Beginning of the End


Why the Long Journey Around Edom?

This chapter is based on Numbers 20:14-29; 21:1-9.

Israel’s camp site at Kadesh was only a short distance from the borders of Edom, and both Moses and the people strongly wanted to follow the route through this country to the Promised Land. So they sent a message to the Edomite king: BOE 207.1

“Thus says your brother Israel: ... ‘here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border. Please let us pass through your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King’s Highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.’” BOE 207.2

To this courteous request, the Edomite king sent a threatening refusal: “You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.” BOE 207.3

The leaders of Israel sent a second appeal to the king, with the promise, “We will go by the Highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” BOE 207.4

“You shall not pass through,” was the answer. Armed groups of Edomites were already posted at the difficult passes, and the Hebrews were forbidden to use force. They must make the long journey around the land of Edom. BOE 207.5

If the people had trusted in God, the Captain of the Lord’s army would have led them through Edom. The inhabitants of the land, instead of reacting with hostility, would have shown them favor. But the Israelites did not act promptly on God’s word, and the golden opportunity passed. When they were finally ready to present their request to the king, it was refused. Ever since they left Egypt, Satan had been throwing obstacles in their way so that they might not inherit Canaan, and by their own unbelief they had repeatedly opened the door for him. BOE 207.6

When God tells His children to go forward, Satan tempts them to displease the Lord by hesitating and delaying. He tries to stir up disagreements, complaining, or unbelief, and so cheat them out of the blessings God wants to give. God’s servants should be ready to follow God immediately. Any delay on their part gives Satan time to work to defeat them. BOE 207.7

The Edomites were descendants of Abraham and Isaac. For the sake of these two servants of His, God had given them Mount Seir for a possession. They were not to be disturbed unless by their sins they placed themselves beyond His mercy. The Hebrews were to utterly destroy the people of Canaan, who had become so evil that nothing more could be done for them; but the Edomites could still repent and were to be dealt with mercifully. God shows compassion before He inflicts judgments. BOE 208.1

The Israelites were forbidden to ever take revenge for the insult given them in refusing to let them pass through the land. They must not expect to possess any part of the land of Edom. God had promised them a large inheritance, but they were not to feel that they were the only ones on Earth to have rights—they were not to try to crowd out all others. They were to be careful not to do anything unfair or cruel to the Edomites. They were to trade with them, promptly paying for all they received. As an encouragement to trust in God and obey His word, they were reminded, “The Lord your God has blessed you ...; you have lacked nothing” (Deuteronomy 2:7). Their God was rich in resources, and they should demonstrate the principle, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” BOE 208.2

If they had passed through Edom as God had intended, their journey would have been a blessing to the Edomites. They would have become acquainted with God’s people and His worship and would have seen how the God of Jacob blessed those who loved and respected Him. But the unbelief of Israel had prevented all this. They must cross the desert again and quench their thirst from the miraculous spring that they would no longer have needed if they had only trusted in Him. BOE 208.3