Lesson 1: Introduction and Chapters 1-2
Moses' First Homily to the New Generation of Israelites
on the Plains of Moab

Lord God,
You brought the children of the Exodus generation through many hazards and hardships to bring them safely to the shores of the Jordan River that was their final boundary between the past and their future promise of glory.  We know that You are guiding us with the same righteous arm, leading us through the hazards of this earthly existence and directing us to the future glory that can be ours when we cross the boundary between earthly life and eternity.  Strengthen us, Lord, as You strengthened the new generation of Israel, that we may be willing to battle injustice and sin in the struggle to spread the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth as Jesus commanded us, so that when we cross over into the Promised Land of Heaven, You will welcome us with the words: "Well done, faithful servant."  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

+ + +

It was in the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, that Moses told the Israelites everything that Yahweh had ordered him to tell them.
Deuteronomy 1:3


The book of Deuteronomy is the fifth and final part of what Christians call the Pentateuch (five-part book) and Jews call the Torah.  It is the book that announces the end of the Mosaic Age and the beginning of the Age of the Conquest of Canaan.  The Hebrew title of this book is 'elleh haddebarim, "these are the words", a title which is drawn, as is the ancient custom, from the first words of the first line of the Hebrew text.  Our English title comes from the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint. The Greek title, deuteronomios, was taken from the Greek translation of Deuteronomy 17:18 where the phrase "copy of the Law" was understood by translators as "a second Law".  It was a misreading of the verse which called for every new king of Israel to write down the words of Deuteronomy for his own use and was not a "second law" apart from the Law God revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai (Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, page 423).  It is the same Law, containing commands and prohibitions given by God to Moses at Mt. Sinai, which Moses taught to the new generation of Israelites on the Plains of Moab in the book of Deuteronomy.

However, the book of Deuteronomy is not simply a second rendition of the covenant Law God revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai.  Knowing that he will die before the Israelites begin the conquest of the Promised Land (Num 27:12-14), Moses gave three last homilies to Israel's vital, new wilderness generation.  His homilies in the book of Deuteronomy recount the history of their fathers' Exodus liberation and covenant formation with Yahweh at Mt. Sinai, the reason for the forty years judgment in the wilderness wandering, and the renewal of the Sinai Covenant for the generation who was to fulfill Israel's destiny to be conquerors of the land promised to their forefathers (Gen 15:18-21; 26:3-5; 28:13-14). 

One of the key words in Deuteronomy is the Hebrew word torah. This Hebrew word is usually translated into English as "law", a word that only carries a negative prohibitive meaning rather than the mostly positive meaning of the Hebrew word that is better translated as "instruction."  Derived from the Hebrew word horah, "to teach, to instruct", Torah refers to instruction in religious, social and civil law, prophetic teaching, moral exhortation, and didactic narrative (JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy, page 5).  The term torah connotes both the revealed Law and its instruction that must be taught, studies, and meditated upon so that it shapes the ethical and moral values of the individual and the national character of "the people of the Law."  In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses often refers to "this Torah"-"this instruction/teaching" (Dt 4:8, 44; 27:26; 28:58; 31:9, 11, 24).  Later in Israel's national history, the term Torah was applied to the entire five books of Moses as "the Teaching" or "Instruction" par excellence.

Deuteronomy is Moses' instruction/commentary on the Law of the Sinai Covenant with adjustments to the legislation necessary for the Israelites who were no longer a pastoral, semi-nomadic people but a people who were to be permanently settled in Canaan after the conquest.  It is the great prophet's explanation of the Law to the new generation in whom the Sinai Covenant will be renewed, and the generation that will have the covenant duty of faithfully transmitting Israel's history and Yahweh's Law to their children, a covenant duty of every succeeding generation of Yahweh's people. 

The covenant ratification at Mt. Sinai was a renewable resource-it was the relevance of the Sinai covenant that tied every generation of Israel to Yahweh, just as the relevance of the New Covenant, experienced in every Eucharistic banquet, is a renewable resource that ties each new generation of the Universal Church to the Most Holy Trinity (One God in Three Persons) and the eternal promises of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus.  Psalm 81, quoted below and sung in Israel's ancient liturgical assembly, is a good example of the concept of the relevance of the covenant for every succeeding generation of Israelites.  Jewish scholar Jon Levenson believes this psalm was part of the liturgy on the annual feast of the New Year/Rosh Hashanah (Lev 23:23-25; Num 29:1-6) and was also part of the liturgy of every monthly feast of the New Moon (Num 11-15).  It is a psalm chanted today in every Thursday morning liturgy in Jewish synagogues around the world, reminding the people of the relevance of obedience to God's will for His people (Levenson, Sinai & Zion, page 80). 

Psalm 81 recalls all that Yahweh, the Great Suzerain,(1) has done in his graciousness for his vassal people, Israel:

Psalm 81:1-17 (NAB)

1 For the leader; "upon the gittith." Of Asaph.  2 Sing joyfully to God our strength;
shout in triumph to the God of Jacob!  3 Take up a melody, sound the timbrel,
the sweet-sounding harp and lyre.  4 Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our solemn feast. 5 For this is a law in Israel, an edict of the God of Jacob,  6 who made it a decree for Joseph when he came out of the land of Egypt.
I hear a new oracle: 7 "I relieved their shoulders of the burden;
their hands put down the basket.  8 In distress you called and I rescued you;
unseen, I spoke to you in thunder.  At the waters of Meribah I tested you and said:
9 'Listen, my people, I give you warning!  If only you will obey me, Israel!
10 There must be no foreign god among you; you must not worship an alien god.
11 I, the LORD (Yahweh), am your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.
12 Open wide your mouth that I may fill it.' But my people did not listen to my words;
Israel did not obey me.  13 So I gave them over to hardness of heart;
they followed their own designs.  14 But even now if my people would listen,
if Israel would walk in my paths,  15 in a moment I would subdue their foes,
against their enemies unleash my hand.  16 Those who hate the LORD (Yahweh) would tremble, their doom sealed forever.  17 But Israel I would feed with the finest wheat,
satisfy them with honey from the rock."

The psalmist recounts:

The Covenant Treaty Format in the Deuteronomy

Thus says Yahweh, Israel's king, Yahweh Sabaoth, his redeemer: I am the first and I am the last; there is no God except me.
Isaiah 44:6

Like the covenant treaty between God and Israel at Mt. Sinai, the restatement of Israel's covenant with Yahweh on the Plains of Moab follows the classic outline of ancient Near Eastern covenant treaty documents with the exception of the witnessing of the treaty by pagan deities.  A question that has been the focus of speculation for many scholars has been why was the form of the vassal treaty used to express Israel's covenant with Yahweh? 

