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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 1

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

Verses 1-2

Introduction to Moses’ Speeches Deuteronomy 1:1-2 contains introductory remarks to Moses’ speeches to the children of Israel that are collected in the book of Deuteronomy. Biblical scholars are widely divided as to whether the opening verses of Deuteronomy serve as a part of Moses first speech, or if they provide introductory remarks for this collection of speeches. Those who see these verses as an introduction are widely disagreed as to how many verses make up the introductory remarks. There is general agreement that this introduction does not extend past the fifth verse, so that Deuteronomy 1:6 is a part of Moses first speech. I choose to limit the introduction to Deuteronomy to the first two verses because Deuteronomy 1:3 begins with “and it came to pass,” ( וַיְהִי֙ ) a traditional phrase that begins an Old Testament narrative pericope.

Deuteronomy 1:1 These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab.

Deuteronomy 1:1 “These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel” - Comments “These be the words” - The first verse of Deuteronomy explains the content of the book, which is a collection of speeches of Moses before his death. The opening words ( אֵ֣לֶּה הַדְּבָרִ֗ים ) mean, “these words,” or “these speeches.” Many scholars view the book of Deuteronomy is a collection of three major speeches and an epilogue containing a song of Moses.

“These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel” Throughout the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, the Lord speaks to the children of Israel through Moses. Thus, the biblical text reads, “And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD…” This is because the Lord was speaking to Moses in an audible voice (Numbers 12:6-8), and Moses was telling the people what the Lord spoke to him. However, in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is speaking prophetically by inspiration of the Holy Spirit as he “expounded” the Law to the people (Deuteronomy 1:5). [16] These represent two different levels of anointing in the life of Moses.

[16] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch, vol. 3, trans. James Martin, in Clarke’s Foreign Theological Library, 4 th series, vol. 6 (Edinburg: T. & T. Clark, 1871), 270.

Numbers 12:6-8, “And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold:”

Deuteronomy 1:1 “on this side Jordan in the wilderness” Comments - The Pentateuch refers to the location of Israel’s encampment east of the Jordan River prior to entering the Promised Land (Numbers 36:13, Deuteronomy 1:5; Deuteronomy 3:29; Deuteronomy 4:45-46).

Numbers 36:13, “These are the commandments and the judgments, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho .”

Deuteronomy 1:5, “On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab , began Moses to declare this law, saying,”

Deuteronomy 3:29, “So we abode in the valley over against Bethpeor.”

Deuteronomy 4:45-46, “These are the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which Moses spake unto the children of Israel, after they came forth out of Egypt, On this side Jordan , in the valley over against Bethpeor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon, whom Moses and the children of Israel smote, after they were come forth out of Egypt:”

Deuteronomy 1:1 Comments A number of scholars note how the opening and closing verses of the book of Deuteronomy form an inclusion. [17] The opening and closing verses are similar in that Deuteronomy 1:1 mentions the words of Moses that he spoke to all Israel, while Deuteronomy 34:10-12 describes the mighty deeds that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel. [18] Thus, the book of Deuteronomy characterizes Moses as a mighty preacher through whom God wrought signs and wonder.

[17] David MacLeon says, “An inclusio marks off a literary unit by using the same word or phrase at the end of a discussion that was used at the beginning.” See David J. MacLeod, “The Literary Structure of Hebrews,” Bibliotheca Sacra 146:582 (April 1989): 185-197, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), 188.

[18] Duane L. Christensen, Deuteronomy 1:1-9, in Word Biblical Commentary: 58 Volumes on CD-Rom, vol. 6a, second edition, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Inc., 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 3.0b [CD-ROM]. Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2004, notes on Deuteronomy 1:1.

Deuteronomy 1:2 (There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.)

Deuteronomy 1:2 Comments - It is very possible that Deuteronomy 1:2 is an editing note added during the time that the Pentateuch was compiled by someone like Joshua, or perhaps it was added during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah when the entire Old Testament was compiled. At that time the ancient names of these places was long forgotten, or changed, so that the readers needed a little help in understanding what they were reading. Such ancient “redaction” is considered by modern conservative scholars to be as much a part of the inspired biblical text as the original words spoken and written by Moses. [19] In other words, this is the text that we have been given today as the inspired Word of God, regardless of how it came to its final form.

[19] John Sailhamer writes, “Others might argue that the community of faith in the church, accepted the canonical version of the scriptural text and events and thus we as Christians are committed to that decision.” He believes that these early witnesses to “the canonical version of the text or events should have priority” over modern “critical methods” that attempt to reconstruct an earlier version of the Scriptures. See John H. Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, c1995), 113.

Verses 3-8

Charge to Depart Mount Sinai and Go Possess the Promised Land In Deuteronomy 1:3-8 Moses rehearses the Lord’s charge for Israel to depart Mount Sinai and go possess the Promised Land.

Deuteronomy 1:3 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 unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;

Deuteronomy 1:3 Comments - Deuteronomy 1:3 tells us that the children of Israel spent forty years in the wilderness. They spent almost one year at Mt. Sinai and sinned at Kadesh Bamea after the first year, then thirty-nine years were counted in the wilderness.

