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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 1

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-8

The Introduction

v. 1. These be the words, the addresses, which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the semiarid steppes, in the plain over against the Red Sea, after whose passage they had entered into the wilderness, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab. The stations of the desert were just barely behind the children of Israel, and the impression of the wilderness still prevailed. The geographic reference at this point recalls the entire journey and offers a picture of the entire country traversed, as it extended from the Red Sea to the northern boundary of the Wilderness of Paran, and from there to the western boundary of Edom and MoabitIsaiah

v. 2. (There are eleven days' journey from Horeb, or Sinai, where the Law was given, by the way of Mount Seir, along its foothills and leading to its highest elevation, unto Kadesh-barnea, and so long it had taken the people upon their first trip. )

v. 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 agreement with all the precepts and ordinances which had been given to him during all the years of the desert journey;

v. 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 (and) in Edrei, the two names either being those of his capital cities, or Edrei was located in the fertile region of Ashtaroth. It was at this time, when the defeat of the two mightiest kings east of the Jordan served as a guarantee to the children of Israel for the further fulfillment of God's promises, that Moses received the command to address the children of Israel in the manner recorded in this book.

v. 5. On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, for the plains where Israel was encamped were originally a part of Moabitis, began Moses to declare, to expound, this Law, saying,

v. 6. The Lord, our God, spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount, namely, from the third month of the first year after the exodus to the twentieth day of the second month of the second year.

v. 7. Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, the mountainous country inhabited by the Amorites, a description of the land of Canaan in the narrower sense, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, literally, "to all the near neighbors" (for the inhabitants of the entire country are meant), in the plain, especially toward the southeast and east, along the Jordan and the Dead Sea, in the hills, both of what was later Judea and Galilee, and in the vale, the plains toward the Mediterranean Sea, especially that of Sharon, and in the south, the semiarid steppes of Southern Judea, and by the sea side, the lowlands immediately bordering upon the Mediterranean, to the land of the Canaanites, for all these parts were included in the general description of the land, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates, since it was the original intention of the Lord to include all this country within the limits of the Land of Promise. In reality, it was only during the time of David and Solomon that the boundaries of Israel's territory reached from the head of the Elanitic Gulf and the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates.

v. 8. Behold, I have set the land before you, it was Jehovah's gift to them and its possession therefore should be certain and easy; 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. Genesis 22:16.

Verses 9-18

The Assistants of Moses

v. 9. And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone. Moses does not observe the chronological order of events, but selects such as were of importance for his present purpose. It was while the people were encamped at Horeb that Moses arranged for assistants, Exodus 18:13-26. The seventy elders were appointed at a later date, Numbers 11:14-30.

v. 10. The Lord, your God, hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude, as the Lord had promised in the prophecy of the covenant, Genesis 15:5 ff; Genesis 12:2; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:17; Genesis 26:4. And Moses here inserts his own devout wish and prayer,

v. 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!)

v. 12. How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, for the responsibility for the entire people's welfare rested upon him, and your burden, all the business which they had laid upon Moses, which he had assumed as an obligation, and your strife, the many difficulties connected with their quarrels and litigations?

v. 13. Take you wise men and understanding, they were to select these men themselves, since it was necessary to place a great deal of trust in them, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you. These rulers were thus characterized by the fear of God, by good common sense in judging particular cases, and were acknowledged as trustworthy by the people themselves, an excellent combination for the purpose.

v. 14. And ye answered me and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do.

v. 15. So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men and known, and made them heads over you, formally invested them with the authority needed, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes.

v. 16. And I charged your judges, for as such these men were to act, at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, more in the capacity of mediators than of executives, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.

v. 17. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment, literally, "look upon, acknowledge, make a distinction between, faces," said of being partial; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great. Ye shall not be afraid of the face of man, no matter if he be powerful otherwise; for the judgment is God's; and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it, Exodus 18:22-26.

v. 18. And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do. The chief judicial authority remained with Moses, under the direct leadership of God. The believers of the New Testament have one infallible rule to guide them at all times, the Word of Scripture.

