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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Deuteronomy

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1.1–4.43 : The first discourse of Moses

has two subsections: a historical retrospective ( 1.6–3.29 ) and a sermon on the importance of obeying Torah ( 4.1–40 ). An editorial headnote ( 1.1–5 ) and appendix ( 4.41–43 ) frame the discourse.

1.1–5 : Editorial headnote.

1 :

Beyond the Jordan, the land east of the Jordan river (Transjordan), where the Israelites have stopped, awaiting entry to the land. The reference places the editor west of the Jordan, in Canaan. According to the narrative line, however, the Israelites have not yet reached the promised land, and Moses never does. From this and similar anachronisms, medieval Jewish commentators already recognized that not all of the Pentateuch could be attributed to Moses (see also 2.12; 3.11n.; 20.15; 34.5; Gen 12.6 ). The plain (lit. “the Arabah”), the rift valley that includes the Jordan River and stretches south from the Dead Sea through Eilat and the Red Sea into Africa. The places mentioned cannot be identified with certainty.

2 :

Eleven days implies a scathing indictment of the nation. As a result of their rebellion in the desert (Num 13–14 ), it actually took them thirty‐eight years, eight months, and twenty days to reach this point after they first broke camp (Num 10.11 ). Horeb (Ex 3.1; 17.6; 33.6 ) is Deuteronomy's term for the mount of revelation. “(Mount) Sinai,” in contrast, is the more standard term used by the Yahwistic and Priestly writers (see Ex 19.11; 34.29 ); it occurs in Deuteronomy only at 33.1 , where it refers more generally to a mountainous region in the south.

4 :

Num 21.21–35 .

5 :

Expound seems intentionally ambiguous about whether Moses here pro‐claims new religious teachings or simply explicates material already proclaimed. This law, better, “this Torah” or “this teaching” ( 4.8,44; 27.3,8,26; 28.58,61; 29.20,28; 30.10; 31.9,11–12; 32.46 ). The word designates not only the combination of ritual, civil, family, and ethical law found in chs 12–26 , but also the religious instruction of chs 5–11 . For later editors, as here, the same word seems to refer to the entire book of Deuteronomy.

1.6–3.29 : Historical review.

Moses rehearses the Exodus, revelation at Horeb/Sinai, and rebellion in the desert for the generation who arose after these events, so that they may understand what brought them to the present moment. At a number of points, this narrative diverges from that of Exodus‐Numbers.

1.6 :

The original of the divine command quoted has not been preserved (cf. Num 10 ).

7 :

Amorites, as at Gen 15.16 , seems to be used generically for the family of nations who are the original inhabitants of Canaan, rather than technically to designate one of those nations (contrast Gen 15.19–21; Ex 3.8,17 ). The Shephelah is the region of foothills between the hill country on the east and the seacoast on the west. The Negeb is the semi‐arid region south of the hill country. Great river, the ideal borders of the Israelite empire extended to the Euphrates (Gen 15.18 ), the northern limit of David's conquests (2 Sam 8.3 ).

8 :

See … set the land before you, God symbolically displays the land and transfers its legal title to Israel (similarly, Gen 13.14–15 ).

9–18 :

This account combines and reinterprets two previous accounts of the creation of a military‐judicial system to share the burden of leadership (compare vv. 9–12 with Num 11.14–17 and vv. 13–17 with Ex 18.13–27 ), placing the institutionalization of leadership after the departure from Sinai rather than before it and omitting the advisory role of Jethro, the non‐Israelite (contrast Ex 18 ).

10 :

Stars of heaven, fulfilling the promises made to the ancestors (Gen 15.5; 22.17; 26.4; Ex 32.13 ).

11 :

God of your ancestors, Deuteronomy's normal phrase is “the LORD your/our God” (i.e., vv. 6,10 ). This departure from that formula ties this new generation to its past by recalling God's earlier promises (Gen 26.24; 32.9; Ex 3.6 ).

13 :

Wise (contrast Ex 18.21 ), an attribute regularly stressed by Deuteronomy ( 4.6; 16.19; 32.29 ), suggesting the influence of wisdom literature upon its authors. Reputable (lit. “knowing”), continuing the emphasis upon wisdom as a criterion for leadership.

16 :

Resident alien, the non‐Israelite who lives in the community without title to land and who is therefore economically vulnerable; Deuteronomy insists upon a single law that applies to Israelite and non‐Israelite alike ( 5.14; 10.18–19; 14.29; 16.11; 24.14,17,19–21 ).

17 :

Similarly, 16.18–20 .

1.19–46 : From Horeb to Kadesh.

A retelling, with significant variations, of the spies’ reconnaissance of the land (Num 13 ), the people's complaining of God's inability to fulfill the promises made to Israel's ancestors (Num 14.1–38 ), and the abortive attempt to penetrate Canaan from the south despite the divine command not to do so (Num 14.39–45; cf. 21.1–3 ).

19 :

Kadesh‐barnea, see Num 13.26n.

28 :

Anakim, see Num 13.22,33n.

30 :

Ex 14.14 .

33 :

Fire … cloud, see Ex 13.21–22n.

34–35 :

See Num 14.28–30 .

37 :

Here Moses is not punished for his own sin (contrast Num 20.10–13; 27.12–23 ). Instead, the narrator presents Moses as innocent and as vicariously bearing the punishment due Israel for its sin (see 3.24–28 ).

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