“Deuteronomy is arguably the most influential book of the Old Testament. It brings the Pentateuch to a climactic conclusion. It is at the same time the first of the prophetic books, with the greatest of Israel’s prophets, Moses, giving his last impassioned sermons to Israel before he dies. Echoes of Deuteronomy’s phraseology and ideology have been detected throughout the Old Testament, and it is one of the books most quoted in the New Testament.”
–from Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch,
by Gordon Wenham
Deuteronomy 1 (English Standard Version)
The Command to Leave Horeb
1These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness,
At this point Israel was camped on the great plains of Moab, able to see across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. This was the land of Canaan that God promised them but which they had not occupied for 400 years.
In the wilderness: They had come through a long and difficult journey from Egypt — made all the more long and difficult because of their unbelief and the death of the adult generation which first came out of Egypt.
These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel: At this pivotal point in Israel’s history, on the threshold of the Promised Land, and ready to adopt a true national identity, Moses spoke to Israel in this book of Deuteronomy.
The name Deuteronomy means “second law.” It was the second giving of the Mosaic Law, the first being at Mount Sinai. Moses felt compelled to bring this reminder of the Law to Israel, because those ready to enter the Promised Land were only children — if born at all — when the Law was originally given at Mount Sinai.
in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. 2It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea.
Kadesh-Barnea was the place where, in Numbers 13 and 14, Israel believed the report of the unfaithful spies and rebelled against God, refusing to go into the Promised Land.
The journey from Mount Horeb to Kadesh Barnea only took eleven days. But from Kadesh Barnea (the threshold of the Promised Land) back to Kadesh Barnea (back to the threshold of the Promised Land) took forty years. This was because it took forty years for the generation of unbelief — those who were adults when Israel left Egypt — it took forty years for that generation to die out in the wilderness, and for a generation of faith and trust in God to arise in place after them.
3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him in commandment to them, 4after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and in Edrei.
5Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying,
The night before he left for college. The evening before her wedding. As a mom, I look at my children as they are about to embark on a new venture, and there is so much to say, to remind them of, so much that I want to be sure they know before they head out . . . I guess Moses felt the same way about the children of Israel.
6“The LORD our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. 7Turn and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. 8See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’
9“At that time I said to you, ‘I am not able to bear you by myself. 10The LORD your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven. 11 May the LORD, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you! 12 How can I bear by myself the weight and burden of you and your strife? 13 Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’
14And you answered me, ‘The thing that you have spoken is good for us to do.’
15So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. 16And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ 18And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.
Israel’s Refusal to Enter the Land
19“Then we set out from Horeb and went through all that great and terrifying wilderness that you saw, on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us. And we came to Kadesh-barnea. 20And I said to you, ‘You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. 21See, the LORD your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’
22Then all of you came near me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, that they may explore the land for us and bring us word again of the way by which we must go up and the cities into which we shall come.’
23The thing seemed good to me, and I took twelve men from you, one man from each tribe. 24And they turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshcol and spied it out. 25And they took in their hands some of the fruit of the land and brought it down to us, and brought us word again and said, ‘It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us.’
26“Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. 27And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.
from Daily Readings from Luther’s Writings
by Martin Luther; ed. by Barbara Owen
You grumbled in your tents and said, “It is because the Lord hates us that he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to hand us over to the Amorites to destroy us.”
See what a great disaster that tiny first beginning of doubt and the turning to trust in human prudence finally brings with it. Having now totally forgotten all the promises and wonders of God and being absorbed only in their own plans, the Children of Israel begin listening to false messengers and preachers. Those messengers proclaim, and these people believe, greater things than the facts warrant. Instead of giving assent to the true Word of God, they give in to the lies of men.
Unbelief runs riot because the Word of God is lost, and in vain do Joshua and Caleb try to impress upon them the promise and truth of God (Numbers 14:6-9). Godlessness conquers, and the lie wins out; truth lies prostrate. This is the fruit of human prudence and power in matters that belong to God. Finally they come to blasphemy. “The Lord hates us,” they say.
This is the gratitude for the many miracles shown them. How could one ever overstate this most evil example of unbelief? After believers have begun to mistrust God, whom they previously considered propitious, they make God an object of their hatred. For when His Word is changed, He Himself is changed; for He Himself is in His Word.
Note, therefore, that godlessness makes dangers more and greater than they are, but it cares nothing for the Word of God. On the other hand, godliness regards all dangers, even the greatest, as nothing and the Word of God as the power of God (Romans 1:16).
28Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.”‘
29Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. 30The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you,
2 Corinthians 12:10 (NASB)
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’
from Edges of His Ways,
by Amy Carmichael
Deuteronomy 1:31 (KJV)
And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place.
“This place” is different for each of us. For some it is the place of the heart’s choice as well as His; for some it is not. For all of us it is a new place each day, and we shall never be there again. I have been thinking of it as an opportunity that will not recur. To lose it is to lose it forever, and that is a solemn thought. Is it not like our Father to lead up to it by reminding us that He bare us and carried us all the days of old? “As a man doth bare his son” in all the way that we went until we came into this place, He bare us and carried us. The love that we proved yesterday is the same to-day. It will be the same to-morrow. Trusting that love we can go on to-day in “this place.”
HERE is a song and poem simultaneously. The poem is “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson. The song is “Drown” by the band Chasen.
32Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the LORD your God, 33 who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.
The Penalty for Israel’s Rebellion
34“And the LORD heard your words and was angered, and he swore, 35 ‘Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, 36 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the LORD!’
37Even with me the LORD was angry on your account and said, ‘You also shall not go in there. 38 Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. 39And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it. 40But as for you, turn, and journey into the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.’
Romans 6:23 (NIV)
The wages of sin is death.
41“Then you answered me, ‘We have sinned against the LORD. We ourselves will go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.’ And every one of you fastened on his weapons of war and thought it easy to go up into the hill country.
42And the LORD said to me, ‘Say to them, Do not go up or fight, for I am not in your midst, lest you be defeated before your enemies.’
43So I spoke to you, and you would not listen; but you rebelled against the command of the LORD and presumptuously went up into the hill country. 44 Then the Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do and beat you down in Seir as far as Hormah. 45And you returned and wept before the LORD, but the LORD did not listen to your voice or give ear to you. 46So you remained at Kadesh many days, the days that you remained there.
Christopher Wright in his New International Biblical Commentary on Deuteronomy (based on the NIV) calls verses 26-46 a “litany of disaster.” He says, “The sequence of verbs is poignant, climactic, and sobering. It stands as a warning to every generation of God’s people to avoid such a chain reaction: you were unwilling . . . you rebelled . . . you grumbled . . . you were afraid . . . you saw but you did not trust . . . you thought it easy . . . you would not listen . . . you rebelled . . . you came back . . . you wept . . . you stayed.”
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.