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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 1

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 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.

These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel. The mental condition of the people generally in that infant stage of the congregation, the greater number of them being young or of tender years, together with the seductive influence of idolatry which they had so fatally experienced since they came to Moab, and to which they would be still more exposed in the land which they were about to invade, rendered it expedient to repeat the laws and counsels which God had given; and, accordingly, to furnish a recapitulation of the leading branches of their faith and duty was among the last public services which Moses rendered to Israel. The scene of their delivery was the Arboth Moab - "the plains of Moab" - where the encampment was pitched.

On this side Jordan - or, as the Hebrew word may perhaps be rendered, at or on the passage of the Jordan [ bª`eeber (H5676) ha-Yardeen (H3383)], beyond Jordan, the country east of that river (Deuteronomy 1:5; Deuteronomy 3:8-12; Deuteronomy 4:46; Joshua 1:14; Joshua 2:10; Joshua 9:10; Joshua 22:4; Judges 5:17). Sometimes, however, it is used to signify the region west of the Jordan (Numbers 32:19; Deuteronomy 3:25; Deuteronomy 11:30; Joshua 5:1; Joshua 12:7; Joshua 20:7; Joshua 22:7; 1 Samuel 31:7). The Septuagint has: peran tou Iordanou; and the Vulgate has: contra. The Hebrew word is ambiguous, and is used to signify on this side and the other of Jordan (Joshua 12:1; Joshua 12:7). (See Witsius, 'Disser.,' No. 46, p. 129; Huet, 'Demons. Evangel,' prop. 4:, cap. 14.) Bleek rightly remarks on this expression, 'The formula was a standing designation for the country of the Jordan, which might be used irrespectively of the position of the writer' (see the note at Genesis 50:10).

In the wilderness, in the plain, [ bamidbaar (H4057) baa-`Araabaah (H6160)]. Midbaar, translated "the wilderness," denotes an uninhabited tract of country, adapted only for pasture. 'Araabaah signifies a real desert, an arid, sterile region; and 'the Arabah' was the ancient name of the low-lying desert, valley, or steppe which extended the whole way from the Red Sea north to the Sea of Tiberias; but it is now applied by the Arabs exclusively to the portion which lies between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Akaba; while the part north of the Dead Sea is called 'the Ghor (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 2:, p. 600; Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 481). While the high tablelands of Moab were 'cultivated fields,' the Jordan valley at the foot of the mountains, where Israel was encamped, was a part of the great desert plain, little more inviting than the desert of Arabia, excepting "the plains of Moab," a little oasis which formed the actual scene of encampment (see the note at Numbers 22:1). The locale is indicated by the mention of some of the most prominent places from which they had come.

Over against the Red sea, [ mowl (H4136) cuwp (H5489)] - in front of, at the opposite end from the Red Sea. Suph signifies a reed; and although the sea which our translators have inserted is not in the original, there is no doubt that the Red Sea is meant in this passage, as in Deuteronomy 1:40 and Deuteronomy 2:1, in both of which the Hebrew word for sea is expressed. (For the origin of this name, 'the weedy sea' and 'the Red Sea,' see the note at Exodus 13:18.) [The Septuagint has: pleesion tees eruthras thalassees.] The Sinus AElaniticus-the gulf of Akaba-is obviously meant.

Between Paran - now the plateau of et-Tih (see the notes at Genesis 21:21; Numbers 10:12).

And Tophel - now Tafileh, on the east of the mountains of Edom, between Bozrah and Kerak.

Laban - or Libnah (Numbers 33:20).

Hazeroth (see the notes at Numbers 11:35; Numbers 33:17) - the fountain El-Hudhera, according to Burckhardt, who is followed by Robinson ('Biblical Researches' 1:, p. 223). Another Hazeroth, however, on the east of the Arabah, is supposed to be here meant by Wilson ('Lands of the Bible,' 1:, pp. 234, 235, note), and by Wilton ('Negeb,' p. 247), who adopts Rowland's theory as to the site of Kadesh (see the note at Numbers 13:26).

