Sabbath School Lesson 04 - Requesting Permission to Pass Through

Sabbath, January 27, 2018 

“When the Lord brought His people a second time to the borders of Canaan, additional evidence of His power was granted to those heathen nations. They saw that God was with Israel in the victory gained over King Arad and the Canaanites, and in the miracle wrought to save those who were perishing from the sting of the serpents. Although the Israelites had been refused a passage through the land of Edom, thus being compelled to take the long and difficult route by the Red Sea, yet in all their journeyings and encampments, past the land of Edom, of Moab and Ammon, they had shown no hostility, and had done no injury to the people or their possessions.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 434, 435.

1. After the children of Israel stayed for many years in the area of Mount Seir, what command did the Lord give them?

Deuteronomy 2:1, last part-3, 14, first part … The Lord spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days. 2And the Lord spake unto me, saying, 3Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward…. 14And the space in which we came from Kadesh-barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years;…

“For nearly forty years the children of Israel are lost to view in the obscurity of the desert. ‘The space,’ says Moses, ‘in which we came 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.’…

“The encampment of Israel at Kadesh was but a short distance from the borders of Edom, and both Moses and the people greatly desired to follow the route through this country to the Promised Land; accordingly they sent a message, as God had directed them, to the Edomite king.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 406, 422.

Request to the king of Edom

2. What explanatory letter did Moses send to the king of the Edomites, who were descendants of Esau and therefore relatives?

Numbers 20:14-16 And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us: 15How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers: 16And when we cried unto the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border.

“Had the people, when brought into trial, trusted in God, the Captain of the Lord’s host would have led them through Edom, and the fear of them would have rested upon the inhabitants of the land, so that, instead of manifesting hostility, they would have shown them favor. But the Israelites did not act promptly upon God’s word, and while they were complaining and murmuring, the golden opportunity passed. When they were at last ready to present their request to the king, it was refused. Ever since they left Egypt, Satan had been steadily at work to throw hindrances and temptations in their way, that they might not inherit Canaan. And by their own unbelief they had repeatedly opened the door for him to resist the purpose of God.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 422, 423.

3. What permission did Moses ask them to grant?

Numbers 20:17 Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king’s high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.

“The glad tidings of salvation are to be taken to those who have not yet heard them. Satan is determined to place God’s people in a false light before the world. He is pleased when their lives reveal defects, when they cherish objectionable traits of character. These traits of character he uses in his service. He tries to keep God’s people in a continual state of uncertainty by bringing in false theories and false science. He seeks to deceive them as he deceived Adam and Eve. He would lead them to depart from God, their true Counselor, and accept his spiritualistic sophistries. With these sophistries clothed in the garments of light, he seeks to deceive if possible the very elect.” –This Day with God, p. 325.

Refusal and a further detailed request

4. In refusing to grant the request, what did the Edomites threaten against Israel, their own brethren? How is it possible to imagine such a response?

Numbers 20:18 And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.

“To this courteous request a threatening refusal was returned: ‘Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.’ ” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 422.

“What lesson is God teaching us? Is He not trying to show us the need of closely examining ourselves, that we may see whether we be in the faith or not? Is He not trying to lead us to give more thought to the subject of the time in which we are living? The signs of the times fulfilling all around us show us that the end of all things is at hand. Intense earnestness should take possession of us. Our slumbering energies should be aroused by persevering effort. Consecrated workers should go forth into the field and move understandingly forward, clearing the King’s highway, obtaining victories in new places.” –(Letter 43, 1903) The Publishing Ministry, p. 175.

5. After the Israelites explained in detail that they would not cause any damage in the country, did the Edomites change their minds? What level of hostility did they demonstrate?

Numbers 20:19-21 And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet. 20And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand. 21Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.

“Surprised at this repulse, the leaders of Israel sent a second appeal to the king, with the promise, ‘We will go by the highway: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing anything else, go through on my feet.’

“ ‘Thou shalt not go through,’ was the answer. Armed bands of Edomites were already posted at the difficult passes, so that any peaceful advance in that direction was impossible, and the Hebrews were forbidden to resort to force. They must make the long journey around the land of Edom.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 422.

The Lord’s directions

6. What directions did the Lord give the Israelites to avoid any possible conflict or irritation? What had He directed that they should pay for?

Deuteronomy 2:4-6 And command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore: 5Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession. 6Ye shall buy meat of them for money, that ye may eat; and ye shall also buy water of them for money, that ye may drink.

“The ancestors of Edom and Israel were brothers, and brotherly kindness and courtesy should exist between them. The Israelites were forbidden, either then or at any future time, to revenge the affront given them in the refusal of passage through the land. They must not expect to possess any part of the land of Edom. While the Israelites were the chosen and favored people of God, they must heed the restrictions which He placed upon them. God had promised them a goodly inheritance; but they were not to feel that they alone had any rights in the earth, and seek to crowd out all others. They were directed, in all their intercourse with the Edomites, to beware of doing them injustice. They were to trade with them, buying such supplies as were needed, and promptly paying for all they received.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 424.

7. With what special opportunity did this situation present Israel, now that they had reached inhabited areas, even when human generosity was completely refused? In whom were they to trust after being miraculously taken care of for forty years?

Deuteronomy 2:7, 8 For the Lord thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the Lord thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing. 8And when we passed by from our brethren the children of Esau, which dwelt in Seir, through the way of the plain from Elath, and from Eziongaber, we turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab.

“As an encouragement to Israel to trust in God and obey His word they were reminded, ‘The Lord thy God hath blessed thee;… thou hast lacked nothing.’ Deuteronomy 2:7. They were not dependent upon the Edomites, for they had a God rich in resources. They must not by force or fraud seek to obtain anything pertaining to them; but in all their intercourse they should exemplify the principle of the divine law, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ 

“Had they in this manner passed through Edom, as God had purposed, the passage would have proved a blessing, not only to themselves, but to the inhabitants of the land; for it would have given them an opportunity to become acquainted with God’s people and His worship and to witness how the God of Jacob prospered those who loved and feared Him. But all this the unbelief of Israel had prevented. God had given the people water in answer to their clamors, but He permitted their unbelief to work out its punishment. Again they must traverse the desert and quench their thirst from the miraculous spring, which, had they but trusted in Him, they would no longer have needed.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 424.

For additional study

“It is important to believe God’s word and act upon it promptly, while His angels are waiting to work for us. Evil angels are ready to contest every step of advance. And when God’s providence bids His children go forward, when He is ready to do great things for them, Satan tempts them to displease the Lord by hesitation and delay; he seeks to kindle a spirit of strife or to arouse murmuring or unbelief, and thus deprive them of the blessings that God desired to bestow. God’s servants should be minutemen, ever ready to move as fast as His providence opens the way. And delay on their part gives time for Satan to work to defeat them.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 423.