Feb. 27 Reading: Deuteronomy 1-2 Commentary
“See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut. 1:21)
Today we begin our fifth book of the Bible – Deuteronomy. To some readers it seems like a redundant book in the Old Testament, as it recounts many of the same laws we’ve already read about. In fact, the name Deuteronomy means “second law.”
In actuality though, God didn’t dictate a second set of laws. Instead, Deuteronomy is the second discussion or second recitation of the original laws given before. They were given to a second generation of Israelites, the ones that were finally entering Canaan. Most believe that Moses wrote this book just prior to his death.
So why was this book really necessary? For more on the very important reason why this book exists, check out our blog post below.
Deuteronomy 1 – Reason for the Book
The book begins with Moses stating his authorship (v. 1). The majority of this book consists of speeches Moses directed at the people. The topic of course would be God’s law and how to follow it.
After the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai (Horeb – v. 2), God directed the people to make an eleven day journey through the wilderness to Kadesh Barnea. It was here that God commanded the people to enter the Promised Land saying:
“See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.” (v. 8)
Along the way, Moses had realized the multitude of people was too great for him to manage (v. 9-12). So he took the advice from Jethro his father in-law to appoint leaders over smaller divisions of the people (see Ex. 18:13-27). These men would “hear the cases between your brethren” (v. 16) that didn’t necessarily need to be brought to Moses. The more difficult cases came to him instead.
Rebellion and Punishment
The fact Deuteronomy exists rests in verses 19-46. Here Moses recounts the spies report that led to the rebellion of the people and their refusal to enter Canaan. The whole story is found in Numbers 13 and 14.
In summary, the people encouraged Moses to spy out the land. He agreed with God’s consent and sent 12 spies into Canaan. They spent 40 days observing the people, cities and fruit of the land (vv.19-25).
Upon their return, the message was two-fold. Yes, the land was plentiful. But the people were “stronger and taller” (v. 28) than the Israelites. Their cities were well-fortified and the people of Anak (giants) lived there.
Despite Moses encouraging the people to not be afraid and his reassurance that God would be with them, the people did not trust in the Lord. They rebelled and refused to enter the Promised Land.
The consequence was the reason the story was now being repeated to them. Their parents (those who rebelled) would not be allowed to enter Canaan. They would wander in the wilderness for 40 years and die out, having never realized the fulfillment of God’s promise. Only the faithful spies, Joshua and Caleb escaped God’s judgment from that generation.
It’s a sad ending to a group of people who had received so much of God’s blessing. And it didn’t matter that the people repented and tried to enter the land themselves (vv.41-44). God was not with them in this futile invasion attempt. They were forced to endure the consequences of their sin.
Deuteronomy 2 – Wanderings and Battles
After the rebellion of the people, nothing is listed here about the wilderness journeys. It’s important to remember this is a summary of the events of Numbers. More than likely, the people had been told time and time again about their parent’s rebellion. And they had just experienced the last 40 years in the wilderness themselves. So a detailed account of everything that happened was not necessary for them.
But now the 40 years are up (v. 7). And through it all the Lord was with them and they had not “lacked anything” (v. 7). That is an amazing testament to God’s provision over that time.
And sadly, but most importantly, the last fighting man from the rebellious generation died. That judgment stipulation triggered God moving the people towards Canaan again (vv.14-16).
The journey from the wilderness to Canaan could have occurred peaceably. Moses requested passage on the main highway through the lands of “Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon” (v. 24). But he refused their request for “God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done” (v. 30). Instead, Sihon went out to meet Israel in battle.
Needless to say that did not go well. God routed Sihon’s armies and Israel plundered their towns (vv. 32-37). This was just the beginning of what God would do tot he foreign nations.
Questions to Consider:
The book of Deuteronomy begins with Moses recounting the wilderness journey for a new generation of Israelites. It was important for them to remember where they had been, why they had been there and what God had done for them. What about your past is special to you?
Nobody can oppose God. He is the Almighty One whose strength is unmatchable and whose will cannot be changed. Since that is true, why do we fight against him?
What other points would you want to know about in our Deuteronomy 1-2 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.