(from One New Man Bible translated by William Morford)
The Last Two Months in the Wilderness
1.1. These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on the east side of the Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Reed Sea between Paran, Tophel, Laban, Hatserot, and Di Zahav. 2. It is an eleven days journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea. 3. And it was in the fortieth year in the eleventh month, on the first of the month, he spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the LORD* had given him in commandment to them, 4. after he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites who lived in Heshbon and Og the king of Bashan who lived at Ashtarot in Edrei 5. on this side of the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses began to declare this teaching saying,
1:6. “The LORD* our God spoke to us in Horeb saying, ‘You have stayed long enough on this mountain, 7. turn and take your journey and go to the mountain of the Amorites, and to everywhere near it in the plain, in the hills, in the valley, in the south, and by the seaside to the land of the Canaanites, to Lebanon, to the great river, the river Euphrates. 8. Look, I have set the land before you: Go in! Possess the land which the LORD* swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them and to their seed after them!’
1:9. “And I spoke to you at that time saying, ‘I am not able to bear you myself alone. 10. The LORD* your God has multiplied you and, behold, you are this day like the stars of heaven for multitude. (Heb. 11:12) 11. May the LORD* God of your fathers make you a thousand times as many more as you are and bless you, as He has promised you! 12. How can I myself alone bear your great number, your burden, and your strife! 13. Take for yourselves wise, understanding men known among your tribes and I shall make them leaders over you.’
1:14. “And you answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have spoken is good for us to do.’
1:15. “So I took the chiefs of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, captains over hundreds, captains over fifties, captains over tens, and officers among your tribes. 16. And I charged your judges at that time saying, Hear the causes between your brothers and judge righteously between a man and his brother and the stranger that is with him. 17. You will not show favoritism in judgment, but you will hear the small as well as the great. You will not be afraid of the face of any man, for the judgment is God’s, and bring to me the cause that is too hard for you and I shall hear it. 18. And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.
1:19. “And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great and dreadful wilderness, which you saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites, as the LORD* our God commanded us and we came to Kadesh Barnea. 20. And I said to you, You have come to the mountain of the Amorites, which the LORD* our God gives to us. 21. Behold, the LORD* your God has set the land before you. Go up! Possess it! As the LORD* God of your fathers has said to you, ‘Do not be in awe! Do not be dismayed!’
1:22. “And you came near to me, every one of you, and said, ‘We will send men before us and they will search out the land and bring us word again by what way we must go up and into what cities we will come.’ 23. And the saying pleased me and I took twelve of your men, one from a tribe. 24. And they turned and went up into the mountain and came to the valley of Eshkol and spied it out. 25. And they took of the fruit of the land in their hands and brought it down to us and brought us word again and said, ‘It is good land which the LORD* our God gives to us.’ 26. Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD* your God 27. and you murmured in your tents and said, “Because the LORD* hated us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us. 28. Where will we go? Our brothers have discouraged our heart saying, ‘The people is greater and taller than we, the cities are great and walled up to heaven, and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.’ 29. Then I said to you, ‘Do not dread or be afraid of them. 30. The LORD* your God Who goes before you, He will fight for you (Exod. 14:14, Deut. 3:22), according to all that He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31. and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD* your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came into this place.’ 32. Yet in this thing you did not believe the LORD* your God, 33. Who went on the way before you, to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, in fire by night to show you by what way you should go, and in a cloud by day.
1:34. “And the LORD* heard the sound of your words and was angry and swore saying, 35. ‘Surely there will not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I swore to give your fathers, 36. except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, he will see it and I shall give the land that he has walked on to him and to his children because he has wholly followed the LORD*.’ 37. Also the LORD* was angry with me for your sake saying, “You also will not go in there. 38. Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he will go there. Encourage him, for he will cause Israel to inherit it. 39. Moreover your little ones that you said would be a prey and your children, who in that day had no knowledge between good and bad, they will go in there and I shall give it to them, and they will possess it. 40. But as for you, turn and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Reed Sea.’
1:41. “Then you answered and said to me, ‘We have sinned against the LORD*, we will go up and fight according to all that the LORD* our God commanded us.’ And when each man had girded on his weapons of war, you endeavored to go up the hill.
1:42. “And the LORD* said to me, ‘Say to them, Do not go up or fight, for I am not among you, lest you be struck before your enemies.’ 43. So I spoke to you and you would not listen, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD* and went presumptuously up the hill. 44. And the Amorites who lived on that mountain came out against you and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you in Seir, even to Harmah. 45. And you returned and wept before the LORD*, but the LORD* would not hearken to your voice, or give ear to you. 46. So you stayed in Kadesh many days, according to the days that you lived there.”
2.1. “Then we turned and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Reed Sea as the LORD* had spoken to me, and we stayed around Mount Seir many days.
