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Deeper Commentary


Deu 1:1 These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah over against Suph, between Paran, Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab.

Deu 1:2 It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea-
It took Israel 38 years to complete this journey, but it was only 11 days if they walked directly. Their exit from Egypt through the Red Sea represents our baptism into Christ (1 Cor. 10:1,2), and the wilderness journey is the prototype of our walk to God’s Kingdom. We tend to walk around in circles as Israel did, rather than perceiving our end destination clearly and keeping our focus upon it.

Deu 1:3 In the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that Yahweh had given him in commandment to them-
Moses was now at the end of his life; Israel stood on the borders of the promised land, which he was disallowed from entering. He now gives his swansong, perhaps in the last month or even day of his life he gave Israel the address transcripted for us as ‘Deuteronomy’, literally ‘the second [giving of the] law’. He repeats some of the laws he had previously given them, with some additional comments and clarifications, and shares with them his reflections upon their journey. In this book, therefore, we perceive a man at the point of spiritual maturity.

Deu 1:4 after he had struck Sihon the king of the Amorites who lived in Heshbon and Og the king of Bashan who lived in Ashtaroth, at Edrei.
Deu 1:5 Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses began to declare this law saying,
Deu 1:6 Yahweh our God spoke to us in Horeb saying, You have lived long enough in this mountain;
Deu 1:7 turn, and take your journey and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all the places near there, in the Arabah, in the hill country, in the lowland, in the South and by the seashore, the land of the Canaanites and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates-
This was the boundary of the land promised to Abraham. But sadly Israel lacked the spiritual ambition to even go there, let alone settle and inherit the land. It may well be that we inherit the Kingdom, but not to the extent that we could do. We in this brief life are deciding the nature of how we will spend eternity.

Deu 1:8 Behold, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, to give to them and to their seed after them-

"Drive out" is s.w. "possess". We must note the difference between the  Canaanite peoples and their kings being "struck" and their land "taken" by Joshua-Jesus; and the people of Israel permanently taking possession. This is the difference between the Lord's victory on the cross, and our taking possession of the Kingdom. Even though that possession has been "given" to us. The word used for "possession" is literally 'an inheritance'. The allusion is to the people, like us, being the seed of Abraham. The Kingdom was and is our possession, our inheritance- if we walk in the steps of Abraham. But it is one thing to be the seed of Abraham, another to take possession of the inheritance; and Israel generally did not take possession of all the land (Josh. 11:23 13:1; 16:10; 18:3; 23:4). The language of inheritance / possession is applied to us in the New Testament (Eph. 1:11,14; Col. 3:24; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Pet. 1:4 etc.). Israel were promised: "You shall possess it" (Dt. 30:5; 33:23). This was more of a command than a prophecy, for sadly they were "given" the land but did not "possess" it. They were constantly encouraged in the wilderness that they were on the path to possessing the land (Dt. 30:16,18; 31:3,13; 32:47), but when they got there they didn't possess it fully.

Deu 1:9 I spoke to you at that time saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone;
Deu 1:10 Yahweh your God has multiplied you and behold, you are this day as the stars of the sky for multitude.
Deu 1:11 May Yahweh the God of your fathers make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as He has promised you!
Deu 1:12 How can I myself alone bear your encumbrance and your burden and your strife?
Deu 1:13 Take wise men of understanding and well known according to your tribes and I will make them heads over you.
Deu 1:14 You answered me and said, The thing which you have spoken is good to do.
Deu 1:15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise men and known, and made them heads over you, captains of thousands, captains of hundreds, captains of fifties and captains of tens and officers, according to your tribes.
Deu 1:16 I commanded your judges at that time, saying, Hear cases between your brothers and judge righteously between a man and his brother and the foreigner who is living with him.
Deu 1:17 You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike; you shall not be afraid of the face of man, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me and I will hear it-

The Hebrew mishpat, "ordinances", has a wide range of meaning. The idea is of judgment, as if God and His Angels gave these laws as their considered judgment after considering the human condition, and Israel were to abide by them. But the word also the idea of a right or privilege; and that is how we should see God's laws. They are only felt as a burden because of human hardness of neck towards God's ways. His laws are not of themselves burdensome, but rather a privilege and blessing. The law was indeed "holy, just and good" (Rom. 7:12), designed to inculcate a holy, just and good life (Tit. 1:8), a way in which a man should "walk" in daily life (Lev. 18:4), a culture of kindness and grace to others which reflected God's grace to man. If we dwell upon the idea of "rights" carried within the word mishpat, we note that the law begins in Ex. 21:1,2 (also Dt. 15:12-18) with the rights of a slave- those considered to have no rights in the society of that day. The "rights" to be afforded by us to others are the essence of God's rightness / justice.  

