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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 1

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-5


Note: Commentary on Pentateuch, including Deuteronomy, was written by Dr. G.F. Crumley. Following Chart 5 and the Introduction to Deuteronomy, a verse by verse commentary is given beginning with verses 1-5.



Second Giving of the Law

I. Introduction, Deuteronomy 1:1-5.

II. Israel’s Wanderings Recounted, Deuteronomy 1:6 to Deuteronomy 4:43.

III. The Law (Legal Matters) Rehearsed, Deuteronomy 4:44 to Deuteronomy 26:19.

IV. Ratification of the Law Covenant, Deuteronomy 27:1 to Deuteronomy 30:20.

V. Concluding Testimony of Moses, Deuteronomy 31:1 to Deuteronomy 34:12.

(at this point in the hardbound commentary are maps showing the possessions of the twelve tribes and a map of Canaan as it was during this period)


TITLE: The Jews in the Hebrew canon designate this Book by the first two words: eleh ha-debarim, or simply debarim, "the words." The title "Deuteronomy" comes from the Greek translators. It is from deuteros and nomos, meaning "second law." This title does not suggest that there is a second code of laws in addition to those given at Sinai. It is a re-statement of the Sinai code, with particular emphasis upon what Israel was to keep in mind to observe and do when they settled in the Land.

AUTHOR: Moses wrote the Book of Deuteronomy, with the possible exception of the closing verses which tell of his death. This is verified by:

1. The evidence of traditional authority. Both the Jews and the early Christian fathers accept the Mosaic authorship.

2. The antiquity of the Book favors the Mosaic authorship.

3. The testimony of Jesus and the New Testament writers:

a. Jesus’ words: (1) Matthew 4:4; Matthew 9:7; Matthew 9:10, with Deuteronomy 8:8; Deuteronomy 6:16; Deuteronomy 6:13. (2) Matthew 12:24, Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12. (3) Matthew 19:7-8; Mr 10:3, 4; John 5:46-47; John 7:19.

b. Peter’s testimony: Acts 3:22.

c. Stephens’s words: Ac 71-37.

d. Paul’s writings: Romans 10:19-20; Romans 12:19; Galatians 3:10.

CONTENTS: The Book of Deuteronomy is divided into three main elements, following a brief introduction:

Introduction, chapter 1:1-5.

1. The First Discourse, chapters 1:6-4:49. This is a brief summary of Israel’s history of the preceding forty years. It closes with a fervent appeal for obedience when they enter the Land of Promise.

2. The Second Discourse, chapters 5-26. This is divided:

a. Historical and hortatory, chapters 5-11.

b. Legal, chapters 12-26.

3. The Third Discourse, chapters 27-34. This division contains several brief addresses, some by Moses alone and some in collaboration with priests and elders. Two poems and the account of Moses’ death close the Book. Chapter 34:5-12 was obviously written by someone other than Moses, possibly Joshua.


Verses 1-5:

This text is the introduction to the Book of Deuteronomy. It identifies: (1) The contents, (2) the author, (3) the addressees, and (4) the time and place.

(1) The Contents: restatement of the Mosaic Code delivered from Mount Sinai, with emphasis upon what Israel was to observe and do when they entered and possessed the Land of Promise.

(2) The Author: Moses.

(3) The Addressees: "all Israel." This is a figure of speech, in which the part is used for the whole. This expression doubtless refers to the political and spiritual leaders of Israel, who in turn relayed Moses’ words to the people But the message was to the entire nation.

(4) The Time and Place: beginning on the first day of the eleventh month (Shebat) of the fortieth year of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, in the plains of Moab on the east of Jordan across from Jericho. The time corresponds to Jan-Feb of today’s calendar.

"Wilderness," midbar, denoting any large region not inhabited or cultivated. It refers both to large prairies or pasture lands, as well as to desert places.

Red Sea, probably the sea which figures prominently in the history of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, Exodus 14, et. al.

Paran, the wilderness which borders Idumea (Edom), where Israel camped, Numbers 10:12; Numbers 12:16.

Tophel, identified as the modern El-Tafeleh, about fifteen miles southeast of the Dead Sea, on the eastern slope of the mountains of Edom. This text gives the only occurance of this name in Scripture.

Laban, thought to be the same as Libnah, where Israel camped on the return from Kadesh, Numbers 33:20-21.

Hazeroth, identification uncertain. It is thought to be a station about forty miles from Mount Sinai, in the direction of the Gulf of Aqubah, see Numbers 11:35 to Numbers 12:16.

Dizahab, location uncertain; possibly a designation of the place where Moses delivered his farewell address.

Horeb, the name usually given to Mount Sinai, see Exodus 3:1; Exodus 17:6; Exodus 33:6, et. al.

Kadesh-barnea, the site of Israel’s rebellion and refusal to enter the Land, Numbers 13.

Eleven days’ journey lay between these two points, as one traveled by way of Mount Seir. This term denotes a rugged, mountainous country from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqabah. The summit of its highest mountain rises about 3,500 feet above the plain.

Sihon, king of the Amorites, Numbers 21:21-30. Heshbon was the capitol city of his kingdom.

Og, king of Bashan, see Numbers 21:33-35. Astaroth in Edrei was the capitol city of this king.

Verses 6-8

Verses 6-8:

Mount Horeb was the site of God’s giving His Law to Israel. It was here that Israel entered into covenant with Jehovah as His wife, Jeremiah 2:2; Jeremiah 31:32; Ezekiel 16:3-14. The Law contained the terms of the nuptial agreement. Israel wore allegiance to this covenant, Exodus 24:3; Exodus 24:7; Deuteronomy 5:27.

