10 Apr. Numbers 20:14-21:4

10 Apr. The Israelites’ second attempt to enter Canaan fails

“From Kadesh, Moses sent messengers to the king of Edom. He said, ‘Your brothers, the Israelites, say to you: you know about all the troubles we have had, how our ancestors went down into Egypt and we lived there for many years… Now we are here at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your land.’”

“’Please let us pass through your country [on our way to Canaan]. We will not touch any fields of grain or vineyards, and we will not drink water from the wells. We will travel only along the King’s road, not turning right or left until we have passed through your country.’”

“But the king of Edom answered, ‘You may not pass through here. If you try, I will come and meet you with swords.’”

“The Israelites answered, ‘We will go along the main road, and if we or our animals drink any of your water, we will pay for it. We only want to walk through. That’s all.’”

“But he answered, ‘You may not pass through here.’ Then the Edomites went out to meet the Israelites with a large and powerful army. The Edomites refused to let them pass through their country, so the Israelites turned back.”

“All the Israelites moved from Kadesh to Mount Hor, near the border of Edom. There the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Aaron will die… Take Aaron and his son Eleazer up on Mount Hor, and take off Aaron’s special [High Priest’s] clothes and put them on his son Eleazer. Aaron will die there…’”

“Moses obeyed the LORD’s command. They climbed up Mount Hor… Then Aaron died there on top of the mountain. Moses and Eleazer came back down the mountain, and when all the people learned that Aaron was dead, everyone in Israel cried for him for 30 days.”

“The Canaanite king of Arad lived in the southern area [of Canaan]. When he heard that the Israelites were coming on the road to Atharim, he attacked them, and captured some of them. Then the Israelites made this promise to the LORD: ‘If you will help us defeat these people, we will completely destroy their cities.’”

“The LORD listened to the Israelites, and he let them defeat the Canaanites … so the place was named Hormah [meaning ‘destruction’].”

“The Israelites left Mount Hor and went [south] on the road towards the Red Sea, in order to go round the country of Edom [to the east of Edom]. “

          (Numbers 20:14 – 21:4)



Having camped at Kadesh Barnea in the Negev Desert for nearly 40 years, the Israelites decided to make a second attempt at entering the ‘promised land’ of Canaan from the south. But this meant crossing through the territory of the King of Edom.

As the Edomites were descended from Jacob’s brother Esau (see Genesis 32:3 & Deuteronomy 2:8), Moses sent messengers to the King of Edom requesting safe passage through his territory lying to the south east of Canaan.

But the king sent a large and powerful army against the Israelites and would not allow them to pass peacefully through Edom. The only way into the ‘promised land’ of Canaan was to be by force of arms.

The Israelites eventually left Kadesh in c.1407BC and travelled north towards Canaan, skirting to the west of Edom (see 6 on the map on 2 April). At Mount Hor, Aaron died and was succeeded as Chief Priest (see Exodus 28:1) by his son Eleazor.

As the Israelites come closer to Canaan, the Canaanite King of Arad attacked them in the northern Negev Desert on the road to Atharim, and many Israelites were seized and led in captivity north to Arad (see 6 on the map).

A detachment of crack Israelite commandos mounted a daring raid deep into Canaanite territory to the north. After a fierce struggle, the King of Arad was eventually defeated at Hormah (meaning ‘destruction’), but the Israelites decided that it would be more prudent to retreat southwards and to attack Canaan from the east.

So the Israelites turned south from Mount Hor and retraced their steps towards Ezion-geber and the Red Sea in order to skirt round to the south and east of Edom (see 7 on the map).

Visitors to Tel Arad, about 6 miles / 9 km west of the modern city of Arad, can see extensive remains of the Canaanite (lower) city, including the city wall, the reconstructed Western Gate and partially reconstructed houses.

The photo (by Acer 11) shows the reconstructed western gate at Tel Arad.

You can discover more about Arad @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/26-the-journey-continues-from-sinai-to-moab/the-israelites-attempt-to-enter-canaan/

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