Deuteronomy 1



The word “Deuteronomy” means “Second Law” or “Repetition of the Law.”

In the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, laws have been given at various

intervals.  Now, with their wanderings over, and on the eve of the entrance into

Canaan, these laws were rehearsed and expounded, in anticipation of, and with

applications to, a settled life.


In these first five verses we have the inscription and general introduction to the

book, announcing the contents of the book, the author of it, the parties whom he

addressed, and the time and place of his addresses.


1  “These be the words” – Some would render here “Such are the words,” and

understand the expression as referring to the preceding books.  But it seems more

natural to refer it to what follows — to the addresses in this book. The pronoun

these (אֵלֶּה) may be used with a prospective reference, as well as with a

retrospective (cf. e.g. Genesis 2:4; 6:9).  The author does not by this connect

this book with the preceding, but rather distinguishes it. The subscription in

Numbers 36:13 indicates that what precedes is occupied chiefly with what

God spake to Moses; the inscription here intimates that what follows is what

Moses spake to the people. This is the characteristic of Deuteronomy - “which

Moses spake unto all Israel” - It cannot be supposed that Moses spoke to the

whole multitude of the people so as to be heard by them. Hence the Jewish

interpreters say that he spoke to the elders of the people, who carried his words

to the people at large. This is just; for what was thus immediately communicated

to the people might be fairly described as spoken to them; and we find from

other passages in the Pentateuch that the phrase, “the elders of Israel,” in

the mind of the writer, was equivalent to “the congregation of Israel

(compare Exodus 12:3 with v. 21; Leviticus 9:1 with ver. 5).  But through

whatever medium conveyed, it was to the people that these words were addressed;

this is emphatically a book for the people - “on this side Jordan” - This should be

On the other side or beyond Jordan, and so also in v. 5, as in ch. 3:20, 25. The word

here used (עֵבֶר) means properly something beyond, over, or across, and indicates

that which, to the speaker, lies on the other side of some line or limit. When

coupled with “the Jordan,” it usually indicates the region to the east of that

river; only in one or two instances, where the speaker takes his standpoint

on the east of the river, does it designate the regions to the west of Jordan

(Ibid. v. 25); 11:30) The phrase “beyond Jordan seems to have been the established

designation of the region east of the Jordan (Ezra 4:10). It is this, unquestionably,

which is here so designated, as what follows expressly shows -  “in the

wilderness,” - This term is used of any extensive district not occupied by inhabitants

or subjected to culture; hence of vast prairies or pasturelands, as well as of places

properly desert and desolate. It here denotes the grassy plains or downs on the east

and southeast of the Jordan, in the land of Moab (v. 5) - “in the plain” - in the

Arabah. This is properly the whole of that remarkable depression which stretches

from the source of the Jordan on to Akabah, or the Ailanitic Gulf; but here it is

only that part of it which extends from the south end of the Dead Sea to Allah

(ch. 2:8). This part still bears the name of the ‘Arabah, the northern part being

known as the Ghor (Smith’s ‘Dictionary,’ vol. 1. p. 87) - “over against the Red

sea,” - The name by which the Red Sea is elsewhere designated is Yam-suph

(יַם־סוּפ); here only the latter word occurs, and this has led some to doubt

if the Red Sea be here intended. It is probable, however, that Suph is here merely

a breviloquence for Yam-suph, the Red Sea; and so all the ancient versions

take it. The identification of the Yam-suph of the Old Testament with the

ἐρυθρὰ θάλασσα erutha thalassa - Red Sea - of the Greeks, the mare

erythraeum, or rubrum, of the Latins, is due to the Septuagint, which other versions

have followed.  The identification is undoubtedly correct (compare Numbers 33:10

and I Kings 9:26). Yam-suph, indeed, means simply sea of weeds, and might be

the name of any sea in which algae are found; but these passages clearly

prove that by this the Hebrews designated the Red Sea. At what part of

this sea the Israelites crossed, and the hosts of Pharaoh were submerged, is

and must remain uncertain, because we know not what was the condition

of the Isthmus of Suez at the time of the Exodus. It is probable it was not

at any part of what is now known as the Red Sea or Gulf of Suez. (I

recommend and look at the section on the Red Sea

Crossing for items of interest! – CY – 2012) - But this has not been

accepted by scholars generally -  It seems probable that originally only a

marshy district lay between the Gulf of Suez and the Mediterranean; and

somewhere in this probably the passage of the Israelites  and the drowning

of the Egyptians occurred – “between Paran, and Tophel,” - This serves

more fully and particularly to indicate the locality here intended; but the

details present considerable difficulty. Taken in connection with the words

“over against the Red Sea,” the names here given can only be regarded as

intended more precisely to indicate the region in which the Israelites had

been during the forty years of their wandering. Paran: this is the name of

the wilderness bordering on Idumea, where the Israelites encamped

(Numbers 10:12; 12:16); the place of their encampment being Kadesh, in the

wilderness of Zin (Ibid. 13:21, 26), which was the eastern part of the

wilderness of Paran. hod. Wady Murreh. The wilderness of Paran corresponds

in general outline with the desert of Et-Tih. This is a vast plateau of irregular

surface stretching from the Et-Tih range northwards to the boundaries of the

Holy Land, and from the Gulf of Akabah and the Wady cf. Arabah on the

east to the Gulf of Suez and the Mediterranean on the west. It is described as

“a chalky formation, the chalk being covered with coarse gravel, mixed with

black flints and drifting sand;” not, however, wholly sterile: in many parts

vegetation abounds, considerable portions are under cultivation, and there

are evidences that it one time water was abundant there. It is not, however,

to the wilderness of Paran that the reference is in the text, but to some definite

locality or spot in the region in which the Israelites then were, or which

they had recently passed through. It has been suggested that the place now

called Feiran, and where there are the ruins of a town, once of some

importance in the early history of Christianity, is the Paran of this passage,

as it apparently is the Paran of I Kings 11:18. But this locality at the base

of Jebel Serbail is much too far west to be the Paran here referred to. More

probable is the suggestion that it is the Faran mentioned by Eusebius and

Jerome (‘Onomast.,’ s.v. Φαράν PharanParan - a city to the east-

northeast of Allah or Elath), about three days’ journey (Reland, ‘Palest.,’

p. 556; Winer, ‘Realworterbuch,’ s.v. Pharan). Tophel: this name occurs only here;

it is supposed to be the place now coiled Tufailah or Tafyleh, a large village of

six hundred inhabitants, between Bozrah and Kerak, on the eastern slope of

the mountains of Edom (Burckhardt, ‘Syria,’ p. 402; Robinson, ‘Bib.

Res.,’ 2:570). As this is a place where the Syrian caravans are supplied

with provisions, it has been conjectured that the Israelites, when at Oboth

(Numbers 21:10-11), may have resorted to it for a supply, and that it

was here that they purchased meat and drink from the children of Esau

(Deuteronomy 2:29) -  “and Laban,” – Laban is generally identified with

Libnah, the second place of encampment of the Israelites on their return

from Kadesh (Numbers 33:20-21). Knobel, however, thinks it is the

place called by Ptolemy 'Αὔαρα, lying between Petra and Allah; this name,

from the Arabic (he was white), having the same meaning as

the Hebrew לָבָן. “and Hazeroth,” – Hazeroth is supposed to be the place

mentioned in Numbers 11:35; 12:16, from which the Israelites entered the

wilderness of Paran; but as the other places here mentioned are on the east

side of the Arabah, it is not probable that this Hazeroth is the same as that of

Numbers, which must have been not far from Sinai, in a northerly or north-

westerly direction from that mountain, probably at or near to the fountain

now called El Hudherah (Wilson, ‘Lands of the Bible,’ 1:235; Kitto,

‘Cyclopedia,’ 2:243). There were probably several places bearing the name

of Hazeroth, i.e. villages -  “and Dizahab.”  This is generally identified with

Dhahab, a place on a tongue of land in the Gulf of Akabah. But it is

extremely improbable that the Israelites ever were at this place, the

approach to which is exceedingly difficult; and the mere resemblance of the

names Dizahab and Dhahab is not sufficient to prove the identity of the

places. There were probably more places than one which were named from

zahab (gold) in the region traversed by the Israelites. There is a Dhahab on

the east of the Jordan near the Zerka or Jabbok, a double mound, which is

said to derive its name from the yellowish color of the sandstone rock of

which it consists, and which is metalliferous. In the Arabic of the Polyglot,

Dizahab appears as Dhi-dhahab, which signifies “auro praeditum vel ab

auro dictum; nam דו vel די, apud Arabes in compositione nominum propr.

idem est ac Hebrews בַעל (J. H. Michaelis). There is a various reading

here, Di-waheb, and this has been supposed to connect this place with the

Waheb of Numbers 21:14. But, as above noted, it is by no means

certain that Waheb is there the name of a place; it may, as Bishop Patrick

suggests, be that of a man, some hero or chief, who was conquered in

Sufah or in a storm. Waheb is a name among the Arabs. The maternal

grandfather of Mohammed had this name (Abul-Pharaj, ‘Hist. Dynast.,’ p.

161, edit. Pococke, Oxen., 1663); and the sect of the Wahabees take their

name from Abdul Wahab, a fanatic who appeared about the beginning of

last century. The words “between Paran and Tophel” have been taken to

indicate’ the termini of the wanderings; at the commencement of these the

people were at Paran, and towards the close of them they were at Tophel.

‘“Looking from the steppes of Moab over the ground that the Israelites

had traversed, Suph, where they first entered the desert of Arabia, would

lie between Paran where the congregation arrived at the borders of Canaan

toward the west, and Tophel where they first ended their desert

wanderings thirty-seven years later on the east” (Keil). But this assumes

that Paran here is the wilderness of Paran.


2  (There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb” - The name generally given to

Sinai in Deuteronomy. Sinai, however, occurs in ch. 33:2 of this book -  “by the

way of mount Seir” -  i.e. by the way that leads to Mount Seir; just as in ch. 2:1,

“the way of the Red sea is the way that leads to that sea (see also Numbers 14:25).

Mount is here, as often elsewhere, for mountain range. The mountain range here

referred to seems to have been, not that on the east of the ‘Arabah, but what is in

vs. 6 and 19 called “the mountain of the Amorites,” “the Seir by Hormah of v. 44,

i e. the southern part of what was afterwards called the mountains of Judah.

According to v. 19, the Israelites, when they left Horeb, passed through the

wilderness along the way that led to the mountains of the Amorites, and came

to Kadesh-barnea. Kadesh must, therefore, be looked for, not on the eastern

side of the ‘Arabah, but somewhere in the wilderness of Zin. It has been identified

with the place now known as ‘Ain Kudes, near the northern extremity of Jebel

Halal, and to the east of that hill; but this is far from being certain. Moses reminds

the Israelites that the distance between Horeb and Kadesh is eleven days — i.e.,

about one hundred and sixty-five miles, the day’s journey being reckoned at

fifteen miles — not to give them a piece of information, but rather to suggest to

them how, in consequence of rebellion, a journey which might have been

so easily accomplished, had been protracted through many wearisome

years. “unto Kadeshbarnea).  



                                    The Might-Have-Beens of Life (v. 2)


In its present setting this brief geographical note was, doubtless, meant to

suggest the lesson of the evil results of disobedience.Eleven days’

journey,” yet the fortieth year still we find them in the wilderness. We learn:


1. Sin turns short ways into LONG ONES!.

2. Sin entails on the transgressor NEEDLESS TROUBLE AND SORROW!


4. Sin delays fulfillment of GOD’S PROMISES!


“The way of the transgressors is hard!”  (Proverbs 13:15) The path of obedience

is in the end:


Ø      the shortest,

Ø      easiest,

Ø      safest, and

Ø      happiest.


“Sin will take you farther than you want to go,

keep you longer than you want to stay,

and cost you more than you want to pay. 

                                    (R. G. Lee – Pay Day Someday)


3  “And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the

first day of the month,” – Here is intimated the time when the following

addresses were delivered to the people. It was on the first day of the eleventh

month in the fortieth year; therefore near the end of their wanderings, and

towards the close of the lawgiver’s own career. He could thus speak to them

according to all - “ that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according

unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;”

i.e. in accordance with the legislative contents of the preceding books (compare

ch. 4:5, 23; 5:28-33; 6:1). 4  “After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites,

which dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, which dwelt at Astaroth

in Edrei:”  It was also after the destruction of Sihon and ‘Og (Numbers 21:21-35).

This also is significant. By the destruction of these kings, who sought to bar the

access of the Israelites to the Promised Land, God had given proof that He would

indeed fulfill His promise to His people, and had at once laid them under

obligations to obedience, and given them encouragement to go forward on

the course to which He had called them. The “he” here is Moses, who, at

the command of God, had led the Israelites against Sihon and ‘Og. Edrei,

hod Draa (Ibid. v.33) was the second capital of ‘Og; he “reigned

in Ashtaroth and in Edrei” (Joshua 13:12). Here, however, it denotes

the place where he was slain in battle, and the words “in Edrei are to be

referred to the verb “smote” and not to “dwelt” (compare ch.3:1; Numbers 21:33).




                                    The Deuteronomic Discourses (vs. 1-4)


·         THE SPEAKER. “Moses.” Though an hundred and twenty years old,

“his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (ch. 34:7) — a statement

borne out by the sustained eloquence of these addresses. He speaks with:


Ø      the authority of a prophet,

Ø      the affection of a patriot, and

Ø      the earnestness of a dying man.


·         THE HEARERS. “All Israel.” A new generation had sprung up from

that which had received the Law at Sinai.


Ø      All are concerned in hearing God’s message. “It is your life”

(ch. 32:47).

Ø      New-comers need new teaching.


·         THE SITUATION. “In the wilderness”still there at the end of

forty years. The places named (v. 1), suggestive of past wanderings and

rebellions. Form a background to the discourses that follow, and point

home their lessons. We learn:


Ø      The value of association as an aid in teaching.

Ø      Our past cannot be got rid of, but it may be utilized.

Ø      God’s Word is to be pondered in the light of bygone experiences.

