Deuteronomy 1

Preface to the Book of Deuteronomy

We have borrowed the name of this book, as in former cases, from the Vulgate Latin, Deuteronomium, as the Vulgate has done from the Greek version of the Septuagint, Δευτερονομιον, which is a compound term literally signifying the second law, because it seems to contain a repetition of the preceding laws, from which circumstance it has been termed by the rabbins משנה mishneh, the iteration or doubling.

It appears that both these names are borrowed from Deu 17:18, where the king is commanded to write him a copy of this law; the original is משנה התורה mishneh hattorah, a repetition or doubling of the law, which the Septuagint have translated το δευτερονομιον, this second law, which we, properly enough, translate a copy of the law: but in Hebrew, like the preceding books, it takes its name from its commencement, אלה הדברים Elleh Haddebarim, these are the words; and in the best rabbinical Bibles its running title is ספר דברים Sepher Debarim, the book of debarim, or the book of the words. Our Saxon ancestors termed it the after law.

The Book of Deuteronomy contains an account of what passed in the wilderness from the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year after the departure of the Israelites from Egypt to the seventh day of the twelfth month of the same; making in the whole a history of the transactions of exactly five weeks, the months of the Jews being lunar. The history is continued about seven days after the death of Moses; for he began to deliver his first discourse to the people in the plains of Moab the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year, Deu 1:3, and died on the first day of the twelfth month of the same year, aged 120 years.

As the Israelites were now about to enter into the promised land, and many of them had not witnessed the different transactions in the wilderness, the former generations having been all destroyed except Joshua and Caleb; to impress their hearts with a deep sense of their obligation to God, and to prepare them for the inheritance which God had prepared for them. Moses here repeats the principal occurrences of the forty years, now almost elapsed; shows them the absolute necessity of fearing, loving, and obeying God; repeats the ten commandments, and particularly explains each, and the ordinances belonging to them, adding others which he had not delivered before; confirms the whole law in a most solemn manner, with exceeding great and precious promises to them that keep it, and a denunciation of the most awful judgments against those who should break it; renews the covenant between God and the people; prophesies of things which should come to pass in the latter days; blesses each of the tribes, prophetically, with the choicest spiritual and temporal blessings; and then, having viewed the whole extent of the land, from the top of Mount Nebo or Pisgah, he yielded up the ghost, and was privately buried by God, leaving Joshua the son of Nun for his successor.

The Book of Deuteronomy and the Epistle to the Hebrews contain the best comment on the nature, design, and use of the law; the former may be considered as an evangelical commentary on the four preceding books, in which the spiritual reference and signification of the different parts of the law are given, and given in such a manner as none could give who had not a clear discovery of the glory which was to be revealed. It may be safely asserted that very few parts of the Old Testament Scriptures can be read with greater profit by the genuine Christian than the Book of Deuteronomy.

The contents of the different chapters may be thus briefly summed up: -

On the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year, after the departure from Egypt, the Israelites being then on the east side of Jordan, in the land of the Moabites, Moses gives them a brief recapitulation of what took place in the wilderness, from their leaving Mount Horeb till they came to Kadesh; Deuteronomy 1.

Their travels from Kadesh till they come to the country of the Amorites, with the defeat of Sihon their king; Deuteronomy 2. The war with Og, king of Bashan, with the dividing his land and that of Sihon among the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh; Deuteronomy 3.

Moses exhorts them to observe the Divine precepts; threatens those who should violate them; and appoints Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan, to be the cities of refuge on the east side of Jordan; Deuteronomy 4.

Repeats the decalogue, and tells the people what effect the publication of it had on their fathers, when God spoke to them from the mount; Deuteronomy 5.

Exhorts them to love God with all their heart, and promises them an abundance of good things; Deuteronomy 6.

Repeats the command to exterminate the Canaanites, and all vestiges of their idolatry; Deuteronomy 7.

Recites the many interpositions of God's kindness which they had received during their forty years' travel in the wilderness, and strongly exhorts them to remember those mercies, and not to forfeit a continuance of his favors by ingratitude and disobedience; Deuteronomy 8.

Shows them that they were to pass Jordan in a short time, and that God was about to bring them in, not on account of their goodness, but of his mercy; Deuteronomy 9.

