Deuteronomy 3
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
There is solid truth in the French proverb: "It is the first step that costs." An untried course makes large demands on a man's thought, self-watchfullness, and energy; but when habit is acquired, the machinery of the soul works with smooth facility. Enterprises which are most arduous at the first, become by repetition as simple as a natural instinct.

I. CONQUEST INDUCES NEW ENERGY. The joy of conquest is a spur to fresh endeavor. The appetite for adventure and exertion is whetted, and is not easily controlled. Herein lies the secret cause of Alexander's tears, that there were no further worlds to be conquered. The selfsame law of inertia, which hinders senseless matter from originating motion, operates to keep it in incessant motion when it has once begun.

II. CONQUEST GENERATES LARGER AND MORE COURAGEOUS FAITH. The man who (conscious of Divine assistance) has gained a triumph, listens with docility to every fresh whisper from the lips of Jehovah. So David, after many conquests over the Philistines, asks again with child-like simplicity, "Shall I go up against them? Will; thou deliver them into my hands?" The successful efforts of robust faith will lead a man to keep very close to God. They do not puff up with pride; they humble us by a sense of the Divine goodness. In the spiritual world as in the material, there operates the law of action and reaction. Faith promotes success, and success invigorates faith.

III. ONE TRIUMPH MAKES ALL TRIUMPH POSSIBLE. An atom is a type of the world. An organic cell is a type of the animal. A leaf is a type of the tree. So one triumph is the pattern and pledge of all triumph. We become, in holy warfare, "more than conquerors;" for we have qualified ourselves for further warfare and for easier conquests. Og, King of Bashan, may have been a more formidable foe than Sihon, King of Heshbon; the walls and gates of Bashan may have been tenfold more impregnable than those of Heshbon; nevertheless, the Divine succor which had been afforded to the Hebrews was competent for every exigency, and if only faith could rise to the height of its resources, no opposition could withstand it. What though Og be a stalwart giant-the last of his race - the God that made him can destroy him! The God who is at our back can give us victory over every foe. Conscious of the power and skill of our heavenly Ally, we can say, "God is with me, therefore I must prevail."

IV. THE TRIUMPH OF THE WHOLE CHURCH DEPENDS ON THE BRAVE EXERTION OF INDIVIDUALS. In every community we shall find a variety of temperaments - some sluggish and some sanguine. The faith of a few will reproduce itself in others. The glowing zeal of one will be contagious. Among the enormous host of the Hebrews two names are singled out for honor - Jair and Machir. In all warfare, much depends on the heroic examples of a few leaders. The tone of feeling and courage percolates through all the ranks of the army, and braces every man to fulfill his part. Every member of the Church helps or hinders the Church's conquests. The son of Jesse infused a spirit of bravery into all the tribes of Israel, and knit them into organic unity.

V. REAL CONQUEST BRINGS ABIDING RESULTS. This triumph of the Israelites put them into permanent possession of lands and cities and palaces. Better still, it developed the qualities of faith and courage - brought into play generous and self-abnegating sentiments. Such principles as these made secure to them the possessions they had won. As a few seeds will bring a large harvest, so a complete mastery over any real foe bears rich and remote advantages. We do well to discover our foes, fasten attention on them, and give no quarter until they are destroyed. So ingrained was idolatry in these Amorites, that the moral pollution could only be removed by the destruction of the people.

VI. THE EFFECT UPON OURSELVES OF CONQUEST SHOULD BE TO DEVELOP OUR BROTHERLY SYMPATHY. Those who have fought at our side, and been mutually helpful, deserve a place in memory and affection. If by their co-operation we have gained a conquest, gratitude impels us to continue the alliance until they obtain their possessions also. It is noble to sacrifice ease and material advantage for the purpose of serving our brethren. Self-conquest will prompt us to empty self, if only we can enrich others. This is to follow the highest example - to be as God. The glory and excellence of spiritual possessions is this - they are not diminished by communication. We give, and still have.

VII. CONQUEST SHOULD DEEPEN OUR SENSE OF OBLIGATION TO THE SUPREME GOD. There is a strong tendency in all success to foster pride and self-esteem. Crowds of successful men bow down to their own net, and burn incense to their drag. They recognize the visible instrument, rather than the invisible Cause. Moses had to withstand the current of popular feeling, when, in the flush of triumph, he reminds them emphatically, "The Lord your God hath given you this land." Poverty often drives us to God: fullness ofttimes keeps us from him. Yet every factor in the achievement of victory was of God, and to him was all praise due. "His right hand, and his holy arm, gain for us the victory."