Deu 1:18 I commanded you at that time all the things which you should do.

Deu 1:19 We travelled from Horeb and went through all that great and terrible wilderness which you saw, by the way to the hill country of the Amorites, as Yahweh our God commanded us, and we came to Kadesh Barnea.
Deu 1:20 I said to you, You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which Yahweh our God gives to us.
Deu 1:21 Behold, Yahweh your God has set the land before you; go up, take possession, as Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Don’t be afraid, neither be dismayed-

“Let not your heart be troubled… neither let it be afraid” (Jn. 14:1,27) repeats Moses’ final encouragement to Israel “fear not, neither be dismayed” (Dt. 31:8; 1:21,29; 7:18).

The command to subject the animals in Eden [the land promised to Abraham?] corresponds to later commands to subject the tribes living in the land (Gen. 1:28 = Num. 32:22,29; Josh. 18:1). The “fear and dread” of humans which fell on the animals after the flood is clearly linkable with the “fear and dread” which was to come upon the inhabitants of Canaan due to the Israelites (Gen. 9:2 = Dt. 1:21; 3:8; 11:25).

Deu 1:22 You came near to me every one of you and said, Let us send men before us that they may search the land for us and bring us word again of the way by which we must go up and the cities to which we shall come-
The sending out of the spies was a concession to human weakness; Num. 13:17-20 says that they were sent in order to find out whether the land of Canaan was a good land, and the feasibility of overcoming the people who lived there. But God had categorically given assurances on these points already; yet Israel preferred to believe the word of men than that of God. However, God made a concession to their weakness, and gave the command to send out the spies (Num. 13:2). But when Israel heard their faithless tales of woe, they decided they didn’t want to inherit the Kingdom prepared for them. When we make use of concessions to human weakness, we often end up in situations of temptation which we find too strong for us. The best way is to simply go straight forward in faith in God’s word of promise rather than relying on human strength.

Deu 1:23 The thing pleased me well and I took twelve men of you, one man for every tribe-
In this time of final spiritual maturity, Moses was keenly aware of his own spiritual failings (as Paul and Jacob were in their last days). This is one of the great themes of Moses in Deuteronomy. He begins his Deuteronomy address by pointing out how grievously they had failed thirty eight years previously, when they refused to enter the good land. He reminds them how that although God had gone before them in Angelic power (Dt. 1:30,33), they had asked for their spies to go before them. And Moses admits that this fatal desire for human strength to lead them to the Kingdom "pleased me well" (Dt. 1:23). It seems to me that here Moses is recognizing his own failure. Perhaps he is even alluding to his weakness in wanting Jethro to go before them "instead of eyes", in place of the Angel-eyes of Yahweh (Num. 10:31-36). Moses at the end was aware of his failures. And yet he also shows his thorough appreciation of the weakness of his people. Moses admits at the end that Israel’s faithless idea to send out spies “pleased me well”- when it shouldn’t have done (Dt. 1:23,32,33). He realized more and more his own failure as he got older.

Deu 1:24 They turned and went up into the hill country and came to the valley of Eshcol and spied it out.
Deu 1:25 They took of the fruit of the land in their hands and brought it down to us and brought us word again, and said, It is a good land which Yahweh our God gives to us-
This is a very positive perspective on what the spies said; they said that Canaan was a good land, but the inhabitants of the land were far too strong for Israel, effectively calling God a liar. Moses is very positive about Israel in Deuteronomy. It’s a sign of spiritual maturity that we impute righteousness to others and seek to focus on the positive rather than for ever dwelling on the terrible failures of God’s people.

