New European Commentary


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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-
Critics have made much of the apparent contradiction between the geographical details in Dt. 1:1 and the location details in Dt. 4:45,46. But I suggest that the names in Dt. 1:1 are not intended to be pinned down to specific locations. There are six of them, and it was unlikely that any reader would be able to pinpoint a location in the uncharted desert from these vague places. Rather, we are given a word picture of what the desert was like. The place names in Dt. 1:1 mean [in order]  "Ornamental", maybe referring to the appearance of sand sculptures made by the wind; "quagmire", "whiteness", "tower" and "golden".

Another take is that these six places are all the locations of various apostacies of Israel. Six is a number associated with sin. And at each of them, Moses had appealed to Israel with the words we now have in the speech transcripted in the book of Deuteronomy. The Hebrew name for the book is Debarim "These are the words...", suggesting these words were repeated often. They may indeed be the "words of this song" which Moses is described as singing to Israel- as if the whole book is "this song". Israel's failures and God's abiding grace and love is indeed a theme of this song. Deuteronomy records the sins of the generation that entered the land- at Massah (Dt. 6:16, 9:22), Horeb (Dt. 9:8–21) and at Taberah, Kibroth-hattaavah and Kadesh-barnea (Dt. 9:22,23). The context seems to indicate that it was the audience of Deuteronomy, "you", that generation and not their fathers, who had sinned at these places. Moses speaks as if he is talking with that generation when he says that the covenant was made "not with our ancestors... but with us" (Dt. 5:3). And it was "us", "you", whom he says had so sinned in the desert. They entered the land by grace.  

The meanings of the place names as mentioned above could all have idol worship connotations. But the song of "Deuteronomy" is indeed the deuteros nomos, the second law, which is the name of the book in Russian [vtoroe zakon]. And the law as repeated here by Moses often differs to that given previously, reflecting God's adjustment of His requirements in harmony with His grace towards them. We see here that God's 'law' can change and His requirements do change as He Himself progresses in appreciation of His peoples' frailty. We see the same after the flood, where God promises Himself not to judge the earth with a flood again because He now perceives more the wickedness of the human heart.

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. The theme of Deuteronomy is the conviction of Israel for their sins and an appeal to faithfulness to the covenant. And so Moses begins by posing the question- How come a journey of 11 days took 40 years? "The fortieth year" is mentioned in the very next verse. The answer of course was because of Israel's sin.

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-
Ashtaroth was the name of one of the deities which the surrounding tribes worshipped; Edrei means "strength". The message is that the apparent strength of the idols and those who trusted in them had been overcome. And having won victories which were foretastes of those Israel would win in Canaan, Moses now urges the people to go forward in faith. In Yahweh's strength, they could overcome the idol worshipping tribes, despite their apparent strength. But Israel still kept those idols with them.

Deu 1:5 Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses began to declare this law saying-
"This law" suggests that the law he was now given was significantly different from the previous law that it could be spoken of as "this law". Clearly, God's law was open to change and reinterpretation, from its very beginning. It is mere literalism and legalism which insists that a Divine law cannot be changed by Him and is therefore eternal in a literal sense.

Deu 1:6 Yahweh our God spoke to us in Horeb saying-
The phrase "Yahweh our God" is used 46 times in Deuteronomy but hardly ever earlier in the law. Moses is exalting in the fact Yahweh was really their God, He was abiding by His promise to Abraham to be the God of Abraham's seed- despite their weakness. This is what we also perceive in our spiritual maturity, that Yahweh is my very own God, and not just generic "God".

You have lived long enough in this mountain-
They arrived at Sinai in the third month after leaving Egypt (Ex. 19:1,2); and left it on the 20th day of the second month of the second year, so they were there nearly a year.

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-
Jethro had advised Moses to appoint elders so that "they shall bear the burden with you" (s.w. Ex. 18:22). These words recorded here were presumably said after Moses had accepted Jethro's advice. Ex. 18:12 says that this happened before they arrived at Sinai; whereas here we have the impression it happened afterwards. Although "at that time" can be vague. I suggest Moses is here recollecting the incidents of that broad period, but arranging them in terms of their significance and not chronologically. Or it could be that Moses accepted Jethro's advice, but not until some time later did he operationalize it. After their sin with the golden calf he may have realized more fully the weakness of the people and his own inability to personally cope with all the stress.    

