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Wandering in the wilderness, water, snakes, unexpected battles: Numbers 19–21

The Israelites’s wanderings ended about 40 years after they left Egpyt. Towards the end of this time, God redirected them back towards Canaan:

  • they asked permission to pass through Edom, were refused, and had to go around the long way (they still saw Edom as relatives)
  • seeing them coming, the Canaanite king of Arad attacked (probably in anticipation of a much-feared conquest), only to be eventually defeated in a reprisal
  • Moab let them pass through the border region, and so they did without a battle (but the Moabites weren’t so comfortable later on, perhaps because of the next two battles).

The last of the generation who was not to enter Egpyt died, and the migration towards Canaan then started in earnest.

God’s initial plan seems to have been for the Israelites to pass through various territories peacefully, but it wasn’t to be:

  • King Sihon of the Amorites attacked them, and was defeated
  • King Og of Bashan attacked them, and was defeated.

Moses reminded the people of these last two battles just before he died.

The defeated territories were settled by the Israelites straight away, and ended up being part of Israel, even though they were outside the original land promised to Abraham. The course of middle eastern history could have been very different if King Sihon of the Amorites, King Og of Bashan, and the King of Arad had let the Israelites pass peacefully through their lands instead.