Deu 1:26 Yet you wouldn’t go up, but rebelled against the commandment of Yahweh your God,
Deu 1:27 and you murmured in your tents and said, Because Yahweh hated us He has brought us forth out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us-

Israel continually "murmured" against Moses (Ex. 15:24; 16:2,7,8; 17:3; Num. 14:2,27,29 cp. Dt. 1:27; Ps. 106:25; 1 Cor. 10:10). Nearly all these murmurings were related to Israel's disbelief that Moses really could bring them into the land. Likewise Israel disbelieved that eating Christ's words (Jn. 6:63) really could lead them to salvation; and their temptation to murmur in this way is ours too, especially in the last days (1 Cor. 10:10-12).

Deu 1:28 Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our heart melt, saying, ‘The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to the sky, and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakim there’-
The ten spies perceived the people as so strong that they could never defeat them, whereas Joshua and Caleb perceived how things really were- which is how Rahab described it. The paradox is that the hearts of the Canaanites melted (Josh. 2:11), and this is the phrase used of how the hearts of the Israelites melted (Dt. 1:28). Both sides were scared of each other; but victory could have been with Israel. They wasted so much potential.

Deu 1:29 Then I said to you, Don’t dread, neither be afraid of them-
The fact we were called to baptism therefore inspires us to believe that we really will be there in the Kingdom. This is prefigured by the way in which Moses pleaded with those who doubted in the wilderness that the fact they had been brought through the Red Sea was a guarantee that God would likewise bring them into their inheritance in Canaan (Dt. 1:29-33). Yet they failed to believe this; they forgot the wonder of their Red Sea deliverance, just as we can forget the wondrous implications of our baptism, and thus lose faith in our ultimate salvation.

Deu 1:30 Yahweh your God who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all that He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,
Deu 1:31 and in the wilderness, where you have seen how Yahweh your God carried you as a man carries his son in all the way that you went, until you came to this place.
Deu 1:32 Yet in this thing you didn’t believe Yahweh your God,
Deu 1:33 Who went before you in the way, to seek you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night to show you by what way you should go, and in the cloud by day-
See on Num. 10:31. Moses accepted Jethro's advice on the basis that he will "surely wear away" (Ex. 18:18); even though his natural strength never abated (Dt. 34:7), and God surely would not have asked him to do the impossible. Jethro at this time seems to have seen Yahweh as only one of many gods; he was a pagan priest. He prophesied that if Moses followed his advice, "all this people shall go to their place in peace" - which they didn't. Num. 10:31 suggests Moses saw Jethro's knowledge of the desert as better than the Angelic " eyes" of Yahweh (2 Chron. 16:9; Prov. 15:3) who were going ahead of the camp to find a resting place (Num. 10:33 cp. Ex. 33:14 cp. Is. 63:9). It seems Moses recognized his error on the last day of his life, when he admits Yahweh, not Jethro's wisdom, had led them (Dt. 1:33). Likewise Paul in his final communication comments on the way that Mark with whom he had once quarelled was profitable to him (2 Tim. 4:11).

Deu 1:34 Yahweh heard the voice of your words and was angry and swore saying,
Deu 1:35 Surely not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land, which I swore to give to your fathers,
Deu 1:36 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it and to him I will give the land that he has trodden on, and to his children, because he has wholly followed Yahweh-
Joshua and Caleb were earlier characterized by the comment that they “wholly followed the Lord” when they went to spy out Canaan (Num. 14:24; 32:11,12; Dt. 1:36; Josh. 14:8,9,14), and urged Israel to go up and inherit it. This refers to the way that the Angel had gone ahead of them, and they faithfully followed where the Angel had gone, and believed that Israel could follow that Angel wherever it led. When Israel finally did go into the land, they were told that Joshua would ‘go before’ them, and they were to follow him and thereby inherit the land (Dt. 31:3). From this we see that circumstances repeat in our lives.

Although not recorded in Num. 14:24; Dt. 1:36, it appears Caleb was specifically promised Hebron at that time. Caleb had explored that area as a spy (Num. 13:22) and taken a special liking to it. We see therefore his spiritual ambition; 'this shall one day be mine'. And we can do the same, as we in this life spy out our future inheritance.  

