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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 1

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-46

Let's turn to Deuteronomy. The word Deuteronomy means the second law. It is really sort of Moses' final address to the people. It probably covers the last month and a half of Moses' life. So he's getting up there now, about a hundred and twenty years old. His eyesight is still keen, he can still hear very well and he is addressing these people, rehearsing for them the work of God in their past because many of them were born while in the wilderness. Many of them did not see the miracle of the Red Sea being parted. They did not have a personal memory of the horrible bondage in Egypt. In growing up as children, they weren't as aware of the hazards of the wilderness.

And so Moses is sort of recounting for them. And though he recounts the forty years from Egypt to coming into the land, yet we are told that these things came in the eleventh month in the first day of the fortieth year. In the tenth day of the first month of the forty-first year, they crossed Jordan into the Promised Land after mourning the death of Moses for thirty days. So, all of these things transpired in Deuteronomy, as far as Moses was concerned, in the last forty days of his life; his final exhortations to the people prior to their crossing and entering into the land. So, they are words of encouragement as he is recounting that which God has done. He is encouraging them to go in and to take the land that God had promised to them.

So these are the words which Moses spake unto all of Israel on the side of Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea ( Deuteronomy 1:1 ),

And in verse Deuteronomy 1:2 is a little commentary, it says,

(There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by way of mount Seir to Kadeshbarnea.) And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according to all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them ( Deuteronomy 1:2-3 );

So, there's an eleven-day journey from Horeb to Kadeshbarnea to the beginning of entering into the Promised Land, but they have been journeying for forty years and eleven months on an eleven-day journey. About a hundred and twenty-six miles from Mount Horeb to Kadeshbarnea. We recognize that a part of the wilderness experience was legitimate. To get from the Red Sea into the Promised Land, it was necessary to go through the wilderness, an eleven-day journey, but most of the wilderness experience was illegitimate.

Now I feel that the history is a typical history, that there are spiritual analogies to be made to the children of Israel coming out of Egypt passing through the wilderness into the Promised Land. And I feel that the analogies that are to be made are that of the Christian walk and life and experience. For Egypt, the area of bondage, slavery, hardship, is the type of the life of the world, in the world, slaves to our flesh to Satan; and so it is typical of our old life. The Promised Land into which God was bringing them is typical to the glorious life and victory in the spirit. The life that God wants you to live, a life of victory, a life of overcoming.

Now, there is the coming out of the old life, being delivered from the old life, and this new relationship that we experience with God, learning to walk by faith, as we are setting aside the things of the flesh life and are beginning this new walk in the spirit. There is a time in our Christian experience of growth and development and there is sort of the legitimate wilderness experience, but God surely does not want you to spend your whole life in the wilderness. God wants to bring you on into the walk of the spirit and the life of the spirit and a life that is dominated by the spirit. Now the life of the spirit begins with the death of the old nature, the old man, which is the position that we must take by faith. "Reckon ye your old man to be dead with Christ. Know ye not that the old man was crucified with Christ?"( Romans 6:6 ) Paul the apostle said, "I am crucified with Christ" ( Galatians 2:20 ).

There is a warfare that goes on in our lives; the flesh warring against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh and these two are contrary. They are each of them seeking supremacy. They're each of them seeking to rule our lives. And if we yield to the flesh, the flesh will govern and rule our lives and we will have the resulted mind of the flesh. Our mind will be upon the fleshly things continually; What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?

These kinds of things, and in that we differ nothing from the heathen, from the animals. For their lives are spent in seeking to satisfy their physical appetites and needs. But God wants us to not be governed by the flesh but to be governed by the spirit; and thus, there is this spiritual warfare seeking the dominancy in your life. And we are told that we are not to yield to the flesh or give place to the flesh to fulfill its desires, but to walk after the spirit, and that our warfare is actually a spiritual warfare. And in it, I must recognize that this old body of flesh, with its desires, has been crucified that it should no longer rule over me but that I now can be ruled by the spirit of God.

Now Paul describes his wilderness experience in the seventh chapter of Romans as he talks about seeing the law of God, consenting that the law of God was good and determining to fulfill the law of God. But he found that there was another law, a perverse kind of a law, that whenever he would do good, evil was present with him. And so often the good that he wanted to do, he couldn't do and the evil he didn't want to do was the thing that he was doing until he found himself in just a miserable, wretched state. A desire to obey God and to keep the law of God, consenting that it's good, that's the right way, that's the way I want to live; seeing the divine ideal, being attracted by the divine ideal and desiring, longing after it. And yet the inability to bring the flesh into conformity with the spirit of God.

