First and Second Discourse

Deuteronomy - Chapters 1-11

First Discourse

Deuteronomy 1:1-18, Moses begins his discourse with what happened at Horeb

Deuteronomy 1:19-46, What happened at Kadesh

Deuteronomy 2:1-12, What happened in Edom and Moab

Deuteronomy 2:13-37, What happened in Transjordania and Heshbon

Deuteronomy 3:1-17, End of the stay in Transjordania

Deuteronomy 3:18-29, Moses reminds the people of his former instructions

Deuteronomy 4:1-20, A warning against apostasy

Deuteronomy 4:21-43, Moses describes the nature of God

Deuteronomy 4:44-5:22, Moses reiterates the Ten Commandments

Second Discourse - Part 1

Deuteronomy 5:23-6:3, Moses as mediator; the importance of the Law

Deuteronomy 6:4-25, The relationship between God and Israel

Deuteronomy 7:1-26, The relationship between Israel and other peoples

Deuteronomy 8:1-20, The time in the desert was a training period

Deuteronomy 9:1-21, Moses reiterates the people's faults in the desert

Deuteronomy 9:22-10:11, Moses reiterates his role as mediator

Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7, Moses reiterates the nature of God

Deuteronomy 11:8-32, Moses sets forth a blessing and a curse: choose

More of Deuteronomy

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Deuteronomy 1:1-18, Moses begins his discourse with what happened at Horeb (03/13/23)

In James Mitchener's novel, The Source, the Jew Eliav tells the archeologist Culinane that to understand the Jews, "Read Deuteronomy five times." Now, I personally have probably read Deuteronomy at least four times while taking or teaching advanced Bethel; however, I noticed while reviewing the website that we've only read bits and pieces in this study. So guess what?

The overall structure of the book is a series of three discourses that Moses speaks to the Israelites shortly before they enter the promised land. The other day I happened across an article about exit interviews - the talk you have with your boss or human resources as you leave a company. The article encourages you to be frank about your experience and the reasons you're leaving - but not too frank, because you may want to come back!

Well, Deuteronomy is Moses' exit interview, and he knows he's not coming back, so he lays it on the line. He reviews the history of the Israelites from the time they left Egypt, with special attention to all the trouble they have caused him and all the times they rebelled against God's instructions.

You can see from the map that the distance from Mt. Sinai to the east side of the Jordan River is about 100 miles. Mt. Sinai is near the center bottom of the map, and the crossing is near the top right. There may be two places named Kadesh Barnea; one is the town closest to the center of the map, and the other is about 15 miles to the east. Either way, the Israelites are at least half-way between Mt. Sinai and their goal in Canaan. Pay special attention to verse 2: "It takes eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh Barnea by way of the hill country of Edom." So what on earth took them forty years to walk 100 miles? Stay tuned.

Deuteronomy 1:19-46, What happened at Kadesh (03/14/23)

Moses is summarizing what's happened for the past 40 years for the children of the generation that came out of Egypt. He keeps saying "you did this" and "you did that," but in fact very few of the people he's talking to now were alive then. Why? Because after a fairly brief trip from Sinai to the hill country of the Amorites, they wouldn't believe that God would help them enter the promised land, in spite of God's actions in Egypt. God decreed that none of that generation except Caleb and Joshua would enter the promised land, only their children would. God loves you and is gracious, merciful, and longsuffering toward us sinners, but eventually our time to do the will of God runs out. Moses seems a little bitter that he doesn't get to go in, either. I think the reasoning is that he was in charge, and therefore he was responsible.

Because Moses keeps referring back to previous events, I'll try to remember to include a few cross-references for those enthusiasts in the reading audience who want to know the whole story. This part of his discourse refers to the events in Numbers 13 and 14. You'll probably notice that a few of the details are different, but cut the man some slack: he's old and it was a long time ago.

Deuteronomy 2:1-12, What happened in Edom and Moab (03/15/23)

After Moses reminded the people about their failure to enter the promised land the first time they got there (which we read yesterday), he skips over the many years the Israelites spent in the desert (roughly Numbers 14:27-20:29) in one verse and goes on directly to their dealings with the Edomites and Moabites. Edom was the nation founded by Esau, Jacob's brother. Moab was founded by Lot, Abraham's nephew. Since the Edomites and Moabites didn't want the Israelites to come through their lands, they had to go around. You can see this detour on the map at the right center.

