Devotional Short Notes on Deuteronomy 1


Who is the writer of Deuteronomy? All the sources are from Moses. Who is the compiler of these sources of Moses? It can be Isaiah the historian of the palace and later prophet of Israel.

But how does compilers work? Do they put their own weight on the material? No. They are like stenographers, they just recorded as correct and direct as possible in a machine fashion and tries hard to keep out of the material. If the sources spell wrong and Isaiah would see it, would he change the spelling to that of his own time to correct it? They did not. The bilingualisms, the dialectical differences in spelling they kept to the absolute.

The sermons wrapping the law in this book are all by Moses and throughout his mission.

It is as if the date of the origin of the compilation of Deuteronomy was when they arrived at the Jordan around 1410 BCE.

The words were spoken over a long period, when they were in the plain over against the Red (Deuteronomy 1:1), between Paran and Tophel and Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab. The length it took to go from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadesh-Barnea was eleven days (Deuteronomy 1:2). It was maybe three addresses that Moses made in Moab.

For the 11th day period to travel, compare travel-period with that of Thutmosis III when he got the news of the death of Hatshepsut. This was the 3rd of April when Hatshepsut died in 1482 BCE of liver cancer, obesity and especially skin problems and Thutmosis III was at Gaza receiving the news on the 10th of April. Saddled a horse and raced down to prevent Moses from becoming the new pharaoh of Egypt since he did not have the royal blood. Reached Thebes on the 28th of April 1482 BCE. The next day on the 29th of April 1482 Thutmosis III was inaugurated as the new pharaoh of Egypt at Karnak. Moses was hiding in Midian since 1490 BCE. Moses was the favorite of Hatshepsut.

The time of this sermon is given in 1:4 “After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites which dwelt in Hesbon and Og the king of Bashan which dwelt at Astaroth in Edrei”. Archaeologists are always slightly arrogant at times like a certain school who opposed any identification of destruction at Heshbon for the Late Bronze after the Andrews University excavations there and stated that there never was this war there for the data do not suffice. Yes. One can answer, it will not suffice when three quarters of the tell are still intact as virgin soil, untouched by archaeologists hands. It is not enough to sample here and sample there and superimposed the samples as a Gestalt-theory for the whole tell or even the whole country. That is why the sample studies of Nelson Glueck in Transjordan stands under serious review.

Moses began “to declare this law saying…” (1:5). Basically he started to preach. He was not pronouncing a new law or a substitution of the previous one (see also Keil Deuteronomy 270 “There is not the slightest trace, throughout the whole book, of any intention whatever to give a new or second law”).

In 2009 Ryan O’ Dowd published his dissertation on Hebrew Wisdom and the Book of Deuteronomy. He compared modern wisdom and ancient Hebrew wisdom indicating that “[t]o know is to live in ethical conformity with God's ordered reality, not to escape from it into objective analysis” (p. 3).

Ethics, worship and history are enwrapped in a revelation of God by a sermonizing narrative calling on people to hear what God says and do what He asks. There is constantly an appeal.

Moses cites from a Horeb piece of parchment where he scribbled the words of the Lord on that mountain verbatim citing: “The Lord our God spake unto us in Horeb saying…”. He does not add, he cited what was said before.

There God said in the past: “You have dwelled long enough in this mountain, turn you and take your journey and go to the mountain of the Amorites…” Then the possession promise is given. Notice that the promise was not given only to Abraham but to Isaac, not only to Jacob but “and to their seed after them”. That last point connects similarly to Joseph as meant in Galatians 3:17-19, not Abraham. The short-chronology of current scholars on this verse, is thus not supported. The long-period chronology of Galatians goes to Joseph not Abraham. Otherwise the whole chronological system of the Scriptures crumble. But it doesn’t and is absolutely correct.

Another problem with modern scholars is that they seek to see where citations were made by Moses or any other prophet of the same passage in Deuteronomy and if they see a phrase is not repeated in that later citation of the passage, they surmise that it was added, interpolated into the text after the Exile. How they have eyes or an empiricism to see beyond the “Ugly Ditch” of no-data of Gottschalt Lessing, I do not know. They certainly have faith as agnostics in their own ideas even if it is not textual.

The citation in 1:9 is from an speech that Moses made at Mount Horeb about the election of leaders. He could not bear them alone. The Lord multiplied them and to repeat the statement, Moses said 1000 times more.

“…make you a thousand times so many more as you..”(1:11). This is an Egyptianism which was common in the 18th dynasty from where A. Gardiner in his Middle Egyptian Grammar paragraph 262 at 2 took an example from: “this thy thousand years” or “years” literally reading: “your thousand, this of years”. Moses would have had in mind: “your thousand, this of times (multiplication)”. The citation is from Sethe’s Urkunde IV of the 18th dynasty examples which is the period Moses lived in. It is typical Middle Egyptian expressions.

The speech of Moses extends from 1:9b-13 where he cites from verbatim the exact words. He could not bear alone their strife and complaints (1:12). So he was asking in that speech before that they select wise men and understanding, which were known among the tribes. They were to be the rulers. Qualified leaders were wise not foolish, understanding not creating confusion, known to be honorable not plagued with finger-pointing gossips from the people.

Moses reminded them of their reply in the past and someone recorded their words exactly: “The thing which you have spoken to us is good to do” (1:14).

