Israel & the Road Home: A Paper on Deuteronomy 2:26–31

Posted: November 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

The following is a paper I have written on Deuteronomy. I will break the paper down into more manageable chunks and post the contents here for your reading pleasure.



Deuteronomy contains three final sermons of Moses to the people of Israel. Through these farewell addresses Moses sought to call the present and future generation of Israelites “to faithful covenant love for Yahweh in response to his gracious salvation…”[1] The text under consideration in this paper is found within the first farewell sermon in Deuteronomy. The sermon itself was delivered while Israel was encamped in Moab and poised to enter the Promised Land (1:5).[2] Moses has been recounting the travel narrative of Israel as they had passed through various lands on their way to Canaan. While traveling through the lands of Esau and Lot, Israel was not to contend with the residents (e.g. 2:5, 9, 19).[3] However, when Israel is called to cross the Valley of Arnon they are called to contend with Sihon, the Amorite king (2:24). The conquering of Sihon and the Amorites is an important historical event that is meant to encourage and embolden Israel to be faithful to Yahweh in taking possession of the Promised Land (cf. 3:21–22).[4]

Israel would engage and vanquish the Amorites. Through the recounting of this event Moses seeks to encourage Israel to continue moving towards home. In other words, Israel is reminded of the unstoppable promises of God and are encouraged to move forward in faith.


The Road to the Promised Land: Potential Obstacles

The wilderness generation had their chance to enter into the Promised Land and had failed to trust in the Lord (1:32). The question that hangs over the present generation is whether or not they would do the same. The new generation of Israelites have moved from Horeb (1:6) and are now in Moab across from the land of Canaan (1:5). In order to embolden Israel to trust the Lord and conquer Canaan, Moses provides historical examples of God’s war-time faithfulness. One such example is that of Israel’s recent defeat of Sihon and the Amorites.

After traveling past those lands given to the descendants of Esau and Lot, Yahweh says to Israel, “Rise up, set out on your journey and go over the Valley of Arnon. Behold, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite king of Heshbon, and his land” (2:24). According to Daniel Block, “Sihon ruled the southern Amorites from his capital Heshbon, modern Tell Hesban. His territory extended from the Jordan in the west to the land of Bene Ammon and the desert on the east, and from Wadi Jabbok in the north to Wadi Arnon in the south.”[5] In short, the road to Canaan runs through the land of Sihon. Sihon is standing as a potential obstacle in the road home.

Because of the need to travel through territory that belonged to Sihon, Israel requests safe passage. Moses sends “messengers” to Sihon “with words of peace” (2:26).[6] These were not words that challenged Sihon to a war. They were not meant to prevoke the king. Instead, Israel sought peaceful and unhindered passage through the land.

The reported speech[7] of 2:27–29 explains the content the messengers were to relay to Sihon. In other words, verses 27–29 unpack the contents of the “words of peace” mentioned in 2:26. There is (1) a request for passage, (2) the promise of an uneventful passage, (3) comparison with passage through Seir and Ar, and (4) a statement of where Israel is planning to end their journey.

In the next few posts I’ll unpack the contents of the “words of peace” before moving into theological, canonical, and contemporary reflections.


[1] Block, Deuteronomy, 90.

[2] In Numbers 21:21 Israel is identified as the ones who send the “messengers” to Sihon. In our present text Moses is identified as the one who sends the “messengers.” J. G. McConville notes that this is “in line with the heightened emphasis on Moses’ authority in Deuteronomy…” (J. G. McConville, Deuteronomy, 87.) There is no need to read these two texts as contradictory. To be sent by Moses is to be sent by Israel, and to be sent by Israel was most certainly to be sent by the leader of the Israelite people.

[3] The presence of לאמר (2:26) is a specific type of speech frame that introduces a portion of reported speech. The narrator is recording the content of the speech the messengers were to deliver to Sihon. The לאמר alerts the reader to the secondary nature of the speech. That is, “it is not actually a quotation from one person” (Duane A. Garrett, Jason S. DeRouchie, A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew (Nashville, Tenn: B & H Academic, 2009).

[4] Daniel Isaac Block, Deuteronomy (The NIV application commentary; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2012), 38. 

[5] All Scripture references will refer to the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.

[6] The reason that Israel was not to contend with the descendants of Esau and Lot is because their lands were gifts from Yahweh (2:9, 19).

[7] James M. Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2010), 120.


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