Chapter 21: Serpent of Brass
Israel destroys those Canaanites who fight against them. They are then plagued by fiery serpents, Moses lifts up a serpent of brass to save those from the fiery serpent. Israel defeats the Amorites and destroys the people of Bashan, occupying their lands.
The Edomites threaten Israel with war, assumedly because the Israelites were an easy target. However the Edomites did not know that the Lord was with Israel. The King of Arad also decides to kill and capture some of them. Israel makes a vow with the Lord that if he delivers them from the King of Arad, that they will destroy the people of Arad and their cities, the Israelites destroy the Aradites and their cities and rename the city “Hormah” (destruction in Hebrew).
The Israelites continue their journey, carefully avoiding the Edomites. The children of Israel start to murmur against the Lord and complain to Moses about how they were taken out of Egypt, only to die in the desert. They complain about the food and having little to no water.
The Lord gets upset, and without warning, sends venomous snakes to the congregation of Israel. Many Israelites die from the snake bites. The people repent and plead with Moses to ask God to remove the snakes from among them. Moses pleads with the Lord and he commands Moses to make a snake and put it on a pole. Anyone who looks at the snake will be saved and will not suffer or die from the snake bites.
Israel continues their journeys through different parts of the land and stop by the river of Arnon, which is on the border of Moab. We learn in verse 14 about a Lost Book of the Bible; “the book of the wars of the Lord” – This goes to show that the Bible is not a complete set of books. God commanded many of his servants throughout time to write their histories, including what the LDS church has concerning the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price, including modern day revelations from modern prophets.
They then travel to Beer, which was the place where the Lord spoke to Moses, and said: “…Gather the people together, and I will give them water” (Numbers 21:16)
The Israelites break out into song about the area. Verses 17-20.
Before they continue to pass through the territory of Sihon, the king of the Amorites they send out messengers to tell him of their passing, basically asking for permission. He responds by sending a huge army to kill them, but the Israelites triumph and kill them all. They also destroy the people of Bashan and occupy their lands.
Chapter 22: Balak Offers Money and Cattle
From the last chapter we learn that the Israelites were able to conquer and destroy those who were in their way. Moab was filled with fear at the site of the Israelites, with this fear the king of Moab; Balak comes up with a plan. He decides to contact Balaam, and hire him to put a curse on the children of Israel. Balaam is known throughout the land for cursing and blessing those who he wishes.
Balak sends some people to Balaam to try and persuade him with riches to curse the Israelites. But the Lord tells Balaam to not curse the Israelites, because they are a blessed people. The Lord tells Balaam that he can go with the men that Balak had sent, but that he must only do as the Lord commands him.
Balaam saddles up his donkey and heads off with the men that Balak had sent. Although the Lord gets angry with him and sends an angel to stop him. The donkey sees the angel with a sword blocking the passage. The donkey runs off the road and Balaam hits the donkey for not doing what it was supposed to do. Then he continues on the journey, when the donkey sees the angel again, this time between two vineyard walls, so the donkey (trying to avoid the angel) scoots along the wall hurting Balaams leg, so he again beats the donkey for disobeying.
Balaam continues his journey, but this time the angel of the Lord appears in a narrow area, so the donkey can’t run off the road or scoot around. So the donkey lies down. Balaam who is angry beats the donkey again, this time the Lord gives the donkey the ability to talk:
“And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.” (Numbers 22:28-30)
Then the angel appears before the eyes of Balaam and he realizes that the donkey was just trying to save his life, because the angel would have killed him otherwise. The Lord then lets him go freely to Moab, on the condition that he speak only as the Lord commands him. In Moab he meets up with Balak who runs out to greet him and asks him why his journey took so long.