Deuteronomy 1 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Deuteronomy 1
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers









I. Analysis of the book.—Before entering into any discussion as to style, authorship, or particular difficulties, it is absolutely indispensable to have clearly before us the structure of the book in its present shape.

The book of Deuteronomy consists of—

(a) A TITLE (Deuteronomy 1:1-5, inclusive). This title is twofold, and states (1) that these words were spoken to all Israel by Moses between Sinai and Kadesh-barnea, in view of their first attempt at the conquest of Canaan; (2) that all this Law was declared (i.e., apparently redelivered and written; see Note on Deuteronomy 1:5) in the eleventh month of the fortieth year, immediately before they actually entered the country, and after Sihon and Og had already been overcome.

(b) AN INTRODUCTORY DISCOURSE (Deuteronomy 1:6; Deuteronomy 4:40 inclusive), followed by the appointment of three cities of refuge on the eastern side of Jordan, in the territory conquered by Moses. In this discourse Moses reviews Israel’s journey from Sinai to the banks of Jordan, for the purpose of exhortation, dwelling upon those points only which bear directly on the enterprise in prospect—the passage of Jordan, the conquest of the seven nations, and the position of the chosen people in the promised land.

(c) THE DEUTERONOMY PROPER, or repetition of the law (Deuteronomy 4:44 to end of 28).

This contains—

(1)A title (Deuteronomy 4:44-49).

(2)Repetition of the Decalogue (Deuteronomy 5).

(3)Its Exposition, and this

(α)generally, as creating a certain relation between the people of Israel and their God, who had given them this law (Deuteronomy 6-11).

(β)which God was giving them. This land is considered

(1)As the seat of the worship of Jehovah (Deuteronomy 12:1 to Deuteronomy 16:17).

(ii)As the seat of His kingdom (Deuteronomy 16:18 to end of 18).

(3)As the sphere of operation of certain particular rules of person, property, society, and behaviour (Deuteronomy 19 to end of 26).

(4) Its Enactment, as the law of the land of promise, written on Mount Ebal, and enforced by blessings and cursings (Deuteronomy 27).

(5) Its Sanction in Israel, for all time, by a most tremendous denunciation of rewards and penalties, in force even to this day (Deuteronomy 28).

(d) THE SECOND COVENANT, which is to follow the Sinaitic covenant, and to redeem Israel from its curse, “the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which He made with them in Horeb (Deuteronomy 29, 30)

(e) CONCLUSION. Moses’s resignation of his charge to Joshua. Delivery of the law to the priests and elders, and of the book to the Levites (Deuteronomy 31). Moses’s last song (Deuteronomy 32), blessing (Deuteronomy 33), and death (Deuteronomy 34)

Hebrew Divisions of Deuteronomy.

The Jews have divided Deuteronomy into eleven portions, for reading in the synagogue. Seven of these comprise Deuteronomy 1:1 to Deuteronomy 29:8. The other four follow the chapters, viz., Deuteronomy 29:9 to end of 30, Deuteronomy 31, Deuteronomy 32, and lastly, Deuteronomy 33, 34.

The first seven portions are of an average length of six columns in Bagster’s Polyglot Bible. In no instance do they appear to mark any important logical division of the book, except in the case of that portion which begins with “judges and officers” (Deuteronomy 16:18). The companion lessons from the prophets are chiefly from Isaiah. Each division is named from its opening words in Hebrew. The complete list is given below.

1.D’barim, “The words,” Deuteronomy 1:1.

2.Va-ethchannan, “And I besought,” Deuteronomy 3:23.

3.‘Ekeb, “Because” (if), chap Deuteronomy 7:12.

4.R’eh, “Behold,” Deuteronomy 11:26.

5.Shôph’tim, “Judges,” Deuteronomy 16:18.

6.Thetzê, “Thou goest forth,” Deuteronomy 21:10.

7.Thâbo, “Thou comest in,” Deuteronomy 26:1.

8.Ni-tzâbim, “Standing,” Deuteronomy 29:8.

9.Vay-yêlek, “And went,” Deuteronomy 31:1.

10. Hâazînu, “Hear,” Deuteronomy 32:1.

11. V’zôth hab-berâkah, “And this is the blessing,” Deuteronomy 33:1.

The distinction between the covenants in Deuteronomy 28, 29 has been obliterated by this division.

Further analysis of the specific enactments of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 12-26.

As these chapters have been recently made the subject of special criticism with a view to show that they stand apart from the rest of Deuteronomy and belong to a much later period than the Exodus, a special analysis and examination of their contents is given below.

The first thing that appears in these enactments of Deuteronomy is that all alike are laws of holiness. The principle is, “Ye shall be holy for I am holy.”

Secondly, they are laws of holiness for the land of Canaan regarded as the abode of Jehovah and His people. And the land is considered

(1)As the seat of the worship of Jehovah (Deuteronomy 12:1 to Deuteronomy 16:17 inclusive). Here it is enacted that every monument of idolatry must be destroyed (Deuteronomy 12:2-4). The place of sacrifice and national worship must be chosen by Jehovah (Deuteronomy 12:5-14). What must be sacrificed and eaten there, and what may be slain and eaten elsewhere (Deuteronomy 12:15-28). Abolition of all idolatrous rites (Deuteronomy 12:29-32). Utter extermination of all prophets or promoters of idolatry (Deuteronomy 13). Personal purity of Jehovah’s worshippers, and especially from unclean animals in food (Deuteronomy 14:1-21). The second tithe, the holy food that either they or their poor must eat before Him (Deuteronomy 14:22-29). The poor law of His holy land (Deuteronomy 15:1-18). Law of firstlings (arising out of the Exodus) (Deuteronomy 15:19-23); and the three great feasts, beginning with the passover (Deuteronomy 16:1-17).

(2)As the seat of the kingdom of Jehovah (Deuteronomy 16:18 to end of 18). Judges and officers in every city, to judge justly (Deuteronomy 16:18-20). No secret rites or images allowed therein (Deuteronomy 16:21-22). No unclean victims to be offered (Deuteronomy 17:1). “Offer it now unto thy governor, will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person?” (Malachi 1:8). No idolaters to live (Deuteronomy 17:2-7). The written law to be supreme, whether with priest or judge or king; and the requirements of the kingdom (Deuteronomy 17:8-20). The requirements of the priest (Deuteronomy 18:1-5); of the Levite (Deuteronomy 18:6-8). No consultation with familiar spirits and no hidden arts to be permitted, but the Prophet to be above all (Deuteronomy 18:15-22).

Obviously these two sections delineate the constitution of Israel in two aspects, as a church, and as a state. These were not separated under the theocracy. From these two aspects of the land of Israel arise the following laws, namely:—

(3)Laws concerning the Person in the Land of Jehovah.—Cities of refuge for the manslayer (Deuteronomy 19:1-10); punishment of the murderer (Deuteronomy 19:11-13); landmarks (Deuteronomy 19:14); witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15-21); laws of warfare (Deuteronomy 20); undiscovered homicide (Deuteronomy 21:1-9); captive women (Deuteronomy 21:10-14); the firstborn’s birthright (Deuteronomy 21:15-17); the incorrigible son in Israel (Deuteronomy 21:18-21); the death penalty and the Divine image (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).

