Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Introduction to the book, Deu 1:1, Deu 1:2. Moses addresses the people in the fortieth year after the exodus from Egypt, Deu 1:3-5; and shows how God had spoken to them in Horeb, and the directions he gave them, Deu 1:6-8. How, at the commandment of the Lord, he had appointed officers, judges, etc., to share the government with him, Deu 1:9-18. Of their travels in the terrible wilderness, Deu 1:19-21. The people's request to have spies sent to search out the land, Deu 1:22-25. Of their murmuring and rebellion when they heard the report of the spies, Deu 1:26-28. How Moses encouraged them, Deu 1:29-33. The displeasure of the Lord against them because of their murmurings, and his purpose to exclude them from the good land, and give it to their children only, Deu 1:34-40. How they repented, and yet, without the authority of God, went against the Amorites, by whom they were defeated, Deu 1:41-44. Their return to Kadesh, where they abode many days, Deu 1:45, Deu 1:46.
These be the words which Moses spake - The five first verses of this chapter contain the introduction to the rest of the book: they do not appear to be the work of Moses, but were added probably either by Joshua or Ezra.
On this side Jordan - בעבר beeber, at the passage of Jordan, i. e., near or opposite to the place where the Israelites passed over after the death of Moses. Though עבר eber is used to signify both on this side and on the other side, and the connection in which it stands can only determine the meaning; yet here it signifies neither, but simply the place or ford where the Israelites passed over Jordan.
In the plain - That is, of Moab; over against the Red Sea - not the Red Sea, for they were now farther from it than they had been: the word sea is not in the text, and the word סוף suph, which we render red, does not signify the Red Sea, unless joined with ים yam, sea; here it must necessarily signify a place in or adjoining to the plains of Moab. Ptolemy mentions a people named Sophonites, that dwelt in Arabia Petraea, and it is probable that they took their name from this place; but see the note from Lightfoot, Numbers 20 (note), at the end.
Paran - This could not have been the Paran which was contiguous to the Red Sea, and not far from Mount Horeb; for the place here mentioned lay on the very borders of the promised land, at a vast distance from the former.
Dizahab - The word should be separated, as it is in the Hebrew, די זהב Di Zahab. As Zahab signifies gold, the Septuagint have translated it τα χρυσια, the gold mines; and the Vulgate ubi aurum est plurimum, where there is much gold. It is more likely to be the name of a place.
There are eleven days' journey - The Israelites were eleven days in going from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea, where they were near the verge of the promised land; after which they were thirty-eight years wandering up and down in the vicinity of this place, not being permitted, because of their rebellions, to enter into the promised rest, though they were the whole of that time within a few miles of the land of Canaan!
The fortieth year - This was a melancholy year to the Hebrews in different respects; in the first month of this year Miriam died, Numbers 20; on the first day of the fifth month Aaron died, Num 33:38; and about the conclusion of it, Moses himself died.
Began Moses to declare this law - Began, הואיל hoil, willingly undertook; to declare, באר beer, to make bare, clear, etc., fully to explain, this law. See the conclusion of the preface.
Ye have dwelt long enough, etc. - They came to Sinai in the third month after their departure from Egypt, Exo 19:1, Exo 19:2; and left it the twentieth of the second month of the second year, so it appears they had continued there nearly a whole year.
Go to the mount of the Amorites - On the south of the land of Canaan, towards the Dead Sea.
Land of the Canaanites - That is, Phoenicia, the country of Sidon, and the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea from the country of the Philistines to Mount Libanus. The Canaanites and Phoenicians are often confounded.
The river Euphrates - Thus Moses fixes the bounds of the land, to which on all quarters the territories of the Israelites might be extended, should the land of Canaan, properly so called, be found insufficient for them. Their South border might extend to the mount of the Amorites; their West to the borders of the Mediterranean Sea; their North to Lebanon; and their East border to the river Euphrates: and to this extent Solomon reigned; see Kg1 4:21. So that in his time, at least, the promise to Abraham was literally fulfilled; see below.
Ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude - This was the promise God made to Abraham, Gen 15:5, Gen 15:6; and Moses considers it now as amply fulfilled. But was it really so? Many suppose the expression to be hyperbolical; and others, no friends to revelation, think it a vain empty boast, because the stars, in their apprehension, amount to innumerable millions. Let us consider this subject. How many in number are the stars which appear to the naked eye? for it is by what appears to the naked eye we are to be governed in this business, for God brought Abraham forth abroad, i. e., out of doors, and bade him look towards heaven, not with a telescope, but with his naked eyes, Gen 15:5. Now I shall beg the objector to come forth abroad, and look up in the brightest and most favorable night, and count the stars - he need not be terrified at their abundance; the more they are, the more he can count; and I shall pledge myself to find a male Israelite in the very last census taken of this people, Numbers 26, for every star he finds in the whole upper hemisphere of heaven. The truth is, only about 3,010 stars can be seen by the naked eye in both the northern and southern hemispheres; and the Israelites, independently of women and children, were at the above time more than 600,000. And suppose we even allow that, from the late discoveries of Dr. Herschel and others with telescopes which have magnified between 35 and 36,000 times, there may be 75 millions of stars visible by the help of such instruments, which is the highest calculation ever made, yet still the Divine word stands literally true: St. Matthew says, Deuteronomy 1, that the generations from Abraham to Christ were 42; now we find at the second census that the fighting men among the Hebrews amounted to 603,000; and the Israelites, who have never ceased to be a distinct people, have so multiplied as far to exceed the number of all the fixed stars taken together.
