Numbers 21: The Wars Start


A Canaanite king named Arad kidnaps some Israelis. The Israelis respond by delivering the Canaanites and destroying them. They journey on – going around Edom, which made everyone cranky and they started complaining, we should have stayed in Egypt! The “Lord” sent fiery serpents to smite them for being so whiny and many Israelites died. They appealed to Moses who appealed to God who told Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. Anyone who had been bitten by a serpent could look upon it and not die. They then journeyed some more and fought with some more people. They dug a well, sang a song, smote some more people and possessed their lands.

In other words:

The Israelites started fighting with their neighbors and had problems with poisonous snakes.

List of people they smote and places they visited:

  • Canaanites and Hormath are defeated.
  • Pitch tents in Oboth
  • Pitch tents in Ijeabarim which is before Moab
  • Pitch in the valley of Zared
  • Pitch on the other side of Arnon – between Moab and Mmorites on the coast
  • Then on to Beer, where they dug a well and sang a song. 
  • Then they tavelled to Mattana and Nahaliel and to Bamoth to the top of Pisgah 
  • Sihon of the Amorites attack them and is defeated.
  • Isreaelites take the land from Arnon to Jabbok including the city of Heshbon.
  • They then taunted the Moabites.
  • They then battled King Og of Bashan and took his lands as well. 

What I think happened with the fiery serpents:

Since the main problem with the serpents was that people got bit, these were probably poisonous snakes which were reddish or orange as poisonous snakes often are and not an actual fiery serpent.

Favorite bit: 

The taunting of Moab (Numbers 21:29-30)

Moral Lesson:

Large groups of heavily armed religious zealots are really dangerous (Numbers 21)