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Deuteronomy: Chapter 1

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Text view alone

1These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan.— a The rest of this verse and v. 2 are unclear; cf. v. 19 and Num. 33.16–36 . Through the wilderness, in the Arabah near Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Di‐zahab,2it is eleven days from Horeb to Kadesh‐barnea by the Mount Seir route.—3It was in the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, that Moses addressed the Israelites in accordance with the instructions that the LORD had given him for them, 4 after he had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and King Og of Bashan, who dwelt at Ashtaroth [and b Cf. Josh. 12.4; 13.12, 31 . ] Edrei. 5 On the other side of the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this Teaching. He said:

6The LORD our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying: You have stayed long enough at this mountain. 7 Start out and make your way to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, the hill country, the Shephelah, a Others “Lowland.” the Negeb, the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, b I.e., Phoenicia. and the Lebanon, as far as the Great River, the river Euphrates. 8 See, I place the land at your disposal. Go, take possession of the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to assign to them and to their heirs after them.

9Thereupon I said to you, “I cannot bear the burden of you by myself. 10 The LORD your God has multiplied you until you are today as numerous as the stars in the sky.—11 May the LORD, the God of your fathers, increase your numbers a thousand fold, and bless you as He promised you.—12 How can I bear unaided the trouble of you, and the burden, and the bickering! 13 Pick from each of your tribes men who are wise, discerning, and experienced, and I will appoint them as your heads.” 14 You answered me and said, “What you propose to do is good.” 15 So I took your tribal leaders, wise and experienced men, and appointed them heads over you: chiefs of thousands, chiefs of hundreds, chiefs of fifties, and chiefs of tens, and officials for your tribes. 16 I charged your magistrates at that time as follows, “Hear out your fellow men, and decide justly between any man and a fellow Israelite or a stranger. 17 You shall not be partial in judgment: hear out low and high alike. Fear no man, for judgment is God's. And any matter that is too difficult for you, you shall bring to me and I will hear it.” 18 Thus I instructed you, at that time, about the various things that you should do.

19We set out from Horeb and traveled the great and terrible wilderness that you saw, along the road to the hill country of the Amorites, as the LORD our God had commanded us. When we reached Kadesh‐barnea, 20 I said to you, “You have come to the hill country of the Amorites which the LORD our God is giving to us. 21 See, the LORD your God has placed the land at your disposal. Go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you. Fear not and be not dismayed.”

22Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to reconnoiter the land for us and bring back word on the route we shall follow and the cities we shall come to.” 23 I approved of the plan, and so I selected twelve of your men, one from each tribe. 24 They made for the hill country, came to the wadi Eshcol, and spied it out. 25 They took some of the fruit of the land with them and brought it down to us. And they gave us this report: “It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving to us.”

26Yet you refused to go up, and flouted the command of the LORD your God. 27 You sulked a Precise meaning of Heb. uncertain. in your tents and said, “It is because the LORD hates us that He brought us out of the land of Egypt, to hand us over to the Amorites to wipe us out. 28 b‐ Lit. “Where.” What kind of place ‐b Lit. “Where.” are we going to? Our kinsmen have taken the heart out of us, saying, ‘We saw there a people stronger and taller than we, large cities with walls sky‐high, and even Anakites.'‐”

29I said to you, “Have no dread or fear of them. 30 None other than the LORD your God, who goes before you, will fight for you, just as He did for you in Egypt before your very eyes, 31 and in the wilderness, where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you traveled until you came to this place. 32 Yet for all that, you have no faith in the LORD your God, 33 who goes before you on your journeys—to scout the place where you are to encamp—in fire by night and in cloud by day, in order to guide you on the route you are to follow.”

34When the LORD heard your loud complaint, He was angry. He vowed: 35 Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers—36 none except Caleb son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and his descendants will I give the land on which he set foot, because he remained loyal to the LORD.

37Because of you the LORD was incensed with me too, and He said: You shall not enter it either. 38 Joshua son ofNun, who attends you, he shall enter it. Imbue him with strength, for he shall allot it to Israel. 39 Moreover, your little ones who you said would be carried off, your children who do not yet know good from bad, they shall enter it; to them will I give it and they shall possess it. 40 As for you, turn about and march into the wilderness by the way of the Sea of Reeds.

41You replied to me, saying, “We stand guilty before the LORD. We will go up now and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.” And you all girded yourselves with war gear and recklessly a Meaning of Heb. uncertain. started for the hill country. 42 But the LORD said to me, “Warn them: Do not go up and do not fight, since I am not in your midst; else you will be routed by your enemies.” 43 I spoke to you, but you would not listen; you flouted the LORD's command and willfully marched into the hill country. 44 Then the Amorites who lived in those hills came out against you like so many bees and chased you, and they crushed you at Hormah in Seir. 45 Again you wept before the LORD; but the LORD would not heed your cry or give ear to you.


a The rest of this verse and v. 2 are unclear; cf. v. 19 and Num. 33.16–36 .

b Cf. Josh. 12.4; 13.12, 31 .

a Others “Lowland.”

b I.e., Phoenicia.

a Precise meaning of Heb. uncertain.

b‐b Lit. “Where.”

a Meaning of Heb. uncertain.

