The narrator wrote that Moses preached these sermons to all Israel while they were east of the Jordan River and eleven days travel from where, forty years earlier, Israel was camped when the spies were sent in to scout out the land and came back with fear in control in place of faith.
It was the first day of the eleventh month – Shevat – forty years after the return of the scouts Moses addressed the people of Israel, the last thing he did to prepare Yahweh’s chosen people to enter the Promised Land. He would be mining out the riches of Yahweh’s truths to the chosen people. As any good teacher, Moses had proficient knowledge of what he was teaching, a passion for the topic and his students, and knew how to convey the content in relevant and understandable ways. He set clear standards. Without rules, chaos reigns. He led by example – his words were consistent with his actions.
Moses reminded Israel that Yahweh had spoken to them at Horeb and told them that they had stayed long enough at the mountain and it was time to move on. He led them to the hills of the Amorite where people were living. They were to go to the mountains, foothills, the Negev, and the seashore – all the Canaanite and Lebanon country all the way to the Euphrates River. Yahweh told them to pay attention to the fact that he had given his chosen people the land mentioned above when he made his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was time for them to go in and possess it.
Moses reminded Israel that he had told them that he couldn’t carry the load all by his self. Yahweh, their God, had done as he promised and they were in number as many as the stars of the sky. Moses assured them that he wanted Yahweh to keep increasing their numbers just as he promised but added that he couldn’t carry the burden of their troubles, concerns, and quarrels all by his self. Therefore, Yahweh instructed him to select understanding and experienced men from each tribe and he would commission them as leaders. The chosen people agreed and Moses took the best men from every tribe and appointed them leaders. He appointed leaders/judges of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens, officials adequate for each of the tribes.
Moses reminded Israel that at the time he appointed them, he told the judges to listen carefully to every complaint or accusation between fellow Israelites or foreigners and judge fairly. He reminded them that he had instructed them to judge with impartiality and remember that they were judging in the name of Yahweh. They were his proxies. He told them that they could take the hard cases to him and he would deal with them. Moses reminded them that he had given them instructions at that time about anything that they would have to deal with. They were well trained. Training was important because it would result in fewer mistakes and a better outcome. Lack of training could lead to life or death situations, but even when it wasn’t related to critical consequences, it was still important. Moses’ training increased the judges’ retention. Training also offered Moses an effective way to empower his leaders by showing them that he was interested in their success. It made them feel more engaged in their posts.
Moses continued to recite Israel’s history of what had happened forty years earlier. He reminded them that they had set out from Horeb and headed for the Promised Land. He reminded them that they had gone through the vast and daunting wilderness and its lessons had been adequate. Moses reassured Israel that their God, Yahweh, had been with them, leading and instructing them all the way to Kadesh Barnea. Moses said that he had told the chosen people that they had made it all the way to the land that Yahweh, their God, was giving them as a gift. All they had to do was take it – with courage and determination.
Moses’ history lesson continued with the account of how Israel had asked Moses to send spies in to investigate and bring back a report about what they should expect to find when they entered the Promised Land. Moses said it had sounded like a good idea to him so they sent a man from each tribe.
Moses recounted how the spies set out, climbing through the hill country to the Eshcol Valley. They looked it over and brought back samples of the produce and a report that the land that Yahweh, their God, was giving them was a good land.
However, Moses reminded them, they weren’t willing to go up and take possession of Yahweh’s gift. They mutinied against their God, Yahweh, and his promises. They complained in their tents accusing Yahweh of hating them and hauling them out of Egypt to dump them among the Amorites to be killed. They defended their disobedience by blaming the spies who came back with reports of giants and massive defenses.
Moses reminded them that he tried to alleviate their fears and give them courage by reiterating that Yahweh, their God, was leading the way and fighting for them. He reminded them that they saw with their own eyes what Yahweh had done for them in Egypt and in the wilderness – how he carried them as a father carries a child, all the way to Kadesh Barnea. He reminded them that Yahweh, the great I Am, reality behind all reality, was their God and asked them why they didn’t trust him. They knew that he always went ahead of them, gave them a place to camp and directed them with a cloud by day and fire by night so they would have a physical representation of his presence at all times. However, the chosen people had turned deaf ears to Moses’ words. They had failed their entrance examination and weren’t ready to go into the Promised Land.