Dizahab, [ wª-Diy-Zaahaab (H1774)] - a place so called from its abundance of gold [Septuagint, katachrusea], generally considered identical with Dahab, on the western shore of the AElanitic Gulf. It appears quite impossible to admit, with most expositors, that the words, "over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab," contain a more exact designation of the second giving of the law, coordinate with the more general one in the words, 'on the other side Jordan, in the wilderness'-in the Arabah.

The Arboth Moab lay not over against the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf, but rather fronting the Dead Sea; they lay not between Paran and Tophel, both of which lie lower than the southern extremity of the Dead Sea-the one westward of the mountains of Seir, the other eastward, while the Arboth Moab begins at the northern end of the Dead Sea. With Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab, which take us far from the Arboth Moab, we know not, according to this view, what to do.

On the contrary, all difficulty vanishes as soon as, with the Septuagint, Aquila, Symmachus, and the Vulgate, we take the phrase, "over against the Red sea," as a more exact designation of the Arabah (plain) - 'in the Arabah (which lies) over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab.' 'The Arabah, taken in the extensive sense, as lying between the Red Sea and the Sea of Tiberias, was, as it were, the heart of the territory on which the Israelites moved during the whole of their forty years' march-the line of connection between the place of the first giving of the law and of the second. On account of its importance in this respect, it will appear quite suitable that the author should here give a more exact description of it, with the definite intention of drawing a line which would connect the two givings of the law with one another' (Hengstenberg, 'Balsam, Geog. Observ.,' p. 521; also Robinson, 'Biblical Researches,' 2:, p. 600, note 2).

Verse 2

(There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea.)

(There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea), (see the notes at Numbers 33:1-56.) This statement, which is properly marked in our version as a parenthesis, was designed to indicate the general course of the Israelites after their departure from Sinai. The route traced seems to have been a well-known one, and occupied in journeying between the extremes the space of eleven days, which, at the average rate of 10 miles a day, would make a distance of 110 miles.

Distances are computed in the East still by the hours or days occupied by the journey. A day's journey on foot is about 20 miles; on camels, at the rate of 3 miles per hour, 30 miles; and by caravans, about 25 miles. But the Israelites being encumbered with children and flocks, would move at a slower rate than any of these.

Some writers consider that their journey could not have exceeded 10 miles per day, or perhaps five miles a day (Benisch). The mention of the time here was made to show that the great number of years spent in traveling from Horeb to Kadesh was not owing to the length of the way, but to a very different cause-namely, banishment for their apostasy and frequent rebellions.

Kadesh, whether considered as a city or a region, was the most important stage next to Sinai in the history of the Israelite wanderings; and although "the plains of Moab" lay further north, no more reckoning of days' journeyings is given, owing to the intervention of the Dead Sea (see for opinions as to Kadesh, Numbers 13:26: cf. Genesis 14:17).

Verse 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;

In the fortieth year ... This impressive discourse, in which Moses reviewed all that God had done for his people, was delivered about a month before his death, and after peace and tranquillily had been restored by the complete conquest of Sihon and Og.

Verse 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:

Astaroth - the royal residence of Og-so called from Astarte (the moon), the tutelary goddess of the Syrians; and he was slain at Edrei, now Edh'ra, the ruins of which are fourteen miles in circumference (Burckhardt): its general width is about two leagues.

Verse 5

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

Began Moses to declare this law - declare, i:e., explain, this law. He follows the same method here that he elsewhere observes, namely, that of first enumerating the marvelous doings of God in behalf of his people, and reminding them what an unworthy requital they had made for all His kindness; then he rehearses the law and its various precepts.

Verse 6

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

Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount. Horeb was the general name of a mountainous district-literally "the parched or burnt region" - whereas Sinai was the name appropriated to a particular peak. About a year had been spent among the recesses of that wild solitude, in laying the foundation, under the immediate direction of God, of a new and special community, as to its social, political, and, above all, religious character; and, when this purpose had been accomplished, they were ordered to break up their encampment in Horeb. The command given them was to march straight to Canaan, and possess it.

Verse 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.

