Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
The Fifth Book Of Moses(Deuteronomy)
Contents, Arrangement, and Character of Deuteronomy
The fifth book of Moses, which is headed הדברים אלה, or briefly דברים, in the Hebrew Bibles, from the opening words of the book, is called התּורה משׁנה (repetition legis), or merely משׁנה by the Hellenistic Jews and some of the Rabbins, with special reference to its contents as described in Deuteronomy 17:18. The rabbinical explanation of the latter given in Mnster and Fagius is דראשונים זכרון, "memoria rerum priorum, quae in aliis scribuntur libris." By some of the Rabbins the book is also called תּוכחות ספר, liber redargutionum. The first of these titles has become current in the Christian Church through the rendering given by the lxx and Vulgate, ́, Deuteronomium; and although it has arisen from an incorrect rendering of Deuteronomy 17:18 (see the exposition of the passage), it is so far a suitable one, that it describes quite correctly the leading contents of the book itself. The book of Deuteronomy contains not so much "a recapitulation of the things commanded and done, as related in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers" (Theod.), as "a compendium and summary of the whole law and wisdom of the people of Israel, wherein those things which related to the priests and Levites are omitted, and only such things included as the people generally required to know" (Luther). Consequently it is not merely a repetition and summary of the most important laws and events contained in the previous books, still less a mere "summons to the law and testimony," or a "fresh and independent lawgiving standing side by side with the earlier one," a "transformation of the old law to suit the altered circumstances," or "merely a second book of the law, intended for the people that knew not the law" (Ewald, Riehm, etc.); but a hortatory description, explanation, and enforcement of the most essential contents of the covenant revelation and covenant laws, with emphatic prominence given to the spiritual principle of the law and its fulfilment, and with a further development of the ecclesiastical, judicial, political, and civil organization, which was intended as a permanent foundation for the life and well-bring of the people in the land of Canaan. There is not the slightest trace, throughout the whole book, of any intention whatever to give a new or second law. Whilst the laws as well as the divine promises and threatenings in the three middle books of the Pentateuch are all introduced as words of Jehovah to Moses, which he was to make known to the people, and even where the announcement passes over into the form of an address, - as, for example, in Exodus 23:20., Leviticus 26, - are not spoken by Moses in his own name, but spoken by Jehovah to Israel through Moses; the book of Deuteronomy, with the exception of ch. 31-34, contains nothing but words addressed by Moses to the people, with the intention, as he expressly affirms in Deuteronomy 1:5, of explaining (בּאר) the law to the people. Accordingly he does not quote those laws, which were given before and are merely repeated here, nor the further precepts and arrangements that were added to them, such as those concerning the one site for the worship of God, the prophetic and regal qualifications, the administration of justice and carrying on of war, in the categorical language of law; but clothes them, as well as the other commandments, in the hortatory form of a paternal address, full of solemn and affectionate admonition, with the addition of such reminiscences and motives as seemed best adapted to impress their observance upon the hearts of the people. As the repetition not only of the decalogue, which God addressed to the people directly from Sinai, but also of many other laws, which He gave through Moses at Sinai and during the journey through the desert, had no other object than this, to make the contents of the covenant legislation intelligible to all the people, and to impress them upon their hearts; so those laws which are peculiar to our book are not additions made to this legislation for the purpose of completing it, but simply furnish such explanations and illustrations of its meaning as were rendered necessary by the peculiar relations and forms of the religious, social, and political life of the nation in the promised land of Canaan. Throughout the whole book, the law, with its commandments, statutes, and judgments, which Moses laid "this day" before the people, is never described as either new or altered; on the contrary, it is only the law of the covenant, which Jehovah had concluded with His people at Horeb (Deuteronomy 5:1.); and the commandments, statutes, and judgments of this law Moses had received from the Lord upon the Mount (Sinai), that he might teach Israel to keep them (Deuteronomy 5:31.; comp. Deuteronomy 6:20-25). The details of the book also bear this out.
The first part of the book, which embraces by far the greater portion of it, viz., ch. 1-30, consists of three long addresses, which Moses delivered to all Israel, according to the heading of Deuteronomy 1:1-4, in the land of Moab, on the first of the eleventh month, in the fortieth year after the exodus from Egypt. The first of these addresses (ch. 1:6-4:40) is intended to prepare the way for the exposition and enforcement of the law, which follow afterwards. Moses calls to their recollection the most important facts connected with the history of their forty years' wandering in the desert, under the protection and merciful guidance of the Lord (ch. 1:6-3:29); and to this he attaches the exhortation not to forget the revelation of the Lord, which they had seen at Horeb, or the words of the covenant which they had heard, but to bear in mind at all times, that Jehovah alone was God in heaven and on earth, and to keep His commandments and rights, that they might enjoy long life and prosperity in the land of Canaan (ch. 4:1-40). This is followed by the statement in Deuteronomy 4:41-43, that Moses set apart three cities of refuge in the land to the east of the Jordan for unintentional manslayers.