Moses told the chosen people that when Yahweh heard what they said he assured them that not a single person of that generation with the exception of Caleb would see the Promised Land. Yahweh had said that he would give the land to Caleb and his descendants because he was dedicated to following him, Yahweh. Moses told them it was their fault that he, too, was prevented from entering the Promised Land because of their rebellious ways. Moses reminded Israel that was the reason why his assistant, Joshua, would be taking them into the Promised Land.
Moses instructed Israel to bolster Joshua’s resolution and mettle, as he had been doing – at the behest of Yahweh – because he was the one who would claim Israel’s inheritance for them.
Moses also told Israel that Yahweh had told their parents that because they had feared that their babies would be captured for plunder; their innocent offspring would inherit the land. Then he sent that generation back into the wilderness.
That generation; however, decided not to go back into the wilderness, and admitted that they had sinned but were ready to obbey Yahweh’s previous instructions and go into the Promised Land. They got their weapons and dressed for battle. However, Yahweh instructed Moses to tell them not to go up and fight because he wouldn’t go with them and their enemies would defeat them. Moses told them but they ignored him and rebelled again. Their pride in self was in control and they went to battle without their God, Yahweh, and were overpowered and conquered. When they returned to camp crying about their failure, Yahweh ignored them. Moses told Israel that they had stayed at Kadesh about the same length of time they had been there earlier.
Summary of chapter 1
Moses addressed the people in the fortieth year after the exodus from Egypt and reminded them how Yahweh had spoken to them in Horeb and given them directions. He told them that, at the commandment of the Lord, he had appointed officers, judges, etc., to share the government with him. He reminded them of their travels in the wilderness and the people’s request to have spies sent to search out the land. Then he reminded them of their grumbling and insurgence when they heard the report from the spies. Moses reminded Israel that he had encouraged them to no avail. He recounted how Yahweh had been angered because of their murmurings, and resolved to prohibit them from the good land and give it to their children only. He reminded Israel how they regretted their decision and its result. Then Moses reminded them that they went against the Amorites without the authority of Yahweh and were defeated. He recalled their return to Kadesh, where they abode many days.
Prayer: I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things,
let me have nothing: I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
Things to think about
- Why do you think it was important for Moses to give Israel a history lesson before they went into the Promised Land?
- Why do you think it is important for us, in this day and time, to “listen to” Moses’ history lesson?
- What did you learn about Yahweh from the first part of Moses’ lesson recorded in this chapter? Why is it important for us to reacquaint ourselves with the different aspects of Yahweh’s character every day?
- Why was it important for Israel, as a whole, to go back and learn more in the wilderness – their proving ground – before they were allowed into the Promised Land?
- How many times in your own life have you gone over the same material before you learned the lesson and passed the tests your God, Yahweh, sent you?
- Why did Yahweh repeat so many times that he had given the Promised Land to his chosen people as a gift?
- The Promised Land was a gift from Yahweh to Israel. In order for a gift to change hands from the giver to the receiver the receptionist must reach out and grasp it – not grab it. What was Israel’s part in possessing the Promised Land?
 Remember that Moses was a master of hyperbole – emphases stronger than we usually use today in this era and area. Hyperbole is never meant to be taken literally and is used to emphasis a point. It was Moses’ way of putting punch to his words. Semitic languages are full of “heat.”
 The lessons of the wilderness had been enough to prepare them for entrance into the Promised Land.
 Remember Yahweh, through Moses, was talking to his people from their view point, using their language.
 They weren’t repenting or willing to obey Yahweh. They regretted their decision and hoped they could manipulate Yahweh into going back on his word and pretending they hadn’t failed their test and could go ahead as though they hadn’t failed.