Deuteronomy 1-4: The First Address

A look at Moses' first address to Israel.


Deuteronomy is comprised of 4 addresses given by Moses, each given during the period just before the Israelites cross the Jordan. The first address is presented in chapters 1 through 4. It is given in the plain against the Red Sea between Paran, Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizhab. Though it is possible that the addresses are all given at the same location,[1] Moses provides us with location details for multiple addresses. Moses' first address was given in the 40th year on the first day of the 11th month.

God's Command

Can you imagine, Moses addressed the
entire congregation without the aid of
a microphone!
Moses informs the people that God has decided they have been at Mount Hor long enough. God has commanded them to go to the mount of the Amorites which is in the land of the Canaanites. This location is bordered by Lebanon and the Euphrates river. This is the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (the forefathers of the Israelites). I imagine for someone like Moses, who had worked with almost unceasing faith to escort the Israelites to God's promised land, this must have been a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, they were so close to obtaining God's promise; yet, on the other hand, Moses had lost his chance to experience it. He would be filled with happiness at seeing God's promise fulfilled, and sorrow at his impending death.


We know that Moses grows weary under the weight of leadership and asks God for help. The command from God to choose wise men to share the load is a result. Moses takes wise men and chiefs of each tribe to be captains over the people. Also discussed is the creation of judges to hear issues against the citizens; judges were to decide righteously amongst men. They were not to play favorites, but to give everyone a fair chance. If the situation was too difficult they were to take the issue to Moses. The passage about Moses appointing judges, as suggested by his father-in-law, is given in Exodus 18. God appoints the 70 elders to share the burden with Moses in Numbers 11—God also sends His Spirit to rest upon the elders.

Mountain of the Amorites

The next part of the journey Moses recounts, is sending the 12 spies into Canaan to scout the land out. We are first told the account of this event in Numbers 13-14. At first, the spies give a positive account of the promised land, but out of fear, they switch to a negative view. With the exception of a few, the spies work to convince the people not to obey God's command to take the land. Joshua and Caleb are the only spies to stand with God. They argue against the other spies in attempt to steer the people back to God. This event is the reason the Israelites are cursed to wander the desert for 40 years. God forbids the entire generation that escaped from Egypt (presumably all those over the age of 20 at the time they refused to enter the promised land) from entering the promised land at all, with the only exceptions bestowed upon Joshua and Caleb. An interesting point noted in Deuteronomy, not found in Numbers, is that those who were too young to know good and evil were not punished for their parents mistake. This proves that people who are too young or mentally incapable of discerning right from wrong will not be punished—God looks out for them.

After being cursed, the Israelites want to enter Canaan, but now, God is not amongst them. He tells them they will lose if they fight, per His curse that the rebelling generation will not inherit the promised land. The Israelites do not listen to God, deciding to try out their luck instead. The are defeated in Seir and forced back to their camp. Back at the camp, they realize they must stay in the wilderness until God commands otherwise.

The Wilderness

Moses recounts the Israelite's run-in with Edom, as well. God instructs the Israelites not to fight Edom. My guess as to why God commands this is as follows: due to their lineage through Esau (brother of Jacob and grandson of Abraham), the Edomites may have been seen as partial inheritors of God's covenant with Abraham. God stands by the fact that Edom owns Mount Seir. There is a Mount Seir today, which is located in Jordan.[2] I am not sure if this is the same Mount Seir discussed Biblically or a mountain named for the famed Biblical mountain.

Moab & Ammon

The fate of is Israel's interactions with the nations of Moab and Ammon are discussed in Deuteronomy 2. It is important to remember that the citizens of Moab and Ammon are descendants of the sons born of Lot's daughters.[3] Moab was not to be taken by the Israelites, on God's command, and they were not to engage the Moabites in war. The same generosity is placed on Ammon. Perhaps this is more of God's favoritism, in that God held some favor for Lot (though I am sure He was not pleased with Lot's daughter's decision). It may also have been God's way of leaving the evidence of Lot's daughter's sin as an example to warn the Israelites from such behavior.

The lands of Moab and Ammon are also home to giants: Emims and Zamzummims. Once again we should notice the "im" suffix to refer to these giants. Several other "im" nations are named throughout this chapter as well. God destroys both the Horims and the Zamzummims. Likely the connection is that is merely a plural suffix, though that does not stop people from speculating.


Initially, Israel asks to pass through Heshbon, but Sihon, the king, refuses them, choosing to attack the Israelites instead. Since God has not reserved land for the people of Heshbon nor commanded Israel not to harm Heshbon, He sides with Israel in the battle, which ensures the Israelites' victory. This battle occurs at Jahaz.

