213 -Numbers 20 – Edom

Have you ever approached the same passage of scripture you’ve read a hundred times and said to yourself, “huh, I never noticed that before”? Let’s look at three verses and I’ll tell you what I mean.

Numbers 20:14-16

14 From Kadesh Moses sent messengers to the king of Edom: “Thus your brother Israel has said, ‘You know all the hardship that has found us; 

15 our ancestors went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt ⌊a long time⌋, and the Egyptians mistreated us and our ancestors. 

16 Then we cried to Yahweh, and he heard our voice; he sent an angel and brought us out from Egypt. And look, we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory


You may recall in Numbers 20:1 the Israelites find themselves camped in Kadesh. Numbers 20:14 gives us an additional detail about Kadesh, namely it was “a city on the edge of your [Edom’s] territory”. Bracket’s mine.

Do you remember Edom the man, not the city? Head scratcher? Let me give you a hint.

Genesis 36:8

8 So Esau dwelled in the hill country of Seir (Esau, that is Edom). 


Look at that! Edom is Esau. Esau is Jacob’s brother. Jacob was renamed by God to be Israel. Israel and Edom are brothers! As an aside, Esau means hairy and Edom means red, which it seems were two of Esau/Edom’s primary physical characteristics.

So here Israel is camped at Kadesh and Moses reminds the king of Edom (Numbers 20:14) that the two nations are descendants of two brothers. All we want to do is pass through your land. Edom’s response was firm (Numbers 20:18-20), absolutely not! If you try it we will respond with military force!

The end of the story seems to be verse 21.

Numbers 20:21

21 So Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, and Israel turned aside from him


To get the “rest of the story” we have to look ahead into Numbers chapter 21:4.

Numbers 21:4

4 They set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient along the way.


Israel went around the land of Edom and became impatient while doing so. What was the end result of this impatience? Look at the next verse.

Numbers 21:5

5 The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us from Egypt to die in the desert? There is no food and no water, and our hearts detest this miserable food.” 


Their impatience was simply a stepping stone they used to once again falsely accuse Moses and God in childish, faithless, and wicked complaining! 

How many times has Israel complained and accused God (ultimately) of bringing them out of Egypt simply to let them die? And this particular event follows closely on the heels of chapter 20 where YHWH God demonstrated His Holiness to them. How many times must God prove Himself faithful to these people? How many times must God prove Himself faithful to us?

And yet this still isn’t the end of the story with the Edomites. We have to fast forward some more into Numbers 24:15-19 where we see Balaam’s fourth prophecy. We are getting way ahead of ourselves, and I can’t do the donkey rider’s fourth prophecy justice, but look at what it says about Edom.

Numbers 24:17-18

17 I see him, but not now; 

I behold him, but not near; 

a star will go out from Jacob, 

and a scepter will rise from Israel; 

it will crush the foreheads of Moab 

and destroy all the children of Seth. 

18 Edom will be a captive

Seir, its enemies, will be a captive, 

and Israel will be acting courageously. 


I can’t talk about verse 17 now, but let me just suggest that the pronoun “him” should be capitalized. The end of Edom’s story seems to be their captivity. Is this because they refused to allow Israel to pass through their land. Frankly, I don’t know. This would require more study and research to find out.

Let me say, however, that when God chooses a people the other nations are foolish to hinder or harm that elect group. Maybe I could say it a little clearer. God calls Israel His chosen people. Bless His chosen people and you bless YHWH. Harm them and God Himself takes offense and will respond in kind. How do I know? It is clearly declared in YHWH’s Holy word we call the Bible.

Anti-semitism (hatred and persecution of the Jews) is on the rise, even in our country. The nation of Israel is being attacked. But make no mistake YHWH God has, throughout history, and will today judge those who have arrayed themselves against Him.

Pray for the peace of Israel.


God truly is worthy of all praise, worship, and adoration.


All Scripture Quotations from Harris, W. Hall, III et al., eds. The Lexham English Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012. Print.

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