Deu 1:10 Yahweh your God has multiplied you and behold, you are this day as the stars of the sky for multitude-
He reminds them of the fulfilment of the promises to Abraham in them, although this is sandwiched in between his lament at their unspirituality (:9,12). The new covenant, which is based upon the promises to Abraham, is fulfilled only by grace. The idea is that the stars could not be counted, but we have in Numbers a very precise account of the numbers of the people. So we can assume that Moses is seeing the fulfilment as potential.

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!-
The allusion is to the blessing promised to Abraham's seed; but that is interpreted in the New Testament as the blessing of forgiveness (Acts 3:25,26 etc.). And Moses is speaking here in the context of their spiritual weakness (:9,12). The fact the people had been numbered (see the book of Numbers) showed that the promises of the seed becoming innumerable as the stars had not in fact been fully fulfilled. Moses wished for the fuller fulfilment to come; and we might detect in that wish a desire for the coming of the Messianic seed through whom alone that could happen. We can also conclude that there are degrees of fulfilment of the promises of the Kingdom, just as one star differs from another in glory, some reign over more cities than others. "Yahweh your God has multiplied you" (:10), but Moses wishes for more fulfilment.

Deu 1:12 How can I myself alone bear your encumbrance and your burden and your strife?-
Jethro had observed how stressed Moses was with the burdens of the people, and we get the sense that they were at constant strife amongst themselves. Moses' sense of inability to bear the effects of the sins of the people could be read as a desire for the Messianic figure who would bear those sins and their effects; which was to come to full term in the sin carrying of the Lord Jesus on the cross. For the "burden" was of sin (s.w. Ps. 38:4). These feelings of Moses were not of themselves to be read as frustration or weakness; for the same words are used of how God Himself was weary of bearing the "encumbrance" of His people (s.w. Is. 1:14). Moses was sharing God's feelings.

But Moses didn't respond to this burden as he might have done; for in frustration he asks God to slay him, as he just couldn't bear the "burden" of the people (s.w. Num. 11:11). God responded at that point by giving 70 Spirit endowed elders to assist Moses (Num. 11:16), and we can assume this was because the sharing of the "burden" with a system of many elders (as suggested by Jethro and as described in Dt. 1:13-16) hadn't worked. Because those men were themselves weak and unspiritual.

"Strife" specifically refers to legal arguments, which were common amongst the Israelites (s.w. Ex. 23:2,3,6; Dt. 17:8; 19:17; 21:5; 25:1). Paul's command not to take our brother to court is an appeal for us to not be like natural Israel in this matter. 

These are the words of Jethro in Ex. 18 "the thing is too heavy for you, you are not able to do it alone". His negative opinion of Moses' capabilities ["you are not able"] was absorbed by Moses and came to be felt by Moses. Yet now Moses looks back and sees what happened; he admits this weakness, and later in this chapter speaks of how Yahweh carried the people. He is recognizing that he ought to have believed that, rather than Jethro's opinion of him. And in any case, Jethro's suggested answer to Moses' weakness never worked out in practice and was replaced by the priestly system.  I discuss on Num. 11:11 how Jethro's words about "all this people" were clearly unduly on Moses' mind at this time. He was wrongly influenced by Jethro.

Deu 1:13 Take wise men of understanding and well known according to your tribes and I will make them heads over you-
As explained on :12, this system didn't really work. The 70 Spirit endowed elders had to be appointed.

Deu 1:14 You answered me and said, The thing which you have spoken is good to do-
The people liked the idea of a lay leadership, but it didn't really work. They were effectively rejecting the idea of direct Divine rule over them. It was the essence of their later desire for a human king and princes (Hos. 13:10), which was a rejection of God's rulership over them.

