Deuteronomy 1
Pulpit Commentary
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.
Verse 1. - These be the words. Some would render here "Such are the words," and understand the expression as referring to the preceding books. But it seems more natural to refer it to what follows - to the addresses in this book. The pronoun these (אֵלֶּה) may be used with a prospective reference, as well as with a retrospective (cf. e.g. Genesis 2:4; Genesis 6:9). The author does not by this connect this book with the preceding, but rather distinguishes it. The subscription to Numbers (Numbers 36:13) indicates that what precedes is occupied chiefly with what God spake to Moses; the inscription here intimates that what follows is what Moses spake to the people. This is the characteristic of Deuteronomy. Unto all Israel. It cannot be supposed that Moses spoke to the whole multitude of the people so as to be heard by them. Hence the Jewish interpreters say that he spoke to the elders of the people, who carried his words to the people at large. This is just; for what was thus mediately communicated to the people might be fairly described as spoken to them; and we find from other passages in the Pentateuch that the phrase, "the elders of Israel," in the mind of the writer, was equivalent to "the congregation of Israel" (comp. e.g., Exodus 12:3 with ver. 21; Leviticus 9:1 with ver. 5). But through whatever medium conveyed, it was to the people that these words were addressed; this is emphatically a book for the people. On this side Jordan. This should be On the other side or beyond Jordan, and so also in ver. 5, as in Deuteronomy 3:20, 25. The word here used (עֵבֶר) means properly something beyond, over, or across, and indicates that which, to the speaker, lies on the other side of some line or limit. When coupled with "the Jordan," it usually indicates the region to the east of that river; only in one or two instances, where the speaker takes his standpoint on the east of the river, does it designate the regions to the west of Jordan (Deuteronomy 3:25; Deuteronomy 11:30) The phrase "beyond Jordan" seems to have been the established designation of the region east of the Jordan (cf. Ezra 4:10, and Canon Rawlinson's note there). It is this, unquestionably, which is here so designated, as what follows expressly shows. The wilderness. This term is used of any extensive district not occupied by inhabitants or subjected to culture; hence of vast prairies or pasturelands, as well as of places properly desert and desolate. It here denotes the grassy plains or downs on the east and southeast of the Jordan, in the land of Moab (ver. 5). In the plain; in the Arabah. This is properly the whole of that remarkable depression which stretches from the source of the Jordan on to Akabah, or the Ailanitic Gulf; but here it is only that part of it which extends from the south end of the Dead Sea to Allah (Deuteronomy 2:8). This part still bears the name of the 'Arabah, the northern part being known as the Ghor (Smith's 'Dictionary,' vol. 1. p. 87; Kitto's 'Cyclopedia,' vol. 1. p. 178). Over against the Red sea. The name by which the Red Sea is elsewhere designated is Yam-suph (יַם־סוּפ); here only the latter word occurs, and this has led some to doubt if the Red Sea be here intended. Patrick, Rosenmüller, and others suggest that Suph denotes some place in that region, probably Suphah (Numbers 21:14, margin, Authorized Version), so called because lying at its extremity, as the verb suph, from which it comes, means, to come to an end; but it is not certain that Suphah designates a place in Numbers 21:14. The Hebrew word סוּפְה means a tempest or whirlwind; and this meaning may be assumed here, as it is by Gesenius, Keil, and others: "Waheb [he conquered] in a storm." Knobel suggests that probably the pass now called Es Sufah, on the north side of the Wady Murreh - the Maleh-acrabbim (Scorpion-ascent) of Joshua 15:3 - is meant; others have suggested Zephath (Judges 1:17; comp. Numbers 14:45), and others Zuph (1 Samuel 9:5). It is probable, however, that Suph is here merely a breviloquence for Yam-suph, the Red Sea; and so all the ancient versions take it. The identification of the Yam-suph of the Old Testament with the ἐρυθρὰ θάλασσα of the Greeks, the mare erythraeum, or rubrum, of the Latins, is due to the LXX., which other versions have followed. The identification is undoubtedly correct (cf. Numbers 33:10 and 1 Kings 9:26). Yam-suph, indeed, means simply sea of weeds, and might be the name of any sea in which algae are found; but these passages clearly prove that by this the Hebrews designated the Red Sea. At what part of this sea the Israelites crossed, and the hosts of Pharaoh were submerged, is and must remain uncertain, because we know not what was the condition of the Isthmus of Suez at the time of the Exodus. It is probable it was not at any part of what is now known as the Red Sea or Gulf of Suez. Brugsch Bey places it at that -

"Serbonian bog
Betwixt Damiata and mount Casius old,
Where armies whole have sunk."