According to Old and New Testament Scripture and Jewish and Christian tradition, the inspired writer of the Pentateuch is Moses (see the chart on the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch).  Moses was raised in the royal court as the Egyptian Pharaoh's grandson (Ex 2:10) and would have been educated in the academy of royal princes.  Sons of the Pharaoh's family were trained in three professions:

  1. They were trained to be Egypt's military leaders
  2. They were trained to be the royal governors of the nation's provinces
  3. They were trained to be Egypt's diplomats to other kingdoms

If Prince Moses was trained in the diplomatic service, it is reasonable to assume that he would frame the covenant between Israel and Yahweh in the standard form of ancient covenant treaties.  The oldest surviving copy of such an Egyptian document is the treaty that ended the war between the Hittites and Pharaoh Rameses II after the Battle of Kadesh-On-The-Orontes in c. 1285 BC.  The structure of this treaty most closely resembles the covenant treaty format found in Deuteronomy, but unlike the Sinai Covenant, which is a treaty document between Israel as a vassal people bound to Yahweh the Great King, the treaty between the Egyptians and the Hittites is a peace treaty between two equal powers.

Bible scholars have also seen a clue to the mystery of the use of the covenant treaty format in Deuteronomy in the word brt (brit), the Hebrew word for "covenant"It is a cognate word that occurs as a Semitic loanword in Egyptian texts.  Thus far, the oldest examples of documents containing the Semitic word brt are those discovered from the Nineteenth Dynasty and later.  This Semitic word may have been introduced into the Egyptian language during the reign of the Hyksos, a Semitic people who ruled Egypt from the Fifteenth to the Seventeenth Dynasties (c. 1720-1580 BC). Joseph son of Jacob is believed to have been the Vizier of Egypt during the reign of a Hyksos pharaoh (Gen 41:41-43).  In surviving Egyptian texts, the word brt occurs in the context of:

(see Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, pages 79-81).

It has been suggested by some Bible scholars that prior to the Exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites were in bondage to the Egyptians, that they were under contract to the Egyptians and bound by a formal document, probably described in Egyptian by the word brt "covenant", requiring each Israelite village in Goshen to provide a certain number of men as laborers on Egyptian building projects (Ex 1:8-14).  The Israelites broke their covenant with the Egyptian Pharaoh and rejected their vassal status by fleeing the country in the Exodus out of Egypt (Ex 13:17-18).  At Sinai they acknowledged Yahweh as their liberator and their Great God-King, owing Him their allegiance instead of the Egyptian god-king and becoming Yahweh vassals (Ex 24:3-8).  Therefore, a formal vassal treaty would have been the natural result of a new covenant with another Suzerain (Craigie, page 82-83).

A standard example of the format of ancient Near Eastern covenant treaties:

1. Preamble: Identifying the Lordship of the Great King, stressing his greatness, dominance and eminence.
2. Historical Prologue: Recounting the Great King's previous relationship to his vassal (with special emphasis on the benefits or blessing of that relationship).
3. Ethical Stipulations: Enumerating the vassal's obligations to the Great King (his guide to maintaining the relationship).
4. Sanctions: A list of the blessings for obedience and the curses that will fall on the vassal if he violates provisions of the covenant treaty.
5. Succession Arrangements: Arrangements and provisions for the continuity of the covenant relationship over future generations.
6. Witnesses The chief gods of both parties are named as witnesses to the treaty and are responsible for judgment against those who violate the treaty obligations.

Michal Hunt © 2011

The part missing in God's covenant treaty with Israel that is found in secular Near Eastern treaties is the section recording the witnessing of the document by pagan gods (in some treaties the witnesses are named after the Sanctions).  In ancient Near Eastern treaties, each party received a copy of the covenant treaty to be kept in their most sacred shrines.  The covenant treaty documents of the Sinai Covenant are the Ten Commandments, two stone tablets written on the front and back and kept in the Ark of the Covenant, God and Israel's most sacred earthly shrine (Ex 25:16; 32:15-16; 40:20). 

Treaty Format of the Covenant at Mt. Sinai

1. Preamble Exodus 20:1-2a
2. Historical Prologue Exodus 20:2b
3. Ethical Stipulations Exodus 20:3-23:19; Leviticus 17-23 (Holiness Code)
4. Sanctions Exodus 23:20-33; Leviticus 26:1-46
5. Succession Arrangements missing from the covenant treaty at Sinai in the book of Exodus

Michal E. Hunt © 2011

The covenant renewal treaty on the Plains of Moab exhibits the same vassal treaty format as other Near Eastern covenant treaties.  Unlike the covenant treaty Moses recorded at Mt. Sinai, the renewal treaty addresses the succession arrangements for future generations:

Covenant Treaty Format of Deuteronomy

1. Preamble Deuteronomy 1:1-5
2. Historical Prologue Deuteronomy 1:6-4:43
3. Ethical Stipulations Deuteronomy 4:44-26:19 (Deuteronomic Code = chapters 12-26)
4. Sanctions Deuteronomy 27:1-28:68
5. Succession Arrangements Deuteronomy 29:1-34:12

Michal E. Hunt © 2011

Since Yahweh is both the Great King and Israel's God, it is Yahweh who is responsible for judging the covenant failures of His vassal, Israel (Dt 29:24/25-28/29). 

Our study of the book of Deuteronomy will follow this basic outline:















of Text

Preamble and Historical Review

Ethical Stipulations of the

Sinai Covenant and the Sanctions for covenant failure

Succession Arrangements: Renewal of the Covenant with the new generation




God's actions for Israel

Israel's obligations to God: religious, civil and social laws (Deuteronomic Code)

Covenant blessings for obedience and curses/judgment for covenant failure


What God will do for Israel in the future if Israel is obedient


Joshua's ordination & the Song of Moses


On the Plains of Moab near the Jordan River across from Jericho


c. 70 days on the Plains of Moab (Dt 1:3, 34:8; Josh 4:19)

Michal E. Hunt © 2011

Since the events that are recorded in the book of Deuteronomy are linked to previous events in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, please review some of the significant past events in the time-line below.  The time-line records events from the day of the first Passover and the Exodus out of Egypt the next day, to the arrival of Israel's new generation forty years later on the Plains of Moab where they encamped on the east side of the Jordan River across from the Canaanite city of Jericho:

Year Day and month Event Scripture
Year 1 14th day of 1st month (Abib = March/April)

The first Passover sacrifice in Egypt on the day before the 10th plague that struck at midnight (sundown became the next day).