I just want to say a word about giants. My father-in-law was about 6 ft 2 in tall. Once in the early 1970s, a French child in Paris looked up at him, and up, and up, and exclaimed, "un géant!" My oldest is 6 ft 3 in tall; if he were to go to the jungles of the Congo basin, the pygmy peoples who live there might very well think he was a giant. I think the Emim, the Anakim, and the Raphaim were probably a lot taller than the Israelites, but that doesn't mean that we have to think of them as being 10 feet tall and saying "Fee, fie, foe, fum."

Deuteronomy 2:13-37, What happened in Transjordania and Heshbon (03/16/23)

Have you ever attended some event and then read the newspaper report about it? Did it seem to you that there was some kind of disconnect between what you saw and what the reporter saw? My theory is that two parallel universes are connected by newspapers. Our news is reported in their papers, and their slightly different news is reported in our papers. This theory is also useful in comparing Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Moses says here in Deuteronomy that the Israelites passed through the lands of Moab and Edom. Back in Numbers, it's clear that the Edomites refused to let them go through, and they had to go around (Numbers 20:20-21). They did go into Moab (Numbers 21:18-20), but the time in Moab is treated only very sketchily. Maybe they didn't stay long. The peace overtures and battle with Heshbon is about the same as in Numbers 21:21-25.

Our own map is the best one I could find showing the route, the Arnon and Zered/Zeral Rivers, and Heshbon. There seems to be substantial agreement between the various on-line maps that Moab is north of Edom, and Ammon is north of Moab, as in this map from Wikipedia; note, however, that the kingdom of Israel didn't exist in the time of Moses. The land of the Amorites seems to be between Ammon and the Jordan River, shown as the eastern part of Israel on the Wikipedia map. Don't confuse the Ammonites (descendants of Lot and therefore protected) with the Amorites, descendants of Canaan and one of the peoples whose land God promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21).
Reader Question: You mention in the Study Tip for March 16 that there was no Kingdom of Israel in the time of Moses, even though it is shown on the map you linked to. Was there a kingdom of Israel before Moses? If not, where did they get the name Israelites, which was mentioned in Moses' writings?

First, Inadequate Answer: The Israelites are the descendants of the man Israel. The kingdom of Israel arose several hundred years after the time of Moses and takes its name from the Israelites. Israel is the name God gave to Jacob in Genesis 32:28.

Follow-up Question: Is the man you are referring to named Israel actually Jacob or is it someone else? If it is Jacob, then after he was told his name would be Israel, the Bible story continues to refer to him as Jacob. Help!!!

Short Answer: Biblical names can be very confusing, and the more important they are, the more confusing they tend to be. This pair probably tops the list. In brief, both Jacob and Israel can refer to one specific man, to his descendants as a group, to the united kingdom they formed, to the northern kingdom after the division, sometimes to the southern kingdom, and to the Jews in the time of the New Testament. You have to read very carefully, with special attention to the context, to know who is being referred to.

Long Answer:

The man. The man Israel equals the man Jacob, the father of the twelve brothers who gave rise to the twelve tribes. He was born Jacob: "And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob" (Genesis 25:26). Jacob means supplanter, from a root that means heel catcher. Esau comments on how appropriate Jacob's name is in Genesis 27:36: "Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing."

After Jacob spent years hiding out from Esau, he and his wives decided to go back to his home. On the way, he wrestled all night with God, and God gave him the name Israel: "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed" (Genesis 32:28). Israel means (depending on who you read) he will rule as God, he strives with God, or something like that. It's from two roots; sarah means rule, prevail, and el means God or god.

This man is called either Israel or Jacob from there on out, and sometimes both in the same verse: "And Jacob rose up from Beersheba: and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him" (Genesis 46:5). Sometimes even God calls him Jacob after the name change, as in Genesis 46:1-2: "So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, 'Jacob, Jacob.' And he said, 'Here I am.'"

(A lot of names have particular meanings, like Jacob and Israel. For more on this general topic, see our previous study on punning names.)