(Milton, 'Paradise Lost,'Bk. 2:592.) But this has not been accepted by scholars generally (see Edinburgh Review, No. 307; Conder's 'Handbook to the Bible,' p. 247; Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund, July and October, 1880). It seems probable that originally only a marshy district lay between the Gulf of Suez and the Mediterranean; and somewhere in this probably the passage of the Israelites and the drowning of the Egyptians occurred. Between Paran, and Tophel, etc. This serves more fully and particularly to indicate the locality here intended; but the details present considerable difficulty. Taken in connection with the words "over against the lied sea," the names here given can only be regarded as intended more precisely to indicate the region in which the Israelites had been during the forty years of their wandering. Paran: this is the name of the wilderness bordering on Idumea, where the Israelites encamped (Numbers 10:12; Numbers 12:16); the place of their encampment being Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin (Numbers 13:21, 26), which was the eastern part of the wilderness of Paran. hod. Wady Murreh. The wilderness of Paran corresponds in general outline with the desert of Et-Tih. This is a vast plateau of irregular surface stretching from the Et-Tih range northwards to the boundaries of the Holy Land, and from the Gulf of Akabah and the Wady cf. Arabah on the east to the Gulf of Suez and the Mediterranean on the west. It is described as "a chalky formation, the chalk being covered with coarse gravel, mixed with black flints and drifting sand;" not, however, wholly sterile: in many parts vegetation abounds, considerable portions are under cultivation, and there are evidences that it one time water was abundant there (Smith, 2:767; Kitto, 3:1077; Drew, 'Scripture Lands,' p. 80). It is not, however, to the wilderness of Paran that the reference is in the text, but to some definite locality or spot in the region in which the Israelites then were, or which they had recently passed through. It has been suggested that the place now called Feiran, and where there are the ruins of a town, once of some importance in the early history of Christianity, is the Paran of this passage, as it apparently is the Paran of 1 Kings 11:18. But this locality at the base of Jebel Serbail is much too far west to be the Paran here referred to. More probable is the suggestion that it is the Faran mentioned by Eusebius and Jerome ('Onomast.,' s.v. Φαράν), a city to the cast (northeast) of Allah or Elath, about three days' journey (Reland, 'Palest.,' p. 556; Winer, 'Realworterbuch,' s.v. Pharan). Tophel: this name occurs only here; it is supposed to be the place now coiled Tufailah or Tafyleh, a large village of six hundred inhabitants, between Bozrah and Kerak, on the eastern slope of the mountains of Edom (Burckhardt, 'Syria,' p. 402; Robinson, 'Bib. Res.,' 2:570). As this is a place where the Syrian caravans are supplied with provisions, it has been conjectured that the Israelites, when at Oboth (Numbers 21:10, 11), may have resorted to it for a supply, and that it was here that they purchased meat and drink from the children of Esau (Deuteronomy 2:29). And Laban. Laban is generally identified with Libnah, the second place of encampment of the Israelites on their return from Kadesh (Numbers 33:20, 21). Knobel, however, thinks it is the place called by Ptolemy 'Αὔαρα, lying between Petra and Allah; this name, from the Arabic (he was white), having the same meaning as the Hebrew לָבָן. Hazeroth is supposed to be the place mentioned in Numbers 11:35; Numbers 12:16, from which the Israelites entered the wilderness of Paran; but as the other places here mentioned are on the east side of the Arabah, it is not probable that this Hazeroth is the same as that of Numbers, which must have been not far from Sinai, in a northerly or north-westerly direction from that mountain, probably at or near to the fountain now called El Hudherah (Wilson, 'Lands of the Bible,' 1:235; Kitto, 'Cyclopedia,' 2:243). There were probably several places bearing the name of Hazeroth, i.e. villages. Dizahab. This is generally identified with Dhahab, a place on a tongue of land in the Gulf of Akabah. But it is extremely improbable that the Israelites ever were at this place, the approach to which is exceedingly difficult; and the mere resemblance of the names Dizahab and Dhahab is not sufficient to prove the identity of the places. There were probably more places than one which were named from zahab (gold) in the region traversed by the Israelites. There is a Dhahab on the east of the Jordan near the Zerka or Jabbok, a double mound, which is said to derive its name from the yellowish color of the sandstone rock of which it consists, and which is metalliferous. In the Arabic of the Polyglot, Dizahab appears as Dhi-dhahab, which signifies "auro praeditum vel ab auro dictum; nam דו vel די, apud Arabes in compositione nominum propr. idem est ac Hebrews בַעל (J. H. Michaelis). There is a various reading here, Di-waheb, and this has been supposed to connect this place with the Waheb of Numbers 21:14. But, as above noted, it is by no means certain that Waheb is there the name of a place; it may, as Bishop Patrick suggests, be that of a man, some hero or chief, who was conquered in Sufah or in a storm. Waheb is a name among the Arabs. The maternal grandfather of Me-hammed had this name (Abul-Pharaj, 'Hist. Dynast.,' p. 161, edit. Pococke, Oxen., 1663); and the sect of the Wahabees take their name from Abdul Wahab, a fanatic who appeared about the beginning of last century. The words "between Paran and Tophel" have been taken to indicate' the termini of the wanderings; at the commencement of these the people were at Paran, and towards the close of them they were at Tophel. '"Looking from the steppes of Moab over the ground that the Israelites had traversed, Suph, where they first entered the desert of Arabia, would lie between Paran where the congregation arrived at the borders of Canaan toward the west, and Tophel where they first ended their desert wanderings thirty-seven years later on the east" (Keil). But this assumes that Paran here is the wilderness of Paran.