Og, King of Bashan, was a yet more formidable adversary than Sihon. We read with wonder of that extraordinary territory over which he ruled, the region of Argob, with its sixty cities built of black stone, hard as iron, and perched amidst the masses of basaltic rock, which are the characteristic feature of the district, and which formed an apparently impregnable barrier against assault. The suddenness, completeness, and decisiveness of the conquest of this region, naturally so strong, so thickly peopled, so powerfully defended, and ruled by a king of the race of giants, is in any view of it, an astonishing fact, and would naturally raise the courage of the Israelites to the highest pitch of confidence, while striking dismay into surrounding nations (Deuteronomy 2:25). We consider -

I. OG'S CONFIDENT ATTACK. Like Sihon, he came out against the Israelites, "he and all his people" (ver. 1), and doubtless with great hopes of success. Had he been less confident, he would probably have remained within his fortifications. Though Joshua speaks (Joshua 24:12) of him being driven forth by the hornet, the spirit of the attack reminds us of Goliath's boastful advance against the armies of Saul (1 Samuel 17:4-12). His assault symbolizes the giant-power of the world in its hostile relations to the Church: pagan - papal - infidel; science - learning - philosophy; powerful in itself, strongly entrenched, boastful in spirit. Voltaire boasted that it took twelve men to set up Christianity, but he would show that one man was sufficient to overthrow it. Christianity lasts still, but Voltaire?

II. HIS COMPLETE ROUT (vers. 3-8). Moses dwells on the details of this astonishing victory with lively gratitude and wonder. The victory was, as in Sihon's ease, complete, only here more remarkable from the strength of the cities and towns. And again all the people were devoted to destruction (ver. 6). Somewhat analogous to this rout have been many of the victories of Christianity. We think of the downfall of ancient paganism, so strongly entrenched, but now swept so entirely from the earth; of the collapse of eighteenth-century deism; of the mighty men of their own days, boastful of their power to destroy the Church's faith, who are now, like Og, only remembered by their coffins. The tomes of Voltaire, Bolingbroke, Shaftesbury, and a host of others lie unread on dusty shelves, while the Bible is multiplying its circulation every year. New, and it may be even mightier, foes are springing up in our modern agnostic and positivist and pantheistic schools, but to the serious student of history there can be no real doubt as to the issue of the conflict.

III. THE OCCUPATION OF HIS LAND (vers. 9-12). The land and the cities thus conquered were taken possession of by the conquerors, and as speedily as possible occupied. The enemy was dispossessed and spoiled. So did the Church in the early centuries first conquer, and then possess the ground previously held by paganism. "We are of yesterday, and yet we have filled every place belonging to you - cities, islands, castles, towns, assemblies, your very camp, companies, palace, senate, forum. We leave you your temples only" (Tertullian). The same thing takes place as often as the treasures of unbelieving science, learning, and philosophy, in their varied forms and applications (inventions, arts, etc.), fall into the hands of the Church, and are made to subserve her ends. The unbelieving criticism of the Bible, e.g., has furnished a vast amount of material available for the purposes of faith. So the discoveries of science, which were dreaded as hostile, prove at last to be confirmatory and helpful, and are appropriated by belief. Every victory of Christianity in the outward world, or in the regions of thought, enlarges its possessions and extends its influence. - J.O.

We have here an account of another conquest, for which the victory over Sihon, King of the Amorites, prepared the people. Bashan was "called the land of the giants" (ver. 13), and Og, the king, was manifestly the greatest of the giants - hence the particulars about his bedstead, as being nine cubits long and four broad (ver. 11). In a rude age and country, force was the recognized ruler, and the biggest man in consequence was chosen chief. It was living and reigning by sense and sight - the world's regular way. Here, then, let us observe that -

I. THE VICTORY OVER SIHON, KING OF THE AMORITES, WAS A NEEDFUL PREPARATION FOR THE MORE SERIOUS ENTERPRISE OF THE CONQUEST OF BASHAN. The Lord leads his people, even in war, "from strength to strength." They try their swords upon the Amorites successfully before attempting to subdue the giants. They get a taste of successful war before they are asked to undertake the greater and more serious task of exterminating the giants of Bashan. And so it is in fighting the good fight of faith. One little victory over an easily besetting sin gives nerve for a greater task. The muscles of the soul grow strong through exercise, and greater victories are gained. Faithfulness in the little conducts to faithfulness in that which is much (Luke 16:10).

