This book records the words that Moses spoke to all the people of Israel while they were in the wilderness east of the Jordan River. They were camped in the Jordan Valley near Suph, between Paran on one side and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Di-zahab on the other.
Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, going by way of Mount Seir.
But forty years after the Israelites left Mount Sinai, on a day in midwinter, Moses gave these speeches to the Israelites, telling them everything the LORD had commanded him to say.
This was after he had defeated King Sihon of the Amorites, who had ruled in Heshbon, and King Og of Bashan, who had ruled in Ashtaroth and Edrei.
So Moses addressed the people of Israel while they were in the land of Moab east of the Jordan River. He began to explain the law as follows:
"When we were at Mount Sinai, the LORD our God said to us, 'You have stayed at this mountain long enough.
It is time to break camp and move on. Go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all the neighboring regions -- the Jordan Valley, the hill country, the western foothills, the Negev, and the coastal plain. Go to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, and all the way to the great Euphrates River.
I am giving all this land to you! Go in and occupy it, for it is the land the LORD swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to all their descendants.'"
"At that time I told you, 'You are too great a burden for me to carry all by myself.
The LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars!
And may the LORD, the God of your ancestors, multiply you a thousand times more and bless you as he promised!
But how can I settle all your quarrels and problems by myself?
Choose some men from each tribe who have wisdom, understanding, and a good reputation, and I will appoint them as your leaders.'"
"You agreed that my plan was a good one.
So I took the wise and respected men you had selected from your tribes and appointed them to serve as judges and officials over you. Some were responsible for a thousand people, some for a hundred, some for fifty, and some for ten.
I instructed the judges, 'You must be perfectly fair at all times, not only to fellow Israelites, but also to the foreigners living among you.
When you make decisions, never favor those who are rich; be fair to lowly and great alike. Don't be afraid of how they will react, for you are judging in the place of God. Bring me any cases that are too difficult for you, and I will handle them.'"
And at that time I gave you instructions about everything you were to do.
"Then, just as the LORD our God directed us, we left Mount Sinai and traveled through the great and terrifying wilderness, which you yourselves saw, and headed toward the hill country of the Amorites. When we arrived at Kadesh-barnea,
I said to you, 'You have now reached the land that the LORD our God is giving us.
Look! He has placed it in front of you. Go and occupy it as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don't be afraid! Don't be discouraged!'"
"But you responded, 'First, let's send out scouts to explore the land for us. They will advise us on the best route to take and decide which towns we should capture.'"
This seemed like a good idea to me, so I chose twelve scouts, one from each of your tribes.
They crossed into the hills and came to the valley of Eshcol and explored it.
They picked some of its fruit and brought it back to us. And they reported that the land the LORD our God had given us was indeed a good land.
"But you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God and refused to go in.
You murmured and complained in your tents and said, 'The LORD must hate us, bringing us here from Egypt to be slaughtered by these Amorites.
How can we go on? Our scouts have demoralized us with their report. They say that the people of the land are taller and more powerful than we are, and that the walls of their towns rise high into the sky! They have even seen giants there -- the descendants of Anak!'"
"But I said to you, 'Don't be afraid!
The LORD your God is going before you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt.
And you saw how the LORD your God cared for you again and again here in the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.'
But even after all he did, you refused to trust the LORD your God,
who goes before you looking for the best places to camp, guiding you by a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud by day.
"When the LORD heard your complaining, he became very angry. So he solemnly swore,
'Not one of you from this entire wicked generation will live to see the good land I swore to give your ancestors,
except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see this land because he has followed the LORD completely. I will give to him and his descendants some of the land he walked over during his scouting mission.'"
"And the LORD was also angry with me because of you. He said to me, 'You will never enter the Promised Land!
Instead, your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will lead the people into the land. Encourage him as he prepares to enter it.
I will give the land to your innocent children. You were afraid they would be captured, but they will be the ones who occupy it.
As for you, turn around now and go on back through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. '"
"Then you confessed, 'We have sinned against the LORD! We will go into the land and fight for it, as the LORD our God has told us.'" So your men strapped on their weapons, thinking it would be easy to conquer the hill country.
"But the LORD said to me, 'Tell them not to attack, for I will not go with them. If they do, they will be crushed by their enemies.'"
This is what I told you, but you would not listen. Instead, you again rebelled against the LORD's command and arrogantly went into the hill country to fight.
But the Amorites who lived there came out against you like a swarm of bees. They chased and battered you all the way from Seir to Hormah.
Then you returned and wept before the LORD, but he refused to listen.
So you stayed there at Kadesh for a long time.