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-
This system didn't really work, because Moses again felt the burden was too great for him, and the 70 Spirit filled elders were appointed (Num. 11:16). But this too didn't really work; because in Dt. 17:11; 21:5 we seem to read of the priests effectively being the judges, under the direct control of Moses and Aaron.

We note Moses set "wise men and known", but this contrasts with the qualifications required by Jethro: "You shall provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God: men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them" (Ex. 18:21). Clearly there weren't that many qualified men to be judges, and so the system didn't work.

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-
We can deduce from this that one of the frequent causes for interpersonal strife was the tension between the "mixed multitude" and the Hebrews. But the entire community was to be accepted as the Israel of God. It was refusal to accept this which led to so much strife; just as happens today, due to a like rejection of the idea of all Christian believers being members of the same body of Christ.

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-
Moses repeated to them the various laws he had received on Sinai, as recorded in the Exodus record. Or the specific reference may be to the commandments given there about how to judge.

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-
"We travelled" may mean this is Moses addressing the new generation born in the wilderness. Likewise :20, "You have come to the hill country of the Amorites". For he is speaking 40 years after Israel left Egypt and the older generation were dead. So this journey from Horeb or Sinai could suggest that the people returned to Sinai, re-entered the covenant, and then journeyed to the promised land. The itinerary of Num. 33 would allow for this. It's as if God is starting over with His people; although Moses' criticisms of that new generation are significant. We get the impression of God trying and trying to forge a covenant relationship with the objects of His love, chosen by grace. And Moses / God appreciated how awful the wilderness was, just as He appreciates the difficulty of our path to His Kingdom. This journey was indeed through a terrible wilderness, full of aggressive snakes. It speaks of how terrible indeed is our journey after the experience of baptism / crossing the Red Sea. It was by God's grace alone they were preserved.

Deu 1:20 I said to you, You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which Yahweh our God gives to us-
The "mountain of the Amorites" could be a way of describing the land of Canaan. The following context seems to imply this because Israel send out spies into Canaan to assess how possible it was to take the land. Thereby they lacked faith in the simple statement that it was God's will to give them the Kingdom. We can fail to accept the simple implications of the same promise to us (Lk. 12:32). Hence GNB summarizes :20,21: "You have now come to the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God, the God of our ancestors, is giving us. Look, there it is. Go and occupy it as he commanded. Do not hesitate or be afraid".

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). "Afraid" can carry the idea of hesitation (as GNB). If they had entered immediately, in faith in God without feeling the need to send out spies, then victory would have been certain. Quick response, "yes straight away", is part of the life of faith. This is not reckless abandon, but the way of faith. So often the way of disbelief takes refuge behind all manner of delaying tactics which the flesh suggests to us, often in the name of wisdom and prudence.

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 Divine promise was that His angel would go ahead of them. But making use of this concession to weakness led them to the sin of believing the faithless spies. There is no easy way, no short cut to the Kingdom. The apparently easier ways are only harder.

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. They had been told not to hesitate but immediately enter the land (see on :21). 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". 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-
The idea seems to be as GNB "as far as Eshcol". Num. 13:24 explains: "That place was called the valley of Eshcol because of the cluster which the children of Israel cut down from there". The Hebrew word for "spied out" in Dt. 1:24 also means 'to slander' (s.w. 2 Sam. 19:27; Ps. 15:3). Their slander of the land was in that they misrepresented the strength of the people there, who were in fact fearful of the Israelites. They brought up an evil report of the land (Num. 13:32). 

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.

They brought up an evil report of the land (Num. 13:32), characterizing it as not "good" but "evil", as if inhabited by insuperable forces of cosmic evil. They disbelieved God's simple statement that He was bringing them a "good land" (Ex. 3:8), although here they accept on one level that it was true. Moses therefore repeatedly calls the land a "good land", denying their wrong idea that the land was inhabited by 'evil spirits' (Dt. 3:25; 4:21,22; 6:18; 8:7; 9:6; 11:17). We see here how belief in 'evil spirits' or 'demons' militated against their faith in God and His eagerness to give His good Kingdom to His people. That continues to be His "good pleasure" (Lk. 12:32) toward us, but like Israel, we are tempted to disbelieve this and allow our own perceptions and empirical conclusions to lead us away from simple faith in this.

