Deuteronomy, comes from the Septuagint (Jewish translation of OT into Greek) and means “second law” or “repetition of the law.” In the Torah the book is named “Devarim” (words) and comes from the first verse “these are the “words” that Moses …”. Both names have merit in that much of what is brought up here relates to the Laws of God given to Israel. Moses takes what he has recorded in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers and presents them in the form of an ancient marriage contract or Suzerainty covenant. Repeatedly God describes Himself as one Married to Israel. Moses stood between God and the people, as the messenger of God. Moses is a picture of Messiah the intermediary between God and His people. Genesis 15 is where God makes a covenant after the pattern of Ancient Near East (ANE) covenants with Abraham regarding the Land. Both scenarios could be applied to the style of the writing of Deuteronomy. The Hebrew word for covenant is brit, which appears 284 times in the Tanakh (Acronym for Torah (5 books of Moses), Nevi’im (prophets) and Ketuvim (writings) or the Old Testament). Deut. 5:1-3 records that God entered into covenant with Israel and in 6:10-15 describes God’s jealousy for His wife Israel. In Deut 7:6-11 God’s describes that He chose Israel for Himself. Jeremiah 31:31-33 describes that the covenant at Sinai was where God took Israel to be His bride, Ezek. 16:8 also describes Israel as His bride.
Deuteronomy 1:1-5 In keeping with the motif of a covenant there is a preamble which is what we have here in these verses. The setting for this final discourse of Moses to Israel is in the Plains of Moab just north of Dead Sea on the East side of the Jordan River. Moses is about 120 years old. His first forty years was lived as a prince in Egypt, his second forty years were in the wilderness of Midian in the Sinai, and his third in the wilderness of Sinai walking with Israel as the last of Israel’s post Exodus generation dies including himself. These Divarim (words) are to prepare the next generation to enter the Promised Land so that they will understand their obligations to the Lord. Note that this is addressed to “all Israel” which refers to not just the present generation but future ones as well. All God’s people need to understand and participate in the birth and life of this nation. Israel would have entered the Promised land after two years but failed because of their doubt and rebellion. They wandered 38 more years till the first generation of people 20 and older died.
Deuteronomy 1:6-8 In order to encourage Israel as they were about to begin their campaign to take the land Moses reminded them of the victories that they had been given by the Lord, the armies of King Sihon, of the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan (Numbers 21:21-35). Victory was assured if they walked in faith, believing and obeying God. Walking in this way they would overcome all their enemies. Similarly, we would do well to consider all that the Lord has done for us. The word “law” (Torah) means more than, commandments, and statutes but includes all the instructions and teachings of God found in Scripture. In this context it is the 5 books of Moses, but today it speaks of all of God’s Word from Genesis-Revelation. It refers to the full instruction and teaching of God that tells people how to live life to the fullest. Horeb was the mountain range where Mt. Sinai was located. Horeb means desolate or desolation. God was calling His people to begin to lay claim to the land promised to Abraham.
Deuteronomy 1:9-17 When Israel left Mt. Sinai there were two to three million people, far too many people for one person to lead and bear alone. We get this number from Exodus 12:37 where Moses tells us that there were about 600,000 men plus their wives and children. Based on the counsel of his father-in-law Jethro Moses charged the people to choose the leaders who were known to be wise and respected by the people. The people were then divided into groups of thousands, hundreds, and tens and leaders were appointed over these groupings. They would serve as both military leaders and judges of legal matters that arose. They were to execute justice judging fairly and settling disputes among the people without partiality. This applies to us as well, as we both now and in eternity will be commissioned with judging. If any issue was too difficult the matter would be brought to Moses to decide.
Deuteronomy 1:18-39 The first generation started on their walk to the Promised Land but had difficulty trusting and obeying God. They saw the Land and were called to go in and take possession. They were not to be fearful or discouraged, God had promised to give them victory over their enemies who stood against them. They insisted however that spies be sent to gather information on their enemies before they launched their campaign. After seeking the Lord, Moses agreed to the idea (Num. 13:1-3). After 40 days, the spies returned with fruit from the land. They reported that the land was good, but the enemies were too strong and fortified for a campaign to be launched against them. Gripped with fear and unbelief, they rebelled against God and grumbled, blaming God for their circumstances refusing to trust Him. They viewed the land by sight not by faith. God’s response was that the first generation would be prohibited from entering the promised land. Not a single person twenty years old or older would enter the promised land, except Joshua and Caleb who had proven faithful. Moses also was barred from the promised land because of his sin of disobedience failing to honor the Lord before the people at the waters of Meribah (Num 20:7-13). Joshua would replace Moses and was to be encouraged by Moses and the people. The first generation had used their children as an excuse for not entering the promised land. This excuse was a total lack of trust in God, so God determined to bring the children in without their parents. God today still judges doubt, fear, and rebellion.
Deuteronomy 1:40-46 Sadly after they learned of God’s judgment they continued in their rebellion, perhaps thinking that God would change His mind if they now did what they were supposed to do. Instead they made an incomplete, partial, and false confession. They confessed their sin but did not repent. They didn’t turn to God, accepting and trusting His discipline. They regretted their sin for not trusting and obeying God. But their sorrow was worldly sorrow, not a godly sorrow that leads to reconciliation and life (2 Cor. 7:10). Their sorrow was a selfish, self-centered sorrow, focused on themselves and their own desires. They were not focused on God’s will and pleasing Him. God through Moses warned them not to fight without His presence or they would be defeated. The result was they were routed and driven down to Hormah, about fifty miles from where the battle began. Imagine their terror and fright as they were being hunted down by their enemies. They wept before the Lord because of their defeat not because of their disobedience. Whom the Lord Loves He disciplines.