Deuteronomy 1
Benson 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.
Deuteronomy 1:1. These be the words which Moses spake — In the last encampment of the Israelites, which was in the plains of Moab, there being now but two months before the death of Moses, and their passage into the land of Canaan. Moses spent this last part of his time in laying before them an account of their travels, and of the many singular providences, mercies, and judgments which had attended them; in repeating and enlarging upon the several laws which God had prescribed for their civil and religious conduct in that promised country; and in the most pressing applications, and earnest persuasions, to a grateful and dutiful obedience. These things, here termed words, with his last prophetic blessing upon their tribes, constitute the subject of this book. Unto all Israel — Namely, by their heads or elders, who were to communicate these discourses to all the people. In the wilderness — over against the Red sea — This is undoubtedly a wrong translation, for they were now at a vast distance from the Red sea, and in no sense over against it. סוŠ, Suph, here rendered Red sea, is, no doubt, the name of a town or district in the country of Moab, of which see Numbers 21:14. The Red sea is never expressed by Suph alone, but always by ים סוŠ, Jam Suph. This place seems to have been near the Dead sea, and to have had its name Suph, a rush, from the many flags or rushes which grew there. Between Paran — This cannot well be meant of the wilderness of Paran, mentioned Numbers 10:12, for that was far remote from hence; but of some place in the country of Moab, as Suph was, and the rest of the places which here follow. And Dizahab — Hebrew, די זהב, Di zahab, which the Vulgate renders, Where there is much gold, as the words signify. Perhaps it had its name from some mines of gold that were there; which circumstance seems to have determined the Seventy to render it καταχρυσεα, golden places, or gold mines.

(There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.)
Deuteronomy 1:2. There are eleven days’ journey — This is added, to show that the reason why the Israelites in so many years were advanced no farther from Horeb than to these plains, was not the distance of the places, but because of their rebellions. Kadesh-barnea — Which was not far from the borders of Canaan.

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;
Deuteronomy 1:3-4. The eleventh month — Which was but a little before his death. All that the Lord had given him in command — Which shows not only that what he now delivered was in substance the same with what had formerly been commanded, but that God now commanded him to repeat it. He gave this rehearsal and exhortation by divine direction: God appointed him to leave this legacy to the church. Og — His palace or mansion-house was at Astaroth, and he was slain at Edrei.

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,
The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:
Deuteronomy 1:6. Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount They had stayed at mount Sinai, or Horeb, almost a year, receiving the law, erecting the tabernacle, numbering the people, ranking them under their standards, &c. And so, being fitted for an orderly march, they were commanded to depart thence, and proceed to the nearest borders of Canaan.

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.
Deuteronomy 1:7-8. To the mount of the Amorites — That is, to the mountainous country on the south part of Canaan, inhabited chiefly by the Amorites, Deuteronomy 1:19-20; Deuteronomy 1:44. The country to which Moses directed the spies to go up, Numbers 13:17. This order is not mentioned in the book of Numbers, nor a great many other things, for a knowledge of which we are indebted to this supplemental book of Deuteronomy. Behold, I have set the land before you — Hebrew, before your faces; it is open to your view, and to your possession; there is no impediment in your way. And thus is the heavenly Canaan, and the kingdom of grace which leads to it, laid open to the view and enjoyment of all believers. Which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:7; Genesis 28:13. It is not indeed said in any of these places that God confirmed his promise with an oath; but he did what was equivalent thereto; he engaged his veracity by the solemn transaction of a covenant, which is called the oath of God, Genesis 26:3.

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.
And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone:
Deuteronomy 1:9. I spake unto you — Unto your fathers, who were alive at the time here referred to, but now dead, Numbers 26:64. At that time — That is, about that time, a little before their coming to Horeb. See Exodus 18. This was by the advice of Jethro, his father-in-law.

The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.
(The LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!)
How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?
Deuteronomy 1:12-13. How can I alone bear your burden? — The trouble of ruling and managing so perverse a people. Your strife — Your contentions among yourselves, for the determination whereof the elders were appointed. Take ye wise men and understanding — Persons of knowledge, wisdom, and experience. Known among your tribes — Hebrew, to your tribes; men had in reputation for ability and integrity; for to such they would more readily submit.

Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.
And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do.
So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes.
Deuteronomy 1:15. So I took the chief — Not in authority, but in endowments for governing. And officers — Inferior officers, that were to attend upon the superior magistrates, and to execute their decrees.