II. THE GIANTS BY THEIR UNWALLED TOWNS PROVED THEIR INTENSE FEELING OF SECURITY. They had their strongholds, no doubt, as "the giant cities of Bashan" still attest. But they had "unwalled towns a great many" (ver. 5). It is evident from this that their sense of personal security was intense. They confided in their size and powers. They imagined no one would have the temerity to attack them. It was the contrast to "assurance of faith" - what we might call "the assurance of sense." And this characterizes the enemies of God's people more or less always. Self-confidence is the source of their power and of their misfortune in the end. It is an easy victory eventually which the Lord's people, who have learned to have "no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3), obtain over their self-confident foes.

III. THE VICTORY OVER THE GIANTS WAS COMPLETE, AMOUNTING TO AN EXTERMINATION. "And we utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon, King of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city" (ver. 6). This was absolutely necessary, as well as by the giants deserved. Had such foes been spared in the rear of the invasion, the Israelites would have had no sense of security. It was impossible to "mask these fortresses," as great armies can sometimes afford to do in modern warfare. It was better to exterminate these foes. They did so as the servants of God: His command was their warrant, and made their act defensible on moral as well as strategic grounds. And the victory God gives his people over their sins and foes is at last complete.

IV. THE ALLOTMENT OF BASHAN AND THE LANDS ON THIS SIDE JORDAN GAVE THE INVADERS OF CANAAN AN IMPORTANT BASE OF OPERATIONS. No longer would they be, like Sherman in his advance through Savannah, marching on without a base. God gave them in Bashan the leverage they needed. Here they quartered the noncombatants till the land over Jordan was won. And so is it in the spiritual life. Out of one conquest future conquests are organized. We go forward in God's guidance along a safe path to perfect victory. - R.M.E.

The difficulty is often urged of the numerous cases of the destruction of entire populations recorded in Scripture, and said to be commanded by God. It is a difficulty which all have felt, and which deserves remark. It is not questioned that, as a matter of policy, it was wise to root out these populations from the lands in which they dwelt; but the justice and humanity of the measure are thought to be more doubtful. The believer, on the other hand, cannot take a condemnatory view of these transactions (so far as covered by express command); but must treat them as he would treat similar difficulties in the ordinary providence of God, as matters which appear to conflict with the Divine goodness and justice, while doubtless admitting of a perfect reconciliation with both. But it may be suggested -

I. THAT THE FINER METHODS OF MODERN WARFARE CANNOT REASONABLY BE LOOKED FOR IN RUDER AGES. War in any case is an evil of terrible magnitude. The sufferings it inflicts, even when conducted most humanely, are incalculable. It is not the men in arms alone who suffer, but the populations whose villages are burned, whose fields are devastated, whose aged and sickly are driven out to perish, whose wives and mothers mourn their dead thousands. Modern warfare has, however, its alleviations, the result of centuries of civilization anti of the growth of Christian feeling. These did not, and could not, exist at the time of the conquest. It is not in analogy with God's method of operation to suppose that he should have miraculously anticipated the work of long ages of development, and grafted on these wars the military science of the nineteenth century - a science equally unsuited to the intelligence of the invader and to the tactics of the enemy. It would be as reasonable to allege that God should have anticipated the discoveries and methods of modern surgery, or armed the Israelites with nineteenth-century weapons. What may reasonably be expected is that, adopting as a basis the methods of warfare then customary, the evils of these should as far as possible be mitigated, and any improvements be introduced which the rudeness of the times admitted of. How far this was accomplished will appear to any one who studies the accounts of ancient warfare, with their shocking barbarities, mutilations, tortures; scarcely a trace of which is to be found in the wars of the Israelites, and none in the Law.

