D E U T E R O N O M Y
Moses, in this chapter, proceeds in the rehearsal of God’s providences concerning Israel in their way to Canaan, yet preserves not the record of any thing that happened during their tedious march back to the Red Sea, in which they wore out almost thirty-eight years, but passes that over in silence as a dark time, and makes his narrative to begin again when they faced about towards Canaan (ver. 1-3), and drew towards the countries that were inhabited, concerning which God here gives them direction, I. What nations they must not give any disturbance to. 1. Not to the Edomites, ver. 4-8. 2. Not to the Moabites (ver. 9), of the antiquities of whose country, with that of the Edomites, he gives some account, ver. 10-12. And here comes in an account of their passing the river Zered, ver. 13-16. 3. Not to the Ammonites, of whose country here is some account given, ver. 17-23. II. What nations they should attack and conquer. They must begin with Sihon, king of the Amorites, ver. 24, 25. And accordingly, 1. They had a fair occasion of quarrelling with him, ver. 26-32. 2. God gave them a complete victory over him, ver. 33, &c.
B. C. 1451.
1 Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days. 2 And the LORD spake unto me, saying, 3 Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward. 4 And command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore: 5 Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession. 6 Ye shall buy meat of them for money, that ye may eat; and ye shall also buy water of them for money, that ye may drink. 7 For the LORD thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the LORD thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing.
Here is, I. A short account of the long stay of Israel in the wilderness: We compassed Mount Seir many days, v. 1. Nearly thirty-eight years they wandered in the deserts of Seir; probably in some of their rests they staid several years, and never stirred; God by this not only chastised them for their murmuring and unbelief, but,
1. Prepared them for Canaan, by humbling them for sin, teaching them to mortify their lusts, to follow God, and to comfort themselves in him. It is a work of time to make souls meet for heaven, and it must be done by a long train of exercises.
2. He prepared the Canaanites for destruction. All this time the measure of their iniquity was filling up; and, though it might have been improved by them as a space to repent in, it was abused by them to the hardening of their hearts. Now that the host of Israel was once repulsed, and after that was so long entangled and seemingly lost in the wilderness, they were secure, and thought the danger was over from that quarter, which would make the next attempt of Israel upon them the more dreadful.
II. Orders given them to turn towards Canaan. Though God contend long, he will not contend for ever. Though Israel may be long kept waiting for deliverance or enlargement, it will come at last: The vision is for an appointed time, and at the end it shall speak, and not lie.
III. A charge given them not to annoy the Edomites.
1. They must not offer any hostility to them as enemies: Meddle not with them, v. 4, 5.
(1.) They must not improve the advantage they had against them, by the fright they would be put into upon Israel’s approach: “They shall be afraid of you, knowing your strength and numbers, and the power of God engaged for you; but think not that, because their fears make them an easy prey, you may therefore prey upon them; no, take heed to yourselves.” There is need of great caution and a strict government of our own spirits, to keep ourselves from injuring those against whom we have an advantage. Or this caution is given to the princes; they must not only not meddle with the Edomites themselves, but not permit any of the soldiers to meddle with them.
(2.) They must not avenge upon the Edomites the affront they gave them in refusing them passage through their country, Num. xx. 21. Thus, before God brought Israel to destroy their enemies in Canaan, he taught them to forgive their enemies in Edom.
(3.) They must not expect to have any part of their land given them for a possession: Mount Seir was already settled upon the Edomites, and they must not, under pretence of God’s covenant and conduct, think to seize for themselves all they could lay hands on. Dominion is not founded in grace. God’s Israel shall be well placed, but must not expect to be placed alone in the midst of the earth, Isa. v. 8.
2. They must trade with them as neighbours, buy meat and water of them, and pay for what they bought, v. 6. Religion must never be made a cloak for injustice. The reason given (v. 7), is, “God hath blessed thee, and hitherto thou hast lacked nothing; and therefore,”
(1.) “Thou needest not beg; scorn to be beholden to Edomites, when thou hast a God all-sufficient to depend upon. Thou hast wherewithal to pay for what thou callest for (thanks to the divine blessing!); use therefore what thou hast, use it cheerfully, and do not sponge upon the Edomites.”
(2.) “Therefore thou must not steal. Thou hast experienced the care of the divine providence concerning thee, in confidence of which for the future, and in a firm belief of its sufficiency, never use any indirect methods for thy supply. Live by the faith and not by thy sword.”
– Matthew Henry C ommentary