Ø      The comparison of our actual situation with what it might have been

(v. 2) is often a salutary exercise (compare Luke 15:17).  (“Of all

the words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these what might have

been.”  (John Greenleaf Whittier)


·         THE SUBJECT. “All that the Lord had given him in commandment.”

We find that this does not refer to a new commandment, but to the old

commandment which they had from the beginning (compare I John 2:8).


Ø      Men crave for novelty, but the function of the preacher is to remind

them of the truths which do not change, and to give “line upon line,

precept upon precept” (Isaiah 28:10) until loyal and hearty obedience

is rendered  to the same.

Ø      Exhortation is most effective when it takes as its basis the sure

Word of God.



·         THE TIME.In the fortieth year, in the eleventh month” — when the

attack on the Canaanites was about to be renewed, and after signal tokens

of Divine favor had already been granted (v. 4).


Ø      God’s mercies call for renewed dedication (Psalm 116:12-14).

Ø      The recollections of wasted years should prove an incentive to

obedience in the future (Romans 13:11-12; Ephesians 5:15-16;

            I Peter 4:3).

Ø      We need God’s commandment in our memories and hearts when

entering on work in which formidable opposition is to be

encountered, and which will put our fidelity to a severe test.

(“Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin

against thee!?  Psalm 119:11)


·         THE MOTIVE.


Ø      The natural solicitude of old age. It is characteristic of old age to fall

back upon and reiterate previous counsels. Compare Peter in his second

Epistle (II Peter 1:16); the traditional stories of the old age of John;

Paul in the pastoral Epistles, “urging and repeating and dilating upon

truths which have been the food of his life.”

Ø      The lawgivers knowledge of the rebelliousness of the peoples

disposition (ch. 9:24).

Ø      The Divine command (v. 3). This had respect to the altered

circumstances of the new generation, and to the prospect of their

entering the land promised to their fathers, continuance in which

was conditional on obedience.


5  “On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab,” – The locality is again described

as beyond Jordan (see on v.1),  and in the land of Moab. This designates the region

elsewhere called Arboth Moabthe Plains of Moab (Numbers 22:1; ch. 34:1), the

region on the east of the Jordan, opposite to Jericho, now known as the region of

Kerak, where is a famous castle from the days of the Crusades -  “began Moses” –  

rather set himself to. The Hebrew word signifies to undertake, to betake one’s self to,

and so to begin It is variously rendered in the Authorized Version (compare

Genesis 18:27, “taken it upon me;” Exodus 2:21, “was content,” had made up his

mind; I Samuel 12:22, “it pleased;” 17:39,”assayed,”) - “ to declare

this law, saying,”  - i.e. make clear, explain, expound (Habakkuk 2:2, “make plain”).

The Hebrew word here used (בָאַר) signifies primarily to cut or dig, then to cut

into, to grave, and then to cut or dig out so as to make evident, to declare,

to make plain. What Moses set himself to do, then, was not to publish a

new law, but to make plain to the people the Law already promulgated, to

set forth clearly and pointedly what they were required by the Law to be

and to do. This explains more fully the spake (דִבֶּר) of v. 3. This

exposition of the Law was designed specially for the sake of those who, at

the time the Law was first promulgated, either were not born or were

incapable of understanding it. The expression used by Moses plainly indicates

that this book was not intended to furnish a second code of laws different

from the former, but simply to explain and enforce what had before been




The Word of God Full of Hidden Treasure (vs. 1-5)


We cannot get very far in these preliminary verses ere we are struck with a

phrase which is a most suggestive one, and should not be lightly passed

over, viz. “On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to

declare this law,” literally, to dig it, i.e. to go deeply into it, and to turn up

again its contents, so that, to all the advantage of a generation of culture,

the people might see that there was more meaning, and also more glory in

the Law of God than they were able to discern in the first years of their

national existence. Observe:




case, even if we thereby intend the Mosaic Law alone. Its theology, its

ethics, its directory of religious faith and worship, its civil and political

code for the Hebrew commonwealth, are all so pure and elevated, that no

account can be given of how any man at that age of the world could have

propounded such a system, save that he was taught of God (II Peter

1:21). (ch. 5:7-22.) If, moreover, we would see how the devout Hebrews

estimated the Law, let us turn to Psalm 19:7-14; 103:7, et seq. Our Savior

honored the Law, and maintained it in all its integrity (Matthew 5:17-18).

He removed the glosses by which it had in his time become disfigured,

but he never depreciated it. We are by no means to confound “the Law”

with the abstract idea of “law.” See how sharply the Apostle Paul

distinguishes between these two in Romans 3., especially in v. 21,

“But now there has been manifested a righteousness of God apart from

law, being witnessed by THE Law and the prophets.” The Law given by

Moses is based on the gospel (Galatians 3.; see also Homiletics,

Deuteronomy 5:6). If, however, to all that Moses gave, we add all

“the grace and the truth” which came in by JESUS CHRIST how

unsearchably vast is the wealth stored up for us in the “Word of

everlasting Truth!”



REPAID. How much difference there is between a man who knows only

what men say about the Book, and one who knows the Book for himself!

The one may be easily beguiled into the belief that it is so out of date that it

is scarcely worth while to study it at all. The other will find it so far ahead

of the actual attainments of the wisest and best of men, that he will pity

those who dismiss it with but a glance from afar. The continuous, careful,

thorough student of the Law of Moses, will be ever discovering a richness

in it which will at once astonish and enrapture him. Its harmony with, its

historical preparation for, the gospel, will be continually disclosing to him

new proofs of its Divine original, that will be worth more to him than any

merely “external evidence.” And when the whole Word of God is made the

constant study of one whose heart is open to the truth and loyal to God,

such a one will find fuller and richer meaning in single words, such as goel,”

grace,” “righteousness,” etc., when these words are put to their highest

use in Divine revelation, than in whole tomes of merely human lore!




AND LOWLY FAITH. These treasures are for the use of all, not merely to

gratify them with the consciousness of ever making new discoveries, but to

make them richer in the accumulating stores of holy thought. And if we, in

the right spirit, explore these sacred pages, we shall ourselves become

richer in knowledge, in gladness, in hope. If we cultivate a willingness to

do God’s will, and seek to know the truth for the purpose of doing the

right, we shall find that much that is “hidden from the wise and prudent” is,

by means of the Book, “revealed unto babes.”  (Matthew 11:25)




lovingly and prayerfully studies it, who will not come to say, with a feeling

that becomes intenser year by year, “There remaineth very much land to be

possessed.” (Joshua 13:1) - “High as the heaven is above the earth, so are”

God’s “ways higher than” our “ways, and” God’s “thoughts than” our

“thoughts!”  (Isaiah 55:8-9)




It is not for naught that our GOD HAS SO ENRICHED THIS WORLD

WITH THOUGHTS FROM HEAVEN.  It is not merely that the intellect

may be furnished or the taste for research gratified. Oh no; it is for our life.

Heaven has poured forth its wealth upon earth, that earth may send

 up its love and loyalty to heaven.  Precious are the riches of truth. The riches

of holiness are more precious still. God gives us the first that we may yield Him

the second. God would win Israel’s love by unveiling his own. So now, “God

commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners,

Christ died for us” ( Romans 5:8).  How great will be our guilt, how severe

our condemnation, if we let such priceless disclosures remain unnoticed and

unused! It were better for us not to have known the way of righteousness

 than, after we have known it, to turn from the holy commandment

 delivered unto us  (II Peter 2:21).  May we, through the Spirit, so use the

truth of God as to find our joy and salvation in the God of the truth.




(ch. 1:6 to ch. 4:40)


With this verse begins Moses’ first address to the people, which extends to the end of

ch. 4. It is of an introductory character, and is occupied chiefly with a retrospective

survey of the events that had occurred during the forty years of their wanderings.

By this Moses reminded the people how God had fulfilled His promises to them,

and at the same time, how they had by their rebellion drawn down on them His

displeasure, which had caused their wanderings to be so much more protracted

than they would otherwise have been.


The Lord’s Command to Depart from Horeb, and His Promise to the People.

       (vs. 6-8)


6  “The LORD our God” - Jehovah our God. The use of this epithet implies

the covenant union of Israel with Jehovah, and presupposes the existence of that

covenant which was entered into at Sinai.  spake unto us in Horeb,” -  This

was the starting-point, so to speak, of Israel’s being as the special people of God —

His segullah (סְגֻּלָּה, Exodus 19:5), His special treasure. There He made Himself


and entered into covenant with them; and there they received that Law, on the

keeping of which depended their retention of the privileges to which they had

been elected. At Horeb the Israelites had remained for about a year (compare

Exodus 19:1 and Numbers 10:11-12), and as the purpose for which they had been

brought thither was answered, they were enjoined to move, not indeed by express

command, but by the rising of the cloud from over the tabernacle, which was the

signal of their march (Numbers 9:15; 10:11-13), preceded by the instructions they

had received preparatory to their removal (Numbers 1:1-4:7) - “saying, Ye have

dwelt long enough in this mount:”  The Israelites remained at Sinai from the third

month of the first year to the twentieth day of the second month in the second year

after they came out of Egypt.


7  “Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites,

and unto all the places nigh thereunto,” - literally, its dwellers or inhabitants

(שְׁכֵנָיו). The mountain range of the Amorites, afterwards called the hill

country of Judah and Ephraim, was the object which would first strike the

view of one advancing from the south; and so, it stands here for the whole

land of Canaan, with which it is in this context identified. Those “that dwell

thereon” are the inhabitants of the whole of Canaan. The Amorites (Hebrew

Emori, so called from Amor, or Emor) oftener than once appear as standing

for the Canaanites generally (compare Genesis 15:16; here vs. 20-21). That all

the inhabitants of Canaan are intended here is evident from the specification of

the different districts of the land of Canaan which immediately follows.  “in the

plain,” -  the ‘Arabah (see v. 1). “in the hills,” - the hill country of Judah

(Numbers 13:17) - “and in the vale,” - the shephelah, or lowland, the country

lying between the mountain range of Judah and the Mediterranean Sea, and

stretching northwards from the parallel of Gaza to that of Carmel - “and in the

south,” – the negeb, or southland (literally, dryness), the district which

formed the transition from the desert to the cultivated land, extending from

the south of the Dead Sea westwards to Gaza, a vast steppe or prairie, for

the most part pasture land - “and by the sea side,” - The seashore: the narrow

strip of land on the coast of the Mediterranean from Joppa to Tyre (in the

New Testament, “the coast of Tyre and Sidon,”Luke 6:17) -  “to the

land of the Canaanites,” - the whole country of which these were the separate

parts -  “and unto Lebanon,” - the White Mountain, so called, probably, from the

snow which rests on its summit - “unto the great river, the river Euphrates.”

The Phrath, or Euphrates, which has its sources in the mountains of

Armenia, and in its course divides Armenia from Cappadocia, formed the

eastern limit of the territory promised by God to Abraham. The epithet

“great” seems to have been commonly applied to it.  Callimachus calls

it 'ΑΣΣυριοῦ ποταμοῖο μέγας ρόος ('In Apoll.,' 107), and Lucan has:

                        "Quaque caput rapido tollit cum Tigride

                                    magnus Euphrates."
                                                                        (Phars.,' 3:256.)


As by much the most considerable river of western Asia, the Euphrates was known

as "the river" par excellence (compare Exodus 23:31; Isaiah 8:7; Jeremiah 2:18;

Psalm 72:8). The mention of Lebanon and the Euphrates is not, as Keil suggests,

"to be attributed to the rhetorical fullness of the style;" but is due to the fact that

these were included in what God promised to Abraham and his seed

(Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; here ch.11:24).


8 “Behold, I have set the land before you:” – literally, have given

the land before you, i.e. have made it over to you, that you may go and

take possession of it. The Lord had placed this land in the power of the

Israelites, had given it up to them to possess and use it, according as He

had sworn to their fathers, the patriarchs, to give it to them and their seed

(compare Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 22:16-18) - “go in and possess the land

which the LORD swear unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and

Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.”  At Horeb, therefore,

they received the charter of their inheritance, and might have gone on at

once to take possession of the land. The delay that had occurred had arisen

solely from their own waywardness and perversity, not from anything on

the part of God.




Divine Covenant and Human Conduct -

the Two Hemispheres of a Complete Life

                        (vs. 1-8)




nature, so in human life, there are numberless grades of office and of

function. At Sinai, we have God, angels, Moses, priests. The transparent

candor and fidelity of Moses, as a subaltern in God’s great host, is a light

to all future ages. As the uncreated light left an abiding impress on the face

of Moses, so the known will of God shone out lustrously in Moses’ life. All

that Moses heard, he communicated by word, and temper, and influence,

and deed.



ENRICHMENT. The scene for the revelation of God, is the wilderness.

Stripped of earthly luxuries, the mind opens its portals to heavenly

visitation. This is not a necessity arising out of the nature of things, but it is

a necessity for man in his present state. The son of Zacharias, though a

priest, turned his back upon the temple, and chose the wilderness as the

theatre most suitable for his ponderous undertaking. This the spirit of

prophecy had foreseen. It was in the desert, Jesus fed the thousands by a

creative word. In the desert, Paul was equipped for shaking the

foundations of paganism. In Patmos, John passed through the portals

of the spirit-world.



eye of mortal sense, the Hebrews, drilled and officered, fought victoriously

with Amalek and Moab; nevertheless, a clearer vision sees that it was God

that slew Sihon, King of the Amorites, and ‘Og, King of Bashan. Let us be

sure that what we do, God does by us! Be we the agents; God the

principal! In righteous warfare, “He teacheth our fingers to fight.”

(Psalm 144:1)  In us hourly let God be immanent. “God wills it,”

therefore let us will it also. “He worketh in us.”



HEALTHFUL LIFE. “Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount.” The

body may be wrecked by surfeit, as well as by hunger. Knowledge is not

entirely ours, until it is reduced to practice. Heavenly wisdom is essentially

practical. All light is designed for service. The doctrines of religion are raw

materials, which are to be put into the warp and woof of our daily life. Is

“the Lamb the light of the heavenly place?”  (Revelation 21:23) The saints

“follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.” (ibid. ch. 14:4)  Meditation

qualifies for action; action demands new meditation. These are the two wings,

without both of which the eagle cannot rise. “Come ye into the desert”

(Mark 6:31); “Go and preach”  (ibid. ch. 16:15); these are the twin behests

of Christ.



