Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Two Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
God Leads His People
Verse 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." Moses continues here from Chapter 1, reminding Israel of God's dealings with the nation since their release from Egypt, and as we proceed into this chapter, note Verse 1, in which the people "circled Mount Seir for many days." If you feel like you are wandering aimlessly through life and have no purpose, this chapter sends a different message and should give you hope. Israel the nation is a model of the way God deals with individuals, groups and nations everywhere. He ALWAYS has purpose and direction for us, but mostly we are not getting the message and He might well have us going in circles until we finally get disgusted enough to wake up and trust in the Lord.
Verses 2-6: "And the Lord spoke to me, saying, 3 ‘You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north, 4 and 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; 5 do 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. 6 You 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.'" The Lord gave Israel time to think about the consequences of unbelief as they went around in circles, but now we note again God's specific will for the nation. He has a very certain aim for your life as well. Israel was to be a parable, a nation that was to be like a neon sign brightly illuminating our need for faith in the Lord. They never quite understood their own message, their destiny, for only a minority in each generation would have such faith. And just like He provided money for them to buy what was needed, whatever money you have is from God. As He provided then, He is doing it now—all that you have and are is from Him.
Verses 7-8: "For 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." Ancient Israel should have had abundant faith in the Lord. As glimpsed in Deuteronomy 29:5, regarding Israel's 40-year wilderness travels, their shoes and clothing did not wear out during all those decades and God gifted them in a desert land with all that was needed and more. They should have seen His hand of deliverance just as we should right now, but we like them, all too often see only what we seem to lack. Here was Moses, in these verses, giving specific instructions to not provoke or invade the lands of the descendants of Esau the brother of Jacob, or Moab, a child of Lot, Abraham's nephew. When experiencing God's "No" about something you are considering, pray instead of doing it, for our actions are not just about ourselves—they affect others that God loves just as much as He loves us.
Verses 9-12: "Then 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.’ 10 (The Emim lived there formerly, a people as great, numerous, and tall as the Anakim. 11 Like the Anakim, they are also regarded as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim. 12 The 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.)" Moab, you may recall, was the product of an incestuous encounter between the man Lot and one of his daughters. Many might think such people SHOULD have been invaded and destroyed by Israel, but the current Moabites were not responsible for the action of their ancestors and some in both Edom and Moab had faith in the Lord. Therefore, they were protected by God, whereas other tribes, who rejected such faith, would be destroyed. Reference is made here in these verses to people like the Emim and Anakim, who were as a group, unusually large, fierce, and we are to note that the smaller Moabites and Edomites defeated and disposessed them because the Lord made it happen.
Verses 13-15: "'Now arise and cross over the brook Zered yourselves.’ So we crossed over the brook Zered. 14 Now 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. 15 Moreover the hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from within the camp until they all perished." Moses continued to remind the current generation of the Lord's actions in relation to that nation in the past, with the aim that the same mistakes would not be made in the future. Unbelief is sin, the opposite of faith. God has an absolute intention that you will have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, opening you to His leading, His purpose for your life. It's time to pray, give up self-will and trust in the Lord. Unbelief leads to destruction.
Verses 16-19: "So it came about when all the men of war had finally perished from among the people, 17 that the Lord spoke to me, saying, 18 ‘Today you shall cross over Ar, the border of Moab. 19 When 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.’" A memorable line in a play by George Bernard Shaw, includes the words: "History will lie as usual." The words of Scriptures such as Deuteronomy are indeed history, but unlike human efforts, Scripture is TRUTH, for God Himself wrote through people. Moses the man had an excellent memory but additionally the infinitely capable Holy Spirit led him, setting the facts straight for not only the next generation of Israel, but also for all people in the millennia to follow. God wrote the Bible through that faithful man and others like him. And again, note the specific direction of the Lord for His people. It never was just about them, for God loved the Moabites, the Ammonites and He loves you. Jesus later said, "For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). God's work on the cross reaches backward and forward in time, embracing ALL who are willing to place their faith in the Lord. Moses personally knew the Lord and we can know Him, too.
Verses 20-23: "(It is also regarded as the land of the Rephaim, for Rephaim formerly lived in it, but the Ammonites call them Zamzummin, 21 a 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, 22 just 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. 23 And the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorim who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and lived in their place.)" Just as the twelve spies had observed in the generation before these verses, there were "giants" in and near the land of Canaan. They were strong, capable, warlike, defenders of their own homes and families and would literally have fought to the death to save that which they regarded as "mine." As we have tended to do, Israel looked at the problem from only a physical perspective, not taking into account the strength of the Lord who was with them. Has the Lord called you? Then go as He leads, for He who has called will bring it to pass.
Verses 24-25: "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. 25 This 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." Here is just one of many reasons why we should trust in the Lord and actually GO in faith when He calls. Yes, you will make enemies because of your decision to place faith ahead of fear, but God will intervene and place terror into the hearts of those who oppose you. Remember, your enemies are not only against you, they also fight against the will of God. You may not be strong enough, but the Lord is.
Verses 26-29: "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. 28 You 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, 29 just 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.'" Notice that God's intention is peace, even for those who live in unbelief and oppose Him. Jesus later addressed us all when He said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you," and He continued, "not as the world gives do I give to you" (John 14:27). As Moses saw, and as we have seen in our lives, the world does not offer real peace. Humanity, which includes you and me, rebelled against God in the beginning and this is the peace we are offered—peace with God. In Christ, we throw down our resistance, open our hearts to Him, and then, instead of destroying us in our vulnerability, He gives us everlasting life and peace with God our Savior.
Verses 30-34: "But 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. 31 The 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. 33 The Lord our God delivered him over to us, and we defeated him with his sons and all his people. 34 So we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor." Notice that God hides NOTHING about Himself and His ways. When Scripture observes here that the Lord hardened Sihon's heart, He is revealing to us that Sihon and his people had lapsed utterly into unbelief and idolatry without any possibility of godly repentance. No remedy existed for that people, and so they were removed and another nation occupied their land, a nation in which at least SOME would place their faith in the Lord. Through Israel we have been given God's Holy Scriptures and blessedly the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Verses 35-37: "We took only the animals as our booty and the spoil of the cities which we had captured. 36 From 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. 37 Only 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." What's amazing about Israel is that God carefully chose them and continued to give direction and protection to the nation, even though many of them lacked faith in the Lord. When Jesus the Messiah later said to Peter, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:31), He spoke to Israel and to us all. God still cares for His people, even though we are poor at living up to our end of the bargain—and the privilege of faith is indeed the greatest gift we could imagine. Listen to the Lord, for He is continually reminding us of the blessings He has provided, and there is much more to come. Israel was learning to trust in the Lord and we are to trust Him, too.
Lord, it's time for me to LISTEN, really listen to You, but I don't do it very well. Please help me, Lord, for I am a person of little faith and my problems seem large. I believe, Lord, please heal my unbelief. I confess that I am a sinner in need of God, and I trust in You. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.