Moses himself is talking because in the next long line of verses, Moses used the first person “I” with his actions. I took (verse 15); I charged (verse 16); I will hear (verse 17); I commanded (verse 18). He appointed leaders and then spoke to the judges in verse 16. He laid down a MOU for the judges to judge “righteously” between a man and his brother and the stranger with him. There should not be respect of persons in judgment (1:17). The small and the great should be heard (1:17). They must not be afraid to face someone (1:17). The judgment is God’s (1:17). Moses was the supreme court for cases that was too difficult for them to do “the cause that is too hard for you, bring unto me, and I will hear it”.

He wrapped up the long paragraph with the statement that he commanded them all the things they should do (1:18). The verse serves as a kind of envelope or frame around the narrative just dealt with. It is also an Egyptianism. In Gardiner paragraph 511 on page 417 at 4 is a similar phrase: “to cause me to do what my lord commanded” also from Uruk IV which is the Sethe series on the Eighteenth Dynasty texts which is the very time of Moses. There is a similar expression from Deir el Behari.  

He took a break from his writing and ate, or drank water, or went for a walk. When Moses returned he took up the pen and got another incident ready to report on: “and when we departed from Horeb…” They were on the move. The wilderness was “terrible” (1:19). At Kadesh-Barnea they could see the mountain of the Amorites and the Lord said they can go and possess it. Canaanites were Amorites and other mixed nations. They were poly-ethnic squatting in a land not of their own.

The speech of Moses is then cited verbatim as stenographers wrote it for him: “You came to the mountain of the Amorites, which the Lord our God gives us. Behold the Lord God has set the land before you, go up possess, as the Lord God of your fathers has said unto you: ‘Fear not, nor be discouraged’”. The direct Words of God is a citation within a citation.

They were to go into the land “with the Lord”.

Putting “behold” in front of this sentence was also a common Middle Egyptian practice in the eighteenth dynasty as Uruk IV indicate IV. 689. Sim. Ib. 137, 16. It reads in Gardiner paragraph 119: “Behold, His Majesty was in the land of Retjnu”.

But, Israel was careful. Worried. Calculative. They device a tool for surveillance of the land “we will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go, and into what cities we shall come” (1:22). Navigational issues.

Moses liked the idea (1:23) and selected 12.

“The saying pleased me well”.

In the Amarna letter EA 20, may date to the time of Thutmosis IV around 1405 after the five year entry time of Joshua which is about five years after the death of Moses and very proximate to the words spoken here in Deuteronomy 1. The phrase “the saying pleased me well” is found similarly in EA 20 line 11 “Very pleasing indeed were the words of my brother” [Original in Knudzen transcribed: ù []a-a-pa da-a[n-n]i-iš-ma a-ma-a-ti[š]u ša ai-ia translated by me as “also good and conscientious are his words, of my brother”].

Moses is not out of place with his times or outside sources different than Moses. Same time same words.

The twelve went into the mountain of the valley of Eschol and took fruit and brought it down. Their comment was that the land was good (1:25).

But, the reaction of the people were different. They did not want to go up. The Lord said go up but the people rebelled against God’s commandment (1:26).

They went to their tents and murmured there. Moses then cited some of their sayings: that the Lord hated them; He only brought them out of Egypt to deliver them into the hands of the Amorites. He wanted to destroy them (1:27). Utter nonsense.

They were discouraged by the words of their fellow men saying that the people are greater and taller than them; that their cities are walled up to heaven; and that they also saw the sons of the Anakims there. The Anakims were probably Egyptian militia from the Egyptian word for life, ankh or an.

The role of the heart as organ for decisions, emotions, courage are also typically Middle Egyptian Grammar: Gardiner §250 on page 185.

But Moses saying that time was that they should not fear these people (1:29).

Moses said that the Lord their God will go before them and fight them just as He did in Egypt (1:30). They were literally carried by the Lord like a father carries his son (1:31).

It is very interesting that Moses had to reboot them with inspirational talks like this, for the Amarna letters that were sent to the pharaohs of Egypt during the Hebrew militant years between 1410-1405 BCE, was a similar attempt of inspiring the pharaoh to come and protect them from the Habiru that invaded the country. But, the pharaohs did not want to come. Letter after letter is a complaint and call for soldiers and protection but nothing came.

“Yet in this thing you have not believe the Lord your God” (1:32).

Then Moses explained hou God is: He goes before them in the way; He showed them the place to sleep over; and by a cloud He showed them which way to walk (1:33).

Then God heard them speaking and was unhappy about it (1:34).

He determined that not one of them shall see the land (1:35).

Caleb was exempted (1:36). The reason is “he has wholly followed the Lord”. This is a key phrase and a secret to success even unto our own day. We need to wholly follow the Lord. Not partially. Total dedication. Total transformation. Unreserved surrender.

Then Moses pointed out that the Lord was also angry with him: “You shall not go in there” (1:37).

Joshua shall go it though (1:38).

Then Moses explained what God’s view of hamartology is, the science of sin: “your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go there” (1:39).

Accountability with God is not for babies, children, who are not yet adults. Responsibility starts with the adulthood of a person. Thus, original sin has no bearing on guilt before God. It is the knowledge of good and evil and the decision of that which is at stake here.

Then God sent them through the Wilderness (1:40).

When they realized they have sinned, they put on their armour and was willing to go fight (1:41). But the Lord told them not to go up and fight since the Lord is not with them (1:42).

They were warned but they did not listen and went up the hill (1:43).

The Amorites came like bees and chased them unto Seir and unto Hormah (1:44).

They wept before the Lord but He did not listen to them (1:45).

So they stayed in Kadesh many days unto the days that they stayed (1:46).


Dear God

We learned that Moses wrote down precisely what happened during their stay in the Wilderness and the exact words they used. We are thankful for this first chapter that inspires us to give ourselves wholly unto our Lord and Savior. In Jesus Name, Amen.