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TITLE AND INTRODUCTION Deuteronomy 1:1-5.
In these verses we have the inscription and general introduction to the book, announcing the contents of the book, the author of it, the parties whom he addressed, and the time and place of his addresses.
These be the words. Some would render here "Such are the words," and understand the expression as referring to the preceding books. But it seems more natural to refer it to what follows—to the addresses in this book. The pronoun these (אֵלֶּה) may be used with a prospective reference, as well as with a retrospective (cf. e.g. Genesis 2:4; Genesis 6:9). The author does not by this connect this book with the preceding, but rather distinguishes it. The subscription to Numbers (Numbers 36:13) indicates that what precedes is occupied chiefly with what God spake to Moses; the inscription here intimates that what follows is what Moses spake to the people. This is the characteristic of Deuteronomy. Unto all Israel. It cannot be supposed that Moses spoke to the whole multitude of the people so as to be heard by them. Hence the Jewish interpreters say that he spoke to the elders of the people, who carried his words to the people at large. This is just; for what was thus mediately communicated to the people might be fairly described as spoken to them; and we find from other passages in the Pentateuch that the phrase, "the elders of Israel," in the mind of the writer, was equivalent to "the congregation of Israel" (comp. e.g. Exodus 12:3 with Exodus 12:21; Le Exodus 9:1 with Exodus 9:5). But through whatever medium conveyed, it was to the people that these words were addressed; this is emphatically a book for the people. On this side Jordan. This should be On the other side or beyond Jordan, and so also in verse 5, as in Deuteronomy 3:20, Deuteronomy 3:25. The word here used (עֵבֶר) means properly something beyond, over, or across, and indicates that which, to the speaker, lies on the other side of some line or limit. When coupled with "the Jordan," it usually indicates the region to the east of that river; only in one or two instances, where the speaker takes his standpoint on the east of the river, does it designate the regions to the west of Jordan (Deuteronomy 3:25; Deuteronomy 11:30) The phrase "beyond Jordan" seems to have been the established designation of the region east of the Jordan (cf. Ezra 4:10, and Canon Rawlinson's note there). It is this, unquestionably, which is here so designated, as what follows expressly shows. The wilderness. This term is used of any extensive district not occupied by inhabitants or subjected to culture; hence of vast prairies or pasturelands, as well as of places properly desert and desolate. It here denotes the grassy plains or downs on the east and southeast of the Jordan, in the land of Moab (Deuteronomy 3:5). In the plain; in the Arabah. This is properly the whole of that remarkable depression which stretches from the source of the Jordan on to Akabah, or the Ailanitic Gulf; but here it is only that part of it which extends from the south end of the Dead Sea to Allah (Deuteronomy 2:8). This part still bears the name of the 'Arabah, the northern part being known as the Ghor. Over against the Red sea. The name by which the Red Sea is elsewhere designated is Yam-suph (יַם־סוּף); here only the latter word occurs, and this has led some to doubt if the Red Sea be here intended. Patrick, Rosenmüller, and others suggest that Suph denotes some place in that region, probably Suphah, so called because lying at its extremity, as the verb suph, from which it comes, means, to come to an end; but it is not certain that Suphah designates a place in Numbers 21:14. The Hebrew word סוּפְה means a tempest or whirlwind; and this meaning may be assumed here, as it is by Gesenius, Keil, and others: "Waheb [he conquered] in a storm." Knobel suggests that probably the pass now called Es Sufah, on the north side of the Wady Murreh—the Maleh-acrabbim (Scorpion-ascent) of Joshua 15:3—is meant; others have suggested Zephath (Judges 1:17; comp. Numbers 14:45), and others Zuph (1 Samuel 9:5). It is probable, however, that Suph is here merely a breviloquence for Yam-suph, the Red Sea; and so all the ancient versions take it. The identification of the Yam-suph of the Old Testament with the ἐρυθρὰ θάλασσα of the Greeks, the mare erythraeum, or rubrum, of the Latins, is due to the LXX; which other versions have followed. The identification is undoubtedly correct (cf. Numbers 33:10 and 1 Kings 9:26). Yam-suph, indeed, means simply sea of weeds, and might be the name of any sea in which algae are found; but these passages clearly prove that by this the Hebrews designated the Red Sea. At what part of this sea the Israelites crossed, and the hosts of Pharaoh were submerged, is and must remain uncertain, because we know not what was the condition of the Isthmus of Suez at the time of the Exodus. It is probable it was not at any part of what is now known as the Red Sea or Gulf of Suez. Brugsch Bey places it at that—
Betwixt Damiata and mount Casius old,
Where armies whole have sunk."
(Milton, 'Paradise Lost,'Bk. 2:592.)
But this has not been accepted by scholars generally. It seems probable that originally only a marshy district lay between the Gulf of Suez and the Mediterranean; and somewhere in this probably the passage of the Israelites and the drowning of the Egyptians occurred. Between Paran, and Tophel, etc. This serves more fully and particularly to indicate the locality here intended; but the details present considerable difficulty. Taken in connection with the words "over against the lied sea," the names here given can only be regarded as intended more precisely to indicate the region in which the Israelites had been during the forty years of their wandering. Paran: this is the name of the wilderness bordering on Idumea, where the Israelites encamped (Numbers 10:12; Numbers 12:16); the place of their encampment being Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin (Numbers 13:21, Numbers 13:26), which was the eastern part of the wilderness of Paran. hod. Wady Murreh. The wilderness of Paran corresponds in general outline with the desert of Et-Tih. This is a vast plateau of irregular surface stretching from the Et-Tih range northwards to the boundaries of the Holy Land, and from the Gulf of Akabah and the Wady cf. Arabah on the east to the Gulf of Suez and the Mediterranean on the west. It is described as "a chalky formation, the chalk being covered with coarse gravel, mixed with black flints and drifting sand;" not, however, wholly sterile: in many parts vegetation abounds, considerable portions are under cultivation, and there are evidences that it one time water was abundant there. It is not, however, to the wilderness of Paran that the reference is in the text, but to some definite locality or spot in the region in which the Israelites then were, or which they had recently passed through. It has been suggested that the place now called Feiran, and where there are the ruins of a town, once of some importance in the early history of Christianity, is the Paran of this passage, as it apparently is the Paran of I Kings Joshua 11:18. But this locality at the base of Jebel Serbail is much too far west to be the Paran here referred to. More probable is the suggestion that it is the Faran mentioned by Eusebius and Jerome ('Onomast.,' s.v. Φαράν), a city to the cast (northeast) of Allah or Elath, about three days' journey. Tophel: this name occurs only here; it is supposed to be the place now coiled Tufailah or Tafyleh, a large village of six hundred inhabitants, between Bozrah and Kerak, on the eastern slope of the mountains of Edom. As this is a place where the Syrian caravans are supplied with provisions, it has been conjectured that the Israelites, when at Oboth (Numbers 21:10, Numbers 21:11), may have resorted to it for a supply, and that it was here that they purchased meat and drink from the children of Esau (Deuteronomy 2:29). And Laban. Laban is generally identified with Libnah, the second place of encampment of the Israelites on their return from Kadesh (Numbers 33:20, Numbers 33:21). Knobel, however, thinks it is the place called by Ptolemy 'Αὔαρα, lying between Petra and Allah; this name, from the Arabic, see Arabic word, (he was white), having the same meaning as the Hebrew לָבָן. Hazeroth is supposed to be the place mentioned in Numbers 11:35; Numbers 12:16, from which the Israelites entered the wilderness of Paran; but as the other places here mentioned are on the east side of the Arabah, it is not probable that this Hazeroth is the same as that of Numbers, which must have been not far from Sinai, in a northerly or north-westerly direction from that mountain, probably at or near to the fountain now called El Hudherah (Wilson, 'Lands of the Bible,' 1.235; Kitto, 'Cyclopedia,' 2.243). There were probably several places bearing the name of Hazeroth, i.e. villages. Dizahab. This is generally identified with Dhahab, a place on a tongue of land in the Gulf of Akabah. But it is extremely improbable that the Israelites ever were at this place, the approach to which is exceedingly difficult; and the mere resemblance of the names Dizahab and Dhahab is not sufficient to prove the identity of the places. There were probably more places than one which were named from zahab (gold) in the region traversed by the Israelites. There is a Dhahab on the east of the Jordan near the Zerka or Jabbok, a double mound, which is said to derive its name from the yellowish color of the sandstone rock of which it consists, and which is metalliferous. In the Arabic of the Polyglot, Dizahab appears as Dhi-dhahab, which signifies "auro praeditum vel ab auro dictum; nam דו vel די, apud Arabes in compositione nominum propr. idem est ac Hebrews בעל" (J. H. Michaelis). There is a various reading here, Di-waheb, and this has been supposed to connect this place with the Waheb of Numbers 21:14. But, as above noted, it is by no means certain that Waheb is there the name of a place; it may, as Bishop Patrick suggests, be that of a man, some hero or chief, who was conquered in Sufah or in a storm. Waheb is a name among the Arabs. The maternal grandfather of Me-hammed had this name; and the sect of the Wahabees take their name from Abdul Wahab, a fanatic who appeared about the beginning of last century. The words "between Paran and Tophel" have been taken to indicate' the termini of the wanderings; at the commencement of these the people were at Paran, and towards the close of them they were at Tophel. '"Looking from the steppes of Moab over the ground that the Israelites had traversed, Suph, where they first entered the desert of Arabia, would lie between Paran where the congregation arrived at the borders of Canaan toward the west, and Tophel where they first ended their desert wanderings thirty-seven years later on the east" (Keil). But this assumes that Paran here is the wilderness of Paran.
Horeb. The name generally given to Sinai in Deuteronomy (see introduction, § 4). Sinai, however, occurs in Deuteronomy 33:2 of this book. By the way of mount Seir, i.e. by the way that leads to Mount Seir; just as in Deuteronomy 2:1, "the way of the Red sea" is the way that leads to that sea (see also Numbers 14:25). Mount is here, as often elsewhere, for mountain range. The mountain range here referred to seems to have been, not that on the east of the 'Arabah, but what is in Deuteronomy 2:6 and Deuteronomy 2:19 called "the mountain of the Amorites," "the Seir by Hormah" of verse 44, i e. the southern part of what was afterwards called the mountains of Judah. According to Deuteronomy 2:19, the Israelites, when they left Horeb, passed through the wilderness along the way that led to the mountains of the Amorites, and came to Kadesh-barnea. Kadesh must, therefore, be looked for, not on the eastern side of the 'Arabah, but somewhere in the wilderness of Zin. It has been identified with the place now known as 'Ain Kudes, near the northern extremity of Jebel Halal, and to the east of that hill; but this is far from being certain. Moses reminds the Israelites that the distance between Horeb and Kadesh is eleven days—i.e; about one hundred and sixty-five miles, the day's journey being reckoned at fifteen miles—not to give them a piece of information, but rather to suggest to them how, in consequence of rebellion, a journey which might have been so easily accomplished, had been protracted through many wearisome years.
Deuteronomy 1:3, Deuteronomy 1:4
Here is intimated the time when the following addresses were delivered to the people. It was on the first day of the eleventh month in the fortieth year; therefore near the end of their wanderings, and towards the close of the lawgiver's own career. He could thus speak to them according unto all that the Lord had given him in commandment unto them, i.e. in accordance with the legislative contents of the preceding books (comp. Deuteronomy 4:5 Deuteronomy 4:23; Deuteronomy 5:28-33; Deuteronomy 6:1). It was also after the destruction of Sihon and 'Og (Numbers 21:21-35). This also is significant. By the destruction of these kings, who sought to bar the access of the Israelites to the Promised Land, God had given proof that he would indeed fulfill his promise to his people, and had at once laid them under obligations to obedience, and given them encouragement to go forward on the course to which he had called them. The "he" here is Moses, who, at the command of God, had led the Israelites against Sihon and 'Og. Edrei, hod Draa (Numbers 21:33) was the second capital of 'Og; he "reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei" (Joshua 13:12). Here, however, it denotes the place where he was slain in battle, and the words "in Edrei" are to be referred to the verb "smote" and not to "dwelt" (cf. Deuteronomy 3:1 : Numbers 21:33).
The locality is again described as beyond Jordan (see on Deuteronomy 1:1), and in the land of Moab. This designates the region elsewhere called Arboth Moab—the Plains of Moab (Numbers 22:1; Deuteronomy 34:1, etc.), the region on the east of the Jordan, opposite to Jericho, now known as the region of Kerak. Began; rather set himself to. The Hebrew word signifies to undertake, to betake one's self to, and so to begin It is variously rendered in the Authorized Version (comp. Genesis 18:27, "taken it upon me;" Exodus 2:21, "was content," had made up his mind; 1 Samuel 12:22, "it pleased;" 1 Samuel 17:39,"assayed," etc.). To declare, i.e. make clear, explain, expound (Habakkuk 2:2, "make plain "). The Hebrew word here used (בָאר) signifies primarily to cut or dig, then to cut into, to grave, and then to cut or dig out so as to make evident, to declare, to make plain. What Moses set himself to do, then, was not to publish a new law, but to make plain to the people the Law already promulgated, to set forth clearly and pointedly what they were required by the Law to be and to do. This explains more fully the "spake" (דִבֶּר) of Deuteronomy 1:3. This exposition of the Law was designed specially for the sake of those who, at the time the Law was first promulgated, either were not born or were incapable of understanding it (Grotius). The expression used by Moses plainly indicates that this book was not intended to furnish a second code of laws different from the former, but simply to explain and enforce what had before been enjoined.
PART I—INTRODUCTORY ADDRESS Deuteronomy 1:6—Deuteronomy 4:40.
With this verse begins Moses' first address to the people, which extends to the end of Deuteronomy 4:1-49. It is of an introductory character, and is occupied chiefly with a retrospective survey of the events that had occurred during the forty years of their wanderings. By this Moses reminded the people how God had fulfilled his promises to them, and at the same time, how they had by their rebellion drawn down on them his displeasure, which had caused their wanderings to be so much more protracted than they would otherwise have been.
