Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.A rehearsal of what had befallen Israel in their forty years' march; as, God's command to depart, Deu 1:1-8. Moses's inability to judge alone, Deu 1:9-12. Other judges and officers appointed, Deu 1:13-16. Charge given the judges, Deu 1:17,18. Their passage to Kadesh-barnea, Deu 1:19-21. Spies sent to search the land of the Amorites, Deu 1:22-24. Their return and report, Deu 1:25. The disobedience of the people, Deu 1:26-33. God's wrath, Deu 1:34-40. They smitten by the Amorites, Deu 1:44. Their complaint to God, which the Lord regards not, Deu 1:45.
These are the laws, counsels, and admonitions delivered by Moses from God to Israel, which are here repeated for the instruction and obligation of those who by reason of their tender years were uncapable either of understanding them, or of entering into covenant with God.
Unto all Israel, to wit, by the heads or elders of the several tribes, or others, who were to communicate these discourses to all the people in several assemblies.
In the plain; either.
1. In the vast desert of Arabia. But that is no where called a plain. Or rather,
2. In the plain of Moab, as may appear by comparing this with Deu 1:5 Num 22:1 Deu 34:8.
Object. That was far from the Red Sea here mentioned.
Answ. The word suph here used doth not signify the Red Sea, which is commonly called jam suph, and which was at too great a distance; but some other place now unknown to us, (as also most of the following places are,) so called from the reeds, or flags, or rushes (which that word signifies) that grew in or near it; which reason of the name being common to other places with the Red Sea, it is not strange if they got the same name. Compare Num 21:14. Paran; not that Num 10:12, which there and elsewhere is called the wilderness of Paran, and which was too remote; but some other place called by the same name, than which nothing more usual. Tophel and Laban; places not mentioned elsewhere.
Hazeroth; of which see Num 11:35 33:17,18. And these places seem to be the several bounds and limits not of the whole country of Moab, but of the plain of Moab, where Moses now was, and spoke these words.
(There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.)This is added to show that the reason why the Israelites in so many years were advanced no further from Horeb than to these plains, was not the great distance of the places or length of the way, which was but a journey of eleven days at most, but because of their rebellions, as is mentioned before and repeated in this book.
Sinai, the place where the law was given, which is promiscuously called by both those names.
Mount Seir, or Mount Edom, i.e. the mountainous country of Seir, which was first possessed by the Horims, and afterwards by the Edomites, Deu 2:12.
Kadesh-barnea was not far from the borders of Canaan. See Genesis 16:14 Numbers 13:26.
And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;This was but a little before his death.
After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites, which dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, which dwelt at Astaroth in Edrei:His palace or mansion-house was at
Astaroth, and he was slain at
Edrei, Numbers 21:33; of both these places, see Genesis 14:5 Joshua 13:31.
On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:Of Horeb, where they continued about a year’s space, Exodus 19:1 Numbers 10:11,12.
Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates.To the mount of the Amorite, i.e. to the mountainous country where the Amorites dwelt, which is opposed to the plain here following, where others of them dwelt. And this is the first mentioned, because it was in the borders of the land: see below, Deu 1:19,20. The divers parts or bounds of the land are here mentioned.
Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.Before you, Heb. before your faces; it is open to your view, and to your possession; there is no impediment in the way. See Poole "Genesis 13:9"; See Poole "Genesis 34:10".
And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone:At that time, i.e. about that time, to wit, a little before their coming to Horeb, Exodus 18:18.
The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.No text from Poole on this verse.
(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!)No text from Poole on this verse.
How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?Your burden; the trouble of ruling and managing so perverse a people.
Your strife; either your quarrellings with God; or rather your contentions among yourselves, for the determination whereof the elders were appointed.
Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.Persons of knowledge, wisdom, and experience, men famous, and had in reputation, for ability and integrity; for to such they would more readily submit.
And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do.No text from Poole on this verse.
So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes.The chief, not in authority, which yet they had not, but in endowments for good government.
And officers; inferior officers, that were to attend upon the superior magistrates, and to execute their decrees.
And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.That converseth or dealeth with him. To such God would have justice equally administered as to his own people, partly for the honour of religion, and partly for the interest which every man hath in matters of common right.
Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.Not respect persons, Heb. not know or acknowledge faces, i.e. not give sentence according to the outward qualities of the person as he is poor or rich, your friend or enemy, but purely according to the merits of the cause. For which reason some of the Grecian lawgivers ordered that the judges should give sentence in the dark, where they could not see men’s faces. See the same or the like phrase Deu 10:17 2 Chronicles 19:6,7 Job 13:8 Jam 2:1,9.
The small; persons of the meanest rank.
The judgment is God’s, i.e. it is passed in the name of God, and by commission from him, by you as representing his person, and doing his work, who therefore will own and defend you therein against all your enemies, and to whom you must give an exact account.
