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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

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Commentary on Deuteronomy

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1.1–4.43 :

The first discourse of Moses. This first of Deuteronomy's three discourses has two subsections: an 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. Refers to Moses in the third person, attributes the book to him, and locates the bookhistorically and geographically.

1 :

On the other side of the Jordan, designating the land east of the Jordan River (Transjordan), where the Israelites have stopped, awaiting entry to the land. That geographical frame of reference places the speaker west of the Jordan and thus already 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, a small number of medieval Jewish commentators already recognized that not all of the Torah could be attributed to Moses (see also 2.12 n.; 3.11 n. ); this is the modern consensus as well. 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. chs 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 (Exod. 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 elsewhere in the Torah (see Exod. 19.11; 34.29 ); it occurs in Deut‐ eronomy only at 33.2 .


Num. 21.21–35.

5 :

Expound seems intentionally ambiguous about whether Moses here proclaims new religious teachings, not previously heard, or simply explicates material already proclaimed. This Teaching, lit. “this torah” ( 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 instructions of chs 5–11. Here, as elsewhere in Deuteronomy, the reference is not to the entire Torah, but specifically to Deuteronomy itself.


Historical review. Moses rehearses the exodus, revelation at Horeb, and rebellion in the desert for the generation who arose after these events and did not directly witness them, 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.

6 :

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


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; Exod. 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…at your disposal: With this binding oral proclamation, God symbolically displays the land and transfers its legal title to Israel (similarly, Gen. 13.14–15 ).


Leadership institutionalized. 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 Exod. 18.13–27 ). This new version places the institutionalization of leadership after the departure from Sinai rather than before it and omits the important advisory role of Jethro, the non‐Israelite (contrast Exod. ch 18 ).


Stars in the sky, thus fulfilling the promises to the ancestors (Gen. 15.5; 22.17; 26.4; Exod. 32.13 ).


God of your fathers: Deuteronomy's normal phrase is “the LORD your/our God” (i.e., vv. 6, 10, 19–21; 6.1, 4, 10 ). This departure from that formula ties this new generation to its past by recalling God's earlier promises (Gen. 26.24; 32.10; Exod. 3.6 ).


Wise (contrast Exod. 18.21 ), an attribute regularly stressed by Deuteronomy ( 4.6; 32.29 ), suggesting the influence of wisdom literature upon its authors. Experienced, lit. “knowing,” con‐ tinuing the emphasis upon wisdom as a criterion for leadership.


Stranger, better, “resident alien,” a legal term that refers to 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 ).


Similarly, 16.18–20.


From Horeb to Kadesh: A retelling, with significant variations, of the spies' reconnaissance of the land (Num. ch 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 ).


Anakites, see Num. 13.22, 33 n.


Exod. 14.14.


Fireʾcloud, see Exod. 13.21–22 n.


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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