The Lord's command to depart from Horeb, and his promise to the people.
The Lord our God—Jehovah our God. The use of this epithet implies the covenant union of Israel with Jehovah, and presupposes the existence of that covenant which was entered into at Sinai. In Horeb. This was the starting-point, so to speak, of Israel's being as the special people of God—his segullah (סְגֻּלָּה, Exodus 19:5), his special treasure. There he made himself known to them as Jehovah, the Eternal and Unchangeable, and entered into covenant with them; and there they received that Law, on the keeping of which depended their retention of the privileges to which they had been elected. At Horeb the Israelites had remained for about a year (comp. Exodus 19:1 and Numbers 10:11, Numbers 10:12), and as the purpose for which they had been brought thither was answered, they were enjoined to move, not indeed by express command, but by the rising of the cloud from over the tabernacle, which was the signal of their march (Numbers 9:15, etc.; Numbers 10:11-13), preceded by the instructions they had received preparatory to their removal (Numbers 50:4-7). Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount. The Israelites remained at Sinai from the third month of the first year to the twentieth day of the second year after they came out of Egypt (cf. Exodus 19:1 and Numbers 10:11).
Go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all that dwell thereon; literally, its dwellers or inhabitants (שְׁכֵנָיו). The mountain range of the Amorites, afterwards called the hill country of Judah and Ephraim, was the object which would first strike the view of one advancing from the south; and so, it stands here for the whole land of Canaan, with which it is in this context identified. Those "that dwell thereon" are the inhabitants of the whole of Canaan. The Amorites (Hebrew Emori, so called from Amor, or Emor) oftener than once appear as standing for the Canaanites generally (cf. Genesis 15:16; Deuteronomy 1:20, Deuteronomy 1:21, etc.). That all the inhabitants of Canaan are intended here is evident from the specification of the different districts of the land of Canaan which immediately follows. In the plain: the 'Arabah (see Deuteronomy 1:1). In the hills: the hill country of Judah (Numbers 13:17). In the vale: the shephelah, or lowland, the country lying between the mountain range of Judah and the Mediterranean Sea, and stretching northwards from the parallel of Gaza to that of Carmel. In the south: the negeb, or southland (literally, dryness), the district which formed the transition from the desert to the cultivated land, extending from the south of the Dead Sea westwards to Gaza, a vast steppe or prairie, for the most part pasture land. The seashore: the narrow strip of land on the coast of the Mediterranean from Joppa to Tyre (in the New Testament, "the coast of Tyre and Sidon," Luke 6:17). The land of the Canaanites: the whole country of which these were the separate parts. And unto Lebanon: the Whale Mountain, so called, probably, from the snow which rests on its summit. The great river, the river Euphrates. The Phrath, or Euphrates, which has its sources in the mountains of Armenia, and in its course divides Armenia from Cappadocia, formed the eastern limit of the territory promised by God to Abraham. The epithet "great" seems to have been commonly applied to it. Callimachus calls it 'ΑΣΣυριοῦ ποταμοῖο μέγας ρόος, and Lucan has-
"Quaque caput rapido tollit cum Tigride magnus Euphrates."
As by much the most considerable river of western Asia, the Euphrates was known as "the river" par excellence (cf. Exodus 23:31; Isaiah 8:7; Jeremiah 2:18; Psalms 72:8). The mention of Lebanon and the Euphrates is not, as Keil suggests, "to be attributed to the rhetorical fullness of the style;" but is due to the fact that these were included in what God promised to Abraham and his seed (Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 11:24).
Behold, I have set the land before you: literally, have given the land before you, i.e. have made it over to you, that you may go and take possession of it. The Lord had placed this land in the power of the Israelites, had given it up to them to possess and use it, according as he had sworn to their fathers, the patriarchs, to give it to them and their seed (comp. Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:18, etc.; Genesis 22:16). At Horeb, therefore, they received the charter of their inheritance, and might have gone on at once to take possession of the land. The delay that had occurred had arisen solely from their own waywardness and perversity, not from anything on the part of God.
Moses reminds them that he had done all that was required on his part to conduct the people to the enjoyment of what God had freely given to them. The people had so increased in number that Moses found himself unable to attend to all the matters that concerned them, or to adjudicate in all the differences that arose among them. God had brought to pass that which he had promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:5), that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude; in this Moses rejoiced, nay, he would even that their numbers were, with the Divine blessing, increased a thousandfold beyond what they were. But he found the burden, the weight of care and trouble, especially in connection with their strifes and suits thereby brought on him, too much for him; and, therefore, whilst they were still at Horeb, he had, following the advice of Jethro, his father-in-law, counseled them to select competent men from among themselves, who should relieve him by attending to those duties which he found it too burdensome for him to have to attend to (cf. Exodus 18:13, etc.). This appointment of captains was quite distinct from that of the elders whom God directed Moses to select that they might assist him in bearing the burden of the people (Numbers 11:10, etc.). The occasion of the appointment was the same in both cases, viz. the complaint of Moses that the task was too onerous for him, but the time, the place, and the manner of the two transactions were different.
I spake unto you at that time. The somewhat indefinite phrase, "at that time" (comp. Genesis 38:1), does not refer to the time after the people departed from Horeb, but to the time generally when they were in that region (see Exodus 18:5, Exodus 18:13). "The imperfect (וָאֹמַד, I spake), with vaw rel. expresses the order of thought and not of time" (Keil). It is not mentioned in Exodus that Moses spake to the people, as here stated, but what Jethro said to him to this effect is recorded; and as Moses proceeded to put in execution what his father-in-law advised, it is probable that in doing so he told the people what he proposed to do, with his reasons for so doing, and obtained their assent, as here mentioned.
Notwithstanding the cruel oppression to which they were subjected in Egypt, the Israelites had so increased in numbers that they went out of the house of their bondage a mighty host. Ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude (cf. Genesis 15:5; Genesis 22:17). God had promised to Abraham that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude; and Moses here reminds the people that this promise had been fulfilled. This is hardly to be regarded as the utterance of hyperbole. When God gave the premise to Abraham it was to the stars as seen by the patriarch, not as actually existing in the immensity of space, that reference was made; and as the number of stars which can be taken in with the naked eye does not exceed 3000, and as Israel at this time numbered more than 600,000, counting only the adult males (Numbers 2:32),—it might be literally said of them that they had been multiplied as the stars of heaven. The comparison, however, imported nothing more than that their numbers were very great.
It was not the vast increase of the people in numbers that distressed Moses, rather was this to him a matter of rejoicing, and his desire was that their increase might become still greater, even a thousandfold. But he felt his own inability, as leader, ruler, and judge, alone to cope with so vast a multitude.
Moses appeals to the good sense of the people themselves: How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? Cumbrance: this is a just rendering of the Hebrew word מֹרֲח, from טָרַח, which, though it occurs only in the Hiphil in Hebrew, in the sense of to cast down (Job 17:11), probably was in use also in the Kal, in the sense of to lay upon, to encumber, which is the meaning of the cognate Arabic, see Arabic word, followed by, see Arabic word. Burden (שָּׁא, from נָשָׂא, to lift up, to carry, to bear), something lifted up and carried, a load or burden. Strife: (רִיב) here, not mere contention, but litigation, suit-at-law. Some understand all these three, of troubles and burdens laid upon Moses, by his being called upon to compose differences, and adjust competing claims among the people. But other burdens besides these came upon him as the leader of the nation; and it seems best, therefore, to understand the first two of troubles and burdens generally.
Take you; literally, give to you or for you, i.e. yourselves. The selection was to be made by the people themselves. Jethro, in giving Moses the advice on which he thus acted, described the men who were to be selected as "such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness" (Exodus 18:21). Moses here describes them rather by qualities, indicating ability and fitness for such a post as that to which they were to be called; they were to be wise; understanding men, men of discernment and sagacity, as well as intelligence; and known among their tribes, men of good repute in the community ("quorum conversatio sit probata," Vulgate; comp. Acts 6:3; 1 Timothy 3:7). And I will make them rulers over you; literally, will set them for your heads, i.e. will appoint them to act as superintendents, managers, and judges over you.
Deuteronomy 1:14, Deuteronomy 1:15
The people approved of the proposal, and acted upon it; and Moses accordingly appointed the persons selected to be chiefs over thousands, and over hundreds, and over fifties, and ever tens (Exodus 18:21); he appointed men also to be officers, that is, persons who should preserve order in the tribes, keeping the registers, acting as scribes, to prescribe and to take account of work, and perhaps also attending to fiscal arrangements (שֹׁטְרִים, shoterim, a word of general application; cf. Exodus 5:6, Exodus 5:10, Exodus 5:14; Jos 3:2; 2 Chronicles 26:11, etc. LXX. γραμματεῖς and γραμματο εισαγωγεῖς). In Exodus, Moses is said to have chosen these functionaries (Exodus 18:25); but what many do under the direction of one may be said to be done by him.
Deuteronomy 1:16, Deuteronomy 1:17
In installing the judges, Moses solemnly charged them to deal impartially, fairly, and equitably with those who might come before them.
Hear between your brethren, i.e. hear impartially both parties, and judge righteously between man and man, whether both parties are Israelites, or one of the parties a stranger.
Ye shall not respect persons; literally, look at or regard aces, i.e. ye shall not deal partially, favoring the one party rather than the other (comp. Exodus 23:2, Exodus 23:3; Le Exodus 19:15); the small as well as the great were to be heard, and neither for favor nor from fear were they to pervert justice. The judgment is God's; i.e. appointed by God and administered in his name, the judge acting for God and by his authority, and being answerable to him. Hence the phrases, "to inquire of God," "to bring before God" (Exodus 18:15, Exodus 18:19; Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8, etc.) phrases still in use among the Arabs for a summoning to judicial trial. In the case of a matter coming before the judges which they found it beyond their power to decide, they were to bring it before Moses as a superior authority (see Exodus 18:26) "Some think there were certain causes reserved to the cognizance of Moses; but the contrary appears by these words, that all manner of causes were brought before the judges; and they, not the people, brought such causes before Moses as they found too hard for them to determine. So that they, not the person whose cause it was, judged of the difficulty of the cause. See Selden, lib. 1. "De Synedriis, cap. 16." (Bishop Patrick).
The Word of God full of hidden treasure.
We cannot get very far in these preliminary verses ere we are struck with a phrase which is a most suggestive one, and should not be lightly passed over, viz. "On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law," literally, to dig it, i.e. to go deeply into it, and to turn up again its contents, so that, to all the advantage of a generation of culture, the people might see that there was more meaning, and also more glory in the Law of God than they were able to discern in the first years of their national existence. Observe—
I. THERE IS A MINE OF WEALTH IN THE LAW OF GOD. This is the case, even if we thereby intend the Mosaic Law alone. Its theology, its ethics, its directory of religious faith and worship, its civil and political code for the Hebrew commonwealth, are all so pure and elevated, that no account can be given of how any man at that age of the world could have propounded such a system, save that he was taught of God (cf. 2 Peter 1:21). (See Homiletics, Deuteronomy 5:7-22.) If, moreover, we would see how the devout Hebrews estimated the Law, let us turn to Psalms 19:1-14.; Psalms 103:7, et seq. Our Savior honored the Law, and maintained it in all its integrity (cf. Matthew 5:17, Matthew 5:18). He removed the glosses by which it had in his time become disfigured, but he never depreciated it. We are by no means to confound "the Law" with the abstract idea of "law." See how sharply the Apostle Paul distinguishes between these two in Romans 3:1-31, especially in Romans 3:21, "But now there has been manifested a righteousness of God apart from law, being witnessed by THE Law and the prophets." The Law given by Moses is based on the gospel (cf. Galatians 3:1-29; see also Homiletics, Deuteronomy 5:6). If, however, to all that Moses gave, we add all "the grace and the truth" which came in by Jesus Christ, how unsearchably vast is the wealth stored up for us in the "Word of everlasting Truth!"
II. THE EFFORT OF DIGGING INTO THIS MINE WILL BE WELL REPAID. How much difference there is between a man who knows only what men say about the Book, and one who knows the Book for himself] The one may be easily beguiled into the belief that it is so out of date that it is scarcely worth while to study it at all. The other will find it so far ahead of the actual attainments of the wisest and best of men, that he will pity those who dismiss it with but a glance from afar. The continuous, careful, thorough student of the Law of Moses, will be ever discovering a richness in it which will at once astonish and enrapture him. Its harmony with, its historical preparation for, the gospel, will be continually disclosing to him new proofs of its Divine original, that will be worth more to him than any merely "external evidence." And when the whole Word of God is made the constant study of one whose heart is open to the truth and loyal to God, such a one will find fuller and richer meaning in single words, such as goel, "grace," "righteousness," etc; when these words are put to their highest use in Divine revelation, than in whole tomes of merely human lore!
III. THE WORD SHOULD BE DUG INTO, THAT WE MAY APPROPRIATE ITS CONTENTS, BY ENLIGHTENED REASON AND LOWLY FAITH. These treasures are for the use of all, not merely to gratify them with the consciousness of ever making new discoveries, but to make them richer in the accumulating stores of holy thought. And if we, in the right spirit, explore these sacred pages, we shall ourselves become richer in knowledge, in gladness, in hope. If we cultivate a willingness to do God's will, and seek to know the truth for the purpose of doing the right, we shall find that much that is "hidden from the wine and prudent is, by means of the Book," revealed unto babes."
IV. THE MORE WE THUS DIG INTO THE BOOK OF THE LAW, THE MORE EXHAUSTLESS IT WILL SEEM. No one is there, who lovingly and prayerfully studies it, who will not come to say, with a feeling that becomes intenser year by year, "There remaineth very much land to be possessed." "High as the heaven is above the earth, so are" God's "ways higher than" our "ways, and" God's "thoughts than" our "thoughts!"