(There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.)
Verse 2. - Horeb. The name generally given to Sinai in Deuteronomy (see introduction, § 4). Sinai, however, occurs in Deuteronomy 33:2 of this book. By the way of mount Seir, i.e. by the way that leads to Mount Seir; just as in Deuteronomy 2:1, "the way of the Red sea" is the way that leads to that sea (see also Numbers 14:25). Mount is here, as often elsewhere, for mountain range. The mountain range here referred to seems to have been, not that on the east of the 'Arabah, but what is in vers. 6 and 19 called "the mountain of the Amorites," "the Seir by Hormah" of ver. 44, i e. the southern part of what was afterwards called the mountains of Judah. According to ver. 19, the Israelites, when they left Horeb, passed through the wilderness along the way that led to the mountains of the Amorites, and came to Kadesh-barnea. Kadesh must, therefore, be looked for, not on the eastern side of the 'Arabah, but somewhere in the wilderness of Zin. It has been identified with the place now known as 'Ain Kudes, near the northern extremity of Jebel Halal, and to the east of that hill; but this is far from being certain. Moses reminds the Israelites that the distance between Horeb and Kadesh is eleven days - i.e., about one hundred and sixty-five miles, the day's journey being reckoned at fifteen miles - not to give them a piece of information, but rather to suggest to them how, in consequence of rebellion, a journey which might have been so easily accomplished, had been protracted through many wearisome years.
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;
Verses 3, 4. - Here is intimated the time when the following addresses were delivered to the people. It was on the first day of the eleventh month in the fortieth year; therefore near the end of their wanderings, and towards the close of the lawgiver's own career. He could thus speak to them according unto all that the Lord had given him in commandment unto them, i.e. in accordance with the legislative contents of the preceding books (comp. Deuteronomy 4:5 23; 5:28-33; 6:1). It was also after the destruction of Sihon and 'Og (Numbers 21:21-35). This also is significant. By the destruction of these kings, who sought to bar the access of the Israelites to the Promised Land, God had given proof that he would indeed fulfill his promise to his people, and had at once laid them under obligations to obedience, and given them encouragement to go forward on the course to which he had called them. The "he" here is Moses, who, at the command of God, had led the Israelites against Sihon and 'Og. Edrei, hod Draa (Numbers 21:33) was the second capital of 'Og; he "reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei" (Joshua 13:12). Here, however, it denotes the place where he was slain in battle, and the words "in Edrei" are to be referred to the verb "smote" and not to "dwelt" (cf. Deuteronomy 3:1: Numbers 21:33).
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,
Verse 5. - The locality is again described as beyond Jordan (see on ver. 1), and in the land of Moab. This designates the region elsewhere called Arboth Moab - the Plains of Moab (Numbers 22:1; Deuteronomy 34:1, etc.), the region on the east of the Jordan, opposite to Jericho, now known as the region of Kerak (Burckhardt, 'Syria,' p. 377, etc.; Robinson, 'Bib. Res.," 2:569). Began; rather set himself to. The Hebrew word signifies to undertake, to betake one's self to, and so to begin It is variously rendered in the Authorized Version (comp. Genesis 18:27, "taken it upon me;" Exodus 2:21, "was content," had made up his mind; 1 Samuel 12:22, "it pleased;" 17:39,"assayed," etc.). To declare, i.e. make clear, explain, expound (Habakkuk 2:2, "make plain "). The Hebrew word here used (בָאַר) signifies primarily to cut or dig, then to cut into, to grave, and then to cut or dig out so as to make evident, to declare, to make plain. What Moses set himself to do, then, was not to publish a new law, but to make plain to the people the Law already promulgated, to set forth clearly and pointedly what they were required by the Law to be and to do. This explains more fully the "spake" (דִבֶּר) of ver. 3. This exposition of the Law was designed specially for the sake of those who, at the time the Law was first promulgated, either were not born or were incapable of understanding it (Grotius). The expression used by Moses plainly indicates that this book was not intended to furnish a second code of laws different from the former, but simply to explain and enforce what had before been enjoined.
The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:
Verse 6. - With this verse begins Moses' first address to the people, which extends to the end of Deuteronomy 4. It is of an introductory character, and is occupied chiefly with a retrospective survey of the events that had occurred during the forty years of their wanderings. By this Moses reminded the people how God had fulfilled his promises to them, and at the same time, how they had by their rebellion drawn down on them his displeasure, which had caused their wanderings to be so much more protracted than they would otherwise have been. Verses 6-8. - The Lord's command to depart from Horeb, and his promise to the people. Verse 6. - The Lord our God - Jehovah our God. The use of this epithet implies the covenant union of Israel with Jehovah, and presupposes the existence of that covenant which was entered into at Sinai. In Horeb. This was the starting-point, so to speak, of Israel's being as the special people of God - his segullah (סְגֻּלָּה, Exodus 19:5), his special treasure. There he made himself known to them as Jehovah, the Eternal and Unchangeable, and entered into covenant with them; and there they received that Law, on the keeping of which depended their retention of the privileges to which they had been elected. At Horeb the Israelites had remained for about a year (comp. Exodus 19. I and Numbers 10:11, 12), and as the purpose for which they had been brought thither was answered, they were enjoined to move, not indeed by express command, but by the rising of the cloud from over the tabernacle, which was the signal of their march (Numbers 9:15, etc.; Numbers 10:11-13), preceded by the instructions they had received preparatory to their removal (Numbers 50:4-7). Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount. The Israelites remained at Sinai from the third month of the first year to the twentieth day of the second year after they came out of Egypt (cf. Exodus 19:1 and Numbers 10:11).