N.B.—It is remarkable how the precept given to Noah, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made he man,” embraces both the first and last laws of this section.

(4)Laws concerning Property in the Land of Jehovah.—Lost property (Deuteronomy 22:1-4); distinction of dress for the sexes (Deuteronomy 22:5); the bird’s nest and its rights (Deuteronomy 22:6-7); the house (Deuteronomy 22:8); the vineyard (Deuteronomy 22:9); the plough (Deuteronomy 22:10); the clothing (Deuteronomy 22:11); and, lastly, the memorial fringe, by which to remember all the commandments of Jehovah (Deuteronomy 22:12, and comp. Numbers 15:37-41).

N.B.—The appropriateness of this precept, as closing a section, will be manifest on consideration.

(5) Laws concerning the Conjugal Relations of God’s People (Deuteronomy 22:13-30).

N.B.—Again it should be observed how the last verse of this chapter recalls the principle of Leviticus 18:6, &c.

(6) Laws concerning the Purity of the Congregation of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:1-8). For the sequence of (5) and (6) comp. Matthew 19:1-15.

(7) Laws concerning the Purity of the Camp in war (Deuteronomy 23:9-14).

(8) Divers Laws of Holiness, to preserve the Land of Jehovah as a Land of Humanity, Purity, and Truth.—Humanity to escaped slaves (Deuteronomy 23:15-16); purity from fornication and other deadly sin (Deuteronomy 23:17); “Without are dogs and whoremongers” (Deuteronomy 23:18); no usury (Deuteronomy 23:19-20); fidelity in vows (Deuteronomy 23:21-23); the right of wayfarers (Deuteronomy 23:24-25); conjugal fidelity (Deuteronomy 24:1-4); domestic felicity (Deuteronomy 24:5); humanity to the poor and friendless and fatherless (Deuteronomy 24:6-22), and to criminals (Deuteronomy 25:1-3), and to beasts (Deuteronomy 25:4), and to the childless dead, and to their widows (Deuteronomy 25:5-10), and in quarrels (Deuteronomy 25:11-12); honesty in trade (Deuteronomy 25:13-16); the cruel race of Amalek—the embodiment of inhumanity in Scripture—to be exterminated (Deuteronomy 25:17-18).

N.B.—With this section compare the miscellaneous precepts of Leviticus 19. The land and its inhabitants are hallowed, and we are told at last who “shall in no wise enter therein.” The precepts in this section would supply a complete parallel to Revelation 22:15 : “Without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers . . . and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”

(9) The Services of Thanksgiving for the Inheritance given to Israel, which are prescribed in Deuteronomy 26. appropriately conclude this portion.

We are now in a position to discuss a further important question, namely—

II. The Date of the Deuteronomy.—The question, in its most recent aspect, especially concerns the portion we have just analysed—“the statutes and judgments” of Deuteronomy 12-25. The earlier and later portions of the book are admitted to be the work of Moses. But an attempt has been made to separate these specific enactments from the remainder of the book. It is maintained that these “statutes and judgments” are the product (a) of Israel’s maturity in Palestine, or rather of that period of national decay which resulted in the Babylonish captivity, or (b) of the restoration. The age of Jeremiah, or Ezekiel, or Ezra, has been suggested as the source of these precepts. Their position in Deuteronomy is ascribed to the hand of a later editor, who is said to have incorporated them with the work of Moses, and completed the Pentateuch in its present shape.

It is true that this theory does not require us to contradict a series of sentences such as “The Lord spake unto Moses, saying,” which we find prefixed to Mosaic enactments in the earlier books. The name of Moses does not occur in Deuteronomy 12-26. But these statutes and judgments are incorporated in the book as part of Moses’ exhortation; and he speaks in the first person in Deuteronomy 18:17 : “The Lord said unto me, They have well said that which they have spoken.” The portion opens with the words of Moses, in language that can bear no later date: “Ye are not yet come unto the rest and to the inheritance, which the Lord your God giveth you.” There is as yet no selected seat of worship. And it closes with words spoken in the name of Jehovah while Israel is still in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 26:1), and entering into covenant with Jehovah there (Deuteronomy 26:16-19). Thus we have Moses in Deuteronomy 12, 18, 26. The analysis already given shows the perfect unity and order of the whole portion. Where are the items that belong to a later date? By whose authority were they incorporated with the Mosaic code?

A code like this admits of being regarded in three different aspects. Two of them would belong to it more especially as the work of Moses; the third would have little importance in his hands, but would be essential in the view of those who ascribe these enactments to a later date. The law given here may be regarded (1) As an Ideal Code or Standard of Behaviour; (2) As a Prophetical Code, a Picture of a State of Things yet to be; (3) As a Practical Code, an Outcome or Expression of the Aspirations of a People at a certain Period of History.

Of these three, the (1) ideal and (2) prophetical code are almost necessarily the work of an individual working under the inspiration of a Higher Power. The code, regarded as (3) an expression of national taste and will, adjusts itself to the theory and practice of a certain age, and will never be far in advance of the actual morality of the period which gives it birth. To which of these three views do the statutes and judgments of Deuteronomy most easily adjust themselves? If the two first are prominent, we shall have obtained a strong presumption in favour of the Mosaic authorship, other things being supposed consistent therewith. If, on the other hand, the Deuteronomic code seems rather to reflect the practice of the people in later times, the presumption will be, so far, in favour of the modern theory to which we have alluded above.

Let us test the code in Deuteronomy in each of these three aspects. And let us take the last of the three first.


We have seen that the first section of the code (Deuteronomy 12:1 to Deuteronomy 16:17 ) contemplates the land of Israel as the seat of the worship of Jehovah; the second section (Deuteronomy 16:18, to end of Deuteronomy 18) contemplates it as the seat of His Kingdom. The remainder of the code gives rules of behaviour in detail—the laws of person, property, and relation among His people. To what period of history will these rules adjust themselves?

In the first section, the seat of worship is as yet not fixed. There is to be a “place” which Jehovan shall choose, but it is not yet chosen. The distance of this place from the borders of Israel is matter of uncertainty. The extent of the conquest is undefined. The abominations of Canaanitish idolatry are still unexplored by Israel. They are not known hitherto. The strictness of the enactments against idolatrous prophets and teachers is beyond anything ever heard of in practice, and is still matter of prophecy in the return from the exile (see Zechariah 13:2-3). Nothing like it, if we except the consternation occasioned by the erection of the altar Ed (Josh. xxii), is discernable in the general feeling of the nation of Israel—not only until after the exile, but even until after the close of the Old Testament. The law of release is named by Jeremiah only as being broken, and is by him expressly ascribed to the period of the Exodus ( Jeremiah 34:13). The three great feasts are to be celebrated annually, in the place which the Lord shall choose; but we are not told where.

All this is perfectly consistent with the standpoint of Moses “in the plains of Moab, by Jordan near Jericho.” But it is not easy to discover any other period which would suggest it, or even in which it would be intelligible. What writer of later date could so wholly ignore Shiloh, or Jerusalem, or Gerizim, or Samaria? Granting the possibility, with what purpose could he take such a view? Must not the alternative be between the Mosaic authorship and deliberate forgery?

