Dave Burnette's Commentary

Numbers Chapter 21

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Moses
Date Penned: (1450-1410 BC)
Overview: A Record of Israel's Unbelief (c 1-27)
Theme: Wandering in The Wilderness (c 15-21)
Message: Israel Defeat King Arad (v 1-35)

Numbers 21 Commentary

(21:5)  A Complaining Nation - In Psalm.78, we learn the sources of Israel's complaining: (1) Their spirits were not steadfast with God (78-8); (2) they refused to obey God's law (78:10); and (3) they forgot the miracles God had done for them (78:11-12). Our complaining often has its roots in one of these thoughtless actions or attitudes. If we can deal with the causes of our complaining, it will not take hold and grow in our lives.

(21:6) A Judgement of Snakes - God used venomous snakes to punish the people for their unbelief and complaining. The wilderness where they traveled has various kinds of snakes. Some hide in the sand and attack without warning. The Israelites and the Egyptians had a great fear of snakes. A bite by a venomous snake often meant a slow death with intense suffering.

(21:8-9) The Brass Serpent - When the brass serpent was hung on the pole, the Israelites didn't know the fuller meaning Jesus Christ would bring to this event (see John 3:14-15). Jesus explained that just as the Israelites were healed of their sickness by looking at the serpent on the pole, all believers today can be saved from the sickness of sin by looking to Jesus' death on the cross. It was not the serpent that healed the people but their belief that God could heal them. This belief was demonstrated by their obedience to God's instructions. In the same way, we should continue to look to Christ (see Hebrews 12:2).

(21:14) The Book of Wars - There is no other existing record of "the book of the wars of the LORD." Most likely, it was a collection of victory songs or poems.

(21:27-30) A False God of War - Chemosh, the national god of Moab, was worshiped as a god of war. This false god, however, was no help to this nation when they fought against Israel. Israel's God was stronger than any of Canaan's war gods.

(21:34) A Conquered Enemy - God assured Moses that Israel's enemy was conquered even before the battle began! God wants to give us victory over our enemies (which are usually problems related to sin rather than armed soldiers). But first we must believe that he can help us. Second, we must trust him to help us. Third, we must take the steps he shows us.

Dave Burnette's Life Application


Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we continue the book of Numbers with Chapter 21 and in today's text we see the nation of Israel making steps to follow the Lord after the 40 years in the wilderness due to their disobedience. Now we see how the Lord wants us to approach our battles and conflicts in our lives. God assured Moses that the victory was theirs before the battle began. Today, God gives us victory over our enemies if we do as the Israelite's did. Believe that God can help us, Trust Him to help us, and Then we must takes the steps that He will show us. These steps take faith as they don't always make sense to us. How about you? Do you realize the victory in Christ? Let us learn from our text today and have faith to follow the Lord to claim the victory He has already provided for us.  


Numbers 21

Numbers 21

 1And when king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners.

 2And Israel vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.

 3And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah.

 4And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.

 5And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.

 6And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

 7Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.

 8And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

 9And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

 10And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in Oboth.

 11And they journeyed from Oboth, and pitched at Ijeabarim, in the wilderness which is before Moab, toward the sunrising.

 12From thence they removed, and pitched in the valley of Zared.

 13From thence they removed, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, which is in the wilderness that cometh out of the coasts of the Amorites: for Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites.

 14Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the LORD, What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon,

 15And at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab.

 16And from thence they went to Beer: that is the well whereof the LORD spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water.

 17Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it:

 18The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah:

 19And from Mattanah to Nahaliel: and from Nahaliel to Bamoth:

 20And from Bamoth in the valley, that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah, which looketh toward Jeshimon.

 21And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, saying,

 22Let me pass through thy land: we will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well: but we will go along by the king's high way, until we be past thy borders.

 23And Sihon would not suffer Israel to pass through his border: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and went out against Israel into the wilderness: and he came to Jahaz, and fought against Israel.

 24And Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from Arnon unto Jabbok, even unto the children of Ammon: for the border of the children of Ammon was strong.

 25And Israel took all these cities: and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all the villages thereof.

 26For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon.

 27Wherefore they that speak in proverbs say, Come into Heshbon, let the city of Sihon be built and prepared:

 28For there is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon: it hath consumed ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon.

 29Woe to thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh: he hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters, into captivity unto Sihon king of the Amorites.

 30We have shot at them; Heshbon is perished even unto Dibon, and we have laid them waste even unto Nophah, which reacheth unto Medeba.

 31Thus Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites.

 32And Moses sent to spy out Jaazer, and they took the villages thereof, and drove out the Amorites that were there.

 33And they turned and went up by the way of Bashan: and og the king of bashan went out against them, he, and all his people, to the battle at edrei.

 34And the LORD said unto Moses, Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon.

 35So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land.