Everything had been done on the part of God and Moses to bring Israel speedily and safely to Canaan. The reason for their being compelled to remain in the desert for forty years was to be found exclusively in their resistance to the commandments of God. The discontent of the people with the guidance of God was manifested at the very first places of encampment in the desert (Num 11 and 12); but Moses passed over this, and simply reminded them of the rebellion at Kadesh (Num 13 and 14), because it was this which was followed by the condemnation of the rebellious generation to die out in the wilderness.
“When we departed from Horeb, we passed through the great and dreadful wilderness, which ye have seen,” i.e., become acquainted with, viz., the desert of et Tih, “of the way to the mountains of the Amorites, and came to Kadesh-Barnea” (see at Num 12:16). הָלַךְ, with an accusative, to pass through a country (cf. Deu 2:7; Isa 50:10, etc.). Moses had there explained to the Israelites, that they had reached the mountainous country of the Amorites, which Jehovah was about to give them; that the land lay before them, and they might take possession of it without fear (Deu 1:20, Deu 1:21). But they proposed to send out men to survey the land, with its towns, and the way into it. Moses approved of this proposal, and sent out twelve men, one from each tribe, who went through the land, etc. (as is more fully related in Num 13, and has been expounded in connection with that passage, Deu 1:22-25). Moses' summons to them to take the land (Deu 1:20, Deu 1:21) is not expressly mentioned there, but it is contained implicite in the fact that spies were sent out; as the only possible reason for doing this must have been, that they might force a way into the land, and take possession of it. In Deu 1:25, Moses simply mentions so much of the report of the spies as had reference to the nature of the land, viz., that it was good, that he may place in immediate contrast with this the refusal of the people to enter in.
“But ye would not go up, and were rebellious against the mouth (i.e., the express will) of Jehovah our God, and murmured in your tents, and said, Because Jehovah hated us, He hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us.” שִׂנְאָה, either an infinitive with a feminine termination, or a verbal noun construed with an accusative (see Ges. §133; Ewald, §238, a.). - By the allusion to the murmuring in the tents, Moses points them to Num 14:1, and then proceeds to describe the rebellion of the congregation related there (Deu 1:2-4), in such a manner that the state of mind manifested on that occasion presents the appearance of the basest ingratitude, inasmuch as the people declared the greatest blessing conferred upon them by God, viz., their deliverance from Egypt, to have been an act of hatred on His part. At the same time, by addressing the existing members of the nation, as if they themselves had spoken so, whereas the whole congregation that rebelled at Kadesh had fallen in the desert, and a fresh generation was now gathered round him, Moses points to the fact, that the sinful corruption which broke out at that time, and bore such bitter fruit, had not died out with the older generation, but was germinating still in the existing Israel, and even though it might be deeply hidden in their hearts, would be sure to break forth again.
“Whither shall we go up? Our brethren (the spies) have quite discouraged our heart” (הֵמֵס, lit., to cause to flow away; cf. Jos 2:9), viz., through their report (Num 13:28-29, Num 13:31-33), the substance of which is repeated here. The expression בַּשָּׁמַיִם, “in heaven,” towering up into heaven, which is added to “towns great and fortified,” is not an exaggeration, but, as Moses also uses it in Deu 9:1, a rhetorical description of the impression actually received with regard to the size of the towns.
(Note: “The eyes of weak faith or unbelief saw the towns really towering up to heaven. Nor did the height appear less, even to the eyes of faith, in relation, that is to say, to its own power. Faith does not hide the difficulties from itself, that it may not rob the Lord, who helps it over them, of any of the praise that is justly His due” (Schultz).)
“The sons of the Anakims:” see at Num 13:22.
The attempt made by Moses to inspire the despondent people with courage, when they were ready to despair of ever conquering the Canaanites, by pointing them to the help of the Lord, which they had experienced in so mighty and visible a manner in Egypt and the desert, and to urge them to renewed confidence in this their almighty Helper and Guide, was altogether without success. And just because the appeal of Moses was unsuccessful, it is passed over in the historical account in Num 13; all that is mentioned there (Deu 1:6-9) being the effort made by Joshua and Caleb to stir up the people, and that on account of the effects which followed the courageous bearing of these two men, so far as their own future history was concerned. The words “goeth before you,” in Deu 1:30, are resumed in Deu 1:33, and carried out still further. “Jehovah,...He shall fight for you according to all (כְּכֹל) that,” i.e., in exactly the same manner, as, “He did for you in Egypt,” especially at the crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 14), “and in the wilderness, which thou hast seen (רָאִיתָ, as in Deu 1:19), where (אֲשֶׁר without בֹּו in a loose connection; see Ewald, §331, c. and 333, a.) Jehovah thy God bore thee as a man beareth his son;” i.e., supported, tended, and provided for thee in the most fatherly way (see the similar figure in Num 11:12, and expanded still more fully in Psa 23:1-6).
“And even at this word ye remained unbelieving towards the Lord;” i.e., notwithstanding the fact that I reminded you of all the gracious help that he had experienced from your God, ye persisted in your unbelief. The participle אֵינְכֶם מַאֲמִינִם, “ye were not believing,” is intended to describe their unbelief as a permanent condition. This unbelief was all the more grievous a sin, because the Lord their God went before them all the way in the pillar of cloud and fire, to guide and to defend them. On the fact itself, comp. Num 9:15., Num 10:33, with Exo 13:21-22.