The tribes. Later, each of Jacob/Israel's twelve sons gave rise to a tribe, and the tribes are collectively referred to as Israel or Jacob. In fact, the two names are very commonly used in parallel. Here are some examples: The tribes are also called the children of Israel, or the Israelites.

By the way, each tribe is also referred to by its own name, which is the name of the son who was its ancestor. The tribes are referred to by the ancestor's name from at least Exodus 31 through Revelation 7, so it's a good idea to have a vague recollection of them when you see them.

The kingdoms. For roughly 400 years after Moses brought the children of Israel, or Israelites, to the doorstep of the promised land, the tribes had no central government. They had elders and intermittent charismatic leaders called judges. Then a lot of people in the tribes decided that they needed a king (1 Samuel 8). The tribes were united into the Kingdom of Israel under Saul (1 Samuel 10). This united kingdom, called the kingdom of Israel, continued under David and Solomon.

The kingdom split apart under Solomon's son Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:16), at which point there was a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah (1 Kings 12:20). But as we saw above, both of them are called both Israel and Jacob, and to make it worse, both of them have other names as well!

And Just Because That Wasn't Complicated Enough. In the New Testament, we see Israel used in several ways, too: Jacob can also be a man (e.g., Acts 7:15) or an entire people (e.g., Romans 11:26).

Summary: The moral of the story is that you are confused about Israel and Jacob because it's confusing. You must read very carefully in any given context to figure out which Israel or Jacob is under discussion: the man, his descendants, the united kingdom, the northern kingdom, the southern kingdom, or the Jews.

Deuteronomy 3:1-17, End of the stay in Transjordania (03/17/23)

If you've ever been to Paris, the chances are that you visited the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, which is 16.4 feet tall, just over 13 feet long, and more than 6.5 feet wide, not counting the granite base. Napoleon himself seems to have been about 5 foot 2. So I'm thinking that just because King Og's coffin was about the same size as Napoleon's, that doesn't mean that Og himself was anything out of the ordinary, except in egotism. You can also read about King Og in Numbers 21:33-35.

The original plan seems to have been for all the Israelites to cross the Jordan River. After the defeat of the Amorites, however, the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh looked around at the land east of the Jordan and decided that they liked it. They asked Moses if they could have this land instead of crossing into Palestine proper. Moses objected to their staying behind, but they offered to leave their wives, kids, and cattle here, while all their fighting men formed the shock troops for the rest of the invasion. Moses agreed. You can see where these two and a half tribes ended up on our map of the Holy Land. Moses has skipped ahead here, because we read about this deal in Numbers 32.

Deuteronomy 3:18-29, Moses reminds the people of his former instructions (03/20/23)

Moses is still reminding the people of what happened in Transjordania.

I find it a whole lot easier to remember what I said when I was right than what I said when I was wrong. Apparently, Moses had the same problem with his memory. Notice that in vss. 23-28, Moses blames the people for the LORD's refusal to let him enter the promised land. That's not entirely ... accurate.

If you look back at Numbers 20:1-12, it's a case where the people were indeed whining and complaining, as usual, that they would have been better off to stay in Egypt as slaves than to come out here into the desert to die of thirst. The LORD tells Moses and Aaron, "Get everybody together, and order this rock to give water." But instead of doing that and showing God's glory, they get everybody together and say, "You rebels, do we have to get water for you?" Notice the "we" there. Moses strikes the rock, and it does give water. Notice the striking rather than the ordering. God says, "Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them." Moral: Try to do what God says, and if you don't, at least own up.

Deuteronomy 4:1-20, A warning against apostasy (03/21/23)

Moses is getting toward the end of his first discourse. He recalls what happened when some of them worshiped Baal at Mt. Peor (Numbers 25) and what happened at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19 and 20). He reminds the people that not only is the LORD the God of their ancestors, but also that they themselves have been in the presence of the LORD. The LORD brought them out of Egypt, gave them an outstanding set of laws, stays near them, and answers them when they call for help. Therefore they should resist the temptation to worship any other gods.

