Deuteronomy 2:24-25

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Deuteronomy 2:24
  • Deuteronomy 2:25

The book of Deuteronomy is the fifth and last book of the Torah (“law”). It continues the story of the first 4 books and picks up exactly where the book of Numbers ends (with the people on the plain of Moab). Therefore, as we set the context for the book of Deuteronomy, it is important that we briefly summarize the theme of the previous books to see how the story of God unfolds.

Genesis describes God’s plan to bless the Israelites and the world through one man named Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). Exodus focuses on God’s loving act by which He rescued the Israelites from Egypt in order to have a covenant relationship with them. Once the children of Israel are redeemed, Leviticus instructs them to live a holy life that reflects the life of their covenant redeemer (cf. Lev. 19). Since the first generation of the Israelites failed to obey God wholeheartedly, the book of Numbers displays a strong contrast between God’s faithfulness and the nation’s failure. That is why the book of Deuteronomy reiterates and expands on the covenant to a new generation of Israelites poised to enter and conquer the Promised Land. The message of the book is centered around two key terms: love and loyalty (Deut. 6:4-5).

In Chapter 2, the Israelites resume their journey to Canaan from Kadesh, the place where they “remained” many days after their defeat at Hormah by the Amorites (1:41-46). Instead of entering the land of Canaan straight from the wilderness, as they could have done thirty-eight years earlier, the people of God must now take a different route. This new geographical path requires them to pass through five countries east of the Jordan River: Edom, Moab, Ammon, Heshbon, and Bashan.
As the Israelites proceed, God asks them to protect the Edomites, the Moabites, and the Ammonites, because these three people groups are Israel’s kinsmen (2:1-23). God has already promised them their land as their own possession (Deut. 2:5, 9, 19). Nevertheless, God asks the Israelites to destroy King Sihon of Heshbon since He has already hardened Sihon’s heart to deliver him over to His people (vv. 24-31). This chapter, ending with Israel’s victory over Sihon and the Amorites (vv. 32-37), demonstrates God’s care for other families of the earth besides Israel, as well as His willingness to fight for His people when they trust and obey Him. The chapter can be outlined as follows:

I. God instructs the Israelites concerning their Kinsmen (2:1-23).

1. He instructs them concerning Edom (vv. 1-8).
2. He instructs them concerning Moab (vv. 9-15).
3. He instructs them concerning Ammon (vv. 16-23).

II. God Instructs the Israelites to confront Sihon. God hardens Sihon’s heart to deliver him over to His people (2:24-37).

1. He commands the Israelites to defeat King Sihon (vv. 24-25).
2. He hardens the heart of King Sihon (vv. 26-31).
3. He delivers Sihon over to the Israelites (vv. 32-37).

Moses reminds the Israelites of the time when God commanded them to confront Sihon in order to take possession of his land.

In Deuteronomy 2:20-23, Moses interrupted the flow of the narrative to provide information on the original occupants of the Land of Ammon. There, we learned that the land of Ammon was formerly inhabited by the giant race called “Rephaim” but the Ammonites call them Zamzummin. We also learned that the Caphtorim destroyed the Avvim and settled in their place. In this section, Moses resume the narrative of the journey with three imperative verbs — to arise, to set out, and to pass through — as he recalls God’s command to His people to engage Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon. These verbs give us a picture of how God wanted His people to act.

God said to them: arise, set out, and pass through the valley of Arnon. The verb translated as “arise” has the basic meaning of “to stand,” and conveys the idea of rising from a prostrate position, as in Joshua 3:16. Its use in our context, however, connotes the idea of arising for action and could be translated as “get up,” or “be ready.” The second verb (set out) expresses the second movement. It means “to pull out,” “to pull up,” “to journey,” or “to march.” The third movement is to pass through. This verb can also be translated as “to pass over,” or “to pass by.”

The piling up of these verbs not only strengthens God’s command, but also dictates the precise course of action His people were to take. So, God’s people were to get up, march, and pass through the valley of Arnon in order to conquer Heshbon. The valley of Arnon was a deep ravine located at the border between Moab and the territory of King Sihon. By giving the people the precise direction to take, God guaranteed them success over Sihon and the Amorites.

Finally, God provided support and encouragement for His people when He said, “Look! I have given Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land into your hand.” As the French expression goes, it is a faitaccompli(it’s a done deal). Now Israel must begin to take possession and contend with King Sihon in battle. From that time on, God indicated that He was going to put the dread and fear of Israel upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens. Thus, when the peoples heard the report of Israel, how the LORD used them to defeat the enemy, they would tremble and be in anguish. God desired to use one nation (Israel) to make Himself known throughout the world. So, when God said He would instill in the Amorites and other peoples everywheredread” and “fear,” He wanted to teach them that He is the LORD, the great warrior who fights for His chosen people.

Biblical Text:

24 ‘Arise, set out, and pass through the valley of Arnon. Look! I have given Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land into your hand; begin to take possession and contend with him in battle. 25 ‘This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.’

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