Take you wise men - חכמים chachamim, such as had gained knowledge by great labor and study. Understanding נבנים nebonim, persons of discernment, judicious men. Known, ידעים yeduim, persons practiced in the operations of nature, capable of performing curious and important works.
Captains over thousands, etc. - What a curious and well-regulated economy was that of the Israelites! See its order and arrangement:
1. God, the King and Supreme Judge;
2. Moses, God's prime minister;
3. The priests, consulting him by Urim and Thummim;
4. The chiefs or princes of the twelve tribes;
5. Chilliarchs, or captains over thousands;
6. Centurions, or captains over hundreds;
7. Tribunes, or captains over fifty men;
8. Decurions, or captains over ten men; and,
9. Officers, persons who might be employed by the different chiefs in executing particular commands.
All these held their authority from God, and yet were subject and accountable to each other. See the notes on Numbers 2 (note).
Ye shall not respect persons - Heb. faces. Let not the bold, daring countenance of the rich or mighty induce you to give an unrighteous decision; and let not the abject look of the poor man induce you either to favor him in an unrighteous cause, or to give judgment against him at the demand of the oppressor. Be uncorrupt and incorruptible, for the judgment is God's; ye minister in the place of God, act like Him.
We will send men before us - See on Numbers 13 (note).
Cities - walled up to heaven - That is, with very high walls which could not be easily scaled. High walls around houses, etc., in these parts of Arabia are still deemed a sufficient defense against the Arabs, who scarcely ever attempt any thing in the way of plunder but on horseback. The monastery on Mount Sinai is surrounded with very high walls without any gate; in the upper part of the wall there is a sort of window, or opening, from which a basket is suspended by a pulley, by which both persons and goods are received into and sent from the place. It is the same with the convent of St. Anthony, in Egypt; and this sort of wall is deemed a sufficient defense against the Arabs, who, as we have already observed, scarcely ever like to alight from their horses.
The Lord - shall fight for you - In the Targum of Onkelos, it is, the Word of the Lord shall fight for you. In a great number of places the Targums or Chaldee paraphrases use the term מימרא דיי meimera dayeya or Yehovah, the Word of the Lord, exactly in the same way in which St. John uses the term Λογος Logos in the first chapter of his Gospel. Many instances of this have already occurred.
The Lord - was wroth - That is, his justice was incensed, and he evidenced his displeasure against you; and he could not have been a just God if he had not done so.
Caleb - wholly followed the Lord - See on Num 14:24 (note).
The Lord was angry with me - See on Num 20:12 (note), etc., where a particular account is given of the sin of Moses.
The Amorites - chased you - See the note on Num 14:40 : as bees do - by irresistible numbers.
According unto the days that ye abode there - They had been a long time at this place, see Num 13:27; Num 20:1, Num 20:14, Num 20:21. And some think that the words mean, "Ye abode as long at Kadesh, when you came to it the second time, as ye did at the first." Or, according to others, "While ye were in that part of the desert, ye encamped at Kadesh."
1. As one grand object of the law of God was to instruct the people in those things which were calculated to promote their peace and insure their prosperity; and as they were apt to lose sight of their spiritual interests, without a due attention to which their secular interest could not be promoted; Moses, not only in this chapter, but through the whole book, calls upon them to recollect their former miserable situation, in which they held neither life nor property but at the will of a merciless tyrant, and the great kindness and power of God manifested in their deliverance from a bondage that was as degrading as it was oppressive. These things properly remembered would lead them to prize their blessings, and duly appreciate the mercy of their Maker.
2. But it was not only this general display of God's kindness, in the grand act of their deliverance from Egypt, that he wished them to keep constantly in view, but also that gracious providence which was manifested in every step they took; which directed all their movements, provided for all their wants, continually showing what they should do, how they should do it, and also the most proper time and place for every act, whether religious or civil. By bringing before them in one point of view the history of almost forty years, in which the strangest and most stupendous occurrences had taken place that had ever been exhibited to the world, he took the readiest way to impress their minds, not only with their deep obligation to God, but also to show them that they were a people on whom their Maker had set his heart to do them good, and that if they feared him they should lack nothing that was good. He lays out also before them a history of their miscarriages and rebellion, and the privations and evils they had suffered in consequence, that this might act as a continual warning, and thus become, in the hands of God, a preventive of crimes.
3. If every Christian were thus to call his past life into review, he would see equal proofs of God's gracious regards to his body and soul; equal proofs of eternal mercy in providing for his deliverance from the galling yoke and oppressive tyranny of sin, as the Israelites had in their deliverance from Egypt; and equal displays of a most gracious providence, that had also been his incessant companion through all the changes and chances of this mortal life, guiding him by its counsel, that he might be at last received into glory. O reader, remember what God has done for thee during thy forty, fifty, etc., years! He has nourished, fed, clothed, protected, and saved thee. How often and how powerfully has his Spirit striven with thee! How often and how impressively thou hast heard his voice in his Gospel and in his providences! Remember the good resolutions thou hast made, the ingratitude and disobedience that have marked thy life; how his vows are still upon thee, and how his mercy still spares thee! And wilt thou live so as to perish for ever? God forbid! He still waits to be gracious, and rejoices over thee to do thee good. Learn from what is before thee how thou shouldst fear, love, believe in, and obey thy God. The Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world, is still before the throne; and whosoever cometh unto God through him shall in nowise be cast out. He who believes these things with an upright heart will soon be enabled to live a sanctified life.