The Covenant Setting
1 This is what#tn Heb “These are the words.” Moses said to the assembly of Israel#tn Heb “to all Israel.” in the Transjordanian#tn Heb “on the other side of the Jordan.” This would appear to favor authorship by someone living on the west side of the Jordan, that is, in Canaan, whereas the biblical tradition locates Moses on the east side (cf. v. 5). However the Hebrew phrase בְּעֵבֶר הַיּרְדֵּן (bÿ’ever hayyrÿden) is a frozen form meaning “Transjordan,” a name appropriate from any geographical vantage point. To this day, one standing east of the Jordan can describe himself as being in Transjordan. wastelands, the arid country opposite#tn The Hebrew term מוֹל (mol) may also mean “in front of” or “near” (cf. NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT). Suph,#sn This place is otherwise unattested and its location is unknown. Perhaps it is Khirbet Sufah, 4 mi (6 km) SSE of Madaba, Jordan. between#tn The Hebrew term בֵּין (ben) may suggest “in the area of.” Paran#sn Paran is the well-known desert area between Mount Sinai and Kadesh Barnea (cf. Num 10:12; 12:16). and Tophel,#sn Tophel refers possibly to et£-T£afîleh, 15 mi (25 km) SE of the Dead Sea, or to Da‚bîlu, another name for Paran. See H. Cazelles, “Tophel (Deut. 1:1),” VT 9 (1959): 412-15. Laban,#sn Laban. Perhaps this refers to Libnah (Num 33:20). Hazeroth,#sn Hazeroth. This probably refers to àAin Khadra. See Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible, 199-200. and Di Zahab#sn Di Zahab. Perhaps this refers to Mina al-Dhahab on the eastern Sinai coast. 2 Now it is ordinarily an eleven-day journey#sn An eleven-day journey was about 140 mi (233 km). from Horeb#sn Horeb is another name for Sinai. “Horeb” occurs 9 times in the Book of Deuteronomy and “Sinai” only once (33:2). “Sinai” occurs 13 times in the Book of Exodus and “Horeb” only 3 times. to Kadesh Barnea#sn Kadesh Barnea. Possibly this refers to àAin Qudeis, about 50 mi (80 km) southwest of Beer Sheba, but more likely to àAin Qudeirat, 5 mi (8 km) NW of àAin Qudeis. See R. Cohen, “Did I Excavate Kadesh-Barnea?” BAR 7 (1981): 20-33. by way of Mount Seir.#sn Mount Seir is synonymous with Edom. “By way of Mount Seir” refers to the route from Horeb that ended up in Edom Cf. CEV “by way of the Mount Seir Road”; TEV “by way of the hill country of Edom.” 3 However, it was not until#tn Heb “in” or “on.” Here there is a contrast between the ordinary time of eleven days (v. 2) and the actual time of forty years, so “not until” brings out that vast disparity. the first day of the eleventh month#sn The eleventh month is Shebat in the Hebrew calendar, January/February in the modern (Gregorian) calendar. of the fortieth year#sn The fortieth year would be 1406 b.c. according to the “early” date of the exodus. See E. H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, 66-75. that Moses addressed the Israelites just as#tn Heb “according to all which.” the Lord had instructed him to do. 4 This took place after the defeat#tn Heb “when he struck [or “smote”].” of King Sihon#sn See Deut 2:26–3:22. of the Amorites, whose capital was#tn Heb “who lived.” in Heshbon,#sn Heshbon is probably modern Tell Hesban, about 7.5 mi (12 km) south southwest of Amman, Jordan. and King Og of Bashan, whose capital was#tn Heb “who lived.” in Ashtaroth,#sn Ashtaroth is probably Tell àAshtarah, about 22 mi (35 km) due east of the Sea of Galilee. specifically in Edrei.#sn Edrei is probably modern Deràa, 60 mi (95 km) south of Damascus (see Num 21:33; Josh 12:4; 13:12, 31). 5 So it was in the Transjordan, in Moab, that Moses began to deliver these words:#tn Heb “this instruction”; KJV, NIV, NRSV “this law”; TEV “God’s laws and teachings.” The Hebrew noun תוֹרָה (torah) is derived from the verb יָרָה (yarah, “to teach”) and here it refers to the Book of Deuteronomy, not the Pentateuch as a whole.