Deuteronomy 4:21-43, Moses describes the nature of God (03/22/23)

With several thousand years of corporate experience with God, it's sometimes hard for us to put ourselves into the minds of the children of Israel. Forty years prior to Moses' final instructions to them, they didn't even know the name of their God (Exodus 3:13), much less the character of their God! God and Moses had to deal with them where they were, so Moses is a practical theologian. He ends his first discourse by reminding the people of their personal experience with God. He doesn't say, "God is omnipotent"; he says, "The LORD went after you in Egypt and took you away from the Egyptians. Has anybody else's god ever done that?" He doesn't say, "We should be monotheistic"; he says, "If you worship any idols, God will be angry, and you will die, and idols are powerless to help you anyway." He doesn't say, "Your God is near"; he says, "You heard his voice and his holy fire."

Deuteronomy 4:44-5:22, Moses reiterates the Ten Commandments (03/23/23)

Most of Moses' first discourse was devoted to a review of the events between the time they left Egypt up to the time they arrived at the Jordan River. Then the text comments on the three cities of refuge east of the Jordan (which we read yesterday) and gives a mini-summary of the events in Transjordania (Deuteronomy 4:44-49).

Moses begins his second discourse by repeating the Ten Commandments given at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20), almost word for word. I'm really interested in vs. 22. As I was comparing the commandments in Deuteronomy and Exodus, I noticed that vs. 22 says in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, "These words the LORD spoke ... and he added no more." Dabar/Words, not mitzvah/commandments, and he added no more, not he gave these commandments and no others. What's odd is that several of the translations I looked at have commandments in both places, and I can't figure out where that came from. Is there a distinction between these ten "words" and the rest of the "commandments" given by Moses in the remaining part of this discourse? I'll try to find out and let you know.

I wondered whether it was important that Moses uses various words for what he's telling the people to do: dabar/words, mitzvah/commandments, and another one I didn't include. So I wrote to OT scholar Dr. Nancy Bowen about this. She said this is a tricky question and gave me a long answer. We eventually agreed that we'd need a 4,000-year-old native speaker and Moses himself to sort out any really meaningful distinctions. The message is always to hear the laws/commandments/words/instructions and obey them. (As when your mother demanded, "Do you hear me?!")

Deuteronomy 5:23-6:3, Moses as mediator; the importance of the Law (03/24/23)

It's not too late to start watching March Madness, the annual competition to see which college basketball team is the greatest, not of all time, but of this year. You can still catch the Sweet Sixteen (March 23-24), Elite Eight (March 25-26), and Final Four (April 1). As far as Jews and Christians are concerned, however, the question has already been decided: the Final Four are the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the lawgiver Moses. On their way out of Egypt and into the promised land, the children of Israel were a little hazy on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but they accepted Moses as their representative with God. (Or perhaps as willing sacrifice; I've always thought the unwritten ending of vs. 27 is "providing you even live to return!")

That's not what I want to talk about. Pay attention to the word obey in this reading. It appears seven times in fourteen verses (eight if you count "do not disobey"). (As a matter of fact, in Hebrew these are a mixture of do and keep, but Good News Bible correctly reflects the sense, which is obey.) There's plenty of emphasis in the Old Testament on loving God, as we will see Monday in the next two verses, but before we are told to love God, we are told to obey God. The emphasis on obedience carries over into the New Testament, where we find the same connection between loving God and keeping the commandments.

Deuteronomy 6:4-25, The relationship between God and Israel (03/27/23)

If the last copy on earth of the Old Testament was on fire and you only got to save one page, Deuteronomy 6 would be a good choice. Jesus quoted vss. 4 and 5 when he was asked for the most important commandment. Verse 4 (more commonly translated as "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One") is the central statement of monotheistic Judaism and Christianity. Verse 5 is the central statement of our relationship to God. Verses 6-19 stress the importance and blessings of obedience, along with the consequences of disobedience. Verses 20-25 stress the importance of personal testimony of what God has done for us.

Verses 4 through 9 begin the twice-daily prayer of observant Jews, and that wouldn't hurt the rest of us, either.

