Deuteronomy 1:6-8

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Deuteronomy 1:6
  • Deuteronomy 1:7
  • Deuteronomy 1:8

The book of Deuteronomy is the fifth and last book of the Torah (“law”). It continues the story of the first 4 books and picks up exactly where the book of Numbers ends (with the people on the plain of Moab). Therefore, as we set the context for the book of Deuteronomy, it is important that we briefly summarize the theme of the previous books to see how the story of God unfolds.

Genesis describes God’s plan to bless the Israelites and the world through one man named Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). Exodus focuses on God’s loving act by which He rescued the Israelites from Egypt in order to have a covenant relationship with them. Once the children of Israel are redeemed, Leviticus instructs them to live a holy life that reflects the life of their covenant redeemer (cf. Lev. 19). Since the first generation of the Israelites failed to obey God wholeheartedly, the book of Numbers displays a strong contrast between God’s faithfulness and the nation’s failure. That is why the book of Deuteronomy reiterates and expands on the covenant to a new generation of Israelites poised to enter and conquer the Promised Land. The message of the book is centered around two key terms: love and loyalty (Deut. 6:4-5).

Deuteronomy mainly consists of messages from Moses to the second generation of Israelites, in contemplation of their imminent entry into the Promised Land. God judged the first generation of Israelites who were delivered from Egypt for covenant violation by preventing them from entering the Promised Land. God led them to the edge of the Promised Land and told them to conquer it. The Israelites refused, saying God had led them there to die. God then judged that generation by decreeing that the Israelites fate would be as they had spoken: every numbered person twenty years and older will die in the wilderness.

Now all those decreed to die in the wilderness are dead. God prepares the second generation to enter the land by exhorting them. Deuteronomy is the record of that exhortation.

Deuteronomy begins with Moses reiterating God’s covenant, or agreement, with the people of Israel. Moses identifies each party in this covenant. He recounts the Israelites’ experiences in order to encourage them to press on to conquer the Promised Land. He reviews Israel’s history since the departure from Mount Horeb (also called Mt. Sinai), where they were given the Law, to Kadesh-barnea, at the border of the Promised Land. He reminds the Israelites of God’s command to leave Horeb.

Moses had appointed wise and respected men chosen by the people as leaders because the Israelites had become numerous. He called the judges to conduct their legal procedures with equity, knowing that every judgment belongs to the LORD. At Kadesh-barnea, he commanded the Israelites to go up and occupy the Promised Land. But due to lack of trust in the LORD, the Israelites rebelled against the command to conquer the land of Canaan.

Moses recounts Israel’s history after leaving Egypt. He begins by reminding the Israelites of God’s command to leave Mount Horeb, where they received the Law, in order to go and conquer the Promised Land.

This section begins with the covenant name of God, the LORD (or Yahweh). This is the name that God gave to Moses at the burning bush event at Mount Horeb (Exodus 3). One important feature to note in verse 6 relates to the issue of syntax in biblical Hebrew, the primary language in which the Old Testament was written. Normally, the word order in Hebrew is verb-subject-direct object. But Moses began with the subject (the LORD) to emphasize that it is the LORD who spoke to His people at Horeb. Stated differently, Moses wanted his listeners to know that what he was about to say did not come from him, but from the Suzerain, or Ruler (God) who has full authority over His vassals (the Israelites).

The LORD had commanded His people to leave Horeb and described with precision the geographical path to take once they resumed their journey. In this description, we see various places listed and it helps to understand their geographical location. Whereas the hill country of the Amorites refers to the central mountain range which run south to north, their neighbors in the Arabah refers to areas north of the Dead sea (Deuteronomy 11:30; Joshua 8:14). The hill country includes the territory of the Hittites, Jebusites, Amalekites, Canaanites, and Perizzites (Numbers 13:29).

The lowland (literally, the Shephelah) describes the hills between the Judahite region and the Mediterranean coastal plain, as seen in Joshua 15:33-44. The Negev, the dry country, is the wilderness south of Judah; and the seacoast refers to the Mediterranean coast on the west side of Israel. The land of the Canaanites refers to the Jezreel valleys to the north and the Lebanon speaks of the inland mountain range. The great river, the river Euphrates is an indication of the northwestern side of the river in northern Syria, the northern border of the land that God has promised to His people.

After describing all these places, the LORD commanded His people to take possession of the land of Canaan that God had granted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as to their descendants. God had granted, now it was Israel’s responsibility to possess what God had given. These three verses teach us two important lessons: (1) Israel’s covenant God (the LORD) is the possessor of all the earth and is the one who gives freely according to His divine will; and (2) the LORD is a faithful and covenant-keeping God. He will make clear in Deuteronomy the gifts He has given, and the people’s responsibility to possess and enjoy the benefit of those gifts. This is the way God operates throughout scripture. He gives gifts to humans, but often leaves humans a choice, a responsibility, to talk in obedience to Him in order to possess the benefit He has granted.

Biblical Text:

“The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and set your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites, and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negev and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to them and their descendants after them.’

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