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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 6: Harmony of the Law, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Deuteronomy 2

Deuteronomy 2:9-23

9. And the Lord said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession.

9. Et dixit mihi Jehova, Ne oppugnes Moab, neque lacessas eum bello, quia non dabo tibi e terra ejus possessionem; filiis enim Lot dedi Ar in haereditatem.

10. The Emims dwelt therein in times past, a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims;

10. Emim antea habitabant in ea, populus magnus et multus, et excelsus, sicut Anacim.

11. Which also were accounted giants, as the Anakims; but the Moabites call them Emims.

11. Gigantes reputabantur etiam ipsi sicut Anacim; et Moabitae vocarunt eos Emim.

12. The Horims also dwelt in Seir beforetime; but the children of Esau succeeded them, when they had destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their stead, as Israel did unto the land of his possession, which the Lord gave unto them.

12. In Seir autem habitaverunt Horim antea, quos filii Esau expulerunt, et perdiderunt a facie sua, habitaveruntque loco ipsorum, quemadmodum Israel in terrapossessionis sum quam dedit illis Jehova.

13. Now rise up, said I, and get you over the brook Zered: and we went over the brook Zered.

13. Nunc surgite et transite torrentem Zered: et transivimus torrentem Zered.

14. And the space in which we cane from Kadesh-barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the Lord sware unto them.

14. Dies autem quibus ambulavimus de Cades-barnea, donec transiremus tortentem Zered, fuerunt triginta-octo anni, donec consumeretur tota generario virorum bellatorum de medio castrorum, quemadmodum juraverat Jehova illis.

15. For indeed the hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from among the host, until they were consumed.

15. Praeterea manus Jehovae fuit in eos, ut perderet eos e medio castrorum, donec consumeret eos.

16. So it came to pass, when all the men of war were consumed and dead from among the people,

16. Et fuit, postquam consumpti fuerunt omnes viri bellatores, ut morerentur e medio populi.

17. That the Lord spake unto me, saying,

17. Tunc loquutus est Jehova ad me, dicendo:

18. Thou art to pass over through Ar, the coast of Moab, this day:

18. Tu transiturus es hodie terminumMoab, nempe Ar.

19. And when thou comest nigh over against the children of Ammon, distress them not, nor meddle with them: for I will not give thee of the land of the children of Ammon any possession, because I have given it unto the children of Lot for a possession.

19. Et accedes ad viciniam filiorum Ammon, ne obsideas eos, neque in’ites eos, quia non daturus sum tibi de terra filiorum Ammon possessionem aliquam: nam filiis Lot dedi illam in possessionem.

20. (That also was accounted a land of giants: giants dwelt therein in old time; and the Ammonites call them Zamzummims;

20. Terra gigantum reputata fuit etiam ipsa: gigantes habitaverunt in ea olim, quos Ammonitae vocabant Zamzumim.

21. A people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims; but the Lord destroyed them before them, and they succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead:

21. Populus magnus et multus et excelsus sicut Anacim: et perdidit eos Jehova a facie eorum, possede-runtque eos, et habitaverunt loco ipsorum.

22. As he did to the children of Esau which dwelt in Seir, when he destroyed the Horims from before them; and they succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead, even unto this day:

22. Quemadmodum fecit filiis Esau, habitantibus in Seir, propter quos disperdidit Horaeos a facie corum, et possederunt eos, habitave runtque loco ipsormn usque in hanc diem.

23. And the Avims which dwelt in Hazerim, even unto Azzah, the Caphtorims, which came forth out of Caphtor, destroyed them, and dwelt in their stead.)

23. Et Avaeos qui habitabant in Haserim usque Azzah, Caphthorim qui egressi sunt de Caphthor, per diderunt eos, et habitaverunt loco ipsorum.


9. And the Lord said unto me, Distress not the Moabites. He had previously forbidden them to enter the land of Edom, unless consent were obtained. A similar prohibition is now added with respect to the Moabites, because God had allotted to them the territory which they inhabited. As I have said, this was painful and burdensome, that they should cherish kindness and fraternal good-will towards those who treated them with hostility; but God desired in this respect also to prove the obedience of His people. He did not, then, take into consideration what this nation had dcserved; but, inasmuch as they were the descendants of Lot, and consequently of the race of Abraham, He desired to treat them with special favor. For the division of the whole world appertains to Him, so as to distribute to its various peoples whatever part He chooses, and to fix the bounds wherein they should confine themselves. If any object that the people of Canaan had also their limits assigned to them, and ought not, therefore, to have been expelled from the lands in which their forefathers had for many ages inhabited, the reply is easy, viz., that God is always free to take away what He has given, and to readjust the boundaries imposed by His will, when the sins of men deserve that this should be done. When, therefore, He declares that He had given their land to the Moabites, it is not according to the ordinary force of the expression, but by a fixed decree that their habitation should remain sure and undisturbed.