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.
Verse 7. - Go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all that dwell thereon; literally, its dwellers or inhabitants (שְׁכֵנָיו). The mountain range of the Amorites, afterwards called the hill country of Judah and Ephraim, was the object which would first strike the view of one advancing from the south; and so, it stands here for the whole land of Canaan, with which it is in this context identified. Those "that dwell thereon" are the inhabitants of the whole of Canaan. The Amorites (Hebrew Emori, so called from Amor, or Emor) oftener than once appear as standing for the Canaanites generally (cf. Genesis 15:16; Deuteronomy 1:20, 21, etc.). That all the inhabitants of Canaan are intended here is evident from the specification of the different districts of the land of Canaan which immediately follows. In the plain: the 'Arabah (see ver. 1). In the hills: the hill country of Judah (Numbers 13:17). In the vale: the shephelah, or lowland, the country lying between the mountain range of Judah and the Mediterranean Sea, and stretching northwards from the parallel of Gaza to that of Carmel. In the south: the negeb, or southland (literally, dryness), the district which formed the transition from the desert to the cultivated land, extending from the south of the Dead Sea westwards to Gaza, a vast steppe or prairie, for the most part pasture land. The seashore: the narrow strip of land on the coast of the Mediterranean from Joppa to Tyre (in the New Testament, "the coast of Tyre and Sidon," Luke 6:17). The land of the Canaanites: the whole country of which these were the separate parts. And unto Lebanon: the Whale Mountain, so called, probably, from the snow which rests on its summit. The great river, the river Euphrates. The Phrath, or Euphrates, which has its sources in the mountains of Armenia, and in its course divides Armenia from Cappadocia, formed the eastern limit of the territory promised by God to Abraham. The epithet "great" seems to have been commonly applied to it. Callimachus calls it 'ΑΣΣυριοῦ ποταμοῖο μέγας ρόος ('In Apoll.,' 107), and Lucan has-

"Quaque caput rapido tollit cum Tigride
magnus Euphrates."

(Phars.,' 3:256.) As by much the most considerable river of western Asia, the Euphrates was known as "the river" par excellence (cf. Exodus 23:31; Isaiah 8:7; Jeremiah 2:18; Psalm 72:8). The mention of Lebanon and the Euphrates is not, as Keil suggests, "to be attributed to the rhetorical fullness of the style;" but is due to the fact that these were included in what God promised to Abraham and his seed (Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 11:24).
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.
Verse 8. - Behold, I have set the land before you: literally, have given the land before you, i.e. have made it over to you, that you may go and take possession of it. The Lord had placed this land in the power of the Israelites, had given it up to them to possess and use it, according as he had sworn to their fathers, the patriarchs, to give it to them and their seed (comp. Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:18, etc.; Genesis 22:16). At Horeb, therefore, they received the charter of their inheritance, and might have gone on at once to take possession of the land. The delay that had occurred had arisen solely from their own waywardness and perversity, not from anything on the part of God.
And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone:
Verses 9-18. - Moses reminds them that he had done all that was required on his part to conduct the people to the enjoyment of what God had freely given to them. The people had so increased in number that Moses found himself unable to attend to all the matters that concerned them, or to adjudicate in all the differences that arose among them. God had brought to pass that which he had promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:5), that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude; in this Moses rejoiced, nay, he would even that their numbers were, with the Divine blessing, increased a thousandfold beyond what they were. But he found the burden, the weight of care and trouble, especially in connection with their strifes and suits thereby brought on him, too much for him; and, therefore, whilst they were still at Horeb, he had, following the advice of Jethro, his father-in-law, counseled them to select competent men from among themselves, who should relieve him by attending to those duties which he found it too burdensome for him to have to attend to (cf. Exodus 18:13, etc.). This appointment of captains was quite distinct from that of the elders whom God directed Moses to select that they might assist him in bearing the burden of the people (Numbers 11:10, etc.). The occasion of the appointment was the same in both cases, viz. the complaint of Moses that the task was too onerous for him, but the time, the place, and the manner of the two transactions were different. Verse 9. - I spake unto you at that time. The somewhat indefinite phrase, "at that time" (comp. Genesis 38:1), does not refer to the time after the people departed from Horeb, but to the time generally when they were in that region (see Exodus 18:5, 13). "The imperfect (וָאֹמַד, I spake), with yaw tel. expresses the order of thought and not of time" (Keil). It is not mentioned in Exodus that Moses spake to the people, as here stated, but what Jethro said to him to this effect is recorded; and as Moses proceeded to put in execution what his lather-in-law advised, it is probable that in doing so he told the people what he proposed to do, with his reasons for so doing, and obtained their assent, as here mentioned.