If they had accepted the power of God, then whatever ‘adversary’ was in the land, in whatever form, was ultimately of no real power (Num. 13:32; 14:36; Dt. 1:25). And yet it was not God’s way to specifically tell the people that there was no such dragon lurking in the land of Canaan – instead He worked with them according to their fears, by making the earth literally open and swallow up the apostate amongst them (Num. 16:30) – emphasizing that by doing this, He was doing “a new thing”, something that had never been done before – for there was no dragon lurking in any land able to swallow up people. And throughout the prophets it is emphasized that God and not any dragon swallowed up people. “The Lord [and not any dragon] was as an enemy; He has swallowed up Israel” (Lam. 2:5 and frequently in the prophets). The people of Israel who left Egypt actually failed to inherit Canaan because they believed that it was a land who swallowed up the inhabitants of the land (Num. 13:32), relating this to the presence of giants in the land (Num. 13:33). As Joshua and Caleb pleaded with them, they needed to believe that whatever myths there were going around, God was greater than whatever mythical beast was there. And because they would not believe that, they failed to enter the land, which in type symbolized those who fail to attain that great salvation which God has prepared.

Deu 1:26 Yet you wouldn’t go up-
This of course applied to a generation previous to that whom Moses was addressing at this point. There are examples of where the individual Israelite had the actions of the body of Israel in the past imputed to him (Dt. 1:26; 5:2; 29:1). This isn’t ‘guilt by association’, but rather an example of the ineffable unity of all God’s people, wherever and whenever they lived, over time as well as over space. Thus the most lonely individual can read the historical records of God’s people in the past and feel a true sense of community with the people of God, knowing that these things are his very own personal legacy and spiritual inheritance.

But rebelled against the commandment of Yahweh your God-
We are left to imagine in what tone of voice Moses said that. Israel had rebelled against the commandment of Yahweh through disbelief, and therefore couldn't enter Canaan (Dt. 1:26; 9:7,23,24; 31:27; Num. 27:4); they were as the rebellious son who rebelled against his father's commandment (s.w. Dt. 21:18,20). For he himself had rebelled against the commandment of Yahweh and because of this was also barred from entering Canaan (Num. 20:24; 27:14). One reason for this was that he had called the Israelites "rebels" (Num. 20:10), and no sooner had he done so, than he himself rebelled against Yahweh's commandment just like them, but in a different way.

Verses 26-28 form the central point of the chiastic structure of Deuteronomy 1. The essence was that they refused the offer of the Kingdom:

A. go in and possess the land (vv. 6-8)
B. triumphs and multiplication of Israel (vv. 9-12)
C. wise leaders chosen (vv. 13-18)
D. go up and possess the land (vv. 19-21a)
E. do not fear the peoples (v. 21b)
F. request for spies (vv. 22-24)
G. good report of spies (v. 25)
H. BUT, you were not willing, you rebelled; you did not believe
(vv. 26-28)
-G'. evil report of spies (v. 28)
- F'. rejection of the spies (v. 28)
-E'. expressed fear of the peoples (v. 28)
-D'. land is withheld, and given to others (vv. 34-40)
-C'. foolish choice by the leaders (v. 41)
-B'. defeats and decrease of Israel (vv. 42-44)
-A'. do not go in and possess the land (vv. 42, 45, 46)

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). "In your tents" reflects how God judges apparently secret conversations and thoughts, muttered in the unspoken assumption of confidentiality or within human minds. Their words as stated here were likely their thoughts rather than their actual spoken words. But God counts thoughts as spoken words. Again we have highlighted the importance of being spiritually minded.

We marvel at how the passionate love of God for Israel at this time, falling in love with them and not beholding iniquity in Jacob, could be perceived now as hatred for Israel. It is a psychological classic, revealing the fickleness of the human mind when it is not firmly based in faith in God's stated words.