The second address (ch. 5-26) is described in the heading in Deuteronomy 4:44-49 as the law, which Moses set before the children of Israel, and consists of two parts, the one general and the other particular. In the general part (ch. 5-11), Moses repeats the ten words of the covenant, which Jehovah spoke to Israel from Sinai out of the midst of the fire, together with the circumstances which attended their promulgation (ch. 5), and then expounds the contents of the first two commandments of the decalogue, that Jehovah alone is the true and absolute God, and requires love from His people with all their heart and all their soul, and therefore will not tolerate the worship of any other god beside Himself (ch. 6). For this reason the Israelites were not only to form no alliance with the Canaanites after conquering them, and taking possession of the promised land, but to exterminate them without quarter, and destroy their altars and idols, because the Lord had chosen them to be His holy nation from love to their forefathers, and would keep the covenant of His grace, and bestow the richest blessings upon them, if they observed His commandments (ch. 7); but when in possession and enjoyment of the riches of this blessed land, they were to remain for ever mindful of the temptation, humiliation, and fatherly chastisement which they had experienced at the hand of their God in the wilderness, that they might not forget the Lord and His manifestations of mercy in their self-exaltation (ch. 8), but might constantly remember that they owed their conquest and possession of Canaan not to their own righteousness, but solely to the compassion and covenant faithfulness of the Lord, whom they had repeatedly provoked to anger in the wilderness (ch. 9:1-10:11), and might earnestly strive to serve the Lord in true fear and love, and to keep His commandments, that they might inherit the promised blessing, and not be exposed to the curse which would fall upon transgressors and the worshippers of idols (ch. 10:12-11:32). To this there is added in the more special part (ch. 12-26), an account of the most important laws which all Israel was to observe in the land of its inheritance, viz.: (1.) Directions for the behaviour of Israel towards the Lord God, e.g., as to the presentation of sacrificial offerings and celebration of sacrificial meals at no other place than the one chosen by God for the revelation of His name (ch. 12); as to the destruction of all seducers to idolatry, whether prophets who rose up with signs and wonders, or the closest blood-relations, and such towns in the land as should fall away to idolatry (ch. 13); as to abstinence from the mourning ceremonies of the heathen, and from unclean food, and the setting apart of tithes for sacrificial meals and for the poor (ch. 14); as to the observance of the year of remission, the emancipation of Hebrew slaves in the seventh year, and the dedication of the first-born of oxen and sheep (ch. 15), and as to the celebration of the feast of Passover, of Weeks, and of Tabernacles, by sacrificial meals at the sanctuary (ch. 16:1-17). (2.) Laws concerning the organization of the theocratic state, and especially as to the appointment of judges and official persons in every town, and the trial of idolaters and evil-doers in both the lower and higher forms (ch. 16:18-17:13); concerning the choice of a king in the future, and his duties (Deuteronomy 17:14-20); concerning the rights of priests and Levites (Deuteronomy 18:1-8); and concerning false and true prophets (vv. Deuteronomy 18:9-22). (3.) Regulations bearing upon the sanctification of human life: viz., legal instructions as to the establishment of cities of refuge for unintentional manslayers (Deuteronomy 19:1-13); as to the maintenance of the sanctity of the boundaries of landed property, and abstinence from false charges against a neighbour (Deuteronomy 4:14-21); as to the conduct of war, with special reference to the duty of sparing their own fighting men, and also defenceless enemies and their towns (ch. 20); as to the expiation of inexplicable murders (Deuteronomy 21:1-9); as to the mild treatment of women taken in war (Deuteronomy 4:10-14); the just use of paternal authority (Deuteronomy 4:15-21); and the burial of criminals that had been executed (Deuteronomy 4:22, Deuteronomy 4:23). (4.) The duty of paying affectionate regard to the property of a neighbour, and cherishing a sacred dread of violating the moral and natural order of the world (Deuteronomy 22:1-12), with various precepts for the sanctification of the marriage bond (ch. 22:13-23:1), of the theocratic union as a congregation (ch. 23:2-25), and also of domestic and social life, in all its manifold relations (chs. 24 and 25); and lastly, the appointment of prayers of thanksgiving on the presentation of the first-fruits and tenths of the fruits of the field (Deuteronomy 26:1-15); together with a closing admonition (Deuteronomy 4:16-19) to observe all these laws and rights with all the heart.
The third address (ch. 27-30) has reference to the renewal of the covenant. This solemn act is introduced with a command to write the law upon large stones when Canaan should be conquered, and to set up these stones upon Mount Ebal, to build an altar there; and after presenting burnt-offerings and slain-offerings, to proclaim in the most solemn manner both the blessing and curse of the law, the former upon Gerizim, and the latter upon Ebal (ch. 27). Moses takes occasion from this command to declare most fully what blessings and curses would come upon the people, according as they should or should not hearken to the voice of the Lord (ch. 28). Then follows the renewal of the covenant, which consisted in the fact that Moses recited once more, in a solemn address to the whole of the national assembly, all that the Lord had done for them and to them; and after pointing again to the blessings and curses of the law, called upon them and adjured them to enter into the covenant of Jehovah their God, which He had that day concluded with them, and having before them blessing and cursing, life and death, to make the choice of life. - The second and much shorter portion of the book (ch. 31-34) contains the close of Moses' life and labours: (a) the appointment of Joshua to be the leader of Israel into Canaan, and the handing over of the book of the law, when completed, to the priests, for them to keep and read to the people at the feast of Tabernacles in the year of jubilee (Deuteronomy 31); (b) the song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1-47), and the announcement of his death (Deuteronomy 32:48-52); (c) the blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33); and (d) the account of his death (Deuteronomy 34:1-12).