Verses 19-46

Kadesh-Barnea and the Spies.

v. 19. And when we departed from Horeb, Numbers 10:11, we went through all that great and terrible wilderness which ye saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites, during their journey to reach that country, as the Lord, our God, commanded us; and we came to Kadesh-barnea, which may be considered as being located in the extreme southern boundary of the Amorite country.

v. 20. And I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, the range which separated them from Canaan, and which here stands for the entire country, which the Lord, our God, doth give unto us. Moses represented the goal as even then attained.

v. 21. Behold, the Lord, thy God, hath set the land before thee, He had made them a present of the entire country in advance; go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged.

v. 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. This account supplements that of Numbers 13, showing that Moses was in favor of going right ahead with the conquest of the country, and that the Lord had given command to send spies only after the people had suggested this course.

v. 23. And the saying pleased me well; and I took twelve men of you, one of a tribe, Numbers 13:3-16.

v. 24. And they turned, set out, and went up into the mountain, the mountainous country of Canaan, and came unto the Valley of Eshcol, and searched it out, Numbers 13:22-24.

v. 25. And they took of the fruit of the land in their hands, and brought it down unto us, and brought us word again, and said, It is a good land which the Lord, our God, doth give us. It was in this point, with regard to the fertility of the land, that the report of all the spies had agreed.

v. 26. Notwithstanding ye would not go up, being influenced by the terror which had taken hold upon the majority of the spies, Numbers 13:31, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord, your God;

v. 27. and ye murmured in your tents, Numbers 14:1-4. for so the rebellion had begun, and said, Because the Lord hated us, He hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us. By addressing the present generation in the words of this accusation, Moses indicated that the same rebellious spirit that actuated their fathers lived also in them.

v. 28. Whither shall we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and, moreover, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there. Numbers 13:28-33.

v. 29. Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them. Moses had seconded the efforts of Joshua and Caleb.

v. 30. The Lord, our God, which goeth before you, He shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes;

v. 31. 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. Cf Exodus 19:4. They had experienced the merciful kindness of God which took up the faint and perishing, the care which bore them upon His arm and brought them safely through every danger; and they should continue to trust in the almighty power of Jehovah as being able to bring them into the Land of Promise.

v. 32. Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord, your God,

v. 33. who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to show you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day. The entire behavior of the children of Israel at that time had been based upon lack of faith in the Lord, it flowed from unbelief.

v. 34. And the Lord heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying,

v. 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,

v. 36. save Caleb, the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the Lord, Numbers 14:22-24.

v. 37. Also the Lord was angry with me for your sakes, namely, at Meribah, an incident which Moses includes at this point for the sake of cumulative effect, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither, Numbers 20:12. This is not inserted in chronological sequence, but in logical connection, and is very effective.

v. 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. Cf Numbers 14:30; Numbers 27:18-19.

v. 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, having no part in that particular transgression of their parents, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it, Numbers 14:31.

v. 40. But as for you, turn you, away from the inviting richness of the Land of Promise, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea, Numbers 14:25.

v. 41. Then ye answered and said unto me, We have sinned against the Lord, we will go up and fight, according to all that the Lord, our God, commanded us, Numbers 14:40. And when ye had girded on every man his weapons of war, ye were ready to go up in to the hill; in their presumptuousness they thought it an easy matter to storm the pass on their own account.

v. 42. And the Lord said unto me, Say unto them, Go not up, neither fight; for I am not among you; lest ye be smitten before your enemies; their defeat without His assistance was a foregone conclusion.

v. 43. So I spake unto you; and ye would not hear, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord, and went presumptuously, with proud, defiant insolence, up in to the hill.

v. 44. And the Amorites, which dwelt in that mountain, and had prepared for a possible invasion, came out against you, and chased you as bees do, and destroyed you in Seir, even unto Hormah, pursuing them far into Edomitish territory.

v. 45. And ye returned and wept before the Lord, before the Tabernacle; but the Lord would not hearken to your voice nor give ear unto you. That was Jehovah's attitude during the next years, for He refused to change His sentence which condemned all adult Israelites to death in the wilderness.

v. 46. So ye abode in Kadesh many days, according unto the days that ye abode there. The exact length of time during which the people remained at this station after the return of the spies is a matter of conjecture only. We believers of the New Testament should remember the many evidences of the goodness and mercy of the Lord, who leads us through the wilderness of this world with such tender love and holds out before us the certainty of the heavenly inheritance. The remembrance of our disobedience in the past should serve to keep us truly humble and cause us to cling to the Lord in the confidence of a firm faith.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 1". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/deuteronomy-1.html. 1921-23.
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