Ex 12:1-14, 29-30
15th day of 1st month (Abib = March/April) At sundown, when the day became the 15th, the people ate the sacred meal of the Passover victim.  At dawn they began their journey out of Egypt. Ex 12:8, 29-34; Num 33:3
1st day of the 3rd month (Sivan = May/June) The Israelites arrived at Mt. Sinai. Ex 19:1
Year 2 1st day of the 1st month (Abib = March/April) The Desert Sanctuary was consecrated. Ex 40:1, 17
1st week of 1st month (Abib = March/April) The Aaronic priests were ordained over a 7 day period and began their ministerial service on the 8th day. Ex 1, 12-15; Lev 8:1-36; 9:1
between the 9th and 13th of the 1st month (Abib = March/April) The Levites were dedicated as lesser ministers. Num 8:5-22
14th of the 1st month (Abib = March/April) The Israelites commemorated the Passover at Mt. Sinai. Num 9:1
1st of the 2nd month (Ziv = April/May) The census of the tribes was taken. Num 1:1
14th of the 2nd month (Ziv = April/May) All those Israelites who were ritual unclean   and could not participate in the Passover on the 14th of Abib celebrated the Passover a month later. Num 9:9-12
20th of 2nd month (Ziv = April/May) The Israelites left Mt. Sinai/Horeb. Num 10:11
30th of the 2nd month (Ziv = April/May)* The Israelites arrived at Kadesh-Barnea where their failure to trust God led to a judgment of 38 years of desert wandering until the last of the adults of the Exodus generation died. The Israelites wandered a total of 40 years, counting from the year of the Exodus from Egypt. Num 14:32-35;
Dt 1:2; 2:14
Years 2 - 40 = the years of wilderness wandering
Year 40 ? of the 1st month (Abib = March/April) Miriam died and was buried at Kadesh. Num 20:1
1st of the 5th  month (Ab = July/ August) Aaron died on top of Mt. Hor.  He was buried at Moserah and was succeeded as high priest by his son Eleazar. Num 20:22-29; 33:38;
Dt 10:6
1st of 11th month (Sebat = January/February) The new generation of Israelites arrived at the Plains of Moab, camping on the east bank of the Jordan River across from Jericho. Num 22:1;
Dt 1:13
Michal E. Hunt © 2011

* Counting as the ancients counted with the first day in the sequence counting as day #1, it was eleven days from Mt. Sinai/Horeb to Kadesh-Barnea (Dt. 1:13).

In his three homilies to the new generation of Israelites in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses emphasized that Israel's relationship with Yahweh was not just a bond through a legal document but that it was a spiritual and emotional bond.  He reminded the Israelites that it was because of God's love for their ancestors that God set His heart on loving them (Dt 4:37; 7:7-8, 12-13; 10:14-15; 23:5/6), and he called the wilderness generation to love God in return with all their "heart, soul, and strength" (Dt 6:5).  Through participation in the daily liturgy at Yahweh's Sanctuary, observance of the feast days of the liturgical calendar, and obedience to the Law, every generation of Israel was intended to awaken each day "to an old love affair beckoning to be renewed" (Levenson, Sinai & Zion, page 80) through living in active obedience to the Sinai Covenant: You must love Yahweh your God and always keep his observances, his laws, his customs, his commandments (Dt 11:1; also see Dt 10:12-13). 

It is the same bond of love experienced by every generation of the New Covenant people of God.  We awaken daily to the on-going love affair between Jesus and His Bride, the Church, through the remembrance of our love story in observing the Holy Days of Obligation and other feast days in the Liturgical calendar, in participating in the Sacraments Christ gave us to heal us and to strengthen our relationship with Him, and in the continuation of obedience to the New Covenant in our participation in the sacrifice of the Mass-Christ offering Himself: Body, Blood Soul and Divinity to His beloved.

All Scripture in this study is from the New Jerusalem Bible unless otherwise noted.


This is the Law (Torah) which Moses presented to the Israelites.  These are the stipulations, the laws and the customs which Moses gave the Israelites after they had left Egypt, beyond the Jordan in the valley near Beth-Peor, in the country of Sihon the Amorite king who had lived at Heshbon. 
Deuteronomy 4:44-46

Deuteronomy 1:1-5 The Preamble: Introduction to the Renewed Covenant Treaty

1 These are the words which Moses addressed to all Israel beyond the Jordan, in the desert, in the Arabah facing Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab.  2 It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-Barnea.  3 It was in the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, that Moses told the Israelites everything that Yahweh had ordered him to tell them.  4 He had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who lived at Ashtaroth and Edrei.  5 There, in Moab beyond the Jordan, Moses resolved to expound this Law [emphasis added].

The first five verses are the Preamble to the renewed covenant document, identifying the works of Yahweh on Israel's behalf to bring them to their encampment on the Plains of Moab.   The first words in verse 1: "These are the words", provide the Hebrew title of the book. 

Question: What information does verses 1-5 provide for the reader?  There are five significant points.
Answer: Verses 1-5 identify these significant 5 points:

  1. The time and location of the address: on the east side of the Jordan River on the 1st day of the 11th month in the 40th year after leaving Egypt (verses 1 and 3).
  2. The speaker who is the prophet Moses (verses 1 and 5).
  3. His audience: the entire camp of Israel including priests, Levites, tribal leaders, the council of elders, and the common people (verse 1).
  4. The subject of Moses' homilies, which are not his own words but are only what Yahweh ordered him to tell the Israelites (verse 3).
  5. That it was Yahweh who brought the Israelites victory over their enemies in the Transjordan campaign (verse 4).   

Deuteronomy 1:1b: ... in the Arabah facing Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab.  The Arabah/Aravah is the depression that continues from the Jordan River Valley south of the Dead Sea down to the Gulf of Aqaba (also see Dt 2:8).  The Suph is understood in ancient commentaries to be the Yam Suph, the "Sea of Reeds", often translated incorrectly in English as the "Red Sea."  It is the Biblical name for the Gulf of Aqaba where King Solomon kept his fleet at Ezion-Geber, a port at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba (1Kng 9:26).

Deuteronomy 1:2:  It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-Barnea.  In the book of Deuteronomy, Mt. Sinai and the region where the holy mountain is located are called Horeb, with the exception of Deuteronomy 33:2.  It was an eleven day journey from Mt. Sinai to the oasis of Kadesh via the road that led through the Edomite highlands.(2)  Edom was the southernmost of the Transjordan kingdoms.  This verse seems strangely out of place. Kadesh-Barnea was the destination of the march after the people left Mt. Sinai in on the 20th day of the 2nd month in the 2nd year of the Exodus and was the southern gateway to the Promised Land (see Num 10:11-12; 13:1, 25-26).  It is the first time the distance from Sinai/Horeb to Kadesh has been revealed.  Kadesh was also the site of Miriam's death in the 1st month (Abib = March/April) of the fortieth year (Num 20:1).

The identification of the site of the Israelite encampment in verses 1 and 5 as "beyond the Jordan" or "the other side of the Jordan" is significant.  "Beyond the Jordan" means on the east side of the river, a remarkable statement that has perplexed many Bible scholars since it suggests the inspired writer was stationed on the west bank and looking to the "far side", which we know is not the case.  Israel was poised on the east bank of the Jordan River in preparation to begin a journey to fulfill God's plan for His covenant people when, led by Yahshua/Yehoshua (Joshua), they were to cross from the east to the west in the conquest of the Promised Land of Canaan (Josh 3:7, 14-17). 