I have never been able to realise the discrepancy regarding the place of sacrifice, which is alleged by some, between the rule of Exodus 20 on the one hand, and that of Deuteronomy 12 on the other. The choice of Jehovah makes the seat of worship in either passage. The seat of national worship will be (it is intimated) “in one of thy tribes.” But this does not preclude the acceptance by Jehovah of an occasional sacrifice in another place. The point is that He, and not the worshipper, must in every instance select that place. The nations worshipped where they would. Israel must “not do so unto the Lord their God.” (See Notes on Deuteronomy 12 for more on this subject.) We may say that in point of fact there was an intimate connection between the religious and political unity of Israel. Before the seat of government and religion was firmly established at Jerusalem, and while the country was still unsettled and disturbed, we find that sacrifices were accepted by Jehovah in various places, as from Gideon at Ophrah, from Manoah at Zorah, from Samuel at Bethlehem and elsewhere. Again, after the disruption, Elijah offered on Carmel—Jerusalem, from the nature of the case, being inaccessible to Israel. But when the kingdom of Samaria was perishing in the reign of Hezekiah, and still more when it had passed away in the reign of Josiah, these kings rightly exerted their authority to centralise the national worship, to which political disunion was no longer any bar.

Or let us take the second section of the code, in which the land of Israel is regarded as the seat of the government of Jehovah (Deuteronomy 16:18, to end of 18). The establishment of local courts of justice is ordered. We cannot conceive that Israel remained without them until the exile. In fact the “judges and officers” of Deuteronomy 16:18 were already appointed in the time of Joshua, and were summoned by him to the assembly which he convened before his death (Joshua 23:2). The presence of famous judges, kings, or prophets, may have occasionally fostered a tendency to over centralize the administration of justice (see 1 Samuel 8:1-3; 2 Samuel 15:4), but we cannot conceive the establishment of local courts, or the promulgation of Jethro’s admonitions against bribery (see Notes on Deuteronomy 16:19) as having been deferred until the exile or the return. The enactment against groves and pillars (enforced by Joshua, Deuteronomy 23, upon these judges and officers) is not likely to have originated at a time when altars of Baal were as numerous as the very streets. The fact that Hezekiah and Josiah (almost alone in all history) were found to carry out the instructions of Deuteronomy will not prove that these instructions originated with them. That their work was done in the face of popular feeling is clear from the immediate restoration of idolatry by Manasseh, and by the successors of Josiah. The code against idolatry was certainly not the expression of popular feeling at that date.

It is noticeable that twice over in Deuteronomy 13 it is enacted that the teacher of idolatry shall be put to death “because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 13:10). No later deliverance is alluded to. But even Joshua’s exhortation against idolatry records later experiences than this (Joshua 24:8-13).

The form of government in Israel, as depicted in Deuteronomy 17, 18, shows as little fixity as the seat of national worship. “The priests the Levites, and the judge that shall be in those days,” are not expressions that we can assign to any given period of Israel’s history in Canaan. Natural enough, as coming from the lips of Moses, they are almost ludicrous as an expression of the national desire for a particular rule. The position of the king is depicted even more vaguely. We have observed in the Notes on Deuteronomy 17, that no later writer could have ignored the throne of David thus. And if Jeremiah foretold the cessation of the kingdom (Jeremiah 22:30), how could the age of Jeremiah have given birth to the laws that concern the king? Again, the relation of the prophet to the government is left far too uncertain for later Jewish history. When we consider the important part played by the priests in Judah from Jehoiada onwards, and the evident struggle for religious supremacy between them and the kings, with the equally important action of the prophets in Israel, is it conceivable that any constitutional writer of the date of Jeremiah or the exile, would have left us the bare outline that we find in Deuteronomy 17, 18? Not less important is the position given to the written law in Deuteronomy 17:8-13. It was absolutely essential to define this when Scripture first came into existence. If not settled then, when could it be? It agrees with what we find in the opening of Joshua (see notes on Joshua 1:1-8), and whenever allusion is made to Scripture in later times. But that Scripture should be solemnly delivered to God’s people and be preserved among them, and its authority remain for seven centuries wholly undefined, is inconceivable. Yet the definition is entirely suited to the period when nothing but the law had been written down.

But if, on the other hand, it is asserted that these views of the church and state of Israel proceeded not from national feeling at the time of the Exile or the Return, but from the mind of some great reformer, some individual prophet, we may fairly demand an explicit answer to the question, who that prophet or reformer might be? If Jeremiah, or Ezekiel, or Ezra is to be taken as the author of the code in Deuteronomy, we are brought face to face with the question of style and language. The language of Deuteronomy is totally distinct from the extant writings of all these. And if the author of Deuteronomy is an anonymous writer, a new difficulty presents itself. By what authority did he promulgate these laws, and how did he contrive to get them accepted, not only as canonical Scripture, but as the work of the great national Lawgiver? For “there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses.”

From these considerations it seems certain that the view of the church and state of Israel in Palestine, given in Deuteronomy 12-18 inclusive, is not that of any later period than the Exodus. The laws of person, property, social relation, and behaviour, given in chapters 19 to 26, remain to be examined. In these laws the standpoint of the wilderness is no less conspicuous than in the more general principles laid down before. The law of the manslayer comes first. Its date is fixed beyond dispute by the cities of refuge. Three are not noticed; for they are already determined on the east of Jordan (Deuteronomy 4:41-43). Three on the west of Jordan are still to be separated, in the territory conquered by Joshua. Three more are regarded as possibly necessary in the future. But they have never been assigned yet (see notes on Deuteronomy 19:8-10). With what period of history is this piece of legislation consistent, except the last days of Moses’s life?

We come next to the laws of warfare (chap 20), and we find the nations of Canaan still mentioned as unconquered. The distinction given between “the cities that are very far off,” and the cities of the doomed nations, is the very same upon which the Gibeonites traded as that which Jehovah had given to His servant Moses (Joshua 9:24), and by which they contrived to save themselves from the sword of Joshua. Was the passage in Deuteronomy constructed from that in Joshua? If so, the plea of the Gibeonites still proves the antiquity of this distinction. Or was the passage in Joshua fashioned to suit an enactment which was the production of a later date? Take the law in Deuteronomy as the genuine work of Moses, and the narrative in Joshua as true, and the agreement is perfect. It is difficult to devise any other hypothesis which will account for either the history or the law.

The laws of Deuteronomy 21 bear the stamp of antiquity on their very face. The last of them, which concerns hanging, again supplies a striking coincidence with the life of Joshua, who hanged the kings of Jericho, and Ai, and the five kings of the southern confederacy upon trees until eventide, and buried them at sunset. The agreement with Joshua’s practice is perfect. There is little notice of the practice of hanging in Israel in later times. We know that the Assyrians constantly left the bodies of their enemies impaled on stakes and exposed to view between the earth and heaven, but there is no proof that any such practice ever obtained in Israel. “The kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings,” was the consolation of the defeated Syrian monarch Ben-hadad (1 Kings 20:31). Would he have trusted himself to the hands of a king of Assyria, as confidently as he surrendered himself to Ahab? The Gibeonites who hanged Saul’s sons in Gibeah observed no such restriction as that which Moses commanded in Deuteronomy 21:23 (see 2 Samuel 21:9-10). The strict observance of this law by Joshua, and its neglect in the days of David, are entirely consistent with other examples of a similar kind.