The mount of the Amorites - the hilly tract in the south of Canaan (cf. Numbers 13:29; Numbers 14:2), called afterward the mountains of Judah and Israel (Joshua 11:16; Joshua 11:21).

In the plain, [ baa-`Araabaah (H6160)] - in the valley of the Jordan.

In the hills - i:e., the central mountain ridge.

In the vale, [ uwbashªpeelaah (H8219)] - the Philistine champaign country.

The south, [ uwba-Negeb (H5045)] - the debateable land stretching out into the wilderness by the seaside-the Mediterranean.

To the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon - i:e., Phoenicia, the country of Sidon; and the coast of the Mediterranean, from the Philistines to Lebanon. The name Canaanite is often used synonymously with that of Phoenician.

Verse 8

Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.

The land before you - literally, before your faces; it is accessible; there is no impediment to your occupation. The order of the journey, as indicated by the places mentioned, would have led to a course of invasion; the opposite of what was eventually followed-namely, from the seacoast eastward, instead of from the Jordan westward (see the note at Numbers 20:1).

Verses 9-18

And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone:

I spake unto you at that time - a little before their arrival in Horeb. Moses addresses that new generation as the representatives of their fathers, in whose sight and hearing all the transactions he recounts took place. A reference is here made to the suggestion of Jethro (Exodus 18:18), and in noticing his practical adoption of a plan by which the administration of justice was committed to a select number of subordinate officers, Moses, by a beautiful allusion to the patriarchal blessing, ascribed the necessity of that memorable change in the government to the vast increase of the population.

Verse 10. Ye are this day as the stars ... for multitude. This was neither an Oriental hyperbole nor a mere empty boast; because Abraham was told (Genesis 15:5-6) to look to the stars; and though they appear innumerable, yet those seen by the naked eye amount in reality to no more than 3,010 in both hemispheres-so that the Israelites already far exceeded that number, being at the last census above 600,000. Nay, even on the supposition that we take into account all the stars which the marvelous discoveries of modern astronomy have brought within our knowledge-namely, about 75,000,000 of stars, the highest number which, it is computed, has been realized by the telescope-still the affirmation of Moses, after the Word of God, would hold good.

From Abraham to Christ there were 42 generations (Matthew 1:17). 'Now, we find that at the second census the fighting men among the Hebrews amounted to 600,000; and the Israelites, who have never ceased to be a distinct people, have so multiplied that, if the aggregate number of them who had ever lived could be ascertained, it would be found far to exceed the number of all the fixed stars taken together' (Horne's 'Introduction,' vol. 1:, p. 600). It was a seasonable memento, calculated to animate their faith in the accomplishment of other parts of the divine promise. (On the alleged discrepancy between the statements made by Moses relative to the appointment of judges and the account in Exodus 18:1-27, see 'General Introduction.')

Verse 13. Take you wise men ... The import of Moses' announcement to the people was that they should select the men, while he would install those nominated into the magisterial office; and while the choice was limited to those who were already recognized as 'elders of the people,' and acting in the capacity of public officers (cf. Exo. 24:49; Numbers 11:16-17; Deuteronomy 1:24), the special qualifications required were skill and experience, honesty, fidelity, and the fear of God. These 70 men, enjoying the respect and confidence of the people, thus advanced to this new dignity, and guided by the Divine Spirit, were to aid Moses as a corporate council-an ultimate court of appeal in cases brought from the ordinary administrators of justice.

Verse 17. The judgment is God's. No tribunal can enforce justice in the same absolute spirit of independence as that which existed under the Hebrew theocracy. The judges were represented as holy persons sitting in the place of God (cf. Deuteronomy 19:17); and this official elevation placed all the people of Israel, both small and great, on a lever of equality. The 70, as judges, were to know no difference among the litigants whose causes were submitted to their tribunal, nor were they to be biassed by a regard either to rich or poor, but to decide without fear or favour.

Verses 19-21

And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great and terrible wilderness, which ye saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us; and we came to Kadesh-barnea.