Gives an account of the second tables of the law, which he made at the command of God; mentions their journey from Beeroth to Jotbath, the choosing of the Levites, and the necessity of having the heart circumcised; Deuteronomy 10.

Continues an account of God's mighty acts in their behalf, and shows the blessings which should come on them who kept his law, and the curse on those who were disobedient. The blessings to be pronounced on Mount Gerizim, and the curses on Mount Ebal; Deuteronomy 11.

Commands them to destroy all monuments of idolatry in the land, to offer the different offerings and sacrifices, and to avoid eating of blood; Deuteronomy 12.

Ordinances against false prophets, idolatrous cities, etc.; Deuteronomy 13.

Forbids their cutting themselves at funerals, recapitulates the law concerning clean and unclean animals, and exhorts them to remember the Levites; Deuteronomy 14.

Every seventh year shall be a year of release for the poor of usury; first-born, etc.; Deuteronomy 15.

Concerning the annual feasts, passover, pentecost, and tabernacles; the establishment of judges and officers; no groves to be planted near the altar of God; Deuteronomy 16.

Idolaters are to be put to death; difficult cases in equity to be referred to the superior judges; of a king and his duties; Deuteronomy 17.

All divination is prohibited. The grand promise of an Extraordinary Prophet. How false prophets are to be distinguished; Deuteronomy 18.

The laws relative to the cities of refuge, and how the intentional murderer is to be treated; Deuteronomy 19.

Laws relative to the carrying on of war; who should be sent back from the army, how they are to treat the Canaanites, and how they are to commence sieges, Deuteronomy 20.

How to make expiation for an uncertain murder; marriages with captives; rights of the first-born, etc.; Deuteronomy 21.

Things lost or strayed are to be restored to their right owners; men and women must not interchange apparel; improper mixtures to be avoided; of the tokens of virginity; adulterers and adulteresses to be put to death; Deuteronomy 22.

Eunuchs, bastards, Moabites, and Ammonites, are not to be permitted to enter into the congregation of the Lord. Harlots not to be tolerated; Deuteronomy 23.

Laws relative to divorce; privileges of the newly-married man: concerning pledges, wages, gleanings, etc.; Deuteronomy 24.

More than forty stripes shall not be given. If a man die childless, his brother shall take his wife. Of weights, measures, etc.; Deuteronomy 25. Different ceremonies to be used in offering the first-fruits; tithes. Of full self-consecration to God; Deuteronomy 26.

The words of the law to be written on stones, and to be set up on Mount Ebal. The tribes which stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the obedient, and those which should stand on Mount Ebal to curse the disobedient. Who they are that are to be cursed; Deuteronomy 27.

The blessings of those who are faithful; curses against the disobedient; Deuteronomy 28.

A recital of the covenant of God, made not only with them, but for their posterity; Deuteronomy 29.

Promises of pardon to the penitent; good and evil, life and death, are set before them; Deuteronomy 30.

Moses, being now 120 years old, delivers a copy of the law which he had written into the hands of the priests, to be laid up in the ark, and to be publicly read every seventh year; a charge is given to Joshua; Deuteronomy 31.

The prophetical and historical song of Moses: he is commanded to go up to Mount Nebo that he may see the promised land; Deuteronomy 32.

The prophetical blessing of the twelve tribes. The indescribable happiness of Israel; Deuteronomy 33.

Moses views the promised land from the top of Mount Nebo, dies, and is privately buried by the Lord. The Israelites mourn for him thirty days.

Joshua takes command of the people. The character of Moses; Deu 34:1-12.

At the close of this book I have added a number of useful Tables, such as no edition of the Bible ever could boast, viz.:

Table I. A perpetual table, showing through the course of 13 lunar cycles (which embrace every possible variation) the day of the week with which the Jewish year begins, and on which the passover is held; as also the lengths of the months Marchesvan and Cisleu.

Table II. Containing the whole variations in the reading of the Pareshioth or sections of the law for every year of the Jewish cycle of 247 years.

Table III. To find, with the help of Table IV., the day of the week upon which any Jewish new moon or festival happens.

Table IV. To determine upon what day of the week any Jewish month commences for any given year; as also the day of the week upon which the Jews celebrate their principal fasts and festivals.

