Deuteronomy 1
Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary


This Book is called Deuteronomy, which signifies a second law, because it repeats and inculcates the ordinances formerly given on Mount Sinai, with other precepts not expressed before. The Hebrews, from the first words in the Book, call it Elle Haddebarim. (Challoner) --- It may be divided into many discourses, which Moses made to the people during the last two months of his life. (Haydock) --- The first was delivered by him on the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year, since the deliverance of the Hebrews out of Egypt, and relates various particulars which had occurred to them. In chap. iv. 41, and following, and a supplement from the Book of Numbers is given to this discourse. Chap. v., a fresh exhortation to the people commences, which continues until chap. xxii., where the famous blessings and maledictions, from the mountains of Garizim and Hebal, are related. In the following chapters, Moses exhorts the people, in the most pathetic manner, to be faithful to the Lord, adding the strongest threats and promises to enforce their compliance; and having appointed Josue to succeed him, and repeated that beautiful canticle which God ordered them to write, (chap. xxxi. 19,) he gives the Book of Deuteronomy, to be kept with care, (ver. 9,) blesses the tribes like a good and tender father, and gives up his soul to God on Mount Nebo in the 120th year of his age. (Calmet) --- There can be no doubt but that Moses was the author of this book, as well as of the four preceding ones; though the last chapter may, perhaps, form a part of the Book of Josue, which formerly was written immediately after the works of Moses, without any such marks of distinction as we find at present. The whole Bible seemed to make but one verse. How easily, therefore, might the account of the death of Moses be taken in, as forming a part of the Pentateuch, when the different books came to be distinguished by separate titles! Such an insertion cannot hurt the general claim of Moses to be the author of the Pentateuch; or, if it should be thought to do so, no absolute proof can be brought to shew that he did not write this chapter also, by the spirit of prophecy. All the people spoke to Esdras, the scribe, to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded, to Israel. The whole nation of the Jews has all along maintained, that Moses wrote these books: and he himself repeatedly asserts that he was ordered to leave on record many things of importance. Hence both internal and external evidence concur to establish his title to them; and if we be not disposed to cavil with all other authors, and to deny that Demosthenes, for example, Cæsar, and others, have written the works which bear their names, we must confess that the Pentateuch is to be attributed to the Jewish legislator. Yet if this were a matter of doubt, the things contained in these books could not, on that account, be controverted. How many anonymous works have been published which are of unquestionable authority! Many of the books of Scripture are of this nature. But as we have every reason to believe, that they have come down to us without any material corruption, and were written by people of veracity, by divine inspiration, they deserve to be regarded as authentic records. This is true, whether we speak of the originals or of the versions authorized by the Church; though it should suffice to stop the mouths of infidels, if we can procure an authentic history of the Bible by the collation of the different copies which are extant. Thus, where the Hebrew editions appear to be incorrect, they may receive great light from the Samaritan copy of the Pentateuch, and from the versions of the Septuagint, and of other respectable authors on the whole Bible. The variations, which we may discover, are not of such moment, but that, if the very worst copy were selected, we should find the same great outlines of Scripture history, the same precepts of faith and morality. The laws of Moses, which are scattered through his five books, may be seen all together in their natural order, collected by Cornelius a Lapide and Calmet. But the spirit of God was pleased to intersperse historical facts among them, which both shew the occasion on which they were given, and enable us to read them with greater pleasure and satisfaction. The four preceding books might be compared to the four Gospels; Deuteronomy represents the whole, (Ven. Bede) and may be styled a Diatessaron, as it recalls to our mind the great Creator of all things, who was about to fulfil the promises which he had made to the Patriarchs. Almost all those to whom Moses addresses himself, had been unborn or very young, when their parents received God's commands at Sinai, and wandered in the desert. He therefore gives them an account of what had happened during the last eventful period of forty years. He shews what had brought on so many disasters, and cautions his hearers, that if they imitate the perfidy of their fathers, as he foresees, with sorrow, that they will, (chap. xxxi.) they must expect to be treated with no less severity. This prediction we behold verified, at the present day, in the persons of the scattered remnants of Israel. How sublime! how terrifying are the truths which Moses enforces with so much earnestness! The same threats which he denounces against the perfidious Jews, regard us in some measure. If we feel not their effects at present, in being driven out from our country, we have more reason to fear lest we should be excluded from our heavenly inheritance, if we do not repent. (Haydock)

