Deuteronomy 1 – Moses Remembers the Journey of Israel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh Barnea
A. Introduction; Moses remembers the departure from Mount Sinai (Horeb).
1. (1) These are the words . . .
These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side of the Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain opposite Suph, between Paran, Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab.
a. On this side of the Jordan: At this point Israel was camped on the great plains of Moab, able to see across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. This was the land of Canaan that God promised them but which they had not occupied for 400 years.
b. In the wilderness: They had come through a long, and difficult journey from Egypt – made all the more long and difficult because of their unbelief and the death of the adult generation which first came out of Egypt.
c. These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel: At this pivotal point in Israel’s history – on the threshold of the Promised Land, and ready to adopt a true national identity, Moses spoke to Israel in this book of Deuteronomy.
i. The name Deuteronomy means “second law.” It was the second giving of the Mosaic Law, the first being at Mount Sinai. Moses felt compelled to bring this reminder of the Law to Israel, because those ready to enter the Promised Land were only children – if born at all – when the Law was originally given at Mount Sinai.
d. Which Moses spoke to all Israel: Essentially, the Book of Deuteronomy was a sermon – or a series of sermons, preached by Moses to Israel, and preached with a heavy and passionate heart.
i. Moses’ heart was heavy because he knew that he would not enter the Promised Land of Canaan with Israel. His disobedience to God at Meribah (Numbers 20:1-13) meant that he would not see Israel’s exodus from Egypt through to completion.
ii. Moses’ heart was passionate because he knew that if this new generation – a generation of faith, unlike the generation which perished in the wilderness – if this new generation did not obey the Law of God, then God’s covenant would work against them and curse them. So the Lord passionately pled through a passionate Moses in Deuteronomy, pleading for Israel to choose life! (Deuteronomy 30:19)
iii. Deuteronomy is therefore a book of reminding and a book of preparation. We never outgrow our need to be reminded, as Peter said, I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. (2 Peter 1:12)
e. Moses spoke to all Israel . . . in the wilderness: Deuteronomy is also a book of note, because it was a useful book of reminder and preparation for Jesus. In His temptation in the wilderness, it seems obvious that Jesus meditated on Deuteronomy because in answering Satan, He quoted from it three times. Deuteronomy was a precious book to Jesus and it was used to prepare Him to be used of God. We should not think any less of it.
i. When tempted by Satan to use His divine powers to turn stone into bread, Jesus answered Satan from Deuteronomy 8:3: man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.
ii. When tempted by Satan to tempt God the Father into demonstrating Jesus as Messiah before it was time, Jesus answered Satan from Deuteronomy 6:16: You shall not tempt the Lord your God.
iii. When tempted by Satan to short-cut the cross by bowing down to worship the devil, Jesus answered Satan from Deuteronomy 6:13: You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him.
iv. “Deuteronomy is one of the greatest books of the Old Testament. Its influence on the domestic and personal religion of all ages has not been surpassed by any other book in the Bible. It is quoted over eighty times in the New Testament and this it belongs to a small group of four Old Testament books [the others being Genesis, Psalms, and Isaiah] to which the early Christians made frequent reference.” (Thompson)
2. (2-4) The journey from Mount Horeb to Kadesh Barnea.
It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea. Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him as commandments to them, after he had killed Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who dwelt at Ashtaroth in Edrei.
a. Kadesh Barnea: This was the place where, in Numbers 13 and 14, Israel believed the report of the unfaithful spies and rebelled against God, refusing to go into the Promised Land.
b. It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea: The journey from Mount Horeb to Kadesh Barnea only took eleven days. But from Kadesh Barnea (the threshold of the Promised Land) back to Kadesh Barnea (back to the threshold of the Promised Land) took forty years.
i. This was because it took forty years for the generation of unbelief – those who were adults when Israel left Egypt – it took forty years for that generation to die out in the wilderness, and for a generation of faith and trust in God to arise in place after them.
c. After he had killed Sihon king of the Amorites . . . and Og king of Bashan: Israel’s great fear when they first came to Kadesh Barnea and the opportunity to enter the Promised Land was that they would be crushed by the military prowess of the Canaanites. But when the new generation trusted God and went forward, God immediately gave them victory – over two pagan kings (Sihon and Og). The victory was ready as soon as Israel was ready to receive it in faith.
