After nearly forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the children of Israel are camped on the plains of Moab, looking across the Jordan into the promised land of Canaan. In the book of Deuteronomy, which means “second law”, Moses will remind the children of Israel about the Law that the Lord first gave them at Mount Sinai. Moses knows that he is going to die before entering the promised land, so he is exhorting this new generation to remain faithful and trust the Lord as they move forward with the conquest of the land.
Moses reminds the Israelites of the time they asked for spies to spy out the promised land, but the people listened to the bad report from the ten spies and didn’t take the land. As a consequence for the people’s lack of faith, only Joshua and Caleb, the faithful spies, will enter the land from that generation, but “your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.” Then Moses highlights the Lord’s faithfulness to the Israelites during their years of wilderness journeys – “For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.”
Moses recounts God telling the Israelites not to harass their relatives, Esau’s descendants (Jacob’s brother) or Lot’s descendants (Abraham’s nephew). The Lord destroyed the enemies of Esau, Moab, and Ammon (Moab and Ammon are descendants of Lot and his daughters) and gave them their own land. This land was not the promised land God has for the nation of Israel. However, the Lord gave the Israelites great victory over the Amorite kings, Sihon king of Heshbon and Og king of Bashan, who are descendants of Canaan, Ham’s cursed son (Genesis 9:18-10:1, 10:15-16), and gave the Amorite kings’ land to the children of Israel.
Moses wants the Israelites to know that they can trust the Lord. If the Lord has defeated the enemies of Esau, Moab, and Ammon and given them their own land, how much more will He do for the children of Israel? And since God has already defeated two major enemies of the Israelites, the descendants of Canaan, Sihon and Og, and given their land to Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, then the Israelites can trust Him moving forward with the remaining conquest.
We will see further into the story that there will be tension between the Israelites and their three neighbors; Edom, Moab, and Ammon. God will use these nations to discipline Israel, but later He will pronounce judgment against them for so eagerly attacking the children of Israel, highlighting the Lord’s sovereignty over His people and their enemies.
Tomorrow Moses begins restating the law to the new generation, so keep reading. (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:20)