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Deuteronomy 1


The Previous Command to Enter Canaan Historical Review (1:1-3:29) Introduction The First Discourse of Moses (1:1-4:43) Time and Place
1:1-8 1:1-5 1:1-5 1:1-3
      The Final Instructions at Horeb
  1:6-8 1:6-8 1:6-8
Tribal Leaders Appointed   Moses Appoints Judges  
1:9-18 1:9-18 1:9-15 1:9-18
Israel's Refusal to Enter the Land   The Spies are Sent Out From Kadesh Barnea Kadesh: the Israelites Lose Faith
1:19-25 1:19-21 1:19-21 1:19-28
  1:22-25 1:22  
1:26-33 1:26-33 1:26-28  
    1:29-33 1:29-33
The Penalty for Israel's Rebellion   The Lord Punishes Israel Yahweh's Instructions at Kadesh
1:34-40 1:34-40 1:34-38 1:34-40
1:41-46 1:41-45 1:41 1:41-46



This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3, p. viii). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel and Laban and Hazeroth and Dizahab. 2It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. 3In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the Lord had commanded him to give to them, 4after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and Edrei. 5Across the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this law, saying,

1:1 "These are the words" This is the Hebrew title for the book. The Hebrew verb "spoke" (BDB 180, KB 210, Piel perfect) is a COGNATE to the noun "words" (BDB 182). Because the book itself says that these are the words of Moses, I believe that this excludes the possibility that this is entirely the work of a later redactor, editor, or compiler. We actually have the words of Moses, which in reality are the words of YHWH (e.g., 7:4; 11:13-14; 17:3; 29:6). This is not to say that there are not some editorial additions or that Moses recorded his own death. But the bulk of the material and the theology are Mosaic.

Similar phrases seem to divide Deuteronomy into sections:

1. "These are the words," 1:1 (1:1-5, introduction to first sermon)

2. "This is the law," 4:44 (4:44-49, introduction to second sermon)

3. "This is the commandment," 6:1

4. "These are the words of the covenant," 29:1 (start of third sermon)

5. "This is the blessing," 33:1

While I am commenting on this controversial issue of authorship/date, let me state clearly that I believe all Scripture is inspired (cf. II Tim. 3:15-17). The issue of authorship and date are hermeneutical issues, not inspiration issues! The Holy Spirit is the divine author of all canonical texts. Is this pre-suppositional? Absolutely! But it is a crucial presupposition, which must be reviewed and studied before any exegesis of Scripture has validity. The doctrines of Inspiration and Canonization are the twin pillars on which an authoritative Bible rests!

▣ "which Moses spoke" There were a large number of people who left Egypt with Moses and it would have been physically impossible for him to speak to all of them at one time. Possibly he spoke to the elders and then they repeated it to smaller groups or this is a literary way of denoting a written document.

▣ "to all Israel" See Special Topic below.


▣ "across the Jordan" This possibly means "in the region of" (BDB 719). The next two sentences are very specific as to the geographical location of the camp of Israel when Moses gave them this revelation. It became an idiom for (1) the area east of the Jordan (cf. Num. 35:14; Deut. 1:1,5; 4:41,46,47,49) and (2) the western area (cf. Deut. 3:20,25; 11:30; 9:1). It requires additional phrases to clarify which bank of the river is meant (cf. R. K Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 636-638).

▣ "the wilderness" This is not desert but uninhabited pasture land (BDB 184), which is dry and dead most of the year except in winter and early spring.

▣ "the Arabah" This is literally "arid plains" (BDB 787). This refers to the Jordan Valley (i.e., the Great Rift Valley) which goes from the Sea of Galilee to the Gulf of Aqaba (really from Turkey to Mozambique). So, it refers to the area both to the south (modern usage) and to the north of the Dead Sea and we are not certain exactly which part is meant. It can refer to the east bank of the Jordan (cf. 3:17; 4:49) or the west bank (cf. 11:30). Verse 1 is a summary of the Israelites' trek from Egypt to Sinai.

▣ "Suph" This (Egyptian loan word) is literally "reeds" (BDB 693). This can refer either to salt water plants (cf. Jon. 2:5) or more commonly fresh water plants (cf. Exod. 2:5). Here it can be translated "area of reeds" or the city of Suph and may relate to v. 40 (i.e., Red Sea is literally, "sea of reeds").

▣ "Paran" The term "paran" (BDB 803) can refer to a wilderness area which was north of the wilderness of Sinai, but south of the wilderness of Judea (cf. Num. 13:3,26). The oasis of Kadesh-Barnea was located in this wilderness area. See Special Topic at 2:1.

However, in this verse Paran seems to be an unknown location (possibly a city) on the eastern bank of the Jordan.

▣ "Topel" The term means "whitewash" (BDB 1074). This is an unknown site, but is apparently on the eastern side of the Jordan in the territory of Moab.

▣ "Laban" The term means "white" (BDB 526 III). This is an unknown site. Some scholars place it on the route from Sinai to Moab (cf. Libnah of Num. 33:20-21), while others make it a city or village on the eastern bank of the Jordan in Moab.

▣ "Hazeroth" It is this place name (BDB 348) that has caused scholars to assert that the locations mentioned after "Arabah" are Israel's camp locations between Mt. Sinai and the plains of Moab (cf. 1:2). If so, Laban would be Libnah (cf. Num. 33:20-21) and Hazeroth would refer to Num. 33:17-18. This was the site where Aaron and Miriam murmured against Moses' leadership or his new marriage to a Cushite woman (cf. Numbers 12).