From this general survey of the contents, it is sufficiently evident that the exposition of the commandments, statutes, and rights of the law had no other object than this, to pledge the nation in the most solemn manner to an inviolable observance, in the land of Canaan, of the covenant which Jehovah had made with Israel at Horeb (Deuteronomy 29:1). To this end Moses not only repeats the fundamental law of this covenant, the decalogue, but many of the separate commandments, statutes, and rights of the more expanded Sinaitic law. These are rarely given in extenso (e.g., the laws of food in Deuteronomy 14), but for the most part simply in brief hints, bringing out by way of example a few of the more important rules, for the purpose of linking on some further explanations of the law in its application to the peculiar circumstances of the land of Canaan. And throughout, as F. W. Schultz correctly observes, the intention of the book is, "by means of certain supplementary and auxiliary rules, to ensure the realization of the laws or institutions of the earlier books, the full validity of which it presupposes; and that not merely in some fashion or other, but in its true essence, and according to its higher object and idea, notwithstanding all the difficulties that might present themselves in Canaan or elsewhere." Not only are the instructions relating to the building of the sanctuary, the service of the priests and Levites, and the laws of sacrifice and purification, passed over without mention as being already known; but of the festivals and festive celebrations, only the three annual feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles are referred to, and that but briefly, for the purpose of commanding the observance of the sacrificial meals which were to be held at the sanctuary in connection with these feasts (Deuteronomy 16). The tithes and first-fruits are noticed several times, but only so far as they were to be applied to common sacrificial meals before the Lord. The appointment of judges is commanded in all the towns of the land, and rules are given by which the judicial form of procedure is determined more minutely; but no rule is laid down as to the election of the judges, simply because this had been done before. On the ether hand, instructions are given concerning the king whom the people would one day desire to set over themselves; concerning the prophets whom the Lord would raise up; and also concerning any wars that might be waged with other nations than the Canaanites, the extermination of the latter being enforced once more; and several things besides. - And if this selection of materials indicates an intention, not so much to complete the legislation of the earlier books by the addition of new laws, as to promote its observance and introduction into the national life, and secure its permanent force; this intention becomes still more apparent when we consider how Moses, after repeating the decalogue, not only sums up the essential contents of all the commandments, statutes, and rights which Jehovah has commanded, in the one command to love God with all the heart, etc., and sets forth this commandment as the sum of the whole law, but in all his expositions of the law, all his exhortations to obedience, and all threats and promises, aims ever at this one object, to awaken in the hearts of the people a proper state of mind for the observance of the commandments of God, viz., a feeling of humility and love and willing obedience, and to destroy that love for merely outward legality and pharisaic self-righteousness which is inherent in the natural man, that the people may circumcise the foreskin of their heart, and enter heartily into the covenant of their God, and maintain that covenant with true fidelity.
It is in this peculiar characteristic and design of the legislative addresses which the book contains, and not in the purpose attributed to it, of appending a general law for the nation to the legislation of the previous books, which had reference chiefly to the priests and Levites,
(Note: In opposition to this view of Ed. Riehm, Schultz justly argues that the book of Deuteronomy is very far from containing everything that concerned the people and was of great importance to them. It does not even repeat those laws of the first book of the covenant in Exodus 20-23, which affected most closely the social every-day life of the people. It contains nothing about circumcision, which certainly could not have been omitted from the national law-book; no further details as to the Passover, Pentecost, and the feast of Tabernacles; it does not even mention the great day of atonement, on which every Israelite had to fast on pain of death, nor the feast of trumpets and year of jubilee; and the Sabbath command is simply introduced quite briefly in and with the decalogue. Of all the defilements and washings, which were of the greatest moment, according to the Old Testament view, to every individual, there is not a single word.)
that we are to seek for that completion of the law which the book of Deuteronomy supplies. And in this we may find the strongest proof of the Mosaic origin of this concluding part of the Thorah. What the heading distinctly states (Deuteronomy 1:1-4), - viz., that Moses delivered this address to all Israel a short time before his death in the land of Moab, on the other side of the Jordan, and therefore on the threshold of the promised land-is confirmed by both the form and contents of the book. As Hengstenberg has well observed (Ev. K. Z. 1862, No. 5, pp. 49ff.), "the address of Moses is in perfect harmony with his situation. He speaks like a dying father to his children. The words are earnest, inspired, impressive. He looks back over the whole of the forty years of their wandering in the desert, reminds the people of all the blessings they have received, of the ingratitude with which they have so often repaid them, and of the judgments of God, and the love that continually broke forth behind them; he explains the laws again and again, and adds what is necessary to complete them, and is never weary or urging obedience to them in the warmest and most emphatic words, because the very life of the nation was bound up with this; he surveys all the storms and conflicts which they have passed through, and, beholding the future in the past, takes a survey also of the future history of the nation, and sees, with mingled sorrow and joy, how the three great features of the past - viz., apostasy, punishment, and pardon - continue to repeat themselves in the future also. - The situation throughout is the time when Israel was standing on the border of the promised land, and preparing to cross the Jordan; and there is never any allusion to what formed the centre of the national life in future times - to Jerusalem and its temple, or to the Davidic monarchy. The approaching conquest of the land is merely taken for granted as a whole; the land is dressed throughout in all the charms of a desired good, and no reference is ever made to the special circumstances of Israel in the land about to be conquered." To this there is to be added what makes its appearance on every hand - the most lively remembrance of Egypt, and the condition of the people when living there (cf. Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 7:15; Deuteronomy 11:10; Deuteronomy 15:15; Deuteronomy 16:12; Deuteronomy 24:18; Deuteronomy 28:27, Deuteronomy 28:35, Deuteronomy 28:60), and an accurate acquaintance with the very earliest circumstances of the different nations with which the Israelites came into either friendly or hostile contact in the Mosaic age (ch. 2); together with many other things that were entirely changed a short time after the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites.
And just as these addresses, which complete the giving of the law and bring it to a close, form an integral part of the Thorah, so the historical account of the finishing of the book of the law, and its being handed over to the priests, together with the song and blessing of Moses (ch. 31-33), form a fitting conclusion to the work of Moses, the lawgiver and mediator of the old covenant; and to this the account of his death, with which the Pentateuch closes (Deuteronomy 34:1-12), is very appropriately appended.
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.