Jehovah was angry, therefore, when He heard these loud words, and swore that He would not let any one of those men, that evil generation, enter the promised land, with the exception of Caleb, because he had followed the Lord faithfully (cf. Num 14:21-24). The hod in זוּלָתִי is the antiquated connecting vowel of the construct state.
But in order that he might impress upon the people the judgment of the holy God in all its stern severity, Moses added in Deu 1:37 : “also Jehovah was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither;” and he did this before mentioning Joshua, who was excepted from the judgment as well as Caleb, because his ultimate intention was to impress also upon the minds of the people the fact, that even in wrath the Lord had been mindful of His covenant, and when pronouncing the sentence upon His servant Moses, had given the people a leader in the person of Joshua, who was to bring them into the promised inheritance. We are not to infer from the close connection in which this event, which did not take place according to Num 20:1-13 till the second arrival of the congregation at Kadesh, is placed with the earlier judgment of God at Kadesh, that the two were contemporaneous, and so supply, after “the Lord as angry with me,” the words “on that occasion.” For Moses did not intend to teach the people history and chronology, but to set before them the holiness of the judgments of the Lord. By using the expression “for your sakes,” Moses did not wish to free himself from guilt. Even in this book his sin at the water of strife is not passed over in silence (cf. Deu 32:51). But on the present occasion, if he had given prominence to his own fault, he would have weakened the object for which he referred to this event, viz., to stimulate the consciences of the people, and instil into them a wholesome dread of sin, by holding up before them the magnitude of their guilt. But in order that he might give no encouragement to false security respecting their own sin, on the ground that even highly gifted men of God fall into sin as well, Moses simply pointed out the fact, that the quarrelling of the people with him occasioned the wrath of God to fall upon him also.
“Who standeth before thee,” equivalent to “in thy service” (Exo 24:13; Exo 33:11 : for this meaning, see Deu 10:8; Deu 18:7; 1Ki 1:28). “Strengthen him:” comp. Deu 31:7; and with regard to the installation of Joshua as the leader of Israel, see Num 27:18-19. The suffix in יַנְחִילֶנָּה points back to הָאָרֶץ in Deu 1:35. Joshua would divide the land among the Israelites for an inheritance, viz., (v. 39) among the young Israelites, the children of the condemned generation, whom Moses, when making a further communication of the judicial sentence of God (Num 14:31), had described as having no share in the sins of their parents, by adding, “who know not to-day what is good and evil.” This expression is used to denote a condition of spiritual infancy and moral responsibility (Isa 7:15-16). It is different in 2Sa 19:36. - In Deu 1:40-45 he proceeds to describe still further, according to Num 14:39-45, how the people, by resisting the command of God to go back into the desert (Deu 1:41, compared with Num 14:25), had simply brought still greater calamities upon themselves, and had had to atone for the presumptuous attempt to force a way into Canaan, in opposition to the express will of the Lord, by enduring a miserable defeat. Instead of “they acted presumptuously to go up” (Num 14:44), Moses says here, in Deu 1:41, “ye acted frivolously to go up;” and in Deu 1:43, “ye acted rashly, and went up.” הֵזִיד from זוּד, to boil, or boil over (Gen 25:29), signifies to act thoughtlessly, haughtily, or rashly. On the particular fact mentioned in Deu 1:44, see at Num 14:45.
“Then ye returned and wept before Jehovah,” i.e., before the sanctuary; “but Jehovah did not hearken to your voice.” שׁוּב does not refer to the return to Kadesh, but to an inward turning, not indeed true conversion to repentance, but simply the giving up of their rash enterprise, which they had undertaken in opposition to the commandment of God-the return from a defiant attitude to unbelieving complaining on account of the misfortune that had come upon them. Such complaining God never hears. “And ye sat (remained) in Kadesh many days, that ye remained,” i.e., not “as many days as ye had been there already before the return of the spies,” or “as long as ye remained in all the other stations together, viz., the half of thirty-eight years” (as Seder Olam and many of the Rabbins interpret); but “just as long as ye did remain there,” as we may see from a comparison of Deu 9:25. It seemed superfluous to mention more precisely the time they spent in Kadesh, because that was well known to the people, whom Moses was addressing. He therefore contented himself with fixing it by simply referring to its duration, which was known to them all. It is no doubt impossible for us to determine the time they remained in Kadesh, because the expression “many days” is imply a relative one, and may signify many years, just as well as many months or weeks. But it by no means warrants the assumption of Fires and others, that no absolute departure of the whole of the people from Kadesh ever took place. Such an assumption is at variance with Deu 2:1. The change of subjects, “ye sat,” etc. (Deu 1:46), and “we turned and removed” (Deu 2:1), by no means proves that Moses only went away with that part of the congregation which attached itself to him, whilst the other portion, which was most thoroughly estranged from him, or rather from the Lord, remained there still. The change of subject is rather to be explained from the fact that Moses was passing from the consideration of the events in Kadesh, which he held up before the people as a warning, to a description of the further guidance of Israel. The reference to those events had led him involuntarily, from Deu 1:22 onwards, to distinguish between himself and the people, and to address his words to them for the purpose of bringing out their rebellion against God. And now that he had finished with this, he returned to the communicative mode of address with which he set out in Deu 1:6, but which he had suspended again until Deu 1:19.