2:2. “And the LORD* spoke to me saying, 3. ‘You have stayed around this mountain long enough! Turn northward! 4. And command the people saying, You are to cross the border of your brothers the children of Esau who live in Seir, and they will be afraid of you. Therefore be careful for yourselves. 5. Do not challenge or provoke them! I shall not give you any of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth because I have given Mount Seir to Esau for a possession. 6. You will buy meat from them for money, so you can eat, and you will also buy water from them for money, so you can drink. 7. For the LORD* your God has blessed you in all the works of your hand, He knows your walking through this great wilderness, you have lacked nothing these forty years. The LORD* your God has been with you.’ 8. And we passed by from our brothers the children of Esau, who lived in Seir, through the way of the plain from Elat and from Ezion Gever.
“And we turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab. 9. And the LORD* said to me, ‘Do not disturb the Moabites! Do not stir up a war with them! For I shall not give you any of their land for a possession because I have given Ar to the children of Lot for a possession.’ 10. The Emim lived there in times past, a people great and many and tall like the Anakim. 11. They also were called Rephaim like the Anakim, but the Moabites called them Emim. 12. The Horites also lived in Seir earlier, but the children of Esau succeeded them when they destroyed them from before them, and lived in their place, as Israel did to the land of his possession, which the LORD* gave to them. 13. Now rise up I said, and cross the brook Zered.’
“And we went over the brook Zered. 14. And the days in which we came from Kadesh Barnea, until we had come over the brook Zered, were thirty-eight years, until all the generation of the men of war had been consumed from among the army, as the LORD* swore to them. 15. For indeed the hand of the LORD* was against them, to destroy them from among the army, until they had been consumed.
2:16. “So it happened, when all the men of war had been consumed from among the people and were dead, 17. that the LORD* spoke to me saying, 18. ‘You are this day to cross the border of Moab with Ar. 19. And when you come near against the children of Ammon, do not distress them! Do not stir war with them! For I shall not give you any of the land of the children of Ammon for a possession because I have given it to the children of Lot for a possession.’ 20. (That also was called a land of Rephaim. Rephaim lived there earlier and the Ammonites called them Zamzummim, 21. a people great and numerous, and tall, like the Anakim, but the LORD* destroyed them before them. They succeeded them and lived in their stead, 22. as He did for the children of Esau, who lived in Seir, when He destroyed the Horim from before them and they succeeded them and stayed in their stead even to this day. 23. And the Avim who lived in Hazerim, to Gaza the Kaftorim, who came out of Kaftor, destroyed them and stayed in their stead.)”
2:24. “Get up! Take your journey and cross the river Arnon. Behold, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon and his land. Begin to possess and contend with him in battle. 25. This day I shall begin to put the dread of you and the awe of you upon the peoples that are under the whole heaven, who will hear reports about you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you.”
2:26. “And I sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemot to Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace saying, 27. ‘Let me pass through your land. I shall go along by the highway; I shall turn neither to the right hand nor to the left. 28. You will sell me meat for money, so I can eat and give me water for money, so I can drink, only I shall pass through on my feet. 29. As the children of Esau that dwell in Seir and the Moabites that live in Ar did with me until I shall cross over the Jordan into the land which the LORD* our God gives us.’ 30. But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the LORD* your God strengthened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, so He could deliver him into your hand as on this day.
2:31. “And the LORD* said to me, ‘Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before you. Begin to possess, so you can inherit his land.’
2:32. “Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. 33. And the LORD* our God delivered him before us and we struck him and his sons and all his people. (Num. 21:21-31) 34. And we took all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, the women, and the little ones of every city, we left no one to remain. 35. We took only the cattle for a prey to ourselves and the spoil of the cities which we took. 36. From Aroer, which is by the brink of the river of Arnon and from the city that is by the river, even to Gilead, there was not one city too strong for us. The LORD* our God delivered all to us. 37. It was only to the land of the children of Ammon that you did not come, or to any place of the river Jabbok or to the cities in the mountains or to whatever the LORD* our God forbade us.”
3.1. “Then we turned and went up the road to Bashan, and Og the king of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people to battle at Edrei. 2. And the LORD* said to me, ‘Do not be in awe of him! I shall deliver him and all his people and his land into your hand, and you will do to him as you did to Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon.’ (Num. 21:33-35) 3. So the LORD* our God also delivered Og into our hands, the king of Bashan and all his people, and we struck him until no one was left remaining. 4. And we took all his cities at that time, there was not a city which we did not take from them, sixty cities, the whole region of Argov, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. 5. All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars besides a great many unwalled towns. 6. And we utterly destroyed them, as we did to Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children of every city. 7. But we took all the cattle and the spoil of the cities for a prey for ourselves. 8. And we took at that time out of the hand of the two kings of the Amorites the land that was on this, east, side of the Jordan, from the river of Arnon to Mount Hermon, 9. which Hermon the Sidonites call Sirion, and the Amorites call it Senir, 10. all the cities of the plain and all Gilead and all Bashan, to Salchah and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan. 11. For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the Rephaim, behold, his bedstead is a bedstead of iron, it is in Rabbat of the children of Ammon. Its length is nine cubits and its width is four cubits, after the cubit of a man.