The words "beyond the Jordan", identifying the Israelites' encampment near the east bank of the Jordan River will be connected to a major event in the New Testament that is celebrated annually as a feast day in our Liturgical calendar on the first Sunday after the Solemnity of the Epiphany. 

Question: What was the significance of that New Testament event on the east side of the Jordan River in God's plan for man's salvation?  See Josh 1:1-2, 6; Mt 3; 1 Jn 1:28-34; CCC 535-36. 
Answer: In preparation for the coming of the Kingdom of God that was to be proclaimed by the Redeemer-Messiah, St. John the Baptist was baptizing the covenant people in a baptism of repentance on the "far side", "beyond the Jordan", on the east side of the river.  It was on the east side that Jesus, whose name in ancient Hebrew is Yahshua (Yahweh saves) or Yehoshua in the 1st century AD (Joshua) was baptized by St. John the Baptist: This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan where John was baptizing (Jn 1:28), purifying the waters for Christian baptism.  After His baptism by John, Jesus crossed the river from east to west, like the first Joshua, leading the new conquest to liberate God's people from sin and death and to open the way to the true Promised Land of heaven.

The "Bethany" where St. John baptized Jesus on the east bank of the Jordan River was not the same Bethany as the home of Lazarus and his sisters near Jerusalem.(3)

Israel's conquest of the Transjordan began after Aaron's death in late July/early August of the 40th year after leaving Egypt (Num 33:38).  Six months later, in late January/early February, the Israelites had defeated the Amorite kingdoms of King Sihon of Heshbon and Og of Bashan (Num 21:21-35) and settled into an encampment near the Jordan river on the Plains of Moab between Beth-ha-Jeshimoth and Abel-ha-Shittim (a distance of about five miles), on the east side of the river opposite the Canaanite city of Jericho (Num 33:48-49).

Question: What do verses 2 and 5 identify as the reason for what is recorded in the book of Deuteronomy?  How do these verses reaffirm Moses' role to the people?
Answer: Moses was commanded by God to provide instruction to the people in everything Yahweh had revealed to him.  The Law was not Moses' creation.  The Law was God's creation, and Moses was God's prophet and covenant mediator who conveyed and expounded upon God's words so the people could understand their covenant obligations and remain faithful to Yahweh.

Moses' First Homily: The Historical Prologue

Deuteronomy 1:5b-18The Review of the Final Instructions before Leaving Horeb
5b He said: 6 'Yahweh our God said to us at Horeb, "You have stayed long enough at this mountain.  7 Move on, continue your journey, go to the highlands of the Amorites, to all those who live in the Arabah, in the highlands, in the lowlands, in the Negeb and in the coastland; go into Canaan and to Lebanon as far as the great River Euphrates.  8 Look, that is the country I have given you; go and take possession of the country that Yahweh promised on oath to give to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to their descendants after them." 9 'At the same time, I told you, "I cannot be responsible for you by myself.  10 Yahweh your God has increased your numbers, until you are now as numerous as the stars of heaven.  11 And Yahweh your God is going to increase you a thousand times more, and bless you as he has promised you.  12 So how can I cope by myself with the bitter burden that you are, and with your bickering?  13 From each of your tribes pick wise, shrewd and experienced men for me to make your leaders."  14 You replied, "Your plan is good."  15 So I took your tribal leaders, wise, experienced men, and appointed them to lead you, as captains of thousands, hundreds, fifties, tens, and as scribes for your tribes.  16 At the same time I told your judges, "You must give your brothers a fair hearing and see justice done between one person and his brother or the foreigner living with him.  17 You must be impartial in judgment and give an equal hearing to small and great alike.  Do not be afraid of any human person, for the verdict is God's.  Should a case be too difficult, bring it to me to hear.  18 And on that occasion I gave you instructions about everything you were to do."  

Moses first homily in Deuteronomy 1:6-4:40 begins by recounting the history of the Israelites from the time when God commanded them to leave Mt. Sinai/Horeb, in the second year of the Exodus, to their arrival in the Transjordan when they came to Pisgah on the Plains of Moab within site of the Jordan River, in the fortieth year after the Exodus out of Egypt.  There is, however, some historical information concerning earlier events.  The three homilies are presented in a first person narrative form with Moses as the speaker and the Israelites as his audience.

Question: What were the three promises God made to Abram/Abraham if he would leave his people and travel to the land of Canaan?  See Gen 12:1-3; 15:5; 17:4-8 and 22:17-18.
Answer: God promised Abraham:

  1. Land/kingdoms
  2. Descendants as numerous as the stars
  3. A world-wide blessing

Each promised blessing became part of the three-fold covenant formed with Abraham and ratified in a sacrifice and oath swearing in Genesis 22:13-18.

Question: Were all three of these promises perfectly fulfilled in the nation of Israel?  See Rom 4:11-12, 13-17; Gal 3:6-9, 29.
Answer: No, the first two promises were only partially fulfilled in the nation of Israel, later in the period of the monarchy and in Israel's healthy and fertile people.  However, all three promised blessings were perfectly fulfilled in Jesus Christ: the righteous King of all the earth, in all His faithful followers who were reckoned as true spiritual descendants of Abraham, and the world-wide blessing of the Gospel of salvation.  Christians are the true heirs of the promised blessings of Abraham.

Question: How did the Amorite peoples and the extent of the land mentioned in Deuteronomy 1:6-8 figure in God's sworn oath to Abraham, a promise that was extended to Isaac and Jacob?  See Gen 12:7; 15:7, 16-21; 26:2-5 and 28:13-15
Answer: God told Abraham that his descendants would take possession of the Promised Land of Canaan when the iniquity of the Amorites reached its fullest measure.  The extent of the land the Israelites were to occupy mentioned in Deuteronomy 1:7 is the same as in the extent of the land God promised to Abraham in Genesis 15:18-21.(4)

Verses 9-15 recounts events that are told a little differently in Exodus 18:21-26 and Numbers 11:11-16.  In Exodus chapter 17 it was Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, priest of Midian, who suggested that Moses appoint men from each tribe to help in administering justice to the people (Ex 17:17-23).  In Numbers 11, Moses cried out to God that the spiritual burden of leading the people had become too much for him, and it was God who instructed Moses to select seventy elders to assist him.  There is no discrepancy, since in both incidents it is Moses who instructed the people, selected spiritual leaders, and admonished the judges selected by the tribes.

Verses 16-17 are a repeat of Yahweh's commands in Leviticus 19:15.

Question: How are Israel's judges told to conduct themselves in bringing justice to the people?
Answer: As God's representatives in matters of justice under the law, they are to imitate the sovereign impartiality of God by not showing favoritism to the wealthy or undo sympathy for the poor.