Events at Horeb
6 The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb and said, “You have stayed#tn Heb “lived”; “dwelled.” in the area of this mountain long enough. 7 Get up now,#tn Heb “turn”; NAB “Leave here”; NIV, TEV “Break camp.” resume your journey, heading for#tn Heb “go (to).” the Amorite hill country, to all its areas#tn Heb “its dwelling places.” including the arid country,#tn Heb “the Arabah” (so ASV, NAB, NIV, NRSV). the highlands, the Shephelah,#tn Heb “lowlands” (so TEV) or “steppes”; NIV, CEV, NLT “the western foothills.”sn The Shephelah is the geographical region between the Mediterranean coastal plain and the Judean hill country. the Negev,#sn The Hebrew term Negev means literally “desert” or “south” (so KJV, ASV). It refers to the area south of Beer Sheba and generally west of the Arabah Valley between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. and the coastal plain – all of Canaan and Lebanon as far as the Great River, that is, the Euphrates. 8 Look! I have already given the land to you.#tn Heb “I have placed before you the land.” Go, occupy the territory that I,#tn Heb “the Lord.” Since the Lord is speaking, it is preferable for clarity to supply the first person pronoun in the translation. the Lord, promised#tn Heb “swore” (so NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT). This refers to God’s promise, made by solemn oath, to give the patriarchs the land. to give to your ancestors#tn Heb “fathers” (also in vv. 11, 21, 35). Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to their descendants.”#tn Heb “their seed after them.” 9 I also said to you at that time, “I am no longer able to sustain you by myself. 10 The Lord your God has increased your population#tn Heb “multiplied you.” to the point that you are now as numerous as the very stars of the sky.#tn Or “heavens.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heaven(s)” or “sky” depending on the context. 11 Indeed, may the Lord, the God of your ancestors, make you a thousand times more numerous than you are now, blessing you#tn Heb “may he bless you.” just as he said he would! 12 But how can I alone bear up under the burden of your hardship and strife? 13 Select wise and practical#tn The Hebrew verb נְבֹנִים (nÿvonim, from בִּין [bin]) is a Niphal referring to skill or intelligence (see T. Fretheim, NIDOTTE 1:652-53). men, those known among your tribes, whom I may appoint as your leaders.” 14 You replied to me that what I had said to you was good. 15 So I chose#tn Or “selected”; Heb “took.” as your tribal leaders wise and well-known men, placing them over you as administrators of groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and also as other tribal officials. 16 I furthermore admonished your judges at that time that they#tn Or “you.” A number of English versions treat the remainder of this verse and v. 17 as direct discourse rather than indirect discourse (cf. KJV, NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT). should pay attention to issues among your fellow citizens#tn Heb “brothers.” The term “brothers” could, in English, be understood to refer to siblings, so “fellow citizens” has been used in the translation. and judge fairly,#tn The Hebrew word צֶדֶק (tsedeq, “fairly”) carries the basic idea of conformity to a norm of expected behavior or character, one established by God himself. Fair judgment adheres strictly to that norm or standard (see D. Reimer, NIDOTTE 3:750). whether between one citizen and another#tn Heb “between a man and his brother.” or a citizen and a resident foreigner.#tn Heb “his stranger” or “his sojourner”; NAB, NIV “an alien”; NRSV “resident alien.” The Hebrew word גֵּר (ger) commonly means “foreigner.” 17 They#tn Heb “you,” and throughout the verse (cf. NASB, NRSV). must not discriminate in judgment, but hear the lowly#tn Heb “the small,” but referring to social status, not physical stature. and the great alike. Nor should they be intimidated by human beings, for judgment belongs to God. If the matter being adjudicated is too difficult for them, they should bring it before me for a hearing.
Instructions at Kadesh Barnea
18 So I instructed you at that time regarding everything you should do. 19 Then we left Horeb and passed through all that immense, forbidding wilderness that you saw on the way to the Amorite hill country as the Lord our God had commanded us to do, finally arriving at Kadesh Barnea. 20 Then I said to you, “You have come to the Amorite hill country which the Lord our God is about to give#tn The Hebrew participle has an imminent future sense here, although many English versions treat it as a present tense (“is giving us,” NAB, NIV, NRSV) or a predictive future (“will give us,” NCV). us. 21 Look, he#tn Heb “the Lord your God.” The pronoun (“he”) has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons, to avoid repetition. has placed the land in front of you!#tn Or “has given you the land” (cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV). Go up, take possession of it, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, said to do. Do not be afraid or discouraged!” 22 So all of you approached me and said, “Let’s send some men ahead of us to scout out the land and bring us back word as to how we should attack it and what the cities are like there.” 23 I thought this was a good idea,#tn Heb “the thing was good in my eyes.” so I sent#tn Or “selected” (so NIV, NRSV, TEV); Heb “took.” twelve men from among you, one from each tribe. 24 They left and went up to the hill country, coming to the Eshcol Valley,#tn Or “the Wadi Eshcol” (so NAB).sn The Eshcol Valley is a verdant valley near Hebron, still famous for its viticulture (cf. Num 13:22-23). The Hebrew name “Eshcol” means “trestle,” that is, the frame on which grape vines grow. which they scouted out. 25 Then they took#tn The Hebrew text includes “in their hand,” which is unnecessary and somewhat redundant in English style. some of the produce of the land and carried it back down to us. They also brought a report to us, saying, “The land that the Lord our God is about to give us is good.”
Disobedience at Kadesh Barnea
26 You were not willing to go up, however, but instead rebelled against the Lord your God.#tn Heb “the mouth of the Lord your God.” To include “the mouth” would make for odd English style. The mouth stands by metonymy for the Lord’s command, which in turn represents the Lord himself. 27 You complained among yourselves privately#tn Heb “in your tents,” that is, privately. and said, “Because the Lord hates us he brought us from Egypt to deliver us over to the Amorites so they could destroy us! 28 What is going to happen to us? Our brothers have drained away our courage#tn Heb “have caused our hearts to melt.” by describing people who are more numerous#tn Heb “greater.” Many English versions understand this to refer to physical size or strength rather than numbers (cf. “stronger,” NAB, NIV, NRSV; “bigger,” NASB). and taller than we are, and great cities whose defenses appear to be as high as heaven#tn Or “as the sky.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heaven(s)” or “sky” depending on the context. itself! Moreover, they said they saw#tn Heb “we have seen.” Anakites#tn Heb “the sons of the Anakim.”sn Anakites were giant people (Num 13:33; Deut 2:10, 21; 9:2) descended from a certain Anak whose own forefather Arba founded the city of Kiriath Arba, i.e., Hebron (Josh 21:11). there.” 29 So I responded to you, “Do not be terrified#tn Heb “do not tremble and do not be afraid.” Two synonymous commands are combined for emphasis. of them! 30 The Lord your God is about to go#tn The Hebrew participle indicates imminent future action here, though some English versions treat it as a predictive future (“will go ahead of you,” NCV; cf. also TEV, CEV). ahead of you; he will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt#tn Heb “according to all which he did for you in Egypt before your eyes.” 31 and in the desert, where you saw him#tn Heb “the Lord your God.” The pronoun (“him”) has been employed in the translation for stylistic reasons. carrying you along like a man carries his son. This he did everywhere you went until you came to this very place.” 32 However, through all this you did not have confidence in the Lord your God, 33 the one who was constantly going before you to find places for you to set up camp. He appeared by fire at night and cloud by day, to show you the way you ought to go.
