*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

Deuteronomy 2:32-37 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Deuteronomy 2:32
  • Deuteronomy 2:33
  • Deuteronomy 2:34
  • Deuteronomy 2:35
  • Deuteronomy 2:36
  • Deuteronomy 2:37

Moses reminds the Israelites of the time when the LORD allowed them to defeat King Sihon and the Amorites in order to occupy their land.

The previous section (vv. 26-31) is the prerequisite for the victory of the Israelites over the Amorites. For in it, the LORD told His people that He had already paved the way for them to conquer the land of the Amorites by hardening the heart and spirit of King Sihon (vv. 30). Therefore, since all the conditions were met, God said, “Begin to occupy, that you may possess his land” (v. 31).

Now we see that the Israelites did exactly what God commanded them to do. Sihon with all his people came out to meet the Israelites in battle at Jahaz, a city located somewhere between Heshbon and the wilderness of Kedemoth. The LORD delivered Sihon over to the Israelites, so they defeated him with his sons and all his people. Israel’s victory was based solely upon obedience to the will of the great warrior (Yahweh) who always fights for His people (Exodus 14:14).

When the Israelites defeated Sihon and his army, they captured all the cities of Heshbon and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. The verb (charam, in Hebrew) translated here as “destroyed” or “utterly destroyed” basically means “ban,” “exterminate,” or “devote.” It denotes what is forbidden. It can apply to something that is forbidden to touch, as in something that is sacred. Or it can be applied to something that is forbidden to engage with because it is accursed and should be eliminated. Here it is used in the context of the holy war as an act of obedience, which dedicates the adversaries to God (Numbers 21:2; Deuteronomy 13:17; Joshua 6:17). Moses stated, “We left no survivor.” The Amorites were dedicated to the LORD for complete destruction.

However, this elimination did not include the animals because the text says the Israelites took the animals as their booty. God caused His people to be victorious and made provisions for them. The victory of the Israelites extended from Aroer which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon and from the city which is in the valley, even to Gilead.

The city named “Aroer” lies on the northern border of the valley of Arnon, just one mile from the river Arnon. Gilead is the northern part of the territory located on the east side of the Jordan River. From north to south the lands east of the Jordan River can be remembered with the letters GAME: Gilead, Ammon, Moab, and Edom. The text again tells us it was the LORD who delivered all these cities over to the Israelites. The land of the sons of Ammon which runs along the river Jabbok and the cities of the hill country remained unmolested, because the LORD had already told His people to spare these cities.

Biblical Text:

32 “Then Sihon with all his people came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz. 33 The Lord our God delivered him over to us, and we defeated him with his sons and all his people. 34 So we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor. 35 We took only the animals as our booty and the spoil of the cities which we had captured. 36 From Aroer which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon and from the city which is in the valley, even to Gilead, there was no city that was too high for us; the Lord our God delivered all over to us. 37 Only you did not go near to the land of the sons of Ammon, all along the river Jabbok and the cities of the hill country, and wherever the Lord our God had commanded us.

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