So Paul speaks of this frustration, "Oh wretched man that I am. Who shall deliver me from this bondage to my flesh?" ( Romans 7:24 ). But then as he moves into the eighth chapter of Romans, he found the answer to his cry. Now, the cry almost indicated the answer itself; "Who shall deliver me?" It was no longer "How shall I free myself?" He's looking now outside of himself for the help. Now, the wilderness experiences where I am trying to bring my flesh into conformity to the will of God, and I'm promising God that I'm gonna do better, that I'm not gonna fail next time. And I'm making all of these vows and I'm doing my best to bring my flesh into conformity to God and to God's will, but I find this perverse law that Paul found working. "The good that I would I do not. The evil that I would not, that I do"( Romans 7:19 ). And I cannot bring my flesh into conformity unto God.

God's solution is death to the flesh, crucified with Christ. Therefore, I must take a position of faith and recognize that the old nature, the life of the flesh, was crucified with Christ in order that I might now live after the new nature, the nature of Christ, and living now after the spirit. But the cry must come, "Who shall deliver me?" I must have to come to the place where I despair of freeing myself or despair of my own righteousness or despair of ever being righteous in the eyes of God by my own works and my own efforts. I must despair of all of these self-improvement programs and I must cry out for help outside of myself, for therein is the power of the spirit manifested. And he comes to help me and do for me what I can't do for myself. "O wretched man that I am who shall deliver me?" ( Romans 7:24 ). Oh, I'm getting close because I realize now I can't deliver myself. For so long I tried to deliver myself, ended in failure.

Now recognizing my weakness, I'm crying for power outside of myself. "Who shall deliver me" and God's answer then comes, "I am delivered by the power the dynamic of the spirit for ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost comes upon you"( Acts 1:8 ). And that which I could not do because of the weakness of my flesh I find that God has done for me and has made provision for me through the power of the Holy Spirit. And so it is glorious to come in to the walk and the life of the spirit, to enter into that life that God wants you to live as a child of God, as His child.

Now it was God's desire all along to bring them into the land. It was not God's desire that they perish in the wilderness. That was a tragedy of failure on their part and it was a failure of faith. They failed to enter in by faith to that which God had promised to them. God had laid it out and said, "Here it is. It's yours." But they saw the giants in the land and the high-walled cities instead of God. They got their eyes upon the obstacles rather of than the power of God to remove the obstacles.

And this is the mistake that we so often make as we look at our own lives and we look at the dominion that our flesh has had over us. We're prone to look at the obstacles. We say, "Oh, but I'm so weak and I've tried so hard and you don't know how long I've been struggling with this thing". And we're looking at the obstacles rather than the power of God to deliver us from those obstacles. And so it is important that we not fail where they failed but that we, by faith, take this position of victory, of power, of strength, of walking in the spirit reckoning the old man, the old nature, to be dead with Christ.

So, that which should have taken eleven days took them forty years, actually forty-one years to be exact, because it wasn't until the forty-first year on the tenth day that they entered in to the land that God had promised. Crossed over Jordan finally and began the conquest of the land.

So, an interesting little commentary,

(There are eleven days' journey from Horeb to Kadeshbarnea.) And in the fortieth year, the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the LORD had given him commandment unto them; After they had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites, which dwelled in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, on the eastside of Jordan, Moses began to declare this law ( Deuteronomy 1:2-5 ),

So this is where the word Deuteronomy comes from "Moses began to declare this law". It is a reiteration really of the law of God.

The LORD our God spake unto you in Horeb, saying, You have dwelt long enough in this mount: Turn, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, [and so forth] and take the land that I have promised. Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give your father ( Deuteronomy 1:6-8 ),

So the commandment of God; "you've been here long enough, you've circled this mountain long enough". God is saying to you, "Hey, you've been there long enough, walking in circles. Hey, it's time to go in and begin to possess that which God has promised unto you." Begin to move forward in your spiritual development, in your spiritual life. "You've encompassed this mount" God said, "long enough. Now get moving. Go in" and the key is of course "to possess the land which the Lord has sworn to your fathers."

And so Moses sort of rehearses for them some of the problems that he had as God was dealing with him. He said, "How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance or your burdens or your strife? So you appointed the seventy to be rulers over them, the chief men and he charged them to hear the causes of the people and to judge among the people. And when they had situations that were too difficult for them to handle, that Moses would handle those cases. And so they departed from Horeb. They came to Kadeshbarnea and he speaks again of the tragic failure at Kadeshbarnea.

Verse twenty-one:

Behold, the LORD thy God has set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged. And you came near to me Moses said, and you said, Let's send spies into the land, in order that they might find out which cities we'll be facing and the directions by which we should go into the land ( Deuteronomy 1:21-22 ).

