1:1-4:43 HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION
In style similar to that of ancient treaty documents, Deuteronomy opens by recounting all that Yahweh, Israel’s covenant God, has done for his people. It reminds them of his gracious acts on their behalf and calls from them a fitting response of covenant loyalty. The section summarizes events recorded in greater detail in Numbers 10:11-32:42.
From Sinai to Kadesh (1:1-46)
It was only eleven days’ journey from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, and about the same from Kadesh to the plains of Moab where the people now were, but they had taken forty years to get there. Moses began his recollections of the journey by reminding the people that their coming possession of Canaan was solely because of God’s grace, not because of any virtue in them (1:1-8).
Only through God’s mercy had they grown into a strong and contented people who enjoyed the blessing (rare among ancient races) of just, impartial and humanitarian government (9-18). They would have further proof of God’s unfailing goodness when they saw the rich land God was giving them. God had cared for them throughout the long and weary journey from Mount Sinai (Horeb), ‘carrying’ them as a father carries his young son who has become too tired to walk. Yet they complained against him and refused to go with him into the land he had chosen for them (19-33).
The constant stubbornness of the people was the reason why they were not allowed to enter Canaan. More than that, it was the cause of Moses’ not being allowed. He lost patience with them and in so doing brought God’s punishment upon himself (34-40; see Num 20:2-13). Still stubborn and disobedient, the people who would not go into Canaan with God then tried to conquer the country without him. Not surprisingly, they were defeated and driven back into the wilderness (41-46).