▣ "Dizahab" This name (a combination of Aramaic "place of" and Hebrew "gold") means "place of gold" (BDB 191). The rabbis related this to the Egyptians giving the Jews gold when they left Egypt (cf. Exod. 3:22; 11:2; 12:35), but in context, this was a place name. The site is unknown. It was either (1) on the east bank of the Jordan in Moab and thereby close to the other places mentioned or (2) on the route from Mt. Sinai to Moab.

1:2 "eleven days journey from Horeb. . .Kadesh-barnea" This verse may be a summary of the movement of Israel from Mt. Horeb/Sinai to the oasis at Kadesh, but if so, it does not fit well between vv. 1 and 3. This may have been included to show that the journey should have taken eleven days, but because of unbelief it took a whole generation (38 years plus). This eleven-day trip seems to confirm the site of Mt. Horeb/Sinai as in the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

Notice that the place of the giving of the law is called "Horeb." Horeb is a Hebrew word for "waste" or "desolate" (BDB 352, KB 349). Sinai (BDB 696) is a non-Hebrew word, and they seem to both refer to the place where Moses brought Israel to meet YHWH (e.g., Horeb, Exod. 3:1; Deut. 1:6,19; 4:10,15; 5:12 and Sinai Exod. 19; Lev. 7:38; 25:1; 26:46; 27:34; Num. 1:1,9; 3:1,4,14; 9:1,5).

Why the name "Horeb" is used most often in Deuteronomy and "Sinai" most often in Exodus is unknown. There is literary variety in the writings of Moses. This could refer to:

1. oral traditions recorded by different scribes

2. Moses using different scribes

3. changes by later scribes for unknown reasons

4. literary variety



▣ "Mount Seir" BDB 973 says the term "Seir" can mean (1) goat; (2) hairy; (3) hairy as in well-wooded with trees; while KB 1989 asserts that it means "hairy."

In the OT this term is associated with Edom (cf. Gen. 14:6; 36:20-21,30; Deut. 1:2,44; 2:1,4-5; 33:2). It is often characterized as a mountain (cf. Gen. 14:6; 36:8-9; Deut. 2:1). Therefore, originally it was a Horite mountainous area annexed by Edom.

▣ "Kadesh-barnea" This is a large oasis on the border of Edom (cf. Num. 20:16), about 50 miles south of Beersheba, with four natural springs. Its name has two elements. The first is from the Hebrew for "holy" (BDB 873). The second is unknown. It became the hub of their wilderness wanderings (cf. Numbers 13-14).

1:3 "the fortieth year" This is the only date in Deuteronomy. "Forty" (BDB 917) is used so often in the Bible that it seems to refer to a long, indefinite period of time. The actual chronology seems to be 38 years (from Sinai to the plains of Moab).

▣ "on the first day of the eleventh month" The author is making every effort to locate the place and time on these words to Israel. See Special Topic below.


▣ "Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the Lord had commanded him to give to them" God is the author; Moses is the channel, but all these commands come from the covenant-making Yahweh.

There is great variety in the names for deity in Moses' writings. The following is an example from Deuteronomy 1-4.

1. The Lord (YHWH), 1:3,8,27,34,37,41,42,43,45; 2:12,14,15,17,21,31; 3:2,20,21,26(twice); 4:12,14,15,21,27

2. The Lord (YHWH) our God (Elohim), 1:1,19,20,25,41; 2:29,36,37; 3:3; 4:7

3. The Lord (YHWH) your God (Elohim), 1:10,21,26,30,31,32; 2:7(twice),30; 3:18,20,21,22; 4:2,3,4,10,19,21,23(twice),24,25,29,30,31,34,40

4. The Lord (YHWH), the God (Elohim) of your fathers, 1:11,21; 4:1

5. God (Elohim), 1:17; 2:33; 4:24 (jealous God), 31(compassionate God), 32,33

6. Lord (Adon) God (YHWH), 3:24

7. Lord (YHWH), my God (Elohim), 4:5

8. Lord (YHWH), He is God (Elohim), 4:35,39

There has been much speculation about this variety:

1. multiple authors

2. multiple scribes

3. theological distinctives

4. literary variety

OT scholars must admit that the authorship, compilation, editing, and scribal activity connected to the Canonical books of the OT is a mystery. We must be careful to not let our modern western literary theories or our a-priori theological assumptions demand one and only one interpretation. Mystery means mystery.



NASB, NRSV "after he defeated"
NKJV "after he had killed"
TEV "after the Lord had defeated"
NJB "He had defeated"

The verb (BDB 645, KB 697, Hiphil infinitive) means "to smite" and the theological implication is that it was YHWH. He is the first cause and only cause!

▣ "Sihon" Sihon (BDB 695) was the Amorite king of a region next to Og, king of Bashan, on the eastern side of Jordan. Moses was commanded by God (cf. 2:4-9) not to attack the Jews' relatives of Moab and Edom (Lot's descendants by his own daughters, cf. Gen. 19:30-38). The only other route to the Jordan was through Sihon's kingdom. The capital city of Heshbon was the first major city that the Israeli army conquered (cf. 2:26-37; Num. 21:21-32).