V. THE ACCUMULATING STORES OF HOLY THOUGHT SHOULD BE TRANSMUTED BY US INTO THE WEALTH OF HOLY LIFE. It is not for naught that our God has so enriched this world with thoughts from heaven. It is not merely that the intellect may be furnished or the taste for research gratified. Oh no; it is for our life. Heaven has poured forth its wealth upon earth, that earth may send up its love and loyalty to heaven. Precious are the riches of truth. The riches of holiness are more precious still. God gives us the first that we may yield him the second. God would win Israel's love by unveiling his own. So now, "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." How great will be our guilt, how severe our condemnation, if we let such priceless disclosures remain unnoticed and unused! It were better for us not to have known the way of righteousness than, after we have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto us. May we, through the Spirit, so use the truth of God as to find our joy and salvation in the God of the truth.
together with Exodus 23:20-33.
The Hebrew right to Canaan.
Moses is reviewing the career of Israel, and is endeavoring to set before the people the patience and faithfulness of God, as well as their own waywardness. In the part of his review which is before us just now, he points to the time when their sojourn in Horeb was about to close. Laws and ordinances had been given. The nation was formed. Preparations for departure would have to be made. To this they are incited by a renewal of the Divine gift to them of the land of Canaan. The bare and brief recital in the verses referred to above may be advantageously compared with Exodus 23:20-33. A subject is here brought before us of great importance, viz. The right of the Hebrews to Canaan, and the purpose of the Divine Being in granting it to them. We have here—
I. THE HEBREW RIGHT TO CANAAN DIVINELY CONFIRMED. A double use has been made of the command to dispossess the Canaanites:
1. By skeptics, to impugn the morality of the Old Testament.
2. By professing Christian men, to justify wars of aggression now. Now we might meet both these by one short and ready reply, viz. "If God commanded the Hebrews to exterminate the Canaanites, no defense is required; if God did not command them, no defense avails." But there is a more appropriate way of meeting the two cases. As to the first, we would say, "Before you pronounce it immoral, look at the entire bearings of the case, that you may see if the Israelites had an adequate warrant for the course they took." As to the second, "Before you regard this as a pattern, look at the entire bearings of the case, that you may see if there is any ground for adducing the wars of the Hebrews as a justification or palliation of aggressive war now." If men go to the Book to learn what the Israelites did, they must in all fairness go to the Book to see the grounds on which they did it. And the same teaching that will answer the one question, Were they justified? will also answer the other, Should we be justified in imitating them? Thirteen points present themselves for distinct and cumulative consideration. We can but name them.
(1) God spake to Moses.
(2) In speaking to Moses, God but confirmed the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
(3) God defines the bounds of the land to be possessed.
(4) God makes the claim, "All the earth is mine;" consequently he has a right to give the land to whomsoever he will.
(5) In choosing Israel, God would have a people for himself who should be his witnesses.
(6) God foresaw the time for carrying out this plan (Genesis 15:1-21.).
(7) The preparation of the land was of God (Exodus 23:20).
(8) The ground on which the Canaanites were dispossessed was their enormous wickedness (Deuteronomy 9:4, Deuteronomy 9:5).
(9) Israel was consequently only the means in the Divine hand of carrying out an explicit Divine purpose.
(10) To spare the Canaanites would have been to infect Israel with their abominations.
(11) God would deliver the nations into Israel's hand.
(12) On a land and among a people recognized as God's, the Most High would reassert in the world the well-nigh forgotten truth, "The Lord our God is holy."
(13) Even Israel's continuance in the land would depend on their maintenance of the principles which had been entrusted to their keeping, and on their loyalty to the God who had chosen them for his own (Deuteronomy 28:49). When we put all these principles together, the two questions suggested at the outset receive a direct and sufficient reply.
II. ACCESS TO CANAAN DIVINEY SECURED. "I will send an angel before thee" (Exodus 23:14; Exodus 32:34; Isaiah 63:9; Malachi 3:1; Acts 7:38, Acts 7:53; John 1:51). It is only as we study the more advanced revelations of the New Testament as to the place of angels in the Divine administration, and the lordship of Jesus Christ over them, that all these texts of Scripture are seen to fit in together. Note the specific statements in Exodus xxiii, as to God clearing Israel's way.
III. DUTY IN REFERENCE TO CANAAN DIVINELY REGULATED. Negatively: they were neither to bow down to false gods nor to mix with the heathen. Positively: they were to serve and fear God and to practice the right.
IV. PROMISES CONCERNING PROSPERITY IN CANAAN DIVINELY GIVEN (Exodus 23:25). Blessing on food, health, long life (cf. Matthew 6:33; Psalms 91:16). A separate homily might well be devoted to the temporal benefits naturally resulting from obedience to God. The application of all this to us in these days is manifest.
1. What Israel was once in the world God expects his Church to be now (cf. Exodus 19:5, Exodus 19:6 with 1 Peter 2:9).
2. In Jesus Christ we have a new covenant, a better ministry, greater promises (Hebrews 8:6).
3. We have a commission for the world. We have to co-operate with God in bringing about new heavens and a new earth, by working in accordance with his plan of redeeming and educating our race. We have no commission to destroy. The Lord hath given us a power for edification but none for destruction. Our commission runs, "Go, baptize and teach." We have not to supersede the occupation of territory held by a barbarous nation, through its enforced occupation by a civilized one, but to go and teach all nations that each nation may supersede its own barbarism by a civilization that is equally its own.
4. This commission is to be fulfilled by the Word of Truth, by the power of God. By spiritual weapons only can our victories be won. In the might of a love that has conquered us, and in that might alone, we are to go forth to make the conquest of the world.
"These weapons of the holy war,
Of what almighty force they are,
To make our stubborn passions bow,
And lay the proudest rebel low!"
Rules to be observed in choosing rulers.
This paragraph may with advantage be compared with Exodus 18:1-27; in which there is a fuller account of the circumstances under which the choice of judges and magistrates was proposed and made; this important step towards the order and consolidation of the national life was taken at the suggestion of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. Referring to the exposition of that chapter for the historic detail, we note here simply:
1. That the choice of rulers, etc; is put into the people's hands; they are to select, Moses is to ratify the selection.
2. They are to choose men of righteousness, who will fear God and do justice.
3. When the judges are chosen, Moses seeks solemnly to impress on them the high and holy responsibilities of their office.
4. The supreme reason for this care in judging rightly is found in the fact that the cause is God's, i.e. that they are rulers under God and for him—representing Divine laws in the earthly sphere. The state is sacredly to be governed by the laws of righteousness, and by such laws alone. Hence a subject is opened up to us which is of no small moment, viz. Principles and facts to be borne in mind in choosing rulers of the people. Observe—
I. THAT THE CHOOSING OF MEN TO TAKE PART IN MAKING OR ADMINISTERING A NATION'S LAWS IS A SOLEMN AND MOMENTOUS CONCERN. It matters comparatively little, so far as our present topic is concerned, what may be the peculiar form of government adopted, or what may be the mode of choosing men for office in the State. For—
1. The position such men occupy is an exalted one. It is self-evident that when they have to take part in governing or carrying out the laws of the laud, it is of the utmost moment that they should be men who are capable of perceiving what measures will tend to the people's good. A country may be perishing from the want of good laws, if its rulers are not competent, wise, and just.
2. The influence such men wield in private circles is largely increased from the fact of their public position.
3. Their representative character is another element of great moment. Great men and good will elevate common questions to their own level; while worthless men will fail to appreciate the importance of the greatest questions of the day.
4. The great matters which may—nay, must—come before the rulers of a nation, are such as may involve that nation's honor or discredit among the nations of the world; yen, more, they are such as will do much, according as they are decided, to bring upon a people the blessing or the wrath of Almighty God! Hence—
II. THE POSSESSION OF A POWER TO PUT MEN IN SUCH AN OFFICE OR OFFICES, IS A TRUST FOR THE USE OF WHICH THOSE WHO POSSESS THAT POWER ARE RESPONSIBLE TO THEIR COUNTRY AND THEIR GOD! The decisions of earthly judges ought to be the earthly expression of heavenly law. Hence to let whim, or caprice, or passion, or partisanship carry us away, when such concerns are at issue, and to forget the everlasting laws of righteousness, is to tamper with the public interest, and to betray a solemn trust. Therefore—
III. IN THE DISCHARGE OF THIS TRUST, STRICT REGARD MUST BE PAID TO PERSONAL CHARACTER. (See Exodus 18:21.) Even a pagan felt this. It was the priest of Midian who said, "Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness"—a fourfold qualification, so comprehensive that, where it is possessed, a man may be safely entrusted with any office. Such men will undertake their work as those who are responsible to God; they will ever be on the look out to perceive what the interests of their country may require at their hands; they will seek to qualify themselves to take part in the public questions which will come before them; without seeking their own honor, they will aim at judging as is wisest and best; and their supreme aim will be that the government they help to administer should be ever in harmony with righteousness and truth. If all its public men answer all these requirements, a country cannot go far wrong; but if a nation's leaders are themselves lacking in virtue, how can there be any security for that righteousness and truth which exalt a nation, when a country is at the mercy of men who knew not the one neither regard the other?
IV. A CONSIDERATION WHICH GIVES INFINITE WEIGHT TO THE ABOVE PRINCIPLES IS THAT THE JUDGMENT OF EARTHLY RULERS IS INTENDED, IN ITS WAY, TO BE A COPY OF THE DIVINE. "The judgment is God's," says Moses. It is God's judgment, expressed through his own appointed officers (see Romans 13:1-14.). Secular judgments should have sacred principles underlying them. And we cannot divorce the secular from the sacred without great mischief accruing. But, finally: the judgment is God's in another sense. HE is the Supreme Judge; and whether men use their judgment well or ill, God will exercise his own. The principles of the Divine government of nations are developed by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, and others. [No nation can escape from the sway of the Mighty One; if God's laws are set at naught, his judgments will follow, that, while they are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants thereof may learn righteousness.
HOMILIES BY D. DAVIES
Divine covenant and human conduct-the two hemispheres of a complete life.
I. AN ELECT MAN, THE BEST OF THE AGE, BECOMES A MEDIUM OF REVELATION BETWEEN GOD AND MEN. As in nature, so in human life, there are numberless grades of office and of function. At Sinai, we have God, angels, Moses, priests. The transparent candor and fidelity of Moses, as a subaltern in God's great host, is a light to all future ages. As the uncreated light left an abiding impress on the face of Moses, so the known will of God shone out lustrously in Moses' life. All that Moses heard, he communicated by word, and temper, and influence, and deed.
II. MATERIAL PENURY A CONDITION FOR HEAVENLY ENRICHMENT. The scene for the revelation of God, is the wilderness. Stripped of earthly luxuries, the mind opens its portals to heavenly visitation. This is not a necessity arising out of the nature of things, but it is a necessity for man in his present state. The son of Zacharias, though a priest, turned his back upon the temple, and chose the wilderness as the theatre most suitable for his ponderous undertaking. This the spirit of prophecy had foreseen. It was in the desert, Jesus fed the thousands by a creative word. In the desert, Paul was equipped for shaking the foundations of paganism. In Patmos, John passed through- the—portals of the spirit-world.
III. HUMAN POWER IS FORMAL—GOD'S POWER REAL. To the eye of mortal sense, the Hebrews, drilled and officered, fought victoriously with Amalek and Moab; nevertheless, a clearer vision sees that it was God that slew Sihon, King of the Amorites, and 'Og, King of Bashan. Let us be sure that what we do, God does by us! Be we the agents; God the principal! In righteous warfare, "He teacheth our fingers to fight." In us hourly let God be immanent. "God wills it," therefore let us will it also. "He worketh in us."
IV. IMMEDITATION AND ACTION INTEGRAL PARTS OF HEALTHFUL LIFE. "Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount." The body may be wrecked by surfeit, as well as by hunger. Knowledge is not entirely ours, until it is reduced to practice. Heavenly wisdom is essentially practical. All light is designed for service. The doctrines of religion are raw materials, which are to be put into the warp and woof of our daily life. Is "the Lamb the light of the heavenly place?" The saints "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth." Meditation qualifies for action; action demands new meditation. These are the two wings, without both of which the eagle cannot rise. "Come ye into the desert;" "Go and preach;"—these are the twin behests of Christ.
V. GOD'S ABSOLUTE PURPOSES LEAVE FULL SCOPE FOR MAN'S OBEDIENCE. How the two things are co-related, we cannot ascertain. The point of junction is among the incomprehensible—beneath the surface of things. There is now and again seeming discord; but as we listen on there is a profounder harmony. The Lord swore unto the patriarchs to give them the land of Canaan. Yet the spies brought back an ill report; and the people debated and murmured, vacillated and countermarched, as if they had been the umpires of their destiny.
VI. GOD'S PROVISION IS ALWAYS MORE AMPLE THAN MAN'S DESIRE. God's plan for Israel's territory extended from Mount Lebanon to the Euphrates; but Israel never rose to the full height of God's design. "Ask what I shall give thee" is still the message from heaven to every man. "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." "We have not because we ask not." There is abundance of sea-room in God's plan for the largest human endeavor; and every day the voice of the Great Proprietor reminds us, "There is yet very much land to be possessed." "All things are yours."—D.
The blessing of good government.
I. A WISE MAN DISAVOWS ABSOLUTE MONARCHY. Legislation, the most difficult department of government, had been furnished for Israel by the Supreme Mind of the universe; yet Moses found the task of administration too much for a single arm. The aim of every ruler ought to be, not personal power, but universal service—the greatest good of the greatest number. No wise man will expose himself to the tremendous temptation of personal aggrandizement. Beside, it is a boon to others to exercise the faculties of discrimination and judgment.
II. POPULAR CHOICE OF RULERS TO BE DETERMINED BY A SINGLE LAW, VIZ. PERSONAL MERIT. To lift the voice for an unqualified ruler is a crime against the State—an injury, and not a benefit, to the person elect. To allow personal qualification to dominate the choice, is to make God the umpire. This is, in civic affairs, "to do his will on earth as it is done in heaven."