The bizarre claim that "Yahweh hates us" [perhaps they never said this, but their belief system implied it] means that their lack of faith influenced their theology. This often happens. Because a man had an angry and abusive father, and refuses to break free from that, he ends up believing God is like his father. Either God is very good, or very bad. We continually face that choice. As Paul puts it, we place God in the dock. He is either true, or a liar. Dt. 7:8 and elsewhere in Deuteronomy, Moses seeks to correct them by teaching them quite simply that God loves them and doesn't hate them: "it is because the Lord loves you, and is keeping the oath which he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out" (RSV). "Because He loved your fathers therefore He brought them out [of Egypt]" (Dt. 4:37) is Moses' answer to Israel's belief that it was because Yahweh hated Israel that He brought them out of Egypt (Dt. 1:27). This is the abiding challenge- do you feel God's huge love or not? And we see it above all in the cross, wherein "God so loved the world".

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.


The Israelites were aware of the existence of unusually large people – the Zamzumin, Zumin, Rephaim, Nephilim, Emim, and Anakim (Dt. 1:28; 2:10,11,20,21; 3:11). The bed of Og, King of Bashan, a Rephaim, was nine cubits long, over four meters (14 feet) – Dt. 3:11. In Canaanite mythology these giants came from intermarriage between human beings and the gods; but Moses in Genesis 6 is surely addressing this myth and correcting it. He’s saying (by implication) that this didn’t happen, but rather the Godly seed and the wicked intermarried; and yes, at that time, there were giants in the earth, but they were judged and destroyed by the flood, and the implication surely was that the Israel who first heard Moses’ inspired history could take comfort that the giants they faced in Canaan would likewise be overcome by God.

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.

We note that Moses in true humility doesn't mention his amazing intercession, which resulted in the anger of God being turned away in that He did not destroy Israel immediately: "I have pardoned according to your word" (Num. 14:20). Deuteronomy is after all autobiography, and yet Moses doesn't mention some of his finest spiritual moments. They remained between him and his God. And so it should be with us. Possibly Israel never knew how much they had been saved from by Moses' private intercession. Just as only in the Kingdom will we understand how much we were saved from, and how the Lord interceded for us to save us, without our knowledge.

This appears to be an offer of repentance, even at this very late stage. They decided not to enter Canaan, God says He will destroy them, Moses intercedes and this is changed; and now there is this offer to the condemned of a second chance. But they refuse it. They are then judged and told they will wander to death in the desert, and all too late they decide they want to be in the Kingdom. We get this by meshing this record with that in Numbers. Again we marvel at God's patient grace and desire to make it work with Israel. And this is such a theme of Deuteronomy. It was something Moses perceived in his maturity, and God's grace is something perceived likewise by all as they spiritually mature. "It's all of His grace" is a comment often heard in Christian old age facilities when you chat with the residents.

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-
God had 'gone before' Israel through the Angel which was to lead them through the desert (s.w. Ex. 23:23). But as with all religious but not spiritual people, they wanted a visible leader. And so when Moses apparently disappeared in the mountain, they demanded that gods be made to "go before us". It was only by grace that God responded that despite their apostacy, He would still "go before you" through the Angel (Ex. 32:34; 33:14). Even the Gentile world had more faith than Israel in this; they believed that Yahweh "went before" His people in an Angel (Num. 14:14). But Israel themselves at the time of the golden calf didn't believe that. Moses in his final speech therefore urges the people to believe that indeed the Angel was going before them (Dt. 1:30,33; 31:6,8).  

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-
This is again a reflection of repentance by Moses. For in Num. 11:12, we note the alternative reading of the LXX, quoted in Acts 13:18: "as a nursing father He [God] carried them in the wilderness". It was God who carried the people, but Moses had been trying to do it in his own strength, without sharing it fully with God; and so he had wrongly complained that God was unreasonably asking him to carry them, and in frustration and depression wanted God to kill him. We note how God is there likened to a woman, a nursing mother, of a very difficult infant child; although as God He is presented as a "father". In those days it was common for a wealthy woman to employ another woman to be a 'nursing mother' for her infant child. But God likens Himself to such a woman, or to a poor woman who couldn't afford to hire such a woman.  

