued them; and for their unkindness already past, a law is enacted against them, chap. Deuteronomy 23:3; Deuteronomy 23:6.

REFLECTIONS.—Though they might not touch the Ammonite, they are not restrained from the Amorite. But even to them they must first make offers of peace. The gospel is thus preached to those who reject it through the hardness of their heart, yet are left inexcusable thereby. Sihon refuges a passage, and draws out his armies; but he meddled to his ruin. God bids them possess the land; his fear had gone before to dispirit the people, and they fell an easy prey. God's Israel may be well encouraged; what can resist those for whom God fights, and before whom he sends his terrors round about? Universal desolation was quickly spread on every side; the sword of Israel left none alive. The measure of their iniquity was full, and the consumption of the whole nation determined on. Their cattle, goods, cities, and country were the spoil of the conquerors; and now, from a howling wilderness, they began to possess a land of plenty. Note; It will be a blessed and glorious exchange, when the believer quits the wilderness of the world to enter into his everlasting mansions in the city of God.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 2". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.