New Neighbors and Enemies

Jul 19, 2014

וַנֵּפֶן וַנִּסַּע הַמִּדְבָּרָה דֶּרֶךְ יַם־סוּף כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהֹוָה אֵלָי וַנָּסָב אֶת־הַר־שֵׂעִיר יָמִים רַבִּים׃

we marched back into the wilderness by the way of the Sea of Reeds, as Hashem had spoken to me, and skirted the hill country of Seir a long time.

Deuteronomy 2:1

כִּי רַק־עוֹג מֶלֶךְ הַבָּשָׁן נִשְׁאַר מִיֶּתֶר הָרְפָאִים הִנֵּה עַרְשׂוֹ עֶרֶשׂ בַּרְזֶל הֲלֹה הִוא בְּרַבַּת בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן תֵּשַׁע אַמּוֹת אָרְכָּהּ וְאַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת רָחְבָּהּ בְּאַמַּת־אִישׁ׃

Only King Og of Bashan was left of the remaining Rephaim. His bedstead, an iron bedstead, is now in Rabbah of the Ammonites; it is nine amot long and four amot wide, by the standard amah!

Deuteronomy 3:11

Moses notes for the people a number of nations with whom the Israelites had various interactions over the years. First he speaks of the descendants of Esau and of Moab, whom the Children of Israel encountered early in their journey. God, at the time, instructed the Israelites not to wage war against either nation, as God would not be giving them their land. Rather, they were to pay for the food and water the nations provided.


38 years later, after the generation of the desert had perished, the Israelites encountered the Ammonites, whom Moses also told them not to attack. Additionally, Moses points out that each of these three nations is not the original inhabitant if its current homeland. Rather, different giant nations lived there and were driven out by God for the benefit of these three nations.


Not every encounter with other nations turned out to be peaceful. Moses reminds the Children of Israel of their recent battles with Sihon and Og, powerful kings who refused to allow the Israelites to cross their land. Instead, with God’s help, the Children of Israel conquered their lands.


The Israel Bible explains why God instructed the Israelites not to engage the Moabites in war. Both they and the Ammonites are descendants of Abraham’s nephew, Lot. When Abraham and his family fled Canaan in a famine and came to Egypt, he asked Sarah to pretend to be his sister so that he would not be murdered so she could be taken for her beauty. Lot knew the truth, but protected his aunt and uncle’s secret. The Israelites’ respect for his descendants’ borders is the result of this act of nobility. From here we can appreciate that the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel is based on friendship, kindness and brotherhood.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Moses seems to be jumping from topic to topic in his address. Why do you think these exploits would be among the first things he would want to raise with the people?

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