Deu 1:32 Yet in this thing you didn’t believe Yahweh your God-
Heb. "In spite of this word" of grace, of a second chance; they refused to believe the word of God, preferring the word of a majority of "experts" with supposed first hand information. We see many similarities in the battle of faith today. Again Moses is quoting the words of his own condemnation, for not believing Yahweh his God (Num. 20:12). Disbelief in God was the reason Israel too were barred from entering Canaan (s.w. Dt. 1:32). When Moses reminded them of this, he was alluding to how he was in essence no better than them, having also been rejected from entering Canaan for disbelief (Num. 20:12 "Because you didn’t believe in Me... therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land"). So we wonder in what tone of voice he reminded them of this. For he appealed to them as a fellow sinner, in this sense no better than them. And this was the potential power of his appeal.

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-
The tragedy was and is that God has gone ahead of us to prepare a place in His Kingdom, in our case, that 'going ahead' three days journey referring to the Lord's death and resurrection. But they chose not to believe, and to instead believe the word of 'experts', the 10 spies, and to return to Egypt. 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 quarrelled was profitable to him (2 Tim. 4:11).

We note that Yahweh both "went before" them and yet also "carried" them as a father (:31). He is both with us and yet also in the future with us, taking care of our future.

Deu 1:34 Yahweh heard the voice of your words and was angry and swore saying-
As noted on Dt. 1:26,32, Moses is pointing up the similarities between himself and Israel. Yahweh was angry with him and barred him from entry to the land (Dt. 1:37; 4:21), just as He had been angry with Israel and barred them likewise (Dt. 1:34). He however became their representative, having sinned in essence as they had, but having found forgiveness.

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-
Time and again in the Biblical record, Abraham is held up as a very real example, in whose steps all God's people are to tread. For example, as Abraham was bidden leave Ur and go and "see" the "land" of promise which God would "give" him (Gen. 13:15), so the spies were told to go and "see" the "land" which God had "given" them (Num. 13:18; 32:8,9- the same three words as in the promises to Abraham)- yet they lacked the faith of Abraham to believe that really, they could possess that land. They did "see" the land, yet they were punished by being told that they would not now "see the land" (Num. 14:23; Dt. 1:35). They saw it, but they didn't "see" it with the eyes of Abraham. And so it can be with our vision of God's Kingdom. Remember that Moses was the author of both Genesis and Numbers- such connections aren't incidental. Moses wished the people to see themselves as going forward in the spirit of Abraham- and hence he wrote up the Genesis record for Israel's benefit an inspiration.


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.

Caleb was head of a household within the tribe of Judah. It could be argued that he was directly related to Judah through Hezron and Pharez (1 Chron. 2:5,18,25). But "Kenizzite" (also Num. 32:12) could refer to the Gentile tribe of Gen. 15:19; or to a man called Kenaz, memorialized by Caleb naming his son with that same name (1 Chron. 4:15). And Jud. 1:13 could mean that Caleb's father was called Kenaz. ‘Caleb’ means ‘dog’ in Hebrew, and God alludes to this in describing Caleb as His faithful follower (Num. 14:24). The intimacy between a man and his dog can be seen between God and His man. The genealogies are constructed in such a way that they don't preclude Caleb having been a Gentile who was fully accepted into the tribe of Judah.  

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-
See on :34. 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.

Ez. 20:38 says that the rebels in the wilderness “shall not enter into the land”, with reference to how when Moses called the people “rebels” and beat the rock, he was disallowed entry into the land. Because he called them rebels, i.e. unworthy of entry to the Kingdom, he also was treated as a rebel. If we condemn others, we likewise will be condemned. On another level, he was simply barred for disobedience; and on yet another, his prayer to the effect that he didn’t want to be in the land if his people weren’t going to be there was being answered; and on yet another and higher level, his offer to be blotted out of the book of inheritance for Israel’s sake was also being heard. Thus God works within the same incident in so many ways!