Text Commentary view alone

1.1–4.43 :

The first discourse of Moses. This first of Deuteronomy's three discourses has two subsections: an historical retrospective ( 1.6–3.29 ) and a sermon on the importance of obeying Torah ( 4.1–40 ). An editorial headnote ( 1.1–5 ) and appendix ( 4.41–43 ) frame the discourse.

1.1–5 :

Editorial headnote. Refers to Moses in the third person, attributes the book to him, and locates the bookhistorically and geographically.

1 :

On the other side of the Jordan, designating the land east of the Jordan River (Transjordan), where the Israelites have stopped, awaiting entry to the land. That geographical frame of reference places the speaker west of the Jordan and thus already in Canaan. According to the narrative line, however, the Israelites have not yet reached the promised land and Moses never does. From this and similar anachronisms, a small number of medieval Jewish commentators already recognized that not all of the Torah could be attributed to Moses (see also 2.12 n.; 3.11 n. ); this is the modern consensus as well. The Arabah, the rift valley that includes the Jordan River and stretches south from the Dead Sea through Eilat and the Red Sea into Africa. The places mentioned cannot be identified with certainty.

2 :

Eleven days implies a scathing indictment of the nation. As a result of their rebellion in the desert (Num. chs 13–14 ), it actually took them thirty‐eight years, eight months, and twenty days to reach this point after they first broke camp (Num. 10.11 ). Horeb (Exod. 3.1; 17.6; 33.6 ) is Deuteronomy's term for the mount of revelation. “(Mount) Sinai,” in contrast, is the more standard term used by the Yahwistic and Priestly writers elsewhere in the Torah (see Exod. 19.11; 34.29 ); it occurs in Deut‐ eronomy only at 33.2 .


Num. 21.21–35.

5 :

Expound seems intentionally ambiguous about whether Moses here proclaims new religious teachings, not previously heard, or simply explicates material already proclaimed. This Teaching, lit. “this torah” ( 4.8, 44; 27.3, 8, 26; 28.58, 61; 29.20, 28; 30.10; 31.9, 11, 12; 32.46 ). The word designates not only the combination of ritual, civil, family, and ethical law found in chs 12–26, but also the religious instructions of chs 5–11. Here, as elsewhere in Deuteronomy, the reference is not to the entire Torah, but specifically to Deuteronomy itself.


Historical review. Moses rehearses the exodus, revelation at Horeb, and rebellion in the desert for the generation who arose after these events and did not directly witness them, so that they may understand what brought them to the present moment. At a number of points, this narrative diverges from that of Exodus‐Numbers.

6 :

The original of the divine command quoted has not been preserved (cf. Num. ch 10 ).


Amorites, as at Gen. 15.16, seems to be used generically for the family of nations who are the original inhabitants of Canaan, rather than technically to designate one of those nations (contrast Gen. 15.19–21; Exod. 3.8, 17 ). The Shephelah is the region of foothills between the hill country on the east and the seacoast on the west. The Negeb is the semi‐arid region south of the hill country. Great River: The ideal borders of the Israelite empire extended to the Euphrates (Gen. 15.18 ), the northern limit of David's conquests (2 Sam. 8.3 ).

8 :

See…at your disposal: With this binding oral proclamation, God symbolically displays the land and transfers its legal title to Israel (similarly, Gen. 13.14–15 ).


Leadership institutionalized. This account combines and reinterprets two previous accounts of the creation of a military‐judicial system to share the burden of leadership (compare vv. 9–12 with Num. 11.14–17 and vv. 13–17 with Exod. 18.13–27 ). This new version places the institutionalization of leadership after the departure from Sinai rather than before it and omits the important advisory role of Jethro, the non‐Israelite (contrast Exod. ch 18 ).


Stars in the sky, thus fulfilling the promises to the ancestors (Gen. 15.5; 22.17; 26.4; Exod. 32.13 ).


God of your fathers: Deuteronomy's normal phrase is “the LORD your/our God” (i.e., vv. 6, 10, 19–21; 6.1, 4, 10 ). This departure from that formula ties this new generation to its past by recalling God's earlier promises (Gen. 26.24; 32.10; Exod. 3.6 ).


Wise (contrast Exod. 18.21 ), an attribute regularly stressed by Deuteronomy ( 4.6; 32.29 ), suggesting the influence of wisdom literature upon its authors. Experienced, lit. “knowing,” con‐ tinuing the emphasis upon wisdom as a criterion for leadership.


Stranger, better, “resident alien,” a legal term that refers to the non‐Israelite who lives in the community without title to land and who is therefore economically vulnerable. Deuteronomy insists upon a single law that applies to Israelite and non‐Israelite alike ( 5.14; 10.18–19; 14.29; 16.11; 24.14, 17, 19–21 ).


Similarly, 16.18–20.


From Horeb to Kadesh: A retelling, with significant variations, of the spies' reconnaissance of the land (Num. ch 13 ), the people's complaining of God's inability to fulfill the promises made to Israel's ancestors (Num. 14.1–38 ), and the abortive attempt to penetrate Canaan from the south despite the divine command not to do so (Num. 14.39–45; cf. 21.1–3 ).


Anakites, see Num. 13.22, 33 n.


Exod. 14.14.


Fireʾcloud, see Exod. 13.21–22 n.


See Num. 14.28–30.

37 :

Here Moses is not punished for his own sin (contrast Num. 20.10–13; 27.12–23). Instead, the narrator presents Moses as innocent and as vicariously bearing the punishment due Israel for its sin (see 3.24–28 ).

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