MAN’S OBEDIENCE. How the two things are co-related, we cannot

ascertain. The point of junction is among the incomprehensible — beneath

the surface of things. There is now and again seeming discord; but as we

listen on there is a profounder harmony. The Lord swore unto the

patriarchs to give them the land of Canaan. Yet the spies brought back an

ill report; and the people debated and murmured, vacillated and

countermarched, as if they had been the umpires of their destiny.



DESIRE. God’s plan for Israel’s territory extended from Mount Lebanon

to the Euphrates; but Israel never rose to the full height of God’s design.

“Ask what I shall give thee” (II Chronicles 1:7) is still the message from

heaven TO EVERY MAN!  “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

(Psalm 81:10)  “We have not because we ask not.”  (James 4:3)  There is

abundance of sea-room in God’s plan for the largest human

endeavor; and every day the voice of the Great Proprietor reminds us,

There is yet very much land to be possessed.” (Joshua 13:1) “All things

are yours.”  (I Corinthians 3:21)




                                    The Hebrew Right to Canaan

                                      (v. 8 with Exodus 23:20-33)


Moses is reviewing the career of Israel, and is endeavoring to set before

the people the patience and faithfulness of God, as well as their own

waywardness. In the part of his review which is before us just now, he

points to the time when their sojourn in Horeb was about to close. Laws

and ordinances had been given. The nation was formed. Preparations for

departure would have to be made. To this they are incited by a renewal of

the Divine gift to them of the land of Canaan. The bare and brief recital in

the verses referred to above may be advantageously compared with

Exodus 23:20-33. A subject is here brought before us of great importance, viz.

The right of the Hebrews to Canaan, and the purpose of the Divine Being in

granting it to them. We have here:



double use has been made of the command to dispossess the Canaanites:


Ø      By skeptics, to impugn the morality of the Old Testament.


Ø      By professing Christian men, to justify wars of aggression now. Now we

might meet both these by one short and ready reply, viz. “If God

commanded the Hebrews to exterminate the Canaanites, no defense is

required; if God did not command them, no defense avails.” But there is a

more appropriate way of meeting the two cases. As to the first, we would

say, “Before you pronounce it immoral, look at the entire bearings of the

case, that you may see if the Israelites had an adequate warrant for the

course they took.” As to the second, “Before you regard this as a pattern,

look at the entire bearings of the case, that you may see if there is any

ground for adducing the wars of the Hebrews as a justification or palliation

of aggressive war now.” If men go to the Book to learn what the Israelites

did, they must in all fairness go to the Book to see the grounds on which

they did it. And the same teaching that will answer the one question, Were

they justified? will also answer the other, Should we be justified in

imitating them? Thirteen points present themselves for distinct and

cumulative consideration. We can but name them.


o        God spake to Moses.

o        In speaking to Moses, God but confirmed the promise made to

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

o        God defines the bounds of the land to be possessed.

o        God makes the claim, “All the earth is mine;” consequently He has a

right to give the land to whomsoever He will.

o        In choosing Israel, God would have a people for Himself who should be

His witnesses.

o        God foresaw the time for carrying out this plan (Genesis 15.).

o        The preparation of the land was of God (Exodus 23. 20).

o        The ground on which the Canaanites were dispossessed was their

enormous wickedness (Deuteronomy 9:4-5 – It seems that the

world today, including the United States are hell-bent to outdo

the  wickedness of the Canaanites!  CY – 2020). 

o        Israel was consequently only the means in the Divine hand of carrying

out an explicit Divine purpose.

o        To spare the Canaanites would have been to infect Israel with their


o        God would deliver the nations into Israel’s hand.

o        On a land and among a people recognized as God’s, the Most High

would reassert in the world the well-nigh forgotten truth, “The Lord

our God is holy.”


o        Even Israels continuance in the land would depend on their

maintenance of the principles which had been entrusted to their

keeping, and on their loyalty to the God who had chosen them for

His own (ch. 28:49). When we put all these principles together, the

two questions suggested at the outset receive a direct and sufficient



·         ACCESS TO CANAAN DIVINEY SECURED. “I will send an angel

before thee” (Exodus 32:34; 33:14; Isaiah 63:9; Malachi 3:1; Acts 7:38, 53;

John 1:51). It is only as we study the more advanced revelations of the New

Testament as to the place of angels in the Divine administration, and the

lordship of Jesus Christ over them, that all these texts of Scripture are seen

to fit in together. Note the specific statements in Exodus 23:20-33, as to God

clearing Israel’s way.



Negatively: they were neither to bow down to false gods nor to mix with

the heathen. Positively: they were to serve and fear God and to practice the




DIVINELY GIVEN (Exodus 23:25). Blessing on food, health, long

life (compare Matthew 6:33; Psalm 91:16). A separate homily might well

be devoted to the temporal benefits naturally resulting from obedience to

God. The application of all this to us in these days is manifest.


Ø      What Israel was once in the world God expects His Church to be now

(compare Exodus 19:5-6 with I Peter 2:9).


Ø      In Jesus Christ we have a new covenant, a better ministry, greater

promises (Hebrews 8:6).


Ø      We have a commission for the world. We have to co-operate with God

in bringing about new heavens and a new earth, by working in

accordance with His plan of redeeming and educating our race. We have

no commission to destroy. The Lord hath given us a power for

edification but none for destruction. Our commission runs, “Go, baptize

and teach.” (Matthew 28:19)  We have not to supersede the occupation

of territory held by a barbarous nation, through its enforced occupation

by a civilized one, but to go and teach all nations that each nation may

supersede its own barbarism by a civilization that is equally its own.]


Ø      This commission is to be fulfilled:


o       by the Word of Truth, and

o        by the power of God.


By spiritual weapons only can our victories be won. In the might of a

love that has conquered us, and in that might alone, we are to go forth

to make the conquest of the world.


“These weapons of the holy war,

Of what almighty force they are,

To make our stubborn passions bow,

                                                And lay the proudest rebel low!”


Next, vs. 9-18, Moses reminds them that he had done all that was required

on his part to conduct the people to the enjoyment of what God had freely

given to them. The people had so increased in number that Moses found

himself unable to attend to all the matters that concerned them, or to

adjudicate in all the differences that arose among them. God had brought

to pass that which He had promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:5), that his

seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude; in this Moses rejoiced,

nay, he would even that their numbers were, with the Divine blessing,

increased a thousandfold beyond what they were. But he found the burden,

the weight of care and trouble, especially in connection with their strifes

and suits thereby brought on him, too much for him; and, therefore, whilst

they were still at Horeb, he had, following the advice of Jethro, his fatherin-

law, counseled them to select competent men from among themselves,

who should relieve him by attending to those duties which he found it too

burdensome for him to have to attend to (compare Exodus 18:13-27). This

appointment of captains was quite distinct from that of the elders whom

God directed Moses to select that they might assist him in bearing the

burden of the people (Numbers 11:10-17). The occasion of the appointment was

the same in both cases, viz. the complaint of Moses that the task was too

onerous for him, but the time, the place, and the manner of the two transactions

were different.


9  “And I spake unto you at that time,” - The somewhat indefinite

phrase, “at that time” (compare Genesis 38:1), does not refer to the time

after the people departed from Horeb, but to the time generally when they

were in that region (see Exodus 18:5, 13). The imperfect (וָאֹמַד, I

spake), with vaw rel.. expresses the order of thought and not of time.

It is not mentioned in Exodus that Moses spake to the people, as

here stated, but what Jethro said to him to this effect is recorded; and as

Moses proceeded to put in execution what his lather-in-law advised, it is

probable that in doing so he told the people what he proposed to do, with

his reasons for so doing, and obtained their assent, as here mentioned.

 “saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone:”




                                    A Summons to Advance (vs. 6-9)


Moses begins by reminding the Israelites how God had formerly summoned

them to march upon Canaan. The summons came to them at Horeb, after a

sojourn of eleven months. The verses may be applied to illustrate:


·         THE CHURCH’S DANGER — to abide at the mount, to settle down

into a state of apathy or simple receptivity. This is met by the call to action

“Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: turn you, and take your

journey” (vs. 6-7). Notice:


Ø      Israels stay at the mount was good while it lasted. There the nation

enjoyed a season of rest, ratified its covenant with God, received the Law,

constructed a sanctuary, and was otherwise equipped and organized. There

must be times of getting, of learning, of consulting for one’s own

edification, else it will go hard with us in the work and battle of life. But:


Ø      There was a danger that Israels stay at the mount might last too long.

So is it with the Church, when she concentrates her attention too

exclusively on her own spiritual improvement, and forgets her mission to

the world. We have to remember that we get and learn only that we may

apply and act. There is the peril of religion becoming a species of

enjoyment. We luxuriate in retired communion, in restful fellowship with

God, in converse with fellow-believers, in Church ordinances; and we think

how sweet it would be if this could always last. But we are wrong. It

would not be good for us always to be in this state of simple receiving.

Religion, divorced from active employment, must soon lose its robustness,

and degenerate into a sickly religiosity. There are many, many Christians

who have been long enough, and far too long, in the mount, and it would

be welt for themselves if they could hear this voice summoning them to go



·         THE CHURCH’S DESTINY — to possess the land. The type was the

land of Canaan; the antitype, so far as it lies in time, is the world, which it

is the Church’s calling to conquer for Christ, and for her own possession.

Paul gives this interpretation in Romans 4:13. Taking the passage in

this light, and reading the wider truth into it, we get the idea of a land

which is:


Ø      Known to God (v. 7). Known thoroughly, in all its parts, peoples,

districts, conformation, accessibilities, and inaccessibilities. In advancing

to take possession of the world for Christ, we have the encouragement of

thinking that He knows precisely to what kind of work He is sending us,

and yet promises success. India, China, Africa, etc., He knows them all, yet

He says, “Go in and possess.”


Ø      Gifted by God (v. 8). It is long since the oracle declared that God had

given Christ the heathen for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the

earth for His possession (Psalm 2:8). The Church, as one with Christ,

shares in His kingdom, and shall yet inherit the whole earth.


Ø      The conquest of which is commanded by God. Not, indeed, by carnal

weapons, as the Israelites were commanded to conquer Canaan, nor yet by

the destruction of those against whom we war; but by the nobler weapons

of the truth, and by seeking men’s salvation. This is a benigner method of

conquest, and it will prove successful if we advance with faith and courage.

Those who persist in hardening themselves must indeed be destroyed; but

not by us. The Lord puts no weapon of a kind to injure any into our hands;

but bids us leave vengeance with Himself. Our means are the preaching of

the gospel, prayer, holy living, organized and beneficent activity to reach

the lost sheep of our great communities, and multiplied missionary agencies

in foreign lands.


·         THE CHURCH’S DUTYto obey her Lord, and go forward at

once to this great work.


Ø      He gives no alternative.

Ø      The command is express.

Ø      The world sorely needs OUR WORK!

Ø      Every motive of gratitude and compassion should urge us to it.


10 “The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this

day as the stars of heaven for multitude.”  (compare Genesis 15:5; 22:17).

God had promised to Abraham that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for

multitude; and Moses here reminds the people that this promise had been

fulfilled. This is hardly to be regarded as the utterance of hyperbole. When

God gave the premise to Abraham it was to the stars as seen by the

patriarch, not as actually existing in the immensity of space, that reference

was made; and as the number of stars which can be taken in with the naked

eye does not exceed 3000, and as Israel at this time numbered more than

600,000, counting only the adult males (Numbers 2:32), — it might be

literally said of them that they had been multiplied as the stars of heaven.

The comparison, however, imported nothing more than that their numbers

were very great.


11  (The LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times so

many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!)

It was not the vast increase of the people in numbers that distressed Moses,

rather was this to him a matter of rejoicing, and his desire was that their increase

might become still greater, even a thousand-fold. But he felt his own inability,

as leader, ruler, and judge, alone to cope with so vast a multitude.




                                    Israel’s Increase (vs. 10-11)


These verses embody the expression of a very natural state of feeling in

contemplating the marvel of the Church’s growth.



God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are”

(v. 11).  Such increase is:


1. A token of Divine favor (Acts 11:24).

2. A manifestation of Divine power (I Corinthians 1:18-30;

        Ephesians 1:19; I Thessalonians 1:5).

3. A source of blessing to the world (Psalm 67.).

4. A fulfillment of the Divine counsels (Ephesians 1:10).

5. Means the ascendancy of true religion.



      The rapid spread, the extraordinary victories, the prolonged empire,

and the undecaying vitality of the Christian religion are the most wonderful

things in history, and a proof of its Divine origin. As Israel increased by the

Divine blessing at an unprecedented rate, and in spite of all Pharaoh’s

attempts to check the increase, so has the Church flourished and spread,

proving herself in her unarmed strength more than a match for the deadliest

powers which can be arrayed against her. The present century has

witnessed a remarkable revival of this propagative energy of Christianity

(compare Numbers 23:23).



      The promise to Abraham of a countless seed embraced in its widest

import the spiritual, not less than the natural, Israel — his seed in Christ

(Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:7-10, 14, 16, 26, 29). (Compare the promises

in Isaiah 53:10-12; 54:1-3; 60:1-12, with Daniel 2:35, 44; Matthew 8:11;

Revelation 7:9).


12 “How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden,

and your strife?”  Moses appeals to the good sense of the people themselves:

Cumbrance: this is a just rendering of the Hebrew word מֹרֲח, from טָרַח,, which,

though it occurs only in the Hiphil in Hebrew, in the sense of to cast down

(Job 17:11), probably was in use also in the Kal, in the sense of to lay upon,

to encumber, which is the meaning of the cognate Arabic <ARABIC>

followed by <ARABIC>. Burden (שָּׁא, from נָשָׂא, to lift up, to carry, to bear),

something lifted up and carried, a load or burden. Strife: (רִיב) here, not mere

contention, but litigation, suit-at-law.  Some understand all these three, of

troubles and burdens laid upon Moses, by his being called upon to compose

differences, and adjust competing claims among the people. But other burdens

besides these came upon him as the leader of the nation; and it seems best,

therefore, to understand the first two of troubles and burdens generally.