Deuteronomy 7:1-26, The relationship between Israel and other peoples (03/28/23)

Mark Twain is widely quoted (possibly incorrectly) as saying, "Some people are troubled by the things in the Bible they can't understand. The things that trouble me are the things I can understand." Most people feel this way about Deuteronomy 7, which can be roughly divided into three sections: Kill all your enemies (vss. 1-6); You are going to be rich and happy (vss. 7-15); Kill all your enemies (16-26). We're troubled both by the idea that God directs the Israelites to kill their enemies and by the fact that so many Jews and Christians, far from being rich and happy, are miserable and persecuted. I don't know the answer, but here are a few things for you to think about.

God was trying to save the world (which had been thoroughly mucked up as a result of our sin, Genesis 3-11), and that was hard to do while God's own people were worshiping other gods. God's relationship with the Canaanites was the same whether they were alive or dead - they were wicked and God loved them anyway - and Deuteronomy 7 says they had to be taken off the land in order to further the plan of salvation. In fact, the Israelites did not kill and therefore did marry and did worship the gods of the Canaanites et al. for the better part of the next thousand years, which set God's plan back quite a bit. Of course, an alternative explanation is that the Israelites wanted the land and simply used religion as an excuse; there's a lot of that going around.

And what about all those blessings? A reader asked me about this not too long ago. Notice that the blessings seem to be promised for the people, that is, the nation, not just for individuals. I asked the reader, Have we done the experiment of being obedient to God? Has any society ever done the experiment? If our society doesn't do the experiment of being obedient to God, how can we expect the promised outcome? And the problem for the individual is that even if you are obedient to God and deserve a blessing, my free will allows me to rob you and take it away.

Deuteronomy 8:1-20, The time in the desert was a training period (03/29/23)

Moses reminds the people that their time in the desert was a training period. They learned to rely on God for what they needed, and they learned that when they rebelled, they would be disciplined. He particularly warns them against thinking that they did all this on their own (vss. 17-18). It is all too easy when something bad happens for us to ask, "Why did God do this to me?" and all too easy when something good happens to exclaim, "Look what I did!" Usually the cause and effect are other way around.

Deuteronomy 9:1-21, Moses reiterates the people's faults in the desert (03/30/23)

A basic principle of teaching and preaching is this: tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em; tell 'em; tell 'em what you told 'em. Moses talked about the experience at Mt. Sinai (see Exodus 19 and 32) in Deuteronomy 4 and again in Ch. 5, and now he talks about it again. He also reminds them, as he did in Ch. 8 and elsewhere, that they aren't getting the land because they deserve it. Fellow reader Daryl L. says that justice is when you get what you deserve, mercy is when you don't get what you deserve, and grace is when you get what you don't deserve. God showed the Israelites mercy and grace because of the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Deuteronomy 9:22-10:11, Moses reiterates his role as mediator (03/31/23)

God and Moses talked a lot, mostly complaining to each other about the Israelites. They were stubborn, they were rebellious, they were cowardly, they whined all the time. God and Moses both talk about "this your people, whom you brought out of Egypt!" Now Moses tells the Israelites that on a couple of occasions, God was ready to wipe them out and start over, but Moses convinced him not to. Never stop praying for your friends, especially when they don't deserve it.

Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7, Moses reiterates the nature of God (04/03/23)

There are two ways to know what God is like: what he has done in your life, and what you see that he has done in the lives of other people. The great advantage of reading our Bible together is that not only can we see what God has done in the lives of people for the past several thousand years, but also, we can gain insights from the readings of those we discuss it with today. Moses says, "Yes, you are the ones who have seen all these great things that the LORD has done." Because you have seen what God is like, love God and obey his laws (vss. 10:12-13 and 11:2), and be like him in loving others (10:19).

Deuteronomy 11:8-32, Moses sets forth a blessing and a curse: choose (04/04/23)

Moses tells the people again: "Obey God! Love God!" Obedience brings blessings; disobedience and apostasy - worshiping other gods - brings a curse. Your call.

Now, you may feel a little skeptical about whether you'll be blessed or cursed depending on whether you obey God's laws, and certainly my free will can mess up your blessings. However, if you look at actuarial data (how long various groups of people can expect to live), you will find that what Moses says is true. Church-goers generally live longer and more enjoyable lives than gang members. Honest people have more freedom than criminals. Those who love God and their neighbor have more friends to support them than spiteful people. Your call.

More of Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy - Chapters 12-34

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