Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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.Analysis and Annotations
I. THE FIRST DISCOURSE OF MOSES AND RETROSPECT
1. The Introduction
The people were still on this side of Jordan in the wilderness. The second verse, containing a parenthetical statement, gives the story of their unbelief, as recorded in the Book of Numbers. “There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea.” They might have reached the place they occupied now, facing Jordan and the land, in eleven days. It took them almost forty years. Unbelief had kept them back. It was towards the end of the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, that Moses began his wonderful addresses. In the first month of that memorable year Miriam had died (Numbers 20:1). His brother Aaron had died in the fifth month (Numbers 33:38). Moses was soon to follow him at the close of the fortieth year, at the ripe age of one hundred and twenty. Forty years were spent by Moses in the palaces of Egypt; forty years he was a shepherd in the land of Midian and forty years he was the leader of God’s people through the wilderness. Before he went to the top of Pisgah to behold the land and to die, he pours out his heart in the presence of all Israel. His words were “according unto all that the Lord had given him.” All he had received from the Lord, he passed on faithfully to the Lord’s people. “Moses verily was faithful in all God’s house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things, which were to be spoken afterward” (Hebrews 3:5). Once more, therefore, he placed the words of the Lord before their hearts. This is the blessed object of ministry, to make known what God has revealed. True ministry is to deliver the message received. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received” (1Corinthians 15:3). Moses declared the Law unto them (verse 5). The Hebrew word “declare” means “to make plain.” it is used in Habakkuk 2:2.
The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:2. From Horeb to Kadesh
1. The command to go in and to possess the land (Deuteronomy 1:6-8)
2. The appointment of judges reviewed (Deuteronomy 1:9-18)
3. The failure to possess the land (Deuteronomy 1:19-33)
4. The judgment of God (Deuteronomy 1:34-46)
In the beginning of our annotations we must guard once more against the misleading conception, that the book of Deuteronomy is nothing but a rehearsal of previous history. On account of this wrong estimate, the book has not received the close study it deserves and God’s people have missed the blessing, which results from such a study. It is true, Deuteronomy contains much that is retrospective, but it is far from being mere repetition. Spiritual lessons are found here, which are very much needed at the present time.
God had spoken at Horeb, “Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount.” This communication is not found in the book of Numbers, though the opening chapters of that book presuppose such a command. Not a word is said here of the cloud and the trumpets, the twofold means by which Jehovah guided and directed His people. We therefore learn, that the Lord also spoke in direct words to them. He had watched their dwelling at Horeb; the purpose He had with them at that mountain was accomplished and now they had been instructed to move. It reveals the loving interest the Lord took in His people and in their movements. And He is still the same, who controls the tarrying and the journeying of His people. Every word in verses 7 and 8 reveals the divine purpose to lead His people at once into the land, which He had sworn unto Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 22:16). The land was set before them; all they needed was to go forward in faith and possess it. They failed miserably.
The nation had greatly multiplied and Moses was not able to bear them alone (Exodus 18:17-18; Numbers 11:14). To guard against any misunderstanding of his word: “I am not able to bear you myself” Moses added the gracious wish “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!” These beautiful words still breathe the warmth of the loving heart of Moses and they are also expressing his faith in the promise of Jehovah. Provision was made for the relief of Moses. There is no discrepancy here with the statements in Exodus and Numbers on this matter. Moses in his address does not give a repetition of the historical-chronological facts, and circumstances, but simply mentions them incidentally as leading up to the main object of his address. It was failure on his part, when he complained of his burden. We learned this in our annotations of Numbers 11. May we think here of the great burden-bearer, our Lord, who never fails His people and who never complains. We can cast our burdens and cares upon Him and shall ever find that He careth for us.
The sending out of the spies is next mentioned. Here we find the hidden things uncovered and the motives are given, which prompted the people to ask for the spies. They asked for the spies themselves. So we learn that the wish did not come from the Lord, nor from Moses. When Jehovah saw the desire of their hearts and heard their request, He commanded the sending out of the spies. He knew in what it would result. Moses was ignorant of that, therefore, the saying pleased him well. If the people had faith in God they would have been obedient at once and gone up to possess the land. The story of their unbelief and rebellion follows. Fearful was the accusation, which came from their lips. “Because the Lord hated us, He hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us.” What ingratitude and blindness! The Lord, who had so graciously delivered them out of Egypt, who had overthrown the hosts of Egypt, who had given them the bread from heaven and water out of the rock, Him they accused of hatred.
The words of Moses to inspire the murmuring people with new courage (verses 29-31) do not appear in the book of Numbers. Deuteronomy is clearly not a mere rehearsal of what took place. Moses honored the Lord by the words he spoke. He did not share the unbelief of the people. The concluding paragraph of the first chapter shows the judgment, which fell upon that unbelieving generation. The opening words of Moses in this book are of a solemn character. Unbelief and disobedience had brought judgment upon the people. God’s demands here and throughout this book are faith and obedience as the expression of faith. Confidence in Him and obedience, unswerving obedience He asks of us; He can never dispense with these. We find these demands of Jehovah everywhere. Obedience is the way to blessing and the enjoyment of what Jehovah is, while disobedience plunges into darkness and despair. And how significant are the burning exhortations to obedience from the lips of the servant of God, whose failure by being disobedient and self-willed had deprived him from entering into the land!