Messianic Education Trust
    D'varim  
(Deut 1:1 - 3:22)

D'varim/Deuteronomy 2:24   Arise!, set out!, and cross! the valley of Arnon. See! I have given into your hand Sihon the king of Heshbon, the Amorite, and his land. Begin!, dispossess! and provoke! a battle with him.


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Sitting, at least for the time being, "On the other side of the Jordan, in the land of Moab" (D'varim 1:5, NJPS), the entry generation - as opposed to the exit generation, who had just died out in the wilderness, without seeing the promise of the Land fulfilled in their lifetime because of their lack of faith - are having an important history lesson from Moshe, the man who has led the people for the past forty years. Important because, even though the events now being related are only a matter of weeks or perhaps months behind them, the people must understand where they have come from and how they have reached their current situation in order to appreciate who they are, what lies ahead and how they are to proceed from here. Hear that well: each generation must know where they have come from and where they are going in order to understand who they are and what they are supposed to be doing now in their immediate present.

Our text is split into three phrases, forming a neat chiasm structure:
A1   Arise!, set out!, and cross! the valley of Arnon.
B   See! I have given into your hand Sihon the king of Heshbon, the Amorite, and his land.
A2   Begin!, dispossess! and provoke! a battle with him.

Each phrase starts with an imperative verb - a command - and the two framing phrases both start with an alliterative pattern: command, command and command. The frame tells the people clearly what to do; the middle phrase provides the context and the background for the commands, it provides the reason why the commands will succeed.

The first trio of imperatives are all Qal masculine plural: from , to rise up or arise; from , to break camp, journey or travel; from , to cross or pass over/through. These are the movement verbs, getting the people on their feet, breaking camp and marching forward. The people are addressed first in the plural, since they will all take time to get ready, pack their tents and belongings and actually cross the river valley. Saddle up your horses, break camp and get moving!

In the middle phrase, the second group of verbs starts with a Qal masculine singular imperative - from , to see - addressed to the people as a whole. They are now on the move, in motion, and all need to see, to pay attention and to understand to what HaShem is saying. The second verb in this group is a Qal 1cs affix form - from , to give - telling what The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem has done. The affix form usually signifies completed action, most often in the past tense. Even though they Israelites have yet to carry out the military campaign, HaShem has already handed Sihon, his army and his land over to them. Though the Amorite and Israelite armies have to go through the motions of having a battle, the outcome has already been determined and settled.

The second trio of imperatives are all masculine singular: Hif'il from , to begin; Qal from , to inherit or possess; Hitpa'el from , to stir up, excite, provoke. These are the action verbs, telling the people what they are to do now that they are on the move. The people are addressed as one unit: together they will and must fight, together they will begin the process of possessing the Land that HaShem has promised them. This is one of five times that HaShem tells the people in D'varim to go in and take possession of the Land (1:8, 1:21, 2:24, 2:31, 9:23). However politically incorrect this may appear in today's supposedly post-colonial world, there seems very little doubt about HaShem's intentions. HaShem is not giving permission for the Israelites to dispossess the Amorites, He is explicitly commanding them to do so. The Who Is ...

Ba'al HaTurim: Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher (1269-1343 CE), born in Cologne, Germany; lived for 40 years in and around Toledo, Spain; died en route to Israel; his commentary to the Chumash is based upon an abridgement of the Ramban, including Rashi, Rashbam and Ibn Ezra; it includes many references to gematria and textual novelties
Baal HaTurim connects the word - which is only used four times in the Tanakh - with the phrase as it appears later in the primary historical narrative, "In that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I spoke concerning his house, from beginning to end" (1 Samuel 3:12, NJPS), to conclude that HaShem's command to begin the process of possession implies that they are also to end it, bringing it to completion: they are to take full possession of the whole Land.

Early translations varied the text slightly to reflect the way the ancient world understood what was happening in this text. What Is ...

Targum Neophiti: An early (1st-2nd Century CE) translation/paraphrase of the Torah into Palestinian Aramaic; contains lengthy expansions in several places; authorship unknown
Targum Neophiti retained the sense of as 'inherit', meaning "begin the occupation." What Is ...