II. THAT THE EXTERMINATION OF WHOLE POPULATIONS WAS NOT THE RULE OF JEWISH WARFARE, BUT WAS INVARIABLY A PUNISHMENT INFLICTED FOR SIN. The proof of the former of these propositions will be found in Deuteronomy 20:10-16; and examination of the special cases will show the correctness of the latter. The destruction of the Canaanitish nations, in particular, is put expressly on the ground of their horrible and nameless iniquities (Leviticus 18:24, 25). It was the execution of a long-delayed and richly deserved judicial sentence. The Midianites and Amalekites incurred this doom through sins against Israel (Numbers 32:16; Exodus 17:16); as also to some extent did Sihon and OR. But while we cannot speak absolutely as to the moral state of the nations under these kings, it may be inferred that the cup of their iniquity had, in the Divine estimation, become full like the others. Do we condemn the sentence as too severe? Or must we not leave the judgment on a point like that to the Judge of all the earth? The essential difficulty is not greater than in the judgments of the Deluge or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, in which God claimed a like right to dispose of human life, and to vindicate his justice by the destruction of it. We ought rather to read in the severity of these punishments the awful lesson of sin's evil and enormity, and of the abhorrence in which it is held by the holy Lawgiver. The emphasizing of guilt and its deserts was a necessary preliminary to the introduction of the gospel.

III. THAT GOD IS AS SEVERE IN HIS DEALINGS WITH SIN IN HIS OWN PEOPLE AS IN HIS ENEMIES. This is a point which is surely of great moment. If severe in punishing these wicked nations, God is not less sparing of Israel when it follows in their ways, and does what is wrong. We think here of the destruction of thousands of their number for the sin of the golden calf (Exodus 32:28), and for the sin of Baal-peor (Numbers 23:5); of the plagues, fiery serpents, etc., which chastised them for disobedience; of their defeat at Ai (Joshua 7:4), and of the threatenings recorded against them in this book (Deuteronomy 28.). We think of Moses himself excluded from the land of promise. Nor is sin made less of in the New Testament than in the Old. In the cross of Jesus, where the Holy One is made a curse for sinners, a far more affecting demonstration is given of the judicial sternness of God, than in the destruction of the nations of his foes. There is with God no respect of persons; and if one can believe in his love to Israel notwithstanding these inflictions, he may believe in his love and. justice notwithstanding the punishments inflicted on the sinful nations around. As regards the Canaanitish nations, their rooting out, so just otherwise, was plainly necessary for the preservation of Israel's purity (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). - J.O.

I. CONQUERED TERRITORY IS NOT TO BE LEFT UNOCCUPIED. This is a sound principle. Has a vice been conquered? - replace it by a contrary virtue. Has a soul been converted? - set it to Christian work. Has a new district or a portion of heathenism been won for Christ? - plant it with Christian agencies, industries, and institutions. Replace bad books by good ones; sinful amusements by such as are healthful; pernicious customs by pure forms of social life. Unoccupied territory will soon fall back into the hands of the enemy.

II. CONQUERED TERRITORY IS TO BE WISELY DISTRIBUTED. The distribution of the conquered districts suggests to us how, in the occupation of the fields of service which God gives her, the Church should study order, peace, and the attainment of the higher ends of possession, by wise arrangements. There should be no clashing or confusion of spheres in the kingdom of Christ. We have illustrations of the violation of this rule in the occupation of limited districts by a great number of rival Churches, often working in antagonism to each other; in the appointment of individuals to posts for which they are unsuited; in the confusion arising from workers not knowing their own departments of service, or not keeping to it when known. Whereas here:

1. Each had his portion carefully defined.

2. Respect was had to the talents and callings of those who were to occupy. "A place for cattle," "much cattle" (Numbers 32:1; cf. ver. 19).

3. Individuals had their own conquests secured to them (ver. 14). A man's spiritual conquests are always secured to himself - his conquests over himself; and they are his greatest possessions. True also of conquests for Christ in conversions (1 Thessalonians 2:19). Should be a principle recognized in the work of the Church.