13 “Take you” -  literally, give to you or for you, i.e. yourselves. The

selection was to be made by the people themselves. Jethro, in giving Moses

the advice on which he thus acted, described the men who were to be

selected as “such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness”

(Exodus 18:21) - “wise men, and understanding,”  Moses here describes

 them rather by qualities, indicating  ability and fitness for such a post as

that to which they were to be called;  they were to be “wise”  (which, indeed,

may be regarded as comprehending all good moral qualities); understanding

men, men of discernment and sagacity, as well as intelligence; - “and known

among your tribes,” – men of good repute in the community -  compare Acts 6:3;

I Timothy 3:7) - “and I will make them rulers over you.”  - literally, will set them

for your heads, i.e. will appoint them to act as superintendents, managers, and judges

over you.


14 “And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good

for us to do.  15  So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and

made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over

hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers

among your tribes.”   The people approved of the proposal, and acted upon it;

and Moses accordingly appointed the persons selected to be chiefs over

thousands, and over hundreds, and over fifties, and ever tens (Exodus 18:21);

he appointed men also to be officers, that is, persons who should preserve order

in the tribes, keeping the registers, acting as scribes, to prescribe and to take

account of work, and perhaps also attending to fiscal arrangements (שֹׁטְרִים,

shoterim, a word of general application; Exodus 5:6, 10, 14; Joshua 3:2;

II Chronicles 26:11, Septuagint. γραμματεῖς grammateis - and γραμματο

εισαγωγεῖς grammato eisagogeis - ). In Exodus, Moses is said to have chosen

these functionaries (18:25); but what many do under the direction of one may

be said to be done by him.  In installing the judges, Moses solemnly charged them

to deal impartially, fairly, and equitably with those who might come before them.


16 “And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes

between your brethren,” – i.e. hear impartially both parties, whether both

parties are Israelites, or one of the parties a stranger - “and judge

righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger

that is with him.”




                                                Division of Labor (vs. 9-16)


(Compare Exodus 18:13-27.) An instance of a good idea:


1.  suggested,

2.  readily adopted,

3.  generally approved of.


This reminds us that division of labor is as important in Church work as in the arts.





Ø      The work is not overtaken. “Not able” (v. 9).

Ø      Those who have to do it are greatly overtaxed. “Cumbrance,” “burden”

(v. 12).

Ø      Energy is wasted on subordinate tasks which might be applied to better






Ø      Relieves the responsible heads.

Ø      Expedites business and promotes order.

Ø      Secures that the work is better done.

Ø      Utilizes varieties of talent.


But parties must be as willing to co-operate as they were here.




Moses took in hand the appointment of assistants, he did it thoroughly

(v. 15). The work which each is to do must not be left to haphazard, or

to “understandings,” or to the tastes and inclinations of individuals, but

should be definitely marked out. There must be organization and

distribution of tasks on a general plan, which, while it affords room for all

grades of talent, allots work with a view to the aptitudes which each is

known to possess. It is characteristic of Moses’ scheme:


Ø      That it took advantage of existing institutions. 

Ø      That it rested on a broad, popular basis; elective (v. 13).


17  “Ye shall not respect persons in judgment;” - literally, look at or regard

faces, i.e. ye shall not deal partially, favoring the one party rather than the other

(compare Exodus 23. 2-3; Leviticus 19:15); the small as well as the great

were to be heard, and neither for favor nor from fear were they to pervert

justice –“but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid

of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s:” -  appointed by God and

administered in His name, the judge acting for God and by His authority, and

being answerable to Him [many of the liberal judges in the United States

Judiciary, in the lower and High Court have violated this charge and trust –

THEY WILL ANSWER TO HIM!  – unfortunately, the stability of the public

good has been compromised and undermined by these actions and today the

effects are beginning to erode our very existence as a nation, and WE ARE


II Chronicles 19:6).  Hence the phrases, “to inquire of God,” “to bring before God”

(Exodus 18:15,19;  21:6; 22:8) phrases still in use among the Arabs for a summoning

to judicial trial.  In the case of a matter coming before the judges which they found

it beyond their power to decide, they were to bring it before Moses as a superior

authority (see Exodus 18:26) - Some think there were certain causes reserved to the

cognizance of Moses; but the contrary appears by these words, that all manner of

causes were brought before the judges; and they, not the people, brought such

causes before Moses as they found too hard for them to determine. So that they, not

the person whose cause it was, judged of the difficulty of the cause - “and the

cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.  18 And I

commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do.”




                                                   Judging (vs. 16-17)


The rules here laid down, while primarily applicable in the administration of

law, are, in their spirit and for the most part in their letter, equally fitted to

snide our private judgments. A proneness to judge is condemned by Christ

(Matthew 7:1); but His rebuke of the censorious spirit is not to be read

as forbidding the framing of such judgments upon the character, actions,

and pretensions of others as the circumstances of our position may render

necessary. We are called every day of our lives to form, and frequently to

express, judgments upon men, measures, causes, theories, disputes,

proposals; judgments as to true and false, right and wrong, wise and

unwise, expedient and inexpedient. Matters are appealed to us as

individuals, or as a part of the general community, on which judgment is

expressly asked. We must judge that we may know how to act. All this

involves the possibility of judging rashly; of judging with bias and

prejudice; of judging so as to do wrong to individuals; of judging so as to

injure truth and retard progress and improvement. The text teaches us, on

the contrary:



HEARD. How many judgments are passed daily in utter ignorance of the

real facts of the case, and without any attempt to ascertain them, perhaps

without the means of ascertaining them! Such judgments are ipso facto

unjust. It is only by the rarest chance they can be right, and their rightness

being accidental does not justify them. Let judgments be reserved for cases

in which we have an opportunity of full investigation. Hear both sides, and

hear them


Ø      fully,

Ø      candidly, and

Ø      patiently.


(This is certainly good advice concerning public  and private judgment in

  the United States of Ameerica.  CY – 20120)




Judge not according to the appearance,” said Jesus, “but judge righteous

judgment” — an instance illustrating that wider view of judging which we

are here taking (John 7:24). Equal measure is to be meted out to all.

We are to judge impartially as between brother and brother, fellow-citizen

and foreigner, rich and poor, applying the same principles and standards to

each case, and keeping in view the essential merits as the one thing to be

regarded. (Thankfully, this is how God judges!  CY – 2020)  This is the plain

rule of justice, though we all feel how difficult it is to act up to it.



FEARLESSLY. “Ye shall not be afraid of the face of man.” (Compare the

Regent Morton’s eulogy on Knox — “There lies he who never feared the

face of man.”) Even when just judgment is being pronounced internally, the

fear of man, or the desire of man’s favor, or the dread of temporal

consequences, often leads to a time-serving tampering with conviction, to a

saying and doing of the thing we do not at heart approve of. This is the

worst kind of COWARDICE!





Judges are His vicegerents, deriving their authority from Him, expressing

the judgment of His righteousness, ANTICIPATING HIS OWN FINAL

JUDGMENT and themselves responsible to Him for the manner in which

they exercise their functions. Every biased, untrue, and insincere judgment

is a misrepresentation of that truth and rectitude which have their ground in








   The Impartiality of God is to be Reflected in the Judges of His People

                                                (vs. 1-18)


In the following Homilies we adhere to the traditional view of the Mosaic

authorship of the book, believing that no sufficient evidence has yet been

adduced by the critics for departing from that view. Moses enters upon his

addresses in the land of Moab by recapitulating the great points of the

Exodus. The first notable reference is to the appointment of the judges.

The qualifications and directions here recorded are fitted to throw precious

light upon  THE DIVINE CHARACTER!  Here let us notice:



      And here we may quote a definition which will materially aid us in this subject:

“By the word person in Scripture signifies not a man, but those things in a

man which, being conspicuous to the eyes, usually conciliate favor, honor,

and dignity, or attract hatred, contempt, and disgrace. Such are riches,

wealth, power, nobility, magistracy, country, elegance of form, on the one

hand; and on the other, poverty, necessity, ignoble birth, slovenliness,

contempt, and the like.” These Jewish judges, therefore, were directed to

allow none of these personal accidents to influence their judgments in the

cases committed to them, but to decide as matters of pure equity.



·         The consequences to themselves were not to be regarded. They were to be

fearless officers, representing the Most High.



PERSONS AND NO FEAR OF MAN. The strict impartiality of God has

been questioned, if representations of His procedure drawn from the Divine

Word are accepted. Now, the whole plan of salvation by grace appears

favoritism and partiality. What is the meaning of “grace?” Undoubtedly

free, unmerited favor. If, then, salvation is by grace (Ephesians 2:8),

must not God be liable to the charge of partiality? Such, at least, is the

reasoning of some in the interests of certain systems. But when the matter

is looked into more closely, we find that SALVATION BY FREE GRACE

 is the most conclusive evidence of GOD’S IMPARTIALITY!  It is really

saying to all men:


Ø      “unless you give up the notion of recommending yourselves to me;

Ø      unless you surrender the idea of some special claim in your being or

your life upon me;

Ø      unless, in a word, you lay aside the fancy that you must be partially

and exceptionally treated, which is the whole meaning of



I cannot save you.” This is impartiality Par excellence; and

this is exactly God’s position in offering salvation to men. All who refuse

salvation are really refusing to be treated impartially, and are clamoring

for exceptional consideration on the ground of some fancied merit. The

rejected at the last will be found to be those who wanted favoritism, BUT





                        Rules to be Observed in Choosing Rulers (vs. 6-18)


This paragraph may with advantage be compared with Exodus ch.18, in

which there is a fuller account of the circumstances under which the choice

of judges and magistrates was proposed and made; this important step

towards the order and consolidation of the national life was taken at the

suggestion of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. Referring to the

exposition of that chapter for the historic detail, we note here simply:


1. That the choice of rulers, etc., is put into the people’s hands; they are to

select, Moses is to ratify the selection


2. They are to choose men of righteousness, who will fear God and do



3. When the judges are chosen, Moses seeks solemnly to impress on them

the high and holy responsibilities of their office.


4. The supreme reason for this care in judging rightly is found in the fact

that the cause is God’s, i.e. that they are rulers under God and for Him —

representing Divine laws in the earthly sphere. The state is sacredly to be

governed by the laws of righteousness, and BY SUCH LAWS ALONE!

Hence a subject is opened up to us which is of no small moment, viz.

Principles and facts to be borne in mind in choosing rulers of the people.





MOMENTOUS CONCERN. It matters comparatively little, so far as our

present topic is concerned, what may be the peculiar form of government

adopted, or what may be the mode of choosing men for office in the State.



Ø      The position such men occupy is an exalted one. It is self-evident that

when they have to take part in governing or carrying out the laws of the

land, it is of the utmost moment that they should be men who are capable

of perceiving what measures will tend to the people’s good. A country may

be perishing from the want of good laws, if its rulers are not competent,

wise, and just.


Ø      The influence such men wield in private circles is largely increased from

the fact of their public position.


Ø      Their representative character is another element of great moment.

Great men and good will elevate common questions to their own level;

while worthless men will fail to appreciate the importance of the greatest

questions of the day.


4. The great matters which may — nay, must — come before the rulers of

a nation, are such as may involve that nation’s honor or discredit among

the nations of the world; yet, more, they are such as will do much,

according as they are decided, to bring upon a people the blessing or the

wrath of Almighty God! Hence:





THEIR COUNTRY AND THEIR GOD! The decisions of earthly judges

ought to be the earthly expression of heavenly law. Hence to let whim, or

caprice, or passion, or partisanship carry us away, when such concerns are

at issue, and to forget the everlasting laws of righteousness, is to tamper

with the public interest, and to betray a solemn trust. Therefore —




18:21.) Even a pagan felt this. It was the priest of Midian who said, “Thou

shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of

truth, hating covetousness” — a fourfold qualification, so comprehensive

that, where it is possessed, a man may be safely entrusted with any office.

Such men will undertake their work as those who are responsible to God;

they will ever be on the look out to perceive what the interests of their

country may require at their hands; they will seek to qualify themselves to

take part in the public questions which will come before them; without

seeking their own honor, they will aim at judging as is wisest and best; and

their supreme aim will be that the government they help to administer

should be ever in harmony with righteousness and truth. If all its public

men answer all these requirements, a country cannot go far wrong; but if a

nation’s leaders are themselves lacking in virtue, how can there be any

security for that righteousness and truth which exalt a nation, when a

country is at the mercy of men who knew not the one neither regard the






DIVINE.The judgment is God’s,” says Moses. It is God’s judgment,

expressed through His own appointed officers (see Romans 13.). Secular

judgments should have sacred principles underlying them. And we cannot

divorce the secular from THE SACRED WITHOUT GREAT MISCHIEF

OCCURING! But, finally: the judgment is God’s in another sense.  HE IS

THE SUPREME JUDGE and whether men use their judgment well or ill,

GOD WILL EXERCISE HIS OWN!  The principles of the Divine government

of nations are developed by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, and others.

No nation can escape from the sway of the Mighty One; if God’s laws are

set at naught, HIS JUDGMENTS SHALL FOLLOW, that, while they are

abroad in the earth, the inhabitants thereof may learn righteousness.

(Isaiah 26:9)




The Blessing of Good Government (vs. 9-18)



the most difficult department of government, had been furnished for

Israel by the Supreme Mind of the universe; yet Moses found the task of

administration too much for a single arm. The aim of every ruler ought to

be, not personal power, but UNIVERSAL SERVICE — the greatest

good of the greatest number. No wise man will expose himself to the

tremendous temptation of personal aggrandizement. Beside, it is a boon

to others to exercise the faculties of discrimination and judgment.



SINGLE LAW, VIZ. PERSONAL MERIT. To lift the voice for an

unqualified ruler is a crime against the State — an injury, and not a benefit,

to the person elect. To allow personal qualification to dominate the choice,

is to make God the umpire. This is, in civic affairs, “to do his will on earth

as it is done in heaven.”