3:12. “And this land, which we possessed at that time from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, and half of Mount Gilead and its cities, I gave to the Reubenites and to the Gadites. 13. And the rest of Gilead and all Bashan, being the kingdom of Og, I gave to the half tribe of Manasseh all the region of Argov, with all Bashan, which was called the land of Rephaim. 14. Jair the son of Manasseh took all the country of Argob to the border of Geshuri and Maachathi, and called them the Bashan after his own name, Havot Jair, to this day. 15. And I gave Gilead to Machir. 16. And to the Reubenites and to the Gadites I gave from Gilead even to the river Arnon, half the valley, and the border even to the river Jabbok, the border of the children of Ammon, 17. the plain also and the Jordan and its border from Kinneret even to the sea of the plain, the Salt Sea, under the slopes of Pisgah eastward.
3:18. “And I commanded you at that time saying, The LORD* your God has given you this land to possess it. You will cross armed before your brothers the children of Israel, all that are enlisted for the war. 19. But your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, (I know that you have many cattle) will stay in your cities which I have given you 20. until the LORD* has given rest to your brothers, as well as to you and they also possess the land which the LORD* your God has given them beyond the Jordan, and then you will return, each man to his possession which I have given you. 21. And I commanded Joshua at that time saying, ‘Your eyes have seen all that the LORD* your God has done to these two kings: so will the LORD* do to all the kingdoms where you possess. 22. You will not be in awe of them, for the LORD* your God, He will fight for you.’ (Exod. 14:14, Deut. 1:30)
Next week’s Torah readings: Va’etchanan
Deuteronomy 1 – 3:22
As God’s promise of exile as punishment for sin has taken place, so too, His promise of redemption after a lengthy exile will take place.
This portions begins the final book of the Five Books of Moses, the Book of Deuteronomy. The Children of Israel are in the final weeks or months before their entrance into the Land of Israel. Moses is approaching the final days of his life. And he takes the time to address the people of Israel, reviewing their time in the desert, teaching them the messages that they must remember and internalize before they enter the Promised Land.
This Shabbat, though, also marks the final Shabbat before the 9th of Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. On this day, the first temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians some 2,500 years ago. On this same day, the second temple was destroyed by the Romans close to 2,000 years ago. Throughout the Jewish history, this day has been marked by suffering and anti-Semitism. The expulsion decree issued by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain in 1492, which forced all the Jews of Spain to flee or convert to Christianity, took effect on the 9th of Av. Some of the most horrible Crusade massacres of Jewish communities took place on the same day. On this day we fast and pray, we remember our terrible history and ask God to bring the Messiah and rebuild the Temple as quickly as possible.
On the 9th of Av we also read the book of Lamentations, that terribly poignant description of the destruction of the First Temple written by Jeremiah, an eye-witness to the events he describes. The Book of Lamentations begins with the Hebrew word “Eicha” meaning “how?” We chant the Book of Lamentations out loud in the synagogue, sitting on the floor with the lights dimmed, and the tune used is an ancient, mournful one.
In the first verses of the Book of Deuteronomy, the same word “Eicha” appears (1:12). Moses is relating to the people how he had struggled against the burden of leadership, how their rebelliousness and lack of cooperation caused him to request assistance. And yet, this word “Eicha”, is so much more than a simple “How can I do this?” It includes a sigh, a feeling of strain, of pain, even.
It always works out that these verses are read the Shabbat before the 9th of Av and our tradition is to read the words of this verse to the same chanting tune of the Book of Lamentations. As if to remind us of the coming fast day.
But, the connection between these verses in Deuteronomy and the Book of Lamentations is far more than the apparently coincidental appearance of the two unique words of “Eicha.” I believe the message is far more profound.
Throughout the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses tries to inspire the Children of Israel to follow God’s word. He tells them that their obedience is essential to their ability to remain in the Land of Israel, to avoid the punishment of exile. From the beginning of the book, Moses emphasizes how hard it has been to keep the people on the right path – his expression of “Eicha” tells us that.
In essence, Moses knows from his personal acquaintance with the people, that they will sin, that they will end up in exile. With this one word, “Eicha,” he already reflects his understanding that the Book of Lamentations will be written. But the message to us, coming as it does after the destructions have already happened, can be an encouraging one. For even as God’s promise of exile as punishment for sin has taken place, so too, His promise of redemption after a lengthy exile will take place. In that pain of the word “Eicha” lies the promise of a better time. May we live to see those days come to be.
Shabbat Shalom: Insights on the Weekly Torah Portion from the Heart of Biblical Israel
Thank you, Rick.