The Help of God in the Conquest of the Kingdom of Sihon. - Deu 2:24. Whereas the Israelites were not to make war upon the kindred tribes of Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites, or drive them out of the possessions given to them by God; the Lord had given the Amorites, who had forced as way into Gilead and Bashan, into their hands.
While they were encamped on the Arnon, the border of the Amoritish king of Sihon, He directed them to cross this frontier and take possession of the land of Sihon, and promised that He would give this king with all his territory into their hands, and that henceforward (“this day,” the day on which Israel crossed the Arnon) He would put fear and terror of Israel upon all nations under the whole heaven, so that as soon as they heard the report of Israel they would tremble and writhe before them. רָשׁ הָחֵל, “begin, take,” an oratorical expression for “begin to take” (רָשׁ in pause for רֵשׁ, Deu 1:21). The expression, “all nations under the whole heaven,” is hyperbolical; it is not to be restricted, however, to the Canaanites and other neighbouring tribes, but, according to what follows, to be understood as referring to all nations to whom the report of the great deeds of the Lord upon and on behalf of Israel should reach (cf. Deu 11:25 and Exo 23:27). אֲשֶׁר, so that (as in Gen 11:7; Gen 13:16; Gen 22:14). וְחָלוּ, with the accent upon the last syllable, on account of the ו consec. (Ewald, §234, a.), from חוּל, to twist, or writhe with pain, here with anxiety.
If Moses, notwithstanding this, sent messengers to king Sihon with words of peace (Deu 2:26.; cf. Num 21:21.), this was done to show the king of the Amorites, that it was through his own fault that his kingdom and lands and life were lost. The wish to pass through his land in a peaceable manner was quite seriously expressed; although Moses foresaw, in consequence of the divine communication, that he would reject his proposal, and meet Israel with hostilities. For Sihon's kingdom did not form part of the land of Canaan, which God had promised to the patriarchs for their descendants; and the divine foreknowledge of the hardness of Sihon no more destroyed the freedom of his will to resolve, or the freedom of his actions, than the circumstance that in Deu 2:30 the unwillingness of Sihon is described as the effect of his being hardened by God Himself. The hardening was quite as much the production of human freedom and guilt, as the consequence of the divine decree; just as in the case of Pharaoh. On Kedemoth, see Num 21:13. בַּדֶּרֶךְ בַּדֶּרֶךְ, equivalent to “upon the way, and always upon the way,” i.e., upon the high road alone, as in Num 20:19. On the behaviour of the Edomites towards Israel, mentioned in Deu 2:29, see Num 21:10. In the same way the Moabites also supplied Israel with provisions for money. This statement is not at variance with the unbrotherly conduct for which the Moabites are blamed in Deu 23:4, viz., that they did not meet the Israelites with bread and water. For קִדֵּם, to meet and anticipate, signifies a hospitable reception, and the offering of food and drink without reward, which is essentially different from selling for money. “In Ar” (Deu 2:29), as in Deu 2:18. The suffix in בֹּו (Deu 2:30) refers to the king, who is mentioned as the lord of the land, in the place of the land itself, just as in Num 20:18.
The refusal of Sihon was suspended over him by God as a judgment of hardening, which led to his destruction. “As this day,” an abbreviation of “as it has happened this day,” i.e., as experience has now shown (cf. Deu 4:20, etc.).
Defeat of Sihon, as already described in the main in Num 21:23-26. The war was a war of extermination, in which all the towns were laid under the ban (see Lev 27:29), i.e., the whole of the population of men, women, and children were put to death, and only the flocks and herds and material possessions were taken by the conquerors as prey.
מְתִם עִיר (city of men) is the town population of men.
They proceeded this way with the whole of the kingdom of Sihon. “From Aroër on the edge of the Arnon valley (see at Num 32:34), and, in fact, from the city which is in the valley,” i.e., Ar, or Areopolis (see at Num 21:15), - Aroër being mentioned as the inclusive terminus a quo of the land that was taken, and the Moabitish capital Ar as the exclusive terminus, as in Jos 13:9 and Jos 13:16; “and as far as Gilead,” which rises on the north, near the Jabbok (or Zerka, see at Deu 3:4), “there was no town too high for us,” i.e., so strong that we could not take it.
Only along the land of the Ammonites the Israelites did not come, namely, along the whole of the side of the brook Jabbok, or the country of the Ammonites, which was situated upon the eastern side of the upper Jabbok, and the towns of the mountain, i.e., of the Ammonitish highlands, and “to all that the Lord had commanded,” sc., commanded them not to remove. The statement, in Jos 13:25, that the half of the country of the Ammonites was given to the tribe of Gad, is not at variance with this; for the allusion there is to that portion of the land of the Ammonites which was between the Arnon and the Jabbok, and which had already been taken from the Ammonites by the Amorites under Sihon (cf. Jdg 11:13.).