▣ "Og" Og (BDB 728) was king of the region called Bashan, which had two large cities (cf. Josh. 12:4) and many villages (cf. 3:1-10). He was apparently one of the Rephaim (giants, cf. 3:11) who inhabited Canaan (cf. 2:20; Josh 12:4). It was the descendants of these giants (cf. 2:11) at Hebron who had caused Israel to reject the two faithful spies' report (cf. Num. 13:22).



▣ "Astaroth" This city (BDB 800) was named after the female consort of the Canaanite fertility god Baal-Asherah/Astarte. Because of the mentioning of Rephaim, it is possible that this city is referenced in Gen. 14:5.

▣ "Edrei" This was one of the capital cities of Og (cf. Josh. 12:4; 13:12).

1:5 "in the land of Moab" This is where the Israelites camped before entering the Promised Land. It is the location just north of the Dead Sea on the eastern bank of the Jordan, where Deuteronomy was written.

▣ "Moses undertook" This verb (BDB 383, KB 381, Hiphil perfect) implies "volitional commitment" (cf. Gen. 18:27; Exod. 2:21; Jdgs. 19:6).

▣ "to expound this law" This verb (BDB 91, KB 106, Piel perfect) means to make clear or understandable. This word only appears here and two other times where it is translated "write" (cf. 27:8; Hab. 2:2). Instruction which is not clear or understandable is useless and, in this covenantal context, dangerous.

The term "law" (i.e., Torah BDB 260) is the Hebrew term for "teaching" or "instruction" (cf. 4:8,44; 27:3,8,26; 28:58,61; 29:20,28; 30:10; 31:9,11,12; 32:46). In this context it refers to Moses' sermons delivered to Israel on the eastern side of Jordan across from Jericho, on the plains of Moab, just before the Israelites crossed the Jordan without him.

"The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, 'You have stayed long enough at this mountain. 7Turn and set your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites, and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negev and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. 8See, I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to them and their descendants after them.'"

1:6 "Lord" This is the unique name for the God of Israel (i.e., YHWH, BDB 217). See Special Topic: Names for Deity at 1:3.

▣ "our God" The personal plural pronoun implies a covenant relationship, initiated and accepted at Sinai. This is the name of deity, "Elohim" (BDB 43). It is used of God as Creator, Provider, and Sustainer of all creation (e.g., Gen. 1:1-2:3). See Special Topic: The Names for Deity at 1:3.

▣ "Horeb" See note at 1:2.

▣ "'You have stayed long enough at this mountain'" God now tells the people it is time for them to do what He initially had commanded them, occupy Canaan (cf. Gen. 15:13-21; Numbers 13-14)! They had stayed at Mt. Horeb for about one year (compare Exod. 19:1 with Num. 10:11).


NASB"Turn and set your journey"
NKJV"Turn and take your journey"
NRSV"Resume your journey"
TEV"Break camp and move on"
NJB"Move on, continue your journey"

The first verb (BDB 815, KB 937, Qal imperative) means "turn," but is used in several senses:

1. turn to look at something/someone, Exod. 2:12; 16:10; Num. 12:10

2. turn so as to change direction, Gen. 18:22; 24:49; Exod. 14:25; 21:33; Deut. 1:7,24; 2:3; 9:15; 10:5

3. turn to other gods, Lev. 19:4; Deut. 29:18; 30:17; 31:18,20

4. seek help from, Lev. 19:31; 20:6

5. the approach of

a. evening, Deut. 23:11

b. morning, Exod. 14:27

The second verb (BDB 652, KB 704, Qal imperative) means "pull out," "pull up," or "set out," which is used often in Numbers for the Israelites moving their camp site. This usage continues in Deuteronomy (e.g., 1:7,19,40; 2:1,24). It originally referred to pulling up the tent stakes.

▣ "and go" This is the third parallel Qal imperative (BDB 97, KB 112).

There are five topological divisions of Palestine running north to south mentioned:

1. "in the hill country of the Amorite" - This refers to the eastern bank of the Jordan and the kingdoms of Sihon and Og.

2. "in the Arabah" - This refers to the Jordan rift valley south of the Dead Sea (BDB 787, cf. 1:1,7; 2:8; 3:17; 4:49; 11:30; Josh. 8:14; 11:2,16; 12:3; 18:18)

3. "in the hill country and in the lowlands" - This refers to the area west and south of the Dead Sea, later to become the tribal allocation of Ephraim and Judah.

4. "the Negev" - This is the arid desert land south of the Dead Sea and to the west (BDB 616)

5. "by the seacoast" - This is the coastal plain running from Egypt to Lebanon (i.e., Shephelah, BDB 410)

All of these taken together refer to the land promised to Abraham in Genesis 15.

1:8 Verse 8 is a series of commands:

1. "See" - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperative

2. "Go in" - BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperative

3. "Possess" - BDB 439, KB 441, Qal imperative (see Special Topic at 8:1)

▣ "'I have placed the land before you'" The Hebrew term for "have placed" is the same as "given" (BDB 678, KB 733, Qal perfect). God was now giving them the land as He had promised Abraham (Gen. 12:1, line 5; 15:12-21; Exod. 6:8), but they had to possess it. Notice the conditional aspect of even this foundational covenant (e.g., 4:1; 5:33; 6:18; 8:1; 16:20; 30:16,19).

▣ "the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob" See SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT Promises to the Patriarchs at 9:5.