The impartiality of justice is a recurrent theme in the books of the prophets (i.e. Is 10:2; Jer 5:28; Ez 22:12; Amos 2:6; 5:7, 10, Mic 3:9, 11).

Deuteronomy 1:19-33 The Retelling of Israel's Failure at Kadesh
19 'So, as Yahweh our God had ordered, we left Horeb and made our way through that vast and terrible desert, which you saw on the way to the Amorite highlands, and arrived at Kadesh-Barnea.  20 I then said, "You have now reached the Amorite highlands, which Yahweh our God has given us.  21 Look, Yahweh your God has given you this country.  March in, take possession of it as Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, has said; do not be afraid or discouraged."  22 Then you all came to me and said, "Let us send men ahead of us to explore the country; they shall report to us which way we ought to take and what towns we shall come to."  23 This seemed good advice to me and I selected twelve men from among you, one from each tribe.  24 These men made towards the highlands and went up into them; they reached the Valley of Eschol and reconnoitered it.  25 They collected some of the produce of the country and brought it down to us; and they made us this report, "Yahweh our God has given us a fine [tov = good] country."  26 You, however, refused to go up there and rebelled against the voice of Yahweh your God.  27 You muttered in your tents, saying, "Yahweh hates us, and that is why he has brought us out of Egypt, to put us into the Amorites' power and so destroy us.  28 What kind of place are we making for?  Our brothers have discouraged us by saying that the people are stronger and taller than we are, the cities immense, with walls reaching to the sky.  And we have seen Anakim there too."  29 'And I said to you, "Do not take fright, do not be afraid of them.  30 Yahweh your God goes ahead of you and will be fighting on your side, just as you saw him act in Egypt.  31 You have seen him in the desert too: Yahweh your God continued to support you, as a man supports his son, all along the road you followed until you arrived here."  32 But for all this, you put no faith in Yahweh your God, 33 going ahead of you on the journey to find you a camping ground, by night in the fire to light your path, and in the cloud by day.'
[ ] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol I, page 458).

Deuteronomy 1:18-46 recounts the events surrounding Israelite's failure to begin the conquest of Canaan, when they failed to have faith in Yahweh to fulfill His promise to give them the land.  The episode is a retelling of the events in Numbers chapters 13-14, although there are parts of the story that are missing from the earlier account.  In this retelling of the incident at Kadesh, the people asked Moses to send men to spy out the land, whereas in the original episode we are told that Yahweh ordered Moses to send the men (Num 13:1-2).  This addition makes sense.  Why would God find it necessary for the Israelites to scout out the land if He has already promised them victory?  Evidently, Moses took the people's request to Yahweh who then ordered Moses to send twelve men who were leaders in each of the tribes-a command which Moses fulfilled by personally selecting the men.  This scenario is supported by events in other parts of the narrative in the book of Numbers where the people brought a request to Moses who carried their request to Yahweh, and then God ordered Moses to issue a command.  For example:

Deuteronomy 1:34-46 Yahweh's Judgment at Kadesh
34 'Yahweh heard what you were saying and in his anger swore this oath, 35"Not one of these people, this perverse [tov=evil] generation, will see the fine [tov = good] country I swore to give your ancestors, 36 except Caleb son of Jephunneh.  He will see it.  To him and to his children I shall give the land he has set foot on, for he has been perfectly obedient to Yahweh."  37 Yahweh was angry with me too, because of you.  "You will not go in either," he said.  38"Your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will be the one to enter.  Encourage him, since he is to bring Israel into possession of the country.  39 And your little ones too, who, you said, would be seized as booty, these children of yours who do not yet know good from evil, they will go in; I shall give it to them and they will own it.  40 But, as regards yourselves, turn round, go back into the desert, towards the Sea of Suph."

41 'In reply, you then said to me, "We have sinned against Yahweh our God.  We shall go up and fight just as Yahweh our God has ordered us."  And each one of you buckled on his arms and equipped himself to march up into the highlands.  42 But Yahweh said to me, "Tell them this: Do not go up and fight.  I am not with you.  Do not let yourselves be defeated by your enemies."  43 So I told you, but you would not listen, and you rebelled against the voice of Yahweh; presumptuously you marched into the highlands.  44 The Amorites, who live in that country of hills, came swarming out against you like bees, pursued you and beat you from Seir to Hormah.  45 On your return, you wept in Yahweh's presence, but he would not listen to your cries or pay attention.  46 That was why you had to stay at Kadesh as long as you did.'
[ ] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol I, page 459).

Deuteronomy 1:34-35: 'Yahweh heard what you were saying and in his anger swore this oath, 35"Not one of these people, this perverse generation, will see the fine country I swore to give your ancestors ... Oath swearing was a part of the ritual of covenant formation (i.e. Gen 21:22-23, 27:15-18; 31:44, 53; Ex 6:8), but oath swearing was also part of a covenant lawsuit judgment leveled against those who broke Yahweh's covenant (i.e. Num 14:26-35). The Hebrew word translated "perverse" in the word 'ra, literally "evil". Notice the contrast between the "evil" generation and the "good" land God swore to give the descendants of Abraham. It is ironic that the desert that was the gateway to life for a newly freed people after slavery in Egypt became the gateway to death for the Exodus generation. The rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea was a turning point. It was the crisis that marked the end of Act II in the great Exodus drama (the end of Act I was the arrival at Sinai). Act III was devoted to how Israel finally became a holy people capable of fulfilling the destined that Yahweh had planned for them. Just as the first Creation event ended in crisis and destruction in the Great Flood, followed by a re-creation of a renewed earth after the flood, so too now, the birth of Israel as a new people ends in crisis and destruction to be followed by the rebirth of a holy nation in the wilderness generation.

Question: Who were Caleb and Joshua (formerly named Hosea)?  Who were the Kenizzites?  See Gen 15:19; 36:9, 11; Ex 17:9, 13; 33:11; Num 13:6, 8, 16, 30; 14:5-9, 30, 38; 27:15-23; 32:11-12; Num 27:18-23; Josh 1:1-2
Answer: Joshua was Moses' assistant and military commander from the tribe of Ephraim (Joseph).  He was chosen as Moses' successor and led the children of Israel into the Promised Land.  Caleb was a Kenizzite, Gentile convert who became a leader in the tribe of Judah.  The Kenizzites were descendants of Esau son of Isaac (Jacob/Israel's elder brother), and they were among the Canaanite peoples God listed as those who were to be dispossessed of the land in Genesis 15:19.

Question: God condemned the adults of the Exodus generation over twenty years of age to death with the exception of these two men.  Why were they spared?  See Dt 1:36-38; Num 13:27-33; 14:5-9, 24-30, 36-38; 32:11-12; Josh 14:6-7, 13-14.
Answer: Only Caleb and Joshua, out of the twelve tribal leaders sent to reconnoiter the land, had faith in Yahweh and trusted in God's promise to give Israel the land.  It was God's judgment that only these two men of the Exodus generation: Joshua, of the tribe of Ephraim, and Caleb, a Gentile Kenizzite convert from the tribe of Judah, were going to survive the years of desert wandering to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land.