STATE, FOR VARIOUS OFFICES. If a man cannot rule five thousand,

he may be able to rule fifty. (And if not fifty, “how about one?  self!”

“He that ruleth his spirit (is better than) than he that taketh a city.”

(Proverbs 16:32). Service in a subordinate station may qualify for

higher dignity. Gradation of rank best conserves the interests of the

nation. “Order is Heaven’s first law.”



(Romans 13:1-4) - “The judgment is God’s.” Magistrates act in God’s stead.

Parents likewise.  Every man is bound to act as God would act. He represents

God always and everywhere. All talent is a trust. We are the stewards of

God’s estate.



SECT. Every man, however poor or ignorant, is to be accounted a brother.

In the commonwealth of Israel there are no strangers. Nationality is but a

pasteboard separation. “God hath made of one blood all nations.”  (Acts

17:26)  The great divider is sin. A heaven-kindled eye penetrates through

every crust of barbarism and vice, and sees a man beneath. Here is a kingly

nature, though now enslaved.



APPROBATION. In the ratio of material abundance and contentment, is

increase of population. It was one of the presages of Messiah’s kingdom,

“they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.” (Psalm 72:16)  In

heathen lands population is sparse. War and pestilence decimate the ranks.

In proportion as sound Christianity prevails, the subjects of the state

augment. Every additional man ought to be an increment of strength and




GOVERNMENT. Promise always waits on prayer, as harvest waits on the

husbandman’s toil. However abundant are the promises, yet for the

fulfillment God will be inquired of to do it for us. When prayer has its root

in God’s specific promise, it must bear fruit in proportion as faith enlarges

her boughs. This is wise building, for we found our expectations upon

eternal rock.



Patriotism is a goodly virtue, though not the noblest. To fence ourselves

round with selfish interests is despicable. We envy not that man’s narrow

soul who has no sympathy nor energy for his nation’s weal. The best

Christian will take some interest in everything — in municipal matters,

international treaties, literature, science, commerce, art. In the broadest

sense, he is a citizen of the world. He lives to bless others. This is Christ




Here in vs. 19-23,  Moses passes from the judges to the people at large;

from charging officials to judge righteously, to reminding the people that

they also had received from him commandments which they had to obey.

The “things” referred to are either the injunctions specified in Exodus 21,

or simply the instructions mentioned in the preceding verses. God had called the

Israelites out of Egypt that they should go up at once to Canaan, and He had by

Moses done all that was needed for this. But they had been rebellious, and had

opposed God’s commands, the consequence of which was that they had been

made to experience various trials, especially to wander nearly forty years in

the wilderness, so that of those who came out of Egypt only two were privileged

to see the Promised Land. The words of Moses in this section supplement and

complete the narrative in Numbers 13.; but the words are those, not of a compiler,

but of one who had been himself a witness of all he narrates.


19 “And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great

and terrible wilderness,” -  the desert forming the western side of the Stony Arabia.

It bears now the name of Et-Tih, i.e. The Wandering, a name “doubtless derived

from the wanderings of the Israelites, the tradition of which has been handed down

through a period of three thousand years It is a pastoral country; unfitted as a whole for

cultivation, because of its scanty soil and scarcity of water” (Dr. Porter, in

Kitto’s ‘Biblical Cyclopedia,’ vol. 3. p. 1075). In the northern part

especially the country is rugged and bare, with vast tracts of sand, over

which the scorching simoom often sweeps (see on v. 1). This wilderness

they had seen, had known, and had experience of, and their experience had

been such that the district through which they had been doomed to wander

appeared to them dreadful. Passing by the way of the Amorites, as they had

been commanded (v. 7), they came to Kadesh-barnea (see Numbers 12:16).

Their discontent broke out oftener than once, before they reached

this place (see Numbers 11., 12.); but Moses, in this recapitulation, passes

over these earlier instances of their rebelliousness, and hastens to remind

them of the rebellion at Kadesh (Numbers 13 &14.), because it was this

which led to the nation being doomed to wander in the wilderness until the

generation that came out of Egypt had died. It was through faith in God

that Canaan was to be gained and occupied by Israel; but this faith they

lacked, and so they came short of what God had summoned them to attain

(Psalm 78:22; 106:24; Hebrews 3:18-19; compare II Chronicles 20:20;

Isaiah 7:9). Hence, when they had come to the very borders of the Promised Land,

and the hills of Canaan were before their eyes, and Moses said to them, in the name

of  God, “which ye saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites, as the

LORD our God commanded us; and we came to Kadeshbarnea.”




                                 “That Great and Terrible Wilderness.” (v. 19)


An emblem of the rough and afflictive way by which God leads His people

to the higher rest.



exaggerate. We admit all that can be said of the world as a fair and

delightful residence, in which we have much to make us happy. But it

cannot be denied that the picture has a darker side. The man who has

drunk deepest of the world’s pleasures is he who can tell best how

unsatisfying it is as a portion for the spirit. There are more sad and weary

hearts in this same world than a glance at the surface of society would lead

us to suspect. There are numbers to whom life is one hard, dreary, terrible,

hopeless struggle with adverse conditions. The joy of a life is often blighted

by a solitary stroke; and in how many cases does some secret grief embitter

what seems from the outside a prosperous existence! The believer is no

more exempt than others from these ordinary griefs of life — from poverty,

trial, pain, bereavement. But he has thoughts and feelings of his own,

which add to the pain of his situation. He is a Christian, and contact with

the world’s evil tries and grieves him as it will not do a worldly man. (II Peter

2:8)  His hope is beyond, and this makes earth, with its imperfect conditions,

its broken ideals, its unsatisfied yearnings, seem drearier to him. (see

Ecclesiasties 3:11)  Like his Master, his ear is quicker to catch the strain of

human woe — “the still sad music of humanity” — than the strain of noisier

mirth. All this compels him to look at life prevailingly under an aspect of

privation, discipline, and trial, and it is in no unreal sense that he speaks of

it as the “wilderness.” When troubles crowd in on him, it is literally, as to

others, “waste and howling” (ch. 32:10),  a “great and terrible” desert.





Ø      In part the discipline is inevitable bound up with the conditions of

existence in a world “made subject to vanity.” (Romans 8:20)  But:


Ø      The discipline is useful.


o       It tries and proves the heart (ch. 8:2).

o       It accustoms to hardship.

o       It develops the nobler qualities of character — faith, patience,

resignation, etc. (Romans 5:3).

o       It makes the rest sweeter when it comes (Revelation 7:14;



20 And I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain of the

Amorites, which the LORD our God doth give unto us.  21  Behold, the

LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it,

as the   LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be




                                                Courage (v. 21)


“Fear not, neither be discouraged” (compare Joshua 1:7, 9).




Ø      The enemies are many.

Ø      The enemies are strong.

Ø      Humanly speaking, we are feeble in comparison with them.


Distinguishing between real and nominal Christianity, it might be plausibly

held that there is today greater talent, intellectual power, wealth, rank, and

social influence enlisted on the side of unbelief than on the side of faith.

But the true citadel of unbelief is THE EVIL HEART;  and what powers

of our own are sufficient to storm that?




Ø      God is with us. Our cause is His cause.

Ø      He has promised victory, and He is able to keep His promise.

Ø      The past should encourage us.


The Church can never come through greater conflicts than those in which

she has already proved herself victorious.


22 And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, 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 up, and into what cities we shall come.

23 And the saying pleased me well: and I took twelve men of you, one

of a tribe:  24 And they turned and went up into the mountain, and came

unto the valley of Eshcol, and searched it out.  25 And they took of the

fruit of the land in their hands, and brought it down unto us, and brought

us word again, and said, It is a good land which the LORD our God doth

give us.  26 Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the

commandment of the LORD your God:”  They were thus rebellious against

the commandment (literally, the mouth, the express will) of Jehovah their God;

and not only so, but with signal ingratitude and impiety they murmured against

Him, and attributed their deliverance out of Egypt to God’s hatred of them,

that He might destroy them (see Numbers 13:1-33, to which the narrative here



27 “And ye murmured in your tents,” -  an allusion to what is recorded

in Numbers 14 - Moses addresses the people then with him as if they had been the

parties who so rebelled and murmured at Kadesh, though all that generation, except

himself, Joshua, and Caleb, had perished. This he does, not merely because of the

solidarity of the nation, but also that he might suggest to them the possibility that the

same evil spirit might still lurk among them, and consequently the need of being

on their guard against allowing it to get scope - “and said, Because the LORD

hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into

the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.”


28 “Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart,”

literally, hate melted or made to flow down our heart (הֵמַסּוּ, Hiph. compare מָסַס, to

flow down or melt), have made us faint hearted - “saying, The people is greater

and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven;” - literally,

are great and fortified in the heavens. To their excited imagination, the walls and

towers of the cities seemed as if they reached the very sky; so when men cease to

have faith in God, difficulties appear insurmountable, and the power of

the adversary is exaggerated until courage is paralyzed and despair banishes

hope -  “and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.”-

elsewhere (Numbers 13:22; Joshua 15:14; Judges 1:20) children or sons of the

Anak. ‘Anak may originally have been the proper name of an individual, but it appears

in the Bible rather as the designation of the tribe. It is the word for neck, and this race,

which were strong and powerful men, or their progenitor, may have been

remarkable for thickness of neck; this, at least, is more probable than that it

was from length of neck that they got the name, for a long neck is usually associated

with weakness rather than strength. Some have supposed the Anakim to have been

originally Cushites; but the origin of the tribe is involved in obscurity.


In vs. 29-40, Moses endeavors to rouse the drooping courage of the

people, and persuade them to go up by reminding them that God, who was

with them, would go before them, and fight for them as He had often done

before; but without success, so that God was angry with them, and forbade

their entrance into Canaan. This is not mentioned in Numbers, probably

because Moses’ appeal was unsuccessful. The whole of that generation

was bound to fall in the wilderness, except Caleb and Joshua; only their

children should enter the Promised Land.


29 “Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them.

30 The LORD your God which goeth before you, He shall fight for

you, according to all that He did for you in Egypt before your eyes;”

Moses exhorts the people not to be afraid, as if they had to encounter these

terrible enemies solely in their own strength; for Jehovah their God was with

them and would go before them, as He had gone before them hitherto, to

protect them and strike down their enemies.


31 “And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD

thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye

went, until ye came into this place.” Not only at the Red Sea did God appear

for the defense of His people and the discomfiture of their enemies, but also in

the wilderness, which they had seen (as in v. 19), where (אֲשֶׂר, elliptically for

אֲשֶׂר בו))  Jehovah their God bore them as a man beareth his son,

 sustaining, tending, supporting, and carrying them over difficulties

(compare Numbers 11:12, where a similar figure occurs; see also Isaiah 46:3-4;

63:9; Psalm 23.).


32 “Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God,” - literally,

With this thing [or With this word] ye were not believing in

Jehovah your God. The Hebrew דָבָר, like the Greek ρῆμα raema - signifies

Either thing or word. If the former rendering be adopted here, the meaning will

be, Notwithstanding this fact of which you have had experience, viz. how

God has interposed for your protection and deliverance, ye were still

unbelieving in Him. If the latter rendering be adopted, the meaning will be,

Notwithstanding what I then said to you, ye remained unbelieving, etc.

This latter seems the more probable meaning. In the Hebrew text there is a

strong stop (athnach) after this word, AS IF A PAUSE OF


this word, strange to say! Ye were not believing, etc. The participle (“believing”)

is intended to indicate the continuing of this unbelief.  33 “Who went in the

way before you,” -  Here the participle form is also used — “who was going in

the way before you,” to indicate that not once and again, BUT CONTINUALLY

THE LORD WENT BEFORE THEM and this made the sin of their unbelief

all the more marked and aggravated.  (For the fact here referred to, see Exodus

13:21-22, Numbers 9:15;10:33-36.) - “to search you out a place to pitch your

tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a

cloud by day.”


                                    Sending the Spies (vs. 19-33)


This paragraph contains a brief review of events which are recorded in

Numbers chapters 13 and 14. Israel had left the wilderness of Sinai; the cloud

now rested in the wilderness of Paran. At this point they were not very many

days’ journey from the land of promise. But it would seem that they did

not like to go in and take possession of the land without more information

than they as yet possessed as to its accessibility and its fitness for their

permanent home. So they proposed that spies should be sent ahead. We

gather that, at the desire of the people, Moses asked advice of the Lord,

and in consequence he was bidden to accede to their request. Twelve men

were sent. Ten brought an evil report of the land; two only were full of

heart and hope, strong in faith, giving glory to God. Numbers carried more

weight than worth. The report of ten overrode that of two. The people

would not believe the Lord. They said in their unbelief, “Let us make a

captain, and return into Egypt,” and even (Nehemiah 9:17) “appointed

a captain to return to their bondage.” And a sad and sorrowful glance does

Moses cast over the sin of that time. Let us glance at it too. We will

endeavor to gather a true estimate of the course which Israel took, taking

care, as we go on, to see how far the incidents recorded here convey

instruction to many whose feelings are analogous to theirs, In estimating

this case, let us look:




Ø      It was unnecessary. For they had been redeemed by a strong hand and

by a stretched-out arm from the bondage and degradation of Egypt; their

deliverance had been effected for them by the free love, spontaneous care,

and watchful providence of God. Surely it should not have been hard to

argue on this wise: “He who has shown us such wondrous mercy will not

be wanting to us to the end.” It was surely needless to send out any scouts

to Canaan, to survey the land before them. A wiser and better care than

theirs had done this for them, and there was no more need for them to send

to spy out the land than to have sent pioneers to clear their way through

the deep! But, in thus chiding Israel, are we not really rebuking ourselves?

We have to bethink us of a rescue, before which that of Israel fades into

nothingness. And how has our rescue in Christ been effected? By our

power or skill? Nay, but by a wisdom, power, and love, which in blessed

union did combine IN THE CROSS OF CHRIST TO SAVE US!   Is not,

then, the inference more than warranted, “He that spared not His own Son,

but delivered Him up for us ALL, how shall He not with Him also freely

give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)  But if so, why need we strain our eyes

to pierce the gloom that hangs over our future course? We need not faithlessly



Ø      It was undesirable, and that on several grounds.


o        It was manifestly hindering their march.

o        They were confronted by the prospect of an accumulation of difficulties

which would come only one at a time.

o        Israel therefore darkened the present by prying into the future.


