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The Final Speeches of Moses

1-5 (A) This book contains the speeches that Moses made while Israel was in the land of Moab, camped near the town of Suph in the desert east of the Jordan River. The town of Paran was in one direction from their camp, and the towns of Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab[a] were in the opposite direction.

Earlier, Moses had defeated the Amorite King Sihon of Heshbon. Moses had also defeated King Og of Bashan, who used to live in Ashtaroth for part of the year and in Edrei for the rest of the year.

Although it takes only eleven days to walk from Mount Sinai[b] to Kadesh-Barnea by way of the Mount Seir Road, these speeches were not made until 40 years after Israel left Egypt.[c]

The First Speech: Moses Reviews the Past

The Lord's Command at Mount Sinai

The Lord had given Moses his laws for the people of Israel. And on the first day of the eleventh month,[d] Moses began explaining those laws by saying:

People of Israel, when we were in our camp at Mount Sinai,[e] the Lord our God told us:

You have stayed here long enough. Leave this place and go into the land that belongs to the Amorites and their neighbors the Canaanites. This land includes the Jordan River valley, the hill country, the western foothills, the Southern Desert, the Mediterranean seacoast, the Lebanon Mountains, and all the territory as far as the Euphrates River. I give you this land, just as I promised your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Now you must go and take the land.

Leaders Were Appointed

(Exodus 18.13-27)

Moses said:

Right after the Lord commanded us to leave Mount Sinai,[f] I told you:

Israel, being your leader is too big a job for one person. 10 The Lord our God has blessed us, and so now there are as many of us as there are stars in the sky. 11 God has even promised to bless us a thousand times more, and I pray that he will. 12 But I cannot take care of all your problems and settle all your arguments alone. 13 Each tribe must choose some experienced men who are known for their wisdom and understanding, and I will make those men the official leaders of their tribes.

14 You answered, “That's a good idea!” 15 Then I took these men, who were already wise and respected leaders, and I appointed them as your official leaders. Some of them became military officers in charge of groups of 1,000, or 100, or 50, or 10, 16 and others became judges. I gave these judges the following instructions:

When you settle legal cases, your decisions must be fair. It doesn't matter if the case is between two Israelites, or between an Israelite and a foreigner living in your community. 17 And it doesn't matter if one is helpless and the other is powerful. Don't be afraid of anyone! No matter who shows up in your court, God will help you make a fair decision.

If any case is too hard for you, bring the people to me, and I will make the decision.

18 After I gave these instructions to the judges, I taught you the Lord's commands.

Men Were Sent To Explore the Hill Country

(Numbers 13.1-33)

Moses said to Israel:

19 The Lord had commanded us to leave Mount Sinai[g] and go to the hill country that belonged to the Amorites, so we started out into the huge desert. You remember how frightening it was, but soon we were at Kadesh-Barnea, 20-21 and I told you, “We have reached the hill country. It belongs to the Amorites now, but the Lord our God is giving it to us. He is the same God our ancestors worshiped, and he has told us to go in and take this land, so don't hesitate and be afraid.”

22 Then all of you came to me and said, “Before we go into the land, let's send some men to explore it. When they come back, they can tell us about the towns we will find and what roads we should take to get there.”

23 It seemed like a good idea, so I chose twelve men, one from each tribe. 24 They explored the hill country as far as Bunch Valley[h] 25 and even brought back some of the fruit. They said, “The Lord our God is giving us good land.”

Israel Refused To Obey the Lord

(Numbers 14.1-45)

Moses said to Israel:

26 (B) You did not want to go into the land, and you refused to obey the Lord your God. 27 You stayed in your tents and grumbled, “The Lord must hate us—he brought us out of Egypt, just so he could hand us over to the Amorites and get rid of us. 28 We are afraid, because the men who explored the land told us that the cities are large, with walls that reach to the sky. The people who live there are taller and stronger than we are,[i] and some of them are Anakim.[j] We have nowhere to go.”

29 Then I said, “Don't worry! 30 The Lord our God will lead the way. He will fight on our side, just as he did when we saw him do all those things to the Egyptians. 31 (C) And you know that the Lord has taken care of us the whole time we've been in the desert, just as you might carry one of your children.”

32 (D) But you still would not trust the Lord, 33 even though he had always been with us in the desert. During the daytime, the Lord was in the cloud, leading us in the right direction and showing us where to camp. And at night, he was there in the fire.[k]

34 (E) You had made the Lord angry, and he said:

35 You people of this generation are evil, and I refuse to let you go into the good land that I promised your ancestors. 36 Caleb son of Jephunneh is the only one of your generation that I will allow to go in. He obeyed me completely, so I will give him and his descendants the land he explored.

37 The Lord was even angry with me because of you people, and he said, “Moses, I won't let you go into the land either. 38 Instead, I will let Joshua[l] your assistant lead Israel to conquer the land. So encourage him.”

39 Then the Lord spoke to you again:

People of Israel, you said that your innocent young children would be taken prisoner in the battle for the land. But someday I will let them go into the land, and with my help they will conquer it and live there.