1. Each branch of the Church is to assist the others.

2. It holds its privileges on this condition.

3. The rest of all is needful to the perfect rest of any (Hebrews 11:40). - J.O.

Here the Reubenites, Gadites, and Manassites are directed to "intern" their wives, little ones, and cattle in the cities of Bashan, which were now literally free from the race of the giants, and then to go armed across the Jordan before their fellows, the van of the invading host. These pioneers become thus the least encumbered of the invaders. Their noncombatants are safe in the cities of Bashan, their cattle are in good pastures, they may go with easy minds and light hearts to the war. Their purpose in the invasion is not selfish, but perfectly disinterested. They go to fight for their brethren, and to carve out homes for them beyond the river. We have here a Divine law, as it seems to us, of very practical application. To sketch this let us notice -

I. GOD GIVES REST AND INHERITANCE TO INDIVIDUALS THAT THEY MAY INTEREST THEMSELVES IN SECURING SIMILAR BLESSINGS FOR OTHERS. Beginning with the lowest inheritance, we would observe that, when God gives individuals riches, it is not that they may be excused from public work, but enabled for it. A servant of God who finds himself wealthy is not superannuated, but supported for public ends. He is bound to do all he can with and by his means. But this law has a still happier spiritual side. When God blesses us with assurance of salvation, it is that his way may be known on earth, and his saving health among all nations (Psalm 67:1, 2). He makes us peaceful and happy in Christ that we may, with unburdened spirits, seek the salvation of those around us,

II. ASSURANCE OF SALVATION SHOULD THEREFORE BE SOUGHT BY EACH OF US ON PUBLIC GROUNDS. It is not a personal matter only, but a public interest as well. The world will be less benefited by us if we are constantly in doubt about personal salvation. We are in such a case marching without a base. It is a risky kind of warfare. Let us seek from God, on public grounds, the priceless blessing of assurance, and then we shall be able to lose sight of self in seeking the common weal.

III. DISINTERESTEDNESS IS THE SECRET OF SUCCESSFUL WARFARE. The Reubenites and their fellows in the van must have commanded the respect not only of those behind them, but of the Canaanites with whom they had to contend. It was the first time, since Abraham's rescue of Lot, that warriors had appeared from purely disinterested motives in the field of battle. And in matters spiritual it is the same. The ministry of Christ is, speaking generally, an ill-paid profession. There is the less chance, then, of men entering this service for a piece of bread. Disinterestedness is more likely to be the rule. With other Christians it is the same. When people are compelled to recognize disinterestedness, the chief part of the battle is won.

IV. THE THOUGHT OF HAVING HELPED OTHERS TO REST IN THE LORD ENHANCES OUR OWN REST IN HIM. The Reubenites, etc., must have come back to their homes in Bashan with great satisfaction. They felt that they had done a good, unselfish work in the campaign. They were not fighting for their own hand, but for the welfare of others. So in the spiritual warfare, when we become instruments in God's hand in leading others to rest in him, we find our rest deepened and made more glorious. May it be the joy of many! - R.M.E.

In the full career of triumph, Moses has inward presentiment, and external announcement, that his end was near. Nature has a greater repugnance to death when we are enveloped in the bright sunshine of prosperity. The contrast is more marked. Decay and disease are natural forerunners of dissolution; but in Moses these were wanting. With him, the grave men of the trial was that his life-work was incomplete. The closer we approach to the final stroke of an undertaking, the deeper becomes our anxiety for a successful issue. "How am I straitened till it be accomplished!"

I. WE HAVE HERE SAGACIOUS PROVISION TO CONSUMMATE HIS WORK. In the judgment of a good man, the perpetuation of his work by others is vastly more important than the continuance of his own life. Individuals pass away, but the progress of the race continues. Up to this point in Israel's pilgrimage, Moses had been unequalled as a leader; no one among the tribes could have filled his place. But now, a military general, rather than a legislator, is needed, and Joshua has been gradually molded by a Divine hand for this work. We may safely trust human interests with God.

1. The experience of age conveys its lessons to youth. Joshua was scarcely a young man, as we reckon years; yet, compared with Moses, he was juvenile and inexperienced in governing men. Age is a relative quality. The lesson was directly to the point - straight at the bull's-eye of the target. "Fear not." Courage, just then, was the "one thing needful."

2. The command was founded on the most solid reasons, viz. the irresistible might of Jehovah, and the unchangeableness of his purposes. What he had done, he could yet do. What he had done was a revelation of what he designed to do. Observation of God's deeds and methods fosters valorous faith. "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord."