3. (5) Moses the expositor.
On this side of the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law, saying,
a. On this side of the Jordan: This was one of the last things Moses did to prepare the people of Israel to finally enter into the Promised Land. Moses knew they needed to know the Word.
b. Moses began to explain this law: Moses will now serve as an expository teacher to Israel. The Hebrew word translated “explain” comes from the ideas “to dig deeply” or “to mine.” Moses will mine out the riches of God’s truth to the people, and prepare them to enter in.
4. (6-8) The command to move on from Mount Horeb.
“The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go to the mountains of the Amorites, to all the neighboring places in the plain, in the mountains and in the lowland, in the South and on the seacoast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the River Euphrates. See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to your fathers; to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; to give to them and their descendants after them.’“
a. The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb: This departure from Mount Sinai (Horeb and Sinai are different names for the same place) was recorded in Numbers 10. However, the Numbers 10 account does not give us the details recorded here.
b. You have dwelt long enough at this mountain: Simply, God told Israel to move on. A year at Mount Sinai was enough; He did not bring them out of Egypt for them to live forever at Sinai. It was time to move on in faith and take the land of promise.
i. Galatians 4 and Hebrews 12 symbolically identify Mount Sinai with the Old Covenant of works and law. For the Christian today, it is important to spend some time under the law as a tutor (Galatians 3:24-25), so we know the holy character of God and our need for a Savior. But God never intended the Christian to live their spiritual life at Mount Sinai. The believer must move on in faith to the Promised Land.
c. Turn and take your journey . . . See, I have set the land before you: Though it would be a challenge, God had set the Promised Land before Israel – and Moses here remembered when He spoke to them at Sinai and told them to move on and take the land.
5. (9-18) When Moses appointed judges among Israel.
“And I spoke to you at that time, saying: ‘I alone am not able to bear you. The Lord your God has multiplied you, and here you are today, as the stars of heaven in multitude. May the Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times more numerous than you are, and bless you as He has promised you! How can I alone bear your problems and your burdens and your complaints? Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’ And you answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have told us to do is good.’ So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and knowledgeable men, and made them heads over you, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, leaders of tens, and officers for your tribes. Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him. You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.’ And I commanded you at that time all the things which you should do.”
a. Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you: Some think that the appointment of leaders described in Deuteronomy 1 referred to the appointment of Judges in Exodus 18. Some others believe it refers the appointment of Elders described in Numbers 11. It could possibly be either, but from the flow of Moses’ context in Deuteronomy 1, it seems best to consider that it was the appointment of elders in Numbers 11.
b. I alone am not able to bear you: Moses experienced this crisis in Numbers 11 when the people complained again about the food God provided. To help Moses bear the burden, God directed him to appoint seventy elders to assist him in bearing up under the pressure of leading the nation.
i. As described in Numbers 11, these elders had a precious function: To stand there with Moses (Numbers 11:16), to have the same Spirit as Moses, and to bear the burden of the people with Moses (Numbers 11:17).
c. So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and knowledgeable men, and made them heads over you: Moses chose the elders of Israel by using a combination of approval by the congregation, and approval by Moses himself. Moses then instructed the elders in principles of righteous leadership, and thus relieved himself of many burdens.
B. Moses remembers when in unbelief, Israel refused to enter the Promised Land.
1. (19-21) Moses remembers his exhortation to Israel at Kadesh Barnea.
“So we departed from Horeb, and went through all that great and terrible wilderness which you saw on the way to the mountains of the Amorites, as the Lord our God had commanded us. Then we came to Kadesh Barnea. And I said to you, ‘You have come to the mountains of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. Look, the Lord your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the Lord God of your fathers has spoken to you; do not fear or be discouraged.’“
a. Look, the Lord your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it: After seeing God’s faithfulness in enabling them to cross the land of the Amorites, Moses was ready to lead the nation into Canaan.
b. Do not fear or be discouraged: This encouragement was important because this was the critical moment for Israel. They were a little more than a year out of Egypt and ready to go into the Promised Land. It was there before them, ready for them to take by faith, if they would not fear or be discouraged.
2. (22-23) Moses remembers Israel’s suggestion to send forth spies.
“And everyone of you came near to me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, and let them search out the land for us, and bring back word to us of the way by which we should go up, and of the cities into which we shall come.’ The plan pleased me well; so I took twelve of your men, one man from each tribe.”
a. And everyone of you came near to me and said, “Let us send men before us”: As Moses remembered this suggestion, he looked back with regret. There really was no compelling reason to send forth spies into the Promised Land.
i. God had told them that the land was good. Unless they did not believe Him, there was no reason to confirm it on their own. God had told them they would take the land and defeat the nations living there. Unless they did not believe Him, there was no reason to take a look at the enemies and see if God was somehow up to the challenge.
b. And the plan pleased me well: Moses must have had regret as he remembered this. The people suggested it and Moses agreed to it. Yet when ten of the twelve spies cam back with a report filled with fear and unbelief, the nation believed them and refused to believe God’s promised and enter in.
i. From reading only Numbers 13:2 it might seem that this plan to send spies into Canaan originated with God, not the people. But a careful look shows that Numbers 13:2 dealt mainly with the number of spies to send (12) and how they should be chosen (one from each tribe). So though the plan did not originate with God (Deuteronomy 1 indicates that it started with the people, and was approved by Moses), the Lord essentially said: “If you are going to send spies, send twelve, and have them represent the whole nation by sending one from each tribe.”
ii. Perhaps in this God made certain that not all the spies brought a report of unbelief.
3. (24-25) Moses remembers the journey and report of the spies.
“And they departed and went up into the mountains, and came to the Valley of Eshcol, and spied it out. They also took some of the fruit of the land in their hands and brought it down to us; and they brought back word to us, saying, ‘It is a good land which the Lord our God is giving us.’“
a. The brought back word to us: Significantly, Moses didn’t mention the evil report of the unbelieving spies (Numbers 13:28-29). It is almost as if the memory was so painful that Moses wouldn’t even deal with it.
b. It is a good land which the Lord our God is giving us: It was enough that the nation of Israel had the report from the godly spies, Joshua and Caleb. In addition to that, all the twelve spies were united on saying “It is a good land which the Lord our God is giving us” (Numbers 13:27).
4. (26-33) Moses remembers Israel’s unbelieving rejection of the Promised Land, though he pleaded with them to take the land in faith.
“Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; and you complained in your tents, and said, ‘Because the Lord hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven; moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.”‘ Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified, or afraid of them. The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ Yet, for all that, you did not believe the Lord your God, who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.”
a. Nevertheless: In this context, this is a haunting word. It was the exact word in the mouth of the ten fearful spies when they began to give an evil testimony to Israel (Numbers 13:28).
i. Essentially, the ten spies and all Israel said, “We went into the land of Canaan and found it to be a wonderful land, just as the Lord said it would be. God’s word was true on that point. Nevertheless (essentially saying, ‘despite all that’), we don’t believe God when He says He will enable to overcome the enemies of the land and to posses it.”
ii. Nevertheless! Despite the fact we have seen that God’s word is true, we will not trust Him for great things in the future. This is a terrible testimony.
b. You would not go up, but rebelled . . . and you murmured in your tents . . . you did not believe the Lord your God: God had done nothing but show Himself faithful to Israel. They could not point to one instance where He had let them down, though the journey had not been easy. Yet they answered God’s faithfulness with rebellion, murmuring, and unbelief.
i. They were not persuaded of the love of God, and they found it hard to trust a God they did not believe loved them. Christians today also need to be persuaded of the love of God. Many believers are hindered in their walk with God because they are not genuinely persuaded of the love of God for them. They should ask, “What would it take me finally convince me that God really loves me?” We don’t wait for God to give us everything we want before we love Him. That is the selfish demand of a short-sighted child, like the child who thinks mommy doesn’t love him because he can’t have all the candy he wants.
ii. God has already given the ultimate demonstration of His love: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) The death of Jesus for guilty sinners is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love; He can do nothing greater than what He has already done in Jesus. Now we can simply receive His love.
c. The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes: With these words, Moses did his best to encourage the people. He called on them to specifically remember God’s past faithfulness and consider that He was able to give them victory in the land of Canaan.
i. Satan loves to make us forget what we should remember (the past victories and miracles of God on our behalf). He also loves to make us remember what we should forget (our past of sin and the self-life).
d. Yet, for all that, you did not believe the Lord your God: In essence, it was not sin that kept Israel out of the Promised Land. Instead, it was unbelief (though certainly, unbelief is sin). Israel’s sin could be covered through atoning sacrifice; but their unbelief and doubt of God’s love for them made them unable to trust God.
i. We often think that it is really some sin that hinders us from going on with the Lord. It is true that the Lord wants to deal with the sin and get it out of the way, but the way that happens is by deepening the relationship of love and trust in the Lord. Unbelief and lack of trust is the real enemy.
C. Moses remembers the aftermath of Israel’s rebellion at Kadesh Barnea.
1. (34-40) Moses’ remembers God’s oath of judgment against unbelieving Israel.
“And the Lord heard the sound of your words, and was angry, and took an oath, saying, ‘Surely not one of these men of this evil generation shall see that good land of which I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and his children I am giving the land on which he walked, because he wholly followed the Lord.’ The Lord was also angry with me for your sakes, saying, ‘Even you shall not go in there; Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall go in there. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it. But as for you, turn and take your journey into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.’“
a. Was angry, and took an oath: In response to Israel’s unbelief and lack of trust in God’s love, God swore an oath (Psalm 95:11) that the adult generation which came out of Egypt would not inherit the Promised Land, but would die in the desolate wilderness instead.
b. Except Caleb the son of Jephunneh: The only exceptions were Caleb and Joshua. These were the faithful two among the twelve spies which came back with the report from the Promised Land (Numbers 14:6-10).
c. Even you shall not go in there: Even Moses himself would not enter the Promised Land. Though this was not specifically said in Numbers 14 (it came later in Numbers 20), it could be inferred then, because Moses was not among the exceptions named (only Joshua and Caleb).
d. Joshua . . . he shall cause Israel to inherit it: As great as Moses was (and truly, he was one of the giants of the Bible), he could not and would not lead Israel into the Promised Land. That was left up to one who came after Moses, Joshua.
i. Moses was the great law giver, and represented relationship with God through the Law. This could give a person a wilderness kind of relationship with God, but could never bring them into the Promised Land kind of relationship with God. Only Joshua could do that – and the Hebrew name Joshua exactly corresponds to the name Jesus. Only Jesus can bring us into a Promised Land relationship with God.
e. Moreover your little ones and your children, whom you say will be victims . . . they shall possess it: The great excuse of Israel for their unbelief at Kadesh Barnea was, “If we go and take the land, our children will be killed” (Numbers 14:3). God answered their unbelieving excuse by saying, “You will be killed and your children will possess the land.”
i. “Anything, in fact, will serve as an excuse, when the heart is bent on compromise.” (Spurgeon)
ii. It is sobering to consider how easily, how quickly, and how completely, God sees through our excuses. We often feel confident in our excuses, because other people can’t really challenge them – but God sees right through them.
2. (41-46) Moses remembers their half-hearted repentance and futile invasion attempt.
“Then you answered and said to me, ‘We have sinned against the Lord; we will go up and fight, just as the Lord our God commanded us.’ And when everyone of you had girded on his weapons of war, you were ready to go up into the mountain. And the Lord said to me, ‘Tell them, “Do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; lest you be defeated before your enemies.”‘ So I spoke to you; yet you would not listen, but rebelled against the command of the Lord, and presumptuously went up into the mountain. And the Amorites who dwelt in that mountain came out against you and chased you as bees do, and drove you back from Seir to Hormah. Then you returned and wept before the Lord, but the Lord would not listen to your voice nor give ear to you. So you remained in Kadesh many days, according to the days that you spent there.”
a. We have sinned against the Lord; we will go up and fight: After hearing the consequences of their rejection of God, Israel had a change of heart. Yet they went forth in the flesh and not in faith, because God did not lead them.
b. Rebelled against the command of the Lord: They did this in the midst of their supposed repentance. Their sorrow was not over grieving the heart of God but over forty more years in the wilderness. God therefore saw through their shallow repentance.
c. The Amorites who dwelt in that mountain came out against you and chased you as bees do: This shows how their futile invitation attempt ended in disaster. After their total defeat, then they wept and wept – but again, this was over the consequences of getting caught, not over grieving the heart of God, and not over their sin of not believing the great love of God.
© 2006 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission