By Bronson L. Barkley, Th.D.

Copyright ©, 2021, Bronson L. Barkley. All rights reserved.
NUMBERS 20:18, 21 (OWENS and KJV translations)



But Edom said to them


You shall not pass through (by) me


lest with the sword I come out (to meet / against) you




Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory (border)


So Israel turned away from him.

More than any other book of the Torah, Numbers (B’Midbar—“In The Desert”) is the book of practicalities after the giving of the Torah expressed  in story form, the Wilderness Journey of Israel.

Here Israel is nearing the end of the wandering and approaching the crossing over into the Land of Promise. They have just come through another time of needing miraculous supply of water. And now they are about to skirt the border of the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. Esau’s name is referred to here as Edom, the word “Red” which was the “other name” of Esau, because he was ruddy and a man of the wild.

The pleading of Moses is sad:

“Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the hardships that have befallen us; that our ancestors went down to Egypt, that we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and that the Egyptians dealt harshly with us and our ancestors. We cried to the LORD and He heard our plea, and He sent a messenger^ who freed us from Egypt. Now we are in Kadesh, the town on the border of your territory. Allow us, then, to cross your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, and we will not drink water from wells. We will follow the king’s highway, turning off neither to the right nor to the left until we have crossed your territory.” (Reform Translation; ^either the Angel or Moses, or both)

But Edom refused, as our theme texts tell us. This time, in verses 19-20, the people of Israel plead, “We will keep to the beaten track,…, and if we or our cattle drink your water, we will pay for it. We ask only for passage on foot—it is but a small matter.”

But the refusal came again with a show of force. So, Israel turned away rather than take up arms against their brother Esau—who is Edom.


The biblical history is remarkable:

Deuteronomy 23:7 says, “You shall not abhor an Edomite; for he is your brother; you shall not abhor an Egyptian; because you were a stranger in his land.”

In Joshua 15:1 seq. we read that the tribal allotment to Judah extended to the border of Edom in the wilderness of Zin, the very place where this text is located. Thus, the kingly tribe touched the border of the adversarial brother of Jacob.

In Judges 5 we are told of God “marching out from the field of Edom”—a recurring theme in scripture; indicating that God somehow inhabits that people as he does the people of Israel. Covenantal bonds are indelible in the eyes of God.

In 1 Samuel 14 we see Edom as one of the relational enemies of Israel with which Saul battled to procure true independent sovereignty of Israel. Thus, today we are still beholding this conflict as Israel is bombarded on all sides by his physical kindred.

In Psalm 60:8 we have a remarkable prophecy that God will redeem Edom (“over Edom will I cast out my shoe” as Kinsman Redeemer—cf. Book of Ruth).

It is significant that Herod the Great was born in Edom in the year 72 BC. It was he who attempted to kill the Messiah by killing all male babies in Bethlehem under the age of 2 years (the time required for the Magi to migrate to Israel to honor him). But Herod was not able to accomplish his murderous goal because God forewarned Joseph to flee to Egypt until the time was safe for the return of Jesus to the Land of Prophecy concerning the Suffering Servant Messiah—the city of Nazareth and the region of the Galil in Eretz Yisrael.

Remarkably then, in Isaiah 11, a passage concerning the Messianic Reign, the scriptures predict that Edom will submit to the Messiah.

In Isaiah 63 is a passage parallel to Revelation 19 (esp. v. 13) which shows the LORD (the Divine Messiah) passing across Edom’s territory on his lightning-flash* journey east-to-west toward Jerusalem where He will destroy the armies of the Anti-Messiah.

(* Matthew 24:27)

Our Lord Jesus alone can obliterate the war in the heart between brothers. The memories are too deep and strong. The animosity is relentless. The issues are recalcitrant.

Let us therefore permit our Savior’s cross to root out such hatred and strife from our hearts today. When we extinguish the fire of animosity in our hearts, then the flame in the heart of our brother may be enabled to reduce to a smolder until it dies.