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Thursday, July 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 1

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


Verses 1-2


1, 2. These verses form a connexion between this and the preceding books.

These… words… Moses spake Referring, not to the discourses in this book, but to the laws and regulations heretofore recorded. The names of the localities that are given indicate this; and they are introduced with a special significance. The Jewish interpreters speak of them as being mentioned because they were places where the people had especially sinned against Jehovah. Moses thus reminds them of their rebellious acts, and emphasizes the thought that their long wandering was the result of their own sin.

On this side Jordan The Hebrew expression which is used here is in other places translated beyond Jordan; and it was unquestionably employed as a geographical term for the region east of the Jordan, which in the time of our Saviour was called Perea. The term does not indicate the location of the writer, whether he lived on the east or west side of the river. In this connexion it is equivalent to the expression before they crossed the Jordan.

In the wilderness That region north of the Sinaitic peninsula, extending to the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains of Judah on the north, and from the isthmus of Suez to the Arabah. It bears at the present time the name Badut et Tih, literally signifying the “Desert of the Wandering.”

In the plain The Hebrew word here translated plain is used as a proper name in the Arabah. The broad valley which extends from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Akabah, a distance of about a hundred miles, is now called el Arabah.

Over against the Red sea Rather, over against Sufah. Our version adds, improperly, we think, the word sea. Knobel supposes the pass Sufah is meant. It was probably near Ain el Weibeh, not far from the southern border of Palestine.

Between Paran, and Tophel In Numbers 10:12, we read: “The children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai, and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran.” It is generally held that the wilderness of Paran comprised the whole of the desert of et Tih, and that Mount Paran was the southernmost portion of the mountain plateau in the northeast part of it. Paran was associated with remembrances of Jehovah’s manifestations to his people: “He shined forth from Mount Paran.” Deuteronomy 33:2. So the prophet Habakkuk, in his sublime ode, Habakkuk 3:3: “God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran.”

Tophel This is identified with the modern Tufileh, located in the mountains of Edom, southeast of the Dead Sea. It is surrounded with groves of fruit trees, which are abundantly watered by numerous fountains. The inhabitants furnish supplies to the caravans. It is thought that this is the place where the Israelites purchased food of the Edomites. Deuteronomy 2:29.

Laban Thought to be the same as Libnah. Numbers 33:20. “It may, perhaps, have been the place referred to in Numbers 16:0, where the rebellion of the company of Korah occurred.” Keil.

Hazeroth Literally, enclosures. It may be the place mentioned in Numbers 11:35, where Aaron and Miriam spake against Moses, and where Miriam became leprous. Numbers 12:10. “We may without difficulty identify Hazeroth with Ain Hudherah, not only in the Semitic orthography of the name, but also in being situated exactly a day’s journey from Erweis el Eberrig.” Desert of the Exodus. Erweis el Eberrig has been identified with Kibroth-hattaavah, or “graves of lust.” Numbers 11:34.

Dizahab This name means a place of gold. Robinson thought it might be Dahab, a place on a tongue of land on the west coast of the Gulf of Akabah. The sense of the passage is, that what has been narrated in the preceding books Moses spoke to the people before they crossed the Jordan, while they were in the Desert of Wandering, and in the Arabah opposite Sufah, as they journeyed between Paran and Tophel, and when they were at Libnah and at Hazeroth and at Dizahab. The discourses that are to follow were spoken “in the plains of Moab, by Jordan, near Jericho.”

Numbers 33:48.

Eleven days’ journey from Horeb This parenthetical sentence seems to be introduced to call the mind of the reader to the fact that while Kadesh, on the southern border of the Promised Land, is only eleven days distant from Horeb, the scene of the establishment of the covenant, yet, in the fortieth year, the people, owing to their rebellion, have not yet entered the land. On Horeb see note on Exodus 3:1.

Kadesh-barnea See on Numbers 13:26.

Verses 3-5

3-5. The time and place of the delivery of the discourses that constitute this book are now mentioned. In the early part of this fortieth year Miriam had died. Numbers 20:1. Aaron died on the first day of its fifth month. Numbers 33:38. Moses is left almost alone; and he is soon to die at the command of Jehovah, (Deuteronomy 34:5.) The time is significant, also, from the fact that Moses had conquered the kings Sihon and Og. Numbers 21:21; Numbers 21:33. Jehovah is giving assurance of the fulfilling of his promises. The place is full of interest. In the plains of Moab, near the crossing of Jordan, with Jericho in sight, Moses undertook to expound the law.

Verse 6

FROM HOREB TO KADESH, Deuteronomy 1:6-46.

6. In Horeb Horeb is supposed to indicate the mountain-range, Sinai the summit on which the law was given. “The constant use of the name Horeb,” says Keil, “to designate the mountain group, instead of the special name Sinai, is in keeping with the rhetorical style of the book.”

Dwelt long enough in this mount They came to it in the third month of the first year of the wandering, (Exodus 19:1-2,) and stayed till the twentieth day of the second month of the second year. Numbers 10:11-12.

Verses 6-46


First Discourse, Deuteronomy 1:6 to Deuteronomy 4:40.

Addressing the people, with the Promised Land in their sight, Moses reviews the events that have occurred in their march from Horeb to the plains of Moab. He reminds them how God had fulfilled his promises, and how they had sinned, and by their unbelief and rebellion had been kept from entering into the promised possession; and he admonishes them not to forfeit by new transgressions the land they are destined to conquer.

Verse 7

7. Mount of the Amorites Denoting all the mountainous region inhabited by the Amorites, extending into the Negeb, or south country. This nation, as the most powerful, often stands for all the people of Canaan.

All the places nigh Literally, all its neighbours. The whole land is more specifically mentioned according to its natural divisions.

The plain… the hills The modern Ghor, or Jordan valley. The mountain or highlands, afterward called the mountains of Judah and Ephraim.

The vale The lowlands, the low, level country lying between the mountains of Judah and the Mediterranean Sea, extending from Carmel to Gaza.

The south The Negeb, or south country.

The sea side The narrow strip of coast from Joppa almost to Tyre, here denominated the land of the Canaanites.

Lebanon The boundary, as laid down in Numbers 34:7-9.

The great river The Euphrates is mentioned as the extreme eastern boundary in the covenant Jehovah made with Abraham when he said, “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” Genesis 15:18.

Verse 8

8. I have set the land before you It was, at the time of which Moses speaks, accessible. If obedient, under Jehovah’s guidance the Israelites could have marched from Horeb into the Land of Promise, entering it at the south, and conquering it in the order of the divisions given in the preceding verse.

Verses 9-18


For a more particular statement see Exodus 18:13-26, where it is said Moses adopted this plan at the counsel of Jethro. He tells the people he had provided, for the organization of the nation, a government by men of their own choice, but to be installed by himself and to receive directions as to their duties from him. They were well organized for their onward march. And to remind them of God’s faithfulness to his word, he tells them of the increase of the nation as Jehovah had promised to Abraham, Genesis 15:5.

Verse 17

17. The judgment is God’s It is to be administered in the name of God, who is the source of all justice, and who, by implication, is supposed to so aid that the judgment is essentially his.

Verse 19

19. Terrible wilderness, which ye saw Had full experience of: the wilderness of Paran, called to-day et Tih the Wandering. See Numbers 10:12.

Verse 22

22. Send men before us Let us send men, etc. Comparing this passage with Numbers 13:1-2, we infer that the proposal of sending men to explore the land originated with the people, and that Jehovah approved it when it was submitted to him by Moses.

Verses 24-25

24, 25. It is a good land Moses mentions here only so much of the report brought back as will enable him to set in marked contrast the rebellion of the people against the command of God. For the full statement of the exploration and report, see Numbers 13:21-33, and notes.

Verse 27

27. Ye murmured in your tents It is true that the great majority of the murmurers had died since that time; but Moses speaks to the nation as still containing the elements of unbelief, ingratitude, and disloyalty. These discourses abound in reproofs and warnings to the generations then existing and the generations to come, based on the sins of those who left their bones in the wilderness.

Verse 28

28. Our brethren have discouraged our heart The report of the men sent to explore the land had doubtless magnified the size of the cities and the stature of the inhabitants.

Verses 29-33

29-33. Then I said unto you Moses here relates his attempt to inspire the disheartened people with confidence in Jehovah their God, by reminding them of what was done for them in Egypt and in the wilderness.

Verse 35

35. Joshua the son of Nun In Deuteronomy 34:9, Joshua takes the place of Moses, and he, under God, causes Israel to inherit the land.

Verse 37

37. Also the Lord was angry with me for your sakes The occasion here referred to was during the second stay at Kadesh. Looking back over the forty years of wandering, after speaking of the rebellion of the people which excluded them from entering the land, how natural that Moses should also mention the occasion of his own exclusion. “Moses,” says Keil, “did not intend to teach the people history and chronology, but to set before them the holiness of the judgments of God.” By using the expression for your sakes we are not to understand that he seeks to exculpate himself, for in Deuteronomy 32:48-51, his sin is related. Compare Psalms 106:32-33: “They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sake: because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.”

Verse 40

40. By the way of the Red Sea That is, take the route toward the Red Sea. Comp. Numbers 14:25.

Verse 41

41. Ye were ready to go up into the hill The Hebrew reads, You acted frivolously to go up.

Verse 43

43. Went presumptuously up You acted rashly and went up, and met with signal defeat.

Verse 44

44. The Amorites Called also the Canaanites, in Numbers 14:43.

Hormah Comp. Numbers 14:45. See note on Numbers 26:3.

Verse 46

46. Abode in Kadesh many days This verse has been variously interpreted. Some understand it to mean that the Israelites remained there after their discomfiture as many days as they had been there before the return of the spies; some, that they abode there as long as they abode in all other stations that is, half the time of their years of wandering; others, that a portion of the people abode at Kadesh permanently, while Moses and the rest journeyed southward; and the change of the subject to the first person in the next chapter is held to sustain this latter view. From the data that we have, it is impossible to determine how long they abode there. Probably Kadesh was the central point for the whole people, the place of meeting on appointed days. Here the tabernacle may have been kept, and here Moses chiefly dwelt. “Next to Sinai, the most important of all the resting-places of the children of Israel is Kadesh.” STANLEY’S Sinai and Palestine. “There is something mournfully solemn and emphatic in the words, ‘Ye abode in Kadesh.’ Ye were on the very borders of Canaan, but instead of passing the frontier and entering into the Land of Promise ye abode at Kadesh; and when you moved from it, it was not to go northward into Canaan, but southward in the opposite direction; and after thirty-seven years’ weary wandering ye had only arrived at Kadesh again. Such were the consequences of disobedience.” Wordsworth.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/deuteronomy-1.html. 1874-1909.
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