Understanding the Old Testament

Victory Over the Amorites

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

Following the Kingís Highway north from Aqaba, the Israelites passed through the territory of the Moabites and close to the territory of the Ammonites (Deuteronomy 2:8 and 2:19). These were the descendants of Moab and Ammon, the sons of Lot (Abrahamís nephew) who were born to him through incestuous sexual relations with his daughters. (See Genesis 19:30-38.) Per Deuteronomy 2:9 and 2:19, the Lord warned Moses not to provoke or harass the Moabites or the Ammonites, so the Israelites passed through Moab peacefully, which brought them to the Arnon River and the land of the Amorites.

The Amorites lived north of Moab. The Arnon River, which flows west into the Dead Sea, was the border between the Amorites and the Moabites. (The Ammonites lived northeast of Moab.)

As he had done with Edom, Moses asked Sihon, an Amorite king, for permission to pass through his territory peacefully, for the Israelites were trying to reach the Jordan River and Canaan. But Sihon refused, and came out to do battle. (Numbers 21:21-23) The Israelites were victorious, and took possession of the Amoritesí land east of the Jordan River and west of Ammon, from the Arnon River north to the Jabbok River (which flows west into the Jordan River). (See Numbers 21:24-26.)

Another Amorite king ruled the territory north of the Jabbok River: Og, king of Bashan. Seeing what the Israelites had done to Sihon, Og feared that he would be next. So he attacked the Israelites and was decisively defeated. (See Numbers 21:33-35.) As a result of these victories over the Amorites, the Isralites took possession of all of the land east of the Jordan River, from the Arnon River as far north as Mount Herman, northeast of the Sea of Galilee. (See Deuteronomy 3:8.) This land would become the property of the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. (See Deuteronomy 3:12-17.) Manasseh would also receive land west of the Jordan River, once Canaan had been conquered.

The Israelites were now in position to cross the Jordan River and invade Canaan.

.Questions to ponder or discuss: Numbers 21:34-35 says that the Israelites killed all of the Amorites who were living in the conquered territory, and implies that they did so at the Lordís direction. This seems harsh to us now, but we may well ask what alternative they had. If the Israelites had let the Amorites live, how might their situation have been similar to that of modern-day Israel, where the Jewish people live in constant tension with the Palestinians, the most militant of whom want to destroy the Jewish people and get their land back? Do you see a solution that would have been preferable to either of these?

Copyright 2018 by Don Davidson

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