Thursday, May 31, 2007

Numbers 20:14–21

Numbers 20:14–21: Edom denies Israel passage through their territory


In this section, the Israelites continue their trek through the desert, and come to the kingdom of Edom. Moses sends a message to the king, asking for permission to travel through the kingdom of Edom. He reminds the king of the many hardships the Israelites have faced, and of the LORD’s faith in bringing the Israelites out of their hardships. He promises that the Israelites will simply stay on the king’s highway, as they pass through. They won’t steal from any fields, or even drink from any wells.

The king’s answer, however, is short and to the point:

But Edom answered:

“You may not pass through here; if you try, we will march out and attack you with the sword.”

(verse 18)

Ouch. Short and to the point! But Moses tries again; he sends another message to the king, and reiterates that the Israelites don’t want to steal any of the Edomites’ food or water. He even goes so far as to say that if the Israelites drink any of the Edomites’ water, they’ll pay for it. But again, the Edomites answer that the Israelites may not pass through. And, to back up the message, they send a large and powerful army against the Israelites.

No battle is recorded, so I’m assuming the Edomites are simply sending the Israelites a message. It is received: The Israelites turn away, and find a different route to continue their journey.


If the name of this nation, Edom, sounds familiar, it’s because the Edomites are the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, who was also called Edom. So it’s no wonder that there is animosity between the Israelites and the Edomites.

God is, of course, aware of this animosity. Later on, in Deuteronomy, God will specifically instruct the Israelites not to “abhor” the Edomites, since they are brothers (Deuteronomy 23:7–8). The LORD may have chosen Jacob to receive the blessing, rather than Esau, but that doesn’t mean that He has no care for Esau at all.

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