Israel remained at Mount Horeb about a year, comp. Exodus 19:1; Numbers 10:11-12. When they moved, it was at God’s direction by means of the cloud which hovered over the Tabernacle, Numbers 9:15-23; Numbers 10:11-13.

In this text is a reminder of Jehovah’s renewal of the territorial grant first made to Abraham, Genesis 12:1; Genesis 15:18-21; renewed to Isaac, Genesis 26:3-4; and then to Jacob, Genesis 35:12. The territory extends from the River Euphrates on the east to the Mediterranean Sea on the west and north, and to the "River of Egypt" on the south. It includes the greater portion of the Arabian Peninsula.

Israel has not to this date occupied all the territory God promised to Abraham and his descendants. The fulfillment of this prophecy is yet future, and will be realized during the reign of Jesus Christ upon earth, as Israel’s King and as the earth’s "King of Kings and Lord of Lords," Isaiah 2:1-5; Isaiah 11:1-9; Zechariah 12:9-14; Zechariah 14:9; Zechariah 14:16-21.

Verses 9-18

Verses 9-18:

This text refers to the events of Exodus 18:13-26, and Numbers 11:14-16; Numbers 11:21-25, q.v. The burden of hearing all the complaints of all the people of Israel was more than Moses felt he could handle alone. He followed the advice of his father-in-law and appointed certain men, from among Israel’s tribes to serve as magistrates and judges to hear the minor complaints. He himself heard the difficult cases which could not be settled in the lower courts.

Moses strictly warned that judgment should be impartial. The same laws applied alike to all, even to those who were not native born Israelites. No judge was to show "respect of person" to any who came before him.

Verses 19-21

Verses 19-21:

The "great and terrible wilderness" is that desert region known in modern times as Et-Tih, "The Wandering," from the Israelites’ wanderings. It is not suited for cultivation, because of the scarcity of water and the scanty soil. The northern portion of this region is bare and rugged. Fierce winds sweep over the vast tracts of sand in the area. The region was in stark contrast to the fertile fields of Goshen in Egypt which they had left. Many complained and yearned to return to these fields, and thus incurred Divine wrath.

Israel arrived at Kadesh-barnea, where they camped. This was to have been the point of entry into the Land of Canaan, through the territory of the Amorites, Numbers 13, 14. Moses encouraged them to follow Jehovah God and fearlessly invade the Land, with the assurance of certain victory.

Verses 22-25

Verses 22-25:

The text is a reminder of the debacle at Kadesh-barnea. It is a powerful example of the fallacy of human wisdom, Numbers 13, 14.

There was no need for Israel to dispatch the spies into the Land, to chart their course and to report on the status of the cities and the forces guarding them. God had commanded them to invade and conquer; He would provide all the leadership and means for victory they needed.

The plan to send the twelve spies into Canaan originated with the people, through their rulers. But Moses readily acquiesced. He shared their lack of faith, and appointed one man from each tribe to go on this mission.

The twelve spies brought back a report of the productivity of the Land. This should have been incentive to proceed at God’s command. It was not.

Verses 26-31

Verses 26-31:

This text does not mention the efforts of Joshua and Caleb to encourage Israel to invade the Land, and to trust Jehovah for victory, Numbers 13:30; Numbers 14:6-10.

Moses’ efforts to raise the courage of Israel failed. They turned against him and the others who advocated immediate action. Israel saw this opportunity as an obstacle, and huddled in their tents in fear and discontent.

The promise of certain victory was based upon past experience, in which God miraculously intervened, Exodus 14:15-31; Exodus 15:23-26; Exodus 16:4-15; Exodus 17:8-16, et. al. This is a reminder that God today has promised victory to His child, a promise made sure by past experiences.

Verses 32-36

Verses 32-36:

Israel was unwilling to accept the evidence of God’s guidance by the fire and cloud, as assurance of His Presence and blessing in the conquest of the Land. This unbelief cost the lives of all the men of Israel twenty years old and upward, except two, Numbers 14:28-35. The present text lists only the name of Caleb.

The cause of Israel’s failure may be summed up in one word: unbelief, Hebrews 3:17-19; Hebrews 4:6-11. This is the cause for failure among God’s children today.

Verses 37-39

Verses 37-39:

Moses too was denied the privilege of entering the Land of Canaan. He was not partaker of Israel’s sin at Kadesh-barnea, in refusing to invade the Land. His sin was in smiting the rock rather than striking it at God’s command, Numbers 20:1-13.

Israel feared that their children would become prey to the fierce inhabitants of Canaan. This was one reason they gave for not following God’s command to invade the Land. But these very children became the ones to enter the Land at God’s command, and to possess it.

This illustrates a principle applicable today: the blessings which God’s child forfeits in unbelief, are often given to those who will trust God and obey Him.

Verses 40-46

Verses 40-46:

God instructed Israel, through Moses, to turn away from the Land, and resume their journey in the opposite direction, Numbers 14:25. By this time, they had come to realize the enormity of their sin, and they presumed to correct this in their own way. They determined to proceed into the Land in spite of what God had said. The soldiers armed themselves for battle, and went out to meet the foe. The Amorites quickly routed them, and the people wailed in futile mourning, Numbers 14:40-45.

This experience illustrates a Scripture principle relevant today. God’s people may forfeit His blessings, by failure to move at His command. But it is disastrous to disobey Him and to presume to carry out His instructions in one’s own way and by one’s own strength.

Moses does not give the exact length of Israel’s stay in Kadesh. This was well-known to them.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 1". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/deuteronomy-1.html. 1985.
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