III. THERE IS ROOM, BOTH IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE STATE, FOR VARIOUS OFFICES. If a man cannot rule five thousand, he may be able to rule fifty. Service in a subordinate station may qualify for higher dignity. Gradation of rank best conserves the interests of the nation. "Order is Heaven's first law."
IV. ALL HUMAN AUTHORITY IS IN THE STEAD OF GOD. "The judgment is God's." Magistrates act in God's stead. Parents likewise. Every man is bound to act as God would act. He represents God always and everywhere. All talent is a trust. We are the stewards of God's estate.
V. HUMANITY IS FAR SUPERIOR TO NATIONALITY, CLASS, OR SECT. Every man, however poor or ignorant, is to be accounted a brother. In the commonwealth of Israel there are no strangers. Nationality is but a pasteboard separation. "God hath made of one blood all nations." The great divider is sin. A heaven-kindled eye penetrates through every crust of barbarism and vice, and sees a man beneath. Here is a kingly nature, though now enslaved.
VI. GROWTH OF NUMBERS IS A TOKEN OF DIVINE APPROBATION. In the ratio of material abundance and contentment, is increase of population. It was one of the presages of Messiah's kingdom, "they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth." In heathen lands population is sparse. War and pestilence decimate the ranks. In proportion as sound Christianity prevails, the subjects of the state augment. Every additional man ought to be an increment of strength and usefullness.
VII. PRAYER HAS A RECOGNIZED PLACE IN GOD'S GOVERNMENT. Promise always waits on prayer, as harvest waits on the husbandman's toil. However abundant are the promises, yet for the fulfillment God will be inquired of to do it for us. When prayer has its root in God's specific promise, it must bear fruit in proportion as faith enlarges her boughs. This is wise building, for we found our expectations upon eternal rock.
VIII. GOOD MEN GREATLY DESIRE THEIR COUNTRY'S GOOD. Patriotism is a goodly virtue, though not the noblest. To fence ourselves round with selfish interests is despicable. We envy not that man's narrow soul who has no sympathy nor energy for his nation's weal. The best Christian will take some interest in everything—in municipal matters, international treaties, literature, science, commerce, art. In the broadest sense, he is a citizen of the world. He lives to bless others. This is Christ like.—D.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The Deuteronomic discourses.
I. THE SPEAKER. "Moses." Though an hundred and twenty years old, "his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated" (Deuteronomy 34:7)—a statement borne out by the sustained eloquence of these addresses. He speaks with the authority of a prophet, the affection of a patriot, and the earnestness of a dying man.
II. THE HEARERS. "All Israel." A new generation had sprung up from that which had received the Law at Sinai.
1. All are concerned in hearing God's message. "It is your life" (Deuteronomy 32:47).
2. New-comers need new teaching.
III. THE SITUATION. "In the wilderness"—still there at the end of forty years. The places named (Deuteronomy 1:1), suggestive of past wanderings and rebellions. Form a background to the discourses that follow, and point home their lessons. We learn:
1. The value of association as an aid in teaching.
2. Our past cannot be got rid of, but it may be utilized.
3. God's Word is to be pondered in the light of bygone experiences.
4. The comparison of our actual situation with what it might have been (Deuteronomy 1:2) is often a salutary exercise (cf. Luke 15:17).
IV. THE SUBJECT. "All that the Lord had given him in commandment." We find that this does not refer to a new commandment, but to the old commandment which they had from the beginning (cf. 1 John 2:8).
1. Men crave for novelty, but the function of the preacher is to remind them of the truths which do not change, and to give "line upon line, precept upon precept," until loyal and hearty obedience is rendered to the same.
2. Exhortation is most effective when it takes as its basis the sure Word of God.
3. God's Word is to be spoken in its entirety.
V. THE TIME. "In the fortieth year, in the eleventh month"—when the attack on the Canaanites was about to be renewed, and after signal tokens of Divine favor had already been granted (Deuteronomy 1:4).
1. God's mercies call for renewed dedication (Psalms 116:12-14).
2. The recollections of wasted years should prove an incentive to obedience in the future (Romans 13:11, Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:15, Ephesians 5:16; 1 Peter 4:3).
3. We need God's commandment in our memories and hearts when entering on work in which formidable opposition is to be encountered, and which will put our fidelity to a severe test.
VI. THE MOTIVE.
1. The natural solicitude of old age. It is characteristic of old age to fall back upon and reiterate previous counsels. Compare Peter in his second Epistle (2 Peter 1:16); the traditional stories of the old age of John; Paul in the pastoral Epistles, "urging and repeating and dilating upon truths which have been the food of his life" (Alford).
2. The lawgiver's knowledge of the rebelliousness of the people's disposition (Deuteronomy 9:24).
3. The Divine command (verse 3). This had respect to the altered circumstances of the new generation, and to the prospect of their entering the land promised to their fathers, continuance in which was conditional on obedience.—J.O.
The might-have-beens of life.
In its present setting this brief geographical note was, doubtless, meant to suggest the lesson of the evil results of disobedience. "Eleven days' journey," yet the fortieth year still saw them in the wilderness. We learn:
1. Sin turns short ways into long ones.
2. Sin entails on the transgressor needless trouble and sorrow.
3. Sin fills life with fruitless regrets.
4. Sin delays fulfillment of God's promises.
The path of obedience is in the end the shortest, easiest, safest, and happiest.—J.O.
A summons to advance.
Moses begins by reminding the Israelites how God had formerly summoned them to march upon Canaan. The summons came to them at Horeb, after a sojourn of eleven months. The verses may be applied to illustrate—
I. THE CHURCH'S DANGER—to abide at the mount, to settle down into a state of apathy or simple receptivity. This is met by the call to action—"Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: turn you, and take your journey" (Deuteronomy 1:6, Deuteronomy 1:7). Notice:
1. Israel's stay at the mount was good while it lasted. There the nation enjoyed a season of rest, ratified its covenant with God, received the Law, constructed a sanctuary, and was otherwise equipped and organized. There must be times of getting, of learning, of consulting for one's own edification, else it will go hard with us in the work and battle of life. But
2. There was a danger that Israel's stay at the mount might last too long. So is it with the Church, when she concentrates her attention too exclusively on her own spiritual improvement, and forgets her mission to the world. We have to remember that we get and learn only that we may apply and act. There is the peril of religion becoming a species of enjoyment. We luxuriate in retired communion, in restful fellowship with God, in converse with fellow-believers, in Church ordinances; and we think how sweet it would be if this could always last. But we are wrong. It would not be good for us always to be in this state of simple receiving. Religion, divorced from active employment, must soon lose its robustness, and degenerate into a sickly religiosity. There are many, many Christians who have been long enough, and far too long, in the mount, and it would be welt for themselves if they could hear this voice summoning them to go forward.
II. THE CHURCH'S DESTINY—to possess the land. The type was the land of Canaan; the antitype, so far as it lies in time, is the world, which it is the Church's calling to conquer for Christ, and for her own possession. St. Paul gives this interpretation in Romans 4:13. Taking the passage in this light, and reading the wider truth into it, we get the idea of a land which is:
1. Known to God (Romans 4:7). Known thoroughly, in all its parts, peoples, districts, conformation, accessibilities, and inaccessibilities. In advancing to take possession of the world for Christ, we have the encouragement of thinking that he knows precisely to what kind of work he is sending us, and yet promises success. India, China, Africa, etc.,—he knows them all, yet he says, "Go in and possess."
2. Gifted by God (Romans 4:8). It is long since the oracle declared that God had given Christ the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession (Psalms 2:8). The Church, as one with Christ, shares in his kingdom, and shall yet inherit the whole earth.
3. The conquest of which is commanded by God. Not, indeed, by carnal weapons, as the Israelites were commanded to conquer Canaan, nor yet by the destruction of those against whom we war; but by the nobler weapons of the truth, and by seeking men's salvation. This is a benigner method of conquest, and it will prove successful if we advance with faith and courage. Those who persist in hardening themselves must indeed be destroyed; but not by us. The Lord puts no weapon of a kind to injure any into our hands; but bids us leave vengeance with himself. Our means are the preaching of the gospel, prayer, holy living, organized and beneficent activity to reach the lost sheep of our great communities, and multiplied missionary agencies in foreign lands.
III. THE CHURCH'S DUTY—to obey her Lord, and go forward at once to this great work.
1. He gives no alternative.
2. The command is express.
3. The world sorely needs our work.
4. Every motive of gratitude and compassion should urge us to it.—J.O.
Deuteronomy 1:10, Deuteronomy 1:11
These verses embody the expression of a very natural state of feeling in contemplating the marvel of the Church's growth.
I. THE CHURCH'S INCREASE AN OBJECT OF DESIRE. "The Lord God of your fathers make you," etc. (Deuteronomy 1:11). Such increase is:
1. A token of Divine favor (Acts 11:24).
2. A manifestation of Divine power (1 Corinthians 1:18-30; Ephesians 1:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:5).
3. A source of blessing to the world (Psalms 67:1-7.).
4. A fulfillment of the Divine counsels (Ephesians 1:10).
5. Means the ascendancy of true religion.
II. THE CHURCH'S INCREASE AN OBJECT OF WONDER. (Deuteronomy 1:10.) The rapid spread, the extraordinary victories, the prolonged empire, and the undecaying vitality of the Christian religion are the most wonderful things in history, and a proof of its Divine origin. As Israel increased by the Divine blessing at an unprecedented rate, and in spite of all Pharaoh's attempts to check the increase, so has the Church flourished and spread, proving herself in her unarmed strength more than a match for the deadliest powers which can be arrayed against her. The present century has witnessed a remarkable revival of this propagative energy of Christianity (comp. Numbers 23:23).
III. THE CHURCH'S INCREASE A MATTER OF PROMISE. (Deuteronomy 1:11.) The promise to Abraham of a countless seed embraced in its widest import the spiritual, not less than the natural, Israel—his seed in Christ (Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:7-10, Galatians 3:14, Galatians 3:16, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 3:29). (Cf. the promises in Isaiah 53:10-12; Isaiah 54:1-3; Isaiah 60:1-12, with Daniel 2:35, Daniel 2:44; Matthew 8:11; Revelation 7:9).—J.O.
Division of labor.
(Cf. Exodus 18:13-27.) An instance of a good idea
(2) readily adopted,
(3) generally approved of.
Reminds us that division of labor is as important in Church work as in the arts.
I. THE NEGLECT OF DIVISION OF LABOR LEADS TO SERIOUS EVILS.
1. The work is not overtaken. "Not able" (Deuteronomy 1:9).
2. Those who have to do it are greatly overtaxed. "Cumbrance," "burden" (Deuteronomy 1:12).
3. Energy is wasted on subordinate tasks which might be applied to better purpose.
II. THE ADOPTION OF DIVISION OF LABOR SECURES OBVIOUS ADVANTAGES.
1. Relieves the responsible heads.
2. Expedites business and promotes order.
3. Secures that the work is better done.
4. Utilizes varieties of talent.
But parties must be as willing to co-operate as they were here.
III. RIGHTLY TO SECURE THE ADVANTAGES OF DIVISION OF LABOR THERE MUST BE EFFICIENT ORGANIZATION. When Moses took in hand the appointment of assistants, he did it thoroughly (Deuteronomy 1:15). The work which each is to do must not be left to haphazard, or to "understandings," or to the tastes and inclinations of individuals, but should be definitely marked out. There must be organization and distribution of tasks on a general plan, which, while it affords room for all grades of talent, allots work with a view to the aptitudes which each is known to possess. It is characteristic of Moses' scheme:
1. That it took advantage of existing institutions.
2. That it rested on a broad, popular basis; elective (Deuteronomy 1:13).—J.O.
Deuteronomy 1:16, Deuteronomy 1:17
The rules here laid down, while primarily applicable in the administration of law, are, in their spirit and for the most part in their letter, equally fitted to snide our private judgments. A proneness to judge is condemned by Christ (Matthew 7:1); but his rebuke of the censorious spirit is not to be read as forbidding the framing of such judgments upon the character, actions, and pretensions of others as the circumstances of our position may render necessary. We are called every day of our lives to form, and frequently to express, judgments upon men, measures, causes, theories, disputes, proposals; judgments as to true and false, right and wrong, wise and unwise, expedient and inexpedient. Matters are appealed to us as individuals, or as a part of the general community, on which judgment is expressly asked. We must judge that we may know how to act. All this involves the possibility of judging rashly; of judging with bias and prejudice; of judging so as to do wrong to individuals; of judging so as to injure truth and retard progress and improvement. The text teaches us, on the contrary—
I. THAT CAUSES, BEFORE BEING JUDGED, ARE TO BE FAIRLY HEARD. How many judgments are passed daily in utter ignorance of the real facts of the case, and without any attempt to ascertain them, perhaps without the means of ascertaining them! Such judgments are ipso facto unjust. It is only by the rarest chance they can be right, and their rightness being accidental does not justify them. Let judgments be reserved for cases in which we have an opportunity of full investigation. Hear both sides, and hear them
(2) candidly, and
II. THAT CAUSES, AFTER BEING HEARD, ARE TO HAVE JUDGMENT PASSED UPON THEM WITH STRICT IMPARTIALITY. "Judge not according to the appearance," said Jesus, "but judge righteous judgment"—an instance illustrating that wider view of judging which we are here taking (John 7:24). Equal measure is to be meted out to all. We are to judge impartially as between brother and brother, fellow-citizen and foreigner, rich and poor, applying the same principles and standards to each case, and keeping in view the essential merits as the one thing to be regarded. This is the plain rule of justice, though we all feel how difficult it is to act up to it.
III. THAT JUDGMENT UPON CAUSES IS TO BE GIVEN FEARLESSLY. "Ye shall not be afraid of the face of man." (Cf. the Regent Morton's eulogy on Knox—"There lies he who never feared the face of man.") Even when just judgment is being pronounced internally, the fear of man, or the desire of man's favor, or the dread of temporal consequences, often leads to a time-serving tampering with conviction, to a saying and doing of the thing we do not at heart approve of. This is the worst kind of cowardice.
IV. THAT JUDGMENT UPON CAUSES IS TO BE GIVEN UNDER A DUE SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY TO GOD. "The judgment is God's." Judges are his vicegerents, deriving their authority from him, expressing the judgment of his righteousness, anticipating his own final judgment, and themselves responsible to him for the manner in which they exercise their functions. Every biased, untrue, and insincere judgment is a misrepresentation of that truth and rectitude which have their ground in God's own being.
V. THAT IN CAUSES ON WHICH WE ARE INCOMPETENT TO PRONOUNCE, JUDGMENT IS NOT TO BE ATTEMPTED. (Verse 17.)—J.O.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The impartiality of God to be reflected in the judges of his people.
In the following Homilies we adhere to the traditional view of the Mosaic authorship of the book, believing that no sufficient evidence has yet been adduced by the critics for departing from that view. Moses enters upon his addresses in the land of Moab by recapitulating the salient points of the Exodus. The first notable reference is to the appointment of the judges. The qualifications and directions here recorded are fitted to throw precious light upon the Divine character. Here let us notice—
I. There was to be NO RESPECT OF PERSONS IN JUDGMENT. And here we may quote a definition which will materially aid us in this subject: "By the word person in Scripture signifies not a man, but those things in a man which, being conspicuous to the eyes, usually conciliate favor, honor, and dignity, or attract hatred, contempt, and disgrace. Such are riches, wealth, power, nobility, magistracy, country, elegance of form, on the one hand; and on the other, poverty, necessity, ignoble birth, slovenliness, contempt, and the like." These Jewish judges, therefore, were directed to allow Bone of these personal accidents to influence their judgments in the cases committed to them, but to decide as matters of pure equity.
II. There was to be NO FEAR OF MAN in their judgments. The consequences to themselves were not to be regarded. They were to be fearless officers, representing the Most High.
III. We see here that WITH GOD THERE CAN BE NO RESPECT OF PERSONS AND NO FEAR OF MAN. The strict impartiality of God has been questioned, if representations of his procedure drawn from the Divine Word are accepted. Now, the whole plan of salvation by grace appears favoritism and partiality. What is the meaning of "grace?" Undoubtedly free, unmerited favor. If, then, salvation is by grace (Ephesians 2:8), must not God be liable to the charge of partiality? Such, at least, is the reasoning of some in the interests of certain systems. But when the matter is looked into more closely, we find that salvation by free grace is the most conclusive evidence of God's impartiality. It is really saying to all men, "Unless you give up the notion of recommending yourselves to me; unless you surrender the idea of some special claim in your being or your life upon me; unless, in a word, you lay aside the fancy that you must be partially and exceptionally treated, which is the whole meaning of self-righteousness, I cannot save you." This is impartiality Par excellence; and this is exactly God's position in offering salvation to men. All who refuse salvation are really refusing to be treated impartially, and are clamoring for exceptional consideration on the ground of some fancied merit. The rejected at the last will be found to be those who wanted favoritism, but put away free grace. The line of thought opened up here may be profitably carried on.—R.M.E.
Here Moses passes from the judges to the people at large; from charging officials to judge righteously, to reminding the people that they also had received from him commandments which they had to obey. The "things" referred to are either the injunctions specified in Exodus 21:1-36; etc; or simply the instructions mentioned in the preceding verses. God had called the Israelites out of Egypt that they should go up at once to Canaan, and he had by Moses done all that was needed for this. But they had been rebellious, and had opposed God's commands, the consequence of which was that they had been made to experience various trials, especially to wander nearly forty years in the wilderness, so that of those who came out of Egypt only two were privileged to see the Promised Land. The words of Moses in this section supplement and complete the narrative in Numbers 13:1-33.; but the words are those, not of a compiler, but of one who had been himself a witness of all he narrates.
That great and terrible wilderness: the desert forming the western side of the Stony Arabia. It bears now the name of Et-Tih, i.e. The Wandering, a name "doubtless derived from the wanderings of the Israelites, the tradition of which has been handed down through a period of three thousand years It is a pastoral country; unfitted as a whole for cultivation, because of its scanty soil and scarcity of water". In the northern part especially the country is rugged and bare, with vast tracts of sand, over which the scorching simoom often sweeps (see on Deuteronomy 1:1). This wilderness they had seen, had known, and had experience of, anti their experience had been such that the district through which they had been doomed to wander appeared to them dreadful. Passing by the way of the Amorites, as they had been commanded (Deuteronomy 1:7), they came to Kadesh-barnea (see Numbers 12:16). Their discontent broke out oftener than once, before they reached this place (see Numbers 11:1-35; Numbers 12:1-16.); but Moses, in this recapitulation, passes over these earlier instances of their rebelliousness, and hastens to remind them of the rebellion at Kadesh (Numbers 13:1-33; Numbers 14:1-45.), because it was this which led to the nation being doomed to wander in the wilderness until the generation that came out of Egypt had died. It was through faith in God that Canaan was to be gained and occupied by Israel; but this faith they lacked, and so they came short of what God had summoned them t, attain. Hence, when they had come to the very borders of the Promised Land, and the hills of Canaan were before their eyes, and Moses said to them, in the name of God, Go up, possess ("asyndeton emphaticum," Michaelis), they hung back, and proposed that men should be sent out to survey the land and bring a report concerning it. This was approved of by Moses; but when the spies returned and gave their report, the people were discouraged, and refused to go up. They were thus rebellious against the commandment (literally, the mouth, the express will) of Jehovah their God; and not only so, but with signal ingratitude and impiety they murmured against him, and attributed their deliverance out of Egypt to God's hatred of them, that he might destroy them (see Numbers 13:1-33, to which the narrative here corresponds).
Ye murmured in your tents; an allusion to what is recorded in Numbers 14:1, etc. Moses addresses the people then with him as if they had been the parties who so rebelled and murmured at Kadesh, though all that generation, except himself, Joshua, and Caleb, had perished. This he does, not merely because of the solidarity of the nation, but also that he might suggest to them the possibility that the same evil spirit might still lurk among them, and consequently the need of being on their guard against allowing it to get scope.
Our brethren have discouraged our heart; literally, hate melted or made to flow down our heart (הֵמַסּוּ, Hiph. cf מָסַס, to flow down or melt), have made us fainthearted. The cities are great and walled up to heaven; literally, are great and fortified in the heavens. To their excited imagination, the walls and towers of the cities seemed as if they reached the very sky; so when men cease to have faith in God, difficulties appear insurmountable, and the power of the adversary is exaggerated until courage is paralyzed and despair banishes hope. Sons of the Anakims; elsewhere (Numbers 13:22; Joshua 15:14; Judges 1:20) children or sons of the 'Anak. 'Anak may originally have been the proper name of an individual, but it appears m the Bible rather as the designation of the tribe. It is the word for neck, and this race, which were strong and powerful men, or their progenitor, may have been remarkable for thickness of neck; this, at least, is more probable than that it was from length of neck (Gesenius) that they got the name, for a long neck is usually associated with weakness rather than strength. Some have supposed the Anakim to have been originally Cushites; but the origin of the tribe is involved in obscurity.
Moses endeavored to rouse the drooping courage of the people, and persuade them to go up by reminding them that God, who was with them, would go before them, and fight for them as he had often done before; but without success, so that God was angry with them, and forbade their entrance into Canaan. This is not mentioned in Numbers, probably because Moses' appeal was unsuccessful. The whole of that generation was bound to fall in the wilderness, except Caleb and Joshua; only their children should enter the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy 1:29, Deuteronomy 1:30
Moses exhorts the people not to be afraid, as if they had to encounter these terrible enemies solely in their own strength; for Jehovah their God was with them and would go before them, as he had gone before them hitherto, to protect them and strike down their enemies.
Not only at the Red Sea did God appear for the defense of his people and the discomfiture of their enemies, but also in the wilderness, which they had seen (as in Deuteronomy 1:19), where (אֲשֶׂר, elliptically for אֲשֶׂר בוֹ) Jehovah their God bore them as a man beareth his son, sustaining, tending, supporting, and carrying them over difficulties (comp. Numbers 11:12, where a similar figure occurs; see also Isaiah 46:3, Isaiah 46:4; Isaiah 63:9, etc.; Psalms 23:1-6.).
Deuteronomy 1:32, Deuteronomy 1:33
Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God; literally, With this thing [or With this word] ye were not believing in Jehovah your God. The Hebrew דָבָר, like the Greek ρῆμα, signifies either thing or word. If the former rendering be adopted here, the meaning will be, Notwithstanding this fact of which you have had experience, viz. how God has interposed for your protection and deliverance, ye were still unbelieving in him. If the latter rendering be adopted, the meaning will be, Notwithstanding what I then said to you, ye remained unbelieving, etc. This latter seems the more probable meaning. In the Hebrew text there is a strong stop (athnach) after this word, as if a pause of astonishment followed this utterance—Notwithstanding this word, strange to say! ye were not believing, etc. The participle ("believing") is intended to indicate the continuing of this unbelief. So also in Deuteronomy 1:34, the participle form is used—"who was going in the way before you," to indicate that not once and again, but continually, the Lord went before them; and this made the sin of their unbelief all the more marked and aggravated. (For the fact here referred to, see Exodus 13:21, etc.; Numbers 9:15, etc.; Numbers 10:33-36.)
And the Lord heard the voice of your words, and he was wroth, and sware, etc. (comp. Numbers 14:21-24).
Deuteronomy 1:35, Deuteronomy 1:36
They were all, the whole generation of them, evil, and therefore not a man of them should see the good land which God had promised to their fathers, with the exception of Caleb, who had wholly followed the Lord—had remained steadfast and faithful whilst the others fell away. Joshua also was exempted from this doom; but before mentioning him, Moses refers to himself as having also come under the Divine displeasure.
The Lord was angry with me also for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither. This must be regarded as parenthetical, for what he here refers to in regard to himself occurred, not at the time of the rebellion at Kadesh, but at the time of the second arrival of the people at that place, many years later. This parenthetical reference to himself was probably thrown in by Moses for the purpose of preparing for what he was about to say respecting Joshua, in whom the people were to find a leader after he himself was gone. It may be noted also that Moses distinguishes between the anger of the Lord against him, and the wrath which broke forth upon the people—a distinction which is aptly preserved in the Authorized Version by the words "was wroth" (קָצף) and "was angry" (אָנַף). For your sakes; rather, because of you, on accent of you. The Hebrew word (גָלָל) comes from a root meaning to roll, and signifies primarily a turn in events, a circumstance, an occasion or reason. Moses reminds the Israelites that the misconduct of the people was what led to God's being angry also with him (see Numbers 20:7, etc.; comp. Psalms 106:32, Psalms 106:33).
Though the rebellious generation were to perish, and Moses was not to be permitted to enter Canaan, God would not depart from his promise, but would by another leader bring the people to the inheritance which he had sworn to their fathers to give them. (For the account of Joshua's appointment and installation, see Numbers 27:15-23.) Which standeth before thee; i.e. to be thy minister or servant (Exodus 24:13; Exodus 33:11; Numbers 11:28; comp. for the meaning of the phrase Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 18:7; Daniel 1:5). Encourage him; literally, strengthen him (comp. Deuteronomy 3:21, Deuteronomy 3:22; Deuteronomy 31:7, Deuteronomy 31:8). Inherit it; the "it" refers back to Deuteronomy 1:35, "that good land." In Deuteronomy 1:8 and Deuteronomy 1:21, the land is spoken of as to be possessed by the Israelites; here it is spoken of as to be inherited by them. The former has reference to their having to wrest the land by force from the Canaanites (יָרַשׁ, to occupy by force, to dispossess; cf. Deuteronomy 2:12, Deuteronomy 2:21, Deuteronomy 2:22, where the verb is, in the Authorized Version, rendered by "destroy''); the latter has reference to their receiving the land as a heritage (נָנחל) from God, who, when he divided to the nations their inheritance, assigned Canaan to the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:8). "Joshua the executor of the inheritance" (Schroeder).
Only among the young of that generation should the inheritance be divided, as they had no part in the rebellion of their seniors. Your little ones; i.e. children beginning to walk (טַף, from טָפַף mo, to trip, to take short and quick steps). And your children—boys and girls—which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil; rather, of whom [ye said] they know not today good and evil. The Hebrews were wont to express totality or universality by specifying contradictory opposites, as, e.g. great and small (2 Chronicles 34:30), master and scholar (Mal 2:1-17 :20), free and bond (Revelation 13:16; Revelation 19:18), shut up and left (Deuteronomy 32:36, where see note; 1 Kings 14:10), etc. Accordingly, when good and evil are set over against each other, the notion of entireness or universality is expressed. Thus, when Laban and Bethuel said to Abraham's servant "We cannot speak unto thee bad or good" (Genesis 24:50), the meaning is, We can say nothing at all. Absalom spake to Amnon "neither good nor bad" (2 Samuel 13:22); that is, he did not say anything to him. The woman of Tekoa said to David, "As an angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good and bad" (2 Samuel 14:17); i.e. There is nothing the king does not know—his knowledge is universal. Hence to know good and evil came to mean to be intelligent, and not to know good and evil to be unintelligent, as is a babe. The children here referred to knew nothing, and consequently could not be held as morally responsible; comp. Isaiah 7:15; Homer, ' Odyssey,' 18.228—
ἐσθλά τε καὶ χέρεια παρὸς δ ̓ ἔτι νήπιος ἠᾶ
The command to go to the mount of the Amorites (Deuteronomy 1:7) is recalled, and they are ordered to turn into the wilderness and go by the way leading to the Red Sea (setup. Numbers 14:25).