Table V. Containing the order of reading the Pareshioth and Haphtaroth for 90 Jewish years, i. e., from A. M. 5572 to A. M. 5661, both inclusive, connected with the corresponding dates in the Christian Era, according to the Gregorian or new style.

Table VI. Containing the year of the Jewish lunar cycle, the golden number, the first day of the Jewish pass over, Easter Sunday, and the commencement of each Jewish year according to the Gregorian Calendar, a. d. 1812 to a. d. 1900, both inclusive. All concluded with an explanation of the preceding tables. To them succeeds A Chronology of the Pentateuch, with the Book of Joshua; or a Systematic Arrangement of Events from the creation of Adam, A. M. 1, to the birth of Peleg, A. M. 1757, and thence to the death of Joshua, A. M. 2561. This chronology includes two tables, viz.: Table I. The birth and death of all the patriarchs, from Adam, A. M. 1, to Rhea, son of Peleg, A. M. 1787. Table II. A chronology of ancient kingdoms synchronized with the sacred history, from A. M. 1757, B. C. 2247, to A. M. 2561, B. C. 1443. The whole so calculated as to prevent the necessity of having recourse to systems of chronology for historic facts in anywise connected with those mentioned in the Sacred Writings.

The great utility of these tables will, I think, be at once evident to every Biblical critic, chronologist, and antiquary; and for the immense labor employed in their construction the editor, no doubt, will have their hearty thanks.

Adam Clarke.

Introduction to the book, Deu 1:1, Deu 1:2. Moses addresses the people in the fortieth year after the exodus from Egypt, Deu 1:3-5; and shows how God had spoken to them in Horeb, and the directions he gave them, Deu 1:6-8. How, at the commandment of the Lord, he had appointed officers, judges, etc., to share the government with him, Deu 1:9-18. Of their travels in the terrible wilderness, Deu 1:19-21. The people's request to have spies sent to search out the land, Deu 1:22-25. Of their murmuring and rebellion when they heard the report of the spies, Deu 1:26-28. How Moses encouraged them, Deu 1:29-33. The displeasure of the Lord against them because of their murmurings, and his purpose to exclude them from the good land, and give it to their children only, Deu 1:34-40. How they repented, and yet, without the authority of God, went against the Amorites, by whom they were defeated, Deu 1:41-44. Their return to Kadesh, where they abode many days, Deu 1:45, Deu 1:46.

Verse 1

These be the words which Moses spake - The five first verses of this chapter contain the introduction to the rest of the book: they do not appear to be the work of Moses, but were added probably either by Joshua or Ezra.

On this side Jordan - בעבר beeber, at the passage of Jordan, i. e., near or opposite to the place where the Israelites passed over after the death of Moses. Though עבר eber is used to signify both on this side and on the other side, and the connection in which it stands can only determine the meaning; yet here it signifies neither, but simply the place or ford where the Israelites passed over Jordan.

In the plain - That is, of Moab; over against the Red Sea - not the Red Sea, for they were now farther from it than they had been: the word sea is not in the text, and the word סוף suph, which we render red, does not signify the Red Sea, unless joined with ים yam, sea; here it must necessarily signify a place in or adjoining to the plains of Moab. Ptolemy mentions a people named Sophonites, that dwelt in Arabia Petraea, and it is probable that they took their name from this place; but see the note from Lightfoot, Numbers 20 (note), at the end.

Paran - This could not have been the Paran which was contiguous to the Red Sea, and not far from Mount Horeb; for the place here mentioned lay on the very borders of the promised land, at a vast distance from the former.

Dizahab - The word should be separated, as it is in the Hebrew, די זהב Di Zahab. As Zahab signifies gold, the Septuagint have translated it τα χρυσια, the gold mines; and the Vulgate ubi aurum est plurimum, where there is much gold. It is more likely to be the name of a place.
Verse 2

There are eleven days' journey - The Israelites were eleven days in going from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea, where they were near the verge of the promised land; after which they were thirty-eight years wandering up and down in the vicinity of this place, not being permitted, because of their rebellions, to enter into the promised rest, though they were the whole of that time within a few miles of the land of Canaan!
Verse 3

The fortieth year - This was a melancholy year to the Hebrews in different respects; in the first month of this year Miriam died, Numbers 20; on the first day of the fifth month Aaron died, Num 33:38; and about the conclusion of it, Moses himself died.
Verse 5

Began Moses to declare this law - Began, הואיל hoil, willingly undertook; to declare, באר beer, to make bare, clear, etc., fully to explain, this law. See the conclusion of the preface.
Verse 6

Ye have dwelt long enough, etc. - They came to Sinai in the third month after their departure from Egypt, Exo 19:1, Exo 19:2; and left it the twentieth of the second month of the second year, so it appears they had continued there nearly a whole year.
Verse 7

Go to the mount of the Amorites - On the south of the land of Canaan, towards the Dead Sea.

