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Monday, December 9 2013

Numbers 21: The Sinai Battles

"Wherefore it is said in the Book of the wars of the LORD, What He did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon, And at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab"

The LORD delivered the Israelites from their slavery by means of His miraculous power (see Exodus 8: Let My People Go, Exodus 9: The Plagues Upon Crops And Livestock and Exodus 12: The First Passover). Despite their great numbers and physical strength and virility (see Exodus 1: I Will There Make Of Thee A Great Nation), the Israelites had grown docile in Egypt - perhaps the primary reason that nearly all of the adults of the time of the Exodus were never able to overcome their whining and weakness (there is a very big difference between meekness and weakness - meekness is a strength). It would be their children and grandchildren, forty years later, who entered the Promised Land (see Numbers 14: Why 40 Years In The Sinai? and Deuteronomy: The Law and History Lessons By Moses).

Most are aware that the Israelites faced battles when they entered the Promised Land, but they also faced military opposition while they were yet in the Sinai. The LORD fought their battles at first, but by the time that the children and grandchildren had grown to adulthood, they were willing and able to do what their parents would not, or could not, do - earn their own living and fight their own battles. Moreover, and most importantly, that generation never forgot the LORD.

The Brass Serpent

"21:1 And when king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners. 21:2 And Israel vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities. 21:3 And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah." (Numbers 21:1-3 KJV)

There remained some who were whiners / rebels (see Numbers 11: Winners and Whiners). It was from the remnants of them that the famous "serpent of brass" (rendered as "bronze serpent" in the RSV and the "bronze snake" in the NIV) originated - for its prophetic Christian purpose. It was provided as a visible means for repentant believers to be saved from their sin, and was, as Christ Himself plainly stated (see "Fact Finder" below), symbolic of the Messiah to come.

"21:4 And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. 21:5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.

21:6 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 21:7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.

21:8 And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 21:9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived." (Numbers 21:4-9 KJV)

The Israelites of the latter generation were gaining confidence - in the LORD, and in themselves. They were almost ready to cross the Jordan (see Joshua: Crossing The Jordan).

"21:10 And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in Oboth. 21:11 And they journeyed from Oboth, and pitched at Ijeabarim, in the wilderness which is before Moab, toward the sunrising. 21:12 From thence they removed, and pitched in the valley of Zared. 21:13 From thence they removed, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, which is in the wilderness that cometh out of the coasts of the Amorites: for Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. 21:14 Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the LORD, What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon, 21:15 And at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab.

21:16 And from thence they went to Beer: that is the well whereof the LORD spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water. 21:17 Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it: 21:18 The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah: 21:19 And from Mattanah to Nahaliel: and from Nahaliel to Bamoth: 21:20 And from Bamoth in the valley, that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah, which looketh toward Jeshimon." (Numbers 21:10-20 KJV)

Notice also how by this time that the Israelites were taking the initiative in their dealings with the nations of the Sinai. They were not seeking a battle, but they would deliver one unto anyone who invited it with aggressive hostility. When Sihon refused Israel's request to merely pass through on their way home, "Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from Arnon unto Jabbok, even unto the children of Ammon: for the border of the children of Ammon was strong." Much of that territory thereafter became the homeland of the eastern Israelite tribes (see Why East And West Manasseh?).

Israelite Tribal Lands

"21:21 And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, saying,

21:22 Let me pass through thy land: we will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well: but we will go along by the king's high way, until we be past thy borders.

21:23 And Sihon would not suffer Israel to pass through his border: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and went out against Israel into the wilderness: and he came to Jahaz, and fought against Israel.

21:24 And Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from Arnon unto Jabbok, even unto the children of Ammon: for the border of the children of Ammon was strong.

21:25 And Israel took all these cities: and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all the villages thereof. 21:26 For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon.

