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The Wilderness

(Category 5 of 16)

Watch our Read Scripture video on the book of Deuteronomy, which breaks down the literary design of the book and its flow of thought. There is one Read Scripture video dedicated to the book of Deuteronomy, which aims to help you see its unique contribution to the story of Jesus, but also how it works within the Bible’s overall framework.

In Deuteronomy, Moses gives final words of wisdom and warning before the Israelites enter the promised land, challenging them to be faithful to God.

Explore Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy (RS)


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The Fifth Book of Moses Called


DEUTERONOMY, Moses’ “Upper Desert Discourse,” consists of a series of farewell messages by Israel’s 120-year-old leader. It is addressed to the new generation destined to possess the Land of Promise—those who survived the forty years of wilderness wandering. Like Leviticus, Deuteronomy contains a vast amount of legal detail, but its emphasis is on the laymen rather than the priests. Moses reminds the new generation of the importance of obedience if they are to learn from the sad example of their parents. The Hebrew title of Deuteronomy is Haddebharim, “The Words,” taken from the opening phrase in 1:1, “These are the words.” The parting words of Moses to the new generation are given in oral and written form so that they will endure to all generations. Deuteronomy has been called “five-fifths of the Law” since it completes the five books of Moses. The Jewish people have also called it Mishneh Hattorah, “Repetition of the Law,” which is translated in the Septuagint as To Deuteronomion Touto, “This Second Law.” Deuteronomy, however, is not a second law but an adaptation and expansion of much of the original law given on Mount Sinai. The English title comes from the Greek title Deuteronomion, “Second Law.” Deuteronomy has also been appropriately called the “Book of Remembrance.”

The Previous Command to Enter Canaan


1 THESE are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel aon this side of the Jordan in the wilderness, in the 1plain opposite 2Suph, between Paran, Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab.
2 It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir ato Kadesh Barnea.
3 Now it came to pass ain the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him as commandments to them,
4 aafter he had killed Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who dwelt at Ashtaroth bin1 Edrei.
5 On this side of the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law, saying,
6 “The LORD our God spoke to us ain Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long benough at this mountain.
7 ‘Turn and take your journey, and go to the mountains of the Amorites, to all the neighboring places in the 1plain, in the mountains and in the lowland, in the South and on the seacoast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the River Euphrates.
8 ‘See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD 1swore to your fathers—to aAbraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to give to them and their descendants after them.’

CHAPTER 1 References

1 aDeut.
4:44–46 1Heb.
arabah 2One
LXX ms., Tg.,
Vg. Red Sea
2 aNum. 13:26;
3 aNum. 33:38
4 aNum. 21:23,
24, 33–35
bJosh. 13:12
1LXX, Syr.,
Vg. and; cf.
Josh. 12:4
6 aEx. 3:1, 12
bEx. 19:1, 2
7 1Heb.
8 aGen. 12:7;
15:5; 22:17;
26:3; 28:13
9 aEx. 18:18,
24 1am not
able to bear
you by myself
10 aGen. 15:5;
11 a2 Sam.
24:3 bGen.
12 a1 Kin.
3:8, 9
13 1rulers
15 aEx. 18:25
16 aDeut.
16:18 bLev.
17 aProv.
b2 Chr. 19:6
cEx. 18:22, 26

Tribal Leaders Appointed

9 “And aI spoke to you at that time, saying: ‘I 1alone am not able to bear you.
10 ‘The LORD your God has multiplied you, aand here you are today, as the stars of heaven in multitude.
11 a‘May the LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times more numerous than you are, and bless you bas He has promised you!
12 a‘How can I alone bear your problems and your burdens and your complaints?
13 ‘Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them 1heads over you.’
14 “And you answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have told us to do is good.’
15 “So I took athe heads of your tribes, wise and knowledgeable men, and 1made them heads over you, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, leaders of tens, and officers for your tribes.
16 “Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and ajudge righteously between a man and his bbrother or the stranger who is with him.
17 a‘You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for bthe judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, cbring to me, and I will hear it.’
18 “And I commanded you at that

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time all the things which you should do.

Israel’s Refusal to Enter the Land

19 “So we departed from Horeb, aand went through all that great and terrible wilderness which you saw on the way to the mountains of the Amorites, as the LORD our God had commanded us. Then bwe came to Kadesh Barnea.
20 “And I said to you, ‘You have come to the mountains of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us.
21 ‘Look, the LORD your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the LORD God of your fathers has spoken to you; ado not fear or be discouraged.’
22 “And every one of you came near to me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, and let them search out the land for us, and bring back word to us of the way by which we should go up, and of the cities into which we shall come.’
23 “The plan pleased me well; so aI took twelve of your men, one man from each tribe.
24 a“And they departed and went up into the mountains, and came to the Valley of Eshcol, and spied it out.
25 “They also took some of the fruit of the land in their hands and brought it down to us; and they brought back word to us, saying, ‘It is a agood land which the LORD our God is giving us.’
26 a“Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God;
27 “and you acomplained in your tents, and said, ‘Because the LORD bhates 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 can we go up? Our brethren have 1discouraged our hearts, saying, a“The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven; moreover we have seen the sons of the bAnakim there.” ’
29 “Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified, aor afraid of them.
30 a‘The LORD your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,
31 ‘and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a aman carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’
32 “Yet, for all that, ayou did not believe the LORD your God,
33 a“who went in the way before you bto search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.

