Deuteronomy 1:5
On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying,
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(5) On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab.—This would be on the other side of Jordan from the stand-point of the writer, or of the readers for whom the book was intended, which is Palestine.

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

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

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

1:1-8 Moses spake to the people all the Lord had given him in commandment. Horeb was but eleven days distant from Kadesh-barnea. This was to remind them that their own bad conduct had occasioned their tedious wanderings; that they might the more readily understand the advantages of obedience. They must now go forward. Though God brings his people into trouble and affliction, he knows when they have been tried long enough. When God commands us to go forward in our Christian course, he sets the heavenly Canaan before us for our encouragement.In the land of Moab - This district had formerly been occupied by the Moabites, and retained its name from them: but had been conquered by the Amorites. Compare Numbers 21:25, note; Numbers 22:5, note.

Declare - Render, explain the Law already declared.

5. On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law—that is, explain this law. He follows the same method here that he elsewhere observes; namely, that of first enumerating the marvellous doings of God in behalf of His people, and reminding them what an unworthy requital they had made for all His kindness—then he rehearses the law and its various precepts. No text from Poole on this verse.

On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab,.... On that side of Jordan in which the land of Moab was, and which with respect to the land of Canaan was beyond Jordan; this the Vulgate Latin version joins to the preceding verse:

began Moses to declare this law: to explain it, make it clear and manifest; namely, the whole system and body of laws, which had been before given him, which he "willed" (k), as some render the word, or willingly took upon him to repeat and explain unto them, which their fathers had heard, and had been delivered unto them; but before he entered upon this, he gave them a short history of events which had befallen them, from the time of their departure from Horeb unto the present time, which is contained in this and the two next chapters:

saying; as follows.

(k) "voluit", Montanus; "placuit", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "statuit", Tigurine version.

On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, {e} began Moses to declare this law, saying,

(e) The second time.

A. Duet Deuteronomy 1:5 to Deuteronomy 4:40. First Discourse and Introduction to the Law-Book

5. Special Title to the First Discourse of Moses

Usually taken as the continuation of the general title to the Book, 1a and 4, this appears rather—note the repetition of the datum beyond Jordan—to have been originally a special title to the following first discourse of Moses. Obviously written in W. Palestine.

5. in the land of Moab] So always in D as the place of this legislation, which P gives more exactly as the ‘Arboth-Moab, the sections of the ‘Arabah in Moabite territory, just N. of the Dead Sea (I.P. 209). Except for some doubtful cases in later writers Moab is always the name of the people, not of their land. See Enc. Bibl. art. ‘Moab.’ In Deuteronomy 3:29, Deuteronomy 4:46 the scene of the lawgiving is more exactly defined as in the gai or hollow over against Beth-pe‘or.

began] Heb. hô‘îl is stronger: undertook, or set himself to (Genesis 18:27), or was pleased to (2 Kings 5:23; Hosea 5:11).

to declare] In the original sense of declare (Wright, Bible Word-Bk), make clear or distinct. The Heb. bç’çr, properly to dig or hew, is used of writing on stone (Deuteronomy 27:8), or tablets (Habakkuk 2:2). Only here metaphorically, to explain or expound, as in post-Bibl. Heb., or to engrave in the mind of the people.

this law] Heb. this Tôrah, on the various meanings of the term see I.P. App. vi.; Driver, Exodus, 162, 165. In which of these it is to be taken here is disputed. Dillm., after stating that in D Tôrah is distinguished from Law proper, described as statutes and judgements, takes it here to mean instruction concerning law and justice. So Steuern. and Berth. But in the other 18 instances of the phrase this Tôrah in D) it is used of the deuteronomic code and indeed in Deuteronomy 4:8 is parallel to statutes and judgements. We may take it in the same sense here (so Driver), equivalent indeed to no mere catalogue of laws, but to laws with notes, exhortations, precedents and reminiscences. If that be the meaning of Tôrah in this title, it proves that the discourse to which the title is attached, Deuteronomy 1:6 to Deuteronomy 4:40, was originally designed as an introduction to the code Deuteronomy 1:12-26. But the terms of the title are more suitable to Deuteronomy 1:5 ff. in which discourse the actual exposition of the Law begins. See further on Deuteronomy 4:44-49.

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. Deuteronomy 1:5To the description of the ground to which the following addresses refer, there is appended an allusion to the not less significant time when Moses delivered them, viz., "on the first of the eleventh month in the fortieth year," consequently towards the end of his life, after the conclusion of the divine lawgiving; so that he was able to speak "according to all that Jehovah had given him in commandment unto them" (the Israelites), namely, in the legislation of the former books, which is always referred to in this way (Deuteronomy 4:5, Deuteronomy 4:23; Deuteronomy 5:29-30; Deuteronomy 6:1). The time was also significant, from the fact that Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, had then been slain. By giving a victory over these mighty kings, the Lord had begun to fulfil His promises (see Deuteronomy 2:25), and had thereby laid Israel under the obligation to love, gratitude, and obedience (see Numbers 21:21-35). The suffix in הכּתו refers to Moses, who had smitten the Amorites at the command and by the power of Jehovah. According to Joshua 12:4; Joshua 13:12, Joshua 13:31; Edrei was the second capital of Og, and it is as such that it is mentioned, and not as the place where Og was defeated (Deuteronomy 3:1; Numbers 21:33). The omission of the copula ו before בּאדרעי is to be accounted for from the oratorical character of the introduction to the addresses which follow. Edrei is the present Dra (see at Numbers 21:33). - In Deuteronomy 1:5, the description of the locality is again resumed in the words "beyond the Jordan," and still further defined by the expression "in the land of Moab;" and the address itself is introduced by the clause, "Moses took in hand to expound this law," which explains more fully the דּבּר (spake) of Deuteronomy 1:3. "In the land of Moab" is a rhetorical and general expression for "in the Arboth Moab." הואיל does not mean to begin, but to undertake, to take in hand, with the subordinate idea sometimes of venturing, or daring (Genesis 18:27), sometimes of a bold resolution: here it denotes an undertaking prompted by internal impulse. Instead of being construed with the infinitive, it is construed rhetorically here with the finite verb without the copula (cf. Ges. 143, 3, b). בּאר probably signified to dig in the Kal; but this is not used. In the Piel it means to explain (διασαφῆσαι, explanare, lxx, Vulg.), never to engrave, or stamp, not even here nor in Deuteronomy 27:8 and Habakkuk 2:2. Here it signifies "to expound this law clearly," although the exposition was connected with an earnest admonition to preserve and obey it. "This" no doubt refers to the law expounded in what follows; but substantially it is no other than the law already given in the earlier books. "Substantially there is throughout but one law" (Schultz). That the book of Deuteronomy was not intended to furnish a new or second law, is as evident as possible from the word בּאר.
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