The laws of property and conjugal relation in Deuteronomy 22 are an expansion of the code in Exodus and Leviticus. There is no inconsistency. But some of the details are unmistakably primitive, and point to a time when the country was very thinly peopled. They are suitable to the time of the first conquest by Joshua—not so suitable to later days.

When we come to the laws concerning the admission of strangers or proselytes (Deuteronomy 22) we find unquestionable traces of the Lawgiver of the Exodus.

The Ammonites and Moabites “met not Israel with bread and water” They hired Balaam to curse” the people. The part taken by the Ammonites in this enterprise is not recorded in Numbers. The details cannot be obtained from the narrative as given there. The considerations urged in verse 7 are suitable to a time when the memory of Egypt was fresh. The words spoken by Isaiah concerning proselytes (Isaiah 56:6-7) are wholly different in character. And these very clauses of Deuteronomy are cited in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:1-2) as written in the book of Moses.

There remains only one more section to be considered—the laws of humanity in Deuteronomy 24, 25. Here once more the personal recollections of the Exodus, concerning Miriam and Amalek, are striking, and cannot be ascribed to any later date. The law that the children shall not die for the fathers (Deuteronomy 24:16) is directly referred to in 2 Kings 14:6, as written in the book of the Law of Moses. Other details in this portion which point to a primitive state of society have been indicated in the notes.

The twenty-sixth chapter, with its services of thanksgiving on the entrance of Israel into Canaan, would lose all the peculiar charm of freshness that it possesses, if it were ascribed to a later date. From the lips of Moses it is singularly beautiful and appropriate, all the more when we remember his own eager desire to enter the land of promise—a desire which was not granted. The reference to Jacob as “a Syrian ready to perish” is thoroughly natural in the historian of Genesis, and the whole thanksgiving is itself a reflection of Jacob’s words in Genesis 32:10. But there is no reference to any experience later than the Exodus. And the mind that would place the origin of such a service in the time of Jeremiah, or after the exile, must be strangely constituted.

If, then, the laws of Deuteronomy 12-26 in all these particulars evidently breathe the very air of the Exodus, and of that particular scene to which they are ascribed, what becomes of the view that they are the offspring of a later date? If we take away all that evidently bears the stamp of primitive authorship, is there anything in the remainder that necessarily bears a different stamp? The supposed disagreement in the edicts regarding tithes is refuted by Jewish practice. The second tithe is an institution peculiar to Deuteronomy. It does not contradict the law in Numbers, because it is a matter wholly distinct. It is the second tithe, not the first; a holy thing, and not a common rate. The Jewish commentator Rashi speaks almost with derision of those who would confuse the two. The supposed difficulty concerning the priesthood is sufficiently met by the undesigned but explicit allusion to the rebellion of Numbers 16, in Deuteronomy 11:6, not to mention the Thummim and Urim in Deuteronomy 33:8.

There is also a further reason why the author of Deuteronomy should be comparatively silent regarding the special duties and position of the priests, except in relation to that which was now for the first time delivered to Israel—the book of the law of God. The priests themselves were there to guard their rights. They were a family established by the highest sanction in a place of unapproachable dignity and authority in Israel. Moses could not touch the subject without reverting to the memory of his departed brother (only six months dead) at every moment. Eleazar and Phinehas were now the guardians of Aaron’s post.

We now revert to (1) THE IDEAL CODE.

When we consider the Law of Deuteronomy as an ideal and prophetical code, our task becomes much easier. The commandments here given cannot be observed in the letter without the spirit of loving fidelity to Jehovah. The attempt to reduce them to a system, and guard them from disobedience in the smallest detail, resulted in the unbearable yoke of our Lord’s time, of which we have the tradition in the Talmud. It cannot be said that the exhortations of Deuteronomy contain in themselves any such system. But no law can create in any people a higher standard of practice than is conformable to their nature. “What the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,” was to make its ideal the practical standard of behaviour. Even if the outward enactments are not infringed, the motive so constantly inculcated could never become the law of the human heart, except spontaneously; and this requires the “new creation.” “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts.” “Thou shalt surely give him” is a right which the Law may enforce. “Thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him” (Deuteronomy 15:10) is beyond the power of law to insure. “It shall not seem hard unto thee when thou sendest him away free from thee” is a similar sentence (Deuteronomy 15:18). “If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the Lord thy God, and to walk ever in his ways” (Deuteronomy 19:9), proves that in the details of the Law no less than in its general exposition, “the end of the commandment was love.”

If this ideal aspect of Deuteronomy is recognised, we may at once set aside the notion that it was the mere expression of the national taste and will. Such ideals come, not from below, but from above. The heart of man, under the direct teaching of the Spirit of God, may receive them; they were never formed by any process of abstraction and generalization, from the common practice of any nation of mankind.

When it is proved that the view of man’s destiny given in Genesis 1:26, and his primæval state in Paradise as described in Genesis 2, were the laboured attainment of ages of human progress, then we may admit the first great commandment to have been evolved in the same way. The fall of Israel is interwoven with the whole of sacred history as closely as the fall of man. Was this exalted standard of behaviour—the highest ever inculcated upon mankind—a Divine revelation in the beginning of their history, or did it arise in the dark days when Jehovah said, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people; cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth?” (Jeremiah 15:1). To ask the question almost answers it. The whole analogy of sacred history requires the ideal code of Israel to stand at the beginning of their national life. The shadow of Sinai stretches over the whole length of the ages from the Exodus of Israel to the Exodus of Christ. But if it is urged that though the outlines of the code in Deuteronomy may be primitive, yet the details are modern, and were gradually developed during the course of Israelitish history, we may fairly demand to have these later details distinctly pointed out. After close examination, we have failed to discover them even in the alleged discrepancies between the Deuteronomy and other portions of the law. The Jewish Mishna supplies an abundance of details of the kind that arise in a long and laboured application of legal principles to particular cases. The language of Deuteronomy is singularly free from the kind of detail suggested by practical difficulties in the application of the law. It is singularly free from any trace of contact with the history of Israel in later times.

It remains to consider (2) THE PROPHETICAL CODE.

Closely connected with the ideal aspect of Deuteronomy is the prophetical character of the code. That the ideal has not been realised is as certain as anything in history. Was it intended to be? and, if so, when? The book of Deuteronomy itself supplies a somewhat remarkable answer to this question in two passages, which are given here at length, and side by side, for the purpose of comparison.



(16) And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. (17) Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day” and I will forsake them, and 1 will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? (18) And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods. (19) Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. (20) For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me. and break my covenant. (21) And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.

(1) And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, (2) and shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; (3) that then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. (4) If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: (5) and the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. (6) And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (7) And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. (8)And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.

It appears from Deuteronomy 31 that the constitution given to Israel by Moses would be immediately violated, and that this fact was well known beforehand. From Deuteronomy 30 it is no less manifest that the great Lawgiver foresaw a time when Israel would return and repent after great affliction, and that they would then be restored, and keep the law perfectly (see verses 6 and 8 above).

Under what circumstances this event will take place, and how far the precepts of the Deuteronomy may hereafter be literally observed, it is perhaps impossible to determine.

