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Verses 19-46

These verses deal with Israel’s failure at Kadesh-Barnea, its causes and its consequences.

The Hebrew word translated "take possession" (Deuteronomy 1:21), referring to the Promised Land, occurs over 50 times in Deuteronomy. God’s great desire for His people had been that they possess what He had promised them. Unfortunately the older generation would not because of fearful unbelief.

The sending of the spies was the people’s idea (Deuteronomy 1:22; cf. Numbers 13:1-3). Moses agreed to it, as did the Lord, because it was not wrong in itself. It had the potential of being helpful to the Israelites. Nevertheless God had not commanded this strategy. He knew that the sight of the threatening people and fortified cities (Deuteronomy 1:28) would discourage them.

The people’s sin in failing to enter the land was not just underestimating God’s power. They could have blamed themselves for their weak faith. Instead they blamed God and imputed to Him the worst of motives toward them. God loved them, but they claimed He hated them (Deuteronomy 1:27). In covenant terminology to love means to choose, and to hate means to reject (cf. Genesis 25:23; Malachi 1:2-3; Romans 9:10-13). [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 77; Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, pp. 388-89.] The Israelites doubted God’s goodness, denied His word, and disobeyed His will (cf. Genesis 3).

"The most subtle danger for Israel was the possibility that they might doubt the gracious guidance of God and His willingness to fulfill His promises. It was to become the besetting sin of Israel that they doubted the active and providential sovereignty of Yahweh in every crisis." [Note: J. A. Thompson, Deuteronomy, p. 88.]

"Such familial language was common in ancient Near Eastern treaty texts where the maker of the covenant would be ’father’ and the receiver ’son.’" [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 79. Cf. D. J. McCarthy, "Notes on the Love of God in Deuteronomy and the Father-Son Relationship between Yahweh and Israel," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 27 (1965):144-47.]

The Book of Deuteronomy reveals the wrath of God (Deuteronomy 1:34) as well as His love.

The account of Moses’ sin (Deuteronomy 1:37) is out of chronological order. Moses’ purpose in this narrative was not to relate Israel’s experiences in sequence but to emphasize spiritual lessons. He was exhorting the Israelites to action more than teaching them history.

"Moses . . . looked behind his own failure and referred to the cause of his action, which was the people’s criticism of the Lord’s provision of food." [Note: Kalland, pp. 27-28.]

God’s provision of a new leader who would take the nation into the land followed Moses’ failure (Deuteronomy 1:38). The point is that God provided for the Israelites even when they failed. Moses did not try to hide his own guilt.

Moses connected entering the Promised Land with the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The new generation of Israelites was in a position similar to the one in which their original parents found themselves. They had "no knowledge of good or evil" and so had to depend on God to "give it to them" as a gracious father (Deuteronomy 1:39; cf. Deuteronomy 32:6). The instruction (Torah) that Moses gave the people was the means that God would use to provide for their good (cf. Deuteronomy 30:15-16).

The former generation tried to salvage an opportunity lost at Kadesh through unbelief (Deuteronomy 1:41). This is not always possible, and it was not in this instance. [Note: See Sailhamer, pp. 428-30, for four different ways of explaining the unclear sequence of events during the 38 years of wandering in the wilderness.]

". . . chapter 1 sets up what Deuteronomy is about. It will echo and anticipate disobedience and unwillingness to live by promise and instruction. Further, the chapter gives us clues about the purpose and context of Deuteronomy. It is a word of instruction about how to live in the land, addressed to a people whose history reflects persistent faithlessness and disobedience . . ." [Note: Miller, p. 36.]

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