We can also conclude that Moses even at the end of his life failed to appreciate the real significance of his sin. He still chafed at the perceived injustice. He repeatedly claims that he was barred from the land because of Israel's sin- it was their fault (Dt. 1:37; 3:26; 4:21). Just as so many come to their graveplanks imperfect and still not accepting the full import of their failures, still blaming others, and repeating the internal narrative that "I'm just a victim and it wasn't fair". Right up to a man's graveplanks. But even that will not ultimately exclude Moses from final salvation. But we do observe how such internal narratives are indeed powerful and hard to shift. We reflect that Moses lived a long life for his time, 120 years, with the added blessing of no decline of his natural faculties. He surely ought to have been grateful for that. But he doesn't appear to have been, because he was so fixated on what he saw as the injustice of his not being allowed to physically enter the land- the land which in any case he would eternally inherit. We might also ponder whether he ought not to have appreciated more that his not entering the land was in fact what he had offered to God, in order that Israel might enter. For he had asked that his name be removed from the book, and Ez. 13:9  speaks of the book of all those who enter the land: "neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel". So to be blotted out from that writing or book was to not enter the land. So his request was answered, using his own failure and judgment for it. But he doesn't seem to want to see ahead to that. In all this we see a man coming to his end still spiritually imperfect and with residual failings, to the point that God was "angry" with Moses for trying to keep changing the judgment on him (Dt. 3:26)- just as there will be in each of us, and also in the personalities of those we live with in Christ.

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-
This 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. Or we can understand that Joshua through his military victories indeed 'caused' Israel to inherit the Kingdom, but they failed to make good on his work. Exactly as in the case of his namesake, the Lord Jesus.  

Deu 1:39 Moreover your little ones, whom you said should be a prey-
This is a classic example of "But think of the children!" being used as an excuse for personal lack of faith and commitment. In fact it was their little ones whom they were hurting, and condemning them to wasting much of their lives wandering in the desert as a result of their parents' sins and unbelief.

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-
What were the motives of Adam and Eve for sinning, for accepting the serpent's suggestion? Considering this can help open a window onto the question of the origin of Adam's sin. They were attracted by the idea of "knowing good and evil". But this phrase is elsewhere used in the Bible about how an adult 'knows good and evil', but a child can't (Dt. 1:39; 2 Sam. 19:35; Is. 7:16). Adam and Eve were immature; like children, they wished to 'grow up', they resented the restraints which their immaturity required them to be under; they wanted, just as children want, to be the all-knowing adults / mature people whom they had seen the Elohim as. As children long to escape from what they see as meaningless and onerous restrictions, whilst having no idea what this would really mean in practice and how un-free it would really be- so Adam and Eve were attracted by the idea of having the knowledge of good and evil just for the bite of the forbidden fruit. I find this a perfectly understandable explanation of the motive for Adam and Eve's sin. It seems a quite imaginable exercise of the freedom of choice and behaviour which God had given them. There is no hint that 'Satan made them do it', or that they were 'possessed' by some sinful spirit.

Deu 1:40 But as for you, turn, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea-
This looks ahead to the terrible sending away of the rejected from the judgment seat at the last day. "Turn" is s.w. "turn away". They had turned away from God in their time of opportunity, and often wished to return to Egypt. And so it was appropriate for them to be told to return / turn away from the Kingdom. Condemnation is really self chosen, and will be a living out of the decisions already taken by the condemned. Truly "we make the answer now"; the essence of judgment is now. The rejected will be "condemned with the world", simply sent back into the world they so loved, as Israel were sent back on the route to the Red Sea. And this will be what the weeping and gnashing of teeth will be all about, anger with themselves.

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-
They recognized they had "sinned", but it was just a passing flush of conscience, just as Saul and Pharaoh used the same phrase but without meaning in the words. Their sin was that of disbelief; and so it was inappropriate for them to now talking of going up with weapons to "fight" for entry to the land in their own strength. We must enquire whether our own 'repentance' is likewise just a passing feeling of bad conscience. For if they had perceived in what they had sinned, i.e. in the matter of faith, then they would have realized that all talk of weapons and fighting was inappropriate.

