Who was Sihon, king of the Amorites?

BibleAsk Team


King Sihon of the Amorites was an enemy to Israel. The Amorite nation lay east of the Jordan River. At the time of Moses, the Israelites were in the wilderness of Kedemoth, which was on the borders of the kingdom of Sihon (Deuteronomy 2:26). The land of the Amorites was included in the territory promised to Israel.

The Amorites were not akin to the Israelites as were the Ammonites, the Edomites, and the Moabites, but were of Canaanite stock (Genesis 10:16; Deuteronomy 1:7, 19, 27). Sihon is called king of Heshbon (Deuteronomy 2:26, 30), or is identified by a combination of the two names (Deuteronomy 1:4; 3:2). Heshbon was the king’s residence or royal city. The mound Tell Heṣbân, 18 mi. east of the Jordan across from Jericho, preserves the ancient name.

The Israelites sent a message of peace to King Sihon saying, “Let me pass through your land. We will not turn aside into fields or vineyards; we will not drink water from wells. We will go by the King’s Highway until we have passed through your territory” (Numbers 21:22). This message was similar to the one previously sent to Edom (Deuteronomy 20:14), although orders had been given to conquer Sihon (Deuteronomy 2:26, 24).

But Sihon would not allow Israel to pass through his territory. Instead, he gathered all his army and went out and fought against Israel (Numbers 21:23). Sihon was so famous and powerful that people wrote poems about him and his city (Verse 27-30). The Israelites had been assured they would be victorious (Deuteronomy 2:31). The Amorites were destined to destruction (Joshua 3:10), and they themselves now invited disaster by intending to destroy God’s people.

God’s Victory Over the Amorites

The Israelites fought the Amorites and defeated King Sihon. They took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok. They also seized all the surrounding cities and villages and dwelt in them (Numbers 21: 24-26). The land east of the Jordan taken from Sihon, king of the Amorites, was given to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (Deuteronomy 29: 8).

This was a great victory for Israel, who were new to warfare, over an enemy who had recently been victorious over Moab. Chemosh, the pagan god of the Moabites (1 Kings 11:7; Jeremiah 48:7), to whom human sacrifices were offered (2 Kings 3:26, 27), failed to deliver his devotees (Numbers 21:29; Jeremiah 48:13).

Later, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Do not fear [Og], for I have given him into your hand, and all his people, and his land. And you shall do to him as you did to Sihon, king of the Amorites, who lived at Hesbon’” (Numbers 21:34). Such a promise from God was needed due to the giant stature of the men (Deuteronomy 1:28; 3:11), and the fame of their defensive walls.

Moses recorded God’s triumph over Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, in Deuteronomy 29:7. Another reference to Sihon is found in the book of Joshua by Rahab, who testified of her faith in the God of Israel (Joshua 2:9–11). Also, the Psalmist praises God for how He delivered His people from Sihon in Psalm 135:10–12 and Psalm 136:17–19.

The victories of God’s people in the past give a message of courage and hope to believers today. When God’s children fight the battles of the Lord under the heavenly “Joshua,” the powers of darkness withdraw before the mighty power of God. The kingdom of darkness falls. In view of this fact, let God’s people march forward and be strong for perfect faith and love cast out fear (1 John 4:18).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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