10. The Emims dwelt therein in times past. This is a confirmation of the foregoing declaration, which is, however, inserted by way of parenthesis by Moses himself; for the ninth verse, which I have just expounded, is followed regularly by the thirteenth, “Now rise up,” etc. For, after God had turned away the people from the borders of Moab, He shews them in what direction they must pass over; but Moses, interrupting the address of God, explains how the Moabites had obtained that territow, though they were strangers, and had no land of their own on which they might set their foot;. For Lot was no less an alien than Abraham; Moses, therefore, states how by special privilege the posterity of Lot became masters of that land which giants had previously possessed. For it was not by human means that, having driven out the giants, who were formidable to all men, they had obtained the peaceful occupation, and even the dominion of that land, which might have seemed to be invincible, from the valor and strength of its inhabitants. He says, therefore, that the giants dwelt there, as also in Mount Seir; and that both were overcome and destroyed, not so much by the hand and arms of men as by the power of God, so that their land might be cleared for possession as well for the children of Esau as for those of Lot. Now, since God elsewhere declares that He had given Mount Seir to Esau as an inheritance, according as He had promised to his father Isaac, it follows that the Moabites had obtained their land also by the same Divine authority. The comparison which is made between Edom and the Israelites does not hold good in all respects; for, although Esau was sustained by this consolation, that his inheritance should be of “the fatness of the earth,” (Ge 27:39,) it might still be the case that with regard to himself and his posterity, their possession should not be legitimate; whereas God so promised the land of Canaan to the race of Abraham, that the Israelites received the dominion over it, as if from His own hand, as it is said in Ps 136:21. In this respect, too, there was a difference, because the land of Canaan was chosen as that in which God should gather His Church, in which He should be purely worshipped, and which should be an earnest, to the faithful of the heavenly and eternal rest. But, as elsewhere, the distinction between the sons of Esau and Jacob is marked, so now Moses  126 magnifies God’s special blessing towards them both.

13. Now rise up. He now proceeds with what he had begun in verse 9, viz, that God had commanded them to pass by the land of Seir, and to advance to the brook Zered; as much as to say, that after they had been subdued by their misfortunes, they were prohibited from further progress, until God should open the way before them, and thus they should follow Him as their leader, and not make a passage for themselves at their own discretion.

He afterwards specifies the period of delay which they had been compelled by God to pass in the desert, after they had once reached the borders of the promised land. He says, then, that after thirty-eight years they had at length returned to the land from whence they had been obliged to retire; and briefly reminds them how long the course of their deliverance had been interrupted through their own fault, since they had gone forth to enjoy the promised land. He calls those “warlike men,” or, in the Hebrew, “men of war,” whose age entitled them to bear arms, i.e., who had exceeded their twentieth year.

When mention is elsewhere made of forty years, the two years are then included which were spent both in Mount Sinai and in other places; and with good reason, because, during that time also, their sins prevented them from passing to the enjoyment of their inheritance immediately after the promulgation of the law.

19. And when thou comest nigh over against the children ofAmmon. God now makes provision as to the Ammonites, since their condition was the same as that of the Moabites, inasmuch as they were descended from the two daughters of Lot. It might, indeed, seem wonderful that, since the memory of their origin was detestable, these two nations should have been so dear to God. Ammon and Moab had been born of an incestuous connection. It was, therefore, more reasonable that this tragical circumstance should have been buried by their destruction, than that they should have been distinguished by God’s favor from the common lot of other nations, as if their nobility rendered them superior to others. But let us learn from hence, that since God’s judgments, like a deep abyss, are beyond our apprehension, they should be regarded with reverence. Lot’s distinguished piety is expressly declared. The disgraceful crime, which he committed when drunk, it pleased God so to mark with perpetual infamy, as still to impress upon it some signs of His mercy, although this was done especially for the sake of Abraham himself. It is unquestionable, however, that God recommends the posterity of Lot to the Israelites on this ground, that they may more willingly exercise kindness towards them, and abstain from all injury, when they had to do with two nations whom they see to be cared for by God Himself, for the sake of their common relationship to Abraham.

Furthermore, by the same argument whereby he had before proved that both Edomites and Moabites, relying on God’s help, had occupied the lands over which they had dominion, he now establishes that the land which the Ammonites possessed had been granted them by God, viz., because in their conquest and overthrow of the giants they had surpassed the limits of human bravery, and thus God had given a proof of His special and unusual favor towards them. For neither by the ordinary course of nature could two men increase to so great a multitude.

Now, although the Hebrew call the Cappadocians Caphthorim,  127 we do not know whether the giants, whose country was taken possession of by the Ammonites, sprung from them. But, if this be admitted, they had a long journey, attended by many dangers, after they left their country; and again, since they must have passed through rich and fertile regions, it is strange that they should have penetrated to those mountains. It might, however, be the case, that, making forays as robbers, they nowhere found a quiet resting-place until a less cultivated region presented itself.



“Moyse dit ici qu’ils ont eu cela de commun, que Dieu les a voulu loger;” Moses says here that they had this in common, that God had chosen to give them their dwelling-places. — Fr.


Bochart remarks that all ancient writers are unanimous in supposing Caphthor to be Cappadocia, and the Caphthorim Cappadocians; but he assigns to them that part of Cappadocia only which bordered on Colchis. Phaleg. Book 4, chap. 32:— See C. on Jeremiah 47:4, C. Soc. Edit., vol. 4, p 614.

Next: Numbers 21:21-32; Deuteronomy 2:24-37