19 aDeut. 2:7;
8:15; 32:10
bNum. 13:26
21 aJosh. 1:6, 9
23 aNum. 13:2,
24 aNum.
25 aNum.
26 aNum.
27 aPs. 106:25
bDeut. 9:28
28 aDeut. 9:1,
2 bNum. 13:28
1Lit. melted
29 aNum. 14:9
30 aEx. 14:14
31 aIs. 46:3, 4;
32 aJude 5
33 aEx. 13:21
bNum. 10:33
34 aDeut. 2:14,
35 aNum.
14:22, 23
36 a[Josh.
14:9] bNum.
32:11, 12
37 aDeut. 3:26;
4:21; 34:4
38 aNum.
14:30 b1 Sam.
16:22 cDeut.
31:7, 23
39 aNum.
14:31 bNum.
14:3 cIs. 7:15,
40 aNum.
41 aNum.
42 aNum.
43 aNum.
14:44 bDeut.
17:12, 13
44 aPs. 118:12
46 aDeut. 2:7,

CHAPTER 2 References

1 aDeut. 1:40
bNum. 14:25
3 aDeut. 2:7,
4 aNum.
bDeut. 23:7


The Penalty for Israel’s Rebellion

34 “And the LORD heard the sound of your words, and was angry, aand took an oath, saying,
35 a‘Surely not one of these men of this evil generation shall see that good land of which I 1swore to give to your fathers,
36 a‘except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and his children I am giving the land on which he walked, because bhe 1wholly followed the LORD.’
37 a“The LORD was also angry with me for your sakes, saying, ‘Even you shall not go in there.
38 aJoshua the son of Nun, bwho stands before you, he shall go in there. cEncourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.
39 a‘Moreover your little ones and your children, who byou say will be victims, who today chave no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.
40 a‘But as for you, turn and take your journey into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.’
41 “Then you answered and said to me, a‘We have sinned against the LORD; we will go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.’ And when everyone of you had girded on his weapons of war, you were ready to go up into the mountain.
42 “And the LORD said to me, ‘Tell them, a“Do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; lest you be defeated before your enemies.” ’
43 “So I spoke to you; yet you would not listen, but arebelled against the command of the LORD, and bpresumptuously1 went up into the mountain.
44 “And the Amorites who dwelt in that mountain came out against you and chased you aas bees do, and drove you back from Seir to Hormah.
45 “Then you returned and wept before the LORD, but the LORD would not listen to your voice nor give ear to you.
46 a“So you remained in Kadesh many days, according to the days that you spent there.

The Desert Years


1 “Then we turned and ajourneyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, bas the LORD spoke to me, and we 1skirted Mount Seir for many days.
2 “And the LORD spoke to me, saying:
3 ‘You have skirted this mountain along enough; turn northward.
4 ‘And command the people, saying, a“You are about to pass through the territory of byour brethren, the

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descendants of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. Therefore watch yourselves carefully.
5 “Do not meddle with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as one footstep, abecause I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession.
6 “You shall buy food from them with money, that you may eat; and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink.
7 “For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your 1trudging through this great wilderness. aThese forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.” ’
8 “And when we passed beyond our brethren, the descendants of Esau who dwell in Seir, away from the road of the plain, away from aElath and Ezion Geber, we bturned and passed by way of the Wilderness of Moab.
9 “Then the LORD said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab, nor contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession, because I have given aAr to bthe descendants of Lot as a possession.’
10 a(The Emim had dwelt there in times past, a people as great and numerous and tall as bthe Anakim.
11 They were also regarded as 1giants, like the Anakim, but the Moabites call them Emim.
12 aThe Horites formerly dwelt in Seir, but the descendants of Esau dispossessed them and destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their 1place, just as Israel did to the land of their possession which the LORD gave them.)
13 “ ‘Now rise and cross over athe 1Valley of the Zered.’ So we crossed over the Valley of the Zered.
14 “And the time we took to come afrom Kadesh Barnea until we crossed over the Valley of the Zered was thirty-eight years, buntil all the generation of the men of war 1was consumed from the midst of the camp, cjust as the LORD had sworn to them.
15 “For indeed the hand of the LORD was against them, to destroy them from the midst of the camp until they 1were consumed.
16 “So it was, when all the men of war had finally perished from among the people,
17 “that the LORD spoke to me, saying:
18 ‘This day you are to cross over at Ar, the boundary of Moab.
19 ‘And when you come near the people of Ammon, do not harass them or meddle with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession,

