Deuteronomy Chapter 1


The words Moses spake to Israel in the plains of Moab, The promise of Canaan. (Verse 1-8.)

Judges provided for the people. (Verse 9-18.)

Of the sending the spies-God’s anger for their unbelief and disobedience. (Verse 19-46.)

Moses briefly recalls the events of the last forty years.

“Deuteronomy” means “second law” – this book is a reiteration of the original law to a new generation of Jews in the wilderness. The previous generation that had received the law at Mt. Sinai had all perished necessitating that the law be given again to this new generation who was about to enter the Promised Land. The book reviews the past with its eyes on the future. It is a repetition of the law with no additions to the moral law, but with certain adjustments to the civil and ceremonial law caused by the changing conditions of these people making the shift from a nomadic life in the desert to a more settled and established life in their new land. The most important lesson from this point is that although social life may be ever changing (thus requiring adjusted laws), the moral life never changes – sin is still sin and the requirements of God in this vein never change. Two key words in this book are “remember” and “obey;” one points back to the wilderness while the other points forward to the Promised Land. Moses realized that this new generation was no better than their fathers and therefore stressed to them the importance of learning from the mistakes of the past, exhorting them to obey God in the future. Deuteronomy will be found to give the divine viewpoint of Israel’s history. Where Genesis-Numbers gives the facts about Israel, Deuteronomy gives God’s commentary on the spiritual significance of these facts. Deuteronomy is one of the most quoted of the OT books in the NT. Ninety different times in fourteen different NT books one can find quotes from this book. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in Matthew chapter four, he rebuked the devil all three times by quoting verses from Deuteronomy. There is little debate about the fact that Moses is the human author of this book. Some people point out that Moses could not write about his own death (chap. 34), but obviously either Joshua or some other assistant filled in this last detail. Jesus Christ claimed that the book of Deuteronomy was written by Moses. Though Deuteronomy often reviews the events that occurred during the forty years of wandering, it actually only covers two months of time – the two months just prior to entering the Promised Land (compare Deut. 1:3 and Josh. 4:19).

This book repeats much of the history and of the laws contained in the three foregoing books: Moses delivered it to Israel a little before his death, both by word of mouth, that it might affect, and by writing, that it might abide. The men of that generation to which the law was first given were all dead, and a new generation was sprung up, to whom God would have it repeated by Moses himself, now they were going to possess the land of Canaan. The wonderful love of God to his church is set forth in this book; how he ever preserved his church for his own mercies sake, and would still have his name called upon among them. Such are the general outlines of this book, the whole of which shows Moses’ love for Israel, and marks him an eminent type of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us apply the exhortations and persuasions to our own consciences, to excite our minds to a believing, grateful obedience to the commands of God.

Study Question

Previous generation that had received the law at Mt. Sinai had all perished (except for what two people)?

1 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.

2 (There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.)

“Horeb” is the other name for Mt. Sinai

Study Question

what happened at Kadesh-barnea? See Numbers 32:8-13

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;

4 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:

5 On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying,

6 The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:

7 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.

8 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.

[Gen 15:18, Num 34:2, 2nd Chron 9:26, Neh 9:8]

9 And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone:

10 The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.

[ Gen 13:16, Gen 26:4, Exod 32:13, Num 23:10, 1st Chron 27:23, Jer 33:22, Rom 4:16, Heb 11:12]

11 (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!)

12 How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?

13 Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.

14 And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do.

15 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.

16 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.

17 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.

18 And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do.

19 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.

20 And I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, which the LORD our God doth give unto us.

21 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.

22 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.

23 And the saying pleased me well: and I took twelve men of you, one of a tribe:

24 And they turned and went up into the mountain, and came unto the valley of Eshcol, and searched it out.

25 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.

26 Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God:

27 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.

28 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.

29 Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them.

30 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;

31 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.

32 Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God,

Study Question

why did God not allow Israel to enter the Promised Land of rest? (heb 3:17-19)

33 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.

34 And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying,

35 Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers,

36 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.

37 Also the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither.

38 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.

39 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.

danger of going to hell if they do not repent of their sins and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ? The issue is very emotional as it deals with the eternal souls of children.

Some groups such as the Mormon cult simply choose an arbitrary age – in their case eight years old. Many believers give testimony to being saved at ages such as five or six years old. In this verse we find that God did not hold those Jews accountable for their own actions who “had no knowledge between good and evil.” Little children obviously understand fairly early on the difference between right and wrong and what is expected of them by their parents, teachers, etc. But at some point in their lives they begin to fully realize the difference between “good and evil.” This point is very different for different people, but when that point comes, the child in question is fully aware of what he or she is doing and why he or she is doing it – this is the age of accountability – when God holds a person fully responsible for their actions. In the case of these Jews, 20 years of age was the cut-off (Num. 14:29). We believe that this was an example of God’s mercy as there were undoubtedly many thousands of Jews in their later teenage years who fully understand the rebellion that was taking place against Moses and against God. In fact Moses includes the people he was addressing in Deuteronomy 1 among those rebellious Jews (vs. 37 – “your sakes”). When it comes to the matter of salvation, little children can and do believe (ie. fully trust) in Jesus Christ (Matt. 18:6). Romans 3:20 says, “For by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Obviously then, if there is no law, there can be no knowledge of sin and Rom. 4:15 says, “…where no law is, there is no transgression.” Little children and those who are significantly mentally handicapped have no knowledge of the law and therefore no knowledge of sin and no transgression – the result is that sin cannot be imputed or charged to that individual and though they are not “saved”, they are “safe” from the wrath of God. Just like Adam and Eve, children in innocence do not become sinners until they acquire a “knowledge of good and evil.” Children are therefore covered by God’s grace up until some point in life where this knowledge of good and evil is realised – compare Rom. 7:9.

40 But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.

41 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.

42 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.

victory in the Christian life is impossible if God is not with us

43 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.

44 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.

45 And ye returned and wept before the LORD; but the LORD would not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you.

46 So ye abode in Kadesh many days, according unto the days that ye abode there.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

Verse 1-8 – Moses spake to the people all the Lord had given him in commandment. Horeb was but eleven days distant from Kadesh-barnea. This was to remind them that their own bad conduct had occasioned their tedious wanderings; that they might the more readily understand the advantages of obedience. They must now go forward. Though God brings his people into trouble and affliction, he knows when they have been tried long enough. When God commands us to go forward in our Christian course, he sets the heavenly Canaan before us for our encouragement.

Verse 9-18 – Moses reminds the people of the happy constitution of their government, which might make them all safe and easy, if it was not their own fault. He owns the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham, and prays for the further accomplishment of it. We are not straitened in the power and goodness of God; why should we be straitened in our own faith and hope? Good laws were given to the Israelites, and good men were to see to the execution of them, which showed God’s goodness to them, and the care of Moses.

Verse 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.