Numbers Chapter 21

The Israelites had traveled from the desert of Zin, to Mount Hor, on the border of the land of Edom. Here, the high priest, Aaron, had died and the people morned his loss. His son Eleazar, was called to be the high priest. I am under the impression, that these things happened just a short time before the Israelites were able to go into the promised land, which would mean nearly forty years have passed since some of the rebellious had attempted to go into the land on their own.

The book of Numbers continues with the following:

1 And 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.
2 And 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.
3 And 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.

The Canaanites were worried that the Israelites were coming up against them, so they went out against them. King Arad, took some Israelites prisoner. The children of Israel went to the Lord for help in conquering this people, and the Lord listened to their plea. The Canaanites were pretty much destroyed in the land they called Hormah.

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

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They traveled from mount Hor, around the land of Edom, by way of the Red Sea. The spirit of the Israelites was weighed down because the way of traveling was hard for them. It is so easy to fall into murmuring in times like this, when life seems unnecessarily difficult to us. Once again, they complained against God and the prophet, Moses. They were so tired of eating manna, and they were not happy with not having water to drink. In response, the Lord sent a plague of fiery, or poisonous, serpents, and many of the people died.

7 Therefore 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.
8 And 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.
9 And 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.

The people plead with Moses, when they realized they had sinned and were being punished by God. They begged for Moses to pray for them, that the Lord might remove the fiery serpents from them. Moses prayed for them, and the Lord told Moses to make a serpent on a pole. If those who had been bitten, would look at the serpent, they would live. Moses did as he was commanded, and when bitten people looked at it, they were healed and spared from death. We have a symbol used for the healing of the world today, which is based on this story. Here is a picture (from lds.org) of what the brass serpent may have looked like:

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The symbol in the medical profession looks like this (found on wikipedia):

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There is more to this bible story, which we can find in the book of 1 Nephi, chapter 17, which reads:

40 And he loveth those who will have him to be their God. Behold, he loved our fathers, and he covenanted with them, yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he remembered the covenants which he had made; wherefore, he did bring them out of the land of Egypt.
41 And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.
42 And they did harden their hearts from time to time, and they did revile against Moses, and also against God; nevertheless, ye know that they were led forth by his matchless power into the land of promise.

Also found in Alma 33:

18 But behold, this is not all; these are not the only ones who have spoken concerning the Son of God.
19 Behold, he was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live.
20 But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them.
21 O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?
22 If so, wo shall come upon you; but if not so, then cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works.

The Israelites had been saved by great miracles beyond anything that most of us could imagine. Many of those who were remaining at this point in their wanderings, were either young children at the time they left Egypt, or had been born in the wilderness. The Lord had sent plagues in Egypt and had given a way for them to remain safe from the destroying angel. Really, the ability to be saved by sacrificing a lamb and putting it’s blood on the doorway of their homes, was not a difficult task for them. However, they had seen the great and terrible power of the Lord up to that point, in the many plagues that came before it. They were willing to put their trust in the Lord at that time. Here they were given a greater test of their faith, and many felt it was too easy a thing, and died instead. In Alma 33:19 (see above), the brass serpent is called a type. It was a type or a symbol of Christ who would come. John 3:14-15 reads, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: (v. 14) That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life (v. 15).” If the Israelites could look in faith, towards Christ, they could be saved. If they could not, they would perish. The scriptures teach us, that this was indeed a symbol of Christ.

Jesus-Portrait

The stories of the trials our parents and other ancestors have experienced, should help us to build our own trust and faith in the Lord. We have many opportunities in our lives, to choose if we will learn from those things and look to the Savior, or if we will think that it is too simple a thing He asks of us. There are simple things that the scriptures and modern prophets teach us, will save us. Some of these are reading our scriptures, prayer, attending church, having family home evening, and such. Many feel, however, that things like prayer and scripture study are not for them. They are just too simple to fix all the problems of life. They are too simple to bring them salvation. If we find ourselves feeling like this, we are also choosing not to look to the Lord for our healing and salvation.