Deuteronomy 1:1-4 contain the heading to the whole book; and to this the introduction to the first address is appended in Deuteronomy 1:5. By the expression, "These be the words," etc., Deuteronomy is attached to the previous books; the word "these," which refers to the addresses that follow, connects what follows with what goes before, just as in Genesis 2:4; Genesis 6:9, etc. The geographical data in Deuteronomy 1:1 present no little difficulty; for whilst the general statement as to the place where Moses delivered the addresses in this book, viz., beyond Jordan, is particularized in the introduction to the second address (Deuteronomy 4:46), as "in the valley over against Beth-Peor," here it is described as "in the wilderness, in the Arabah," etc. This contrast between the verse before us and Deuteronomy 4:45-46, and still more the introduction of the very general and loose expression, "in the desert," which is so little adapted for a geographical definition of the locality, that it has to be defined itself by the additional words "in the Arabah," suggest the conclusion that the particular names introduced are not intended to furnish as exact a geographical account as possible of the spot where Moses explained the law to all Israel, but to call up to view the scene of the addresses which follow, and point out the situation of all Israel at that time. Israel was "in the desert," not yet in Canaan the promised inheritance, and in fact "in the Arabah." This is the name given to the deep low-lying plain on both sides of the Jordan, which runs from the Lake of Gennesaret to the Dead Sea, and stretches southwards from the Dead Sea to Aila, at the northern extremity of the Red Sea, as we may see very clearly from Deuteronomy 2:8, where the way which the Israelites took past Edom to Aila is called the "way of the Arabah," and also from the fact that the Dead Sea is called "the sea of the Arabah" in Deuteronomy 3:17 and Deuteronomy 4:49. At present the name Arabah is simply attached to the southern half of this valley, between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea; whilst the northern part, between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee, is called el Ghor; though Abulfeda, Ibn Haukal, and other Arabic geographers, extend the name Ghor from the Lake of Gennesaret to Aila (cf. Ges. thes. p. 1166; Hengstenberg, Balaam, p. 520; Robinson, Pal. ii. p. 596). - סוּף מול, "over against Suph" (מול for מוּל, Deuteronomy 2:19; Deuteronomy 3:29, etc., for the sake of euphony, to avoid the close connection of the two 8-sounds). Suph is probably a contraction of ים־סוּף, "the Red Sea" (see at Exodus 10:19). This name is given not only to the Gulf of Suez (Exodus 13:18; Exodus 15:4, Exodus 15:22, etc.), but to that of Akabah also (Numbers 14:25; Numbers 21:4, etc.). There is no other Suph that would be at all suitable here. The lxx have rendered it πλήσιον τῆς ἐρυθρᾶς θαλάσσης; and Onkelos and others adopt the same rendering. This description cannot serve as a more precise definition of the Arabah, in which case עשׁר (which) would have to be supplied before מול, since "the Arabah actually touches the Red Sea." Nor does it point out the particular spot in the Arabah where the addresses were delivered, as Knobel supposes; or indicate the connection between the Arboth Moab and the continuation of the Arabah on the other side of the Dead Sea, and point out the Arabah in all this extent as the heart of the country over which the Israelites had moved during the whole of their forty years' wandering (Hengstenberg). For although the Israelites passed twice through the Arabah, it formed by no means the heart of the country in which they continued for forty years. The words "opposite to Suph," when taken in connection with the following names, cannot have any other object than to define with greater exactness the desert in which the Israelites had moved during the forty years. Moses spoke to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan, when it was still in the desert, in the Arabah, still opposite to the Red Sea, after crossing which it had entered the wilderness (Exodus 15:22), "between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-Sahab." Paran is at all events not the desert of this name in all its extent, but the place of encampment in the "desert of Paran" (Numbers 10:12; Numbers 12:16), i.e., the district of Kadesh in the desert of Zin (Numbers 13:21, Numbers 13:26); and Hazeroth is most probably the place of encampment of that name mentioned in Numbers 11:35; Numbers 12:16, from which Israel entered the desert of Paran. Both places had been very eventful to the Israelites. At Hazeroth, Miriam the prophetess and Aaron the high priest had stumbled through rebellion against Moses (Numbers 12). In the desert of Paran by Kadesh the older generation had been rejected, and sentenced to die in the wilderness on account of its repeated rebellion against the Lord (Numbers 14); and when the younger generation that had grown up in the wilderness assembled once more in Kadesh to set out for Canaan, even Moses and Aaron, the two heads of the nation, sinned there at the water of strife, so that they two were not permitted to enter Canaan, whilst Miriam died there at that time (Numbers 20). But if Paran and Hazeroth are mentioned on account of the tragical events connected with these places, it is natural to conclude that there were similar reasons for mentioning the other three names as well.
Tophel is supposed by Hengstenberg (Balaam, p. 517) and Robinson (Pal. ii. p. 570) and all the more modern writers, to be the large village of Tafyleh, with six hundred inhabitants, the chief place in Jebal, on the western side of the Edomitish mountains, in a well-watered valley of the wady of the same name, with large plantations of fruit-trees (Burckhardt, Syr. pp. 677, 678). The Israelites may have come upon this place in the neighbourhood of Oboth (Numbers 21:10-11); and as its inhabitants, according to Burckhardt, p. 680, supply the Syrian caravans with a considerable quantity of provisions, which they sell to them in the castle of el Ahsa, Schultz conjectures that it may have been here that the people of Israel purchased food and drink of the Edomites for money (Deuteronomy 2:29), and that Tafyleh is mentioned as a place of refreshment, where the Israelites partook for the first time of different food from the desert supply. There is a great deal to be said in favour of this conjecture: for even if the Israelites did not obtain different food for the first time at this place, the situation of Tophel does warrant the supposition that it was here that they passed for the first time from the wilderness to an inhabited land; on which account the place was so memorable for them, that it might very well be mentioned as being the extreme east of their wanderings in the desert, as the opposite point to the encampment at Paran, where they first arrived on the western side of their wandering, at the southern border of Canaan. Laban is generally identified with Libnah, the second place of encampment on the return journey from Kadesh (Numbers 33:22), and may perhaps have been the place referred to in Numbers 16, but not more precisely defined, where the rebellion of the company of Korah occurred. Lastly, Di-Sahab has been identified by modern commentators with Mersa Dahab or Mina Dahab, i.e., gold-harbour, a place upon a tongue of land in the Elanitic Gulf, about the same latitude as Sinai, where there is nothing to be seen now except a quantity of date-trees, a few sand-hills, and about a dozen heaps of stones piled up irregularly, but all showing signs of having once been joined together (cf. Burckhardt, pp. 847-8; and Ritter, Erdk. xiv. pp. 226ff.). But this is hardly correct. As Roediger has observed (on Wellsted's Reisen, ii. p. 127), "the conjecture has been based exclusively upon the similarity of name, and there is not the slightest exegetical tradition to favour it." But similarity of names cannot prove anything by itself, as the number of places of the same name, but in different localities, that we meet with in the Bible, is very considerable. Moreover, the further assumption which is founded upon this conjecture, namely, that the Israelites went from Sinai past Dahab, not only appears untenable for the reasons given above, but is actually rendered impossible by the locality itself. The approach to this tongue of land, which projects between two steep lines of coast, with lofty mountain ranges of from 800 to 2000 feet in height on both north and south, leads from Sinai through far too narrow and impracticable a valley for the Israelites to be able to march thither and fix an encampment there.