II. PRAYER THAT LIFE MAY YET BE PROLONGED, It savors of submissive meekness to the Divine will that Moses first provided for the nation's welfare, in view of the contingency of death, and then prays that the stroke may be delayed. The latter is secondary.

1. The prayer was earnest. "I besought the Lord." There is indication that it was oft repeated and long continued.

2. The prayer was inspired by noble motive. An unusual display of God's greatness had been made in the defeat of the two kings, and Moses longed to see further unfoldings of God's might. Still, his prayer was, "I pray thee show me thy glory!" God had only begun to act; Moses yearned to see the final consummation.

3. Yet this prayer was refused. Unerring wisdom perceived that it was best to refuse - best, perhaps, for Moses himself - and best for Israel It is better for a man to present an unsuccessful prayer, than not to pray at all. Some blessing is the fruit.

4. The denial was a vicarious chastisement. We have, in God's kingdom, vicarious blessing and vicarious suffering. For Joseph's sake, the house of Potiphar was blessed. For David's sake, Solomon finished his reign in peace. For Paul's sake, the crew of the doomed vessel escaped. On the other side, God was wroth with Moses for the Hebrews' sake. Present chastisement better far than final banishment.

5. Divine tenderness is displayed even in refusal. The refusal was not wholly from anger; there was a large admixture of kindness. Anger for the sin; kindness for the man. It is as if God had said, "It pains me sore to impose this chastisement; nevertheless, it must be done, and you will add to my pain by seeking an escape." God beseeches him to urge no further. Up to this point, prayer was fitting; beyond this, prayer would have been fresh guilt.

6. Yet compensation for the loss is granted. Prayer is never wholly unsuccessful. A gracious concession is made. Moses had asked to see the land; he shall see it, although his foot shall not tread it. The eye and the heart of the man of God shall be gladdened. Without doubt, Moses' natural eyesight had been preserved for this selfsame occasion, and special power of vision also was vouchsafed in that eventful hour, when Moses stood on Pisgah's peak. He shall see it without the toil of travel, without the peril of the conflict.

7. A crowning kindness is shown in confirming the succession to Joshua. Though the workman is to be removed, the work shall advance. It was a sweet solace to the mind of Moses that Joshua should have been accepted in his stead. His cherished purpose shall be accomplished, although by other hands. The spirit of Moses would survive in Joshua. "Being dead," Moses would still speak and act. The body may dissolve, but the moral courage and heroic valor are transmitted to another. Rest is the reward of toil, and the cradle of new exertion. "So we abode in the valley." The valley of Beth-peor was the preparation for Pisgah's peak. Humiliation before exaltation. - D.

We notice:

1. Past mercies are a pledge of future ones. "Thine eyes have seen," etc.

2. The past victories of the Church mirror her future conquests. "So shall the Lord do," etc.

3. The conditions of success in spiritual conflict are

(1) fearlessness,

(2) dependence on Divine aid. "Fear not," etc. - J.O.

The two conquests over Sihon and over Og had filled Moses with a sense of God's matchless power. With a warrior's instinct - for he had had a warrior's training, it is believed, in Egypt, in his youth - he saw in this first portion of the fight the assurance of a glorious invasion. He longed to be at its head, and to see the land which God had promised actually won. Will he not get complete the work he has been instrumental in beginning? He pleaded with God for it, but all he gets is a Pisgah-view; he is denied an entrance into the land.

I. IT WAS NATURAL FOR MOSES TO LONG FOR THE COMPLETION OF HIS WORK. The Exodus was his special work. All else in his life was preparatory to this. But the Exodus was to be finished in the invasion of Canaan and the settlement of the people there. Moses is now so interested in the work which he has had on hand for forty years that he is loath to leave it. So with God's servants often. They form plans, plans manifestly Divine, and they long to complete them. But God does not respond always to these very natural desires. Public work is attempted - literary work - but the sowing and the reaping are often separated. One soweth, another reapeth.

II. IT IS A GREAT PRIVILEGE TO BE ALLOWED TO ENCOURAGE THOSE COMING AFTER us. Moses is directed to encourage Joshua. This is something done towards successful invasion. An encouraged Joshua may do better than an ever-present Moses. And the privilege of encouragement is greatly prized. Joshua receives all from Moses that son could receive from father, that a leader could receive from his superior and guide (vers. 21, 22). And our successors should be encouraged by us all we can, as one of life's last and best privileges.