So it is now. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:34)

Our daily course, with its mingled comforts and cares, may be so peaceful

if we will calmly leave the future TO HIM WHO KNOWS AND PLANS

ALL, but if we, with our short foresight and our little strength, will foolishly

set before us in one perplexing combination all the difficulties which will

come only one by one; if we think and speak as if our God would leave us

alone when they come,we shall dishonor Him, and shade the present

by anticipating the future.



CAME ON THE REPORT OF THE SPIES. They resolved to go back and

to return to Egypt, and appointed a captain to lead them. It was:


o       one-sided,

o       forgetful,

o       ungrateful, and

o       ruinous.


Ø      It was one-sided. True, the sons of Anak were in the way. But who was

above them all? See Caleb’s putting of the case, in Numbers 14:6-9.


Ø      It was forgetful For was not the fact of all these enemies being in the

land explicitly named in one of the earliest promises (Exodus 3:17); and

had not God promised to drive them out?


Ø      It was ungrateful. After all the love which had been shown them, how

could they so requite it?


Ø      It was ruinous (see Numbers 14:33-38; here vs. 32-39).

But are there not some now who start fairly in the Christian race, or seem

to do so, and yet who, when some difficulty meets or threatens them, turn

back and go away (compare Matthew 13:20-21)? Nor can we safely neglect

the warning given in Hebrews 10:38. To quit the leadership of Christ

because of present or impending difficulties will be much more grievously

sinful than it was for Israel to propose to quit the leadership of Moses.

The four points named above will apply also here. It will be:


o        One-sided. For supposing, as we try to peer into the future, possible

     or even certain difficulties do present themselves, ought we not to

remember that with the demand on the strength there will be given

strength to meet the demand? (The Lord had said, “As thy days so

shall thy strength be.”  (ch. 33:25)  Why look at one without looking

at the other?


o        It will be forgetful. For what are the words of Holy Writ? What are we

bidden to expect? Have we ever been told that we are to have a smooth

path through life? Have we never read that “through much tribulation

we must enter the kingdom?” (Acts 14:22)  Have we not read that we

must expect to be “partakers” of Christ’s sufferings?  (I Peter 4:13)


o        It will be ungrateful. Did not our Savior tread a thorny path for us; and

have we no return to make in treading a thorny path for Him? Do we

thus intend to repay the sorrow and blood of Calvary?


o        It will be ruinous if we turn back. Difficulties we seek to shun will

be multiplied a hundred-fold. The ease we would fain secure will not

be ours. While, instead of having to conquer the sons of Anak, we

shall have to encounter the condemnation of our Savior and Lord.

Let us press onward still to the rest which remaineth.


§         On! for honor demands it.

§         On! for gratitude requires it.

§         On! for love, infinite love, expects it.

§         On! only a step at a time, and if the giant Anakim appear,


§         On! and if we come to Jericho’s walls, faith’s trumpet blast

shall bring them to the ground.

§         On! and you will have many a cluster of grapes sent to you by

            the Lord of the land, to show you its richness, and that you

may taste of its fruits ere you enter there!


Trust your God, ye people, follow the Lord fully, and not all the powers

of earth or hell shall keep you from THE PROMISED REST!





            The Unbelief in Sending and in Hearkening to the Spies (19-33)


Moses reminds his audience of the conduct of their fathers at Kadesh-barnea,

when exhorted to go up and possess the land. Duty was clear. They

had been brought up out of Egypt for the very purpose of entering into and

possessing the land of Canaan. But instead of courageously following the

path of duty, they resolved to send over spies. The result was an evil report

and an evil resolution on the people’s part not to attempt invasion. The

bitter end was death in the wilderness and exclusion from the land of




INHERITANCE. It was the promise of this land which led to the exodus.

The sojourn at Horeb was to organize the nation and give it laws. All was

ready for an entrance into the land. Its suitability was guaranteed in the

Divine promise; and if the people had been willing to walk by faith, then

the invasion would have been immediate and successful.



TO WALK BY SIGHT AND NOT BY FAITH. Moses at first approved of

it, although it never came from him. He thought that anything the spies saw

would only confirm them in the resolution to invade the land. But in

principle it was UNBELIEF IN GOD!  It was virtually resolving not to

follow His advice unless it seemed the best. It was putting clear duty to

the trial of prudence. It was a resolve to walk by appearances and not by faith.

(The New Testament confirms that we are “to walk by faith, not by sight!” 

II Corinthians 5:7 – CY – 2020)  And this is the universal tendency of the

human heart to do the opposite!  Prudence often conflicts

with faith and hinders wholesome action. Prudence has no voice in the

matter after God has spoken. He may lead us through over-prudence, in

absence of express commandment; but when the command is clear,

prudence should hide its head and allow faith to obey.




embarked on prudential considerations, they must needs follow them out to

their unbelieving end. The spies returned, and could not but acknowledge

that the land was good. From Eshcol they carried on a staff a bunch of

grapes sufficient of itself to vindicate the Divine choice of the land. “But

the inhabitants,” said ten of the spies, “are gigantic, and the cities walled up

to heaven; and there is no use in thinking of successfully invading it.” In

vain did Caleb and Joshua counsel courage instead of cowardice, faith

instead of fear. The people resolved to take counsel of their fears and

unbelief. They would not enter the land of promise. So is it often in the

lives of men. God offers salvation and a good land to all who will believe

upon Him. But men fear the giants and their castles. They imagine that the

difficulties of the life of faith are beyond their powers, and so shirk them.

But when God points out a path of difficulty, it is not that we may

encounter its perils in our own strength, BUT IN HIS!  Faith will carry us

through, while sense and sight are sure to fail us.




                                    The Mission of the Spies (vs. 22-33)


We see from two instances in this chapter how God’s plans leave wide

room for the independent action of the human mind. Moses got the

suggestion of appointing judges from Jethro; the idea of sending spies to

reconnoiter the Holy Land originated with the people. The source from

which it came made the motive of it doubtful, but as in itself a measure of

prudence, Moses was well pleased with it, and, with God’s permission,

adopted it. We have here:


·         A POLICY OF CAUTION. Caution is in itself a virtue. It is never wise

to rush into undertakings without well-planned measures. The more

knowledge we have to guide us in entering upon difficult duty the better.

The sending out of these spies was fitted to procure for the Israelites

valuable information as to the nature of the land, the best mode of attack,

the state of feeling among the inhabitants, etc. The Church would do well

to improve upon the hint thus given, and have men out on the field, to keep

a sharp watch on the fortifications and movements of the enemy, and bring

back intelligence which may encourage, guide, or otherwise help those

whose time and thought are devoted to the actual warfare.


·         AN UNEXPECTED RESULT OF THAT POLICY. The spies, with

two exceptions, brought back a most disheartening and ill-advised report.

We see here the danger of a policy of caution, when that springs from

over-fearfulness or an original indisposition to advance. When caution is

divorced from courage, and gets the upper hand, its natural tendency is to

neutralize enthusiasm, to concentrate attention on difficulties, to play into

the hands of those who don’t want to do anything, and to furnish them

with excuses and arguments for delay. It was so here. The real secret of the

desire of the people to have spies sent out was their lurking disbelief and

fear. The spies themselves shared in this fear. With the exception of Caleb

and Joshua, they seem to have had an eye for little else than difficulties.

They admitted the goodliness of the land, and brought with them a splendid

sample of its fruit (v. 25). But in every other respect their report was

calculated to dispirit.  It is a sad thing for the Church when those who

ought to animate and encourage her begin themselves to show the cowardly

spirit. Yet over-cautious people are apt, often unwittingly, to do the very

work of these spies, by magnifying difficulties, looking only to

discouragements, and standing in the way of plans and efforts which would

do great good.


·         A REBELLION OF THE PEOPLE. That rebellion was the result of

downright UNBELIEF (v. 32), and illustrates its work (compare Hebrews

3:19). We see in it how unbelief:


Ø      Looks only to the seen. They thought only of the size of the people and

the strength of the cities (v. 28). The help of their invisible King was to

them as if He were not. They had not the slightest hold upon the reality of it.


Ø      Looks only at the discouragements of duty. There was a bright side as well

as a dark one to the report brought to them, but nothing would make them

look at the bright one. The same two sides:


o        a bright and hopeful side, and

o        a side of difficulty —


exist in every situation, and it is a test of character which we are most

given to dwell upon.


Ø      Misreads the providence of God. What greater perversion of God’s kind

dealings could human nature be guilty of than that in v. 27?


Ø      Is blind to the lessons of the past. They had just been delivered from

Egypt, had seen mighty miracles, had been brought across the Red Sea,

had been strengthened to conquer the Amalekites, etc.; but all is already

forgotten.  (Thus the importance of studies of history.  Those who do not

know it are doomed to repeat it!  This is a criticism of modern education

in America.  Those who are for an overthrow from within do not want

young citizens to grow up knowing what is going on!  They are much

harder to control if they are in the know!  CY – 2020)


Ø      Issues in flat refusal to do Gods will. That is the upshot of unbelief,

wherever it exists. The report of the spies, confirmed by the grapes of

Eschol, suggests that there is very much in the world which makes it worth

conquering for Christ (genius, art, beautiful natural characteristics, etc.).




                                                Love in the Wilderness (vs. 31-33)


This is a beautiful passage, laden with God’s compassions. We have in it:


·         TENDER LOVE. The love is likened to that of the best of fathers to a

son (comparee Psalm 103:13). The New Testament goes further. It not only

likens God to a father, but tells us He is one. He is “our Father in heaven,”

the God and Father of Jesus Christ our Lord.” This full revelation of

Fatherhood only a Son could have given; and as given in the gospel it is the

believer’s daily comfort (Matthew 6:25-34).


·         CONSTANT CARE. This arises out of the relation and the love. It is a



Ø      Unceasing. “All the way.”

Ø      Provident. “Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place

to pitch your tents in.”

Ø      Comprehensive; embracing every want of our lives. God “bare” Israel,

i.e. took the entire charge of the nation upon Himself; the whole

responsibility of seeing them fed, led, clothed, kept, and brought safely

to their final destination. So does He provide for His children in Christ.

Ø      Tenderly sympathetic. “As a man doth bear his son.” And God has to

bear with, as well as bear us.


·         SPECIAL GUIDANCE. This is included in the care, but is more

prominent as a peculiar manifestation of it (v. 33). Guidance is never

wanting to those who need it. It is from day to day — just sufficient to

show us present duty. It is given in the Bible, in the indications of

providence, and in that inward illumination which enables us to discern the

Lord’s will in both, It was furnished to the Israelites through the pillar of

cloud and fire — the symbol:


Ø      Of fiery guardianship with grateful shade.

Ø      Of guiding light with attendant mystery.

Ø      Of light shining to us in the midst of dark providences.

Ø      Of the adaptation of God’s guidance to our needs — by day the

cloud, by night the fire.



34 “And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and

swear, saying,  (compare Numbers 14:21-24).  35 Surely there shall not one

of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I swear to

give unto your fathers." 



The Grievous Consequences of Unbelief  (vs. 32-35)


Moses rehearses in the hearing of Israel the strange story of “their manners

in the wilderness,” and reminds them how their unbelief had provoked the

Lord to anger, and had deprived vast numbers of them of the rest they had

hoped to enjoy. We ought to be at no loss how to apply this to present day

uses. The Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, renews the warning voice.

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, both by argument and

exhortation, repeatedly says, Take heed lest a like evil befall you

(Hebrews 3:7-19; 4:1-11). Whence observe:



arrangements apparently failing of their end through the misconduct of



Ø      God had made provision for securing the entrance of Israel into their

land. Early had the promise been made. Long and patiently did the

patriarchs await its fulfillment (Hebrews 11:13). God had watched over

His people’s wanderings. He beheld them in Egypt. When the time for

liberating them was come, Moses was at hand. Israel had but to stand still,

and see the salvation of the Lord, again and again.


o        The Law was given from Sinai.

o        Manna descended from heaven.

o        Water gushed from the rock.

o        The pillar of fire and of cloud was their guard, light, or shade.

o        They knew what God intended to do for them.

o        The promise was clear;

o        the conditions were plain;

o        the warnings were solemn;

o        the threatenings were terrible.


No excuse of ignorance could be pleaded by the people. Yet:


Ø      All were insufficient to prevent their defection of heart from God. They

were perpetually doubting God. “Ten times" Numbers 14:22).

Unbelief led to the breaking forth of lust. They forfeited the promise; and

of the many thousands who started for Egypt only two survived to enter

Canaan. “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

          (Hebrews 3:19)





already a parallel in mercy.


Ø      There is a complete arrangement for meeting all our wants on the

way to a nobler rest.

Ø      In treading the way, we have a far better Leader than Moses.

Ø      We have far clearer light than Israel had.

Ø      We have fuller and richer promises.

Ø      We have a far higher rest in view.

Ø      Throughout the way there will be demands on our faith.

Ø      There is a danger from within, lest we should distrust God.


Are we not conscious of such a danger? Our hearts are sinful, and

predisposed to doubt. We have doubted God very much, and thus wronged

Him in times gone by. Such unbelief may take or may have taken the form

of presumption or of despair. For an illustration of the former, see next

Homily (vs. 41-46). The latter kind of unbelief may be almost indefinitely

varied. Men may doubt:


Ø      the power of God to bring them to the rest; or

Ø      the willingness of God to do it; or

Ø      the readiness of God to bring them to the rest, without

questioning His care for others; or they may even go so far as to

doubt whether the promises of the rest be Divine;

Ø      whether there is any such rest as the one promised; and even

Ø      whether there is any God of promise.


Whichever of these forms a despairing unbelief may assume, the evil of it is

sufficiently manifest. It is the greatest dishonor which we can cast on God,

to allow the thought to gain the mastery, that we are flung down hither

without any sure destiny of blessedness being disclosed, or without any

certainty of reaching it being made known. Besides, doubt prevents work;

it paralyzes. Doubting God gives the rein to every lust.


