Moses commenced with the summons issued by the Lord to Israel at Horeb, to rise and go to Canaan.
As the epithet applied to God, “Jehovah our God,” presupposes the reception of Israel into covenant with Jehovah, which took place at Sinai, so the words, “ye have dwelt long enough at this mountain,” imply that the purpose for which Israel was taken to Horeb had been answered, i.e., that they had been furnished with the laws and ordinances requisite for the fulfilment of the covenant, and could now remove to Canaan to take possession of the promised land. The word of Jehovah mentioned here is not found in this form in the previous history; but as a matter of fact it is contained in the divine instructions that were preparatory to their removal (Num 1-4 and 9:15-10:10), and the rising of the cloud from the tabernacle, which followed immediately afterwards (Num 10:11). The fixed use of the name Horeb to designate the mountain group in general, instead of the special name Sinai, which is given to the particular mountain upon which the law was given, is in keeping with the rhetorical style of the book.
“Go to the mount of the Amorites, and to all who dwell near.” The mount of the Amorites is the mountainous country inhabited by this tribe, the leading feature in the land of Canaan, and is synonymous with the “land of the Canaanites” which follows; the Amorites being mentioned instar omnium as being the most powerful of all the tribes in Canaan, just as in Gen 15:16 (see at Gen 10:16). שְׁכֵנָיו, “those who dwell by it,” are the inhabitants of the whole of Canaan, as is shown by the enumeration of the different parts of the land, which follows immediately afterwards. Canaan was naturally divided, according to the character of the ground, into the Arabah, the modern Ghor (see at Deu 1:1); the mountain, the subsequent mountains of Judah and Ephraim (see at Num 13:17); the lowland (shephelah), i.e., the low flat country lying between the mountains of Judah and the Mediterranean Sea, and stretching from the promontory of Carmel down to Gaza, which is intersected by only small undulations and ranges of hills, and generally includes the hill country which formed the transition from the mountains to the plain, though the two are distinguished in Jos 10:40 and Jos 12:8 (see at Jos 15:33.); the south land (negeb: see at Num 13:17); and the sea-shore, i.e., the generally narrow strip of coast running along by the Mediterranean Sea from Joppa to the Tyrian ladders, or Râs el Abiad, just below Tyre (vid., v. Raumer, Pal. p. 49). - The special mention of Lebanon in connection with the land of the Canaanites, and the enumeration of the separate parts of the land, as well as the extension of the eastern frontier as far as the Euphrates (see at Gen 15:18), are to be attributed to the rhetorical fulness of the style. The reference, however, is not to Antilibanus, but to Lebanon proper, which was within the northern border of the land of Israel, as fixed in Num 34:7-9.
This land the Lord had placed at the disposal of the Israelites for them to take possession of, as He had sworn to the fathers (patriarchs) that He would give it to their posterity (cf. Gen 12:7; Gen 13:15; Gen 15:18., etc.). The “swearing” on the part of God points back to Gen 22:16. The expression “to them and to their seed” is the same as “to thee and to thy seed” in Gen 13:15; Gen 17:8, and is not to be understood as signifying that the patriarchs themselves ought to have taken actual possession of Canaan; but “to their seed” is in apposition, and also a more precise definition (comp. Gen 15:7 with Gen 15:18, where the simple statement “to thee” is explained by the fuller statement “to thy seed”). רְאֵה has grown into an interjection = הִנֵּה. לִפְנֵי נָתַן: to give before a person, equivalent to give up to a person, or place at his free disposal (for the use of the word in this sense, see Gen 13:9; Gen 34:10). Jehovah (this is the idea of Deu 1:6-8), when He concluded the covenant with the Israelites at Horeb, had intended to fulfil at once the promise which He gave to the patriarchs, and to put them into possession of the promised land; and Moses had also done what was required on his part, as he explained in Deu 1:9-18, to bring the people safety to Canaan (cf. Exo 18:23). As the nation had multiplied as the stars of heaven, in accordance with the promise of the Lord, and he felt unable to bear the burden alone and settle all disputes, he had placed over them at that time wise and intelligent men from the heads of the tribes to act as judges, and had instructed them to adjudicate upon the smaller matters of dispute righteously and without respect of person. For further particulars concerning the appointment of the judges, see at Exo 18:13-26, where it is related how Moses adopted this plan at the advice of Jethro, even before the giving of the law at Sinai. The expression “at that time,” in Deu 1:9, is not at variance with this. The imperfect וָאִמַר with vav rel., expresses the order of thought and not of time. For Moses did not intend to recall the different circumstances to the recollection of the people in their chronological order, but arranged them according to their relative importance in connection with the main object of his address. And this required that he should begin with what God had done for the fulfilment of His promise, and then proceed afterwards to notice what he, the servant of God, had done in his office, as an altogether subordinate matter. So far as this object was concerned, it was also perfectly indifferent who had advised him to adopt this plan, whilst it was very important to allude to the fact that it was the great increase in the number of the Israelites which had rendered it necessary, that he might remind the congregation how the Lord, even at that time, had fulfilled the promise which He gave to the patriarchs, and in that fulfilment had given a practical guarantee of the certain fulfilment of the other promises as well. Moses accomplished this by describing the increase of the nation in such a way that his hearers should be involuntarily reminded of the covenant promise in Gen 15:5. (cf. Gen 12:2; Gen 18:18; Gen 22:17; Gen 26:4).
But in order to guard against any misinterpretation of his words, “I cannot bear you myself alone,” Moses added, “May the Lord fulfil the promise of numerous increase to the nation a thousand-fold.” “Jehovah, the God of your fathers (i.e., who manifested Himself as God to your fathers), add to you a thousand times, כָּכֶם, as many as ye are, and bless you as He has said.” The “blessing” after “multiplying” points back to Gen 12:2. Consequently, it is not to be restricted to “strengthening, rendering fruitful, and multiplying,” but must be understood as including the spiritual blessing promised to Abraham.
“How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?” The burden and cumbrance of the nation are the nation itself, with all its affairs and transactions, which pressed upon the shoulders of Moses.
לָכֶם הָבוּ, give here, provide for yourselves. The congregation was to nominate, according to its tribes, wise, intelligent, and well-known men, whom Moses would appoint as heads, i.e., as judges, over the nation. At their installation he gave them the requisite instructions (Deu 1:16): “Ye shall hear between your brethren,” i.e., hear both parties as mediators, “and judge righteously, without respect of person.” פָּנִים הִכִּיר, to look at the face, equivalent to פָּנִים נָשָׁא (Lev 19:15), i.e., to act partially (cf. Exo 23:2-3). “The judgment is God's,” i.e., appointed by God, and to be administered in the name of God, or in accordance with His justice; hence the expression “to bring before God” (Exo 21:6; Exo 22:7, etc.). On the difficult cases which the judges were to bring before Moses, see at Exo 18:26.