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

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

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.1:9-18 Moses reminds the people of the happy constitution of their government, which might make them all safe and easy, if it was not their own fault. He owns the fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham, and prays for the further accomplishment of it. We are not straitened in the power and goodness of God; why should we be straitened in our own faith and hope? Good laws were given to the Israelites, and good men were to see to the execution of them, which showed God's goodness to them, and the care of Moses.This appointment of the "captains" (compare Exodus 18:21 ff) must not be confounded with that of the elders in Numbers 11:16 ff. The former would number 78,600; the latter were 70 only.

A comparison between this passage and that in Exodus makes it obvious that Moses is only touching on certain parts of the whole history, without regard to order of time, but with a special purpose. This important arrangement for the good government of the people took place before they left Horeb to march direct to the promised land. This fact sets more clearly before us the perverseness and ingratitude of the people, to which the orator next passes; and shows, what he was anxious to impress, that the fault of the 40 years' delay rested only with themselves!

9-18. I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone—a little before their arrival in Horeb. Moses addresses that new generation as the representatives of their fathers, in whose sight and hearing all the transactions he recounts took place. A reference is here made to the suggestion of Jethro (Ex 18:18). In noticing his practical adoption of a plan by which the administration of justice was committed to a select number of subordinate officers, Moses, by a beautiful allusion to the patriarchal blessing, ascribed the necessity of that memorable change in the government to the vast increase of the population. At that time, i.e. about that time, to wit, a little before their coming to Horeb, Exodus 18:18. And I spake unto you at that time,.... About that time; for it was after the rock in Horeb was smitten, and before they encamped at Mount Sinai, that Jethro gave the advice which Moses took, and proceeded on it, as here related; see Exodus 18:1.

saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone; to rule and govern them, judge and determine matters between them. Jethro suggested this to Moses, and he took the hint, and was conscious to himself that it was too much for him, and so declared it to the people, though it is not before recorded; see Exodus 18:18.

And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. at that time] As the syntax implies this means when or after the command was given to depart from Ḥoreb; while in Ex. the institution of colleagues for Moses, E, Exodus 18:12 ff., conies before Israel’s arrival there. This difference of date is either due to D’s move distant perspective (Introd. § 11); or as Dillm. suggests (also Bacon JBS xii. 24) the author of D found the passage in JE placed beside our Numbers 10:29-36. See further Dri. Exod. p. 162. The discrepancy is of no importance. The other difference, the absence from D of Jethro’s initiative as related in JE, may be due to the summary nature of its review (Dillm.); yet the possibility of intentional omission cannot be excluded in view of the prevalent confinement of the interest in D to Israel alone. Berth. (p. 4) relevantly points to the omission from D of all reference to Balaam. The formula, at that time, is curiously enough found only in Pl. passages Deuteronomy 1:9; Deuteronomy 1:16; Deuteronomy 1:18; Deuteronomy 2:34; Deuteronomy 3:4; Deuteronomy 3:8; Deuteronomy 3:12; Deuteronomy 3:18; Deuteronomy 3:21; Deuteronomy 3:23; Deuteronomy 4:14; Deuteronomy 5:5; Deuteronomy 9:20; Deuteronomy 10:1; Deuteronomy 10:8.

I am not able to bear you myself alone] More fully in E, Numbers 11:14, I am not able, I myself alone, to bear all this people, for it is too heavy for me; similarly E, Exodus 18:18 (Jethro to Moses), the thing is too heavy for thee, thou art not able to do it alone.

9–18. The Institution of Tribal Heads (Judges?)

At that time, Moses, declaring his inability to bear alone the greatly increased people (9–12), bade them choose men, wise, understanding, and known, according to their tribes, that he might make them heads over them (13). The people approved (14). Moses took such men (the text becomes obscure) and set them in graded ranks (15). At that time, too, he charged the judges to be patient and impartial, for their judgement was God’s; the harder cases to be brought to himself (16 f.). And he also charged the people (18).—The parallel passages are two: (a) E, Exodus 18:13-26 : before arrival at Sinai, Jethro advised Moses, as unable to bear the people alone, to reserve himself for them Godward and to provide men of power and troth, fearing God and hating unjust gain, to judge the people, but to bring the greater cases to him: Moses agreed and chose such; (b) JE?, Numbers 11:14; Numbers 11:16 f., 24b–30: Moses, confessing to God his inability to bear the people alone, was charged to choose seventy elders, who should receive the same spirit as he, to hear the people with him. With these two passages this section, besides showing some verbal coincidences (see 9b, 12, 15, 17b) and correspondences (13a, 18), agrees as to the motive for the new appointments, Moses’ inability to bear Israel alone, the lay character of the appointed, their grading in ranks, and the division of cases between them and Moses (these last two absent from Numbers 11). The differences of substance are three. On that of date see on Deuteronomy 1:9. In Exodus 18 Jethro starts the proposal, here Moses, in Numbers 11 the Deity on the prayer of Moses. In Ex. and Num. Moses selects, here the people. On the apparent, but unreal, difference on the qualifications for the posts see on Deuteronomy 1:9. There are also differences of language; here the forms of words, turns of rhythm and phrases, are all characteristic of D. In P there is no parallel; P throughout assigns judicial functions to the priests (cf. D. Deuteronomy 17:11), but mentions certain nesî‘îm, chiefs of the clan, called to the Diet, who attend Moses and Aaron to hear petitions, and who represent Israel in foreign engagements.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. To 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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