From Eternity Past


Chapter 38—Why the Long Journey Around Edom

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

The encampment of Israel at Kadesh was but a short distance from the borders of Edom, and both Moses and the people greatly desired to follow the route through this country to the Promised Land. Accordingly they sent a message to the Edomite king: EP 295.1

“Thus saith thy brother Israel, ... behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border. Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's highway, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.” EP 295.2

To this courteous request, a threatening refusal was returned: “Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.” EP 295.3

The leaders of Israel sent a second appeal to the king, with the promise, “We will go by the highway; and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing else, go through on my feet.” EP 295.4

“Thou shalt not go through,” was the answer. Armed bands of Edomites were already posted at the difficult passes, and the Hebrews were forbidden to resort to force. They must make the long journey around the land of Edom. EP 295.5

Had the people trusted in God, the Captain of the Lord's host would have led them through Edom. The inhabitants of the land, instead of manifesting hostility, would have shown them favor. But the Israelites did not act promptly upon God's word, and the golden opportunity passed. When they were at last ready to present their request to the king, it was refused. Ever since they left Egypt, Satan had been at work to throw hindrances in their way that they might not inherit Canaan. And by their own unbelief they had repeatedly opened the door for him. EP 295.6

When God bids His children go forward, Satan tempts them to displease the Lord by hesitation and delay. He seeks to kindle strife, murmuring, or unbelief, and thus deprive them of the blessings God desires to bestow. God's servants should be minutemen. Any delay on their part gives time for Satan to work to defeat them. EP 296.1

The Edomites were descendants of Abraham and Isaac. For the sake of these His servants, God had given them Mount Seir for a possession. They were not to be disturbed unless by their sins they should place themselves beyond His mercy. The Hebrews were to utterly destroy the inhabitants of Canaan, who had filled up the measure of their iniquity; but the Edomites were still probationers and were to be mercifully dealt with. God manifests compassion before He inflicts judgments. EP 296.2

The Israelites were forbidden either then or at any future time to revenge the affront given them in the refusal of passage through the land. They must not expect to possess any part of the land of Edom. God had promised them a goodly inheritance, but they were not to feel that they alone had rights in the earth and seek to crowd out all others. They were to beware of doing the Edomites injustice. 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 thy God hath blessed thee; ... thou hast lacked nothing.” They had a God rich in resources. They should exemplify the principle, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” EP 296.3

Had they passed through Edom as God had purposed, the passage would have proved a blessing to the inhabitants of the land to become acquainted with God's people and His worship and to witness how the God of Jacob prospered those who loved and feared Him. But all this the unbelief of Israel had prevented. Again they must traverse the desert and quench their thirst from the miraculous spring, which, had they but trusted in Him, they would no longer have needed. EP 296.4