5 aGen. 36:8;
Josh. 24:4
7 aDeut. 8:2–4;
[Matt. 6:8, 32] 1Lit. goings
8 aJudg. 11:18;
1 Kin. 9:26
bNum. 21:4
9 aNum. 21:15,
28; Deut. 2:18,
29 bGen.
10 aGen. 14:5
bNum. 13:22,
33; Deut. 9:2
11 1Heb.
12 aGen. 14:6;
36:20; Deut.
2:22 1stead
13 aNum. 21:12
1Wadi or
14 aNum. 13:26
bNum. 14:33;
26:64; Deut.
1:34, 35 cNum.
14:35; Ezek.
20:15 1perished
15 1perished
19 aGen. 19:38;
Num. 21:24
20 aGen. 14:5
1Heb. rephaim
21 aDeut. 2:10
22 aGen. 36:8;
Deut. 2:5
bGen. 14:6;
23 aJosh. 13:3
bGen. 10:14;
1 Chr. 1:12;
Jer. 47:4;
Amos 9:7
24 aNum.
21:13, 14;
Judg. 11:18
bDeut. 1:4 1to
take possession
25 aEx. 23:27;
Deut. 11:25;
Josh. 2:9 bEx.
under the
26 aNum.
Deut. 1:4;
bDeut. 20:10
27 aNum.
21:21, 22;
Judg. 11:19
28 aNum. 20:19
29 aNum.
20:18; Deut.
23:3, 4; Judg.
30 aNum. 21:23
bJosh. 11:20
cEx. 4:21
31 aDeut. 1:3, 8
32 aNum. 21:23
33 aEx. 23:31;
Deut. 7:2
bNum. 21:24
1Lit. before us
34 aLev. 27:28

because I have given it to athe descendants of Lot as a possession.’ ”
20 (That was also regarded as a land of 1giants; giants formerly dwelt there. But the Ammonites call them aZamzummim,
21 aa people as great and numerous and tall as the Anakim. But the LORD destroyed them before them, and they dispossessed them and dwelt in their place,
22 just as He had done for the descendants of Esau, awho dwelt in Seir, when He destroyed bthe Horites from before them. They dispossessed them and dwelt in their place, even to this day.
23 And athe Avim,who dwelt in villages as far as Gaza—bthe Caphtorim, who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and dwelt in their place.)
24 “ ‘Rise, take your journey, and across over the River Arnon. Look, I have given into your hand bSihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin 1to possess it, and engage him in battle.
25 a‘This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the nations 1under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you, and shall btremble and be in anguish because of you.’

King Sihon Defeated

26 “And I asent messengers from the Wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon king of Heshbon, bwith words of peace, saying,
27 a‘Let me pass through your land; I will keep strictly to the road, and I will turn neither to the right nor to the left.
28 ‘You shall sell me food for money, that I may eat, and give me water for money, that I may drink; aonly let me pass through on foot,
29 ajust as the descendants of Esau who dwell in Seir and the Moabites who dwell in Ar did for me, until I cross the Jordan to the land which the LORD our God is giving us.’
30 a“But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass through, for bthe LORD your God chardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into your hand, as it is this day.
31 “And the LORD said to me, ‘See, I have begun to agive Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to possess it, that you may inherit his land.’
32 a“Then Sihon and all his people came out against us to fight at Jahaz.
33 “And athe LORD our God delivered him 1over to us; so bwe defeated him, his sons, and all his people.
34 “We took all his cities at that time, and we autterly destroyed the men,women, and little ones of every city; we left none remaining.
35 “We took only the livestock as

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plunder for ourselves, with the spoil of the cities which we took.
36 a“From Aroer, which is on the bank of the River Arnon, and from bthe city that is in the ravine, as far as Gilead, there was not one city too strong for us; cthe LORD our God delivered all to us.
37 “Only you did not go near the land of the people of Ammon—anywhere along the River aJabbok, or to the cities of the mountains, or bwherever the LORD our God had forbidden us.

King Og Defeated


1 “Then we turned and went up the road to Bashan; and aOg king of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people, to battle bat Edrei.
2 “And the LORD said to me, ‘Do not fear him, for I have delivered him and all his people and his land into your hand; you shall do to him as you did to aSihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon.’
3 “So the LORD our God also delivered into our hands Og king of Bashan, with all his people, and we 1attacked him until he had no survivors 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, aall the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan.
5 “All these cities were fortified with high walls, gates, and bars, besides a great many rural towns.
6 “And we utterly destroyed them, as we did to Sihon king aof Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children of every city.
7 “But all the livestock and the spoil of the cities we took as booty for ourselves.
8 “And at that time we took the aland from the hand of the two kings of the Amorites who were on this side of the Jordan, from the River Arnon to Mount bHermon
9 “(the Sidonians call aHermon Sirion, and the Amorites call it Senir),
10 a“all the cities of the plain, all Gilead, and ball Bashan, as far as Salcah and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan.
11 a“For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of bthe 1giants. Indeed his bedstead was an iron bedstead. (Is it not in cRabbah of the people of Ammon?) Nine cubits is its length and four cubits its width, according to the standard cubit.