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.
Deuteronomy 1:16. The stranger — That converseth or dealeth with him. To such God would have justice equally administered as to his own people, partly for the honour of religion, and partly for the interest which every man hath in matters of common right.

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.
Deuteronomy 1:17. Respect persons — Hebrew, not know, or acknowledge faces; that is, not give sentence according to the outward qualities of the person, as he is poor or rich, your friend or enemy, but purely according to the merit of the cause. For which reason some of the Grecian lawgivers ordered that the judges should give sentence in the dark, where they could not see men’s faces. The judgment is God’s — It is passed in the name of God, and by commission from him, by you, as representing his person, and doing his work; who therefore will defend you therein against all your enemies, and to whom you must give an exact account.

And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do.
Deuteronomy 1:18. I commanded you, &c. — I instructed you in your duty, by delivering to you, and especially to your judges, the laws, statutes, and judgments revealed unto me by the Lord in Horeb.

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.
Deuteronomy 1:19. Great and terrible wilderness — Great, because it extended a great way; and terrible, because mostly desolate, or only inhabited by wild beasts. By the way of the mountain of the Amorites — All the way you went toward that mountain.

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.
Deuteronomy 1:24-25. Eshcol — That is, grapes, so called from the goodly cluster of grapes which they brought from thence. It is a good land — So they said unanimously, Numbers 13:27. Only they added, that they were not a match for the inhabitants of it, as is intimated Deuteronomy 1:28.

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.
Deuteronomy 1:27. Because the Lord hated us — This shows what dishonourable and unworthy thoughts they had entertained of God, to imagine him capable of being actuated by hatred to his own creatures. Their sins, indeed, he could not but view with hatred; just as every good and wise parent must dislike all evil dispositions and practices in his children: but God, infinitely good, can no more hate any thing that he has made, than a tender mother can be hardened against her sucking child.

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.
Deuteronomy 1:28. The people is greater — In number, and strength, and valour. The cities are great, and walled up to heaven — An hyperbole, signifying that their cities were fenced with very high walls, which Moses himself allows to be true, Deuteronomy 9:1. But, however strong they were, the Israelites had no reason to fear, since they were assured of the divine protection and aid in the execution of his command.

Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them.
The LORD your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes;
Deuteronomy 1:30. Shall fight for you according to all that he did in Egypt — This was one of the strongest arguments possible to beget in them a firm reliance on the protection and help of God; since they could not but own that the same power which had redeemed them out of Egypt, was no less able to bring them into Canaan; yet even this proved to be of no avail.

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.
Deuteronomy 1:31-34. Bare thee — Or carried thee, as a father carries his weak and tender child in his arms, through difficulties and dangers, gently leading you according as you were able to go, and sustaining you by his power and goodness. Ye did not believe the Lord — So they could not enter in, because of unbelief. It was not any other sin that shut them out of Canaan, but their disbelief of that promise which was typical of gospel grace; to signify that no sin will ruin us but unbelief, which is a sin against the remedy, and therefore without remedy. Your words — That is to say, your murmurings, your unthankful, impatient, distrustful, and rebellious speeches.

Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God,
Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.
And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying,
Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers,
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.
Deuteronomy 1:36-37. Save Caleb — Under whom Joshua is comprehended, though not here expressed, because he was not now to be one of the people, but to be set over them as a chief governor: we are also to except Eleazar and some other Levites. For your sakes — Upon occasion of your wickedness and perverseness, by which you provoked me to speak unadvisedly.

Also the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither.
But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.
Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.
But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.
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.
And the LORD said unto me, Say unto them, Go not up, neither fight; for I am not among you; lest ye be smitten before your enemies.
So I spake unto you; and ye would not hear, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD, and went presumptuously up into the hill.
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.
Deuteronomy 1:44. As bees — As bees, which, being provoked, come out of their hives in great numbers, and with great fury pursue their adversary and disturber.

And ye returned and wept before the LORD; but the LORD would not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you.
Deuteronomy 1:45-46. The Lord would not hearken to you — Your sorrow not proceeding from a penitent mind, or from a concern that God was displeased with you, but from this, that you yourselves could not do as you desired, God would not listen to your cry, as he always doth to the cry of those who pray to him in sincerity, and weep from genuine, godly sorrow. Ye abode in Kadesh many days — Near a whole year, not being now permitted to make any further progress toward Canaan.

So ye abode in Kadesh many days, according unto the days that ye abode there.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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