Land of the Canaanites - That is, Phoenicia, the country of Sidon, and the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea from the country of the Philistines to Mount Libanus. The Canaanites and Phoenicians are often confounded.

The river Euphrates - Thus Moses fixes the bounds of the land, to which on all quarters the territories of the Israelites might be extended, should the land of Canaan, properly so called, be found insufficient for them. Their South border might extend to the mount of the Amorites; their West to the borders of the Mediterranean Sea; their North to Lebanon; and their East border to the river Euphrates: and to this extent Solomon reigned; see 1Kgs 4:21. So that in his time, at least, the promise to Abraham was literally fulfilled; see below.
Verse 10

Ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude - This was the promise God made to Abraham, Gen 15:5, Gen 15:6; and Moses considers it now as amply fulfilled. But was it really so? Many suppose the expression to be hyperbolical; and others, no friends to revelation, think it a vain empty boast, because the stars, in their apprehension, amount to innumerable millions. Let us consider this subject. How many in number are the stars which appear to the naked eye? for it is by what appears to the naked eye we are to be governed in this business, for God brought Abraham forth abroad, i. e., out of doors, and bade him look towards heaven, not with a telescope, but with his naked eyes, Gen 15:5. Now I shall beg the objector to come forth abroad, and look up in the brightest and most favorable night, and count the stars - he need not be terrified at their abundance; the more they are, the more he can count; and I shall pledge myself to find a male Israelite in the very last census taken of this people, Numbers 26, for every star he finds in the whole upper hemisphere of heaven. The truth is, only about 3,010 stars can be seen by the naked eye in both the northern and southern hemispheres; and the Israelites, independently of women and children, were at the above time more than 600,000. And suppose we even allow that, from the late discoveries of Dr. Herschel and others with telescopes which have magnified between 35 and 36,000 times, there may be 75 millions of stars visible by the help of such instruments, which is the highest calculation ever made, yet still the Divine word stands literally true: St. Matthew says, Deuteronomy 1, that the generations from Abraham to Christ were 42; now we find at the second census that the fighting men among the Hebrews amounted to 603,000; and the Israelites, who have never ceased to be a distinct people, have so multiplied as far to exceed the number of all the fixed stars taken together.
Verse 13

Take you wise men - חכמים chachamim, such as had gained knowledge by great labor and study. Understanding נבנים nebonim, persons of discernment, judicious men. Known, ידעים yeduim, persons practiced in the operations of nature, capable of performing curious and important works.
Verse 15

Captains over thousands, etc. - What a curious and well-regulated economy was that of the Israelites! See its order and arrangement:

1. God, the King and Supreme Judge;

2. Moses, God's prime minister;

3. The priests, consulting him by Urim and Thummim;

4. The chiefs or princes of the twelve tribes;

5. Chilliarchs, or captains over thousands;

6. Centurions, or captains over hundreds;

7. Tribunes, or captains over fifty men;

8. Decurions, or captains over ten men; and,

9. Officers, persons who might be employed by the different chiefs in executing particular commands.

All these held their authority from God, and yet were subject and accountable to each other. See the notes on Numbers 2 (note).
Verse 17

Ye shall not respect persons - Heb. faces. Let not the bold, daring countenance of the rich or mighty induce you to give an unrighteous decision; and let not the abject look of the poor man induce you either to favor him in an unrighteous cause, or to give judgment against him at the demand of the oppressor. Be uncorrupt and incorruptible, for the judgment is God's; ye minister in the place of God, act like Him.
Verse 22