The Land East of the Jordan Divided

12 “And this aland, which we possessed at that time, bfrom Aroer, which is by the River Arnon, and half the mountains of Gilead and cits

36 aDeut. 3:12;
4:48 bJosh.
13:9, 16 cPs.
37 aGen. 32:22
bDeut. 2:5, 9,

CHAPTER 3 References

1 aNum.
bDeut. 1:4
2 aNum. 21:34
3 1struck
4 aDeut. 3:13,
6 aDeut. 2:24,
34, 35
8 aJosh. 12:6;
b1 Chr. 5:23
9 a1 Chr. 5:23
10 aDeut. 4:49
bJosh. 12:5;
11 aAmos 2:9
bDeut. 2:11, 20
cJer. 49:2
1Heb. rephaim
12 aNum.
32:33 bDeut.
2:36 cNum.
13 aJosh.
13:29–31; 17:1
1Heb. rephaim
14 a1 Chr. 2:22
bJosh. 13:13
cNum. 32:41
1Lit. Towns of
15 aNum.
32:39, 40
16 a2 Sam.
24:5 bNum.
17 aNum.
34:11, 12
bGen. 14:3
18 aNum.
20 aDeut. 12:9,
10 bJosh. 22:4
21 a[Num.
27:22, 23] 22 aEx. 14:14
23 a[2 Cor.
12:8, 9] 24 aDeut. 5:24;
11:2 b2 Sam.
7:22 1strong
25 aDeut. 4:22
26 aNum.
20:12; 27:14
27 aNum.
23:14; 27:12


cities, I gave to the Reubenites and the Gadites.
13 a“The rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, the kingdom of Og, I gave to half the tribe of Manasseh. (All the region of Argob, with all Bashan, was called the land of the 1giants.
14 a“Jair the son of Manasseh took all the region of Argob, bas far as the border of the Geshurites and the Maachathites, and ccalled Bashan after his own name, 1Havoth Jair, to this day.)
15 “Also I gave aGilead to Machir.
16 “And to the Reubenites aand the Gadites I gave from Gilead as far as the River Arnon, the middle of the river as the border, as far as the River Jabbok, bthe border of the people of Ammon;
17 “the plain also, with the Jordan as the border, from Chinnereth aas far as the east side of the Sea of the Arabah b(the Salt Sea), below the slopes of Pisgah.
18 “Then I commanded you at that time, saying: ‘The LORD your God has given you this land to possess. aAll you men of valor shall cross over armed before your brethren, the children of Israel.
19 ‘But your wives, your little ones, and your livestock (I know that you have much livestock) shall stay in your cities which I have given you,
20 ‘until the LORD has given arest to your brethren as to you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them beyond the Jordan. Then each of you may breturn to his possession which I have given you.’
21 “And aI 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 through which you pass.
22 ‘You must not fear them, for athe LORD your God Himself fights for you.’

Moses Forbidden to Enter the Land

23 “Then aI pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying:
24 ‘O Lord GOD,You have begun to show Your servant aYour greatness and Your 1mighty hand, for bwhat god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds?
25 ‘I pray, let me cross over and see athe good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon.’
26 “But the LORD awas angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me. So the LORD said to me: ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter.
27 a‘Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes toward the west, the north, the south, and the east; behold

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it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan.
28 ‘But acommand1 Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you will see.’
29 “So we stayed in athe valley opposite Beth Peor

28 aNum.
27:18, 23
29 aDeut. 4:46;

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Folly of the Godless, and the Restoration of Israel

To the Chief Musician. Set to “Mahalath.” A 1Contemplation of David.

1 THE afool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; bThere is none who does good.

2 God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who aseek God.
3 Every one of them has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.

PSALM 53 References

title 1Heb.
1 aPs. 10:4
bRom. 3:10–12
2 a[2 Chr. 15:2] 4 aJer. 4:22
5 aLev. 26:17,
36; Prov. 28:1
6 aPs. 14:7 1Or
His captive

4 Have the workers of iniquity ano knowledge, Who eat up my people as they eat bread, And do not call upon God?
5 aThere they are in great fear Where no fear was, For God has scattered the bones of him who encamps against you; You have put them to shame, Because God has despised them.

6 aOh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When God brings back 1the captivity of His people, Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.




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