Deu 1:37 Also Yahweh was angry with me for your sakes saying, You also shall not go in there-
Moses truly was made spiritually strong out of weakness. His faith fluctuated, until at last he came to a spiritual height at the end of his life. He was willing to give his physical and eternal life for Israel's salvation (Ex. 32:32). In a sense, his desire was heard. Because of the sin of a moment, caused by the provocation of the people he loved, God decreed that he could not enter the land of promise. For their sakes he was barred from the land; this is the  emphasis of the Spirit (Dt. 1:37; 3:26; 4:21); and Ps. 106:32,33 says that Moses was provoked to sin because Israel angered God, and that therefore "it went ill with Moses for their sakes". Truly, God works through sinful man to achieve His glory. Thus Moses says that he must die “Because ye [plural] trespassed against me” (Dt. 32:51). This all helps explain why Christ had to die, apart from the fact that he was mortal. He died the death of a sinner for our salvation, he felt all the emotions of the rejected, the full weight of God's curse; for "cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" in crucifixion (Gal. 3:13). We have seen that Moses is a superb and accurate type of the Lord Jesus. Therefore Moses in his time of dying must grant us insight into the death of our Lord, the prophet like him (Dt. 18:18). See on Ex. 32:32.

Deu 1:38 Joshua the son of Nun who stands before you, he shall go in there; encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it-
states clearly that “Joshua… he shall cause Israel to inherit [s.w. possess]” the land. Yet by the end of Joshua’s life, Israel were not inheriting the land in totality. He didn’t live up to his potential. Joshua didn’t give the people rest (Heb. 4:8); but he said he had (Josh. 22:4). He failed to fulfil the potential of Josh. 1:13-15- that he would lead the people to “rest”. The Messianic Kingdom could, perhaps, have come through Joshua-Jesus; but both Joshua and Israel would not.

Deu 1:39 Moreover your little ones, whom you said should be a prey, and your children, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there and to them will I give it, and they shall possess it.
Deu 1:40 But as for you, turn, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.
Deu 1:41 Then you answered and said to me, We have sinned against Yahweh; we will go up and fight, according to all that Yahweh our God commanded us. Every man of you put on his weapons of war and presumed to go up into the hill country-
- see on Jn. 14:1,2.

Deu 1:42 Yahweh said to me, Tell them, ‘Don’t go up, neither fight, for I am not among you, lest you be struck before your enemies’.
Deu 1:43 So I spoke to you and you didn’t listen, but you rebelled against the commandment of Yahweh and were presumptuous and went up into the hill country-
These Israelites who had crossed the Red Sea (cp. our baptism) and were now rejected from God’s Kingdom, because they themselves had said they didn’t want to inherit it, now wanted more than anything else to be there. This is a major Biblical theme- that the rejected will desperately ask to be allowed in to God’s kingdom; the foolish virgins will knock on the closed door begging for it to be opened (Mt. 25:11; Lk. 13:25). Our ultimate destiny is to stand before the Lord wanting to enter His Kingdom with every fibre in our being. But this must be our attitude now, for then it will be too late to change anything.

Deu 1:44 The Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you, as bees do, and beat you down in Seir, even to Hormah.
Deu 1:45 You returned and wept before Yahweh; but Yahweh didn’t listen to your voice, nor gave ear to you-
Israel did not obey / hearken to the voice of Yahweh, and He did not hearken to their voice in prayer (Dt. 1:45; 9:23; 28:15; Josh. 5:6; Jud. 2:20; 6:10 cp. Dt. 8:20 s.w.). 2 Kings 18:12 states this specifically. God hearkened to Joshua's voice in prayer (Josh. 10:14) because Joshua hearkened to His voice. It was to be the same with Saul. He didn't hearken to God's voice (1 Sam. 15:19) and God didn't hearken to Saul's voice in prayer in his final desperation at the end of his life (1 Sam. 28:18). If God's word abides in us, then our prayer is powerful, we have whatever we ask, because we are asking for things according to His will expressed in His word (Jn. 15:7). 

Deu 1:46 So you stayed in Kadesh many days, according to the days that you remained.