Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Beyond. The eastern side of the Jordan is so called in Scripture, with reference to the promised land. (Menochius) — Hebrew may mean also, “on this side, or at the passage” about Bethabara, “the house of passage,” near which the Hebrews were encamped, and where Josue probably crossed over the Jordan, as it was the usual ford. Calmet seems to think that these two first verses have been inverted by Esdras, &c., or interpolated, as he says Moses never crossed the Jordan, and certainly addressed the Hebrews near that river, at a great distance from the Red Sea: but the text does not assert the contrary. It only determines that the place where he harangued them, was a part of the wilderness, or the plains of Moab, over-against the Red Sea, which they had left when they came from Asiongaber, unless the term Suph, which signifies red, may be a proper name of the station Supha, near the torrent Zared, (Numbers xxi. 14,) as Calmet maintains. If this be admitted, this difficulty vanishes, for the camp of Israel was certainly over-against, and not even remote from this place. The other cities may have been in the environs, or Moses may have referred to the stations and places in the desert of Pharan, at Tophel, Laban, or Lebna, Haseroth, (Numbers xxxiii. 17,) where there is very much gold, (Septuagint, “gold mines;” Hebrew, “dizahab,”) and Cades-barne. Lebna, Haseroth, and Cades-barne, were in the territory of the Idumeans, who dwelt to the south-west of the plains of Moab. Tophel and Dizahab are unknown (Calmet) as well as Laban, Haseroth, and Pharan, if they be not the names of encampments. Geographers vary so much in their descriptions of the road, which the Hebrews followed, and in maps of the adjacent countries, that it is now impossible to decide. (Haydock)
Ver. 2. Cades-barne. All the distance between Horeb and the Jordan, by Mount Seir, on the road to Cades-barne, might have been travelled in eleven days’ time, being about 300 miles; or the Hebrews were so long in going thither, Numbers xxxiii. 17. (Calmet) — It was to punish the Israelites for their frequent rebellions, that they were condemned to wander in that wilderness forty years. (Du Hamel) — They might have entered the promised land, when they first came to Cades-barne, from Mount Horeb, (Numbers xiii. 1, 27,) which, even by the circuitous road of Mount Seir, would not have taken them above eleven days. He mentions this to remind them of their folly. Perhaps all the aforesaid places may have been between Horeb and Cades-barne, as Bonfrere maintains that Laban was in the neighbourhood of Sinai, where Moses first received the law which he is now going to explain. His discourse turns upon the chief occurrences of the forty years’ journey; and hence, these are the words, (ver. 1,) may refer not only to what he was going to say, but also to the commands which he had already notified to the Israelites, from the passage of the Red Sea till the station Abelsetim, upon the banks of the Jordan, Numbers xxxvi. 13. (Haydock) — Deuteronomy contains a recapitulation of the law, and therefore it was to be read aloud to all the people on the feast of tabernacles, every seventh year; and the new kings, or rulers of the Hebrews, were commanded to transcribe it, and every day read some part for the rule of their conduct, chap. xvii. 18., and xxxi. 10. (Tirinus)
Ver. 3. Month, corresponding with our January, if the ecclesiastical calculation be followed; but if we date from Tisri, this eleventh month will be our July or August. Moses died on the 7th of the following month. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 4. Astaroth signifies “sheep,” particularly ewes, with their dugs distended with milk. Hence the Sidonians formed the idea of their Astarte, 1 Kings xi. 5. (Haydock) — The Rabbins say, that Astaroth denotes large mountains, generally covered with sheep. Astaroth-Carnaim, was the city. (Eusebius) — Here the famous Og resided, though he was defeated at Edrai, as the Hebrew intimates. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. Expound. He begins, as usual, with commemorating the wonders of God, in favour of an ungrateful people. This book may be considered as a supplement to the other four books. (Calmet) — We need not wonder, therefore, if we find some new observations. The reason why the sabbath is to be kept, is here said to be in the memory of the law being given to the Hebrews, and their liberation from slavery; (chap. v. 15,) whereas in Exodus, it seems to be designed to remind people that God rested on the seventh day. But here is no contradiction. (Watson)
Ver. 7. Turn you. The Hebrews, after the passage of the Red Sea, seemed to turn their backs upon the promised land, to go southward. Now, therefore, they are ordered to bend their course to the north, and to enter Chanaan, (Haydock) on the western side of the lake of Sodom, where the Amorrhites dwelt. (Calmet) — Their mountain, and the other hills, and plains, and vales, (Hebrew sephela, mentioned [in] 1 Machabees xii. 38,) as far as the Nile and the Mediterranean, were the southern limits of the Chanaanites, whose country extended to Libanus. See Numbers xxxiv. (Haydock) — God promises also to deliver the country as far as the Euphrates to the Hebrews, provided they continue faithful to him, chap. xix. 8. As they neglected this condition, they never possessed the whole country, not even that of Chanaan, unmolested. Yet the whole was tributary to them, in the days of David and Solomon. (St. Augustine, q. 21. in Jos.) (Masius) (Tirinus)
Ver. 9. I said, following the advice of Jethro, Exodus xviii. 18.
Ver. 15. Who, &c. Hebrew, “and shoterim (officers like our serjeants, designed to publish and execute the sentence of the judges) over or among your tribes.” The Persians still call such officers chaters. The Rabbins say, that the shoterim were generally selected from among the Cinites, the descendants of Jethro, 1 Paralipomenon ii. 55. But we find that the Levites were also chosen, 2 Paralipomenon xix. 11. They seem to have had sometimes the authority of judges, princes, or doctors for the instruction of the people, as the Vulgate here expresses it. (Calmet)
Ver 17. Respect. Hebrew, “fear.” (Menochius) — Those who judge ought to be quite impartial, and never suffer their sentence to be dictated either by love or by fear. (Haydock) (Ecclesiasticus vii. 6.) — Of God, to whom you must give an account of your conduct, Wisdom vi. 4. Speak therefore in his name, and imitate his justice and other perfections. See Psalm lxxxi 1. (Calmet) — If any one absolve an oppressor because he is rich, that judge is guilty of partiality. (Du Hamel) (Isaias i. 23.) — Hear it, as the supreme judge. (Menochius) — The people selected such as might be most proper, out of whom Moses made his choice. (Salien) — An appeal might be made to himself. (Abulensis, q. 11.)
Ver. 23. Pleased me. Even Moses was deceived by the appearance of prudence: and God permitted the people to follow the directions of their cowardice, ver. 26, 32. (Chap. ix. 29., and Numbers xiii. 1.) (Calmet)
Ver. 26. Being. Hebrew, “but rebelled against, irritated, or rendered useless,” &c. (Calmet)
Ver. 27. Hateth us. Such an opinion, can bring nothing but destruction. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 30. For you. Septuagint, “he will defeat them along with you.” For man must do something. (St. Augustine, q. 1.)
Ver. 37. Neither, &c. Hebrew simply, “The Lord was also angry with me on your account,” &c. Moses had been so long witness to the rebellions of the Hebrews, that at last he gave way to a certain diffidence, when he was ordered by God to give them water out of the rock. He was afraid the Lord would not bear any longer with their repeated acts of ingratitude, nor work a miracle on this occasion, chap. iii. 26., and Numbers xx. 12. (Haydock) — He had also consented to the sending of the 12 spies imprudently. (Du Hamel) (Ver. 23.)
Ver. 39. Evil. These words were spoken to by God to the Hebrews, after they had refused to go from Cades-barne, to take immediate possession of the land of Chanaan, and not after Moses had offended at the waters of contradiction, which happened only a short time before his death. (Haydock) — Those who were not come to the use of reason at the former period, (Menochius) or who had not arrived at 20 years of age, were now permitted to enter. (Haydock)
Ver. 40. Sea. This they deferred complying with for a long time, (ver. 46,) and then they directed their course along Mount Seir, towards the west, and encamped at Hesmona. (Calmet) — Many years after, they arrived at a different branch of the Red Sea from that which they had crossed, Numbers xxxiii. 30, 35. (Haydock)
Ver. 41. Armed. Septuagint, “in crowds.” Arabic, “quickly.” Syriac, “encouraging one another.” Chaldean, “impiously.” (Calmet) — The conduct of these people might seem to authorize all these interpretations. The Hebrew term occurs no where else. (Haydock)
Ver. 44. Bees do. This similitude shews the vivacity, courage, and numbers of those who pursued the Hebrews from Seir to Horma. See Numbers xxi. 3., Psalm cvii. 12., and Isaias vii. 18.
Ver. 46. Time. Hebrew adds, “according to the days that you abode.” All the time that the Hebrews spent in that neighbourhood, they remained at Cades-barne. The Rabbins say 38 years; but Moses informs us, that they were so long in coming thence to the torrent of Zared, chap. ii. 14. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
A repetition of what passed at Sinai and Cades-barne; and of the people’s murmuring, and their punishment.
1 These are the words, which Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan, in the plain wilderness, over-against the Red Sea, between Pharan and Thophel, and Laban and Haseroth, where there is very much gold:
2 Eleven days’ journey from Horeb, by the way of Mount Seir, to Cades-barne.
3 *In the fortieth year, the eleventh month, the first day of the month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, all that the Lord had commanded him to say to them:
4 *After that he had slain Sehon, king of the Amorrhites, who dwelt in Hesebon: and Og, king of Basan, who abode in Astaroth, and in Edrai,
5 Beyond the Jordan in the land of Moab. And Moses began to expound the law, and to say:
6 The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: You have stayed long enough in this mountain:
7 Turn you, and come to the mountain of the Amorrhites, and to the other places that are next to it, the plains, and the hills, and the vales, towards the south, and by the sea shore, the land of the Chanaanites, and of Libanus, as far as the great river Euphrates.
