Numbers 21

* The Canaanites of Arad destroyed. (1-3) The people murmuring,

are plagued with fiery serpents, They repenting, are healed

through the brazen serpent. (4-9) Further journeys of the

Israelites. (10-20) Sihon and Og overcome, Their land possessed.


1-3 Before the people began their march round the country of

Edom, the king of Arad, a Canaanite, who inhabited the southern

part of the country, attacked them in the wilderness, and took

some prisoners. This was to lead the Israelites to look more

thoroughly to the Lord.
4-9 The children of Israel were wearied by a long march round

the land of Edom. They speak discontentedly of what God had done

for them, and distrustfully of what he would do. What will they

be pleased with, whom manna will not please? Let not the

contempt which some cast on the word of God, make us value it

less. It is the bread of life, substantial bread, and will

nourish those who by faith feed upon it, to eternal life,

whoever may call it light bread. We see the righteous judgment

God brought upon them for murmuring. He sent fiery serpents

among them, which bit or stung many to death. It is to be feared

that they would not have owned the sin, if they had not felt the

smart; but they relent under the rod. And God made a wonderful

provision for their relief. The Jews themselves say it was not

the sight of the brazen serpent that cured; but in looking up to

it, they looked up to God as the Lord that healed them. There

was much gospel in this. Our Saviour declared, #Joh 3:14,15|,

that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the

Son of man must be lifted up, that whatsoever believeth in him,

should not perish. Compare their disease and ours. Sin bites

like a serpent, and stings like an adder. Compare the

application of their remedy and ours. They looked and lived, and

we, if we believe, shall not perish. It is by faith that we look

unto Jesus, #Heb 12:2|. Whosoever looked, however desperate his

case, or feeble his sight, or distant his place, was certainly

and perfectly cured. The Lord can relieve us from dangers and

distresses, by means which human reason never would have

devised. Oh that the venom of the old serpent, inflaming men's

passions, and causing them to commit sins which end in their

eternal destruction, were as sensibly felt, and the danger as

plainly seen, as the Israelites felt pain from the bite of the

fiery serpents, and feared the death which followed! Then none

would shut their eyes to Christ, or turn from his gospel. Then a

crucified Saviour would be so valued, that all things else would

be accounted loss for him; then, without delay, and with

earnestness and simplicity, all would apply to him in the

appointed way, crying, Lord, save us; we perish! Nor would any

abuse the freeness of Christ's salvation, while they reckoned

the price which it cost him.
10-20 We have here the removes of the children of Israel, till

they came to the plains of Moab, from whence they passed over

Jordan into Canaan. The end of their pilgrimage was near. "They

set forward." It were well if we did thus; and the nearer we

come to heaven, were so much the more active and abundant in the

work of the Lord. The wonderful success God granted to his

people, is here spoken of, and, among the rest, their actions on

the river Arnon, at Vaheb in Suphah, and other places on that

river. In every stage of our lives, nay, in every step, we

should notice what God has wrought for us; what he did at such a

time, and what in such a place, ought to be distinctly

remembered. God blessed his people with a supply of water. When

we come to heaven, we shall remove to the well of life, the

fountain of living waters. They received it with joy and

thankfulness, which made the mercy doubly sweet. With joy must

we draw water out of the wells of salvation, #Isa 12:3|. As the

brazen serpent was a figure of Christ, who is lifted up for our

cure, so is this well a figure of the Spirit, who is poured

forth for our comfort, and from whom flow to us rivers of living

waters, #Joh 7:38,39|. Does this well spring up in our souls? If

so, we should take the comfort to ourselves, and give the glory

to God. God promised to give water, but they must open the

ground. God's favours must be expected in the use of such means

as are within our power, but still the power is only of God.
21-35 Sihon went with his forces against Israel, out of his own

borders, without provocation, and so ran upon his own ruin. The

enemies of God's church often perish by the counsels they think

most wisely taken. Og, king of Bashan, instead of being warned

by the fate of his neighbours, to make peace with Israel, makes

war with them, which proves in like manner his destruction.

Wicked men do their utmost to secure themselves and their

possessions against the judgments of God; but all in vain, when

the day comes on which they must fall. God gave Israel success,

while Moses was with them, that he might see the beginning of

the glorious work, though he must not live to see it finished.

This was, in comparison, but as the day of small things, yet it

was an earnest of great things. We must prepare for fresh

conflicts and enemies. We must make no peace or truce with the

powers of darkness, nor even treat with them; nor should we

expect any pause in our contest. But, trusting in God, and

obeying his commands, we shall be more than conquerors over

every enemy.
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