10 And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in Oboth.
11 And they journeyed from Oboth, and pitched at Ije-abarim, in the wilderness which is before Moab, toward the sunrising.

The Israelites moved from mount Hor, around the land of Edom, to Oboth, and then on to a place called Ije-abarim near Moab.

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12 From thence they removed, and pitched in the valley of Zared.
13 From 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.
14 Wherefore 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,
15 And at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab.
16 And 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.

They traveled into the valley of Zared and then moved passed Arnon between Moab and the Amorites. Next, they journeyed to Beer. I am sure that moving into areas where others lived, was a relief to many who were feeling the difficulties of life in the wilderness. They were now in areas with some water and I imagine that some probably recognized how far they had come towards their promised land.

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An interesting thing in these verses, is the part about the book of wars. I don’t really understand it, but the footnote to verse 14, says that it relates to lost scriptures. I think that this means that these are some of the things that have been taken away from the scriptures over time, and I think that some day these things will be revealed.

17 Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it:
18 The 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:
19 And from Mattanah to Nahaliel: and from Nahaliel to Bamoth:
20 And from Bamoth in the valley, that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah, which looketh toward Jeshimon.

The Israelites sang, I think in gratitude, for the water they had come upon. Their journey continued to Mattanah, Nahaliel, Bamoth of Moab, and then Pisgah towards Jeshimon.

21 And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, saying,
22 Let 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.
23 And 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.
24 And 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.
25 And Israel took all these cities: and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all the villages thereof.
26 For 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.
27 Wherefore they that speak in proverbs say, Come into Heshbon, let the city of Sihon be built and prepared:
28 For 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.
29 Woe 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.
30 We have shot at them; Heshbon is perished even unto Dibon, and we have laid them waste even unto Nophah, which reacheth unto Medeba.

Messengers were sent to the king of the Amorites, Sihon. They asked to peacefully pass through the land, just as they had done with Edom. Sihon also refused to allow them through, but instead came against the Israelites in Jahaz. The Israelites were blessed to defeat the Amorites and take the land of Arnon. They lived in the cities they had gained.

31 Thus Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites.
32 And Moses sent to spy out Jaazer, and they took the villages thereof, and drove out the Amorites that were there.

A spy was sent to Jaazer by Moses, and the Israelites were able to take the land and drive even more of the Amorites out.

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

Next they moved toward Bashan, where the king, Og, tried to fight against them. Moses was promised by the Lord that this was the work of the Lord and the Israelites needed not fear the people of Bashan. I think they may have feared them, because these people may have been giants, or at least very large in stature. The Lord told him they would take the land here as well. The Israelites killed the people of this land and took possession of it.

One of the things we learn of the people who were destroyed, is that they were not a righteous people. In 1 Nephi 17 we read:

32 And after they had crossed the river Jordan he did make them mighty unto the driving out of the children of the land, yea, unto the scattering them to destruction.
33 And now, do ye suppose that the children of this land, who were in the land of promise, who were driven out by our fathers, do ye suppose that they were righteous? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.
34 Do ye suppose that our fathers would have been more choice than they if they had been righteous? I say unto you, Nay.
35 Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fulness of the wrath of God was upon them; and the Lord did curse the land against them, and bless it unto our fathers; yea, he did curse it against them unto their destruction, and he did bless it unto our fathers unto their obtaining power over it.

The Lord prepared the land for his righteous and chosen people. Likewise, the Lord has prepared a place for his righteous people today. If we will be healed by His power, accepting his atonement into our hearts, we will be able to endure to the end, and receive salvation and the promised land He has prepared for us.

Challenge: Is there healing you need in your life? Are you doing the simple things in life, that will draw you closer to the Lord? What can you do today, to look towards Christ and accept the healing power of the atonement in your life?

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About My Scripture Study Buddy

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.
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