(Note: From the mouth of the valley through the masses of the primary mountains to the sea-coast, there is a fan-like surface of drifts of primary rock, the radius of which is thirty-five minutes long, the progressive work of the inundations of an indefinable course of thousands of years" (Rppell, Nubien, p. 206).)
And if Israel cannot have touched Dahab on its march, every probability vanishes that Moses should have mentioned this place here, and the name Di-Sahab remains at present undeterminable. But in spite of our ignorance of this place, and notwithstanding the fact that even the conjecture expressed with regard to Laban is very uncertain, there can be no well-founded doubt that the words "between Paran and Tophel" are to be understood as embracing the whole period of the thirty-seven years of mourning, at the commencement of which Israel was in Paran, whilst at the end they sought to enter Canaan by Tophel (the Edomitish Tafyleh), and that the expression "opposite to Suph" points back to their first entrance into the desert. - Looking from the steppes of Moab over the ground that the Israelites had traversed, Suph, where they first entered the desert of Arabia, would lie between Paran, where the congregation arrived at the borders of Canaan towards the west, and Tophel, where they first ended their desert wanderings thirty-seven years later on the east.
(There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.)
In Deuteronomy 1:2 also the retrospective glance at the guidance through the desert is unmistakeable. "Eleven days is the way from Horeb to the mountains of Seir as far as Kadesh-Barnea." With these words, which were unquestionably intended to be something more than a geographical notice of the distance of Horeb from Kadesh-barnea, Moses reminded the people that they had completed the journey from Horeb, the scene of the establishment of the covenant, to Kadesh, the border of the promised land, in eleven days, that he might lead them to lay to heart the events which took place at Kadesh itself. The "way of the mountains of Seir" is not the way along the side of these mountains, i.e., the way through the Arabah, which is bounded by the mountains of Seir on the east, but the way which leads to the mountains of Seir, just as in Deuteronomy 2:1 the way of the Red Sea is the way that leads to this sea. From these words, therefore, it by no means follows that Kadesh-Barnea is to be sought for in the Arabah, and that Israel passed through the Arabah from Horeb to Kadesh. According to Deuteronomy 1:19, they departed from Horeb, went through the great and terrible wilderness by the way to the mountains of the Amorites, and came to Kadesh-barnea. Hence the way to the mountains of the Amorites, i.e., the southern part of what were afterwards the mountains of Judah (see at Numbers 13:17), is the same as the way to the mountains of Seir; consequently the Seir referred to here is not the range on the eastern side of the Arabah, but Seir by Hormah (Deuteronomy 1:44), i.e., the border plateau by Wady Murreh, opposite to the mountains of the Amorites (Joshua 11:17; Joshua 12:7 : see at Numbers 34:3).
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;
To the description of the ground to which the following addresses refer, there is appended an allusion to the not less significant time when Moses delivered them, viz., "on the first of the eleventh month in the fortieth year," consequently towards the end of his life, after the conclusion of the divine lawgiving; so that he was able to speak "according to all that Jehovah had given him in commandment unto them" (the Israelites), namely, in the legislation of the former books, which is always referred to in this way (Deuteronomy 4:5, Deuteronomy 4:23; Deuteronomy 5:29-30; Deuteronomy 6:1). The time was also significant, from the fact that Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, had then been slain. By giving a victory over these mighty kings, the Lord had begun to fulfil His promises (see Deuteronomy 2:25), and had thereby laid Israel under the obligation to love, gratitude, and obedience (see Numbers 21:21-35). The suffix in הכּתו refers to Moses, who had smitten the Amorites at the command and by the power of Jehovah. According to Joshua 12:4; Joshua 13:12, Joshua 13:31; Edrei was the second capital of Og, and it is as such that it is mentioned, and not as the place where Og was defeated (Deuteronomy 3:1; Numbers 21:33). The omission of the copula ו before בּאדרעי is to be accounted for from the oratorical character of the introduction to the addresses which follow. Edrei is the present Dra (see at Numbers 21:33). - In Deuteronomy 1:5, the description of the locality is again resumed in the words "beyond the Jordan," and still further defined by the expression "in the land of Moab;" and the address itself is introduced by the clause, "Moses took in hand to expound this law," which explains more fully the דּבּר (spake) of Deuteronomy 1:3. "In the land of Moab" is a rhetorical and general expression for "in the Arboth Moab." הואיל does not mean to begin, but to undertake, to take in hand, with the subordinate idea sometimes of venturing, or daring (Genesis 18:27), sometimes of a bold resolution: here it denotes an undertaking prompted by internal impulse. Instead of being construed with the infinitive, it is construed rhetorically here with the finite verb without the copula (cf. Ges. 143, 3, b). בּאר probably signified to dig in the Kal; but this is not used. In the Piel it means to explain (διασαφῆσαι, explanare, lxx, Vulg.), never to engrave, or stamp, not even here nor in Deuteronomy 27:8 and Habakkuk 2:2. Here it signifies "to expound this law clearly," although the exposition was connected with an earnest admonition to preserve and obey it. "This" no doubt refers to the law expounded in what follows; but substantially it is no other than the law already given in the earlier books. "Substantially there is throughout but one law" (Schultz). That the book of Deuteronomy was not intended to furnish a new or second law, is as evident as possible from the word בּאר.