See 4:37; 6:10; 9:5; 10:11,15; 30:20; Gen. 12:5-7; 13:14-17; 15:18; 26:3; Exod. 32:13; 33:1. This land would include the area from Kadesh-Barnea in the south to Byblos and Zephan, Zedad and Lebo-hamath in the north (possibly even as far east as the head waters of the Euphrates, cf. Gen. 15:18). See MacMillan Bible Atlas, p. 47.

There are several places where the general boundaries of the Promised Land are given (Exod. 34:1-12; Deut. 1:6-8; 3:12-20; 11:24; Josh. 1:3-4). It was only during David's reign that this whole general area was under Israel's control.

"I spoke to you at that time, saying, 'I am not able to bear the burden of you alone. 10The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are this day like the stars of heaven in number. 11May the Lord, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand-fold more than you are and bless you, just as He has promised you! 12How can I alone bear the load and burden of you and your strife? 13Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.' 14You answered me and said, 'The thing which you have said to do is good.' 15So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and appointed them heads over you, leaders of thousands and of hundreds, of fifties and of tens, and officers for your tribes."

1:9 "at that time" This is a recurrent phrase in Deuteronomy. The first four chapters are a review of YHWH's gracious acts on Israel's behalf. This idiom is a way of denoting a past act (cf. 1:9,16,18; 2:34; 3:4,8,12,18;4:14).

▣ "I am not able to bear the burden of you alone" See Exodus 18:13-26 for Jethro's advice to Moses about this very problem (i.e., Moses being the only judge).

1:10 "the Lord your God has multiplied you" This was part of God's promise to the Patriarchs (e.g., Gen. 13:16; 17:2,20; 22:17; 48:4; Lev. 26:9; Deut. 7:13).

▣ "as the stars of heaven" This phrase is also found in Gen. 15:5; 26:4; Deut. 10:22; 28:62. Other parallel phrases used to portray uncountable numbers (cf. Gen. 16:10) of Israelites are: "dust of the earth" (cf. Gen. 13:16; 28:14; Num. 23:10); and "sand of the sea" (cf. Gen. 22:17; 32:12). All of these from a man who was childless until age 100 (i.e., Abraham)!

In Deut. 1:28 the Israelites, who are more numerous than the stars, are afraid of the inhabitants of Canaan because of their:

1. numbers

2. size

3. walled cities

What irony!

1:11 "the God of your fathers" This often repeated designation asserts that the same God who spoke to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is still active in the lives and destiny of their descendants.

▣ "increase you a thousand-fold" This is obviously an idiomatic phrase. The number 1,000 was a multiple of ten (times 3) and, therefore, a symbol of greatness or numerousness (cf. Ps. 90:4; II Pet. 3:8). Here is a list of hyperbolic usages from NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 417:

1. the work of God in blessing, Deut. 1:11; Job 42:12; Ps. 144:13

2. military blessing, Josh. 23:10

3. military curse for unbelief, Deut. 32:30; Isa. 7:23; 30:17; Amos 5:3

4. enduring sovereignty of God, Ps. 90:4

5. God's covenant promises, Deut. 7:9; Ps. 105:8

6. God's wrath vs. God's love, Exod. 34:7; Deut. 5:9-10

7. blessing of being in God's temple, Ps. 84:10


1:12 "strife" This means "lawsuit" (BDB 936).

1:13 "Choose" This verb (BDB 396, KB 393) is a Qal imperative. Notice that Moses was commanding the people (i.e., their leaders) to take responsibility (they choose) for the community along with himself (Moses appoints). These new judges (i.e., tribal leaders) were to be:

1. "wise" - (BDB 314) meaning capable of thoughtful and godly choices (e.g., Joseph, Gen. 41:33,39; David, II Sam. 14:20; Solomon, I Kgs. 2:9; 3:12; 5:21)

2. "discerning" - (BDB 106, KB 122, Niphal participle) meaning someone who has discretion, discernment, and intelligence (e.g., Joseph, Gen. 41:33; negative in Jer. 4:22)

3. "experience" - (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal passive participle). This is a common word with a large semantic field.

a. NASB, TEV, NJB, JPSOA - experienced

b. NKJB - knowledgeable

c. NRSV, REB - reputable

d. JB - tested

e. NIV - respected

f. NET - known


▣ "I will appoint them" The verb (BDB 962, KB 1321) is a Qal imperfect, used in the sense of a cohortative. Moses set or appointed these chosen men to places of leadership and judgment (e.g., Exod. 1:11; 18:21; Deut. 17:14,15; Jdgs. 11:11). However, in reality, it was YHWH who "took" (BDB 542, KB 534, Qal imperfect, v. 15) them, which denotes God's choice (e.g., 4:20,34; I Kgs. 11:37). The human process followed a divine plan!

1:15 "leaders of thousands, and of hundreds, of fifties and of tens" These divisions later became military units (cf. Exod. 18:21). See Special Topic below.

NASB, NKJV "officers"
NRSV, TEV "officials"
NJB "scribes"

This term (BDB 1009) originally referred to a scribe, but this does not seem to fit its usage in Deut. 1:15; 20:5,8,9; or Josh. 1:10,32. In this context it seems to refer to a lesser judge or helper to tribal leaders.

The Handbook on Deuteronomy by UBS says, "they appear with elders (Num. 11:16) and with judges (Deut. 16:18; Josh. 8:33), and also in military contexts (Deut. 20:5,8,9; Josh. 1:10; 3:2)" p. 26.

"Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, 'Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. 17You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God's. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.' 18I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do."

