219 – Numbers 21 – Warrior King

We’ve talked about Israel defeating Sihon, king of the Amorites, but we need to take a quick step back and take a little closer look at this story. Consider the following:

The Old Testament rehearses the Sihon narrative in three locations (Num 21:21–30; Deut 2:26–37; Judg 11:19–26) and alludes to the tradition about him in several other places (e.g., Josh 2:10; 9:10; Pss 135:11; 136:19; Neh 9:22). Biblical tradition almost always remembers the defeat of Sihon in conjunction with that of King Og of Bashan (exceptions: Judg 11:19–26 and Jer 48:45). – Logos Factbook

The defeat of Sihon was significant enough to the original biblical audience that they created a proverb (parable) about it (Numbers 21:27-30). So why did the defeat of this king and his people draw so much attention? Let’s see if we can find out.

 Deuteronomy 2:26–37 gives a fuller account than our passage in Numbers chapter twenty-one. Moses is rehearsing the event in the hearing of the Israelites who experienced the event. Moses reminds them that he sent messengers to Sihon asking for safe passage through his land. Moses outlines the self-limiting terms of their passage by promising Israel will stick to the King’s highway. Israel would be good for Sihon’s economy by purchasing both food and water as they travel through. Moses provides references (Deuteronomy 2:29) as if to say, “you can trust us, ask these people”.

Deut 2:30 tells us that Sihon refused to allow passage. Let’s look at the verse to see why.

Deuteronomy 2:30

30 But Sihon king of Heshbon was not willing to let us cross through his territory because Yahweh your God hardened his spirit and made him obstinate in order to give him into your hand, just as he has now done. 


Does this remind you of Yahweh hardening Pharaoh’s heart? So what’s going on here? Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart and why did he harden Sihon’s heart? Let’s peek at Exodus 10:1-2.

Exodus 10:1-2

1 And Yahweh said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart insensitive and the heart of his servants in order to put these signs of mine in his midst, 

2 so that you will tell in the ears of your child and your grandchild that I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and so that you will tell about my signs that I have done among them, and so you will know that I am Yahweh.” 


In both instances, both kings worshipped false gods. In both instances, both kings defied the will of Yahweh for His people Israel. As a matter of fact, every people destroyed by Israel as directed by Yahweh worshipped and served false gods. 

Are you skeptical? Would God really conquer and or destroy whole people groups simply for worshipping something other than Him? Consider the following passage before you answer no.

Exodus 20:4-6

4 “You shall not make for yourself a divine image with any form that is in the heavens above or that is in the earth below or that is in the water below the earth. 

5 You will not bow down to them, and you will not serve them, because I am Yahweh your God, a jealous God, punishing the guilt of the parents on the children on the third and on the fourth generations of those hating me, 

6 and showing loyal love to thousands of generations of those loving me and of those keeping my commandments. 


Look at Numbers 21:29

29 Woe to you, Moab! 

You have perished, people of Chemosh


What is Chemosh? Again we consult the Logos Factbook.

Chemosh the Canaanite Deity

The name Chemosh may stem from the words kamosh or kamashu, meaning “conqueror” or “subduer” as a verbal adjective of this stem (D). As a verb, it can mean “to bend down” or “to bow down.” Chemosh is the national deity of the Moabites. 

Sihon was a mighty,  conquering king who worshipped a God of war. He foolishly defied Yahweh and challenged the Israelites in war. Yahweh made short work of this pagan war worshipping people. Yahweh will be glorified by His people and ultimately feared by His enemies. 

Which side are you on? Do you defy God? Or do you number yourself with those who love Yahweh God and walk in the “loyal love” He talks about in Exodus 20:6?

If you are an enemy of God you can become a worshipper. All you must do is put your faith alone in Christ alone for eternal life. 

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

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

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