How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelled in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers:
20:14-21 The nearest way to Canaan from the place where Israel encamped, was through the country of Edom. The ambassadors who were sent returned with a denial. The Edomites feared to receive damage by the Israelites. And had this numerous army been under any other discipline than that of the righteous God himself, there might have been cause for this jealousy. But Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing; and now the hatred revived, when the blessing was about to be inherited. We must not think it strange, if reasonable requests be denied by unreasonable men, and if those whom God favours be affronted by men.
Compare the marginal reference. It appears from comparing Numbers 20:1
with Numbers 33:38
, that the host must have remained in Kadesh some three or four months. No doubt time was required for re-organization. In order to gain the banks of Jordan by the shortest route they had to march nearly due east from Kadesh, and pass through the heart of the Edomite mountains. These are lofty and precipitous, traversed by two or three narrow defiles. Hence, the necessity of the request in Numbers 20:17
Thy brother - An appeal to the Edomites to remember and renew the old kindnesses of Jacob and Esau Genesis 33:1-17.
It appears from Judges 11:17 that a similar request was addressed to the Moabites.
How our fathers went down into Egypt,.... Jacob and his twelve sons, with their children:
and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; even the space of four hundred and thirty years, Exodus 12:40.
and the Egyptians vexed us and our fathers; used them ill, brought them into bondage, and made their lives bitter, laid heavy tasks and burdens upon them, as well as slew their male children, see Exodus 1:7. How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers:
Moses then took the rod "from before Jehovah," - i.e., the rod with which he had performed miracles in Egypt (Exodus 17:5
), and which was laid up in the sanctuary, not Aaron's rod which blossomed (Numbers 17:10
), - and collected the congregation together before the rock, and said to them, "Hear, ye rebels, shall we fetch you water out of this rock?" He then smote the rock twice with his rod, whereupon much water came out, so that the congregation and their cattle had water to drink.
14-16. Moses sent messengers … to the king of Edom—The encampment at Kadesh was on the confines of the Edomite territory, through which the Israelites would have had an easy passage across the Arabah by Wady-el-Ghuweir, so that they could have continued their course around Moab, and approached Palestine from the east [Roberts]. The Edomites, being the descendants of Esau and tracing their line of descent from Abraham as their common stock, were recognized by the Israelites as brethren, and a very brotherly message was sent to them.
Sent messengers - unto the king of Edom - Archbishop Usher supposes that the king now reigning in Edom was Hadar, mentioned Genesis 36:39
Thus saith thy brother Israel - The Edomites were the descendants of Edom or Esau, the brother of Jacob or Israel, from whom the Israelites were descended.