1:16-17 Moses charged these new tribal judges to be impartial (cf. 16:19; 24:17). Impartiality is a characteristic of God (cf. 10:17). Israel was meant to be a people and society that revealed the character of YHWH so that the world would come to place their trust and faith in Him. Since the Fall (i.e., Genesis 3) this has been God's plan. Israel failed, but the ideal Israelite (i.e. Jesus, cf. Isaiah 53) succeeded (e.g., John 14:5-7, 8-11).

▣ "alien" Non-Jews were to be treated as equals in the legal realm (cf. Lev. 19:33-34,35). Israel was to deal with them graciously (cf. Lev. 23:22; Deut. 10:19; 24:17; 27:19). Israel had been aliens in Egypt (cf. Exod. 22:21; 23:9) and knew how it felt!

▣ "righteously" See Special Topic below.


▣ "You shall not show partiality in judgment" The term "partiality" is literally "face" (BDB 815). The verb (BDB 647, KB 699, Hiphil imperfect) means "to regard." The point being that as a person approached the judge, the judge should not attempt to see or recognize who it was coming before him, but to hear the case fairly and impartially. The judge was to treat all cases without prejudice (cf. Lev. 19:15).

▣ "You shall not fear man" This verb (BDB 158 III, KB 185, Qal imperfect) means "dread" or "awe." In this context "dread" is demanded. In Deuteronomy this term is used in two contexts. God's leaders/judges are not to fear the reactions of men to their decisions (1:17) and God's people are not to fear the messages of false prophets (18:22).

This term is used often in the Psalms to express the covenant believer's respect and awe of YHWH (e.g., 33:8; 22:23).

▣ "The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me" Moses was God's representative to the people. He was seen as a prophet (cf. v. 18; 18:15-22).

"Then we set out from Horeb, and went through all that great and terrible wilderness which you saw on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, just as the Lord our God had commanded us; and we came to Kadesh-barnea. 20I said to you, 'You have come to the hill country of the Amorites which the Lord our God is about to give us. 21See, the Lord your God has placed the land before you; go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed.'"

1:19-25 "Then we set out" The verb (BDB 652, KB 704, Qal imperfect) is regularly used of the Exodus (cf. Exod. 12:37; 13:20; 14:15; 16:1; and often in Numbers 33). These verses relate to the journey from Mt. Sinai to Kadesh-barnea.

1:19 "Horeb" The two titles of the sacred mountains, Horeb and Sinai, are used synonymously. Horeb is a Semitic term. Sinai is not semitic but possibly relates to the Wilderness of Sin. Sin is a term for a small desert plant common in the region. Some believe that Horeb is the mountain range and Sinai is the peak, but we don't really know for certain.

▣ "that great and terrible wilderness" Usually the term "wilderness" (BDB 184) means uninhabited pastureland, but this trek took them across the desert of the Sinai Peninsula. There were few sources of natural water. God provided water and food for them supernaturally during this forty year period. Today, this desert is called Et Tih, which means "the wandering." This journey was about 100 miles and crossed very rough country.

▣ "the hill country of the Amorites" This would refer to the southern part of the land of Canaan (i.e., Negev, Arabah).

▣ "just as the Lord our God had commanded us" For the names for deity see the Special Topic at 1:3. God led them by:

1. Moses' words

2. the Shekinah cloud of glory, which rested over the tabernacle. When it moved Israel followed.


▣ "we came to Kadesh-barnea" The Hebrew word for holy is kadosh (BDB 871), from which we get "Kadesh." Kadesh-barnea means "holy-(unknown)," possibly "holy city" or "holy place." It was an important campground for the Israelites as it was for Abraham because it was the largest oasis in the area.

1:20-21 These verses have caused problems for commentators because of the change in usage between the pronouns "our" and "your," which is common throughout the book of Deuteronomy. This is one reason why some believe that Deuteronomy was written by several people. I think that Moses wrote (or dictated) the majority of the revelations, but it is obvious that his writings have been edited by later scribes and may contain the comments of the original scribe.

1:21 "See, the Lord your God has placed. . .take possession" This may be a reference to v. 8, where God, through Moses, told the people to possess the land which He had promised to the Patriarchs (cf. 12:5-7; 13:14-17; 15:18; 26:3).

This verse, like vv. 7 and 8, contains several commands:

1. "See" - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperative

2. "Go up" - BDB 748, KB 828, Qal imperative

3. "Take possession" - BDB 439, KB 441, Qal imperative

4. "Do not fear" - BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperfect, but used in a jussive sense

5. "Be dismayed" - BDB 369, KB 365, Qal imperfect, but used in a jussive sense


NASB, NRSV "Do not fear or be dismayed"
NKJV "do not fear or be discouraged"
TEV "do not hesitate or be afraid"
NJB "do not be afraid or discouraged"

This prohibition from YHWH was based on their trust in His covenant promises and presence! This phrase occurs twelve times in the OT (e.g., 31:8; Josh. 1:9; 8:10; 10:25; I Chr. 22:13; 28:20; II Chr. 20:15; 32:7; Jer. 30:10; 46:27).

"Then all of you approached me and said, 'Let us send men before us, that they may search out the land for us, and bring back to us word of the way by which we should go up and the cities which we shall enter.' 23The thing pleased me and I took twelve of your men, one man for each tribe. 24They turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the valley of Eshcol and spied it out. 25Then they took some of the fruit of the land in their hands and brought it down to us; and they brought us back a report and said, 'It is a good land which the Lord our God is about to give us.'"

