Numbers 21 Commentary
Arad is completely destroyed as an answer to Israel’s prayer. How does this prayer stand in the light of Israel’s standing order to destroy Canaanites? The prayer is positive in the sense that it aligns with the LORD’S stated purpose. It’s a prayer that the LORD was always going to answer. The prayer is negative in the sense that it reflects doubt. The LORD didn’t need incentives from Israel to act on what was purposed long before they even started off from Egypt.
The book of Numbers gives us a sad feeling because of the high frequency of low moments. Here again we have Israel complaining about hardships in the wilderness. We do agree that the nation faced multiple problems but it’s the way they reacted which brought them trouble.
The complaining is easily understood. It is almost always happening with this community. It is the nature of the punishment and the nature of the ‘solution’ which are very strange. Because the solution is clearly outside the normal remedial measures at the Sanctuary, we suspect it belongs to ‘special symbols’ meant to highlight the unique nature of the cross. But with what we now know, we can read into these events with the cross in mind. The snakes represented the evil that was destroying Israel. It would take the same evil to be lifted up at the cross for mankind to be saved. Indeed at the cross the LORD Jesus became sin and carried our punishment. All who look to the cross find Salvation.
They traveled to Moab, passing and stopping at several other points. Verse 14 and 27 give us a picture that the narrator incorporated material from other existing sources of the time. From this base Israel would go on to defeat the Amorites and occupy their land. Bashan with its king, Org was also defeated and the land occupied by Israel. It looks like a great start! But the Ammonites were too strong. So even here you can easily tell that the LORD grants victory according to the measure of our faith. Israel half-believed and therefore Israel half-conquered.
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