The people, appalled at the prospect of another sojourn in the wilderness, yet still rebellious and disobedient to God's command, though professing penitence, determined, in spite of direct prohibition on the part of God by Moses, to go up and force their way into Canaan; but were punished for their presumption by being utterly defeated and put to flight by the Amorites (comp. Numbers 14:40-45).
We have sinned; in Numbers it is simply said that "the people mourned greatly" (bemoaned themselves, יִתְאַבְּלוּ); but this is not incompatible with the statement here that they confessed their sins; the one would naturally accompany the ether. Their confession, however, was in word only; their conduct showed that it was not sincere. In Numbers (xiv. 44) it is said, "They presumed to go up;" here it is said (verse 41), Ye were ready to go up, rather, Ye acted heedlessly with levity, or rive. lonely, to go up. The verb here (וַתָּהִינוּ) occurs only in this place, and is of doubtful signification. The Rabbins compare it with the הננו, lo we! here we be! of the people in Numbers 14:40. It is the Hiph. of הוּן, which is supposed to be the same as the Arabic, see Arabic word, to be light, easy; and from, this the meaning, "ye went up heedlessly, is deduced. None of the ancient versions, however, give this meaning. The LXX. has συναθροισθέντες ἀνεβαίνετε εἰς τὸ ὄρος; the Vulgate, instructi armis pergeretis in montem; Onk; ושׁרתון למסק (and ye began to ascend); Syriac, see Arabic word, (and ye incited yourselves to go up).
Moses, by the command of God, warned the people that, if they presumed to go up, they should go without his protection, and so would certainly fall before their enemies.
In vain were they thus warned. Moses spoke to them as God commanded, but they would not be persuaded. Went presumptuously; rather, acted insolently and went up; margin, Authorized Version, "Ye were presumptuous, and went up" The verb here (חֵזִיד, from זוּד, to boil) signifies tropically, to act proudly, haughtily, insolently (comp. Nehemiah 11:29, Authorized Version, "dealt proudly").
The Amorites, for the Canaanites generally; in Numbers, the Amalekites are specially mentioned as joining with the Amorites in chastising the Israelites. These tribes came down from the higher mountain range to the lower height which the Israelites had gained, and drove them with great slaughter as far as Hormah, in Seir, chasing them as bees do, which pursue with keen ferocity those who disturb them. Hormah (Ban-place), the earlier name of which was Zephath (Judges 1:17), was a royal city of the Canaanites, taken by the Israelites towards the close of their wanderings, and placed by them under a ban (Numbers 21:1, etc.), which ban was fully executed only in the time of the Judges. It is here and elsewhere called Hormah by anticipation. The old name Zephath seems to have survived that given to it by the Israelites in the name Sebaita or Sepata, the Arabic form of Zephath, the name of a heap of ruins on the western slope of the rocky mountain-plateau Rakhmah, about two hours and a half south-west of Khalasa. This is a more probable identification than that of Robinson ('Res.,' 2.18), who finds Hormah in the rocky defile of Es-Sufah, an unlikely place for a city of the importance of Zephath to be in.
Ye returned; i.e. either to Kadesh, where Moses had remained, or from their rebellious and defiant attitude to one of apparent submission and contrition, or the whole phrase, "Ye returned and wept," may mean merely that they wept again, as in Numbers 11:4, where the same words are used. And wept. They mourned their misfortune, and complained on account of it (comp. for the meaning of the phrase, Numbers 11:4, Numbers 11:18, Numbers 11:20). Before Jehovah; i.e. before the tabernacle or sanctuary (comp. Judges 20:23, Judges 20:26). Their mourning was not that of true repentance, and, therefore, the Lord would not listen to them or give heed to their wail (comp. Proverbs 1:24, etc.).
It was unnecessary that Moses should tell the people the precise length of time they abode in Kadesh after this, because that was well known to them; he, therefore, contents himself with saying that they remained there as long as they did remain (comp. for a similar expression, Deuteronomy 9:25). How long they actually remained there cannot be determined, for the expression, many days, is wholly indefinite.
Sending the spies.
This paragraph contains a brief review of events which are recorded in Numbers 13:1-33; Numbers 14:1-45. Israel had left the wilderness of Sinai; the cloud now rested in the wilderness of Paran. At this point they were not very many days' journey from the land of promise. But it would seem that they did not like to go in and take possession of the land without more information than they as yet possessed as to its accessibility and its fitness for their permanent home. So they proposed that spies should be sent ahead. We gather that, at the desire of the people, Moses asked advice of the Lord, and in consequence he wag bidden to accede to their request. Twelve men were sent. Ten brought an evil report of the land; two only were full of heart and hope, strong in faith, giving glory to God. Numbers carried more weight than worth. The report of ten bore down that of two. The people would not believe the Lord. They said in their unbelief, "Let us make a captain, and return into Egypt," and even (Nehemiah 9:17) "appointed a captain to return to their bondage." And a sad and sorrowful glance does Moses cast over the sin of that time. Let us glance at it too. We will endeavor to gather a true estimate of the course which Israel took, taking care, as we go on, to see how far the incidents recorded here convey instruction to many whose feelings are analogous to theirs, In estimating this case, let us look—
I. AT THE COURSE ISRAEL TOOK IN SENDING THE SPIES.
1. It was unnecessary. For they had been redeemed by a strong hand and by a stretched-out arm from the bondage and degradation of Egypt; their deliverance had been effected for them by the free love, spontaneous care, and watchful providence of God. Surely it should not have been hard to argue on this wise: "He who has shown us such wondrous mercy will not be wanting to us to the end." It was surely needless to send out any scouts to Canaan, to survey the land before them. A wiser and better care than theirs had done this for them, and there was no more need for them to send to spy out the land than to have sent pioneers to clear their way through the deep! But, in thus chiding Israel, are we not really rebuking ourselves? We have to bethink us of a rescue, before which that of Israel fades into nothingness. And how has our rescue in Christ been effected? By our power or skill? Nay, but by a wisdom, power, and love, which in blessed union did combine in the cross of Christ to save us. Is not, then, the inference more than warranted, "He that spared not," etc. But if so, why need we strain our eyes to pierce the gloom that hangs over our future course? We need not faithlessly forecast.
2. It was undesirable, and that on several grounds.
(1) It was manifestly hindering their march.
(2) They were confronted by the prospect of an accumulation of difficulties which would come only one at a time.
(3) Israel therefore darkened the present by prying into the future. So it is now. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Our daily course, with its mingled comforts and cares, may be so peaceful if we will calmly leave the future to him who knows and plans all; but if we, with our short foresight and our little strength, will foolishly set before us in one perplexing combination all the difficulties which will come only one by one; if we think and speak as if our God would leave us alone when they come,—we shall dishonor him, and shade the present by anticipating the future.
II. LET US LOOK AT THE CONCLUSIOIN TO WHICH ISRAEL CAME ON THE REPORT OF THE SPIES. They resolved to go back and to return to Egypt, and appointed a captain to lead them. It was one-sided, forgetful, ungrateful, and ruinous.
1. It was one-sided. True, the sons of Anak were in the way. But who was above them all? See Caleb's putting of the case, in Numbers 14:6-9.
2. It was forgetful For was not the fact of all these enemies being in the land explicitly named in one of the earliest promises (Exodus 3:17); and had not God promised to drive them out?
3. It was ungrateful. After all the love which had been shown them, how could they so requite it?
4. It was ruinous (see Numbers 4:33-38; Deuteronomy 1:32-39). But are there not some now who start fairly in the Christian race, or seem to do so, and yet who, when some difficulty meets or threatens them, turn hack and go away (cf. Matthew 13:20, Matthew 13:21)? Nor can we safely neglect the warning consequent on this incident given in Hebrews 3:4. To quit the leadership of Christ because of present or impending difficulties will be much more grievously sinful than it was for Israel to propose to quit the leadership of Moses. The four points named above will apply also here. It will be:
1. One-sided. For supposing, as we try to peer into the future, possible or even certain difficulties do present themselves, ought we not to remember that with the demand on the strength there will be given strength to meet the demand? Why look at one without looking at the other?
2. It will be forgetful. For what are the words of Holy Writ? What are we bidden to expect? Have we ever been told that we are to have a smooth path through life? Have we never read that "through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom?" Have we not read that we must expect to be "partakers" of Christ's sufferings?
3. It will be ungrateful. Did not our Savior tread a thorny path for us; and have we no return to make in treading a thorny path for him? Do we thus intend to repay the sorrow and blood of Calvary?
4. It will be ruinous if we turn back. Difficulties we seek to shun will be multiplied a hundred-fold. The ease we would fain secure will not be ours. While, instead of having to conquer the sons of Anak, we shall have to encounter the condemnation of our Savior and Lord. Let us press onward still to the rest which remaineth. On! for honor demands it. On! for gratitude requires it. On! for love, infinite love, expects it. On! only a step at a time, and if the giant Anakim appear, the Lord will fight for us. On! and if we come to Jericho's walls, faith's trumpet blast shall bring them to the ground. On! and you will have many a cluster of grapes sent to you by the Lord of the land, to show you its richness, and that you may taste of its fruits ere you enter there! Trust your God, ye people, follow the Lord fully, and not all the powers of earth or hell shall keep you from the promised rest!
The grievous consequences of unbelief.
Moses rehearses in the hearing of Israel the strange story of "their manners in the wilderness," and reminds them how their unbelief had provoked the Lord to anger, and had deprived vast numbers of them of the rest they had hoped to enjoy. We ought to be at no loss how to apply this to present day uses. The Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, renews the warning voice. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, both by argument and exhortation, repeatedly says, Take heed lest a like evil befall you (Hebrews 3:7-19; Hebrews 4:1-11). Whence observe—
I. HERE IS A REMARKABLE FACT TO BE NOTED: viz. Divine arrangements apparently failing of their end through the misconduct of man.
1. God had made provision for securing the entrance of Israel into their land. Early had the promise been made. Long and patiently did the patriarchs await its fulfillment (Hebrews 11:13). God had watched over his people's wanderings. He beheld them in Egypt. When the time for liberating them was come, Moses was at hand. Israel had but to stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, again and again. The Law was given from Sinai. Manna descended from heaven. Water gushed from the rock. The pillar of fire and of cloud was their guard, light, or shade. They knew what God intended to do for them. The promise was clear; the conditions were plain; the warnings were solemn; the threatenings were terrible. No excuse of ignorance could be pleaded by the people. Yet:
2. All were insufficient to prevent their defection of heart from God. They were perpetually doubting God. "Ten times" £ (Numbers 14:22). Unbelief led to the breaking forth of lust. They forfeited the promise; and of the many thousands who started for Egypt only two survived to enter Canaan. "So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief."
II. THERE IS GREAT DANGER LEST THE PARALLEL BETWEEN OURSELVES AND ISRAEL, ALREADY SEEN IN GREATER MERCY, SHOULD BE SEEN AGAIN IN A GREATER RUIN. There is already a parallel in mercy.
1. There is a complete arrangement for meeting all our wants on the way to a nobler rest.
2. In treading the way, we have a far better Leader than Moses.
3. We have far clearer light than Israel had.
4. We have fuller and richer promises.
5. We have a far higher rest in view.
6. Throughout the way there will be demands on our faith.
7. There is a danger from within, lest we should distrust God.
Are we not conscious of such a danger? Our hearts are sinful, and predisposed to doubt. We have doubted God very much, and thus wronged him in times gone by. Such unbelief may take or may have taken the form of presumption or of despair. For an illustration of the former, see next Homily. The latter kind of unbelief may be almost indefinitely varied. Men may doubt
(1) the power of God to bring them to the rest; or
(2) the willingness of God to do it; or
(3) the readiness of God to bring them to the rest, without questioning his care for others; or they may even go so far as to doubt
(4) whether the promises of the rest be Divine;
(5) whether there is any such rest as the one promised; and even
(6) whether there is any God of promise.
Whichever of these forms a despairing unbelief may assume, the evil of it is sufficiently manifest. It is the greatest dishonor which we can cast on God, to allow the thought to gain the mastery, that we are flung down hither without any sure destiny of blessedness being disclosed, or without any certainty of reaching it being made known. Besides, doubt prevents work; it paralyzes. Doubting God gives the rein to every lust.
8. And unless we "take heed," if we suffer doubt to get the mastery, as Israel lost their rest, we shall lose ours. What present rest can we have while unbelief has the upper hand? Doubt is essentially unrest. How can we enjoy any future rest? What sympathy with God can we have? Besides, God declares, "They shall not enter into my rest." In that heavenly rest none can or will share who do not implicitly believe the promise and loyally obey the precept.
9. And how much more serious it will be to trifle with Christ, than to slight Moses (Hebrews 10:28-31) But there is a very bright side to this subject. While unbelief will shut us out of heaven, nothing else will! Nothing can shut us out of heaven but doubting God! Poverty cannot. Persecution cannot. Reproach cannot. Obscurity cannot. No one shall ever sink who trusts his God. See that young and weak believer who has turned his back on the world, and set his face heavenward. A thousand difficulties bristle up in all directions. But he meets them all, saying, "God called me, God will help me, God will lead me, God will guard me."
"A feeble saint shall win the day,
Though death and hell obstruct the way!"
Yea, even so! "Them that honor me," saith God, "I will honor." But, must we not look to him who awakened our faith, to sustain it? 'Tis even so. Ever have we to say, "Give what thou commandest, and then command what thou wilt." "Lord, we believe; help thou our unbelief." And is there not enough revealed of God and of his wondrous love in Christ to put every doubt to flight, when all that God is to us is laid home to our hearts by the Holy Ghost? Here, indeed, is a quickening, inspiring, sustaining force, of which Israel knew little or nothing. "Greater is he that is for us than all they which be against us." "He that spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Let us doubt ourselves as much as we will, but our God and Savior—never. He hath said, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." "Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?"