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:
On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying,
The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:
Moses commenced with the summons issued by the Lord to Israel at Horeb, to rise and go to Canaan.
As the epithet applied to God, "Jehovah our God," presupposes the reception of Israel into covenant with Jehovah, which took place at Sinai, so the words, "ye have dwelt long enough at this mountain," imply that the purpose for which Israel was taken to Horeb had been answered, i.e., that they had been furnished with the laws and ordinances requisite for the fulfilment of the covenant, and could now remove to Canaan to take possession of the promised land. The word of Jehovah mentioned here is not found in this form in the previous history; but as a matter of fact it is contained in the divine instructions that were preparatory to their removal (Numbers 1-4 and Numbers 9:15-10:10), and the rising of the cloud from the tabernacle, which followed immediately afterwards (Numbers 10:11). The fixed use of the name Horeb to designate the mountain group in general, instead of the special name Sinai, which is given to the particular mountain upon which the law was given, is in keeping with the rhetorical style of the book.
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.
"Go to the mount of the Amorites, and to all who dwell near." The mount of the Amorites is the mountainous country inhabited by this tribe, the leading feature in the land of Canaan, and is synonymous with the "land of the Canaanites" which follows; the Amorites being mentioned instar omnium as being the most powerful of all the tribes in Canaan, just as in Genesis 15:16 (see at Genesis 10:16). שׁכניו, "those who dwell by it," are the inhabitants of the whole of Canaan, as is shown by the enumeration of the different parts of the land, which follows immediately afterwards. Canaan was naturally divided, according to the character of the ground, into the Arabah, the modern Ghor (see at Deuteronomy 1:1); the mountain, the subsequent mountains of Judah and Ephraim (see at Numbers 13:17); the lowland (shephelah), i.e., the low flat country lying between the mountains of Judah and the Mediterranean Sea, and stretching from the promontory of Carmel down to Gaza, which is intersected by only small undulations and ranges of hills, and generally includes the hill country which formed the transition from the mountains to the plain, though the two are distinguished in Joshua 10:40 and Joshua 12:8 (see at Joshua 15:33.); the south land (negeb: see at Numbers 13:17); and the sea-shore, i.e., the generally narrow strip of coast running along by the Mediterranean Sea from Joppa to the Tyrian ladders, or Rs el Abiad, just below Tyre (vid., v. Raumer, Pal. p. 49). - The special mention of Lebanon in connection with the land of the Canaanites, and the enumeration of the separate parts of the land, as well as the extension of the eastern frontier as far as the Euphrates (see at Genesis 15:18), are to be attributed to the rhetorical fulness of the style. The reference, however, is not to Antilibanus, but to Lebanon proper, which was within the northern border of the land of Israel, as fixed in Numbers 34:7-9.
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.
This land the Lord had placed at the disposal of the Israelites for them to take possession of, as He had sworn to the fathers (patriarchs) that He would give it to their posterity (cf. Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:18., etc.). The "swearing" on the part of God points back to Genesis 22:16. The expression "to them and to their seed" is the same as "to thee and to thy seed" in Genesis 13:15; Genesis 17:8, and is not to be understood as signifying that the patriarchs themselves ought to have taken actual possession of Canaan; but "to their seed" is in apposition, and also a more precise definition (comp. Genesis 15:7 with Genesis 15:18, where the simple statement "to thee" is explained by the fuller statement "to thy seed"). ראה has grown into an interjection equals הנּה. לפני נתן: to give before a person, equivalent to give up to a person, or place at his free disposal (for the use of the word in this sense, see Genesis 13:9; Genesis 34:10). Jehovah (this is the idea of Deuteronomy 1:6-8), when He concluded the covenant with the Israelites at Horeb, had intended to fulfil at once the promise which He gave to the patriarchs, and to put them into possession of the promised land; and Moses had also done what was required on his part, as he explained in Deuteronomy 1:9-18, to bring the people safety to Canaan (cf. Exodus 18:23). As the nation had multiplied as the stars of heaven, in accordance with the promise of the Lord, and he felt unable to bear the burden alone and settle all disputes, he had placed over them at that time wise and intelligent men from the heads of the tribes to act as judges, and had instructed them to adjudicate upon the smaller matters of dispute righteously and without respect of person. For further particulars concerning the appointment of the judges, see at Exodus 18:13-26, where it is related how Moses adopted this plan at the advice of Jethro, even before the giving of the law at Sinai. The expression "at that time," in Deuteronomy 1:9, is not at variance with this. The imperfect ואמר with vav rel., expresses the order of thought and not of time. For Moses did not intend to recall the different circumstances to the recollection of the people in their chronological order, but arranged them according to their relative importance in connection with the main object of his address. And this required that he should begin with what God had done for the fulfilment of His promise, and then proceed afterwards to notice what he, the servant of God, had done in his office, as an altogether subordinate matter. So far as this object was concerned, it was also perfectly indifferent who had advised him to adopt this plan, whilst it was very important to allude to the fact that it was the great increase in the number of the Israelites which had rendered it necessary, that he might remind the congregation how the Lord, even at that time, had fulfilled the promise which He gave to the patriarchs, and in that fulfilment had given a practical guarantee of the certain fulfilment of the other promises as well. Moses accomplished this by describing the increase of the nation in such a way that his hearers should be involuntarily reminded of the covenant promise in Genesis 15:5. (cf. Genesis 12:2; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:17; Genesis 26:4).
And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone:
The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.
(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!)
But in order to guard against any misinterpretation of his words, "I cannot bear you myself alone," Moses added, "May the Lord fulfil the promise of numerous increase to the nation a thousand-fold." "Jehovah, the God of your fathers (i.e., who manifested Himself as God to your fathers), add to you a thousand times, כּכם, as many as ye are, and bless you as He has said." The "blessing" after "multiplying" points back to Genesis 12:2. Consequently, it is not to be restricted to "strengthening, rendering fruitful, and multiplying," but must be understood as including the spiritual blessing promised to Abraham.
