Chapter 2


Remembering Israel’s Wanderings

      • Obeying the instructions the Lord had given me, we left Kadesh, turned around and headed back toward the wilderness along the Red Sea route. We wandered around the hill country of Seir for a long time until finally the Lord told me that we’d been wandering around this area long enough, we should now head north. He told me to give the people the following instructions: Soon you will be traveling through the land that belongs to Esau’s descendants (the Edomites living in Seir). You must be very cautious because they will feel threatened by you. However, I have given this hill country in Seir to Esau and his descendants as their possession and I won’t give even one inch of it to you, so don’t fight them. You can buy food and water from them when you need it. I, the Lord your God, has blessed you in all of your work. I have watched over you throughout your entire journey through this vast wilderness, I’ve been with you throughout the last 40 years. You have never gone without anything that you need.

        • Guzik writes, “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)…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.”

      • So, we bypassed this territory (Seir) that belongs to Esau’s descendants by avoiding the Arabah road that comes up from Elath and Ezion-geber. Instead we traveled along the desert route through Moab. Then the Lord told me not to bother or start a war with the Moabites because He will not give us any of their land either. The Lord gave the land of Ar to Lot’s descendants to possess.

          • Guzik notes, “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…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.”

        • A people group that the Moabites called the Emites used to live in the area near Ar. This group of people were numerous, very strong, and also considered a race of giants like the Anakim people group. Both the Emites and the Anakites were also known as the Rephaites. The Horites had previously lived in Seir, but they had been driven out by Esau’s descendants just like the Israelites had driven the Canaanites out when the Lord gave Israel their land.

David and Goliath, 1 Samuel 17. a photograph of an original rare engraving from a Bible published by Nicolaas Goetzee in 1748
          • There is debate over whether or not the people groups listed above were actually “giants” or merely a “fearsome” group of people. For example, in Guzik’s commentary he writes, “The term translated giants here is actually the Hebrew word rephaim. The term rephaim is often translated “giants,” but it actually means “fearsome ones.” However, one point of confusion may be exactly how big “giant” actually is. If one envisions 80′ tall personages, this is certainly not what is represented Biblically. Instead, anywhere between 7′ and possibly in the neighborhood of 10′ would be more accurate.

          • Indeed many modern day internet claims of the archaeological discovery of giant’s remains are embarrassing Photoshop hoaxes. So, an interesting question is: What evidence is there that the Bible intends to describe “giants” in the modern sense of the term (as people of a much larger physical stature than the average human) as opposed to merely describing a fierce and feared people? I would direct the interested person to the following two sources: from Compelling Truth: The Rephaim- Who were they?; and Bible Evidence for the Giants. I’ll list a few points contained in these sources:

            • Other verses in Scripture testify that physical stature was certainly an intended component of the Biblical description of these people groups:

            • Genesis 6:1-4 introduces the Nephilim, which is a term later used synonymously with the Anakim Numbers 13:32-33 in which the scouts specifically call attention to physical stature: “and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” For an in depth discussion on the mysterious topic of the Nephilim you can check out my article: The Mystery of the Nephilim: An Analysis of Theories.

            • Deuteronomy 3:11 testifies that the bed (or some scholars say possibly the sarcophagus) of King Og of Bashan, the last of the Rephaim, was (due to differing views on proper length calculations) somewhere around 13′ to 14’6” long.

            • 1 Samuel 17:4 describes Goliath’s height as somewhere in the neighborhood of 9’9”.

          • The first cited source writes, “We know the ancient Jews believed them to be giants because the Greek word titanes, from which English derives the word titan, is used to translate the Hebrew word rephaim.” It further notes that Josephus (noted ancient Jewish historian) held to this view.

          • The second source notes that giants are also referenced in Egyptian sources. The following is one example:

              • The “Papyrus Anastasi 1…dated to the Egyptian Ramesside Period” describes men who are “somewhere between 7′ and 8’6” from nose to heel in height. Add another 6” from nose to the top of the head and they were between 7’6” and 9′ in height.” (click here for an English translation)

via Wikipedia- British Museum Papyrus Anastasi 1
        • Then the Lord told me to get up and cross the Zered Valley, so we obeyed. In all, we spent 38 years traveling from Kadesh-barnea to the Zered Valley in which time the entire generation of men that were old enough to fight in battle had died out. This was according to what the Lord had vowed would happen to them. The Lord struck them down until they had all been eliminated.

          • Guzik writes, “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.”

        • As soon as that generation of men had died out the Lord told me, “Today you will cross the border of Moab at Ar entering the land that belongs to the Ammonites which are Lot’s descendants. Don’t bother them or engage in war with them because I have given this land to them and I won’t give you any of it.” (This area was also once inhabited and owned by the Rephaim- the Ammonites called them Zamzummites. These were also a people large in number, strong, and tall like the Anakim. The Lord destroyed them and the Ammonites drove them out and occupied their land. The Lord did the same for Esau’s descendants who took Seir. He destroyed the Horites and they drove them out and have occupied their land ever since. Also, the Caphtorites from Crete invaded the villages around Gaza, destroying and driving out the Avvites who were living there.)

          • Guzik notes, “As with the Edomites and the Moabites, the land of the Ammonites was also not for the people of Israel.”

        • HCSB commentary writes, “God’s destruction of various peoples was neither capricious nor without purpose. As an all-knowing One, He knew the various Canaanite and other neighboring peoples to be beyond repentance (Deuteronomy 2:30).

        • Then the Lord said to go cross the Arnon Valley because He was going to hand over the Amorite King Sihon of Heshbon and his land over to us. He said, “Attack him and take possession of his land. Today I will make all the people throughout the earth terrified of you. When they hear reports of you they’ll tremble with dread and fear.”

        • So, while we were in the wilderness of Kedemoth, I sent messengers to King Sihon offering him with the following peaceful proposal: “Let us travel through your land and we’ll keep only to the highway and won’t go into your fields. We’ll buy food and water from you. We are only asking permission to pass through your land like Esau’s descendants let us travel through Seir, and like the Moabites let us go through Ar. We are on our way to cross the Jordan River into the land that God has given us.” However, King Sihon refused our offer because the Lord had hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate so He could hand him over to you as He did.

          • Guzik explains, “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…God worked behind the scenes in hardening the heart of Sihon, the King of the Amorites…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.”

        • Then the Lord told me, “Look, I have started to hand over King Sihon and his land to you. Start to take possession of it.” Then Sihon mobilized all his army against us and we went to battle at Jahaz. The Lord gave us victory over him. We defeated King Sihon, his sons, and his entire army. We conquered all his cities and completely destroyed all of the people leaving no survivors- not even women and children. We took as spoils all the livestock and anything of value in the cities. Through the Lord, we accomplished this in all cities from Aroer which is located on the edge of the Arnon Valley, the city in the Valley, all the way to Gilead. But, we didn’t go near the land that belongs to the Ammonites along the Jabbok River and the cities of the hill country- the Lord commanded us to leave all of these alone.

          • In reference to the phrase “completely destroyed” or the Hebrew kharam the NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “The Hebrew term refers to the complete consecration of things or people to the Lord…The underlying rationale was to maintain the Lord’s holiness in the face of pagan idolatry and moral corruption.”

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