The full answer to this question is one of “the secret things that belong to the Lord.” But we may obtain an approximation to the answer thus: The whole of the Deuteronomic code is presented as an expansion of the Decalogue. It is the application of a sermon, of which the “ten words” spoken on Sinai are the text. It is the application of these words to Israel, God’s chosen people, in the promised land. Every particular application of the Divine Law must be temporary in detail. The more perfectly the code is suited to a given condition of affairs, the more transitory its application to the minutiœ of daily life must necessarily be. So long as the times are changeable, the permanent code must be somewhat general, from the very nature of the case.

The most curious instance of a prophetical code in Scripture is the code of Law given for Ezekiel’s temple in the latter portion of his prophecy. I cannot find that this code was ever held by the Israelites to have the full force of law. It could not be fulfilled in all particulars, from the very nature of the case, except under certain conditions. That its promulgation as law was contingent on the moral condition of the people, seems clear from Ezekiel 43:10-11. “If they be ashamed of all that they have done, show them the form of the house, and . . . all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.” No one can prove that the laws of Ezekiel’s temple have ever been kept; nor is it possible to say how far they ever will be observed in the shape in which they were delivered, for the supposition of the sentence just quoted is, that these laws were suitable to the state of Israel at the time. If they were not minded to receive them, the fulfilment must be deferred. Supposing them not to be “ashamed of all that they had done “for more than twenty centuries after Ezekiel wrote, the fulfilment of Ezekiel’s ideal must take place under wholly different circumstances; and many of its details must of necessity be modified to suit the change of times.

It is needless to add that the comparison between this portion of Ezekiel and the code in Deuteronomy cannot affect the question of the date of the Deuteronomy in any way.

The code in Deuteronomy is not so visibly prophetical as the ritual of Ezekiel’s temple, because the foundation of the code in Deuteronomy is not an outward visible fact. But it is none the less true that the standard of morality in Deuteronomy is unattainable except under one condition, and that is “that the heart of Israel should be circumcised to love Jehovah their God with all their heart and with all their soul.” As the ritual of Ezekiel’s temple is impossible without the temple itself, so is the morality of Deuteronomy unattainable without this heart-circumcision. This is provided by the second covenant, the covenant made in the land of Moab, “besides the covenant in Horeb,” which still holds Israel under its curse.

Manifestly the true fulfilment of the Deuteronomy in Israel requires a national and spiritual restoration of the Jews.

It is worth while to observe that the whole Decalogue is, literally and verbally, a prediction of its own fulfilment. The ten commandments, with the exception of the fifth, are all in the future indicative. The two great commandments are both future indicative. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God . . . and thy neighbour,” contains “thou wilt love him,” as the stronger contains the weaker form of speech. “Ye shall be therefore perfect,” in Matthew 5:48, contains, Ye will be. If “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, until it is all done,” all carried out in fact (Matthew 5:18), then clearly He who gave it signified in the same breath His intention that men should keep it; and, if His word shall not pass away, the Law will one day be kept, not merely in those literal details which must vary with every change of times and manners, but in spirit and in truth.

Actual predictions in the laws of Deuteronomy are not wanting. More especially we may refer to the prophecy of the prophet like unto Moses in Deut. 38, and the well-known prophecies in Deuteronomy 28:32-33. I do not think the law concerning the king in Deuteronomy 17 is necessarily a prediction. It seems to me that any thoughtful man who had watched the development of the nations descended from Terah, as Moab, Ammon, Edom, or Midian, must have foreseen that Israel would not remain long in Palestine without feeling the necessity for a form of government which other nations could recognise, and by which national intercourse could be maintained—a government embodied in some responsible and perpetual representative head. So far from feeling any difficulty in the mention of a king in Deuteronomy , 1 apprehend that no man who attempted to frame a constitution for the people in the country which God was about to give them, could possibly have avoided the question whether there should be a king or not. And if the king was mentioned, some sketch of his authority and its limitations could not be left out. What more do we actually find in Deuteronomy 17? That the relation of the Church to the written Word of God should be there delineated for all time (see Note on Deuteronomy 17:8-12) seems to me a very much more remarkable indication of prophetic insight, and of the mind of a “man of God.

III. Unity of the Book of Deuteronomy.—Upon the whole, the result of this examination and analysis of the several parts of Deuteronomy, is to produce a strong impression of the unity and symmetry of the whole. The middle portion is found to be quite as suitable to the date of the Exodus, in respect of its subject matter, as the earlier and later portions of the book. But when we come to consider the

IV. Style of the language in which it is written, and especially of the Hebrew original, the probability already established rises almost to the certainty of demonstration. The style of the Hebrew of Deuteronomy is unique. It is to all other Hebrew what the Latin of the Augustan age and the purest Attic Greek are to later stages and imitations of those two classic tongues. The poetry of David, the proverbs of Solomon, the visions of Isaiah, the lamentations of Jeremiah, and the polished Hebrew of Ezekiel, all have their separate beauties. The style of Deuteronomy bears no resemblance whatever to any of them—far less to the mixture of Hebrew and Chaldee which we find in Ezra, or the imitated Hebrew of the latest prophete. While there are undoubted archaisms in Deuteronomy (the words for “he” and “she” are not distinguished in the Pentateuch, and similarly the word for “damsel” of Deuteronomy 22:15 to end, is not to be distinguished from the common word for a “boy,” except by the pointing), yet the diction throughout is that of a highly-educated and cultivated mind. There is no difference whatever between the Hebrew of the middle portion and that of the rest of the book. And the occurrence of Deuteronomic phrases; in Jeremiah or elsewhere, does not touch the argument. Quotations from the Bible in a volume of sermons do not prove the Bible to have been made up from them. The setting of the phrases is a matter of quite as much importance, as the occurrence of the phrases themselves. Even when judged by the concordance, the Hebrew of Deuteronomy will be found distinct from that of the prophets. And it must be remembered that no concordance ever exhibits a writer’s style. The most it can do is to analyse his vocabulary. It can tell us little or nothing of the structure of his thoughts. Further, the application of one uniform system of vowel-pointing, accentuation, and division, to the whole of the prose of the Old Testament, has tended greatly to obscure the characteristic differences of the Hebrew writers. No one who has not read passages from several Hebrew writers without vowel-points, could at all imagine what a difference the absence of these makes to the perceptibility of the style. It is to be feared that too much of the attention of modern commentators has been absorbed by the external dress and uniform of the Hebrew of the Old Testament to allow them to perceive what the style of a Hebrew writer really is. Unless some excuse of this kind may be made, I find myself wholly unable to conceive how the Hebrew of Deuteronomy can be attributed by scholars to any known writer among the later prophets. The style of Joshua alone bears any resemblance to it. The ruggedness of Samuel and David, notwithstanding all David’s command of language, exhibits a most remarkable diversity.

The culture of the prophets is wholly different from that which we find in the Pentateuch. At the same time it is very possible that the Hebrew style of Moses was peculiarly his own. It may well be supposed to have been above the level of the common language of the nation. The early Egyptian education and varied experience of Moses would tend to produce a somewhat special mode of thought and expression.