We will send men before us - See on Numbers 13 (note).
Verse 28

Cities - walled up to heaven - That is, with very high walls which could not be easily scaled. High walls around houses, etc., in these parts of Arabia are still deemed a sufficient defense against the Arabs, who scarcely ever attempt any thing in the way of plunder but on horseback. The monastery on Mount Sinai is surrounded with very high walls without any gate; in the upper part of the wall there is a sort of window, or opening, from which a basket is suspended by a pulley, by which both persons and goods are received into and sent from the place. It is the same with the convent of St. Anthony, in Egypt; and this sort of wall is deemed a sufficient defense against the Arabs, who, as we have already observed, scarcely ever like to alight from their horses.
Verse 30

The Lord - shall fight for you - In the Targum of Onkelos, it is, the Word of the Lord shall fight for you. In a great number of places the Targums or Chaldee paraphrases use the term מימרא דיי meimera dayeya or Yehovah, the Word of the Lord, exactly in the same way in which St. John uses the term Λογος Logos in the first chapter of his Gospel. Many instances of this have already occurred.
Verse 34

The Lord - was wroth - That is, his justice was incensed, and he evidenced his displeasure against you; and he could not have been a just God if he had not done so.
Verse 36

Caleb - wholly followed the Lord - See on Num 14:24 (note).
Verse 37

The Lord was angry with me - See on Num 20:12 (note), etc., where a particular account is given of the sin of Moses.
Verse 44

The Amorites - chased you - See the note on Num 14:40 : as bees do - by irresistible numbers.
Verse 46

According unto the days that ye abode there - They had been a long time at this place, see Num 13:27; Num 20:1, Num 20:14, Num 20:21. And some think that the words mean, "Ye abode as long at Kadesh, when you came to it the second time, as ye did at the first." Or, according to others, "While ye were in that part of the desert, ye encamped at Kadesh."

1. As one grand object of the law of God was to instruct the people in those things which were calculated to promote their peace and insure their prosperity; and as they were apt to lose sight of their spiritual interests, without a due attention to which their secular interest could not be promoted; Moses, not only in this chapter, but through the whole book, calls upon them to recollect their former miserable situation, in which they held neither life nor property but at the will of a merciless tyrant, and the great kindness and power of God manifested in their deliverance from a bondage that was as degrading as it was oppressive. These things properly remembered would lead them to prize their blessings, and duly appreciate the mercy of their Maker.

2. But it was not only this general display of God's kindness, in the grand act of their deliverance from Egypt, that he wished them to keep constantly in view, but also that gracious providence which was manifested in every step they took; which directed all their movements, provided for all their wants, continually showing what they should do, how they should do it, and also the most proper time and place for every act, whether religious or civil. By bringing before them in one point of view the history of almost forty years, in which the strangest and most stupendous occurrences had taken place that had ever been exhibited to the world, he took the readiest way to impress their minds, not only with their deep obligation to God, but also to show them that they were a people on whom their Maker had set his heart to do them good, and that if they feared him they should lack nothing that was good. He lays out also before them a history of their miscarriages and rebellion, and the privations and evils they had suffered in consequence, that this might act as a continual warning, and thus become, in the hands of God, a preventive of crimes.

3. If every Christian were thus to call his past life into review, he would see equal proofs of God's gracious regards to his body and soul; equal proofs of eternal mercy in providing for his deliverance from the galling yoke and oppressive tyranny of sin, as the Israelites had in their deliverance from Egypt; and equal displays of a most gracious providence, that had also been his incessant companion through all the changes and chances of this mortal life, guiding him by its counsel, that he might be at last received into glory. O reader, remember what God has done for thee during thy forty, fifty, etc., years! He has nourished, fed, clothed, protected, and saved thee. How often and how powerfully has his Spirit striven with thee! How often and how impressively thou hast heard his voice in his Gospel and in his providences! Remember the good resolutions thou hast made, the ingratitude and disobedience that have marked thy life; how his vows are still upon thee, and how his mercy still spares thee! And wilt thou live so as to perish for ever? God forbid! He still waits to be gracious, and rejoices over thee to do thee good. Learn from what is before thee how thou shouldst fear, love, believe in, and obey thy God. The Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world, is still before the throne; and whosoever cometh unto God through him shall in nowise be cast out. He who believes these things with an upright heart will soon be enabled to live a sanctified life.

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