Israel is once again confronted with a roadblock in their journey. They ask permission to pass through but are turned down again. Things go different from that point on.
Israel had asked to pass through the territory of Edom earlier. These people were Esau’s decedents. But they were refused passage. They were even confronted with an armed force ready to do battle if they breached the perimeter. Israel turned away from this force. They decided not to fight their relatives.
In today’s reading Israel asks to pass through another territory but this time the inhabitants are not related to them. They receive the same answer and the same response. An armed force met them at the border but this time Israel didn’t turn away. They pushed through and defeated those marshaled against them. GOD gave them the victory.
Two things about this encounter surprised me when reading our text. The first was that this battle acted as judgement for what the king of Sihon had done to his neighbors earlier. The second is what Israel does after winning this battle.
King Sihon had taken the territory he held from his neighbor, Moab, earlier on. We are told of this event from the Book of Wars of the Lord that was mentioned when we saw Israel’s travels. I don’t know how much of that region’s history was contained in the mentioned manuscript. I would hazard a guess as to all of Israel’s battles being recorded there. The ballad that we are shown today is from that first battle where king Sihon overcame the king of Moab and took the territory. You could say that Israel’s victory was a just punishment for king Sihon.
The second thing blew my socks off! I was always taught that Israel camped in the wilderness for 40 years and pretty much kept going around in circles. Today I see that they SETTLED in the cities that they had just wrested back from the hands of king Sihon. They got the use of the cities including homes, shops, and crop lands; or this is how I read it anyway.
I have several questions here. How long into the 40 years was this? Did they leave their tents for the homes or were they told to remain out of the houses? Why did God continue to provide them with mana when they now had access to fields for crops? Did the people want to remain in this land forever? Did they continue to use the camp format God had given them?
We will see in our next reading that Israel didn’t settle for good. They kept on pursuing God’s campaign. He would have them engaging in many more battles before even crossing into the Promised Land.
Father God the thing I see the most in Your Spirit sharing this with us is that You HAVE a plan in mind. Sometimes it takes more turns to get through them but You always manage to bring You intended end anyway. I have a feeling it would be better all the way around if I simply quit fighting against them. That’s my plan Lord, to stop fighting what You have for me.