20 from Bamoth to the valley in the Moabite countryside, to the top of Pisgah overlooking Jeshimon.
21 Then the Israelites sent messengers to Sihon the Amorite king: 22 “Let us pass through your land. We won’t turn aside into a field or vineyard. We won’t drink water from a well. We will walk on the King’s Highway until we cross your border.”
23 But Sihon wouldn’t allow the Israelites to cross his border. Sihon gathered all his people and went out to meet the Israelites in the desert. When he came to Jahaz, he attacked the Israelites. 24 The Israelites struck him down with their swords and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the Ammonites, for the border of the Ammonites was fortified. 25 The Israelites took all these cities. Then the Israelites settled in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon and all its villages.
26 Now Heshbon was the city of Sihon the Amorite king who had fought against the former king of Moab. He had taken all his land from him as far as the Arnon. 27 Therefore, the poets say:
“Come to Heshbon, let it be built. Let the city of Sihon be established.
28 Fire went out from Heshbon, flame from Sihon’s city.
It consumed Ar of Moab and swallowed up the shrines of the Arnon.
29 You are doomed, Moab! You are destroyed, people of Chemosh!
He gave his sons as fugitives, and his daughters as captives to the Amorite king Sihon.
30 Yet we have thrown them down, destroying them from Heshbon to Dibon.
We brought ruin until Nophah, which is by Medeba.”
31 Israel settled in the land of the Amorites. 32 Moses sent spies to Jazer. They captured its villages and took possession of the Amorites who were there.33 Then they turned and ascended the road of Bashan. Og, Bashan’s king, came out at Edrei to meet them in battle, he and all his people.
Numbers 21:20-33 CEB
Bec Cranford-Smith, MDiv
Some passages. Wow. I mean do we really even want to talk about the violence that is displayed here? Remember, in Joshua, the seven nations that were destroyed? Remember how these foreign people who sought to oppress Israel were taken out? Yet there remained a Canaanite woman in the New Testament. So the seven nations weren’t truly destroyed. And fire is a metaphor for cleansing in Hebrew literature. Often times Hebrew Poetry reads like a taunt song. It’s used as story and metaphor to embellish, to cheer on, and to weave a big lesson. The Israelites have a flair for poetry. Even the Piel tense of Hebrew is “intensive” or demonstrates a real dramatic edge. (For instance that sweet little Psalm23 isn’t best translated goodness and mercy follow us. RATHER, Covenant Loyalty and faithful love SHALL militarily pursue us to overcome us all the days of our lives. Yeah, Jesus is your stalker.) And although a literal reading upsets our stomachs, a literary reading shows how it makes God feel when we neglect hospitality to others. This hospitality thing is one of the reasons Sodom had such a bad rap. (Ez. 16:49-50) How can we love people more? How can we care about those who need a cup of sugar, or a box of macaroni? We can care about the foreigner, the alien, those who are experiencing homelessness, and for others in our world! Help us.
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Liberator God, Help us to hear these taunt songs. Wake us up to our own complacency. Help us to be hospitable. Open our eyes to those in need. Amen
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Bec is the volunteer coordinator for Gateway Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to end homelessness in Metro-Atlanta through therapeutic programs and community collaboration. She is the minister of the Church of the Misfits, a safe place for spiritual tourists to rest a while. She considers herself an advocate of the Marginalized in Atlanta, lover of whores and drunkards, and a Bapticostal Misfit.