Leaving the field of battle, Israel continued to march north, crossing the Zared River and camping there. Then they crossed the Arnon River and approached the country of the Amorites, traveling between Moabite and Amorite country.
In Numbers 22-24, we’ll meet the Moabites again and see how they tricked Israel into disobeying God.
In Numbers 21:14-15; we have a description of the area, taken from an ancient record called The Book of the Wars of the Lord. This lost book was apparently a compendium of detailed information about the travels and the battles of Israel.
Here it is quoted to describe the geography of the area through which Israel was then passing. It was not easy terrain, but the Lord gave His people the strength they needed to make the journey.
“What shall we eat?” and “What shall we drink?” seemed to be the primary concerns of the people (Matt. 6:24-34), just as they are the major concerns of individuals today, along with “What shall we wear?”
But on this occasion, the people didn’t complain. Instead, they sang a song! As far as the record is concerned, this is the first time we find Israel singing since God delivered them from Egypt forty years before (Ex. 15).
“The Song of the Well” (Num. 21:16-18) celebrated the Lord’s provision of water for the people in the wilderness.
It’s not likely that the leaders of Israel dug the well with their staffs (NIV) because in the sandy wasteland they would have needed much better tools.
Since this is a song, we must leave room for poetic expression. What may have happened is that God showed Moses where the water was located, the leaders all thrust their staffs into the ground around that place, and the well opened up and the water gushed out.
The people rejoiced that God gave them the necessities of life, and they found joy in praising Him for His goodness.
Water was a precious commodity in the wilderness, and the Jews didn’t take it for granted, the way too many people today take natural resources for granted, waste them, and pollute them.
When God the Creator is left out of the picture, then men and women cease to see themselves as stewards and behave only as selfish consumers. One day God will destroy those who destroy the earth (Rev. 11:18).
Now, this is a good place to pause and note the pictures of our Lord Jesus Christ that are found in the narrative so far.
- We’ve seen Him in the manna as the Bread of Life (John 6), and
- Now in the well, He’s the giver of the living water (7:37-39).
In the Bible, water for drinking is a picture of the Spirit of God, while water for washing is a type of the Word of God (Eph. 5:26-27).
The manna emphasizes His incarnation, the serpent His crucifixion, and the water His ascension and the outpouring of the Spirit.
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Counted (Numbers)