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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Numbers 21

 

 

Verse 1

Numbers 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.

Ver. 1. And took some of them prisoners.] A sore affliction, worse than any of those outward crosses that Job suffered, whose captivity therefore, as that which comprehended all the rest, God is said to have turned, [Job 42:10] Barbarossa, the Turkish general, returned from Tunis towards Constantinople with such a multitude of poor Christian captives, shut up so close under hatches among the excrements of nature, that all the way as he went, almost every hour, some of them were cast dead overboard. (a) The late Duke of Alva, governor of Flanders, roasted some of his prisoners to death, starved others, and that even after quarter; saying, though he promised to give them their lives, he did not promise to find them meat. (b)


Verse 2

Numbers 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.

Ver. 2. And Israel vowed a vow.] This is the way to prevail with God, as Jacob found it, [Genesis 28:20] who is therefore called, the father of vows. Concerning vows, {See Trapp on "Genesis 28:20".}


Verse 3

Numbers 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.

Ver. 3. Delivered up the Canaanites.] This King Arad, heartened with his former success, might - as Guicciardini saith of Charles VIII of France, in his expedition against Naples - come into the field like thunder and lightning, but go out like a snuff; more than a man at first, less than a woman at last.


Verse 4

Numbers 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.

Ver. 4. Discouraged because of the way.] So are many in their voyage towards heaven, which is an afflicted way, τεθλιμμενη η οδος, [Matthew 7:14] strawed with crosses. [Acts 14:22] Indeed, if men could go to heaven in a feather bed, or pass e coeno in coelum, a deliciis ad delicias, feed on manchet, tread on roses, fly to heaven with pleasant wings, none should be so forward as they. But to go "through fire and through water," [Psalms 66:12] to "run with patience the race that is set before them," [Hebrews 12:1] and "through many tribulations to enter into heaven," this they like not. Theotimus in Ambrose, would rather lose his sight than his sin: Vale lumen amicum, said he, when forbidden wine, as naught for his eyes. Beetles love dunghills better than ointments, and swine love mud better than a garden; so do swinish epicures prefer earth to heaven, &c.


Verse 5

Numbers 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.

Ver. 5. This light bread.] {See Trapp on "Numbers 11:6"}


Verse 6

Numbers 21:6 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

Ver. 6. Fiery serpents.] Heb., Seraphim; from their burning heat, whereby these ungrateful Israelites, that causelessly cried out of thirst, had somewhat given them to cry for. Their tongues, so full of deadly poison, and set on fire from hell, are now parched and scorched with venomous heat and torments, the likest hell of any other. These serpents are here called seraphims: that old serpent the devil can transform himself into an angel of light.


Verse 7

Numbers 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.

Ver. 7. Pray unto the Lord.] Prayer is the best lever at a dead lift.

Make thee a fiery serpent,] i.e., The similitude of such a one; an unlikely means to effect such a cure. Yea, some write, that it is deadly for those that are stung with a serpent to look upon brass. Certain it is, that this cure was not wrought by anything in the nature of the brazen serpent, but by the institution and ordination of God, to be also a type of Christ; a noble and notable figure of Christ lifted up on the cross, [John 3:14] or rather in his ordinances. [Galatians 3:1] They that looked upon their sores, and not upon the sign, died for it; as those that looked on the sign, though but with one eye, though with but a squint eye, or but with half an eye, they were healed presently. So they that fix their eyes upon their sins only, and not upon their Saviour, despair and die; but those that look to Christ, being faithful in weakness, though weak in faith, are sure to be saved. It is but look up and live. Only look up, as they did that were wounded, weepingly, wishfully, pitifully, cravingly. See and sigh, look upon him whom you have pierced; let your sins be as so many Hazaels to you, and your hearts as so many Hadadrimmons. [Zechariah 12:10-11]


Verse 14

Numbers 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,

Ver. 14. In the book of the wars of the Lord.] This book here cited by Moses, is now either lost, or at least latent. It was not any part of the Canon, - for God hath provided, that not one hair of that sacred head is diminished, - but as the chronicles of England, or some famous poem.


Verse 16

Numbers 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.

Ver. 16. And I will give them water.] Now that they murmured not, they might have anything. [Psalms 34:10] Only we must be content to wait God’s time (is it fit to send for the prince by a post?), or to want that particular mercy, if God see it meet, being content that God be glorified, though we be not gratified. Surely if God saw us thus studying his share more than our own, we might have what we would, and God even think himself beholden to us, as one phraseth it.


Verse 17

Numbers 21:17 Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it:

Ver. 17. Then Israel sang this soug.] A sign of that Christian joy. [Isaiah 12:3-4]


Verse 18

Numbers 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:

Ver. 18. The princes digged the well.] Called therehence Beerelim, i.e., the well of the mighty ones. [Isaiah 15:8] Nunquam vilior erat annona Romae, quam cum terram colerent iidem qui remp. regerent: quasi gauderet terra laureato vomere scilicet, et aratore triumphali. (a)

With their staves.] Those ensigns of their honour they made to be instruments of the common good. See the Epist. Dedicat. set before my notes upon John.


Verse 22

Numbers 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.

Ver. 22. Let me pass.] {See Trapp on "Numbers 20:17"}


Verse 23

Numbers 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.

Ver. 23. And Sihon would not.] He durst not trust them: men muse as they use: God had also hardened his heart, that he might come forth to fetch his own destruction. [Deuteronomy 2:30] Judgment need not go to find wicked men out; they run to meet their bane.


Verse 27

Numbers 21:27 Wherefore they that speak in proverbs say, Come into Heshbon, let the city of Sihon be built and prepared:

Ver. 27. Wherefore they that speak in proverbs.] Or, Bywords; by way of derision, as Deuteronomy 28:17, Habakkuk 2:5. Ballad makers, petty poets, that penned popular songs, such as this was.


Verse 30

Numbers 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.

Ver. 30. We have shot at them.] Great swelling words of vanity, uttered by the conquering Amorites. How much better our Henry V, who, after his victory at Agincourt, gave strait order, that no ballad or song should be made or sung, more than of thanksgiving to God for his happy victory; and that nothing that might tend to ostentation or boasting of the valiant, or cowardly act of any, should be set forth. (a)

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 21:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/numbers-21.html. 1865-1868.

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