Judgment at Kadesh Barnea
34 When the Lord heard you, he became angry and made this vow:#tn Heb “and swore,” i.e., made an oath or vow. 35 “Not a single person#tn Heb “Not a man among these men.” of this evil generation will see the good land that I promised to give to your ancestors! 36 The exception is Caleb son of Jephunneh;#sn Caleb had, with Joshua, brought back to Israel a minority report from Canaan urging a conquest of the land, for he was confident of the Lord’s power (Num 13:6, 8, 16, 30; 14:30, 38). he will see it and I will give him and his descendants the territory on which he has walked, because he has wholeheartedly followed me.”#tn Heb “the Lord.” The pronoun (“me”) has been employed in the translation, since it sounds strange to an English reader for the Lord to speak about himself in third person. 37 As for me, the Lord was also angry with me on your account. He said, “You also will not be able to go there. 38 However, Joshua son of Nun, your assistant,#tn Heb “the one who stands before you”; NAB “your aide”; TEV “your helper.” will go. Encourage him, because he will enable Israel to inherit the land.#tn Heb “it”; the referent (the land) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 39 Also, your infants, who you thought would die on the way,#tn Heb “would be a prey.” and your children, who as yet do not know good from bad,#sn Do not know good from bad. This is a figure of speech called a merism (suggesting a whole by referring to its extreme opposites). Other examples are the tree of “the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:9), the boy who knows enough “to reject the wrong and choose the right” (Isa 7:16; 8:4), and those who “cannot tell their right hand from their left” (Jonah 4:11). A young child is characterized by lack of knowledge. will go there; I will give them the land and they will possess it. 40 But as for you,#tn The Hebrew pronoun is plural, as are the following verbs, indicating that Moses and the people are addressed (note v. 41). turn back and head for the desert by the way to the Red Sea.”#tn Heb “the Reed Sea.” “Reed” is a better translation of the Hebrew סוּף (suf), traditionally rendered “red.” The name “Red Sea” is based on the LXX which referred to it as ἐρυθρᾶς θαλάσσης (eruqra" qalassh", “red sea”). Nevertheless, because the body of water in question is known in modern times as the Red Sea, this term was used in the translation. The part of the Red Sea in view here is not the one crossed in the exodus but its eastern arm, now known as the Gulf of Eilat or Gulf of Aqaba.
Unsuccessful Conquest of Canaan
41 Then you responded to me and admitted, “We have sinned against the Lord. We will now go up and fight as the Lord our God has told us to do.” So you each put on your battle gear and prepared to go up to the hill country. 42 But the Lord told me: “Tell them this: ‘Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you and you will be defeated by your enemies.’” 43 I spoke to you, but you did not listen. Instead you rebelled against the Lord#tn Heb “the mouth of the Lord.” See note at 1:26. and recklessly went up to the hill country. 44 The Amorite inhabitants of that area#tn Heb “in that hill country,” repeating the end of v. 43. confronted#tn Heb “came out to meet.” you and chased you like a swarm of bees, striking you down from Seir as far as Hormah.#sn Hormah is probably Khirbet el-Meshash, 5.5 mi (9 km) west of Arad and 7.5 mi (12 km) SE of Beer Sheba. Its name is a derivative of the verb חָרָם (kharam, “to ban; to exterminate”). See Num 21:3. 45 Then you came back and wept before the Lord, but he#tn Heb “the Lord.” The pronoun (“he”) has been employed in the translation here for stylistic reasons, to avoid redundancy. paid no attention to you whatsoever.#tn Heb “did not hear your voice and did not turn an ear to you.” 46 Therefore, you remained at Kadesh for a long time – indeed, for the full time.#tn Heb “like the days which you lived.” This refers to the rest of the forty-year period in the desert before Israel arrived in Moab.