And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do.I delivered unto you, and especially unto your judges, all the laws, statues, and judgments revealed unto me by the Lord in Horeb.
And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great and terrible wilderness, which ye saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us; and we came to Kadeshbarnea.No text from Poole on this verse.
And I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, which the LORD our God doth give unto us.No text from Poole on this verse.
Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged.No text from Poole on this verse.
And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the saying pleased me well: and I took twelve men of you, one of a tribe:The saying pleased me well; for there seemed to be some prudence and good policy in it: but Moses could not see into their hearts, nor from what root this desire grew; but God saw it, and therefore in just judgment complied with their desire, and permitted them to do so for their trial and exercise, Numbers 13:1-3.
And they turned and went up into the mountain, and came unto the valley of Eshcol, and searched it out.The valley, or, the brook: the word signifies both, for brooks commonly run in valleys.
Of Eshcol, i.e. of grapes, so called from the goodly cluster of grapes which they brought from thence, Numbers 13:23.
And they took of the fruit of the land in their hands, and brought it down unto us, and brought us word again, and said, It is a good land which the LORD our God doth give us.The fruit; grapes, pomegranates, and figs, Numbers 13:23.
It is a good land; which acknowledgment, coming from its enemies, should have prevailed with you to go in, more than their discouraging words should have beat you off, because the Lord who had given you this land, was unquestionably able to settle you in it in spite of all opposition.
Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God:No text from Poole on this verse.
And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the LORD hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.Because the Lord hated us, and therefore designed to destroy us.
Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.The people is greater, in number and strength and valour.
Up to heaven, i.e. to a great height. A common hyperbole, as Genesis 11:4 Psalm 107:26. The Anakims; the children of Anak or Enak. See Judges 1:10,20.
Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them.No text from Poole on this verse.
The LORD your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes;Where you were weak, dispirited, divided, raw, and unexperienced, and in a great measure unarmed, and able to do nothing against your numerous, potent, united enemies, but to stand still and see the salvation of God. And therefore now your distrust is highly unreasonable, when you have been hardened and fitted for military service by your travels, disciplined and experienced in some degree as to martial affairs, encouraged by frequent and glorious miracles for forty years together, and you are going into a country divided into several nations and kingdoms.
And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place.God bare thee, or, carried thee, as a father carries his weak and tender child in his arms, as Isaiah 49:22; or as upon eagles’ wings, as it is Exodus 19:4, through difficulties and dangers, gently leading you according as you were able to go, and sustaining you by his power and goodness. See of this or the like phrase Numbers 11:12 Deu 32:10,11 Psa 91:12 Isaiah 46:3,4.
Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God,In this matter which God commanded and encouraged you to do, to wit, in going in confidently to possess the land. Or, in this word, whereby God promised to fight for you, and assured you of good success.
Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying,The voice of your words, to wit, your murmurings, your unthankful, impatient, distrustful, and rebellious speeches and carriages.
Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers,No text from Poole on this verse.
Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the LORD.Caleb, under whom Joshua is comprehended, as is manifest from Deu 1:38 Numbers 14:30, though not here expressed, because he was not now to be one of the people, but to be set over them as chief governor. The land; that particular part of the land: compare Joshua 14:9.
Also the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither.For your sakes; upon occasion of your wickedness and perverseness, by which you provoked me to speak unadvisedly, Psalm 106:32,33.
But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.Which standeth before thee, i.e. who is now thy minister and servant, for such are oft described by this phrase, as 1 Kings 1:2 Daniel 1:5,19.
Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.Had no knowledge between good and evil; a common description of the state of childhood, as Jonah 4:11.
But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.No text from Poole on this verse.
Then ye answered and said unto me, We have sinned against the LORD, we will go up and fight, according to all that the LORD our God commanded us. And when ye had girded on every man his weapons of war, ye were ready to go up into the hill.Or, ye offered yourselves, or you began, or you earnestly resolved and attempted.
And the LORD said unto me, Say unto them, Go not up, neither fight; for I am not among you; lest ye be smitten before your enemies.I am not among you, with my powerful presence and assistance.
So I spake unto you; and ye would not hear, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD, and went presumptuously up into the hill.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the Amorites, which dwelt in that mountain, came out against you, and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you in Seir, even unto Hormah.As bees do; as bees which being provoked come out of their hives in great numbers, and with great fury pursue and sting their adversary and disturber, Psalm 118:12.
And ye returned and wept before the LORD; but the LORD would not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you.No text from Poole on this verse.
So ye abode in Kadesh many days, according unto the days that ye abode there.i.e. As you abode in Kadesh many, even forty days, until the spies which you sent returned to give you an account; so you also abode there many days, or a long time after, and were not now permitted to make any further progress towards Canaan.