The first part of Moses’s farewell sermon to Israel begins with this chapter, and is continued to the latter end of the fourth chapter. In the first five verses of this chapter we have the date of the sermon, the place where it was preached (ver. 1, 2, 5), and the time when, ver. 3, 4. The narrative in this chapter reminds them, I. Of the promise God made them of the land of Canaan, ver. 6-8. II. Of the provision made of judges for them, ver. 9-18. III. Of their unbelief and murmuring upon the report of the spies, ver. 19-33. IV. Of the sentence passed upon them for it, and the ratification of that sentence, ver. 34, &c.
Israel’s History Repeated. B. C. 1451.
YE HAVE DWELT LONG ENOUGH IN THIS MOUNT
1 These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab. 2 (There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea.) 3 And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them; 4 After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites, which dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, which dwelt at Astaroth in Edrei: 5 On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying, 6 The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: 7 Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates. 8 Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.
We have here, I. The date of this sermon which Moses preached to the people of Israel. A great auditory, no question, he had, as many as could crowd within hearing, and particularly all the elders and officers, the representatives of the people; and, probably, it was on the sabbath day that he delivered this to them.
1. The place were they were now encamped was in the plain, in the land of Moab (v. 1, 5), where they were just ready to enter Canaan, and engage in a war with the Canaanites. Yet he discourses not to them concerning military affairs, the arts and stratagems of war, but concerning their duty to God; for, if they kept themselves in his fear and favour, he would secure to them the conquest of the land: their religion would be their best policy.
2. The time was near the end of the fortieth year since they came out of Egypt. So long God had borne their manners, and they had borne their own iniquity (Num. xiv. 34), and now that a new and more pleasant scene was to be introduced, as a token for good, Moses repeats the law to them. Thus, after God’s controversy with them on account of the golden calf, the first and surest sign of God’s being reconciled to them was the renewing of the tables. There is no better evidence and earnest of God’s favour than his putting his law in our hearts, Ps. cxlvii. 19, 20.
II. The discourse itself. In general, Moses spoke unto them all that the Lord had given him in commandment (v. 3), which intimates, not only that what he now delivered was for substance the same with what had formerly been commanded, but that it was what God now commanded him to repeat. He gave them this rehearsal and exhortation purely by divine direction; God appointed him to leave this legacy to the church. He begins his narrative with their removal from Mount Sinai (v. 6), and relates here,
1. The orders which God gave them to decamp, and proceed in their march (v. 6, 7): You have dwelt long enough in this mount. This was the mount that burned with fire (Heb. 12:18, and gendered to bondage, Gal. 4:24. Thither God brought them to humble them, and by the terrors of the law to prepare them for the land of promise. There he kept them about a year, and then told them they had dwelt long enough there, they must go forward. Though God brings his people into trouble and affliction, into spiritual trouble and affliction of mind, he knows when they have dwelt long enough in it, and will certainly find a time, the fittest time, to advance them from the terrors of the spirit of adoption. See Rom. 8:15.
2. The prospect which he gave them of a happy and early settlement in Canaan: Go to the land of the Canaanites (v. 7); enter and take possession, it is all your own. Behold I have set the land before you, v. 8. When God commands us to go forward in our Christian course he sets the heavenly Canaan before us for our encouragement.
– Matthew Henry Commentary