The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.
Verse 10. - Notwithstanding the cruel oppression to which they were subjected in Egypt, the Israelites had so increased in numbers that they went out of the house of their bondage a mighty host. Ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude (cf. Genesis 15:5; Genesis 22:17). God had promised to Abraham that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude; and Moses here reminds the people that this promise had been fulfilled. This is hardly to be regarded as the utterance of hyperbole. When God gave the premise to Abraham it was to the stars as seen by the patriarch, not as actually existing in the immensity of space, that reference was made; and as the number of stars which can be taken in with the naked eye does not exceed 3000, and as Israel at this time numbered more than 600,000, counting only the adult males (Numbers 2:32), - it might be literally said of them that they had been multiplied as the stars of heaven. The comparison, however, imported nothing more than that their numbers were very great.
(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!)
Verse 11. - It was not the vast increase of the people in numbers that distressed Moses, rather was this to him a matter of rejoicing, and his desire was that their increase might become still greater, even a thousandfold. But he felt his own inability, as leader, ruler, and judge, alone to cope with so vast a multitude.
How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?
Verse 12. - Moses appeals to the good sense of the people themselves: How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? Cumbrance: this is a just rendering of the Hebrew word מֹרֲח, from טָרַח, which, though it occurs only in the Hiphil in Hebrew, in the sense of to cast down (Job 17:11), probably was in use also in the Kal, in the sense of to lay upon, to encumber, which is the meaning of the cognate Arabic followed by . Burden (שָּׁא, from נָשָׂא, to lift up, to carry, to bear), something lifted up and carried, a load or burden. Strife: (רִיב) here, not mere contention, but litigation, suit-at-law. Some understand all these three, of troubles and burdens laid upon Moses, by his being called upon to compose differences, and adjust competing claims among the people. But other burdens besides these came upon him as the leader of the nation; and it seems best, therefore, to understand the first two of troubles and burdens generally.
Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.
Verse 13. - Take you; literally, give to you or for you, i.e. yourselves. The selection was to be made by the people themselves. Jethro, in giving Moses the advice on which he thus acted, described the men who were to be selected as "such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness" (Exodus 18:21). Moses here describes them rather by qualities, indicating ability and fitness for such a post as that to which they were to be called; they were to be wise (which, indeed, may be regarded as comprehending all good moral qualities); understanding men, men of discernment and sagacity, as well as intelligence; and known among their tribes, men of good repute in the community ("quorum conversatio sit probata," Vulgate; comp. Acts 6:3; 1 Timothy 3:7). And I will make them rulers over you; literally, will set them for your heads, i.e. will appoint them to act as superintendents, managers, and judges over you.
And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do.
Verses 14, 15. - The people approved of the proposal, and acted upon it; and Moses accordingly appointed the persons selected to be chiefs over thousands, and over hundreds, and over fifties, and ever tens (Exodus 18:21); he appointed men also to be officers, that is, persons who should preserve order in the tribes, keeping the registers, acting as scribes, to prescribe and to take account of work, and perhaps also attending to fiscal arrangements (שֹׁטְרִים, shoterim, a word of general application; cf. Exodus 5:6, 10, 14; Joshua 3:2; 2 Chronicles 26:11, etc. LXX. γραμματεῖς and γραμματο εισαγωγεῖς). In Exodus, Moses is said to have chosen these functionaries (Exodus 18:25); but what many do under the direction of one may be said to be done by him.
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.
Verses 16, 17. - In installing the judges, Moses solemnly charged them to deal impartially, fairly, and equitably with those who might come before them. Verse 16. - Hear between your brethren, i.e. hear impartially both parties, and judge righteously between man and man, whether both parties are Israelites, or one of the parties a stranger.
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.
Verse 17. - Ye shall not respect persons; literally, look at or regard aces, i.e. ye shall not deal partially, favoring the one party rather than the other (comp. Exodus 23:2, 3; Leviticus 19:15); the small as well as the great were to be heard, and neither for favor nor from fear were they to pervert justice. The judgment is God's; i.e. appointed by God and administered in his name, the judge acting for God and by his authority, and being answerable to him (comp. 2 Chronicles 19:6). Hence the phrases, "to inquire of God," "to bring before God" (Exodus 18:15, 19; Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8, etc.) phrases still in use among the Arabs for a summoning to judicial trial. In the case of a matter coming before the judges which they found it beyond their power to decide, they were to bring it before Moses as a superior authority (see Exodus 18:26) "Some think there were certain causes reserved to the cognizance of Moses; but the contrary appears by these words, that all manner of causes were brought before the judges; and they, not the people, brought such causes before Moses as they found too hard for them to determine. So that they, not the person whose cause it was, judged of the difficulty of the cause. See Selden, lib. 1. "De Synedriis, cap. 16." (Bishop Patrick).

And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do.
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.
Verses 19-23. - Here Moses passes from the judges to the people at large; from charging officials to judge righteously, to reminding the people that they also had received from him commandments which they had to obey. The "things" referred to are either the injunctions specified in Exodus 21, etc., or simply the instructions mentioned in the preceding verses. God had called the Israelites out of Egypt that they should go up at once to Canaan, and he had by Moses done all that was needed for this. But they had been rebellious, and had opposed God's commands, the consequence of which was that they had been made to experience various trials, especially to wander nearly forty years in the wilderness, so that of those who came out of Egypt only two were privileged to see the Promised Land. The words of Moses in this section supplement and complete the narrative in Numbers 13; but the words are those, not of a compiler, but of one who had been himself a witness of all he narrates. Verses 19-26. - That great and terrible wilderness: the desert forming the western side of the Stony Arabia. It bears now the name of Et-Tih, i.e. The Wandering, a name "doubtless derived from the wanderings of the Israelites, the tradition of which has been handed down through a period of three thousand years It is a pastoral country; unfitted as a whole for cultivation, because of its scanty soil and scarcity of water" (Dr. Porter, in Kitto's 'Biblical Cyclopedia,' vol. 3. p. 1075). In the northern part especially the country is rugged and bare, with vast tracts of sand, over which the scorching simoom often sweeps (see on ver. 1). This wilderness they had seen, had known, and had experience of, and their experience had been such that the district through which they had been doomed to wander appeared to them dreadful. Passing by the way of the Amorites, as they had been commanded (ver. 7), they came to Kadesh-barnea (see Numbers 12:16). Their discontent broke out oftener than once, before they reached this place (see Numbers 11, 12.); but Moses, in this recapitulation, passes over these earlier instances of their rebelliousness, and hastens to remind them of the rebellion at Kadesh (Numbers 13, 14.), because it was this which led to the nation being doomed to wander in the wilderness until the generation that came out of Egypt had died. It was through faith in God that Canaan was to be gained and occupied by Israel; but this faith they lacked, and so they came short of what God had summoned them t, attain (Psalm 78:22; Psalm 106:24; Hebrews 3:18, 19; comp. 2 Chronicles 20:20; Isaiah 7:9). Hence, when they had come to the very borders of the Promised Land, and the hills of Canaan were before their eyes, and Moses said to them, in the name of God, Go up, possess ("asyndeton emphaticum," Mi-chaelis), they hung back, and proposed that men should be sent out to survey the land and bring a report concerning it. This was approved of by Moses; but when the spies returned and gave their report, the people were discouraged, and refused to go up. They were thus rebellious against the commandment (literally, the mouth, the express will) of Jehovah their God; and not only so, but with signal ingratitude and impiety they murmured against him, and attributed their deliverance out of Egypt to God's hatred of them, that he might destroy them (see Numbers 13:1-33, to which the narrative here corresponds).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Verse 27. - Ye murmured in your tents; an allusion to what is recorded in Numbers 14:1, etc. Moses addresses the people then with him as if they had been the parties who so rebelled and murmured at Kadesh, though all that generation, except himself, Joshua, and Caleb, had perished. This he does, not merely because of the solidarity of the nation, but also that he might suggest to them the possibility that the same evil spirit might still lurk among them, and consequently the need of being on their guard against allowing it to get scope.
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.
Verse 28. - Our brethren have discouraged our heart; literally, hate melted or made to flow down our heart (הֵמַסּוּ, Hiph. cf מָסַס, to flow down or melt), have made us fainthearted. The cities are great and walled up to heaven; literally, are great and fortified in the heavens. To their excited imagination, the walls and towers of the cities seemed as if they reached the very sky; so when men cease to have faith in God, difficulties appear insurmountable, and the power of the adversary is exaggerated until courage is paralyzed and despair banishes hope. Sons of the Anakims; elsewhere (Numbers 13:22; Joshua 15:14; Judges 1:20) children or sons of the 'Anak. 'Anak may originally have been the proper name of an individual, but it appears m the Bible rather as the designation of the tribe. It is the word for neck, and this race, which were strong and powerful men, or their progenitor, may have been remarkable for thickness of neck; this, at least, is more probable than that it was from length of neck (Gesenius) that they got the name, for a long neck is usually associated with weakness rather than strength. Some have supposed the Anakim to have been originally Cushites; but the origin of the tribe is involved in obscurity.
Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them.
Verses 29-40. - Moses endeavored to rouse the drooping courage of the people, and persuade them to go up by reminding them that God, who was with them, would go before them, and fight for them as he had often done before; but without success, so that God was angry with them, and forbade their entrance into Canaan. This is not mentioned in Numbers, probably because Moses' appeal was unsuccessful. The whole of that generation was bound to fall in the wilderness, except Caleb and Joshua; only their children should enter the Promised Land. Verses 29, 30. - Moses exhorts the people not to be afraid, as if they had to encounter these terrible enemies solely in their own strength; for Jehovah their God was with them and would go before them, as he had gone before them hitherto, to protect them and strike down their enemies.
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.