How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?
"How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?" The burden and cumbrance of the nation are the nation itself, with all its affairs and transactions, which pressed upon the shoulders of Moses.
Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.
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.
And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do.
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.
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.
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.
And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do.
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.
Everything had been done on the part of God and Moses to bring Israel speedily and safely to Canaan. The reason for their being compelled to remain in the desert for forty years was to be found exclusively in their resistance to the commandments of God. The discontent of the people with the guidance of God was manifested at the very first places of encampment in the desert (Numbers 11 and 12); but Moses passed over this, and simply reminded them of the rebellion at Kadesh (Numbers 13 and 14), because it was this which was followed by the condemnation of the rebellious generation to die out in the wilderness.
"When we departed from Horeb, we passed through the great and dreadful wilderness, which ye have seen," i.e., become acquainted with, viz., the desert of et Tih, "of the way to the mountains of the Amorites, and came to Kadesh-Barnea" (see at Numbers 12:16). הלך, with an accusative, to pass through a country (cf. Deuteronomy 2:7; Isaiah 50:10, etc.). Moses had there explained to the Israelites, that they had reached the mountainous country of the Amorites, which Jehovah was about to give them; that the land lay before them, and they might take possession of it without fear (Deuteronomy 1:20, Deuteronomy 1:21). But they proposed to send out men to survey the land, with its towns, and the way into it. Moses approved of this proposal, and sent out twelve men, one from each tribe, who went through the land, etc. (as is more fully related in Numbers 13, and has been expounded in connection with that passage, Deuteronomy 1:22-25). Moses' summons to them to take the land (Deuteronomy 1:20, Deuteronomy 1:21) is not expressly mentioned there, but it is contained implicite in the fact that spies were sent out; as the only possible reason for doing this must have been, that they might force a way into the land, and take possession of it. In Deuteronomy 1:25, Moses simply mentions so much of the report of the spies as had reference to the nature of the land, viz., that it was good, that he may place in immediate contrast with this the refusal of the people to enter in.
And I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, which the LORD our God doth give unto us.
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.
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.
And the saying pleased me well: and I took twelve men of you, one of a tribe:
And they turned and went up into the mountain, and came unto the valley of Eshcol, and searched it out.
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.
Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God:
"But ye would not go up, and were rebellious against the mouth (i.e., the express will) of Jehovah our God, and murmured in your tents, and said, Because Jehovah hated us, He hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us." שׂנאה, either an infinitive with a feminine termination, or a verbal noun construed with an accusative (see Ges. 133; Ewald, 238, a.). - By the allusion to the murmuring in the tents, Moses points them to Numbers 14:1, and then proceeds to describe the rebellion of the congregation related there (Deuteronomy 1:2-4), in such a manner that the state of mind manifested on that occasion presents the appearance of the basest ingratitude, inasmuch as the people declared the greatest blessing conferred upon them by God, viz., their deliverance from Egypt, to have been an act of hatred on His part. At the same time, by addressing the existing members of the nation, as if they themselves had spoken so, whereas the whole congregation that rebelled at Kadesh had fallen in the desert, and a fresh generation was now gathered round him, Moses points to the fact, that the sinful corruption which broke out at that time, and bore such bitter fruit, had not died out with the older generation, but was germinating still in the existing Israel, and even though it might be deeply hidden in their hearts, would be sure to break forth again.
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.
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.
"Whither shall we go up? Our brethren (the spies) have quite discouraged our heart" (המס, lit., to cause to flow away; cf. Joshua 2:9), viz., through their report (Numbers 13:28-29, Numbers 13:31-33), the substance of which is repeated here. The expression בּשּׁמים, "in heaven," towering up into heaven, which is added to "towns great and fortified," is not an exaggeration, but, as Moses also uses it in Deuteronomy 9:1, a rhetorical description of the impression actually received with regard to the size of the towns.
(Note: "The eyes of weak faith or unbelief saw the towns really towering up to heaven. Nor did the height appear less, even to the eyes of faith, in relation, that is to say, to its own power. Faith does not hide the difficulties from itself, that it may not rob the Lord, who helps it over them, of any of the praise that is justly His due" (Schultz).)
"The sons of the Anakims:" see at Numbers 13:22.
Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them.
The attempt made by Moses to inspire the despondent people with courage, when they were ready to despair of ever conquering the Canaanites, by pointing them to the help of the Lord, which they had experienced in so mighty and visible a manner in Egypt and the desert, and to urge them to renewed confidence in this their almighty Helper and Guide, was altogether without success. And just because the appeal of Moses was unsuccessful, it is passed over in the historical account in Numbers 13; all that is mentioned there (Deuteronomy 1:6-9) being the effort made by Joshua and Caleb to stir up the people, and that on account of the effects which followed the courageous bearing of these two men, so far as their own future history was concerned. The words "goeth before you," in Deuteronomy 1:30, are resumed in Deuteronomy 1:33, and carried out still further. "Jehovah,...He shall fight for you according to all (כּכל) that," i.e., in exactly the same manner, as, "He did for you in Egypt," especially at the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14), "and in the wilderness, which thou hast seen (ראית, as in Deuteronomy 1:19), where (אשׁר without בּו in a loose connection; see Ewald, 331, c. and 333, a.) Jehovah thy God bore thee as a man beareth his son;" i.e., supported, tended, and provided for thee in the most fatherly way (see the similar figure in Numbers 11:12, and expanded still more fully in Psalm 23:1-6).
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;
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.
Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God,
"And even at this word ye remained unbelieving towards the Lord;" i.e., notwithstanding the fact that I reminded you of all the gracious help that he had experienced from your God, ye persisted in your unbelief. The participle אינכם מאמינם, "ye were not believing," is intended to describe their unbelief as a permanent condition. This unbelief was all the more grievous a sin, because the Lord their God went before them all the way in the pillar of cloud and fire, to guide and to defend them. On the fact itself, comp. Numbers 9:15., Numbers 10:33, with Exodus 13:21-22.
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.
And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying,
Jehovah was angry, therefore, when He heard these loud words, and swore that He would not let any one of those men, that evil generation, enter the promised land, with the exception of Caleb, because he had followed the Lord faithfully (cf. Numbers 14:21-24). The hod in זוּלתי is the antiquated connecting vowel of the construct state.
But in order that he might impress upon the people the judgment of the holy God in all its stern severity, Moses added in Deuteronomy 1:37 : "also Jehovah was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither;" and he did this before mentioning Joshua, who was excepted from the judgment as well as Caleb, because his ultimate intention was to impress also upon the minds of the people the fact, that even in wrath the Lord had been mindful of His covenant, and when pronouncing the sentence upon His servant Moses, had given the people a leader in the person of Joshua, who was to bring them into the promised inheritance. We are not to infer from the close connection in which this event, which did not take place according to Numbers 20:1-13 till the second arrival of the congregation at Kadesh, is placed with the earlier judgment of God at Kadesh, that the two were contemporaneous, and so supply, after "the Lord as angry with me," the words "on that occasion." For Moses did not intend to teach the people history and chronology, but to set before them the holiness of the judgments of the Lord. By using the expression "for your sakes," Moses did not wish to free himself from guilt. Even in this book his sin at the water of strife is not passed over in silence (cf. Deuteronomy 32:51). But on the present occasion, if he had given prominence to his own fault, he would have weakened the object for which he referred to this event, viz., to stimulate the consciences of the people, and instil into them a wholesome dread of sin, by holding up before them the magnitude of their guilt. But in order that he might give no encouragement to false security respecting their own sin, on the ground that even highly gifted men of God fall into sin as well, Moses simply pointed out the fact, that the quarrelling of the people with him occasioned the wrath of God to fall upon him also.
Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers,
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.
Also the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither.
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.
"Who standeth before thee," equivalent to "in thy service" (Exodus 24:13; Exodus 33:11 : for this meaning, see Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 18:7; 1 Kings 1:28). "Strengthen him:" comp. Deuteronomy 31:7; and with regard to the installation of Joshua as the leader of Israel, see Numbers 27:18-19. The suffix in ינחילנּה points back to הארץ in Deuteronomy 1:35. Joshua would divide the land among the Israelites for an inheritance, viz., (v. 39) among the young Israelites, the children of the condemned generation, whom Moses, when making a further communication of the judicial sentence of God (Numbers 14:31), had described as having no share in the sins of their parents, by adding, "who know not to-day what is good and evil." This expression is used to denote a condition of spiritual infancy and moral responsibility (Isaiah 7:15-16). It is different in 2 Samuel 19:36. - In Deuteronomy 1:40-45 he proceeds to describe still further, according to Numbers 14:39-45, how the people, by resisting the command of God to go back into the desert (Deuteronomy 1:41, compared with Numbers 14:25), had simply brought still greater calamities upon themselves, and had had to atone for the presumptuous attempt to force a way into Canaan, in opposition to the express will of the Lord, by enduring a miserable defeat. Instead of "they acted presumptuously to go up" (Numbers 14:44), Moses says here, in Deuteronomy 1:41, "ye acted frivolously to go up;" and in Deuteronomy 1:43, "ye acted rashly, and went up." הזיד from זוּד, to boil, or boil over (Genesis 25:29), signifies to act thoughtlessly, haughtily, or rashly. On the particular fact mentioned in Deuteronomy 1:44, see at Numbers 14:45.
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.
But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And ye returned and wept before the LORD; but the LORD would not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you.
"Then ye returned and wept before Jehovah," i.e., before the sanctuary; "but Jehovah did not hearken to your voice." שׁוּב does not refer to the return to Kadesh, but to an inward turning, not indeed true conversion to repentance, but simply the giving up of their rash enterprise, which they had undertaken in opposition to the commandment of God-the return from a defiant attitude to unbelieving complaining on account of the misfortune that had come upon them. Such complaining God never hears. "And ye sat (remained) in Kadesh many days, that ye remained," i.e., not "as many days as ye had been there already before the return of the spies," or "as long as ye remained in all the other stations together, viz., the half of thirty-eight years" (as Seder Olam and many of the Rabbins interpret); but "just as long as ye did remain there," as we may see from a comparison of Deuteronomy 9:25. It seemed superfluous to mention more precisely the time they spent in Kadesh, because that was well known to the people, whom Moses was addressing. He therefore contented himself with fixing it by simply referring to its duration, which was known to them all. It is no doubt impossible for us to determine the time they remained in Kadesh, because the expression "many days" is imply a relative one, and may signify many years, just as well as many months or weeks. But it by no means warrants the assumption of Fires and others, that no absolute departure of the whole of the people from Kadesh ever took place. Such an assumption is at variance with Deuteronomy 2:1. The change of subjects, "ye sat," etc. (Deuteronomy 1:46), and "we turned and removed" (Deuteronomy 2:1), by no means proves that Moses only went away with that part of the congregation which attached itself to him, whilst the other portion, which was most thoroughly estranged from him, or rather from the Lord, remained there still. The change of subject is rather to be explained from the fact that Moses was passing from the consideration of the events in Kadesh, which he held up before the people as a warning, to a description of the further guidance of Israel. The reference to those events had led him involuntarily, from Deuteronomy 1:22 onwards, to distinguish between himself and the people, and to address his words to them for the purpose of bringing out their rebellion against God. And now that he had finished with this, he returned to the communicative mode of address with which he set out in Deuteronomy 1:6, but which he had suspended again until Deuteronomy 1:19.
So ye abode in Kadesh many days, according unto the days that ye abode there.