Question: Why was Caleb's selection by God significant?  What does this reveal about God's plan of salvation and Israel's role in that plan?  See CCC 60, 761-62, 781
Answer: God honored Caleb's faithfulness, illustrating that His mercy and salvation were not intended only for the Israelites but that all peoples of the earth were called to be Yahweh's people.  The Israelites were destined to be God's vehicle of salvation to the Gentile peoples, as they were for Caleb when he was accepted as a convert and a respected member of the tribe of Judah.

Question: What was Israel's sin in attempting to invade Canaan after God's judgment against the Exodus generation for failing to invade Canaan earlier because they did not have faith that God would keep His promise to give them victory?
Answer:  Theirs was the sin of presumption-assuming that they could force God to conform to their plan instead of repenting their earlier rebellion and accepting God's judgment.

Question: What was Moses' purpose in retelling of the events of the rebellion at Kadesh?
Answer: It was a warning.  The Exodus generation failed to be grateful to God for the wonders He worked on their behalf, just as they failed to have faith and trust in Him to keep His promises to them.  Those covenant failures resulted in the judgment of death for the entire generation of adults who experienced the Exodus in the years of wilderness wandering.  If such a severe judgment could happen to the Exodus generation, it could also happen to the present generation and to future generations of the covenant people.

Chapter 2: The Historical Prologue Continues

The End of the Forty Year's of Wandering and the March into the Transjordan

Deuteronomy 2:1-7 Passing through the Land of the Edomites
1 'We then turned around and made for the desert, in the direction of the Sea of Suph, as Yahweh had ordered me.  For many days we skirted Mount Seir.  2 Yahweh then said to me, 3 "You have gone far enough round this mountain; now turn north.  4 And give the people this order: You are about to pass through the territory of your kinsmen, the sons of Esau who live in Seir.  They are afraid of you, and you will be well protected.  5 Do not provoke them, for I shall give you none of their land, no, not so much as a foot's length of it.  I have given the highlands of Seir to Esau as his domain.  6 Pay them in money for what food you eat; and pay them in money for the water you drink.  7 Yahweh your God has blessed you in all you do; he has watched over your journeying through this vast desert.  Yahweh your God has been with you these forty years and you have never been in want."

In this passage Moses retold the events that took place in Numbers 20:14-21.  In that passage, Moses sent messengers to the king of Edom requesting passage through his country with the assurance that the Israelites would keep to the road of the King's Highway (the trade route that ran from Egypt to Mesopotamia) and would not take any crops or use any Edomite wells (Num 20:14-17).  The king of Edom denied Moses' request and threatened to attack the Israelites if they crossed over into Edomite territory (Num 20:18-21). When Moses received the king's reply, he ordered the Israelites to turn south toward the Gulf of Aqaba to avoid crossing into Edom (Num 20:21; 21:4).  This passage provides the reason they turned aside and did not immediately engage the Edomites in battle, as they would later engage the Amorites who also refused the same request.  This passage also provides the new information that instead of continuing south that they did cross the southern tip of Edomite territory but without fear of attack.

Question: Why didn't God allow the Israelites to invade Edom? Give two possible reasons.  See Gen 25:19-25, 29-34; 27:1-35; Dt 2:5-6.
Answer: The Edomites were the descendants of Jacob's brother Esau; they were kinsmen of the Israelites.  The protection of the Edomites in the land of Seir may also have been compensation for Jacob/Israel's deceit in cheating his elder brother out of his material birthright and spiritual blessing as the rightful first-born son of Isaac. 

Only the descendants of Esau living in Seir were included in the ban against armed conflict at this time.  The descendants of Esau still living in Canaan were not afforded this protection.

Question: If God didn't want the Israelites to battle the Edomites, why did God allow them to cross the southern tip of Edomite territory, a move that could have triggered military conflict?  See Num 21:1-3 and Dt 2:4.
Answer: Initially the Edomite king only saw the Israelites as nomadic rabble and was not afraid to engage them in battle; however, after he sent his refusal for them to cross his lands, the Israelites were attacked by a well trained Canaanite army, and, with God's help, they were victorious.  This was the news that frightened the Edomites and prevented them from attacking the Israelites crossing the southern part of their territory.

Deuteronomy 2:8-15 Recounting the Israelites' Progress through Moab and the Death of the Exodus Generation
8'So we passed beyond those relatives of ours, the children of Esau who live in Seir, by the road through the Arabah, Elath and Ezion-Geber; then, changing direction, we took the road towards the Plains of Moab.  9 Yahweh then said to me, "Do not attack Moab, do not provoke him to fight, for I shall give you none of his land, since I have given Ar to the children of Lot as their domain."  10 (At one time the Emim lived there, a great and numerous people, tall as the Anakim; 11 and, like the Anakim, they were considered to be Rephaim, though the Moabites call them, Emim.  12 The Horites, too, lived in Seir at one time; these, however, were dispossessed and exterminated by the children of Esau who settled their in place of them, just as Israel has done in the country given to it by Yahweh as a heritage.)  13"On your way, then!  Cross the Wadi Zered!"  14 And so we crossed the Wadi Zered.  From Kadesh-Barnea to the crossing of the Wadi-Zered our wanderings had taken thirty-eight years; as a result of which the entire generation of those of age to bear arms had been eliminated, as Yahweh had sworn to them.  15 Yahweh's hand had been against them, to eliminate them completely from the camp.

The Israelites turned from their southerly trek and proceeded northeast toward Moab.  Ar (verse 9) was a city in Moab (see Num 21:15, 28) on the nation's boundary just south of the Arnon river (Num 21:14-15), but this verse and verses 18 and 29 probably refers to the district in which the city was located.  Additional historical information is provided about the former inhabitants of Moab and Edom.

Question: Why were the Israelites told not to attack Moab?  What is the connection between the Israelites and the Moabites?  See Gen 11:31; 19:36-38.
Answer: Abram/Abraham was the Israelite's ancestor and the man to whom God entered into a covenant, promising Abraham the land of Canaan.  The Moabites were the descendants of Lot, Abraham's nephew, through Lot's incestuous union with his elder daughter.  The Moabites were, therefore, kinsmen of the Israelites like the Edomites.

Verses 10-12 appear to contain historical information on the inhabitants of the Transjordan that was added to the book of Deuteronomy at a later date, after the conquest of Canaan.  Both the Anakim and Rephaim were very large people, believed by the Israelites to be descended from giants; it has been speculated that Goliath was a descendant of these ancient people (Num 13:32-33).  The Israelites had nothing to fear in crossing through Moabite territory since the Moabite army was too weak to attach Israel, having been recently defeated in a war with the Amorites (Num 21:25-26).

Deuteronomy 2:13:"On your way, then!  Cross the Wadi Zered!"  A wadi is a gorge that runs with water during certain seasons, although some wadis have perennial streams.  This wadi was crossed by the Israelites on their journey from the desert into the Transjordan.  It was located south of the Arnon river, the boundary between Moab to the south and the Amorite kingdom of Sihon (Num 21:12-13); according to Numbers 21:12, the Israelites encamped in the wadi. 

Deuteronomy 2:14: And so we crossed the Wadi Zered. From Kadesh-Barnea to the crossing of the Wadi-Zered our wanderings had taken thirty-eight years; as a result of which the entire generation of those of age to bear arms had been eliminated [perished], as Yahweh had sworn to them. The condemned Exodus generation was from age twenty and older (Num 14:29). Age twenty was established as the age for conscription into the army in Numbers 1:20-21.

Verses 14-16 mark the transition between the Exodus generation that rebelled against God at Kadesh-Barnea and the new wilderness generation that would conquer the Promised Land. In crossing the boundary in to Moab at Wadi-Zered, God's oath sworn at Kadesh that all the adults over twenty years of age had to die is fulfilled with the exception of Caleb and Joshua (Moses will die before the conquest begins). The death of the Exodus generation is mentioned three times with the same Hebrew verb for "to perish" (JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy, page 27). With the crossing of the Wadi-Zered, the conquest of the Transjordan, which was the necessary springboard for the conquest of Canaan, could begin.

Question: From the time of God's judgment against the Exodus generation at Kadesh-Barnea, how many years passed before the adults of the Exodus over twenty years of age had died?
Answer: Thirty-eight years.

Deuteronomy 2:16-25 God's Command not to Attack the Ammonites
16 'When death had carried off from the people those of age to bear arms, to the last man, 17 Yahweh said this to me, 18 "You are now crossing Ar, the country of Moab, 19 and soon you will encounter the children of Ammon.  Do not attack them, no not provoke them, for I shall give you none of the land belonging to the children of Ammon as your domain.  I have given it to the children of Lot as theirs."  20 (This used also to be considered as Rephaim territory; at one time the Rephaim lived there, though the Ammonites call them Zamzummim, 21 a great and numerous people, and tall like the Anakim.  Yahweh exterminated them for the Ammonites who dispossessed them and settled there in place of them, 22 just as he had done for the children of Esau who live in Seir, so that they dispossessed the Horites and settled there instead of them and are still there now.  23 It was the same with the Avvites who occupied encampments as far as Gaza: the Caphtorim, coming from Caphtor, exterminated them and settled there instead.)  24 "On your way! Break camp and cross the Wadi Arnon.  See, I am putting Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, at your mercy, and his country too. Set about the conquest; engage him in battle.  25 Today and henceforth, I shall fill the peoples under all heaven with fear and terror of you whoever hears word of your approach will tremble and writhe in anguish because of you."

This part of the historical narrative has new information not found in the book of Numbers.  The territory of the Ammonites was to the north of Sihon, on the upper waters of the Jabbok River (Num 21:24; Dt 3:16).

Question: Who were the Ammonites and why were the Israelites forbidden to attack them?  See Gen 19:36-38.
Answer: The Ammonites were the descendants of Abraham's nephew Lot through his incestuous union with his younger daughter.  They were kinsmen.

God gave the kinsmen of the Israelites the opportunity to come to knowledge of Him as the one true God; however, it was an opportunity they rejected.  The Moabites attempted to hinder God's plan for Israel's conquest of Canaan (Num 22-25), the Ammonites went to war against Israel in the era of the Judges (Judg 10:7ff), and King David conquered Edom and Moab.

The Caphtorim coming form Caphtor were part of the Sea Peoples invasion.  They were from Crete or Asia Minor and were called Philistines when they settled along the coast of the Mediterranean in five cities.  They became the Israelite's enemies in the period of the United Monarchy.

Question: Deuteronomy 2:12 and 21 speaks of God taking the land from people who were settled there and giving the land to others, just as He was to dispossess the inhabitants of Canaan and give the land to the Israelites.  Was this fair and just on God's part?  See Gen 1:9; Lev 18:26-30; 25:23; 2 Kng 17:7-23.
Answer: Since we know that God's attributes include mercy, compassion, justice, righteousness, and faithful covenant love (Ex 34:6-9), we cannot dispute God's wisdom in the allocation of the land.  God is the creator of the land.  The land belongs to Him and He can give it to whomever He wants in order to advance His plan for mankind.  However, His gift of the land is never arbitrary.  In God's promise to give Canaan to Abraham's descendants, God told Abraham the promise could not be fulfilled until the sin of the peoples currently inhabiting the land had reached a point where there was no hope of repentance (Gen 15:16).  God also warned the Israelites, if they fell into the same evil practices of the peoples who had been dispossessed of the land, that God would also dispossess the Israelites.  All nations of the earth occupy the land according to His will.

Deuteronomy 2:26-37 The History of the Conquest of the Kingdom of Sihon
26 "So, from the desert of Kedemoth I sent envoys to Sihon king of Heshbon with this peaceful message, 27 "I intend to cross your country.  I shall go my way, straying neither to right nor to left.  28 I shall eat and pay for the food you choose to sell me, and I shall drink and pay for the water you let me have.  I only want to march through, 29 just as the children of Esau who live in Seir permitted, as well as the Moabites who live in Ar, until I cross the Jordan into the country that Yahweh our God is giving us."  30 'But Sihon king of Heshbon would not give us leave to pass through his territory; Yahweh our God had made his spirit obstinate and his heart stubborn, to put him at your mercy, as he still is.  31 Yahweh said to me, "you see, I am starting to give you Sihon and his country.  Begin the conquest by seizing his country."  32 Sihon marched out against us, he and all his people, to give battle at Jahaz.  33 And Yahweh our God handed him over to us: we defeated him and his sons and all his people.  34 We captured all his towns and laid all these towns under the curse of destruction: men, women and children, we left no survivors 35 except the livestock which we took as our booty, and the spoils of the captured towns.  36 From  Aroer on the edge of the Arnon valley and from the town down in the valley, as far as Gilead, not one town was beyond our reach; Yahweh our God delivered them all to us.  37 You did not, however, go near the country of the Ammonites, or the region of the River Jabbok, or the towns in the highlands, or anywhere forbidden us by Yahweh our God.'

This part of the historical prologue is a repeat of the narrative in Numbers 21:21-25.  Sihon, the Amorite king of Heshbon, stood in opposition to God's plan for Israel to begin the conquest of Canaan in the same way that the Egyptian Pharaoh stood in opposite to God's plan for the Israelites to leave Egypt.  Like the Egyptian Pharaoh, God hardened the heart of the stubborn king. 