Ø      And unless we take heed,” if we suffer doubt to get the mastery, as

Israel lost their rest, we shall lose ours. What present rest can we have

while unbelief has the upper hand? Doubt is essentially unrest. How can

we enjoy any future rest? What sympathy with God can we have?

Besides, God declares, “They shall not enter into my rest.” In that

heavenly rest none can or will share who do not implicitly believe

the promise and loyally obey the precept.


Ø      And how much more serious it will be to trifle with Christ, than to slight

Moses (Hebrews 10:28-31) But there is a very bright side to this

subject. While unbelief will shut us out of heaven, nothing else will!

Nothing can shut us out of heaven but DOUBTING GOD!   


o       Poverty cannot.

o       Persecution cannot.

o       Reproach cannot.

o       Obscurity cannot.


No one shall ever sink WHO TRUSTS GOD!  See that young and

weak believer who has turned his back on the world, and set his face

heavenward. A thousand difficulties bristle up in all directions. But

he meets them all, saying:


o       “God called me,

o       God will help me,

o       God will lead me, and

o       God will guard me.”


“A feeble saint shall win the day,

Though death and hell obstruct the way!”


Yea, even so! “Them that honor me,” saith God, “I will honor.

(I Samuel 2:30)  But, must we not look to Him who awakened our faith,

to sustain it? ‘Tis even so.  Ever have we to say, “Give what thou

commandest, and then command what thou wilt.” “Lord, we believe;

help thou our unbelief.”  (Matthew 9L24)  And is there not enough

revealed of God and of His wondrous love in Christ to put every doubt

to flight, when all that God is to us is laid home to our hearts

by the Holy Ghost? Here, indeed, is a quickening, inspiring, sustaining

force, of which Israel knew little or nothing. “Greater is He that is for

us than all they which be against us.” “He that spared not His own

Son, but gave Him up for us all, how shall He not with him also

freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)  Let us doubt ourselves as

much as we will, but our God and Savior — never. He hath said,

“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”  (Hebrews 13:5)  “Hath

 he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he not

make it good?”  (Numbers 23:19)



36  Save Caleb the  son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the

land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly

followed the LORD.”  They were all, the whole generation of them, evil, and

therefore not a man of them should see the good land which God had promised

to their fathers, with the exception of Caleb, who had wholly followed the Lord

had remained steadfast and faithful whilst the others fell away. Joshua also was

exempted from this doom; but before mentioning him, Moses refers to himself

as having also come under the Divine displeasure.


37 “Also the LORD was angry with me” – This must be regarded as parenthetical,

for what he here refers to in regard to himself occurred, not at the time of

the rebellion at Kadesh, but at the time of the second arrival of the people

at that place, many years later. This parenthetical reference to himself was

probably thrown in by Moses for the purpose of preparing for what he was

about to say respecting Joshua, in whom the people were to find a leader

after he himself was gone. It may be noted also that Moses distinguishes

between the anger of the Lord against him, and the wrath which broke

forth upon the people — a distinction which is aptly preserved in the

Authorized Version by the words “was wroth” (קָצפ) and “was angry”

(אָנַפ) - “for your sakes,” - rather, because of you, on accent of you. The

Hebrew word (גָלָל) comes from a root meaning to roll, and signifies

primarily a turn in events, a circumstance, an occasion or reason. Moses

reminds the Israelites that the misconduct of the people was what led to

God’s being angry also with him (see Numbers 20:7-13; compare Psalm

106:32-33) – “saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither.”


Though the rebellious generation were to perish, and Moses was not to be permitted

to enter Canaan, God would not depart from His promise, but would by another

leader bring the people to the inheritance which He had sworn to their fathers to give

them. (For the account of Joshua’s appointment and installation, see Numbers



38 “But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee,” -  i.e. to be

thy minister or servant (Exodus 24:13; 33:11; Numbers 11:28; compare for the

meaning of the phrase Deuteronomy 10:8; 18:7; Daniel 1:5) - “he shall go

in thither: encourage him:” - literally, strengthen him (compare ch.3:21-22; 31:7-8).

“for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.” - The“it refers back to v. 35, “that good

 land.” In vs. 8 and 21, the land is spoken of as to be possessed by the Israelites; here

it is spoken of as to be inherited by them. The former has reference to their having to

wrest the land by force from the Canaanites (יָרַשׁ - to occupy by force, to dispossess;

ch.2:12, 21-22, where the verb is, in the Authorized Version, rendered by “destroy’’);

the latter has reference to their receiving the land as a heritage (נָןחל) from God, who,

when He divided to the nations their inheritance, assigned Canaan to the children of

Israel (Deuteronomy 32:8).  Joshua was the executor of the inheritance.


39 “Moreover your little ones,” - Only among the young of that generation should

the inheritance be divided, as they had no part in the rebellion of their seniors.

Your little ones; i.e. children beginning to walk (טַפ, from טָפַפ, to trip, to

take short and quick steps) -  “which ye said should be a prey, and your

children,” -  boys and girls - “which in that day had no knowledge between good

and evil,” –  rather, of whom [ye said] they know not today good and evil. The

Hebrews were wont to express totality or universality by specifying contradictory

opposites, as, e.g. great and small (II Chronicles 34:30), master and scholar

(Malachi 2:12), free and bond (Revelation 13:16; 19:18), shut up and left (ch. 32:36,

where see note; I Kings 14:10). Accordingly, when good and evil are set over against

each other, the notion of entireness or universality is expressed. Thus, when

Laban and Bethuel said to Abraham’s servant “We cannot speak unto thee

bad or good” (Genesis 24:50), the meaning is, We can say nothing at all. Absalom

spake to Amnon “neither good nor bad” (II Samuel 13:22); that is, he did not say

anything to him. The woman of Tekoa said to David, “As an angel of God, so is my

 lord the king to discern good and bad” (II Samuel 14:17); i.e. There is nothing the

king does not know — his knowledge is universal. Hence to know good and evil came to

mean to be intelligent, and not to know good and evil to be unintelligent, as is a

babe. The children here referred to knew nothing, and consequently could not be held

as morally responsible; (compare Isaiah 7:15) - “they shall go in thither, and unto

them will I give it, and they shall possess it.”


                                                                        Οἴδα ἔκαστα
                        ἐσθλά τε καὶ χέρεια παρὸς δ ἔτι νήπιος ἠᾶ


40 “But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness

by the way of the Red sea.” The command to go to the mount of the Amorites

(v. 7) is recalled, and they are ordered to turn into the wilderness and go by the

way leading to the Red Sea (compare Numbers 14:25).


The people, appalled at the prospect of another sojourn in the wilderness, yet

still rebellious and disobedient to God’s command, though professing penitence,

determined, in spite of direct prohibition on the part of God by Moses, to go up

 and force their way into Canaan; but were punished for their presumption by

being utterly defeated and put to flight by the Amorites (compare Numbers





                                    The Excluded and the Admitted (vs. 34-40)


·         THE EXCLUDED.


Ø      That whole unbelieving generation, with two excerptions (v. 35).



o        Their unbelief and disobedience did not frustrate God’s purpose of the

occupation of the land. Canaan was occupied after all. So heaven will

be peopled, the world conquered, and God’s work done, though we

in our folly and sin rebel and stand aloof (Matthew 3:9). “It remaineth

that some must enter in” (Hebrews 4:6).


o        Their unbelief and disobedience effectually excluded themselves.

      God swore it in His wrath, and the sentence admitted of no reversal.

A foreshadowing of the final exclusion from heaven of those who

PERSISTENTLY DISOBEY  (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 13:24-29;

Hebrews 4:11; Revelation 22:11-16).


Ø      The holy Moses (v. 37; compare ch. 3:26; 4:21; 34:4). The exclusion

      of Moses will be more fully considered afterwards, but we learn

from it here that God’s apparent severity is often greatest to His own

people (Amos 3:2), and that the share which others have had in leading

us into sin does not abate our own responsibility in the commission of it.

This greater apparent severity:


o       repels the charge of favoritism;

o       gives a peculiarly impressive demonstration of the evil of sin;

o       reminds us that sin in God’s people is more dishonoring to

      Him than it is in others;

o       warns the wicked.


For if judgment begin at the righteous, “what shall the end be of them

 that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be

saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (I Peter 4:17-18).


·         THE ADMITTED. These were to be:


Ø      The faithful two — Caleb and Joshua (vs. 36, 38). The former is

signalized as having “wholly followed the Lord,” and Joshua was a

man of like faith and staunchness in a time of general defection.

Such persons God will singularly preserve and honor. Their place in

heaven will be a high one. “We must, in a course of obedience to

God’s will and of service to His honor, follow Him:


o       universally, without dividing;

o       uprightly, without dissembling;

o       cheerfully, without disputing; and

o       constantly, without declining;


and this is following the Lord fully” (Matthew Henry, on

Numbers 14:24).


Ø      The younger generation (v. 39). Instead of the

fathers, God would take the children. What a rebuke:


o       of their groundless fears. “Your little ones, which ye said

      should be a prey.”

o       of their unmanly cowardice. Their little children, types of

      all that was humanly feeble, would do the work they were

afraid to attempt.

o       of their inconsiderate selfishness. They were not ashamed

      to hand down to these children their own abandoned life-tasks,

with all the work and peril, if also with all the reward and honor,

attending their accomplishment. Was not this to make themselves

objects of contempt to their own offspring? “Let no man take

thy crown” (Revelation 3:11), least of all thine own child,



41 “Then ye answered and said unto me, We have sinned” - in Numbers it is

simply said that “the people mourned greatly” (bemoaned themselves, יִתְאַבְּלוּ;

but this is not incompatible with the statement here that they confessed their sins; the

one would naturally accompany the ether. Their confession, however, was in

word only; their conduct showed that it was not sincere - “against the

LORD, we will go up and fight, according to all that the LORD our

God commanded us. And when ye had girded on every man his

weapons of war,” –  In Numbers 14:44 it is said, “They presumed to go up;”

here it is said  “ye were ready to go up into the hill.’ - Rather, ye acted heedlessly

with levity, or frivolity, to go up. The verb here (וַתָּהִינוּ) occurs only in this place,

and is of doubtful signification. The Rabbins compare it with the הננו, lo we! here

we be! Of the people in Numbers 14:40. It is the Hiph. of הוּן which is supposed

to be the same as the Arabic , to be light, easy; and from, this the meaning,

“ye went up heedlessly” is deduced. None of the ancient versions, however,

give this meaning. The Septuagint has συναθροισθέντες ἀνεβαίνετε εἰς τὸ ὄρος -

sunathroisthentes anebainete eis to orospresumed to go up into the hill

country - the Vulgate, instructi armis pergeretis in montem; Onk., ושׁרתון למסק

(and ye began to ascend); Syriac, <ARABIC> (and ye incited yourselves

to go up).


42 “And the LORD said unto me, Say unto them. Go not up, neither

fight; for I am not among you; lest ye be smitten before your enemies.”

Moses, by the command of God, warned the people that, if they presumed to

go up, they should go without His protection, and so would certainly fall

before their enemies.


In vain were they thus warned. Moses spoke to them as God commanded,

but they would not be persuaded.


43 “So I spake unto you; and ye would not hear, but rebelled against

the commandment of the LORD, and went presumptuously” -  rather,

acted insolently and went up; margin, Authorized Version, “Ye

were presumptuous, and went up” The verb here ((חֵזִיד, from זוּד to boil)

signifies tropically, to act proudly, haughtily, insolently (compare Nehemiah

9:29, Authorized Version, “dealt proudly”) -“up into the hill.”


44 “And the Amorites,” - for the Canaanites generally; in Numbers, the

Amalekites are specially mentioned as joining with the Amorites in

chastising the Israelites. These tribes came down from the higher mountain

range to the lower height which the Israelites had gained, and drove them

with great slaughter as far as Hormah, in Seir, chasing them as bees do,

which pursue with keen ferocity those who disturb them. Hormah (Ban-place),

the earlier name of which was Zephath (Judges 1:17), was a royal city of the

Canaanites, taken by the Israelites towards the close of their wanderings, and

placed by them under a ban (Numbers 21:1-3), which ban was fully executed only

in the time of the Judges. It is here and elsewhere called Hormah by anticipation.

The old name Zephath seems to have survived that given to it by the Israelites in

the name Sebaita or Sepata, the Arabic form of Zephath, the name of a heap of

ruins on the western slope of the rocky mountain-plateau Rakhmah, about two hours

and a half south-west of Khalasa (Ritter, ‘Geography of Palestine,’ 1:431;

Palmer, ‘Desert of Et-Tih,’ p. 289, etc.). This is a more probable

identification than that of Robinson (‘Res.,’ 2:18), who finds Hormah in

the rocky defile of Es-Sufah, an unlikely place for a city of the importance

of Zephath to be in - “which dwelt in that mountain, came out against

you, and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you in Seir, even

unto Hormah.”


45 “And ye returned” -  i.e. either to Kadesh, where Moses had

remained, or from their rebellious and defiant attitude to one of apparent

submission and contrition, or the whole phrase, “Ye returned and wept,”

may mean merely that they wept again, as in Numbers 11:4, where the

same words are used. “and wept” - They mourned their misfortune, and

complained on account of it (compare for the meaning of the phrase, Numbers

11:4, 18, 20) -  “before the LORD;” - Before Jehovah; i.e. before the

tabernacle or sanctuary (compare Judges 20:23, 26). Their mourning was not that

of true repentance, and, therefore, the Lord would not listen to them or give

heed to their wail (compare Proverbs 1:24) - “but the LORD would

not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you.”


46 “So ye abode in Kadesh many days, according unto the days that ye

abode there.” It was unnecessary that Moses should tell the people the

precise length of time they abode in Kadesh after this, because that was

well known to them; he, therefore, contents himself with saying that they

remained there as long as they did remain (compare for a similar expression,

Deuteronomy 9:25). How long they actually remained there cannot be

determined, for the expression, many days, is wholly indefinite.