8 Behold, said he, I have delivered it to you: go in and possess it, concerning which the Lord swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that he would give it to them, and to their seed after them.
9 And I said to you at that time:
10 *I alone am not able to bear you: for the Lord your God hath multiplied you, and you are this day as the stars of heaven, for multitude.
11 (The Lord God of your fathers add to this number many thousands, and bless you as he hath spoken.)
12 I alone am not able to bear your business, and the charge of you and your differences.
13 Let me have from among you wise and understanding men, and such whose conversation is approved among your tribes, that I may appoint them your rulers.
14 Then you answered me: The thing is good which thou meanest to do.
15 And I took out of your tribes men wise and honourable, and appointed them rulers, tribunes, and centurions, and officers over fifties, and over tens, who might teach you all things.
16 And I commanded them, saying: Hear them, and judge that which is just: *whether he be one of your country, or a stranger.
17 *There shall be no difference of persons, you shall hear the little as well as the great: neither shall you respect any man’s person, because it is the judgment of God. And if any thing seem hard to you, refer it to me, and I will hear it.
18 And I commanded you all things that you were to do.
19 And departing from Horeb, we passed through the terrible and vast wilderness, which you saw, by the way of the mountain of the Amorrhite, as the Lord our God had commanded us. And when we were come into Cades-barne,
20 I said to you: You are come to the mountain of the Amorrhite, which the Lord our God will give to us.
21 See the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord our God hath spoken to thy fathers: fear not, nor be any way discouraged.
22 *And you came all to me, and said: Let us send men who may view the land, and bring us word what way we shall go up, and to what cities we shall go.
23 And because the saying pleased me, I sent of you twelve men, one of every tribe:
24 Who, when they had set forward, and had gone up to the mountains, came as far as the valley of the cluster: and having viewed the land,
25 Taking of the fruits thereof, to shew its fertility, they brought them to us, and said: The land is good, which the Lord our God will give us.
26 And you would not go up, but being incredulous to the word of the Lord our God,
27 You murmured in your tents, and said: The Lord hateth us, and therefore he hath brought us out of the land of Egypt, that he might deliver us into the hand of the Amorrhite, and destroy us.
28 Whither shall we go up? the messengers have terrified our hearts, saying: The multitude is very great, and taller than we: the cities are great, and walled up to the sky, we have seen the sons of the Enacims there.
29 And I said to you: Fear not, neither be ye afraid of them:
30 The Lord God, who is your leader, himself will fight for you, as he did in Egypt in the sight of all.
31 And in the wilderness (as thou hast seen) the Lord thy God hath carried thee, as a man is wont to carry his little son, all the way that you have come, until you came to this place.
32 And yet for all this you did not believe the Lord your God,
33 *Who went before you in the way, and marked out the place wherein you should pitch your tents; in the night shewing you the way by fire, and in the day by the pillar of a cloud.
34 And when the Lord had heard the voice of your words, he was angry and swore, and said:
35 *Not one of the men of this wicked generation shall see the good land, which I promised with an oath to your fathers:
36 Except Caleb, the son of Jephone: for he shall see it, and to him I will give the land, that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath followed the Lord.
37 Neither is his indignation against the people to be wondered at, since the Lord was angry with me also on your account, and said: Neither shalt thou go in thither.
38 But Josue, the son of Nun, thy minister, he shall go in for thee: exhort and encourage him, and he shall divide the land by lot to Israel.
39 Your children, of whom you said that they should be led away captives, and your sons, who know not this day the difference of good and evil, they shall go in: and to them I will give the land, and they shall possess it.
40 But return you and go into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea.
41 *And you answered me: We have sinned against the Lord: we will go up and fight, as the Lord our God hath commanded. And when you went ready armed unto the mountain,
42 The Lord said to me: Say to them: *Go not up, and fight not, for I am not with you: lest you fall before your enemies.
43 I spoke, and you hearkened not: but resisting the commandment of the Lord, and swelling with pride, you went up into the mountain.
44 And the Amorrhite that dwelt in the mountains, coming out, and meeting you, chased you, as bees do: and made slaughter of you from Seir as far as Horma.
45 And when you returned and wept before the Lord, he heard you not, neither would he yield to your voice.
46 So you abode in Cades-barne a long time.
3: Year of the World 2553, Year before Christ 1451.
4: Numbers xxi. 24.
10: Exodus xviii. 18.
16: John vii. 24.
17: Leviticus xix. 15.; Deuteronomy xvi. 19.; Proverbs xxiv. 23.; Ecclesiasticus xlii. 1.; James ii. 1.
22: Numbers xiii. 3. and xxxii. 8.
33: Exodus xiii. 21.; Numbers xiv. 14.
35: Numbers xiv. 23.; Psalm xciv. 11.
41: Numbers xiv. 40.
42: Numbers xiv. 42.