III. A PISGAH-VIEW IS FITTING COMPENSATION, BACKED UP AS IT WAS BY SPECIAL CARE. Moses saw the land at last, and died with God, reserved by the All-wise for an entrance into Canaan at the transfiguration of Christ. The view from Pisgah was grand, but the view on Hermon was grander. His entrance of the land with Elijah in glory was grandee than an entrance at the head of the hosts of Israel. And these views from Pisgah may still be ours if we seek the appointed mountaintop of God. He calls us to mountain-tops of prayer and meditation, and shows us wondrous glimpses of his glory and his promises. To be with him there is compensation for much disappointment.

IV. A FAITHFUL SON MAY EXPERIENCE A FATHER'S DESERVED WRATH. Moses admits that God was wroth with him, and states the reason. It is well to recognize that deserved wrath and chastisement may coexist with profound and tender love. Moses was well beloved, even though excluded from the land of promise. God gave him paradise instead of Canaan. - R.M.E.

We have in this singularly pathetic passage of the private history of Moses -

I. AN AFFECTING ENTREATY. "I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land," etc. (vers. 24, 25). In this speaks

1. The man. How hard to flesh and blood to be cut off just then! To see the goodly land (ver. 27), but not to enter it. Yet not an uncommon experience. Few things are more painful than to be removed when just on the verge of some great success; when the hopes of a lifetime seem just about to be realized; when some great cause with which we are identified is on the eve of final victory.

2. The patriot. There never beat in human breast a more patriotic heart than that of Moses, and it was supremely hard to step aside and commit the leadership into other hands, when all his wishes for his nation were so nearly fulfilled. It was Israel's triumph, not his own, he wished to celebrate.

3. The saint. For Moses' deepest longing in the matter after all was to see God glorified - to witness his greatness and his mighty hand (ver. 24). No man had ever seen as much of God's greatness and glory as he had, but what he had seen only whetted his desire to see more. It is always thus with saintly natures. The thirst for the manifestation of God increases with the gratification of it (Psalm 63:1-6; cf. Exodus 33:18-20). "Father, glorify thy name" (John 12:28).


1. The cause of it. "Wroth with me for your sakes" (ver. 26). How painful to feel that misconduct of ours has involved any

(1) in sin,

(2) in penalty,

(3) in disappointment!

2. The severity of it. It seems a great punishment for a not very great offence. Yet how often do we find that one false step, "one pause in self-control," entails on the individual irretrievable loss! God could not allow the sin of one who stood in so close and personal relation to him to pass without putting on it the stamp of his severe displeasure.

3. The irreversibility of it. He who had succeeded so often in saving Israel by his powerful intercession, fails in his intercession for himself. "Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter" (ver. 26). Moses, the mediator and representative of the Law, must, when he sins, undergo its severity. In a case so typical, a reversal of the sentence would have shaken faith in all God's threatenings. He interceded for others, but there was no second Moses to intercede for him. Those who live nearest to God, and are most honored by him, must expect to be treated with exceptional strictness for their faults; as a father is more particular about the morals of his own son than about those of servants and aligns.


1. To see the goodly land (ver. 27). Even this he must have felt to be a great boon, and how his eyes, supernaturally strengthened, must have drunk in the precious vision! How many toilers have to leave the world in this frame of mind - getting glimpses of a future they do not live to inherit!

2. To know that his successor was ready (ver. 28). There are few sights more suggestive of magnanimity than Moses meekly surrendering his own dearest wishes, and helping to prepare Joshua for the work which he coveted so much to do himself. It may be felt by us that there was kindness as well as severity in the arrangement which gave Israel a new leader. "The conquest of Canaan - a most colossal work - demanded fresh, youthful powers" (Oosterzee). The work of Moses was indeed done on earth, and he had to pass away to make room for instruments better fitted to do the work of the new age.

CONCLUSION. In this refusal see

(1) God's severity,

(2) God's kindness.

For in addition to the point just mentioned, we can see how, from his temporal loss, Moses reaped a great spiritual gain - the perfecting of his will in its choice of God as its exclusive portion, and in entire acquiescence in Divine arrangements. This great renunciation was the last sacrifice asked of him, and he rose to the heroic height of making it. - J.O.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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