Introduction. 1* These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah, opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. 2It is a journey of eleven days from Horeb* to Kadesh-barnea by way of the highlands of Seir.
3In the fortieth year,* on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the Israelites according to all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to them, 4after he had defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon,a and Og, king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei. 5Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law:
Departure from Horeb. 6* b The LORD, our God, said to us at Horeb:* You have stayed long enough at this mountain. 7Leave here and go to the hill country of the Amorites* and to all the surrounding regions, the Arabah, the mountains, the Shephelah, the Negeb and the seacoast—the land of the Canaanites and the Lebanon as far as the Great River, the Euphrates. 8See, I have given that land over to you.c Go now and possess the land that the LORD swore to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them and to their descendants after them.
Appointment of Elders. 9d At that time I said to you, “I am unable to carry you by myself.e 10The LORD, your God, has made you numerous, and now you are as numerous as the stars of the heavens.f 11May the LORD, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times over, and bless you as he promised! 12But how can I, by myself, bear the weight, the contentiousness of you? 13Provide wise, discerning, and reputable persons for each of your tribes, that I may appoint them as your leaders.” 14You answered me, “What you have proposed is good.” 15So I took the leaders of your tribes, wise and reputable, and set them as leaders over you, commanders over thousands, over hundreds, over fifties and over tens, and other tribal officers. 16g I charged your judges at that time, “Listen to complaints among your relatives, and administer true justice to both parties even if one of them is a resident alien. 17In rendering judgment, do not consider who a person is; give ear to the lowly and to the great alike, fearing no one, for the judgment is God’s. Any case that is too difficult for you bring to me and I will hear it.” 18Thus I charged you, at that time, with all the things you were to do.
The Twelve Scouts. 19h Then we set out from Horeb and journeyed through that whole vast and fearful wilderness that you have seen, in the direction of the hill country of the Amorites, as the LORD, our God, had commanded; and we came to Kadesh-barnea.i 20I said to you, “You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD, our God, is giving us. 21See, the LORD, your God, has given this land over to you. Go up and take possession of it, as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” 22Then all of you approached me and said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and report to us on the road we should follow and the cities we will come upon.” 23Agreeing with the proposal, I took twelve men from your number, one from each tribe. 24They set out into the hill country as far as the Wadi Eshcol, and explored it. 25Then, taking along some of the fruit of the land, they brought it down to us and reported, “The land the LORD, our God, is giving us is good.”
Threats of Revolt. 26j But you refused to go up;k you defied the command of the LORD, your God. 27You set to murmuring in your tents, “Out of hatred for us the LORD has brought us out of the land of Egypt,l to deliver us into the power of the Amorites and destroy us. 28What shall we meet with up there? Our men have made our hearts melt by saying, ‘The people are bigger and taller than we, and their cities are large and fortified to the sky; besides, we saw the Anakim* there.’”m
29But I said to you, “Have no dread or fear of them. 30n The LORD, your God, who goes before you, is the one who will fight for you, just as he acted with you before your very eyes in Egypt, 31as well as in the wilderness, where you saw how the LORD, your God, carried you, as one carries his own child, all along your journey until you arrived at this place.” 32Despite this, you would not trust the LORD, your God, 33who journeys before you to find you a place to camp—by night in the fire, and by day in the cloud, to show you the way to go.o 34When the LORD heard your words, he was angry, and took an oath: 35Not a single one of this evil generation shall look upon the good land I swore to give to your ancestors, 36except Caleb,* son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, for to him and to his descendants I will give the land he trod upon,p because he has fully followed the LORD.
37The LORD was angered against me also on your account, and said, You shall not enter there either,q 38but Joshua,r son of Nun, your attendant, shall enter. Encourage him, for he is the one who is to give Israel its possession. 39Your little ones, who you said would become plunder, and your children, who as yet do not know good from evil—they shall enter there; to them I will give it, and they shall take possession of it. 40But as for yourselves: turn back and proceed into the wilderness on the Red Sea road.
Unsuccessful Invasion. 41s In reply you said to me, “We have sinned against the LORD. We will go up ourselves and fight, just as the LORD, our God, commanded us.” And each of you girded on his weapons, making light of going up into the hill country. 42But the LORD said to me, Warn them: Do not go up and fight—for I will not be in your midst—lest you be beaten down before your enemies. 43I gave you this warning but you would not listen. You defied the LORD’s command and arrogantly went off into the hill country. 44Then the Amorites living in that hill country came out against you and put you to flight the way bees do, cutting you down in Seir as far as Hormah. 45On your return you wept before the LORD, but the LORD did not listen to your voice or give ear to you. 46That is why you had to stay as long as you did at Kadesh.
* [1:1] The entire book of Deuteronomy is set “beyond the Jordan,” in the land of Moab (cf. v. 5; Nm 36:13), on the eve of the Israelites’ crossing of the Jordan (Jos 3). The Arabah: the valley of the Jordan and the depression south of the Dead Sea.
* [1:2] Horeb: an alternative name for Mount Sinai, the wilderness mountain where the Israelites received revelation from God (cf. Ex 3; 19). Kadesh-barnea: the southern gateway to the land of Canaan, from which Moses sent spies to reconnoiter the land (cf. Nm 13:26; 32:8). Seir: Edom, the land just south of Moab.
* [1:6–3:29] Throughout this section Moses is reviewing the events following the departure from Horeb, as a basis for the exhortation beginning in 4:1. Most of these events are narrated with some variation in the Book of Numbers.
* [1:6] Horeb: the name given to the mountain of revelation in the Elohist and Deuteronomic traditions; this mountain is called Sinai in the Yahwist and Priestly traditions.
* [1:7] The hill country of the Amorites: the central mountain range of Palestine. The Negeb: the arid land in southern Palestine. The Lebanon: the mountain range of Phoenicia, north of Palestine. This is an idealized presentation of the land the Israelites were to occupy; Israel never held power as far as the “Great River” (the Euphrates). The Amorites and the Canaanites were only two of several different peoples occupying the land (cf. 7:1).
* [1:28] Anakim: a people proverbially notable for height, mentioned in pre-Israelite Egyptian texts, and in the biblical tradition associated with the region of Hebron and the hill country of Judah (Nm 13:22, 28, 33; Jos 11:21; 14:12, 15).