And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great and terrible wilderness, which you saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us; and we came to Kadeshbarnea.
1:19-46 Moses reminds the Israelites of their march from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea, through that great and terrible wilderness. He shows how near they were to a happy settlement in Canaan. It will aggravate the eternal ruin of hypocrites, that they were not far from the kingdom of God. As if it were not enough that they were sure of their God before them, they would send men before them. Never any looked into the Holy Land, but they must own it to be a good land. And was there any cause to distrust this God? An unbelieving heart was at the bottom of all this. All disobedience to God's laws, and distrust of his power and goodness, flow from disbelief of his word, as all true obedience springs from faith. It is profitable for us to divide our past lives into distinct periods; to give thanks to God for the mercies we have received in each, to confess and seek the forgiveness of all the sins we can remember; and thus to renew our acceptance of God's salvation, and our surrender of ourselves to his service. Our own plans seldom avail to good purpose; while courage in the exercise of faith, and in the path of duty, enables the believer to follow the Lord fully, to disregard all that opposes, to triumph over all opposition, and to take firm hold upon the promised blessings.
That great and terrible wilderness - Compare Deuteronomy 8:15
. This language is such as people would employ after having passed with toil and suffering through the worst part of it, the southern half of the Arabah (see Numbers 21:4
note); and more especially when they had but recently rested from their marches in the plain of Shittim, the largest and richest oasis in the whole district on the Eastern bank near the mouth of the Jordan.
And when we departed from Horeb,.... As the Lord commanded them to do, when they were obedient:
we went through all the great and terrible wilderness; the wilderness of Paran, called "great", it reaching from Mount Sinai to Kadeshbarnea, eleven days' journey, as Adrichomius (l) relates; and "terrible", being so hard and dry as not to be ploughed nor sown, and presented to the sight something terrible and horrible, even the very image of death; to which may be added the fiery serpents and scorpions it abounded with, Deuteronomy 8:15,
which ye saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites; that is, in the way that led to the mountain:
as the Lord our God commanded us; to depart from Horeb, and take a tour through the wilderness towards the said mountain:
and we came to Kadeshbarnea; having stayed a month by the way at Kibrothhattaavah, where they lusted after flesh, and seven days at Hazeroth, where Miriam was shut out of the camp for leprosy during that time.
(l) Theatrum Terrae, p. 116. 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.
לכם הבוּ, give here, provide for yourselves. The congregation was to nominate, according to its tribes, wise, intelligent, and well-known men, whom Moses would appoint as heads, i.e., as judges, over the nation. At their installation he gave them the requisite instructions (Deuteronomy 1:16
): "Ye shall hear between your brethren," i.e., hear both parties as mediators, "and judge righteously, without respect of person." פּנים הכּיר, to look at the face, equivalent to פּנים נשׁא (Leviticus 19:15
), i.e., to act partially (cf. Exodus 23:2-3
). "The judgment is God's," i.e., appointed by God, and to be administered in the name of God, or in accordance with His justice; hence the expression "to bring before God" (Exodus 21:6
; Exodus 22:7
, etc.). On the difficult cases which the judges were to bring before Moses, see at Exodus 18:26
19-21. we went through all that great and terrible wilderness—of Paran, which included the desert and mountainous space lying between the wilderness of Shur westward, or towards Egypt and mount Seir, or the land of Edom eastwards; between the land of Canaan northwards, and the Red Sea southwards; and thus it appears to have comprehended really the wilderness of Sin and Sinai [Fisk]. It is called by the Arabs El Tih, "the wandering." It is a dreary waste of rock and of calcareous soil covered with black sharp flints; all travellers, from a feeling of its complete isolation from the world, describe it as a great and terrible wilderness.
Ye shall not respect persons - Heb. faces. Let not the bold, daring countenance of the rich or mighty induce you to give an unrighteous decision; and let not the abject look of the poor man induce you either to favor him in an unrighteous cause, or to give judgment against him at the demand of the oppressor. Be uncorrupt and incorruptible, for the judgment is God's; ye minister in the place of God, act like Him.