1:22 Numbers 13:1-3 is the background for this verse. It recalls Moses' commands to the tribes:

1. "Send" - BDB 1018, KB 1511, Qal cohortative

2. "Search out" - BDB 343, KB 340, Qal imperfect, used in a jussive sense

3. "Bring back" - BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil imperfect used in a jussive sense


1:23 "I took twelve of your men, one man for each tribe" Moses was smart to try and include each of the tribes so that each one felt important.

1:24 "the valley of Eshcol" This term (BDB 79) means "cluster" or "stalk." Numbers 13:23-24 says that they cut one cluster of grapes that was so big that it took two men to carry it on a pole. This is how the valley (or Wadi) got its Hebrew name, but its location in southern Palestine is uncertain, possibly somewhere close to Hebron (cf. Num. 13:22,23).

▣ "spied it out" "Spied" (BDB 920, KB 1183, Piel imperfect) is a variation of the word for "foot" (BDB 919), which implies that they walked through the land. They had no animals to ride and it was a real step of faith for them to walk throughout this land and be seen by its inhabitants.

1:25 "it is a good land which the Lord our God is about to give us" What a powerful covenantal affirmation! Yet, they did not act on the theological affirmation, but on their fear (e.g., v. 21).

"Yet you were not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; 27and you grumbled in your tents and said, 'Because the Lord hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us. 28Where can we go up? Our brethren have made our hearts melt, saying, "The people are bigger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified to heaven. And besides, we saw the sons of the Anakim there."' 29Then I said to you, 'Do not be shocked, nor fear them. 30The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.' 32But for all this, you did not trust the Lord your God, 33who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go."

1:26 "rebelled" The verb (BDB 598, KB 632, Hiphil imperfect) becomes a common word in Deuteronomy (e.g., 1:26,43; 9:7,23,24; 21:18,20; 31:27; and also in the Psalms). Its COGNATE in Aramaic means "to dispute with" and in Syriac, "to contend with." It denotes willful, known disobedience!

▣ "the command of the Lord" The command in vv. 8 and 21 were for them to go up and take the land.

1:27 "you grumbled in your tents" The people were in their tents grumbling (BDB 920, KB 1188, Niphal imperfect); they were not doing it publicly, but God saw their hearts (cf. Ps. 106:25) and knew that they were rebelling against Him (i.e., "slanderous whispers," cf. Pro. 16:28; 18:8; 26:20,22). God knows not only what we say (cf. v. 25c), but what is in our heart-our motives (cf. Num. 14:1-6).

▣ "the Lord hates us" In this verse the people are impugning the motives and nature of God (e.g., 9:28). They had forgotten all of the wonderful promises and provisions of God during their trek from Sinai to Kadesh and had started focusing on their present situation, which they viewed as devastating.

1:28 "Our brethren have made our hearts melt" The people tried to blame the spies for their unbelief. The term "melt" (BDB 587, KB 606) is a metaphor for a person becoming fearful and losing the will to resist (cf. 20:8; Josh. 2:11; 5:1; 7:5; and possibly 14:8).

NASB, REB"bigger and taller"
NKJV, Peshitta
"greater and taller"
NJB, NIV"stronger and taller"
NET"more numerous and taller"

It is obvious from the different translations that the question is about the first term. Is it synonymous or does it add new information?

The adjective (BDB 152) basically means "great." It is used of:

1. great in extent

2. great in number

3. great in intensity

4. great in importance

The term is common and has such a wide semantic field that only context can clarify its meaning. The Septuagint seems to understand these terms as "more populous and mightier." Part of the problem of translation is the place of "giants" in the OT!

▣ "the cities are large and fortified to heaven" From archeology we have found evidence about some of these cities. Lachish was a southern Amorite city which had a wall 29 feet thick. The walls of these cities had an occasional raised turret or tower. One can understand how the Israelites were overwhelmed when they saw these cities ("fortified" BDB 130, KB 148, Qal passive participle means "inaccessible").

This hyperbole "fortified to heaven" is used in the same metaphorical sense as the names of the Ziggurats in Babylon (cf. Gen. 11:4).

▣ "Anakim" The word (BDB 778 I) literally means "longneckers." This refers to the giants (cf. Gen. 6).



NASB"Do not be shocked, nor fear them"
NKJV "do not be terrified, or be afraid of them"
NRSV "Have no dread or fear of them"
TEV "Don't be afraid of those people"
NJB "Do not take fright, do not be afraid of them"

The first verb (BDB 791, KB 888, Qal imperfect) means "cause to tremble." In Aramaic it means "to quiver" and in Syriac "to come upon accidently or violently" (cf. 7:21; 20:3; 31:6).

The second verb (BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperfect) means "fear" or "awe." This is the common term for fear:

1. of enemies - Deut. 1:21,29; 2:4; 3:2,22; 7:18,19; 20:1,3; 31:6; Josh. 11:6

2. peoples of the earth fear the people of God - Deut. 28:10 (cf. Josh. 4:24); Josh. 9:24

3. Israel is to fear/awe/respect YHWH - Deut. 4:10; 5:5; 6:2,13,24; 10:12,20; 13:11; 14:23; 17:13,19; 19:20; 21:21; 25:18; 28:58; 31:12; Josh. 4:24


1:30 "The Lord your God who goes before you" This is a powerful encouraging phrase expressing God's best gift-His personal presence and provision. Notice in v. 30 He goes ahead of them to battle (cf. 9:3); in v. 33 He goes ahead of them to lead them through the desert.

▣ "fight on your behalf" This is an example of "holy war" or herem (BDB 355, e.g., Deut. 2:24; 3:6; 7:2; 20:16-18; Josh. 6:17,21;8:26;10:1,28,37;11:12, 20-21). This is God's judgment on the Amorites/Canaanites for their sin, not just God favoring His people (cf. Gen. 15:16). God had given the peoples of Canaan many chances to repent, but they would not, so His judgment was upon them. God will also judge His own people when they take up these same Canaanite practices (i.e., the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles)! Here, God is telling His people not to fear but to trust Him because He was on their side (e.g., Deut. 3:22; 20:4; Josh. 10:14,42; 11:5-6)!

1:31 "your God carried you, just as a man carries his son" "Carry" (BDB 669, KB 724, Qal perfect) can refer to physically bearing someone or something or "sustaining someone." God as Father (i.e., Parent) is a wonderful biblical, personal family metaphor (cf. 8:5; 32:6; Exod. 4:22; Ps. 27:10; 68:5; 103:13; Pro. 3:12; Isa. 1:2; 63:16; Jer. 3:19; Hos. 11:1-4; Mal. 1:6; Acts 13:18). In the OT "son" is a corporate metaphor for YHWH's fatherhood for Israel, but it becomes individual to Davidic king and his special royal descendant (i.e., Messiah, Ps. 2:2,7; Acts 13:33).

1:32 "But for all this" This includes God's special, personal presence and care from the call of Abraham (Genesis 13) through the Exodus (Exodus - Numbers).

▣ "you did not trust the Lord your God" The verb (BDB 52, KB 63, Hiphil participle) is a major theological term. It is the basis of the personal relationship central to the covenant.


1:33 "who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go" God went before the people in a fire by night and cloud by day, which is known as the "Shekinah cloud of glory" (e.g., Exod. 13:21-22; 14:19,24; 19:16-18; 20:21; 24:15,18; 33:9-10; Lev. 16:2; Num. 9:15-23; 14:14; Ps. 78:14) This cloud symbolizes the presence or transportation of deity and is found throughout the Bible (e.g., I Kgs. 8:10,12; Ezek. 1:4; Dan. 7:13; Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Acts 1:9-11; I Thess. 4:17; Rev. 1:7). He is coming on the clouds!

34"Then the Lord heard the sound of your words, and He was angry and took an oath, saying, 35'Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers, 36except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and to his sons I will give the land on which he has set foot, because he has followed the Lord fully.' 37The Lord was angry with me also on your account, saying, 'Not even you shall enter there. 38Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter there; encourage him, for he will cause Israel to inherit it. 39Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it. 40But as for you, turn around and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.'

1:34 "He was angry and took an oath" This same phrase, "took an oath" (BDB 989 KB 1396, Niphal imperfect), was used when God committed Himself to a covenant relationship with Israel. Here He is committing Himself to the covenant consequence for disobedience-cursing. Notice that God's promise to Abraham was to succeeding generations, but the curse was only to one generation, which was the initial evil (i.e., unbelief in YHWH's promise of giving them Canaan) generation of the Exodus.

1:35 All of the men of military age (i.e., 20 years and up), who refused to follow YHWH's command and take the land, are punished and the people had to wander in the wilderness until their deaths (i.e., 38 years). The NT book of Hebrews, chapters 3-4, discusses this very issue of faithlessness.

Only the two spies who brought the positive report, Caleb (cf. v. 36) and Joshua (cf. 1:38), were excluded. Covenant disobedience results in covenant curses for Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 27-29) and Moses (cf. Deut. 3:26-27).

▣ "the good land" This is a recurrent phrase (cf. Exod. 3:8; Deut. 1:35; 3:25; 4:21,22; 8:7,20; Josh. 23:13). Good denoted (1) God's presence (i.e., God is "good," Ps. 86:5; 100:5; 106:1; 107:1; 118:1,29; 145:9; and also note the parallelism of Amos 5:4,6,14,15) and (2) "a land flowing with milk and honey" (e.g., Exod. 3:8,17; 13:5; 33:3; Num. 13:27; 14:8; 16:13,14; Deut. 6:3; 11:9; 26:9,15; 27:3; 31:20; Josh. 5:6).

1:36 "the land on which he has set foot" The land which Caleb will capture and thereby inherit is located around Hebron. We think it is near the valley of Eshcol (cf. Josh. 15:13), where the giants lived!

▣ "fully" This means "wholeheartedly" (BDB 569, KB 583, Piel perfect). It refers to one without mixed motives; Caleb loved YHWH with all his heart and followed Him. It is a metaphor of true devotion (e.g., Num. 14:24; 32:11-12; Josh. 14:8,9,14; I Kgs. 11:6). It is similar to the phrase, "with all your heart and with all your soul" (cf. Deut. 6:5; 10:12; 13:3; 30:2; I Kgs. 9:4; 11:4).

1:37 "The Lord was angry with me also on your account" Moses was trying to blame the people for his own disobedience (cf. Deut. 3:26, just as Adam tried to do, cf. Gen. 3:12), but note Num. 20:7-13,24; 27:14; Deut. 4:21.

The verb "angry" (BDB 60, KB 72, Hithpael perfect) is from the noun for "nostril" or "nose." Apparently it referred to (1) the flaring of the nostril as a physical sign of anger or (2) snorting a nasal sound. This term is used consistently for divine (anthropomorphic) anger (cf. Exod. 32:12; Deut. 1:37; 4:21; 9:8,20; II Kgs. 24:20).

Another use of this word in connection to deity is the phrase, "slow to anger," which emphasizes God's patience and longsuffering (e.g., Exod. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Pro. 14:29).

1:38 "Joshua, son of Nun, who stands before you" The phrase, "who stands before you," is a Hebrew idiom which refers to a leader. Joshua was the right-hand man of Moses and this may be a prophecy of his future leadership role.

▣ "encourage him" This verb (BDB 304, KB 302, Piel imperative) means "make strong" (e.g., 3:28). YHWH Himself does this in Josh. 1:6,7,9,18!

▣ "for he will cause Israel to inherit it" This promise goes back to the prophecies to the Patriarchs (e.g., Genesis 12, 15, 18, 26) about their descendants' possession of Canaan (e.g., 3:28; 31:7; Josh. 11:23).

1:39 "your little ones who you said would become a prey" This refers to Numbers 14:3,31. Because of the adults disbelief God is telling them that their children surely would inherit the land just as He had promised.

▣ "who this day have no knowledge of good or evil" Historically this is referring to the children who came out of Egypt. God did not hold them responsible until they were capable of covenant understanding and commitment.

In this text two sides/poles can be seen in:

1. "I will give it to them" (God's sovereignty, cf. v. 8)

2. "They shall posses it" (human choice and responsibility, cf. v. 8)


See Special Topic below.


1:40 "by the way to the Red Sea" This seems to be a reference to the road called "the King's Highway" that ran beside the Gulf of Aqaba from Elath to Kadesh-barnea (cf. Num. 14:25; 20:17; 21:22). This does not refer to the Egyptian body of water crossed early in the Exodus, unless it means "in the general direction of."


"Then you said to me, 'We have sinned against the Lord; we will indeed go up and fight, just as the Lord our God commanded us.' And every man of you girded on his weapons of war, and regarded it as easy to go up into the hill country. 42And the Lord said to me, 'Say to them, "Do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; otherwise you will be defeated before your enemies."' 43So I spoke to you, but you would not listen. Instead you rebelled against the command of the Lord, and acted presumptuously and went up into the hill country. 44The Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do, and crushed you from Seir to Hormah. 45Then you returned and wept before the Lord; but the Lord did not listen to your voice nor give ear to you. 46So you remained in Kadesh many days, the days that you spent there."

1:41 "We have sinned against the Lord; we will indeed go up andfight" This is apparently consequence-related repentance. Theologically this shows that many times a lost opportunity, because of unbelief, cannot be regained. This context clearly shows that they were not obeying YHWH (cf. v. 43). This theological truth is the central focus of many of the OT historical narratives.

1:42 "I am not among you" The key to victory was not their military strength, but the presence of YHWH (cf. v. 43).

1:43 Notice the parallel descriptions of Israel:

1. "You would not listen" - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal perfect

2. "You rebelled against the command" - BDB 598, KB 632, Hiphil imperfect

3. "Acted presumptuously" - BDB 267, KB 268, Hiphil imperfect

If Israel would have listened to YHWH earlier and done this very thing they would have successful, but by doing it now it shows their continual self-asserting waywardness!

This context clearly shows that obedience is integrally related to His covenant promises, presence, and power!

1:44 "the Amorites who lived in that hill country" See Special Topic: The Pre-Israelite Inhabitants of Palestine at 1:4.

NASB "crushed you"
NKJV "drove you back"
NRSV "beat you down"
TEV "chased you"
NJB "pursued you"

The verb (BDB 510, KB 507, Hiphil imperfect) means "to beat into pieces." This is recorded in Num. 14:45.

The adjective was used of beating oil out of olives (cf. Exod. 29:40; Num. 28:5). It is used for the destruction of (1) the golden calf (cf. Deut. 9:21) and (2) of the smashing of idols (cf. Micah 1:7).

▣ "from Seir" Seir refers to Edom.

NJB"to Hormah"
NRSV, TEV "as far as Hormah"

Hormah means "place of the ban." The term (BDB 356) means "devoted to destruction," which reflects Num. 21:3. It was originally called Zephath (cf. Jdgs. 1:17). After the Israelites destroyed it, they renamed it devoted/destroyed to/for YHWH (like Jericho, Joshua 6-7). It was located in the tribal allocation of Simeon, northeast of Beersheba.

The preposition (BDB 723 III) implies that the Canaanites/Amorites chased the Israelites from Edom (Seir) to this area just northeast of Beersheba, where they totally defeated them! YHWH was not with His rebellious and presumptuous people!

1:45 "Then you returned and wept before the Lord" The people wept outwardly, but God knew their hearts. It was sorrow based on consequences, not repentance.

▣ "but the Lord did not listen to your voice, nor give ear to you" It was not that God did not hear them, but He did not hearken unto them. He heard them, but said "No." Sin always brings consequences, even forgiven sin!


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the basic purpose of Deuteronomy?

2. Why are Sihon and Og mentioned here briefly when they are discussed fully in chapters 2 and 3?

3. List the vital items concerned with the judicial system of Moses?

4. Where did the giants come from?

5. Why was God so angry at Israel?

6. Did Israel's repentance affect God's decision?


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