Question: Did God's "hardening" of King Sihon's heart interfere with the man's free will choices?  Did the man no longer have the option of being compassionate to the Israelites?  Did he have evidence of the Israelite's good intentions?  What does the exercise of God's gift of "free-will" mean?  Is freedom of will also license to do what ever one desires?  See CCC 311, 1730-42; 1 Tim 2:3-4; 2 Pt 3:9
Answer: Free will is not license to fulfill one's every desire; it is instead the freedom to choose good over evil.  Like the Egyptian Pharaoh, the Amorite king still had the choice to be compassionate. It is God's desire that all men and women should come to salvation, and He never hinders men/women from making the right choice.  The king had evidence of the Israelites good intentions in their passage through southern Edom and Moab (verse 29).  God used the man's stubbornness to advance His plan for Israel's future.

34 We captured all his towns and laid all these towns under the curse of destruction: men, women and children, we left no survivors 35 except the livestock which we took as our booty, and the spoils of the captured towns. The people of the kingdom of Sihon were placed under herem, "the curse of destruction", in which everyone associated with sin died in a ritual cleansing in dedication to God.  The harsh action of herem identifies this region of the Transjordan as part of the holy war to secure the Promised Land (see Dt 20:10-20).  While this seems cruel and barbaric to us, we must remember that death prior to the Advent of the Messiah was not an eternal judgment.  The dead, righteous and sinners alike, were all consigned to Sheol, the abode of the dead, but they had the hope of a future salvation in the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah.  The righteous waited in the banquet of the just while sinners suffered in atonement for their sins.  After Jesus' death, He descended to the abode of the dead, which was called "Abraham's Bosom" in the first century AD.  He preached the Gospel of salvation to the souls there, and He took those repentant and redeemed souls into the gates of heaven: And this was why the gospel was brought to the dead as well, so that, though in their bodies they had undergone the judgment that faces all humanity, in their spirit they might enjoy the life of God  (1 Pt 4:6; also see Wis 3:1-7; Lk 16:19-30; 1 Pt 3:18-20 and CCC 633)

Questions for group discussion:

In Deuteronomy 1:34, Yahweh called the Exodus generation a "perverse/deceitful/evil generation" and a "perverse/deceitful/evil congregation/community" (Num 14:27, 35) because they had witnessed great works of God and stilled failed to trust and believe in Him.  In Numbers 32:13, Deuteronomy 2:14 and 16 the literal translation is: "the generation which did evil in the sight of Yahweh" (also see Dt 32:20). 

Question: In all of salvation history, only one other generation was described in the same way.  What was that generation and why did they deserve the same condemnation?  See Acts 2:40-41.
Answer: In his Holy Spirit inspired homily on Pentecost Sunday, St. Peter called his own generation "perverse/deceitful/evil", like the Exodus generation.  No two generations in all of salvation history had witness so many great works of God and the God-man Jesus Christ and yet refused to have faith and believe in those divine revelations. 

Question: n Deuteronomy 1:25-26 and 35, Moses contrasts the "good" (tov) of the Promised Land with the "evil" ('ra) of the Exodus generation: (literal translation = The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, page 459; emphasis added).

Question:How was the judgment of the rejection of the "good" God planned for the Exodus generation like Adam and Eve's judgment in their fall from grace? They were willing to reject all the "good" God had given them for knowledge of the evil that was in opposition to the "good" by eating from the forbidden tree (Gen 1:31; 2:15-17; 3:1-7, 23-24)? How can this also be compared to the "good" works of Jesus that were rejected by His own generation? What impact does an individual’s rejection of the "good" God has intended for man's salvation have on that person's ultimate hope of eternal salvation? See CCC 1033-37.
Answer: Like Adam and Eve's rejection of God's "good" in the Fall of man in Eden, the generation of the Exodus and many men and women of Jesus' generation rejected the "good" God planned for them.  No one who preferred "evil" over God's "good" could stay in Eden; no one who rejected the "good" of God's holy Promised Land could enter it; and no one who rejects the "good" of salvation made possible by the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ can enter the heavenly Eden, the true Promised Land of God's heavenly Kingdom.


1. For passages identifying Yahweh as Israel's king see: Ps 5:2, 10:16; 24:7-10; 29:10; 44:4; 47:2, 7-8; 99:1-2; Is 44:6; 1 Sam 12:12; etc.

2. The site of Mt. Sinai has never been positively identified.  Some believe the holy mountain is located at its traditional site in the southern Sinai Peninsula, while others believe the mountain is located in Saudi Arabia.  Horeb is likely the general term for the region or mountain range in which the holy mountain was located.

3. Writing in c. 200, famed Bible scholar Origen of Alexandria wrote that although all manuscripts of St. John's Gospel identified the site on the east side of the river as Bethany, "place of grace", he could not find evidence of any such site on the east side of the river.  He suggested that the place name was instead Bethabara, "place of the crossing over", a site whose existence was also attested to in the Jewish Talmud (see Brown, The Gospel According to John, page 44). If Bethabara is the correct reading, then John was calling attention to the site where Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land of Canaan and was making a Joshua-Jesus parallel with Jesus leading a new generation of the people of God in the conquest of the Promised Land of heaven.  Christian tradition links the site of the crossing for the conquest of Canaan with Jesus' baptism and two Christian churches, whose remains have been discovered, were built on both sides of the river.  In addition, the Madaba map, a 6th century AD mosaic map discovered in the ruins of the Byzantine Church of St. George at Madaba, Jordan, names a site called Bethabara on the west side of the river, but a crossing over point has two sides, and therefore, the map may have been naming the crossing point on the west side.  The Madaba Map is the oldest surviving cartographic depiction of the Holy Land.

4. Gen 15:18; Dt 1:7 and 11:24 identify the northern boundary of the Promised Land at the Euphrates River.  However, other passages put the boundary further to the south at Lebo-hamath, near the northern end of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon (Num 13:21; 34:8).  The apparent discrepancy can be reconciled by Ex 23:29-31: I shall not drive them out ahead of you in a single year, or the land might become a desert where wild animals would multiply to your cost.  I shall drive them out little by little before you, until your numbers grow sufficient for you to take possession of the land.  And your frontiers I shall fix from the Sea of Reeds/Yam Suph to the Sea of the Philistines (Mediterranean), and from the desert to the River (Euphrates)...  This verse suggests that it was God's plan for Lebo-hamath to be a temporary boundary until the Israelites became strong and numerous enough to control a larger territory that extended to the Euphrates.  It should be noted that this promise was conditional upon Israel's continued faithfulness (Lev 11:44-45; 18:26-30; Lev 26:3-13).

Michal E. Hunt © 2011

Catechism references for this lesson:

Dt chapters 1-11 CCC 708
Dt 1:10-11 CCC 706
D-t 1:34-36 CCC 60, 761-62, 781
Dt 2:34 CCC 633

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.