V. Commentaries on Deuteronomy.—I regret that the time allotted to me for this work has not permitted me to make use of modern commentaries to any appreciable extent. Canon Espin’s notes in the Speaker’s Commentary I found useful. I thought it my duty to pay special attention to modern critical theories about later authorship, and in order to test them I found it necessary to ascertain somewhat precisely what the Jewish view of the various enactments in Deuteronomy was. I therefore read Rashi’s commentary carefully throughout, and in all cases of difficulty, consulted other Jewish writers also. The references to the Talmud in Rashi are numerous; and these, in many instances, I verified. In particular the alleged discrepancy concerning the laws of tithe was entirely cleared up to my mind by this means. I am satisfied that no contradiction between Deuteronomy and the earlier books of the Pentateuch can be reasonably maintained.

These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab.

(1) These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel.—The first two verses and the three that follow form a kind of double introduction to the book, and perhaps more especially to the first portion of it, which ends with Deuteronomy 4:40.

On this side Jordan.—Literally, on the other side Jordan from the writer’s or reader’s point of view.

In the wilderness.—These words define still further the expression which precedes: “on the wilderness side of Jordan,” or “before they crossed the Jordan, while they were still in the wilderness.” Strictly speaking, the words “in the wilderness” cannot be connected with what follows, for “the plain” described is on neither side of Jordan, but below the southern end of the Dead Sea.

In the plain—i.e., the ‘Arâbah. Usually the plain of Jordan; here the valley that extends from the lower end of the Dead Sea to the head of the Gulf of Akabah.

Over against the Red Sea.—Heb., opposite Sûph. In all other places in the Old Testament, when we read of the Red Sea, it is Yam Sûph. Here we have Suph only. On these grounds some take it as the name of a place. (Comp. Vaheb in Sûphah, Numbers 21:14, margin.) But we do not know the place; and as the Jewish paraphrasts and commentators find no difficulty in accepting Suph by itself as the sea, we may take it of the Gulf of Akabah. The plain between Paran and Tophel looks straight down to that gulf.

Between Paran, and Tophel . . .—Literally, between Paran, and between Tophel and Laban, &c.: that is, between Paran on the one side, and Tophel and Laban and Hazeroth and Dizahab on the other. This is the literal meaning, and it suits the geography so far as the places are yet identified. The small map at p. 239 of Conder’s Handbook to the Bible shows the desert of Paran stretching northward from Sinai on the left, and on the right, Tophel and Hazeroth (the only other places identified among these five) at the two extremities of a line drawn from the southeast end of the Dead Sea in the direction of Sinai. Tophel is taken as Tufîleh, and Hazeroth is ’Ain Hadra. Laban must be some “white” place lying between, probably named from the colour of the rocks in its neighbourhood. Dizahab should be nearer Sinai than Hazeroth. The Jewish commentators, from its meaning, “gold enough,” connected it with the golden calf. And it is not inconceivable that the place where that object of idolatry was “burned with fire,” and “stamped” and “ground very small,” till it was as “small as dust,” and “cast into the brook that descended out of the mount” (Deuteronomy 9:21), was called “gold enough” from the apparent waste of the precious metal that took place there; possibly also because Moses made the children of Israel drink of the water. They had enough of that golden calf before they had done with it. If this view of the geography of this verse be correct, it defines with considerable clearness the line of march from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea. It lies between the mountains on the edge of the wilderness of Paran upon the west, and the Gulf of Akabah on the east, until that gulf is left behind by the traveller going northward. It then enters the desert of Zin, called here the plain, or ‘Arâbah. This desert is bounded by ranges of mountains on both sides, and looks down to the Gulf of Akabah. Behind the western range we still have the wilderness of Paran. On the east are the mountains of Edom, which Israel first had on their right in the march to Kadesh-barnea, and then on their left in a later journey, in the last year of the exodus, when they compassed the land of Edom. Tophel lies on the east of this range, just before the route becomes level with the southern end of the Dead Sea.

But the whole of the route between Paran on the left and those other five places on the right belongs to Israel’s first march from Sinai to Kadesh. It takes them up the desert of Zin, and, so far as these two verses are concerned, it keeps them there.

(There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.)
(2) Eleven days’ journey from Horeb . . .—In our English Version this verse forms a separate sentence; but there seems nothing to prevent our taking it as completing the first verse. The route between Paran on the one side and the line from Tophel to Hazeroth on the other is still further defined as “a distance of eleven days’ journey from Horeb in the direction of Mount Seir, reaching to Kadesh-barnea.” The position of this last place is not yet determined with certainty. But the requirements of the text seem, upon the whole, to demand that it should be placed high up in the wilderness of Paran, not far from the border of the wilderness of Zin. It must be close to some passage out of the wilderness of Zin into the Negeb, or south of Judah.

Kadesh-barnea.—In the regular narrative of the exodus we read of the place to which the twelve spies returned as Kadesh (Numbers 13:26), and of the place at which the period of unrecorded wandering closed (Numbers 20:1), in the first month of the fortieth year, as Kadesh. The name Kadesh-barnea first appears in Moses’ speech (Numbers 32:8), where he refers to the sending of the twelve spies. And with the exception of three places where the name is used in describing boundaries, Kadesh -harnea is always found in speeches. This first chapter of Deuteronomy is the only one which contains the name both with and without the appendage -barnea, which connects it with the wanderings of Israel (Deuteronomy 1:32). Upon the whole, it seems most likely that only one place or district is intended by the name.

We have now obtained the following view of this first short introduction to the Book of Deuteronomy. It consists of words spoken (in the first instance) to all Israel on their march from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea. But the following verses show that the Law was further “declared” to Israel in the plains of Moab, at the close of the fortieth year of the exodus and of Moses’ life. It does not seem possible for us to separate entirely what was spoken earlier from what was declared later. In several places we have the record of words spoken: for example, in this very chapter (Deuteronomy 1:9; Deuteronomy 1:16; Deuteronomy 1:18; Deuteronomy 1:20; Deuteronomy 1:29; Deuteronomy 1:43), and Deuteronomy 5:5, &c. And the very name Deuteronomy implies the repetition of a law previously given. Further, the exhortations contained in this book are all enforced by the immediate prospect of going over Jordan and entering the promised land. But when Israel marched from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, it was with this very same prospect full in view. It does not appear, by what Moses “said” at that time (Deuteronomy 1:20), that he had any thought of their turning away from the enterprise. But if so, what supposition is more natural than this—that he delivered the same kind of exhortations in the course of that earlier journey which he afterwards delivered in the plains of Moab? And although the distance is but eleven days’ march, the Israelites spent something like three months on the way, and in waiting for the spies to return from Canaan.

We conclude, then, that the first two verses of Deuteronomy are an editorial introduction, stating that the substance of this book was first delivered to Israel by Moses between Sinai and Kadesh-barnea. The further introduction which follows (in Deuteronomy 1:3-5) shows the words to have been re-delivered in the plains of Moab, and preserved in their later rather than their earlier form. But it is also possible that the two first verses of Deuteronomy are an introduction to the first discourse above. (See Note on Deuteronomy 4:44.)