Targum Onkelos: An early (1st-2nd Century CE) translation/paraphrase of the Torah into Aramaic; attributed to a Roman convert to Judaism, Onkelos; used in Babylonian synagogues during the Talmudic era
Targum Onkelos, on the other hand, aware that taking possession must also mean dispossessing someone else, changes the Hebrew imperative pair to an Aramaic imperative and infinitive to convey "begin the dispossession." The commentator Who Is ...

Sa'adia Gaon: Sa'adia ben Yosef Gaon (882/892-942 CE); prominent rabbi, philosopher and exegete; born in Egypt, studied in Tiberais, Gaon of Sura, Babylonia, fought assimilation among the richer Jews; active opponent of Karaite Judaism
Saadia Gaon confirms this idea, offering the longer alternative, "begin to dispossess and destroy them."

Stephen Sherwood tells us that "this verse marks a turning point in the story - the first divine order to engage a foe militarily and dispossess them,"1 while Walter Brueggemann suggests that, "after the memory of the defeat of the old generation in its faithlessness ... the narrative now enters the next phase, namely, an aggressive and successful military campaign east of the Jordan."2 Context is all important here, as Christopher Wright points out: "Just as 2:1 signalled Israel's return to obedience, so this signals Yahweh's return to active fulfillment of His promise."3 The previous generation had baulked at entering the Land because - following the bad majority report by the spies - they were afraid. Patrick Miller explains, "G-d will not give an enemy into the hand of Israel until the fearful generation is gone. The fundamental requirement upon Israel's soldiers in battle was trust in the power of G-d. Without that confidence,victories will not come."4 Notice how the middle phrase of our text is worded: "I have given into your hand Sihon the king of Heshbon, the Amorite, and his land". Jeffrey Tigay observes that "this is another allusion to, and rebuttal of, the previous generation's charge that G-d intended 'to give us into the hand of the Amorites' in 1:27," while Peter Craigie confirms that "the previous rebellious generation had said in their perversity that the L-rd was going to give them into the power of the Amorites, but to the new and obedient generation, the Amorites were to be delivered into the Israelites' power."5

Given the times in which we live, waiting for Yeshua's return on a daily basis, the application seems obvious. We have to understand where we have come from - centuries of the Body of Messiah gradually losing her way and become an institution rather than a people - and where we are now, in a time of unprecedented doctrinal and even existential challenge, to correctly perceive the boldness and the confidence that are required of us in these days. We are called to nothing less than to take and hold ground for the kingdom of G-d, to proclaim the gospel of reconciliation and salvation and to prepare the way of the L-rd so that He may be revealed among us. We have the power of the Ruach to accomplish the task. Yeshua told us that "the gates of Hades shall not overpower" (Matthew 16:18, NASB). As Yeshua's disciples go underground, abandoning buildings and denominational structures, meeting in homes and bringing whole families to faith, we will be an ever brighter blaze of light and glory in the darkness of the world around us. We are to "have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh" (Jude 22-23, ESV).

Just as the ancient people of Israel were commanded by our text, framed by commands with an assurance of HaShem's completed action at its core, so today we have Yeshua's instructions to command us. Yeshua told the disciples (read: and us), "that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47, ESV) and "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15, ESV). Rav Sha'ul writes, "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13, NASB) and "take up the full armour of G-d, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:13, NASB). In the middle, so to speak, so that we understand our context correctly, like Aharon who "took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was checked" (B'Midbar 16:48, NASB), we must hear Yeshua telling us, "Take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NASB). This is an already completed action. No negotiation, no arguing, no debate. Yeshua has already overcome the world so that, "in Me you may have peace" (ibid).

1. - Stephen Sherwood, Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry - Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2002), page 246.

2. - Walter Brueggemann, Deuteronomy Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2001), page 38.

3. - Christopher J. H. Wright, Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012), page 38.

4. - Patrick D. Miller, Deuteronomy Interpretation (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), page 39.

5. - P. C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, NICOT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976), page 113.

Further Study: Amos 4:10-12; John 14:27; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Revelation 3:21

Application: Do you know the peace that comes in the middle of conflict, peace despite the forces of hell raging around, because you are in the centre of Yeshua's command to "Go!"? You cannot have the peace without obeying the commands, just as you can't have the filling without eating the sandwich. Engage with Yeshua's battle today and know both His peace and His presence in your life.

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© Jonathan Allen, 2022



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