Next, the Israelites have to fight the kingdom of Bashon when Bashon's king, Og, attacks them. The spoils of Bashon, as well as the land, are granted to Israel upon their victory. This area is located at the border of Jordan and Syria. Since the land of the East of the Jordan River was not promised to God's people, this land was not part of Israel's inheritance and may be why the modern nation of Israel was not given that land. God simply gave the land to the Israelites at that time because the king of those lands tried to block Israel from the promised land.

Moses informs us that Og was the only remaining giant, which is a detail that is left out in Numbers 21. Also, since Joshua defeats giants in the book of Joshua, we must also presume that Moses meant referring to giants in that specific area or outside of the promised land. This "extra" land was given to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and a portion of Manasseh. In exchange for this land, the men of these tribes were still required to go to battle with the rest of Israel to fight for all of Canaan.

Joshua to Lead

We learn than Moses pleads with God to be able to enter the promised land, but God has made up His mind and His firm with His decision. In Moses' stead, the Israelites will need a new leader. God anoints Joshua to take Moses' place as the leader of Israel. This is amazing for multiple reasons. Joshua was Moses' servant, now he would be the leader of the Israelites. Not only does this prove that God does not limit His favor to the elite, but it reminds us that from a Biblical point of view slaves and servants were not supposed to be considered inferior human beings. Servitude was something He meant for His people to be able to overcome. Furthermore, we see that while Moses may have been one of God's favorite people and may have had the strongest faith of all the Israelites, he was still punished for his sins.

I had a teacher once point out the errors of God's chosen people and question why they were so special. God's chosen people aren't perfect, they're human just like us. What set people like Moses and Abraham or Joshua, apart from everyone else was their faith.

Obey God

Deuteronomy presents us with the first time we are told not to add or subtract from God's Word:
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.Deuteronomy 4:2 KJV
The Israelites are urged to keep the statutes sent by God and reminded of what happened to those at Baalpeor who did not keep God's commands. God says the other nations will recognize their wisdom. They are to remember what God has shown them and pass it on to their children. The most important thing for them to remember, He says, is when they gathered at Mount Horeb to meet God and accept the covenant, when God gives them the 10 commandments. This is commemorated by Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks. In the New Testament, this is further commemorated by God sending the Holy Ghost at Pentecost after Jesus' resurrection.


Many cultures worship images or objects, but God made it clear that we are not to do this. This was a great temptation for the Israelites due the the cultures around them, but it isn't something we don't have to worry about today. All of these so called portraits and statues of Jesus could be seen as idols, as well. For starters we now have millions of people who think some blue-eyed white man with brown straight hair is Jesus when the descriptions of Him state the contrary. These pictures were created at least 1000 years after Jesus walked the Earth so we know they're false; we're attributing a false image to Him just as the Israelites attributed the golden calf to God. Furthermore, the antichrist could show up in that form and people would recognize him as Jesus—the Bible already says many will be deceived, is this part of the reason why? How confused will people be when the real Jesus shows up and looks nothing like that image?

Moses correctly predicts that the Israelites will have trouble with idolatry and provoke God's wrath in the future. He says that God would then scatter them amongst the nations and their numbers would dwindle. This is exactly what happened to the Israelites. They were conquered by many nations—namely Babylon and Rome—and only a few tribes survived in identifying as Israelite descendants. The word Jew that we use today is from the tribe of Judah. Since Many tribes were "lost" or assimilated into other groups, the people we call Jews today actually only represent to a portion of the original Israel (mainly Judah, Levi, and Benjamin).[4][5]


Moses reminds the Israelites that there is always a path back to God—even in the latter days (the end of time). The key back to God has always been repentance form the heart.

Chosen People

The Israelites are God's chosen people. God shows them all manner of His glory so that they know He is God. This privilege is bestowed upon Israel out of love for their fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). A caveat of this choice is that the Israelites must obey God's commandments; it is not simply God choosing them, but them following his commandments signals that they are choosing Him back. This is a crucial point that is emphasized throughout the Bible.

Cities of Refuge

The cities of refuge on the east of the Jordan are listed by name: Bezer (in Reuben), Ramoth (in Gad), and Golan (in Manasseh). Assumably, these cities are built before they cross the Jordan.


  1. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg 299-302. 2014
  2. Various Authors. "Mount Seir". Google Maps. 2016
  3. Genesis 19:36-38
  4. Hancock, Harlod. "Is There a Difference Between Hebrews, Jews, and Israelites?". Timberland Drive Church of Christ. 2016
  5. Dawsett, Frank W. "Hebrew, Israelite, or Jew?". Ensian Message. 2016

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