                        Irrecoverableness of Wasted Opportunity (vs. 19-46)



UNPREPARED TO OCCUPY IT. The point of time referred to here was

the supreme moment in Israel’s history. They had relinquished Egypt,

endured privation, performed a toilsome journey, for one object, viz. to

possess Canaan; yet, when they touched the threshold of the inheritance,

they failed to rise to the conception of their privilege. They:


Ø      hesitated,

Ø      dawdled,

Ø      feared and

Ø      FAILED!


Men play with opportunity as a toy, and when their eyes open to see its value,

lo! it has vanished! Possibly, there is a supreme moment in every man’s history;

yet often he is too indolent to improve it. Every morning is not a May-day.

Many reach the margin of a glorious destiny, and then turn back to the desert.

The path of duty is very plain; but self-indulgence makes us blind as a mole.



thought themselves very sagacious to suggest the experiment of the spies;

and God endured their whim. Yet there was no reason for this precaution.

With God as a Pioneer and Protector, they might have known that it was

safer to follow the fiery pillar than to remain at ease in their tents. The

command was plain — “Go up and possess.” Therefore all delay, and all

reconnoitering, was sin. If we were to deal honestly with inclination, if

every whisper of conscience were obeyed, we should often see through the

thin guise of our own pretences; we should strip the veneer of insincerity

from our deeds. In some dark cavern of our hearts we may find, by honest

search, some wish that we are ashamed to avow. There is often a

conspiracy in the man against himself. We hunt for excuses to cover




RANK REBELLION. The report of the spies confirmed the word of God.

This always accords with external fact, and with human experience. God

had not said that the Canaanites were few or weak. What mattered it how

tall and brawny they were, if so be God were on their side, and fought for

them? Old Unbelief is a fool, and ought to be decorated with cap and bells.

Unbelief is poison, and saps the basis of our strength, enervates our

courage, and melts our iron into flux. Unbelief develops into falsehood,

and perverts the truth of God into lying. Unbelief maligns and traduces

God — charges him with the basest crime. It calls evil good; purest love it

styles blackest hate. It is the essence of blasphemy. It is the CRIME of

CRIMES – the seed of misery – THE GERM OF HELL!



      Much that human judgment deems to be retribution is not

penalty. Bodily suffering is usually corrective, not destructive. The

retributions of God are co-related to the sin. Men pamper the passion for

drink: inappeasable thirst shall be their doom. Men say to God, “Depart

from me!” God responds, “Depart from me!” The Hebrews would not

march into possession of Canaan: therefore they shall dwell and die in the

desert. Retribution is related to sin as fruit to blossom — as wages to

work. There comes a point where return is impossible. God swears that it

shall be so. The oath is AN OATH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS!  Nevertheless,

out of the crowds of the nameless ungodly, individual liegemen shall be

honored, even Caleb and Joshua. These are elect spirits — choice natures.

In the day of overwhelming calamity, God does not overlook the solitary

righteous. “He hideth him in the hollow of His hand.” The proofs of

inviolable equity are written in gigantic capitals on the heavens and on the




REALITY. Cowardly and disobedient Hebrews pretended a far-reaching

concern for their children. “If we are slain in this invasion of Canaan, what

will become of our little ones?”thus argued these malcontents. “Can we

endure to think that they shall become a prey to these human wolves?”

They were frightened at a mirage — terrified at the shadow of their own

folly. Facts were the very reverse of their fears. These little ones” God

would take into training — drill them by the hardy discipline of the

wilderness, and qualify them for warfare and for conquest.



confession of our folly, and yet no repentance; promise of amendment, yet

no repentance. There may be poignant regret for the past, bitter shame,

sharp remorse, deep compunction, severe self-judgment, yet no repentance.

For repentance is soul-submission unto God. It brings our feeling, desire,

will, into harmony with God’s feeling and will. Repentance has not

thoroughly penetrated the soul until we love what God loves, and hate

what God hates. True repentance works for righteousness. Deceit may so

worm itself in the heart as to intertwine itself round every fiber of our

being. We may ultimately become so blind as not to discern between truth

and falsehood. The repentance of these Jews was a carnal sorrow that

produced fruits OF DEATH!



dishonor God as much by going beyond the line of duty, as by falling short

of it. Each alike is an act of disobedience. We cannot atone for cowardice

yesterday by an excess of rashness today. The essence of obedience is

promptitude. It is not the same whether we observe the command today, or

tomorrow. Between the two there may be a gulf deep as hell itself. The

prohibitions of God are as sacred as His positive commands. What is a duty

today may be a sin tomorrow, because the precept may be withdrawn.

Some commands are eternally permanent; some have only temporary



·         REPENTANCE OFTEN COMES TOO LATE. During lifetime,

repentance has moral productiveness. We may not attain the precise object,

which by repentance we hoped to gain; nevertheless, real repentance brings

relief and gladness to the soul! Esau was afterwards a better man for his

repentance, though he could not recover his birthright. To these Hebrews,

repentance came too late for them ever to possess the earthly Canaan: let

us hope it availed to gain them the heavenly. It is possible for repentance,

long-delayed, to be unavailing. “Because,” says God, “I have called, and ye

refused ... I also will laugh at your calamity, Then shall they call upon me,

but I will not answer.” (Proverbs 1:26-28) “He swore in His wrath, They

shall not enter into my rest.”   (Psalm 95:11)  When all gracious remedies

are exhausted, “it is impossible to renew men unto repentance.”  (Hebrews

4:4-6)  It is a perilous thing to tamper with conscience, or to trifle with God.




                                    The Heirs of Promise (vs. 34-46)


We have in this passage the result of unbelief. The dread of the people was

lest their little ones should become a prey to their gigantic foes in Canaan.

The Lord now declares that these little ones shall be the possessors of the

land, while they themselves shall be denied an entrance, since they refused

it when offered to them. The only exceptions are to be Joshua and Caleb,

who made the good report and gave the good counsel. Even Moses is

included in the doom of exclusion. The subsequent attempt and the

subsequent tears had no effect in reversing the deserved sentence. We learn

from this passage such practical lessons as these:



The Promised Land lay open to the Israelites, who had been mercifully

guided to its gates. The all-important “Now,” the time for decisive action

had come, and it remained with them to determine whether they would go

in and receive the blessing, or remain without. They preferred to delay, to

trifle with the offer, and so the time went past. So sinners are offered

pardon and acceptance as an immediate boon (II Corinthians 6:2), but

when the offer is despised and trifled with, it may be withdrawn

(Proverbs 1:24-33).



people saw the mistake they had made, they would go up and fight in a

spirit of presumptuous chagrin. They now fought without commissions.

The result was disastrous defeat, and a hurling of them back from the gates

of Palestine to the great and terrible wilderness. God was not with them in

their presumption, since they would not follow Him in humble faith.

So may it be with sinners. Despised mercy may be succeeded by deserved

defeat. The wild and proud efforts of presumption are in stark contrast to

the quiet courage of faith. Toil and tears may be insufficient to retrieve

disaster when once courted by unbelief.




wholly following the Lord and in counseling courage, showed an humble

faith. They stood alone faithful in face of an unbelieving majority, and God

gave them a corresponding assurance that they should enter into the land.

They were greatly honored in being allowed to do so. And they are surely

encouragements to believing souls throughout all time.




FAITHFULNESS. The little ones, for whom they feared, are selected as

the heirs of promise. But they are to get the land after discipline and

sorrow in the wilderness. God’s ways are not ours. Yet wisdom regulates

them all. And the Divine grace was magnified in this arrangement. The

Israelites, as they died in the wilderness, would be cheered by the thought

that, though they were justly excluded from the land because of their

unbelief, their children would receive the inheritance in the exercise of

faith. The judgment on the fathers would be sanctified, like the sickness of

Hymenaeus and Alexander (I Timothy 1:20), and their spirits, let us

hope, saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (I Corinthians 5:5).





                                    Tardy Repentance (vs. 40-46)


In the conduct of these Israelites we have a typical exhibition of human

nature. In its folly, its fickleness, its unreasonableness, and its obstinacy.

Forbidden to enter Canaan, they change their mood, and nothing will serve

them but to “go up” and do the thing they had formerly said they would

not do. They are vociferous in their professions of repentance, and will not

be reasoned out of their self-willed purpose, but persist in following it up

to their own after discomfiture. We have here to notice:




professions of repentance, “We have sinned” (v. 41), it is not difficult to



Ø      The old UNBELIEF. They disbelieve God’s threatening, as before they

refused to believe His promise.


Ø      The old SELF-WILL. It is not what God wills, but what they will

      themselves, that is to be done. They do not ask, “Will God permit

us to do this?” but they take the law into their own hands, and

ignore God’s wishes altogether.




INTO PRESUMPTUOUS SIN. It does this inasmuch as there was never in

it the element of real submission. The undertaking of the Israelites was

typical of many more. It was:


Ø      Presumptuously conceived.

Ø      Presumptuously prepared for.

Ø      Presumptuously persevered in.


It is, therefore, the type of all undertakings set on foot and carried out:


Ø      in defiance of God’s will;

Ø      without God’s assistance;

Ø      in face of God’s expressed displeasure.


It is a case, in short, of flying in the face of God; of defying Him, and

entering into direct contest with Him; as every one does whose schemes are

in opposition even to natural and economical, and stilt more if they are in

opposition to moral and spiritual, laws; or in any way contrary to what we

know to be God’s will. Presumption may show itself in REFUSAL TO BE

SAVED except in ways or on terms of our own dictation.



THOSE WHO PERSIST IN IT. ( v. 44.) So must it be with all schemes

that have God’s frown upon them.



Ø      Repentance MAY COME TOO LATE (v. 45; Matthew 25:11-12;

Luke 13:25).

Ø      Disobedience may cloak itself in the guise of obedience (v. 41).

Ø      The test of obedience is willingness to do what God requires at the

      time He requires it, and not at some time of our own.




Forced Back (vs. 41-46)


In the preceding paragraph we had an illustration of unbelief in doubting

the promise of God, and of the effect of that unbelief in excluding from the

promised rest. Here we have an illustration of a like unbelief working in

precisely the opposite direction; as Israel feared to go up notwithstanding

the promise of God, so now we find them resolving to go up in spite of the

prohibition of God, “acting,” as an expositor remarks, “in contempt of the

threatening, as they had before acted in contempt of the promise, as if

governed by a spirit of contradiction.” The points in the history which

should be noted are these.


1. As the men of that generation (two only excepted) were debarred from

entering Canaan, they have to wander in the desert for forty years.  (We hear

of people wanting the best of both worlds, here we find those who are in

danger of experiencing the worst of both worlds!  CY - 2020)

2. They rebel against this Divine arrangement, though we, who at this

distance of time “see the end of the Lord,” can perceive how much mercy

there was in it.  (James 5:11)

3. There was a short way to Canaan, through a hill country, which to

human judgment would seem preferable to a “march far wandering round.”

4. In this route enemies would surely assail — Amorites, Amalekites, etc.

5. Israel made light of these difficulties.

6. God forbade their going up. Moses forbade them. The ark was not

moved from its place in the camp.

7. The people were resolved to go up, defiantly, insolently.

8. They paid dearly for their presumption. They were forced back.

9. They grieved and wept over their disappointment.

10. Such weeping God does not regard. “Tears of discontent must be wept

over again.” As they had before found out the folly of distrusting God’s

strength, so now they had to bewail the uselessness of presuming on their

own! We cannot be wrong in continuing to follow the apostolic teaching in

regarding the Canaan of Israel’s hope as a type of the higher “rest” which

remaineth for the people of God (Hebrews 4:1).




under varied forms, of no small part of the Old Testament and of the New.

We may inquire, if we will, into the philosophy of this; and in doing so, we

shall find but little difficulty in seeing the essential impossibility of one who

doubts God finding rest anywhere. Doubt is unrest. But whether or no one

can discern the deep reason of it, there stands the word, with its awful bar,

“He that believeth not is condemned already.”  (John 3:18)



on, and to be moving towards some destiny or other, but yet to have no

prospect of rest at the end of the journey, is it not dreary? We do not deny

that men may, as they say, resign them, selves to the inevitable. And we

even admit that men may so far control themselves, as, with stoical

unfeelingness, to take “a leap in the dark.” But not all this can blind us to

the misery of those who move on under the ban, “The unbeliever shall not

see rest.”



DESPISES THE THREATENING. Both promise and threatening come

from one and the same God; hence whoever doubts Him will be as likely to

question one as the other. And it is very, very easy for unbelief to urge

plausible arguments or questionings concerning the threatenings; e.g.:


Ø      “Has God said that?

Ø      God will not be so severe;”

Ø      “God cannot mean me;”

Ø      “Who can tell whether the judgment day will ever come?” etc.




How much does this remind us of what our Savior says in His Sermon on

the Mount (compare Matthew 7:22)! As if unbelief would carry its daring up

to the very judgment seat (see also ibid. ch. 25:10-12; Luke 13:24- 26).




disastrously repulsed, and found it “hard to kick against the pricks.” (Acts

9:5);  Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!” (Isaiah 45:9); “Hath

any hardened himself against God, and prospered?” (Job 9:4 - see

continuation of New Testament passages referred to above). Man can

do many wonderful things, but there are five things he never can do:


Ø      he cannot evade the sentence of God;

Ø      he cannot postpone it;

Ø      he cannot nullify it;

Ø      he cannot modify it;

Ø      he cannot impeach it.


We are sure that the (δικαιωμα  - dikaiomaright judgement) sentence

of God is according to truth.”  (Romans 2:2)



      “Ye returned and wept before the Lord; but the Lord

would not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you.” It will be of no

use whatever trying to enter Canaan if the sentence has finally gone forth

against us, “Ye shall not see my rest;” nor will it avail to try to enter by any

other than God’s own appointed way; nor will the murmuring, or wailing,

or gnashing of teeth at all alter the matter. There may be as much unbelief

in tears as in trifling!   By no other means than implicit faith in and

unswerving loyalty to God in Christ, can we find rest for our souls either

here or hereafter. Oh that sinful men would “hear the voice of Jesus say,”

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you

rest!”  (Matthew 11:28)  Apart from Christ, our souls must wander in dry

places, SEEKING REST and FINDING NONE!  (ibid. ch. 12:43)






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