We went through all that great and terrible wilderness - of Paran, which included the desert and mountainous space lying between the wilderness of Shur westward, or toward Egypt, and mount Seir, or the land of Edom, eastward; between the land of Canaan northwards, and the Red Sea southward; and thus it appears to have comprehended really the wilderness of Sin and Sinai (Fisk). It was not the whole desert, but only a part of it; because it is observable that it did not commence at Horeb, but only after the Israelites had departed from Horeb. The reference here is to that sterile and inhospitable region east of the Seir mountain range, on the border of which, where it blends with the desert of Arabia, the Israelites were under a necessity of marching in the concluding stages of their journey (cf. Jeremiah 2:6).

Verse 20. I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites. The name of the Amorites is used here for the whole population of Canaan; and indeed the Canaanites and Amorites are frequently interchanged (Genesis 15:16; Deuteronomy 20:19; Joshua 3:10; Amos 2:9).

Verses 22-33

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.

Ye came ... and said, We will send men. The proposal to despatch spies emanated from the people through unbelief; but Moses, believing them sincere, gave his cordial assent to this measure, and God, on being consulted, permitted them to follow the suggestion (see the notes at Numbers 13:1-2). The issue proved disastrous to them, only through their own sin and folly.

Verse 28. Cities are great and walled up to heaven - an Oriental metaphor, meaning very high. The Arab marauders roam about on horseback; and hence, the walls of Catherine's monastery on Sinai are so lofty that travelers are drawn up by a pulley in a basket. Anakims (see the note at Numbers 13:33). The honest and uncompromising language of Moses, in reminding the Israelites of their perverse conduct and outrageous rebellion at the report of the treacherous and faint-hearted scouts, affords a strong evidence of the truth of this history as well as of the divine authority of his mission. There was great reason for his dwelling on this dark passage in their history, as it was their unbelief that excluded them from the privilege of entering the promised land (Hebrews 3:19); and that unbelief was a marvelous exhibition of human perversity, considering the miracles which God had performed in their favour, especially in the daily manifestations they had of His presence among them as their leader and protector.

Verses 34-36

And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying,

The Lord ... was wroth. In consequence of this aggravated offence-unbelief followed by open rebellion-the Israelites were doomed, in the righteous judgment of God, to a life of wandering in that dreary wilderness, until the whole adult generation had disappeared by death. The only exceptions mentioned are Caleb, and Joshua, who was to be Moses' successor.

Verse 37

Also the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither.

Also the Lord was angry with me for your sakes. This statement seems to indicate that it was on this occasion Moses was condemned to share the fate of the people. But we know that it was several years afterward that Moses betrayed an unhappy spirit of distrust at the waters of strife (Psalms 106:32-33). This verse must be considered, therefore, as a parenthesis.

Verse 38

But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 39

Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.

Your children, which in that day had no knowledge. All ancient versions read 'today' instead of "that day;", and the sense is, 'your children who now know,' or 'who know not as yet good or evil.' Since the children had not been partakers of the sinful outbreak, they were spared to obtain the privilege which their unbelieving parents had forfeited. God's ways are not man's ways.

Verses 40-45

But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.

Turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness. This command they disregarded; and determined, in spite of the earnest remonstrances of Moses, to force an onward passage. They attempted to cross the heights then occupied by the combined forces of the Amorites and Amalekites (cf. Numbers 14:43), but were repulsed with great loss. People often experience distress even while in the way of duty. But how different their condition who suffer in situations where God is with them, from the feelings of those who are conscious that they are in a position directly opposed to the divine will. The Israelites were grieved when they found themselves involved in difficulties and perils; but their sorrow arose not from a sense of the guilt so much as the sad effects of their perverse conduct; and since, though they "wept," they were not true penitents, the Lord would not listen to their voice, nor give ear unto them.

Verse 46

So ye abode in Kadesh many days, according unto the days that ye abode there.

So ye abode in Kadesh many days. That place had been the site of their encampment during the absence of the spies, which lasted 40 days; and it is supposed from this verse that they prolonged their stay there after their defeat for a similar period.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/deuteronomy-1.html. 1871-8.
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