Now in Numbers it doesn't tell us that they came to Moses to request these spies, but in Deuteronomy is adding a little bit more detail than he gave in the book of Numbers. Here we find out that the request for the spies actually came from the people and that it seemed good unto Moses. And so they chose one from each tribe to go in and to spy out the land. Coming to the Valley of Eshcol, searching it out and taking the fruit and bringing it back.

Not withstanding [Moses said] you rebelled against the Lord: And you murmured in your tents ( Deuteronomy 1:26-27 ),

And listen to the horrible things they were saying about God.

[They said] Because the LORD hated us, he has brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites, and to destroy us ( Deuteronomy 1:27 ).

What a horrible thing, what a horrible thing to say about God and against God; God hates us. That borders on blasphemy. "Because God hates us he brought us out here to kill us in the wilderness", when in reality God loved them and wanted to give them a land that they might dwell in, that it might be their land. God wanted to free them from the horrible bondage of Egypt, yet now they are accusing God of hating them.

You remember the case of Job, it said in all of these things, that is the loss of his family and his wealth and all, he did not curse God neither did he charge God foolishly. Now this is a foolish charge that they brought against God and it is something that we oftentimes are prone to do. When things aren't going right, I hear people sometimes make very foolish charges against God. Nothing irritates me more than to have people make foolish charges against God.

I was-had a young man come in when we were back over in the little chapel and he was you know, "God led me do this and God led me to do that and God led me here" and then he's, you know, "God led me out there and I almost starved to death. And you know God told me to go here and it was just really horrible and all," and all this stuff. And he's saying God led him to do this and God led him to do that. And then he really started getting on God's case. "Why would God leave there and then you know, dump me?" and all this kind of stuff.

Well, it's obvious God didn't lead him. He was just being led by his own mind. And he started complaining so much about God I grabbed hold of him. I said, "Hey, you shut up and get out of here. I'm tempted to smack you in the mouth talking about God that way. I can't stand that. Now, shut up". To hear someone, you know, making all these accusations against God, horrible things, it's tragic. And here the people were making this blasphemous accusation; "because God hates us, he brought us out here". Boy, what a horrible thing to say.

So, the people were discouraged and they said

The people are greater and taller than we are; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and we have seen the sons of the Anakims ( Deuteronomy 1:28 )

Now the Anakims were giants.

and we have seen the sons of the Anakims there ( Deuteronomy 1:28 ).

So, their fear was inspired because of these cities that were high and walled and because the people, the inhabitants were large, gigantic kinds of people.

And I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them. For the LORD your God which goes before you, shall fight for you, according to all that he did in Egypt before your eyes; And yet you went in this thing you did not believe the LORD your God ( Deuteronomy 1:29-32 ).

The tragedy of unbelief, verse thirty-two.

Now, I love this. He points out that God had been with them through the wilderness experience. And the beautiful thing is that God is with you, even in the wilderness experiences. You may not enter into the best that God has. You may not possess all of your possessions and yet, if you spend your life roaming in the wilderness it's not God's will, it's not his desire, but he will be with you there and help you there. God will lift to the highest level that you will allow Him to lift you and do the best for you on that level, but the work of God in our lives is always limited by us. We're always the one that put the restrictions upon what God can do for us. We're the ones that place the limits on God's work.

In Psalms it says, "And they limited the holy one of Israel by their unbelief" ( Psalms 78:41 ). And it is always our unbelief that places the limitations upon the work that God is seeking to do in our lives. Listen, God'll take you all the way if you'll just believe Him and trust Him for it. But you are the one that puts the limitations on what God wants to do. But God will lift you to the highest level you will let him.

And there in the wilderness he speaks of the Lord your God,

Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents, in the fire by night, to show you by what way you should go, and the cloud by day ( Deuteronomy 1:33 ).

In other words, he is saying that God went before you through the wilderness to search for the best place for you to pitch your tent and then led you by the fire and by the cloud.

Oh, if we only realized how all encompassing the work of God is that surrounds our lives. God went before you to find the place for you to pitch your tents. They came to a place, they said, "Awe my, this looks like a good place to pitch our tents". Of course it is, God went before you and prepared you that place and then led you to it so that they could say, "All the way my savior leads me. What have I to ask beside?"

But the Lord heard the words of your complaining, he was angry and said, "You're not to go in". But then Moses reminds them how that they got together and said, "Oh, we've sinned against God. We'll go in, we'll take the land". And Moses said, "No, don't. God said that He's not gonna deliver them into your hand" and how that they armed themselves anyhow and went up against the hill of the Amorites and were pursued by them. And some of them were slain because they presumed to go without the presence of God. So they began the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, which Moses begins to rehearse for them in chapter two.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 1". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/deuteronomy-1.html. 2014.
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