Numbers 21

21:0This is the third part of the book (Chapters 21-36). God had promised the Israelites their own land. These chapters are about them preparing to go into it.

The Israelites destroy the Canaanites

1 The king of Arad city lived in the Negev desert. That was in the south part of Canaan. People told him that the Israelites were coming on the road to Atharim. So he attacked the Israelites and he caught some of them. 2 The Israelites made this promise to the Lord: ‘If you put these people under our power, we will destroy their towns for you.’ 3 The Lord accepted the Israelites' promise. He put the Canaanites under their power. The Israelites destroyed them and all their towns. After that, the place was called Hormah.

21:3Hormah means ‘destroyed’.

The bronze snake

4 The Israelites left Hor mountain. They travelled round the edge of Edom to the Red Sea. As they travelled, the people were upset. 5 They complained to God and to Moses, ‘You should not have brought us from Egypt to die here in the desert. There is nothing to eat. There is no water to drink. We do not like this bad food, manna.’

6 Then the Lord sent snakes among the people. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. 7 So the people came to Moses and they said, ‘We did a bad thing when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Please pray to the Lord on our behalf. Ask him to remove the snakes from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a model of a snake and put it up high on a pole. When a snake bites anyone, they must look at the bronze snake. Then they will not die.’ 9 Moses made a bronze snake and he put it on a pole. When a snake bit anyone and they looked at the bronze snake, they did not die.

The Israelites travel to Moab

10 The Israelites put up their tents at Oboth. 11 Then they travelled from Oboth, and they put up their tents at Iye-Abarim, in the desert. That place is on the east border of the country called Moab. 12 Then they put up their tents in Zered valley. 13 Then they left there and they put up their tents on the north side of the River Arnon. The River Arnon is the border between the Moabites and the Amorites. 14 You can read about this in the Book of the Lord's Wars. It talks about Waheb in Suphah and about the valleys of the River Arnon. 15 It also speaks about the sides of the valleys on the border of Moab that lead to the town of Ar.

16 From there, the Israelites continued to travel until they arrived at Beer. That is the well where the Lord had said to Moses, ‘Bring the people together. Then I will give water to them.’ 17 The Israelites sang this song at that well:

‘Sing to this well.

Ask it to give water to us.

18 This was the well that our rulers dug.

Our leaders dug it with their sceptres and their ruler's sticks.’

After that, the Israelites went from the desert to Mattanah. 19 Then they went from Mattanah to Nahaliel. They went from Nahaliel to Bamoth. 20 They went from Bamoth to the valley in the region of Moab. They put up their tents near the top of Pisgah mountain that is high above the desert.

21:20The Israelites continued to travel north towards Canaan.

The Israelites fight against Sihon and Og

21 The Israelites sent men with a message to Sihon, the king of the Amorites. 22 They said, ‘Please let us travel through your country. We will not go through any fields or through any vineyards. We will not even drink water from your wells. We will go along the main road. We will not leave that road on either side until we have gone through all your land.’

23 But Sihon would not let the Israelites travel through his land. Sihon and his army marched to Jahaz, in the desert. They attacked the Israelites there. 24 The Israelites fought against the army of Sihon and they won. They got power over the land from the River Arnon to the River Jabbok. But the border of the Ammonites' land had strong towns, so they could not go beyond them. 25 They got power over all the cities of the Amorites. Those cities included Heshbon and the towns round it. 26 Heshbon was the city of Sihon, the king of the Amorites. He had fought against the king of Moab. He took from the king of Moab the land as far as the River Arnon. 27 So the people who write songs wrote this:

‘Come to Heshbon and build it up again.

Build the city of Sihon again.

28 An army that was like a fire went out from Heshbon.

It was like a flame that went out from Sihon's city.

It destroyed Ar in Moab,

and everything on the hills near the River Arnon.

29 It will be very bad for you, people of Moab.

Sihon has killed you people who worship the god Chemosh.

Your god has let the king of the Amorites put you in prison.

30 But now, we have won against them!

We have destroyed Heshbon, and as far as Dibon.

We have killed them from Nophah to Medeba.’

31 So the Israelites stayed in the land of the Amorites. 32 Moses sent men to find the best way to attack Jazer. Then the Israelites attacked Jazer and the towns round it. They caused the Amorites who lived there to run away.

33 After that, the Israelites travelled towards Bashan. Og, the king of Bashan, marched out with his army to fight against them at Edrei.

34 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Do not be afraid of Og. I will put him under your power, as well as his army and his land. Attack him in the same way that you attacked Sihon, the king of the Amorites who ruled in Heshbon.’

35 So they killed Og and his sons and all his army. Nobody was left alive. Their land became the Israelites' land.