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’-
Moses had pleaded so strongly for Yahweh to "go among" them. He realized that those prayers had been answered at the time, but not ultimately. The Angel in the pillar of cloud had already turned away into the wilderness, and was not going to go up before them into Canaan. We must compare this "I am not among you" with the other scriptures which speak of Him "carrying" them as a baby (:31) and continually caring for them. So "not among you" must mean that His 'presence amongst' His people carries with it the idea of working with them in their endeavours, positively confirming them in their path. But even when He cannot do this, He has not abandonned us and still carries us, kicking and struggling, as best He can given our freewill choices and His respect for that freewill.

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), just as the rejected, wandering Cain lived eastward of Eden, and the barred entrance to the garden was on the east. Our ultimate destiny is to stand before the Lord wanting to enter His Kingdom with every fiber 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-
It was as if the Israelites had knocked the bee hive, and provoked the bees to attack them; hence the Amorites chased Israel "as bees do" (Dt. 1:44). The hornet had been sent ahead of Israel to as it were chase out the Amorites; but now it was as if this was reversed, and they chased the Israelites. For in their hearts they were no better than the Amorites. LXX "from Seir".

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).  They "returned", i.e. repented- but only in the sense of re-thinking and wanting a changed outcome. There is no confession of sin, nor recognition that their sin consisted of unbelief. As Paul argues in 2 Cor., there is "Godly repentance" and on the other hand, the sorrow / repentance of the world which all the same leads to death. We must therefore enquire whether our repentance is sincere, or just mere regret.

Those rejected by God at His judgment still desperately want to enter His Kingdom (Mt. 25:11). In that day of final judgment, all present will desperately want only one thing- to enter the Kingdom. Nothing else will matter. We should have that spirit with us now.

The laboured emphasis in Dt. 1:45 that Yahweh did not listen nor give ear must be compared with Moses' insistence in Dt. 4:7: "Who is such a great nation, to whom there is a god so near as Yahweh our God in all our calling to him?". The contrast is intentional. The tragedy is being taught- that He was so eager to hear, but their refusal to trust Him meant that He did not hear them when they begged to be allowed to enter the Kingdom / promised land. He indeed is amazingly eager to hear and respond to those who truly want to be in His Kingdom. But He doesn't hear the vain words of those who in their hearts turned back to Egypt. Beyond dispute, therefore, God's love and responsiveness is conditional. Salvation is not on half hearted demand.

Deu 1:46 So you stayed in Kadesh many days, according to the days that you remained-
The ecclesia in the wilderness were ‘types of us’. They were rejected from entry into the Kingdom; and when that finally sunk in, they “returned [s.w. convert, turn back] and wept before the Lord; but the Lord would not hearken to your voice” (Dt. 1:45). The rejected will “return [s.w. convert] at evening: they make a noise like a dog [whining for acceptance], and go round about the city [cp. the foolish virgins knocking on the closed door]” (Ps. 59:6,14). Nobody will be indifferent at the final judgment. All will desperately seek to enter the Kingdom; and we must realize that now. Like Israel at this point, they will not want to return to Egypt [the world], but will be unable to enter the Kingdom. It will be an unbearable limbo, of weeping and gnashing of teeth. The descriptions of condemnation in figurative language all refer to this awful psychological anguish. Knowing the terror of the Lord, we are to persuade men now, to in faith go ahead and inherit the Kingdom.

Kadesh Barnea (cp. :2) is literally 'the wilderness of wandering '. The same word for wandering is used of Cain being a fugitive unable to die (Gen. 4:12), Israel wandering in the desert (Num. 32:13), the rejected outside of Zion wandering around like dogs looking for food (Ps. 59:15), Israel wander amongst the nations (Am. 9:9), the rejected wander like staggering drunks (Is. 29:9). But the pointless existence of the rejected will reflect the kind of pointless life they lived now. It is used of how Judah wandered aimlessly like blind men, from idol to idol, this passion to that (Jer. 14:10; Lam. 4:14).