Here is, I. A short account of the long stay of Israel in the wilderness: We compassed Mount Seir many days, Deut. 2:1. Nearly thirty-eight years they wandered in the deserts of Seir; probably in some of their rests they staid several years, and never stirred; God by this not only chastised them for their murmuring and unbelief, but, 1. Prepared them for Canaan, by humbling them for sin, teaching them to mortify their lusts, to follow God, and to comfort themselves in him. It is a work of time to make souls meet for heaven, and it must be done by a long train of exercises. 2. He prepared the Canaanites for destruction. All this time the measure of their iniquity was filling up; and, though it might have been improved by them as a space to repent in, it was abused by them to the hardening of their hearts. Now that the host of Israel was once repulsed, and after that was so long entangled and seemingly lost in the wilderness, they were secure, and thought the danger was over from that quarter, which would make the next attempt of Israel upon them the more dreadful.
II. Orders given them to turn towards Canaan. Though God contend long, he will not contend for ever. Though Israel may be long kept waiting for deliverance or enlargement, it will come at last: The vision is for an appointed time, and at the end it shall speak, and not lie.
III. A charge given them not to annoy the Edomites.
1. They must not offer any hostility to them as enemies: Meddle not with them, Deut. 2:4, 5. (1.) They must not improve the advantage they had against them, by the fright they would be put into upon Israel’s approach: “They shall be afraid of you, knowing your strength and numbers, and the power of God engaged for you; but think not that, because their fears make them an easy prey, you may therefore prey upon them; no, take heed to yourselves.” There is need of great caution and a strict government of our own spirits, to keep ourselves from injuring those against whom we have an advantage. Or this caution is given to the princes; they must not only not meddle with the Edomites themselves, but not permit any of the soldiers to meddle with them. (2.) They must not avenge upon the Edomites the affront they gave them in refusing them passage through their country, Num. 20:21. Thus, before God brought Israel to destroy their enemies in Canaan, he taught them to forgive their enemies in Edom. (3.) They must not expect to have any part of their land given them for a possession: Mount Seir was already settled upon the Edomites, and they must not, under pretence of God’s covenant and conduct, think to seize for themselves all they could lay hands on. Dominion is not founded in grace. God’s Israel shall be well placed, but must not expect to be placed alone in the midst of the earth, Isa. 5:8.
2. They must trade with them as neighbours, buy meat and water of them, and pay for what they bought, Deut. 2:6. Religion must never be made a cloak for injustice. The reason given (Deut. 2:7), is, “God hath blessed thee, and hitherto thou hast lacked nothing; and therefore,” (1.) “Thou needest not beg; scorn to be beholden to Edomites, when thou hast a God all-sufficient to depend upon. Thou hast wherewithal to pay for what thou callest for (thanks to the divine blessing!); use therefore what thou hast, use it cheerfully, and do not sponge upon the Edomites.” (2.) “Therefore thou must not steal. Thou hast experienced the care of the divine providence concerning thee, in confidence of which for the future, and in a firm belief of its sufficiency, never use any indirect methods for thy supply. Live by the faith and not by thy sword.”