What miraculous war did the Lord fight in the brooks of Arnon?
My scripture study yesterday included Numbers 21. Verse 14 really struck me.
Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the Lord, What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon….
I scanned the verses, what happened at Arnon that compared to God’s miracle at the Red Sea? I really wanted to know, and looked in the usual look up spots in the study helps. I couldn’t find an answer. I had a lot to do, so set these thoughts aside and got on with my day.
I understand that many stories aren’t recorded in the scriptures because of space constraints alone or sometimes they’re neglected in text copying. But, to pair something with the parting of the Red Sea and not include it? That seemed crazy.
I thought of a friend’s recent comment that basically wondered how many historically significant events weren’t recorded because people said “what idiot’s not going to know about that?”
That would be me.
Reminded By a Dream
This morning, I awoke from a nondescript dream. In the last fading scene of the dream, a person looked at me and shouted something I couldn’t make out, several times.
As I reflected on it consciously, I thought, was he shouting “argon” at me? I can’t ever remember a dream discussing an element on the periodic table before. I like looking up dream interpretations, so did that and then googled argon, just for the fun of it. But, it didn’t seem relevant–aside from breathing air and argon in air is relevant to breathing air.
Then, I remembered Arnon. Arnon! I googled Arnon and plunged into exciting discovery.
The Brooks of Arnon
Arnon, known modernly as Wady el-Mojib, was the ancient border between the Moabites and Amorites. Its river runs for about 45 miles. On each side the of river, the valley’s walls steeply rise. The passage is generally narrow (so you could speak to your friend on the other side), but at other spots, the valley spreads out.
Moses and the children of Israel asked, and were refused, to pass through the lands of Moab and Edom to get to the promised land. The Amorite’s land, including their border at Arnon, remained the only option.
According to the Jewish Encyclopedia and Kol Menachem‘s entries on Arnon, the Amorites realized the Israelites would cross their lands. They decided to act preemptively and hid tons of their people in the holes and caves of the mountain wall and more of their people in the valley below, determined to ambush the Israelites as they passed down the incline from one side of Arnon and through the valley to the other side.
However, instead of passing through the valley, the Lord directed Moses to stay high, along the mountain ridge.
From the Midrash—
God “sent an instruction to the mountains, and the protrusions of one mountain entered the caves of the other, and all the people hiding there died.
Then, the well water went down through the valley and, becoming stronger in force, destroyed all the people that were there, like the Egyptians who were destroyed by the sea. That is why the Torah compares the two events.
Since the Jewish people had passed over the mountains, they were not aware of all these miracles, so God said, ‘I’m going to make it known how many people I destroyed for them!’ Thus, the well water went into the caves, washing so many skulls, arms, and feet that they could not be counted. And when the Jewish people returned to find the well, they saw it shining like the moon within the valley that was full of limbs” (Tanchuma 20; Bamidbar Rabah 19:25).
So the Lord moved the mountains, crushing the people hiding in the caves and valley, and the children of Israel crossed over the now connected mountain tops without even knowing that it happened!
One Rabbi explained that “God made a fierce storm which caused water to flood the entire area, preventing the Jewish people from being attacked. Nevertheless, when the waters reach Ar, close to where the Jewish people were located, it did not flood the area, but rather ‘turned to settle at Ar…against the border of Mo’av.'” So the waters went up to the camp of Israel and stopped.
This is the Jewish version of Numbers 21:14-17.
About this (miraculous encampment) it will be told when God’s wars are recounted: “He gave a gift (of miracles) at the (Sea of) Reeds and (they were matched by the miracles) at the valleys of Arnon! The (blood of the Amorites was) spilling into the valleys when (the mountain actually moved, crushing the Amorites, and) it turned to settle at Ar, leaning against the border of Mo’av.
From there (the blood flowed) to the well (so the Jewish people could see the victory). That is the well about which God said to Moshe, ‘Gather the people, and I will give them water.'” Then (when) Israel (saw the remains of the enemy in the well water) they sang this song: “O well, arise (from the valley)! Raise your voices (in song) to it!”
Want the rest of the song lyrics? I did.
A well dug by ministers,
Carved out by (Moshe and Aharon), nobles of the people,
Through the lawgiver, with their staffs,
From the desert, (they received the well as) a gift.
(It went down with them) to the streams,
And from the streams (it went up with them) to the heights.
From the heights to the valley in the field of Mo’av,
At the top of the summit that overlooks the wastelands.
God Fights His Battles
My mind raced through scripture stories thinking of times the Lord fought battles for His people.
In 2 Kings 7, the Syrian army prepared to fight Israel. During the night, they heard chariots and horses and the noises of a great host. They figured the Israelites hired the Hittites and the Egyptians to fight for them. So, they jumped up and fled. They left everything–their tents, their horses (I think I would have fled on my horse, personally), their silver and gold, and most importantly their food. Everything. The Israelites couldn’t believe it. The Lord removed their enemy AND gave them food in the midst of a famine.
In 2 Kings 19, the Assyrian army laid siege to Judah. The Assyrian leader Sennacherib’s armies defied God. Hezekiah, the prophet, stood firm in his defense of the Lord. Then, he went and prayed and prayed for help.
“And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.”
They Didn’t Even Know He Was Fighting For Them
In these stories, and so many others, the Lord literally and metaphorically fought for and saved His people. And they didn’t even know He was fighting for them!! Do I?
Do I know that He fights for me? Do I really recognize that He has already fought for me? He fought my greatest battle. Alone. And He saved me.
“I have trodden the wine press alone; and of the people there was none with me…And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold…
In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:3, 5, 9).
The impact is incredible! Look and see what He has done! The seas part. Mountains move. Armies flee. The chains of death and hell rattle to oblivion. Souls are freed.
He still fights for His people! I know it!
“I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.