Beyond. The eastern side of the Jordan is so called in Scripture, with reference to the promised land. (Menochius) --- Hebrew may mean also, "on this side, or at the passage" about Bethabara, "the house of passage," near which the Hebrews were encamped, and where Josue probably crossed over the Jordan, as it was the usual ford. Calmet seems to think that these two first verses have been inverted by Esdras, &c., or interpolated, as he says Moses never crossed the Jordan, and certainly addressed the Hebrews near that river, at a great distance from the Red Sea: but the text does not assert the contrary. It only determines that the place where he harangued them, was a part of the wilderness, or the plains of Moab, over-against the Red Sea, which they had left when they came from Asiongaber, unless the term Suph, which signifies red, may be a proper name of the station Supha, near the torrent Zared, (Numbers xxi. 14,) as Calmet maintains. If this be admitted, this difficulty vanishes, for the camp of Israel was certainly over-against, and not even remote from this place. The other cities may have been in the environs, or Moses may have referred to the stations and places in the desert of Pharan, at Tophel, Laban, or Lebna, Haseroth, (Numbers xxxiii. 17,) where there is very much gold, (Septuagint, "gold mines;" Hebrew, "dizahab,") and Cades-barne. Lebna, Haseroth, and Cades-barne, were in the territory of the Idumeans, who dwelt to the south-west of the plains of Moab. Tophel and Dizahab are unknown (Calmet) as well as Laban, Haseroth, and Pharan, if they be not the names of encampments. Geographers vary so much in their descriptions of the road, which the Hebrews followed, and in maps of the adjacent countries, that it is now impossible to decide. (Haydock)

Cades-barne. All the distance between Horeb and the Jordan, by Mount Seir, on the road to Cades-barne, might have been traveled in eleven days' time, being about 300 miles; or the Hebrews were so long in going thither, Numbers xxxiii. 17. (Calmet) --- It was to punish the Israelites for their frequent rebellions, that they were condemned to wander in that wilderness for forty years. (Du Hamel) --- They might have entered the promised land when they first came to Cades-barne, from Mount Horeb, (Numbers xiii. 1, 27,) which, even by the circuitous road of Mount Seir, would not have taken them above eleven days. He mentions this to remind them of their folly. Perhaps all the aforesaid places may have been between Horeb and Cades-barne, as Bonfrere maintains that Laban was in the neighbourhood of Sinai, where Moses first received the law which he is now going to explain. His discourse turns upon the chief occurrences of the forty years' journey; and hence, these are the words, (ver. 1,) may refer not only to what he was going to say, but also to the commands which he had already notified to the Israelites, from the passage of the Red Sea till the station Abelsetim, upon the banks of the Jordan, Numbers xxxvi. 13. (Haydock) --- Deuteronomy contains a recapitulation of the law, and therefore it was to be read aloud to all the people on the feast of tabernacles, every seventh year; and the new kings, or rulers of the Hebrews, were commanded to transcribe it, and every day read some part for the rule of their conduct, chap. xvii. 18., and xxxi. 10. (Tirinus)

Month, corresponding with our January, if the ecclesiastical calculation be followed; but if we date from Tisri, this eleventh month will be our July or August. Moses died on the 7th of the following month. (Du Hamel)

Astaroth signifies "sheep," particularly ewes, with their dugs distended with milk. Hence the Sidonians formed the idea of their Astarte, 1 Kings xi. 5. (Haydock) --- The Rabbins say, that Astaroth denotes large mountains, generally covered with sheep. Astaroth-Carnaim was the city. (Eusebius) --- Here the famous Og resided, though he was defeated at Edrai, as the Hebrew intimates. (Calmet)

Expound. He begins, as usual, with commemorating the wonders of God, in favour of an ungrateful people. This book may be considered as a supplement to the other four books. (Calmet) --- We need not wonder, therefore, if we find some new observations. The reason why the sabbath is to be kept, is here said to be in memory of the law being given to the Hebrews, and their liberation from slavery; (chap. v. 15,) whereas in Exodus, it seems to be designed to remind people that God rested on the seventh day. But here is no contradiction. (Watson)