21:27 Wherefore they that speak in proverbs say, Come into Heshbon, let the city of Sihon be built and prepared: 21:28 For there is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon: it hath consumed Ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon. 21:29 Woe to thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh: he hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters, into captivity unto Sihon king of the Amorites. 21:30 We have shot at them; Heshbon is perished even unto Dibon, and we have laid them waste even unto Nophah, which reacheth unto Medeba.

21:31 Thus Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites.

21:32 And Moses sent to spy out Jaazer, and they took the villages thereof, and drove out the Amorites that were there.

21:33 And they turned and went up by the way of Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan went out against them, he, and all his people, to the battle at Edrei.

21:34 And the LORD said unto Moses, Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon.

21:35 So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land." (Numbers 21:21-35 KJV)

Fact Finder: The LORD God was and is Jesus Christ (see Genesis 1: In The Beginning Was The Word and The Kingdom Of The LORD God). What did Jesus Christ say about the symbolism of that "serpent of brass"? How does it relate to one of the most famous verses of the Bible, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life"?
John 3:14-16 and see What Was The Lesson Of John 3:16?


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This Day In History, December 9

480: Odoacer, the first Germanic (see The Holy Roman Empire Of The German Nation) king of Italy, occupied Dalmatia and established his political power with the co-operation of the Roman Senate.

536: Flavius Belisarius (most-often known simply as "Belisarius"), a general of the Eastern (or "Byzantine") Roman Empire, captured Rome.

1625: The Treaty of the Hague was signed under which England and the Netherlands agreed to subsidize Christian IV of Denmark in his campaign in Germany.

1755: The first post office in Canada opened, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

1824: The Battle of Ayacucho, during the Latin-American war of independence; an anti-Spain republican rebel victory over royalists on the high plateau near Ayacucho, Peru.

1868: W.E. Gladstone became British Prime Minister for the first of his four terms.

1870: The Society of Biblical Archaeology was founded in London.

1905: An Act for the Separation of Church and State became law in France, repealing Napoleon's Concordat of 1801.

1917: During the First World War (listen to our Sermon The European World Wars), British forces under the command of General Edmund Allenby captured Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire (listen to our Sermons The Ottoman Empire and The Balfour Declaration; see also Israel In History and Prophecy: Balfour Declaration). It occurred on Hanukkah, which commemorates the recovery of The Temple after the original "abomination of desolation" that was committed by the Seleucids (see A History Of Jerusalem: Greeks, Ptolemies, Seleucids) while under the rule of the heathen Antiochus Epiphanes (see A History Of Jerusalem: Abomination Of Desolation and The Holy Place In History And Prophecy).

The Liberation of Jerusalem

1931: Spain became a republic.

1940: British forces launched their first major offensive in North Africa during the Second World War.

1941: China declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy.

1945: The flamboyant U.S. General George Patton was involved in an automobile accident at Kafertal, a suburb of Mannheim, Germany. The collision was relatively minor, however Patton, who was not wearing a seat belt, flew upward and struck his head on the roof of the vehicle; he was paralyzed from the neck down and died 12 days later.

1949: The United Nations General Assembly voted for the entire city of Jerusalem to be transformed into a corpus separtum - an "international" city.

1957: Lester Pearson (who later served as Canada's 14th Prime Minister, 1963-1968) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He received the award for his work while Canadian external affairs minister in negotiating a settlement of the 1956 Suez crisis by proposing a UN peace-keeping force as a means of easing the British and French out of Egypt.

1961: Captured Nazi Adolf Eichman was found guilty of war crimes by a court in Israel (see also Israel In History and Prophecy: Israel Of Judah).

1961: Tanganyika became independent from Britain and took the new name Tanzania.

1979: The eradication of the smallpox virus was certified, thereby making smallpox the first and only human disease driven to extinction.

1990: Former "Solidarity" labor union leader Lech Walesa won Poland's presidential election.

1994: The closest (to date) recorded approach to earth by a celestial object occurred when an asteroid the size of a small house passed within 100,000 km. of the planet (about 1/4 of the distance to the moon). Known as asteroid 1994XM1, it orbits the sun in the same area as the earth and is believed that it will eventually collide with earth.



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