Moses Speaks to the People 40 Years after Leaving Egypt

This is the speech Moses gave in the desert east of the Jordan River, on the plains, near Suph, between Paran and Tophel, and near Laban, Hazeroth, and Di Zahab. He spoke to all the Israelites. (It takes 11 days to go from Mount Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by way of Mount Seir.)

On the first day of the eleventh month in the fortieth year ⌞after they had left Egypt⌟, Moses told the Israelites everything the Lord had commanded him to tell them. This was after he had defeated King Sihon of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon, and King Og of Bashan, who ruled in Ashtaroth and [a] in Edrei. The Israelites were east of the Jordan River in Moab when Moses began to review God’s teachings.

Moses Reminds Israel of the Events at Mount Horeb

This is what he said:

At Mount Horeb the Lord our God said to us, “You have stayed at this mountain long enough. Break camp, and get ready! Go to the mountain region of the Amorites, and go to everyone living on the plains, in the mountains, in the foothills, in the Negev, on the whole Mediterranean coast (the land of the Canaanites), and into Lebanon as far as the Euphrates River. I’m giving you this land. Enter, and take possession of the land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to you, their descendants.”

At that time I said to you, “I’m not able to take care of you by myself. 10 The Lord your God has made your population increase so that you are now as numerous as the stars in the sky. 11 May the Lord God of your ancestors make you a thousand times more numerous, and may he bless you as he has promised. 12 How can I take care of your problems, your troubles, and your disagreements all by myself? 13 From each of your tribes, choose some men who are wise, intelligent, and experienced, and I’ll appoint them to be your leaders.”

14 You agreed that this was a good idea.

15 So I took the heads of your tribes who were wise and experienced men and made them officers for each of your tribes. I put them in charge of groups of 1,000, or 100, or 50, or 10 people. 16 Also at that time I gave these instructions to your judges: “Hear the cases that your people bring. Judge each case fairly, no matter whether it is ⌞a dispute⌟ between two Israelites or ⌞a dispute⌟ between an Israelite and a non-Israelite. 17 Be impartial in your decisions. Listen to the least important people the same way you listen to the most important people. Never be afraid of anyone, since your decisions come from God. You may bring me any case that’s too hard for you, and I will hear it.” 18 So I told you how to handle these situations.

Moses Reminds Israel of the Events at Kadesh Barnea

19 So we left Mount Horeb, as the Lord our God had commanded. We traveled through all that vast and dangerous desert you saw on the way to the mountain region of the Amorites. At last we came to Kadesh Barnea. 20 Then I said to you, “We have come to the mountain region of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. 21 The Lord your God is giving you this land. Go ahead! Take possession of it, as the Lord God of your ancestors told you. Don’t be afraid or terrified.”

22 All of you came to me and said, “Let’s send men ahead of us to gather information about the land for us. Have them report to us about the route we should take and the cities we’ll come to.”

23 It seemed like a good idea to me. So I chose 12 of your men, one from each tribe. 24 They left and went into the mountains. When they came to the Eshcol Valley, they explored it. 25 They took some of the region’s fruit with them and brought it back to us. They reported, “The land that the Lord our God is giving us is good.”

26 But you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God and refused to go. 27 You complained in your tents and said, “The Lord hates us! That’s why he brought us out of Egypt. He wanted to hand us over to the Amorites so that they could destroy us! 28 Where are we going anyway? Our own men have discouraged us by saying, ‘The people there are taller and stronger than we are. The cities are big with sky-high walls! We even saw the people of Anak there.’ ”

29 Then I said to you, “Don’t tremble. Don’t be afraid of them. 30 The Lord your God, who is going ahead of you, will fight for you as you saw him fight for you in Egypt 31 and in the desert.” There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as parents carry their children. He carried you wherever you went until you came to this place.

32 In spite of this, you didn’t trust the Lord your God, 33 who went ahead of you to find places for you to camp. He appeared in a column of fire at night and in a column of smoke during the day to show you which route to take.

34 When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and took this oath: 35 “Not one of these evil people will ever see the good land that I swore to give to your ancestors, 36 except Caleb, son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give the land that he set his feet on to him and his descendants, because he wholeheartedly followed the Lord.”

37 The Lord became angry with me because of you. He said, “You won’t go there either. 38 But your assistant Joshua, son of Nun, will go there. Encourage him, because he will help Israel take possession of the land. 39 Although you thought the little children would be captured in war, your children, who are still too young to know the difference between good and evil, will enter that land. I will give it to them, and they will take possession of it. 40 Turn around, go back into the desert, and follow the road that goes to the Red Sea.”

41 You responded, “We have sinned against the Lord. We’ll go and fight, as the Lord our God commanded us to do.” Each of you armed yourself for war, thinking you could easily invade the mountain region.

42 But the Lord said to me, “Tell them, ‘Don’t go and fight, because I won’t be with you. You will be defeated by your enemies.’ ”

43 I told you, but you wouldn’t listen. You defied the Lord’s command and invaded the mountain region. 44 The Amorites who lived there came out and attacked you and chased you like a swarm of bees. They defeated you, chasing you from Seir all the way to Hormah. 45 When you came back, you cried to the Lord, but the Lord didn’t listen to you or hear you. 46 That’s why you stayed in Kadesh as long as you did.


  1. 1:4 One Hebrew manuscript, Greek, Syriac, Latin; Masoretic Text omits “and   .”