In the preceding paragraph we had an illustration of unbelief in doubting the promise of God, and of the effect of that unbelief in excluding from the promised rest. Here we have an illustration of a like unbelief working in precisely the opposite direction; as Israel feared to go up notwithstanding the promise of God, so now we find them resolving to go up in spite of the prohibition of God, "acting," as an expositor remarks, "in contempt of the threatening, as they had before acted in contempt of the promise, as if governed by a spirit of contradiction." The points in the history which should be noted are these.
1. As the men of that generation (two only excepted) were debarred from entering Canaan, they have to wander in the desert for forty years.
2. They rebel against this Divine arrangement, though we, who at this distance of time "see the end of the Lord," can perceive how much mercy there was in it.
3. There was a short way to Canaan, through a hill country, which to human judgment would seem preferable to a "march far wandering round."
4. In this route enemies would surely assail—Amorites, Amalekites, etc.
5. Israel made light of these difficulties.
6. God forbade their going up. Moses forbade them. The ark was not moved from its place in the camp.
7. The people were resolved to go up, defiantly, insolently (Gesenius, sub verb.).
8. They paid dearly for their presumption. They were forced back.
9. They grieved and wept over their disappointment.
10. Such weeping God does not regard. "Tears of discontent must be wept over again." As they had before found out the folly of distrusting God's strength, so now they had to bewail the uselessness of presuming on their own! We cannot be wrong in continuing to follow the apostolic teaching in regarding the Canaan of Israel's hope as a type of the higher "rest" which "remaineth for the people of God' (cf. Hebrews 4:1).
I. THE LAW OF OLD IS IN FORCE STILL, THAT THE UNBELIEVING SHALL NOT ENTER INTO REST. This is the teaching, under varied forms, of no small part of the Old Testament and of the New. We may inquire, if we will, into the philosophy of this; and in doing so, we shall find but little difficulty in seeing the essential impossibility of one who doubts God finding rest anywhere. Doubt is unrest. But whether or no one can discern the deep reason of it, there stands the word, with its awful bar, "He that believeth not is condemned already."
II. IT IS A DREARY OUTLOOK FOR THE UNBELIE
To wander on, and to be moving towards some destiny or other, but yet to have no prospect of rest at the end of the journey, is it not dreary? We do not deny that men may, as they say, resign them, selves to the inevitable. And we even admit that men may so far control themselves, as, with stoical unfeelingness, to take "a leap in the dark." But not all this can blind us to the misery of those who move on under the ban, "The unbeliever shall not see rest."
III. THE SAME UNBELIEF WHICH DOUBTS THE PROMISE ALSO DESPISES THE THREATENING. Both promise and threatening come from one and the same God; hence whoever doubts him will be as likely to question one as the other. And it is very, very easy for unbelief to urge plausible arguments or questionings concerning the threatenings; e.g. "Has God said that?" "God will not be so severe;" "God cannot mean me;" "Who can tell whether the judgment day will ever come?" etc.
IV. THIS UNBELIEF MAY MAKE A DESPERATE EFFORT TO PROVE THE THREATENING NULL AND VOID. "We WILL go up!" How much does this remind us of what our Savior says in his Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 7:22)! As if unbelief would carry its daring up to the very judgment seat (see also Matthew 25:10-12; Luke 13:24-26).
V. AN ATTEMPT TO ENTER THE REST IN A WAY CONTRARY TO GOD'S WORD, WILL BE FORCED HELPLESSLY BACK. Israel was disastrously repulsed, and found it "hard to kick against the pricks." "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!" "Hath any hardened himself against God, and prospered?" (see continuation of New Testament passages referred to above). Man can do many wonderful things, but there are five things he never can do: He cannot evade the sentence of God; he cannot postpone it; he cannot nullify it; he cannot modify it; he cannot impeach it. "We are sure that the (δικαίωμα) sentence of God is according to truth."
VI. THE WEEPING OF DISAPPOINTMENT WILL BE UNAVAILING. "Ye returned and wept before the Lord; but the Lord would not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you." It will be of no use whatever trying to enter Canaan if the sentence has finally gone forth against us, "Ye shall not see my rest;" nor will it avail to try to enter by any other than God's own appointed way; nor will the murmuring, or wailing, or gnashing of teeth at all alter the matter. There may he as much unbelief in tears as in trifling. By no other means than implicit faith in and unswerving loyalty to God in Christ, can we find rest for our souls either here or hereafter. Oh that sinful men would "hear the voice of Jesus say," "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!" Apart from Christ, our souls must wander in dry places, seeking rest and finding none.
HOMILIES BY D. DAVIES
Irrecoverableness of wasted opportunity.
I. THE CULMINATION OF OPPORTUNITY OFTEN FINDS A MAN UNPREPARED TO OCCUPY IT. The point of time referred to here was the supreme moment in Israel's history. They had relinquished Egypt, endured privation, performed a toilsome journey, for one object, viz. to possess Canaan; yet, when they touched the threshold of the inheritance, they failed to rise to the conception of their privilege. They hesitated, dawdled, feared—and failed. Men play with opportunity as a toy, and when their eyes open to see its value, lo! it has vanished. Possibly, there is a supreme moment in every man's history; yet often he is too indolent to improve it. Every morning is not a May-day. Many reach the margin of a glorious destiny, and then turn back to the desert, The path of duty is very plain; but self-indulgence makes us blind as a mole.
II. THE DISHONESTY OF PRUDENTIAL PLEAS. These Hebrew men thought themselves very sagacious to suggest the experiment of the spies; and God endured their whim. Yet there was no reason for this precaution. With God as a Pioneer and Protector, they might have known that it was safer to follow the fiery pillar than to remain at ease in their tents. The command was plain—"Go up and possess." Therefore all delay, and all reconnoitering, was sin. If we were to deal honestly with inclination, if every whisper of conscience were obeyed, we should often see through the thin guise of our own pretences; we should strip the veneer of insincerity from our deeds. In some dark cavern of our hearts we may find, by honest search, some wish that we are ashamed to avow. There is often a conspiracy in the man against himself. We hunt for excuses to cover disobedience.
III. UNBELIEF DEVELOPS, THROUGH MANY STAGES, INTO RANK REBELLION. The report of the spies confirmed the word of God. This always accords with external fact, and with human experience. God had not said that the Canaanites were few or weak. What mattered it how tall and brawny they were, if so be God were on their side, and fought for them? Old Unbelief is a fool, and ought to be decorated with cap and bells. Unbelief is poison, and saps the basis of our strength, enervates our courage, and melts our iron into flux. Unbelief develops into falsehood, and perverts the truth of God into lying. Unbelief maligns and traduces God—charges him with the basest crime. It calls evil good; purest love it styles blackest hate. It is the essence of blasphemy. It is the crime of crimes—the seed of misery—the germ of hell.
IV. THE RETRIBUTIONS OF GOD ARE SEVERE AND EQUITABLE. Much that human judgment deems to be retribution is not penalty. Bodily suffering is usually corrective, not destructive. The retributions of God are co-related to the sin. Men pamper the passion for drink: inappeasable thirst shall be their doom. Men say to God, "Depart from me!" God responds, "Depart from me!" The Hebrews would not march into possession of Canaan: therefore they shall dwell and die in the desert. Retribution is related to sin as fruit to blossom—as wages to work. There comes a point where return is impossible. God swears that it shall be so. The oath is an oath of righteousness. Nevertheless, out of the crowds of the nameless ungodly, individual liegemen shall be honored, even Caleb and Joshua. These are elect spirits—choice natures. In the day of overwhelming calamity, God does not overlook the solitary righteous. "He hideth him in the hollow of his hand." The proofs of inviolable equity are written in gigantic capitals on the heavens and on the earth.
V. THE FORECASTS OF FEAR ARE OFTEN THE REVERSE OF REALITY, Cowardly and disobedient Hebrews pretended a far-reaching concern for their children. "If we are slain in this invasion of Canaan, what will become of our little ones?"—thus argued these malcontents. "Can we endure to think that they shall become a prey to these human wolves?" They were frightened at a mirage—terrified at the shadow of their own folly. Facts were the very reverse of their fears. These "little ones" God would take into training—drill them by the hardy discipline of the wilderness, and qualify them for warfare and for conquest.
VI. REPENTANCE HAS MANY COUNTERFEITS. There is often confession of our folly, and yet no repentance; promise of amendment, yet no repentance. There may he poignant regret for the past, bitter shame, sharp remorse, deep compunction, severe self-judgment, yet no repentance. For repentance is soul-submission unto God. It brings our feeling, desire, will, into harmony with God's feeling and will. Repentance has not thoroughly penetrated the soul until we love what God loves, and hate what God hates. True repentance works for righteousness. Deceit may so worm itself in the heart as to intertwine itself round every fiber of our being. We may ultimately become so blind as not to discern between truth and falsehood. The repentance of these Jews was a carnal sorrow that produced fruits of death.
VII. PRESUMPTION IS AS CRIMINAL AS PUSILLANIMITY. We dishonor God as much by going beyond the line of duty, as by falling short of it. Each alike is an act of disobedience. We cannot atone for cowardice yesterday by an excess of rashness today. The essence of obedience is promptitude. It is not the same whether we observe the command today, or tomorrow. Between the two there may be a gulf deep as hell itself. The prohibitions of God are as sacred as his positive commands. What is a duty today may be a sin tomorrow, because the precept may be withdrawn. Some commands are eternally permanent; some have only temporary prevalence.
VIII. REPENTANCE OFTEN COMES TOO LATE. During lifetime, repentance has moral productiveness. We may not attain the precise object, which by repentance we hoped to gain; nevertheless, real repentance brings relief and gladness to the soul! Esau was afterwards a better man for his repentance, though he could not recover his birthright. To these Hebrews, repentance came too late for them ever to possess the earthly Canaan: let us hope it availed to gain them the heavenly. It is possible for repentance, long-delayed, to be unavailing. "Because," says God, "I have called, and ye refused … I also will laugh at your calamity, Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer." "He swore in his wrath, They shall not enter into my rest." When all gracious remedies are exhausted, "it is impossible to renew men unto repentance." It is a perilous thing to tamper with conscience, or to trifle with God.—D.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
That great and terrible wilderness.
An emblem of the rough and afflictive way by which God leads his people to the higher rest.
I. THE FACT OF THIS WILDERNESS DISCIPLINE. We need not exaggerate. We admit all that can be said of the world as a fair and delightful residence, in which we have much to make us happy. But it cannot be denied that the picture has a darker side. The man who has drunk deepest of the world's pleasures is he who can tell best how unsatisfying it is as a portion for the spirit. There are more sad and weary hearts in this same world than a glance at the surface of society would lead us to suspect. There are numbers to whom life is one hard, dreary, terrible, hopeless struggle with adverse conditions. The joy of a life is often blighted by a solitary stroke; and in how many eases does some secret grief embitter what seems from the outside a prosperous existence! The believer is no more exempt than others from these ordinary griefs of life—from poverty, trial, pain, bereavement. But he has thoughts and feelings of his own, which add to the pain of his situation. He is a Christian, and contact with the world's evil tries and grieves him as it will not do a worldly man. His hope is beyond, and this makes earth, with its imperfect conditions, its broken ideals, its unsatisfied yearnings, seem drearier to him. Like his Master, his ear is quicker to catch the strain of human woe—"the still sad music of humanity"—than the strain of noisier mirth. All this compels him to look at life prevailingly under an aspect of privation, discipline, and trial, and it is in no unreal sense that he speaks of it as the "wilderness." When troubles crowd on him, it is literally, as to others, "waste and howling," a "great and terrible" desert.
II. THE ENDS OF THIS WILDERNESS DISCIPLINE. These are numerous.
1. In part the discipline is inevitable—bound up with the conditions of existence in a world "made subject to vanity." But:
2. The discipline is useful.
(1) It tries and proves the heart (Deuteronomy 8:2).
(2) It inures to hardship.
(3) It develops the nobler qualities of character—faith, patience, resignation, etc. (Romans 5:3).
(4) It makes the lest sweeter when it comes (Revelations Deuteronomy 7:14; Deuteronomy 14:13).—J.O.
"Fear not, neither be discouraged" (cf. Joshua 1:7, Joshua 1:9).
I. GOD'S WORK NEEDS COURAGE.
1. The enemies are many.
2. The enemies are strong.
3. Humanly speaking, we are feeble in comparison with them.
Distinguishing between real and nominal Christianity, it might be plausibly held that there is today greater talent, intellectual power, wealth, rank, and social influence enlisted on the side of unbelief than on the side of faith. But the true citadel of unbelief is the evil heart; and what powers of our own are sufficient to storm that?
II. IN GOD'S WORK THERE IS EVERY REASON FOR COURAGE.
1. God is with us. Our cause is his cause.
2. He has promised victory, and he is able to keep his promise.
3. The past should encourage us.
The Church can never come through greater conflicts than those in which she has already proved herself victorious.—J.O.
The mission of the spies.
We see from two instances in this chapter how God's plans leave wide room for the independent action of the human mind. Moses got the suggestion of appointing judges from Jethro; the idea of sending spies to reconnoiter the Holy Land originated with the people. The source from which it came made the motive of it doubtful, but as in itself a measure of prudence, Moses was well pleased with it, and, with God's permission, adopted it. We have here—
I. A POLICY OF CAUTION. Caution is in itself a virtue. It is never wise to rush into undertakings without well-planned measures. The more knowledge we have to guide us in entering upon difficult duty the better. The sending out of these spies was fitted to procure for the Israelites valuable information as to the nature of the land, the best mode of attack, the state of feeling among the inhabitants, etc. The Church would do well to improve upon the hint thus given, and have men out on the field, to keep a sharp watch on the fortifications and movements of the enemy, and bring back intelligence which may encourage, guide, or otherwise help those whose time and thought are devoted to the actual warfare.