Verse 31. - Not only at the Red Sea did God appear for the defense of his people and the discomfiture of their enemies, but also in the wilderness, which they had seen (as in ver. 19), where (אֲשֶׂר, elliptically for אֲשֶׂר בו) Jehovah their God bore them as a man beareth his son, sustaining, tending, supporting, and carrying them over difficulties (comp. Numbers 11:12, where a similar figure occurs; see also Isaiah 46:3, 4; Isaiah 63:9, etc.; Psalm 23.).
Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God,
Verses 32, 33. - Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God; literally, With this thing [or With this word] ye were not believing in Jehovah your God. The Hebrew דָבָר, like the Greek ρῆμα, signifies either thing or word. If the former rendering be adopted here, the meaning will be, Notwithstanding this fact of which you have had experience, viz. how God has interposed for your protection and deliverance, ye were still unbelieving in him. If the latter rendering be adopted, the meaning will be, Notwithstanding what I then said to you, ye remained unbelieving, etc. This latter seems the more probable meaning. In the Hebrew text there is a strong stop (athnach) after this word, as if a pause of astonishment followed this utterance - Notwithstanding this word, strange to say! ye were not believing, etc. The participle ("believing") is intended to indicate the continuing of this unbelief. So also in ver. 34, the participle form is used - "who was going in the way before you," to indicate that not once and again, but continually, the Lord went before them; and this made the sin of their unbelief all the more marked and aggravated. (For the fact here referred to, see Exodus 13:21, etc.; Numbers 9:15, etc.; Numbers 10:33-36.)
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.
And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying,
Verse 34. - And the Lord heard the voice of your words, and he was wroth, and sware, etc. (comp. Numbers 14:21-24).
Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers,
Verses 35, 36. - They were all, the whole generation of them, evil, and therefore not a man of them should see the good land which God had promised to their fathers, with the exception of Caleb, who had wholly followed the Lord - had remained steadfast and faithful whilst the others fell away. Joshua also was exempted from this doom; but before mentioning him, Moses refers to himself as having also come under the Divine displeasure.
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.
Also the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither.
Verse 37. - The Lord was angry with me also for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither. This must be regarded as parenthetical, for what he here refers to in regard to himself occurred, not at the time of the rebellion at Kadesh, but at the time of the second arrival of the people at that place, many years later. This parenthetical reference to himself was probably thrown in by Moses for the purpose of preparing for what he was about to say respecting Joshua, in whom the people were to find a leader after he himself was gone. It may be noted also that Moses distinguishes between the anger of the Lord against him, and the wrath which broke forth upon the people - a distinction which is aptly preserved in the Authorized Version by the words "was wroth" (קָצפ) and "was angry" (אָנַפ). For your sakes; rather, because of you, on accent of you. The Hebrew word (גָלָל) comes from a root meaning to roll, and signifies primarily a turn in events, a circumstance, an occasion or reason. Moses reminds the Israelites that the misconduct of the people was what led to God's being angry also with him (see Numbers 20:7, etc.; comp. Psalm 106:32, 33).
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.
Verse 38. - Though the rebellious generation were to perish, and Moses was not to be permitted to enter Canaan, God would not depart from his promise, but would by another leader bring the people to the inheritance which he had sworn to their fathers to give them. (For the account of Joshua's appointment and installation, see Numbers 27:15-23.) Which standeth before thee; i.e. to be thy minister or servant (Exodus 24:13; Exodus 33:11; Numbers 11:28; comp. for the meaning of the phrase Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 18:7; Daniel 1:5). Encourage him; literally, strengthen him (comp. Deuteronomy 3:21, 22; Deuteronomy 31:7, 8). Inherit it; the "it" refers back to ver. 35, "that good land." In vers. 8 and 21, the land is spoken of as to be possessed by the Israelites; here it is spoken of as to be inherited by them. The former has reference to their having to wrest the land by force from the Canaanites (יָרַשׁ, to occupy by force, to dispossess; cf. Deuteronomy 2:12, 21, 22, where the verb is, in the Authorized Version, rendered by "destroy"); the latter has reference to their receiving the land as a heritage (נָןחל) from God, who, when he divided to the nations their inheritance, assigned Canaan to the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:8). "Joshua the executor of the inheritance" (Schroeder).
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.
Verse 39. - Only among the young of that generation should the inheritance be divided, as they had no part in the rebellion of their seniors. Your little ones; i.e. children beginning to walk (טַפ, from טָפַפ, to trip, to take short and quick steps). And your children - boys and girls - which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil; rather, of whom [ye said] they know not today good and evil. The Hebrews were wont to express totality or universality by specifying contradictory opposites, as, e.g., great and small (2 Chronicles 34:30), master and scholar (Malachi 2:20), free and bond (Revelation 13:16; Revelation 19:18), shut up and left (Deuteronomy 32:36, where see note; 1 Kings 14:10), etc. Accordingly, when good and evil are set over against each other, the notion of entireness or universality is expressed. Thus, when Laban and Bethuel said to Abraham's servant "We cannot speak unto thee bad or good" (Genesis 24:50), the meaning is, We can say nothing at all. Absalom spake to Amnon "neither good nor bad" (2 Samuel 13:22); that is, he did not say anything to him. The woman of Tekoa said to David, "As an angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good and bad" (2 Samuel 14:17); i.e. There is nothing the king does not know - his knowledge is universal. Hence to know good and evil came to mean to be intelligent, and not to know good and evil to be unintelligent, as is a babe. The children here referred to knew nothing, and consequently could not be held as morally responsible; comp. Isaiah 7:15; Homer, ' Odyssey,' 18:228 -

Οἴδα ἔκαστα
ἐσθλά τε καὶ χέρεια παρὸς δ ἔτι νήπιος ἠᾶ
But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.
Verse 40. - The command to go to the mount of the Amorites (ver. 7) is recalled, and they are ordered to turn into the wilderness and go by the way leading to the Red Sea (setup. Numbers 14:25).
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.
Verses 41-46. - The people, appalled at the prospect of another sojourn in the wilderness, yet still rebellious and disobedient to God's command, though professing penitence, determined, in spite of direct prohibition on the part of God by Moses, to go up and force their way into Canaan; but were punished for their presumption by being utterly defeated and put to flight by the Amorites (comp. Numbers 14:40-45). Verse 41. - We have sinned; in Numbers it is simply said that "the people mourned greatly" (bemoaned themselves, יִתְאַבְּלוּ); but this is not incompatible with the statement here that they confessed their sins; the one would naturally accompany the ether. Their confession, however, was in word only; their conduct showed that it was not sincere. In Numbers (Numbers 14:44) it is said, "They presumed to go up;" here it is said (ver. Numbers 14:41), Ye were ready to go up, rather, ye acted heedlessly with levity, or rive. lonely, to go up. The verb here (וַתָּהִינוּ) occurs only in this place, and is of doubtful signification. The Rabbins compare it with the הננו, lo we! here we be! of the people in Numbers 14:40. It is the Hiph. of הוּן, which is supposed to be the same as the Arabic , to be light, easy; and from, this the meaning, "ye went up heedlessly, is deduced. None of the ancient versions, however, give this meaning. The LXX. has συναθροισθέντες ἀνεβαίνετε εἰς τὸ ὄρος; the Vulgate, instructi armis pergeretis in montem; Onk., ושׁרתון למסק (and ye began to ascend); Syriac, (and ye incited yourselves to go 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.
Verse 42. - Moses, by the command of God, warned the people that, if they presumed to go up, they should go without his protection, and so would certainly fall before their 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.
Verse 43. - In vain were they thus warned. Moses spoke to them as God commanded, but they would not be persuaded. Went presumptuously; rather, acted insolently and went up; margin, Authorized Version, "Ye were presumptuous, and went up" The verb here (חֵזִיד, from זוּד, to boil) signifies tropically, to act proudly, haughtily, insolently (comp. Nehemiah 11:29, Authorized Version, "dealt proudly").
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.
Verse 44. - The Amorites, for the Canaanites generally; in Numbers, the Amalekites are specially mentioned as joining with the Amorites in chastising the Israelites. These tribes came down from the higher mountain range to the lower height which the Israelites had gained, and drove them with great slaughter as far as Hormah, in Seir, chasing them as bees do, which pursue with keen ferocity those who disturb them. Hormah (Ban-place), the earlier name of which was Zephath (Judges 1:17), was a royal city of the Canaanites, taken by the Israelites towards the close of their wanderings, and placed by them under a ban (Numbers 21:1, etc.), which ban was fully executed only in the time of the Judges. It is here and elsewhere called Hormah by anticipation. The old name Zephath seems to have survived that given to it by the Israelites in the name Sebaita or Sepata, the Arabic form of Zephath, the name of a heap of ruins on the western slope of the rocky mountain-plateau Rakhmah, about two hours and a half south-west of Khalasa (Ritter, 'Geography of Palestine,' 1:431; Palmer, 'Desert of Et-Tih,' p. 289, etc.). This is a more probable identification than that of Robinson ('Res.,' 2:18), who finds Hormah in the rocky defile of Es-Sufah, an unlikely place for a city of the importance of Zephath to be in.
And ye returned and wept before the LORD; but the LORD would not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you.
Verse 45. - Ye returned; i.e. either to Kadesh, where Moses had remained, or from their rebellious and defiant attitude to one of apparent submission and contrition, or the whole phrase, "Ye returned and wept," may mean merely that they wept again, as in Numbers 11:4, where the same words are used. And wept. They mourned their misfortune, and complained on account of it (comp. for the meaning of the phrase, Numbers 11:4, 18, 20). Before Jehovah; i.e. before the tabernacle or sanctuary (comp. Judges 20:23, 26). Their mourning was not that of true repentance, and, therefore, the Lord would not listen to them or give heed to their wail (comp. Proverbs 1:24, etc.).
So ye abode in Kadesh many days, according unto the days that ye abode there.
Verse 46. - It was unnecessary that Moses should tell the people the precise length of time they abode in Kadesh after this, because that was well known to them; he, therefore, contents himself with saying that they remained there as long as they did remain (comp. for a similar expression, Deuteronomy 9:25). How long they actually remained there cannot be determined, for the expression, many days, is wholly indefinite.

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