Is it possible to advance a step further, and conjecture with any degree of probability to what hand we owe the first two verses of the book? The expression “on the other side Jordan” (which some take to be a technical term) seems strictly to mean on the opposite side to the writer. The writer must also have been acquainted with the places mentioned (three of which are not named in the previous books); he could not have drawn his knowledge from the earlier part of the Pentateuch. And so entirely has the geography of Deuteronomy 1:1 been lost by tradition, that all the Targums and Jewish commentators agree in spiritualising the passage, and say, “these are the words of reproof which Moses.spake to all Israel in respect of their behaviour at these various places.” Laban points to their murmuring at the white manna. Dizahab to the golden calf, and so on. Even Rashi, usually a most literal commentator, says, “Moses has enumerated the places where they wrought provocation before the PLACE “—a Rabbinical name for Jehovah: for “the whole world is His place, though His place is more than the whole world.” This introduction to Deuteronomy seems the work of one who had known the wilderness, and yet wrote from Palestine. Joshua, the next writer to Moses, and possibly also his amanuensis, may have prefixed it to the book. If he did not, it is wholly impossible to say who did.

And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;
(3) And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month.—The “and” is the real beginning of Deuteronomy, and connects it with the previous books. The moral of these words has been well pointed out by Jewish writers. It was but eleven days’ journey from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea—the place from whence Israel should have begun the conquest of the promised land; but not only eleven days of the second year of the exodus, but eleven months of the fortieth year found them still in the wilderness. “We see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

(3, 4) Moses spake unto the children of Israel . . . after he had slain Sihon . . . and Og.—The conquest of these two kings and their territories was one of the exploits of the fortieth year. (See Numbers 21:21-35.) Before the eleventh month of that year, not only Sihon and Og, but also the five princes of Midian, “who were dukes of Sihon, dwelling in the country” (Joshua 13:21), had also been slain (Numbers 31). This completed the conquest, and was the last exploit of Moses’ life. In the period of repose that followed he found a suitable time to exhort the children of Israel, “according unto all that the Lord had given him in commandment unto them” From Deuteronomy 34:8, we learn that “the children of Israel wept for Moses thirty days.” These days would seem to be the last month of the fortieth year, for “on the tenth day of the first month” (probably of the next year, Joshua 4:19) they passed over Jordan. Thus the last delivery of the discourses recorded in Deuteronomy would seem to lie within a single month.

After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites, which dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, which dwelt at Astaroth in Edrei:
On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying,
(5) On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab.—This would be on the other side of Jordan from the stand-point of the writer, or of the readers for whom the book was intended, which is Palestine.

Began Moses.—“Began,” i.e., “determined” or “assayed.”

To declare.—The emphatic reiteration of what had been already received from God and delivered to Israel may be intended. But the Hebrew word here employed occurs in two other places only, and in both is connected with writing. (See Deuteronomy 17:8, “thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly” (bâêr hêtêb, in writing and in making good). Again, in Habakkuk 2:2, “write the vision, and make it plain upon tables.” The etymological affinities of the word also suggest the idea of writing. It would seem, then, that at this period Moses began to throw the discourses and laws that he had delivered into a permanent form, arranging and writing them with the same motive which influenced the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 1:15), “Moreover, I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.”

In this discourse the history of Israel, from the time of their departure from Sinai, is briefly recapitulated (Deuteronomy 3:29), and with a short practical exhortation. This portion of history comprises three periods of the exodus: (1) The march from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, with the sending of the twelve spies and its results, related more at length in Numbers 10:11—end of Deuteronomy 14. The characteristic feature of this period is failure on the part of both leaders and people to rise to their high calling. Moses (Numbers 11), Aaron and Miriam (Num. xii), Joshua (Numbers 11:28), the spies, who were also rulers (Deuteronomy 13, 14), and the people throughout, all in turn exhibit the defects of their character. In the end the enterprise is abandoned for the time. (2) The thirty seven and a half years that follow are a period of disgrace, as appears by the absence of all note of time or place in the direct narrative between Numbers 14 and Numbers 20. Certain places are mentioned in Numbers 33 which must belong to this period, but nothing is recorded of them beyond the names. A single verse (Deuteronomy 2:1), is all that is assignable to that period in this discourse of Moses. This long wandering was also a period of training and discipline. (3) The fortieth year of the exodus, in which the conquest of Sihon and Og was effected, and Israel reached the banks of Jordan. The sentence of death pronounced against their elder generation having been executed, a new life was now begun.

The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:
(6) The Lord our God spake unto us in Horeb.—The “Lord our God,” “Jehovah our Elohim,” is the watchword of the whole book.

Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount.—From the beginning of the second month of the first year of the exodus (Exodus 19:1) to the twentieth day of the second month of the second year (Numbers 10:11). This was the period of organisation, in which the people received the Law and were organised as a church militant, an army encamped around the tabernacle of God. This year and its institutions fill up exactly one-third of the text of the Pentateuch.

Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates.
(7) Enter the mount of the Amoritesi.e., the southern part of Judah, from which the five kings of the Amorites, the southern confederacy of Joshua 10 (which see), arose to attack Gibeon. Israel would have marched into the heart of this territory had they entered from Kadesh, “by the way of the spies.”

And unto all the places nigh thereunto.—The rest of the promised land is thus described: In the plain—of Jordan. In the mountain—the hill-country of Judah in the south, Mount Ephraim in the centre, and the mountainous district further north. In the Shephêlah—Philistia. In the Negeb—the land afterwards assigned to Simeon, in the far south of Judah. And by the sea side to the north of Carmel (see Joshua 9:1; Judges 5:17), the coasts of the Great Sea over against Lebanon, and in the territory of Asher and Zebulun, as far as Phœnicia (Genesis 49:13).

The land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon.—The Canaanites held the plain of Esdraelon and the fortresses in the north. From Lebanon, the conquest would extend ultimately to the north-east, even to the great river, the river Euphrates,

Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.
(8) To give unto them.—Note that the land is promised to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob, not only to their seed. The promise is not forgotten, though the three patriarchs are in another world. (Comp. Acts 7:5, and Hebrews 11:16. See also Note. on Deuteronomy 11:21.)

And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone:
(9-18) In these words Moses appears to combine the recollection of two distinct things: (1) the advice of Jethro (Exodus 18), by following which he would be relieved from the ordinary pressure of litigation; (2) the still further relief afforded him by the appointment of the seventy elders. These last received the gift of prophecy, and were thus enabled to relieve Moses from some of the higher responsibilities of his office by representing his mind and reproducing his personal influence in many parts of the camp at once. Jethro’s advice was given on their first arrival in Horeb: when it was carried into effect we are not told. The seventy elder were appointed (Numbers 11) between Sinai and Kadesh-barnea, shortly after they left Sinai. It is quite possible that both institutions came into existence at the same time. The seventy elders would have been of great service in the selection of the numerous judges and officers who were required.

(9) I am not able to bear you myself alone.—Repeated almost exactly from Numbers 11:14.

The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.
(The LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!)
(11) The Lord God of your fathers . . . bless you.—This appears to belong distinctly to the Book of Deuteronomy. It can hardly be a record of what was spoken long before. It brings the living speaker before us in a way that precludes imitation.

How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?
(12) Your cumbrance.—The original word is found only here and in Isaiah 1:14 : “They are a trouble unto me, I am weary to bear them.”

Deuteronomy 1:13-15 recall very exactly what is said in Exodus 18

Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.
And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do.
So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes.
And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.
(16) And I charged your judges . . . saying.—These instructions given by Moses are an admirable expansion, but only an expansion, of those of Jethro(Exodus 18:21), that the judges must be “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness”—a sentence older than the Decalogue itself.

Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.
(17) The judgment is God’s.—Comp. St. Paul in Romans 13:1-4, which is, again, only an expansion of this sentence. For the latter part of this verse comp. Exodus 18:22-26.

And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do.
(18) And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do.—“At that time,” i.e., after your departure from Horeb. This is as much as to say that the exhortations given in Deuteronomy had already been given on the way from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea. (Comp. what has been said above on the two first verses of this chapter.) This verse goes far to justify the view taken there.

And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great and terrible wilderness, which ye saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us; and we came to Kadeshbarnea.
(19) By the way of the mountain of the Amorites.—Rather, in the direction of the mount. They did not pass the Mount of the Amorites, but went through the “great and terrible wilderness” from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea. So Moses says in Deuteronomy 1:20, “Ye are come unto the mount of the Amorites.”

And I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, which the LORD our God doth give unto us.
Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged.
(21) Fear not, neither be discouraged.—The last clause of this verse reappears in St. John 14:27, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come.
(22) And ye came near . . . and said, We will send.—A new aspect is here given to the sending of the twelve spies. In Numbers 13:1 the incident is introduced thus: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men.” We learn here that the proposal in the first instance came from the people. Moses would naturally refer it to Jehovah; and, when approved, the scheme was carried out.

They shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come.—We read in Deuteronomy 1:33 that the Lord “went in the way before them to search out a place” for them to encamp in. But here the spies and Israel proposed to take the guidance of their march into their own hands. It is noticeable that in the campaigns of Joshua, not one step was taken without Divine direction. Thus the sending of the twelve spies, in the light in which the people intended it, was an act of unbelief. “In this thing (Deuteronomy 1:32) ye did not believe the Lord your God.” (See also Note on Joshua 2:1.)

And the saying pleased me well: and I took twelve men of you, one of a tribe:
And they turned and went up into the mountain, and came unto the valley of Eshcol, and searched it out.
(24) The valley of Eshcol.—See Numbers 13:24.

And they took of the fruit of the land in their hands, and brought it down unto us, and brought us word again, and said, It is a good land which the LORD our God doth give us.
(25) It is a good land.—In Numbers 13:27 they all say, “Surely it floweth with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it.” In Numbers 14:7 Joshua and Caleb describe it as an “exceeding good land.”

Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God:
And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the LORD hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.
(27) Because the Lord hated us.—A most astounding commentary on the events of the exodus up to that date. It is a stronger expression than any recorded, even in Numbers 14:3.

Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.
(28) Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart.—So Caleb says in Joshua 14:8, “My brethren made the heart of the people melt.” For the rest of the verse see Numbers 13:28.

Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them.
(29) Dread not, neither be afraid of them . . .—The reminder that “Jehovah went before them” did not avail, for they had already chosen men to go before them.

The LORD your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes;
And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place.
(31) The Lord . . . bare thee, as a man doth bear his son.—From this comes the expression in Acts 13:18, “He bare them as a nursing father in the wilderness.”—Rev. N. T., margin.

Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God,
Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.
(33) Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place.—Comp. Numbers 10:33, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them . . . to search out a resting place for them;” and St. John 14:2, “I go to prepare a place for you;” and Hebrews 6:20, “Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus.” On the whole manner of this cloud-guidance, see Numbers 9:15-23.

And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying,
(34) Was wroth, and sware.—See Psalm 95:11, “I sware in my wrath, that they should not enter into my rest.”

Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers,
(35) Surely . . . Comp. St. Luke 14:24, “None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.”

Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the LORD.
(36) Save Caleb.—Caleb is here placed by himself, as the one exception among the people. Joshua, as Moses’ substitute, the exception among the recognised leaders, is named separately.

Also the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither.
(37) Also the Lord was angry with me for your sakes.—Here, again, Moses combines his own rejection. an event of the fortieth year of the exodus, with the rejection of the people in the second year. The reason was the same—unbelief. “Because ye believed me not” was the reason given to Moses in Numbers 20:12. “Ye did not believe the Lord your God” is the reason for the rejection of the people, given above in Deuteronomy 1:32. As the spies presumed to investigate the route and order of the conquest, a matter of Divine guidance, so Moses presumed to alter the prescribed order for the miracle in Kadesh. Like transgressions incurred like penalties. The fault for which the people had suffered could not be overlooked in the leader. (See also Notes on Deuteronomy 3:23-28; Deuteronomy 32:49.) This and Deuteronomy 1:38 should be taken as a parenthesis.

But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.
Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.
(39) Moreover your little ones.—This continues the sentence of Jehovah from Deuteronomy 1:36.

Which ye said should be a prey.—In Numbers 14:3, “that our wives and children should be a prey.” (See also Deuteronomy 1:31.)

But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.
(40) But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way (in the direction) of the Red Sea.—In Numbers 14:32 the parallel sentence is, “As for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.”

Then ye answered and said unto me, We have sinned against the LORD, we will go up and fight, according to all that the LORD our God commanded us. And when ye had girded on every man his weapons of war, ye were ready to go up into the hill.
(41) We have sinned . . . we will go up and fight.—The emphatic we of this verse may be compared with the “we” of Deuteronomy 1:28. In both instances it was we, without Jehovah. It was a change from cowardice to presumption, not from unbelief to faith.

Ye were ready to go up into the hill.—Some render, Ye made light of going up.

And the LORD said unto me, Say unto them, Go not up, neither fight; for I am not among you; lest ye be smitten before your enemies.
So I spake unto you; and ye would not hear, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD, and went presumptuously up into the hill.
(43) The last clause comes from Numbers 14:44.

And the Amorites, which dwelt in that mountain, came out against you, and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you in Seir, even unto Hormah.
(44) As bees do.—This should be observed as illustrating what is said of the hornet in Exodus 23:28-30, and further on in Deuteronomy 7:20; Joshua 24:12. The incidental mention of the bees in this place shows that the writer of Deuteronomy was familiar with the spectacle of a company of men pursued by bees.

In Seir, even unto Hormah.—Conder (Bible Handbook, p. 250) understands this Seir as the range of hills round Petra. There is another Seir in the territory of Judah (Joshua 15:10). As to Hormah, the Jewish commentator Aben Ezra says, “the name of a place or the verb,” i.e., either unto Hormah, or unto utter destruction. But in our version the word Hormah is always taken as a proper name. The situation of Hormah is unknown.

And ye returned and wept before the LORD; but the LORD would not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you.
(45) And ye returned and wept before the Lord.—This fact is not related in Numbers 14. It shows the personal knowledge of the writer, and that the narrative is not simply drawn from the earlier books.

So ye abode in Kadesh many days, according unto the days that ye abode there.
(46) So ye abode in Kadesh many days.—Better, and. In Numbers 14:25 the command was, “Tomorrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness.” This command was broken by the attack on the Canaanites, made on the morrow after the command. We cannot be certain that the many days spent in Kadesh were spent after the defeat. It may be merely a note of the fact that the time spent in Kadesh was considerable. The mission of the spies alone occupied forty days.

According unto the days that ye abode there.—The Jewish commentator Rashi, quoting from Sêder Olâm, says they in Kadesh, and nineteen in their wanderings.

Courtesy of Open Bible