Numbers 14:34, “After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.”

Deuteronomy 1:4 After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites, which dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, which dwelt at Astaroth in Edrei:

Deuteronomy 1:5 On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying,

Deuteronomy 1:5 Comments Strong says the Hebrew word בָּאַר (H874) literally “to dig, to engrave,” and figuratively, “to explain.” Duane Christensen says it means, “to expound” in Deuteronomy 1:5. [20] This word is used in three times in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 1:5; Deuteronomy 27:8, Habakkuk 2:2). In Deuteronomy 1:5 the LXX translates the Hebrew word בָּאַר as διασαφέω (to explain) ( BDAG), and in Deuteronomy 27:8 and Habakkuk 2:2 the LXX translates the word as σαφῶς (c learly) ( BDAG).

[20] Duane L. Christensen, Deuteronomy 1:1-9, in Word Biblical Commentary: 58 Volumes on CD-Rom, vol. 6a, second edition, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Inc., 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 3.0b [CD-ROM]. Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2004, notes on Deuteronomy 1:5.

Deuteronomy 27:8, “And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly .”

Habakkuk 2:2, “And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.”

Deuteronomy 1:6 The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:

Deuteronomy 1:6 Comments - The children of Israel camped at Mount Sinai almost one year (Exodus 19:1, Numbers 10:11).

Exodus 19:1, “In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.”

Numbers 10:11, “And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony.”

Deuteronomy 1:7 Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates.

Deuteronomy 1:7 Comments - In Deuteronomy 1:7 the Lord describes the geography and boundaries of the Promised Land that He was to give Israel.

Verses 3-46

The First Speech of Moses Deuteronomy 1:3 to Deuteronomy 4:49 contains the first speech of Moses to the children of Israel in order to prepare them to enter the Promised Land. The purpose of this speech is to exhort Israel to obey the Law that has been delivered to them in order that they prosper in their new land. In this speech Moses gives an historical overview of Israel’s relationship with the Lord since they made a covenant with Him at Mount Sinai. Moses rehearses Israel’s forty-year wilderness journey in order to show them God’s faithfulness in watching over His people.

1. Charge to Depart Mount Sinai & Go Possess the Promised Land Deuteronomy 1:3-8

2. Moses Appoints Judges Over the Children of Israel Deuteronomy 1:9-18

3. Israel’s Failure to Possess the Promised Land at Kadeshbarnea Deuteronomy 1:19-46

4. The Children of Israel Pass Through Edom Deuteronomy 2:1-7

5. The Children of Israel Pass Through Moab Deuteronomy 2:8-12

6. The Children of Israel Journey Forty Years in the Wilderness Deuteronomy 2:13-15

7. The Children of Israel Pass Through the Ammonites Deuteronomy 2:16-23

8. Israel Defeats Sihon King of the Amorites Deuteronomy 2:24-37

9. The Children of Israel Defeat Og King of Bashan Deuteronomy 3:1-7

10. The Lord Gives Israel the Land of the Two Amorite Kings Deuteronomy 3:8-22

11. God Raises Up Joshua to Lead Israel into the Promised Land Deuteronomy 3:23-29

12. Moses Exhorts Israel to Hearken Unto the Law Deuteronomy 4:1-40

13. Moses Appoints Three Cities of Refuge East of Jordan Deuteronomy 4:41-43

Verses 9-18

Moses Appoints Judges Over the Children of Israel In Deuteronomy 1:9-18 Moses rehearses his appointment of judges over the children of Israel.

Deuteronomy 1:11 (The LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!)

Deuteronomy 1:11 “as he hath promised you” - Comments - The promise of Israel’s growth was made to Abraham in Genesis 15:5, “And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”

Verses 19-46

Israel’s Failure to Go in and Possess the Promised Land at Kadeshbarnea In Deuteronomy 1:19-46 Moses rehearses Israel’s failure to go in and possess the Promised Land.

Deuteronomy 1:22 And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come.

Deuteronomy 1:22 Comments - Note that the people, not God, decided to send spies into the land.

Deuteronomy 1:25 Scripture References - Note:

James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Deuteronomy 1:27 And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the LORD hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.

Deuteronomy 1:27 “And ye murmured in your tents” - Comments - Murmuring is an outward expression of rebellion. People get angry.

“and said, Because the LORD hated us” Comments - Such murmuring people get angry at God when bad things happen to them.

Deuteronomy 1:30 The LORD your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes;

Deuteronomy 1:29-30 Comments Faith in God’s Report - Moses believed God’s report, along with Caleb and Joshua.

Deuteronomy 1:35 Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers,

Deuteronomy 1:35 “evil generation” Comments - Moses calls the first generation of the children of Israel in the wilderness an “evil generation”. They were mindful of their fleshly desires (Romans 8:6).

Romans 8:6, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 1". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/deuteronomy-1.html. 2013.
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