Scripture: And from there they continued to Beer; that is the well of which the LORD said to Moses, “Gather the people together, so that I may give them water.” Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O well!—Sing to it—the well that the princes made, that the nobles of the people dug, with the scepter and with their staffs.” Numbers 21:16-18 ESV
Observation: Back on course from the serpentine saga, Moses leads Israel to Arnon (v.13), located at the borders of Moab and Ammon due east of the midpoint of the Dead Sea. Along the way, they encamp at Oboth (v.10), Iye Abarim (v.11), and Zered Valley (v.12). The author then inserts a poetic quote from the Book of Wars of the Lord (v.14). This is the only citation from this book in our Bible. And this fragment merely lists place names and their locations—all relevant, however, to the region they are entering. The author then chronicles the next stop as they approach the Jordan: Beer, which means “well’ in Hebrew (habbeʾēr). Here, for the first time in Israel’s forty-year journey, Yahweh initiates the provision of water unprovoked by Israel’s grumbling (v.16 above). Implied by the author’s second poetic insertion, Son of the Well (vv.17-18 above), Israel does their part in digging for this water source. The poetic language of nobles excavating with scepters and staffs is a literary device to communicate the permanence of this well.
As this section of Chapter 21 concludes, the author chronicles the next leg of the journey, where they arrive at the valley of Moab by the top of Pisgah, which provides a vista of Canaan. We will later read (Deuteronomy 34:1) that this is where Yahweh grants Moses a look at the Promised Land (Mount Nebo).
Takeaway: A couple of points from this text to consider. First, the poem of places and their locations, while seemingly irrelevant to those of us who have never fought in a war, would provide an essential pneumonic for memorizing the lie of the land. But what about the rest of us? All followers of Christ must consider the “lie of the land” when entering the fray of spiritual battles. We need to draw on the verses of Scripture that remind us who are our true enemies, where they are most likely to attack, and where are our escape routes.
Secondly, one means of moving toward or retreating from the fray of the battle, when gripped with fear and doubt, is to sing with gratitude from our hearts about our eternal wellspring, Christ Jesus. As our Lord revealed to the Samaritan women at the well, he is the living water (John 4:10). And everyone who drinks of him will never be thirsty, for the water he gives us will flow like a spring through us, welling up to eternal life (John 4:14). This is our battle cry!
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who is our battle cry as we sojourn the remnant of battlefield skirmishes from his victory at the Cross to his return in glory when our Promised Land is made new. In the meantime, would you help us expand our memory of Scripture’s commands and promises that demarcate our next steps and sing your Son’s glory with gratitude from our hearts? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling