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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 1

 

 

Verses 1-46

THE COMMAND TO LEAVE HOREB

(vs.1-8)

In Numbers 32:1-42 Israel is seen to remain in the area east of Jordan long enough for the two and a half tribes to build cities. Thus God required no haste as to their entering the land. These addresses of Moses in Deuteronomy were delivered at that time, spoken to "all Israel" (v.1). Moses must have maintained a powerful voice (at age 120 years) to be able to make possible 3,000.000 people hear him!

Verse 2 tells that from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea is eleven days' journey. It was when Israel was in Kadesh Barnea that God told them to enter the land of Canaan and Israel refused (Numbers 13:26). Thus this Scripture emphasizes that if Israel had been obedient to the Lord they might have entered the land only 11 days after leaving Mount Horeb, but because of disobedience the time was lengthened to about 40 years. Moses spoke to them here just one month before the forty years was complete (v.3). This tells believers today that our wilderness history does not necessarily have to be long, but because of our natural selfish propensities it is necessary for God to put us through the trial of hard circumstances in order to learn that obedience is the only way of blessing.

Only after two special enemies had been killed (Sihon and Og) Moses gave these addresses, for the victory over these two enemies held the prediction of further victory in the land (v.4). Israel had been afraid of entering the land before because of such enemies (Og was a giant -- Deuteronomy 3:1 l), now God had given them an object lesson in experience that should encourage them.

Thus Moses began to explain the law (v.5), telling Israel first that God has spoken to them in Horeb, where they received the law, saying they had dwelt long enough there (v.6). The law cannot be any permanent resting place, for it points onward to something far better, as the Book of Hebrews shows (Hebrews 6:1-2; Hebrews 10:1-10). Israel were to take their journey therefore to the mountains of the Amorites, to the plains as the great River Euphrates (v.7). All this territory is eventually to be theirs, though they did enter Canaan they did not by any means take possession of all the land to the Euphrates River. This will be possessed only in the Millennium. Still God beforehand clearly declared what was their proper inheritance. God had sworn this to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (v.8), to be made good to their descendants (Genesis 15:18-21).

SHARING ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSIBILITY

(vs.9-18)

In these verses we find details added that were not mentioned in Exodus 18:13-27 when Moses, at the advice of Jethro, appointed "rulers of thousands, rules of hundreds, rulers of fifties and rulers of tens."

While Exodus 18:25 speaks of Moses choosing theses men, yet here in Deuteronomy 1:13 Moses says he asked the tribes to choose "wise, understanding and knowledgeable men." Thus he graciously took them into his confidence and when they presented the men confirmed them as his choice. Verse 15 makes this clear.

Moses gave firm orders to these rulers to judge righteously any cases that arose between the people. They must carefully avoid partiality in judgment, showing the same respect to small as to great (v.17). Cases too hard to decide were to be brought to Moses. In the Church too elder brethren can decide many things, but if anything is too hard, these must be brought to the Lord in humble, dependent prayer.

ISRAEL'S REFUSAL TO ENTER CANAAN

(vs.19-33)

Moses only briefly mentions the journey of Israel from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea, though he speaks of the wilderness as "great and terrible" (v.19). The experience in such a desert ought to have given them a strong incentive to enter the promised land as soon as they could.

At Kadesh Barnea Moses addressed them again, telling them they had come to the mountains of the Amorites and it was time to carry out what the Lord had spoken, to take possession of the land of promise (vs.20-21).

Here in Deuteronomy (v.22) we learn that the people had appealed to Moses to send spies into the land first. They did not say they wanted this in order to find out whether it was safe for them to go in or not, but said rather that in this way they could find out what way they should take said rather that in this way they could find out what way they should take and into what cities they should first come. This suggestion pleased Moses well, he says. In fact, in Numbers 13:1-2 it was God who gave orders to Moses to send the spies into the land, which orders were no doubt given after Israel had required this.

The spies had gone into the land, spying it out bringing back some of the fruit of the land, with the report that the Lord's word concerning it was true: it was a good land (vs.24-25).

"Nevertheless," Moses says, "you would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord" (v.26). Instead of being inspired with courage to go forward, they complained against the Lord because the spies told them that the inhabitants of the land were greater and taller than the Israelites (vs.27-28). Why then did they refuse to believe His word in regard to His promise to put down their enemies? Their fear and apprehension defeated them before they took one step forward. Do we not also defeat ourselves by our fears of what might happen, even when we have the Lord's word for acting?

Moses was not intimidated by the apparent power of the enemies, but rather encouraged Israel to be unafraid because the Lord had promised to go before them and fight for them. Since He had sustained and kept them trough the wilderness, would He be any less able to Strengthen them to face their enemies? (vs.29-31).

"Yet for all that, you did not believe the Lord your God." Thus Moses reproved their unbelief in the face of God's constant care for them in regard to finding places on the way to pitch their tents and to direct them by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

CONSEQUENCES OF REBELLION

(vs.34-46)

Israel needed to be reminded of the Lord's anger against fathers on this occasion, and His pronouncement that none of that generation should enter Canaan except Caleb because "he wholly followed the Lord" (vs.34-36). In verse 36 Joshua is not mentioned because he was identified with Moses in leadership of Israel, and Caleb was one of the people otherwise -- one clear example for all of the common people.

But also, Moses said, the Lord was angry with him for Israel's sake and told him he would not enter the land (v.37). The reason is seen in Numbers 20:7-13. But Joshua would not only enter the land: he would become the leader to bring Israel in (v.38). So the Lord told Moses to encourage Joshua.

However, their children, then under 20 years of age (Numbers 14:29), whom they feared would suffer, God would bring into the land (v.39). It was this generation whom Moses was now addressing.

This sentence against Israel jolted them sufficiently that they decided to change their minds and go to fight against the Canaanites (v.4). But it was too late. They did not really feel the guilt of their sin but did feel the pain of God's sentence against their sin. To excape this they were willing now to go to battle. But this was only another form of rebellion. God had told them to rerturn to the wilderness. Moses therefore warned them not to try to fight, for they would be defeated (v.42). Again they refused to listen, but went to battle, with the result that they suffered a humiliating defeat (v.44). Their weeping then before the Lord (v.45) did not change God's mind, for their weeping was not because of their sin but because of having to suffer the cobsequences of their sin. So they remained many days in Kadesh (v.46). They did not immediately turn back into the wilderness. Because we are slow leareners, the Lord sometimes has to keep us in such a place as Kadesh to remind us of our failure and give us ample time to meditate upon the reasons for His hand of disciple restraining us as it does. We cannot but feel this as painful chastening, but it is the wisdom of a faithful and gracious Father that thus seeks to produce in us the lowly submission to His will that we never seem to learn apart from painful measures. We may feel God is being extremely stren, but it is His pure love that is working in us for good.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 1:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/deuteronomy-1.html. 1897-1910.

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