…Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:…Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land….


Large numbers of supposedly sound Christian believers know nothing at all about personal communion with God; and there lies one of the greatest weaknesses of present-day Christianity!

The experiential knowledge of God is eternal life (John 17:3), and increased knowledge results in a correspondingly larger and fuller life. So rich a treasure is this inward knowledge of God that every other treasure is as nothing compared with it!

We may count all things of no value and sacrifice them freely if we may thereby gain a more perfect knowledge of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. This was Paul’s testimony (Phil. 3:7–14) and it has been the testimony of all great Christian souls who have followed Christ from Paul’s day to ours.

To know God it is necessary that we be like God to some degree, for things wholly dissimilar cannot agree and beings wholly unlike can never have communion with each other. It is necessary therefore that we use every means of grace to bring our souls into harmony with the character of God.

As we move farther up into the knowledge of Christ we open new areas of our beings to attack, but what of it? Remember that spiritual complacency is more deadly than anything the devil can bring against us in our upward struggle. If we sit still to escape temptation, then we are being tempted worse than before and gaining nothing by it.[1]

6 Moses begins this historical overview with Israel’s encampment at Sinai/Horeb. The initial giving of the law at Sinai provides the theological backdrop for Moses’ call for covenantal renewal in Deuteronomy. After God’s children spent about a year camped at the base of Mount Sinai, God exhorted them to continue their journey toward the land of promise.

7 As part of his command that the Israelites break camp and travel toward Canaan, the Lord provided an overview of the principal geographical divisions of that region (see Aharoni, 41–42, for a summary of those terms). The land described covers an area that exceeds even the boundaries of Israel during the glorious days of David and Solomon. The “hill country of the Amorites” and the “land of the Canaanites” respectively refer to the central hill country and the coastal area (cf. Nu 13:29), inhabited by the two people groups customarily referenced in these geographical descriptions. “Canaanites” serves as an umbrella term for the diverse peoples who inhabited the land of Canaan.

After Yahweh named “the hill country of the Amorites,” he referred to the various groups of people who inhabited the land in general. In that regard, God methodically cited four divisions of Canaan: the Arabah (primarily the Jordan Rift Valley), Shephelah (the transitional region between the hill country of Judah and the coastal region to the west), Negev (the arid region in southern Palestine), and coast (possibly referring to the coastline farther to the north, in the area of Phoenicia, since he seems to refer to the Canaanite coast with the phrase “land of the Canaanites”). The region of Lebanon and the Euphrates River serve as the far northern boundaries for the land of promise. This territorial overview approximates the promise given to Abraham in Genesis 15:18: “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates” (cf. Ex 23:31; Dt 11:24).

8 As the foundation for his command that Israel depart from Sinai and travel toward the Land of Promise, the Lord reaffirmed his promise, originally made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that he would indeed enable them to take possession of the land of Canaan.

Moses presents both sides of the conquest endeavor: God’s part and Israel’s part. God “set before” Israel this land of promise. The unique combination of the verb “to give” (ntn) and the preposition “before” (lipnê) highlights God’s action of placing the land of promise before the nation of Israel (see Note). Yahweh first promised this land to Abraham (as a pledge) in Genesis 12:7. His reaffirmation of this promise to Abraham (Ge 15:18) and Jacob (28:13–15) regarded this promise as a reality (“I have given/I gave”). In his reaffirmation to Jacob (Ge 35:12), the Lord affirmed that the land he gave to Abraham and Isaac he will give to Jacob and his descendants. The Lord promised this land to Abraham and his descendants by oath (1:8—“the land that the Lord swore he would give”).

In Moses’ day, God is placing the land of promise at the disposal of the Israelites, the anticipated descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In conjunction with the interjection “See,” Yahweh is declaring: “I hereby give/place …” (Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1–11, 134).

God required that Israel “take possession” of this land of promise. Although this verb can signify a peaceful occupation of land (cf. Pss 25:13; 37:9), in covenantal contexts it highlights taking possession of a land by dispossessing the former inhabitants (Dt 4:14, 26; 6:1; 7:1; 8:1; 11:8 et al.). Just as God directed other nations to “possess” certain lands (2:12, 21–22), God demands that Israel take possession of what he has allotted to them. Although taking possession of a land relates to Israel’s inheriting the land, the verb nḥl more precisely highlights that nuance (1:38; 3:28). God’s servant-nation was not merely taking land that belonged to another nation but was receiving “the land as gift from its divine owner, coming into their own rightful claim as vassals who work the royal estate of the Lord their God (cf. 1:39; 3:20; 10:11; Josh 1:15; 21:43)” (Merrill, Deuteronomy, 68).[2]

1:6 Deuteronomy typically names God as the Lord our (or your) God. “Lord” is Yahweh, the personal and covenantal name for God revealed to Moses (Ex. 3:14–15; see note on Gen. 2:4).

1:7 Turn. Israel left Sinai in Num. 10:11ff. Amorites. A general term for the occupants of the land. The descriptions of the land reflect its geography, roughly east to west. Arabah. See note on Deut. 1:1. The hill country is the ridge of higher mountains overlooking the Jordan Valley from the west. The lowland is the next strip of land to the west, with low, undulating hills. The Negeb is the arid land across the south, which becomes desert. Seacoast refers to the flat Mediterranean coastline. In general terms, the land is occupied by Canaanites (a term virtually synonymous at this time with “Amorites,” mentioned earlier in the verse). Lebanon lies to the north. The river Euphrates lies even farther north and east. Cf. the description of the land in the promise to Abraham (Gen. 15:18–21).

1:8 See has a sense of urgency, for it is a time of decision: from the plains of Moab Israel can now survey the land before it. Take possession of the land is a common command in Deuteronomy (e.g., 1:21, 39; 2:24, 31; 3:18; 4:1, 5, 14, 22, etc.). fathers. See 1:11, 21; 4:1; 6:3; 10:11; 12:1; 26:7; 27:3; 29:25. The promise of land was made first to Abraham (Gen. 12:7; 15:18–21), reiterated to Isaac (Gen. 26:4), and then to Jacob (Gen. 28:13; 35:12; cf. Deut. 6:10; 9:5; 29:13; 30:20; 34:4). The promises to the three patriarchs included land for their offspring after them. Moses is emphasizing that the current generation of Israel is included in the promises and God intends to keep his promise of the land. Thus the patriarchal reference functions rhetorically to persuade Israel to go in and possess the land.[3]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Grisanti, M. A. (2012). Deuteronomy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Numbers–Ruth (Revised Edition) (Vol. 2, pp. 480–481). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 330–331). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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