II. AN UNEXPECTED RESULT OF THAT POLICY. The spies, with two exceptions, brought back a most disheartening and ill-advised report. We see here the danger of a policy of caution, when that springs from over-fearfulness or an original indisposition to advance. When caution is divorced from courage, and gets the upper hand, its natural tendency is to neutralize enthusiasm, to concentrate attention on difficulties, to play into the hands of those who don't want to do anything, and to furnish them with excuses and arguments for delay. It was so here. The real secret of the desire of the people to have spies sent out was their lurking disbelief and fear. The spies themselves shared in this fear. With the exception of Caleb and Joshua, they seem to have had an eye for little else than difficulties. They admitted the goodliness of the land, and brought with them a splendid sample of its fruit (verse 25). But in every other respect their report was calculated to dispirit, It is a sad thing for the Church when those who ought to animate and encourage her begin themselves to show the craven spirit. Yet over-cautious people are apt, often unwittingly, to do the very work of these spies, by magnifying difficulties, looking only to discouragements, and standing in the way of plans and efforts which would do great good.
III. A REBELLION OF THE PEOPLE. That rebellion was the result of downright unbelief (verse 32), and illustrates its work (cf. Hebrews 3:19). We see in it how unbelief:
1. Looks only to the seen. They thought only of the size of the people and the strength of the cities (verse 28). The help of their invisible King was to them as if it were not. They had not the slightest hold upon the reality of it.
2. Looks only the discouragements of duty. There was a bright side as well as a dark one to the report brought to them, but nothing would make them look at the bright one. The same two sides—a bright and hopeful side, and a side of difficulty—exist in every situation, and it is a test of character which we are most given to dwell upon.
3. Misreads the providence of God. What greater perversion of God's kind dealings could human nature be guilty of than that in verse 27?
4. Is blind to the lessons of the past. They had just been delivered from Egypt, had seen mighty miracles, had been brought across the Red Sea, had been strengthened to conquer the Amalekites, etc.; but all is already forgotten.
5. Issues in flat refusal to do God's will. That is the upshot of unbelief, wherever it exists. The report of the spies, confirmed by the grapes of Eschol, suggests that there is very much in the world which makes it worth conquering for Christ (genius, art, beautiful natural characteristics, etc.).—J.O.
Love in the wilderness.
A beautiful passage, laden with God's compassions. We have in it—
I. TENDER LOVE. The love is likened to that of the best of fathers to a son (cf. Psalms 103:13). The New Testament goes further. It not only likens God to a father, but tells us he is one. He is "our Father in heaven," "the God and Father of Jesus Christ our Lord." This full revelation of Fatherhood only a Son could have given; and as given in the gospel it is the believer's daily comfort (Matthew 6:25-34).
II. CONSTANT CARE. This arises out of the relation and the love. It is a care:
1. Unceasing. "All the way."
2. Provident. "Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in."
3. Comprehensive; embracing every want of our lives. God "bare" Israel, i.e. took the entire charge of the nation upon himself; the whole responsibility of seeing them fed, led, clothed, kept, and brought safely to their final destination. So does he provide for his children in Christ.
4. Tenderly sympathetic. "As a man doth bear his son." And God has to bear with, as well as bear us.
III. SPECIAL GUIDANCE. This is included in the care, but is more prominent as a peculiar manifestation of it (Deuteronomy 1:33). Guidance is never wanting to those who need it. It is from day to day—just sufficient to show us present duty. It is given in the Bible, in the indications of providence, and in that inward illumination which enables us to discern the Lord's will in both, It was furnished to the Israelites through the pillar of cloud and fire—the symbol:
1. Of fiery guardianship with grateful shade.
2. Of guiding light with attendant mystery.
3. Of light shining to us in the midst of dark providences.
4. Of the adaptation of God's guidance to our needs—by day the cloud, by night the fire.—J.O.
The excluded and the admitted.
I. THE EXCLUDED.
1. That whole unbelieving generation, with two excerptions (Deuteronomy 1:35). Note:
(1) Their unbelief and disobedience did not frustrate God's purpose of the occupation of the land. Canaan was occupied after all. So heaven will be peopled, the world conquered, and God's work done, though we in our folly and sin rebel and stand aloof (Matthew 3:9). "It remaineth that some must enter in" (Hebrews 4:6).
(2) Their unbelief and disobedience effectually excluded themselves. God swore it in his wrath, and the sentence admitted of no reversal. A foreshadowing of the final exclusion from heaven of those who persistently disobey (Matthew 7:21-24; Luke 13:24-29; Hebrews 4:11; Revelation 22:11-16).
2. The holy Moses (Deuteronomy 1:37; cf. on Deuteronomy 3:26; Deuteronomy 4:21; Deuteronomy 34:4). The exclusion of Moses will be more fully considered afterwards, but we learn from it here that God's apparent severity is often greatest to his own people (Amos 3:2), and that the share which others have had in leading us into sin does not abate our own responsibility in the commission of it. This greater apparent severity
(1) repels the charge of favoritism;
(2) gives a peculiarly impressive demonstration of the evil of sin;
(3) reminds us that sin in God's people is more dishonoring to him than it is in others;
(4) warns the wicked. For if judgment begin at the righteous, "what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:17, 1 Peter 4:18).
II. THE ADMITTED. These were to be:
1. The faithful two—Caleb and Joshua (verses 36, 38). The former is signalized as having "wholly followed the Lord," and Joshua was a man of like faith and staunchness in a time of general defection. Such persons God will singularly preserve and honor. Their place in heaven will be a high one. "We must, in a course of obedience to God's will and of service to his honor, follow him universally, without dividing; uprightly, without dissembling; cheerfully, without disputing; and constantly, without declining; and this is following the Lord fully" (Matthew Henry, on Numbers 14:24). 2. The younger generation (verse 39). Instead of the fathers, God would take the children. What a rebuke!—
(1) of their groundless bars. "Your little ones, which ye said should be a prey."
(2) Of their unmanly cowardice. Their little children, types of all that was humanly feeble, would do the work they were afraid to attempt.
(3) Of their inconsiderate Selfishness. They were not ashamed to hand down to these children their own abandoned life-tasks, with all the work and peril, if also with all the reward and honor, attending their accomplishment. Was not this to make themselves objects of contempt to their own offspring? "Let no man take thy crown," least of all thine own child,—J.O.
In the conduct of these Israelites we have a typical exhibition of human nature. In its folly, its fickleness, its unreasonableness, and its obstinacy. Forbidden to enter Canaan, they change their mood, and nothing will serve them but to "go up" and do the thing they had formerly said they would not do. They are vociferous in their professions of repentance, and will not be reasoned out of their self-willed purpose, but persist in following it up to their own after discomfiture. We have here to notice—
I. HOW UNCHANGED CHARACTER MAY COEXIST WITH A CHANGED FORM OF MANIFESTATION. Underneath these loud professions of repentance, "We have sinned" (Deuteronomy 1:41), it is not difficult to detect:
1. The old unbelief. They disbelieve God's threatening, as before they refused to believe his promise.
2. The old self-will. It is not what God wills, but what they will themselves, that is to be done. They do not ask, "Will God permit us to do this?" but they take the law into their own hands, and ignore God's wishes altogether.
3. The old contumacy. Their wills are wholly unsubmissive. In revolt yesterday against their duty, and today against their punishment. They will not hear warning (Deuteronomy 1:43), but pursue their own way. All this stamps their repentance as not only tardy, but insincere. Analogous to much of the repentance caused by fear of punishment, fear of exposure, fear of death; and points to the defects in superficial repentance generally.
II. How INSINCERE REPENTANCE NATURALLY PASSES OVER INTO PRESUMPTUOUS SIN. It does this inasmuch as there was never in it the element of real submission. The undertaking of the Israelites was typical of many more. It was:
1. Presumptuously conceived.
2. Presumptuously prepared for.
3. Presumptuously persevered in.
It is, therefore, the type of all undertakings set on foot and carried out
(1) in defiance of God's will;
(2) without God's assistance;
(3) in face of God's expressed displeasure.
It is a case, in short, of flying in the face of God; of defying him, and entering into direct contest with him; as every one does whose schemes are in opposition even to natural and economical, and stilt more if they are in opposition to moral and spiritual, laws; or in any way contrary to what we know to be God's will. Presumption may show itself in refusal to be saved, except in ways or on terms of our own dictation.
III. How GODLESS ENDEAVOR RECOILS IN DISASTER ON THOSE WHO PERSIST IN IT. (Deuteronomy 1:44.) So must it be with all schemes that have God's frown upon them.
1. Repentance may come too late (Deuteronomy 1:45; Matthew 25:11; Luke 13:25).
2. Disobedience may cloak itself in the guise of obedience (Deuteronomy 1:41).
3. The test of obedience is willingness to do what God requires at the time he requires it, and not at some time of our own.—J.O.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The unbelief in sending and in hearkening to the spies.
Moses reminds his audience of the conduct of their fathers at Kadesh-barnea, when exhorted to go up and possess the land. Duty was clear. They had been brought up out of Egypt for the very purpose of entering into and possessing the land of Canaan. But instead of courageously following the path of duty, they resolved to send over spies. The result was an evil report and an evil resolution on the people's part not to attempt invasion. The bitter end was death in the wilderness and exclusion from the land of promise.
I. GOD OFFERED CANAAN TO HIS PEOPLE AS A SUITABLE INHERITANCE. It was the promise of this land which led to the exodus. The sojourn at Horeb was to organize the nation and give it laws. All was ready for an entrance into the land. Its suitability was guaranteed in the Divine promise; and if the people had been willing to walk by faith, then the invasion would have been immediate and successful. (On the suitability of the land, cf. Moorhouse's 'Hulsean Lectures,' the last sermon in the volume, on 'The Land and the People.' In Kinglake's 'Invasion of the Crimea,' we have a similar instance in the allies not taking Sebastopol by assault immediately after Alma.)
II. THE SUGGESTION ABOUT SPIES WAS REALLY A RESOLVE TO WALK BY SIGHT AND NOT BY FAITH. Moses at first approved of it, although it never came from him. He thought that anything the spies saw would only confirm them in the resolution to invade the land. But in principle it was unbelief in God. It was virtually resolving not to follow his advice unless it seemed the best. It was putting clear duty to the trial of prudence. It was a resolve to walk by appearances and not by faith. And this is the universal tendency of the human heart. Prudence often conflicts with faith and hinders wholesome action. Prudence has no voice in the matter after God has spoken. He may lead us through over-prudence, in absence of express commandment; but when the command is clear, prudence should hide its head and allow faith to obey.
III. IT WAS STILL WORSE TO HEARKEN TO THE SPIES WHOSE COUNSEL CONFLICTED WITH THE COMMAND OF GOD. Having embarked on prudential considerations, they must needs follow them out to their unbelieving end. The spies returned, and could not but acknowledge that the land was good. From Eshcol they carried on a staff a bunch of grapes sufficient of itself to vindicate the Divine choice of the land. "But the inhabitants," said ten of the spies, "are gigantic, and the cities walled up to heaven; and there is no use in thinking of successfully invading it." In vain did Caleb and Joshua counsel courage instead of cowardice, faith instead of fear. The people resolved to take counsel of their fears and unbelief. They would not enter the land of promise. So is it often in the lives of men. God offers salvation and a good land to all who will believe upon him. But men fear the giants and their castles. They imagine that the difficulties of the life of faith are beyond their powers, and so shirk them. But when God points out a path of difficulty, it is not that we may encounter its perils in our own strength, but in his. Faith will carry us through, while sense and sight are sure to fail us.—R.M.E.
The heirs of promise.
We have in this passage the result of unbelief. The dread of the people was lest their little ones should become a prey to their gigantic foes in Canaan. The Lord now declares that these little ones shall be the possessors of the land, while they themselves shall be denied an entrance, since they refused it when offered to them. The only exceptions are to be Joshua and Caleb, who made the good report and gave the good counsel. Even Moses is included in the doom of exclusion. The subsequent attempt and the subsequent tears had no effect in reversing the deserved sentence. We learn from this passage such practical lessons as these:—
I. GOD'S GRACIOUS OFFERS ARE NOT TO BE TRIFLED WITH. The Promised Land lay open to the Israelites, who had been mercifully guided to its gates. The all-important "Now," the time for decisive action had come, and it remained with them to determine whether they would go in and receive the blessing, or remain without. They preferred to delay, to trifle with the offer, and so the time went past. So sinners are offered pardon and acceptance as an immediate boon (2 Corinthians 6:2), but when the offer is despised and trifled with, it may be withdrawn (Proverbs 1:24-33).
II. PRESUMPTION IS A POOR SUBSTITUTE FOR FAITH. When the people saw the mistake they had made, they would go up and fight in a spirit of presumptuous chagrin. They now fought without commissions. The result was disastrous defeat, and a hurling of them back from the gates of Palestine to the great and terrible wilderness. God was not with them in their presumption, since they would not follow him in humble faith. So may it be with sinners. Despised mercy may be succeeded by deserved defeat. The wild and proud efforts of presumption are in stalking contrast to the quiet courage of faith. Toil and tears may be insufficient to retrieve disaster when once courted by unbelief.
III. JOSHUA AND CALEB'S GOOD FORTUNE SHOWED WHAT WAS POSSIBLE TO WHOLEHEARTED FAITH. These two spies, in wholly following the Lord and in counseling courage, showed an humble faith. They stood alone faithful in face of an unbelieving majority, and God gave them a corresponding assurance that they should enter into the land. They were greatly honored in being allowed to do so. And they are surely encouragements to believing souls throughout all time.
IV. THE ASSURANCE OF THE CHILDREN THAT THEY SHOULD BE HEIRS OF THE LAND VINDICATED GOD'S PROCEDURE AND FAITHFULNESS. The little ones, for whom they feared, are selected as the heirs of premise. But they are to get the land after discipline and sorrow in the wilderness. God's ways are not ours. Yet wisdom regulates them all. And the Divine grace was magnified in this arrangement. The Israelites, as they died in the wilderness, would be cheered by the thought that, though they were justly excluded from the land because of their unbelief, their children would receive the inheritance in the exercise of faith. The judgment on the fathers would be sanctified, like the sickness of Hymenseus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:20), and their spirits, let us hope, saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:5).—R.M.E.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 1". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany