Jason L. Kortering is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Grandville, Michigan.
We are in the process of outlining the first discourse of Moses recorded in the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 1:1-4:43). We continue our outlining in Deut. 2:1. Moses has recalled Jehovah’s faithfulness in dealing with them in their initial stay in the wilderness.
Moses describes how God cared for them in their departure from Kadesh Barnea and that they bypassed Mt. Seir, since that country was given to Esau for a possession. They could buy meat and water from them, but not engage in battle (Deut. 2:1-7). They came to Moab. They, too, were not to be fought, since God gave this land to Lot and his children. Among the Moabites were the Emims, giants like the Anakims. The length of time it took to get from Kadesh to the brook Zered was 38 years. During this time all the men of war were wasted out of the host (Deut. 2:8-15). They now received orders from Jehovah to bypass the land of the Ammonites since this, too, was given to the children of Lot. The giants in this land were called Zamzummims but were destroyed by the children of Lot. As soon as they passed by this country, they received instructions to cross the River Arnon and proceed to take Sihon, King of the Amorites. This came about when Moses asked for permission to cross the land on the way to Jordan. When Sihon refused this, because the Lord hardened his heart, all the cities from Aroer unto Gilead were destroyed in battle, and all the people were killed (Deut. 2:16-37). The same thing happened to Og, King of Bashan. Israel took 36 cities in all and every inhabitant was killed. Mention is made of the size of Og’s bed, nine cubits by four cubits. The land captured was given to Reuben, Manasseh, and Gad, (Deut. 3:1-17). The men were instructed to go along with Israel to help in the conquest of the rest of the land while the women, children, and cattle stayed in this land. Moses prayed that he might enter into this land, but the Lord was wroth with him. He could see it only from afar. Joshua was assured of God’s sustaining presence, (Deut. 3:18-29). We then have the record of Moses’ exhortation to the people to keep the law. They may not add nor subtract from the law. They saw the consequence of disobedience at Baalpeor, and that the faithful are still .alive. The only reason for Israel’s national distinction is the law which Jehovah gave them. By keeping it, they will incur the blessing of God. He reminds them of the events at Mt. Horeb when the voice of the Lord spoke this law unto them. At that time, he (Moses) took great pains to teach them that law. Special mention is made that God gave to them no visible display of his presence, and they are not to make any graven images. They must teach this to their children, for the Lord shall scatter them among the nations if they ever serve gods made by men’s hands. Rather, they have the privilege to turn to the living God for all their needs. They may ask Him for anything they need, and He will hear them. By doing this they will prolong their days under His blessing, (Deut. 4:1-40). Moses also reminds them of the cities of refuge (Deut. 4:41-43).
3. Moses’ second discourse (Deut. 4:43-26:19). The general content of this discourse differs from the first in that the first was mainly a review of the historical events which brought them to the land of Canaan. This speech reviews the laws which God gave to them. An introductory statement is given, that these are the laws which Moses rehearsed before Israel when they occupied the land of the two kings of the Amorites (Deut. 4:44-49). Jehovah spoke the ten commandments while Moses stood between God and His people, and the ten commandments are rehearsed (Deut. 5:1-21). Upon hearing the voice of the Lord, the people were afraid and asked Moses to go into the mountain and take God’s words down and speak them to the people. He reminds the people that God granted this request and he went into God’s presence to receive them. These laws they are to obey and teach their children. They are exhorted to walk in them all their days (Deut. 5:22-33). The keeping of the law involves the fear of Jehovah, love of the Lord with all one’s heart, soul, and mind, (Deut. 6:1-5). Moses reminded them to teach them to their children when they talk with them, sit in the house, walk by the way, and lie down. They are to bind them for a sign on their hand, as frontlets before their eyes, and write them on the door posts of the house. When they finally receive the fullness of the promise, he warns them to beware that they forget not the Lord and follow after the gods of the land. They should be prepared to answer the questions their children will raise concerning their God: how He delivered them from Egypt and brought them to this land. This instruction should include the law which was to be their righteousness (Deut. 6:6-25). When they come to the land of Canaan, they were to destroy all the idols and the people that worshiped them, they were not to intermarry with them, for the holiness of Jehovah was incompatible with them. The Lord did not choose Israel because they were more in number—they were the fewest, but He loved them. God is merciful and righteous, and they are to keep His commandments (Deut. 7:1-11). God will bestow upon them blessings in the way of obedience, they will have children, health, victory over the enemies, the Lord will destroy all their enemies bit by bit if they remain faithful in their worship of Him (Deut. 7:12-26). Israel is commanded to look back and remember how the Lord cared for them during the forty years in the wilderness. He realized His promise to them with the land of riches (Deut. 8:1-10). They are further warned not to forget the Lord, lest He bring upon them all the terrible things that He brought upon their enemies: “if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God . . . I testify against you this day, ye shall surely: perish” (Deut. 8:11-20). As they are about to enter the land. and God will destroy the inhabitants, Israel must not think God does it because Israel is worthy, but the wickedness of the inhabitants deserves such judgment (Deut. 9:1-6). He recalls for them how Israel of old rebelled at Horeb when they made the golden calf, how he had to intercede for the people. He also mentions other places where they provoked God to wrath. Israel was a stiff necked people, saved by grace (Deut. 9:7-29). In mercy God provided two new tables of stone and engraved His law upon them (Deut. 10:1-5), he continued the priesthood in Eleazer, renewed the Levite’s role in bearing the ark. (Deut. 10:6-11). God requires of Is,rael to fear the Lord, walk in his ways, love and serve him, keep His commandments, circumcise the foreskin of their hearts (Deut. 10:12-22). Repeated over and over is the duty of Israel to love God, to demonstrate this by keeping his commandments, for their eyes have seen all the great acts of the Lord. This will bring them to the land which is cared for by the Lord, and He will give it to them. It will rain when it should, and grass will grow for their cattle. If they forsake God, the land will be barren and fruit shall fail (Deut. 11:1-21). Now the contrast is set before Israel. The blessings of God are represented upon Mt. Gerizim, the curse upon Mt. Ebal (Deut. 11:22-32). When they arrive at the promised land, they are to destroy all the places where idolatry was practiced and God would give them a central place in Canaan where they could worship Jehovah with their offerings (Deut. 12:1-14). In their practice of sacrifice, they were not to eat blood, nor eat the sacrifice within their own gate, but before the Lord in a designated place. They may eat flesh in their own private meals in their own tents, only then too, they are not to eat the blood. They are not to imitate the heathen nations in anything (Deut. 12:15-32). Warning is given concerning the false prophet that may arise among them to lead them into idolatry, and they are to put him to death (Deut. 13:1-5). Also if a relative within the family practices idolatry, he must be killed with stones (Deut. 13:6-11); or if an entire city goes after strange gods, they must be destroyed with the sword and all their possessions burnt with fire (Deut. 13:12-18). The people were warned not to mutilate themselves in their sacrifice as the heathen did (Deut. 14:1, 2). They were not to eat unclean animals, fish, or birds. The unclean ones were listed and instruction was given to come to the temple to eat the feasts, but if the distance is too far, they could take money and buy food there. The priests likewise are to be cared for and the tithes brought each third year to the Levites and poor (Deut. 14:3-29). Reference is made to the Sabbatical year, the poor must not be neglected, “the poor shall never cease out of the land, therefore I command thee saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy in thy land” (Deut. 15:1-11). Each seventh year the slaves were to be released, and were to be sent out loaded with food. If they chose to remain slaves, they had to have the au1 put through their ear and that would mean they would be their voluntary servants forever (Deut. 15:12-18). The firstling of each flock was to be eaten before the sanctuary. It was to be without blemish (Deut. 15:19-23). A review is given of the annual feasts, the Passover (Deut. 16:1-8), Feast of Weeks (Deut. 16:9-12), Feast of Tabernacles (Deut. 16:13-17), and a summary statement is given that three times a year all the males are to appear before the Lord in feasting to give as they are able (Deut. 16:16, 17). The judges and officers which were appointed for justice were forbidden to take bribes, all idolaters must be stoned with stones, all controversy between people must be judged by the priests and Levites (Deut. 16:18-17:13). Mention is made of Israel’s future desire for a king, and specific instruction is given to this king and how he is to rule (Deut. 17:14-20). Since the priests and Levites have no inheritance, the people were instructed to bring a specific part of their offerings for them (Deut. 18:1-8). Warning is given against making their children pass through the fire, to use divination or familiar spirits (Deut. 18:9-14). The Lord will raise up a Prophet in answer to the plea of the people that they not hear the direct voice of Jehovah, but a Prophet. This is an obvious reference to the Lord Jesus. The test of a true prophet is the fulfillment of the word which he spake, (Deut. 18:15-22). The cities of refuge are marked as a place of refuge for the killer who did it ignorant1y. e.g. if the axe head flies off and kills someone while chopping wood and the avenger pursues after him. Three cities were on the east side of Jordan, and later three added on the west side. Willful killers were not to be protected in these cities (Deut. 19:1-13).