Turn you. The Hebrews, after the passage of the Red Sea, seemed to turn their backs upon the promised land, to go southward. Now, therefore, they are ordered to bend their course to the north, and to enter Chanaan, (Haydock) on the western side of the lake of Sodom, where the Amorrhites dwelt. (Calmet) --- Their mountain, and the other hills, and plains, and vales, (Hebrew sephela, mentioned [in] 1 Machabees xii. 38,) as far as the Nile and Mediterranean, were the southern limits of the Chanaanites, whose country extended to Libanus. See Numbers xxxiv. (Haydock) --- God promises also to deliver the country as far as the Euphrates to the Hebrews, provided they continue faithful to him, chap. xix. 8. As they neglected this condition, they never possessed the whole country, not even that of Chanaan, unmolested. Yet the whole was tributary to them in the days of David and Solomon. (St. Augustine, q. 21. in Jos.) (Masius) (Tirinus)

I said, following the advice of Jethro, Exodus xviii. 18.


Who, &c. Hebrew, "and shoterim (officers like our serjeants, designed to publish and execute the sentence of the judges) over or among your tribes." The Persians still call such officers chaters. The Rabbins say, that the shoterim were generally selected from among the Cinites, the descendants of Jethro, 1 Paralipomenon ii. 55. But we find that the Levites were also chosen, 2 Paralipomenon xix. 11. They seem to have had sometimes the authority of judges, princes, or doctors for the instruction of the people, as the Vulgate here expresses it. (Calmet)

Ver 17. Respect. Hebrew, "fear." (Menochius) --- Those who judge ought to be quite impartial, and never suffer their sentence to be dictated either by love or by fear. (Haydock) (Ecclesiasticus vii. 6.) --- Of God, to whom you must give an account of your conduct, Wisdom vi. 4. Speak therefore in his name, and imitate his justice and other perfections. See Psalm lxxxi 1. (Calmet) --- If any one absolve an oppressor because he is rich, that judge is guilty of partiality. (Du Hamel) (Isaias i. 23.) --- Hear it, as the supreme judge. (Menochius) --- The people selected such as might be most proper, out of whom Moses made his choice. (Salien) --- An appeal might be made to himself. (Abulensis, q. 11.)

Pleased me. Even Moses was deceived by the appearance of prudence: and God permitted the people to follow the directions of their cowardice, ver. 26, 32. (Chap. ix. 29., and Numbers xiii. 1.) (Calmet)

Being. Hebrew, "but rebelled against, irritated, or rendered useless," &c. (Calmet)

Hateth us. Such an opinion, can bring nothing but destruction. (Du Hamel)

For you. Septuagint, "he will defeat them along with you." For man must do something. (St. Augustine, q. 1.)

Neither, &c. Hebrew simply, "The Lord was also angry with me on your account," &c. Moses had been so long witness to the rebellions of the Hebrews, that at last he gave way to a certain diffidence, when he was ordered by God to give them water out of the rock. He was afraid the Lord would not bear any longer with their repeated acts of ingratitude, nor work a miracle on this occasion, chap. iii. 26., and Numbers xx. 12. (Haydock) --- He had also consented to the sending of the 12 spies imprudently. (Du Hamel) (Ver. 23.)

Evil. These words were spoken to by God to the Hebrews, after they had refused to go from Cades-barne, to take immediate possession of the land of Chanaan, and not after Moses had offended at the waters of contradiction, which happened only a short time before his death. (Haydock) --- Those who were not come to the use of reason at the former period, (Menochius) or who had not arrived at 20 years of age, were now permitted to enter. (Haydock)

Sea. This they deferred complying with for a long time, (ver. 46,) and then they directed their course along Mount Seir, towards the west, and encamped at Hesmona. (Calmet) --- Many years after, they arrived at a different branch of the Red Sea from that which they had crossed, Numbers xxxiii. 30, 35. (Haydock)

Armed. Septuagint, "in crowds." Arabic, "quickly." Syriac, "encouraging one another." Chaldean, "impiously." (Calmet) --- The conduct of these people might seem to authorize all these interpretations. The Hebrew term occurs no where else. (Haydock)

Bees do. This similitude shews the vivacity, courage, and numbers of those who pursued the Hebrews from Seir to Horma. See Numbers xxi. 3., Psalm cvii. 12., and Isaias vii. 18.

Time. Hebrew adds, "according to the days that you abode." All the time that the Hebrews spent in that neighbourhood they remained at Cades-barne. The Rabbins say 38 years; but Moses informs us, that they were so long in coming thence to the torrent of Zared, chap. ii. 14. (Calmet)

Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary

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