40 Now, turn around and go back into the desert by way of Red Sea[m] Road.

41 Then you told me, “We disobeyed the Lord our God, but now we want to obey him. We will go into the hill country and fight, just as he told us to do.” So you picked up your weapons, thinking it would be easy to take over the hill country.

42 But the Lord said, “Moses, warn them not to go into the hill country. I won't help them fight, and their enemies will defeat them.”

43 I told you what the Lord had said, but you paid no attention. You disobeyed him and went into the hill country anyway. You thought you were so great! 44 But when the Amorites in the hill country attacked from their towns, you ran from them as you would run from a swarm of bees. The Amorites chased your troops into Seir[n] as far as Hormah, killing them as they went. 45 Then you came back to the place of worship at Kadesh-Barnea and wept, but the Lord would not listen to your prayers.

Israel Spent Years in the Desert

Moses said to Israel:

46 After we had been in Kadesh for a few months, we obeyed the Lord and headed back into the desert by way of Red Sea[o] Road. (F) We spent many years wandering around outside the hill country of Seir,[p] until the Lord said:

Moses, Israel has wandered in these hills long enough. Turn and go north. (G) And give the people these orders: “Be very careful, because you will soon go through the land that belongs to your relatives, the descendants of Esau.[q] They are afraid of you, but don't start a war with them. I have given them the hill country of Seir, so I won't give any of it to you, not even enough to set a foot on. And as you go through their land, you will have to buy food and water from them.”

The Lord has helped us and taken care of us during the past 40 years that we have been in this huge desert. We've had everything we needed, and the Lord has blessed us and made us successful in whatever we have done.

We went past the territory that belonged to our relatives, the descendants of Esau.[r] We followed Arabah Road that starts in the south at Elath and Ezion-Geber, then we turned onto the desert road that leads to Moab.

(H) The Lord told me, “Don't try to start a war with Moab. Leave them alone, because I gave the land of Ar[s] to them,[t] and I will not let you have any of it.”

Tribes That Lived near Canaan

10 Before the Lord gave the Moabites their land, a large and powerful tribe lived there. They were the Emim, and they were as tall as the Anakim. 11 The Moabites called them Emim, though others sometimes used the name Rephaim[u] for both the Anakim and the Emim.

12 The Horites used to live in Seir, but the Edomites[v] took over that region. They killed many of the Horites and forced the rest of them to leave, just as Israel did to the people in the land that the Lord gave them.

Israel Crossed the Zered Gorge

Moses said to Israel:

13 When we came to the Zered Gorge along the southern border of Moab, the Lord told us to cross the gorge into Moab, and we did. 14 (I) This was 38 years after we left Kadesh-Barnea, and by that time all the men who had been in the army at Kadesh-Barnea had died, just as the Lord had said they would. 15-16 The Lord kept getting rid of[w] them until finally none of them were left.

17 Then the Lord told me, 18 “Moses, now go past the town of Ar and cross Moab's northern border 19 (J) into Ammon. But don't start a war with the Ammonites. I gave them[x] their land, and I won't give any of it to Israel.”

More Nations That Lived near Canaan

20 Before the Ammonites conquered the land that the Lord had given them, some of the Rephaim used to live there, although the Ammonites called them Zamzummim. 21 The Zamzummim were a large and powerful tribe and were as tall as the Anakim.[y] But the Lord helped the Ammonites, and they killed many of the Zamzummim and forced the rest to leave. Then the Ammonites settled there. 22 The Lord helped them as he had helped the Edomites,[z] who killed many of the Horites in Seir and forced the rest to leave before settling there themselves.

23 A group called the Avvim used to live in villages as far south as Gaza, but the Philistines[aa] killed them and settled on their land.

Israel Crossed the Arnon Gorge

Moses said:

24 After we went through Ammon, the Lord told us:

Israel, pack up your possessions, take down your tents, and cross the Arnon River gorge.[ab] The territory of the Amorite King Sihon of Heshbon lies on the other side of the river, but I now give you his land. So attack and take it! 25 Today I will start making all other nations afraid of you. They will tremble with fear when anyone mentions you, and they will be terrified when you show up.

The Defeat of King Sihon of Heshbon

(Numbers 21.21-30)

Moses said to Israel:

26 After we had crossed the Arnon and had set up camp in the Kedemoth Desert, I sent messengers to King Sihon of Heshbon, telling him that his nation and ours could be at peace. I said:

27 Please let Israel go across your country. We will walk straight through, without turning off the road. 28-29 You can even sell us food and water, and we will pay with silver. We need to reach the Jordan River and cross it, because the Lord our God is giving us the land on the west side. The Edomites and Moabites[ac] have already let us cross their land. Please let us cross your land as well.

30-31 But Sihon refused to let us go across his country, because the Lord made him stubborn and eager to fight us. The Lord told me, “I am going to help you defeat Sihon and take his land, so attack him!”

32 We met Sihon and his army in battle at Jahaz, 33 and the Lord our God helped us defeat them. We killed Sihon, his sons, and everyone else in his army. 34 Then we captured and destroyed every town in Sihon's kingdom, killing everyone, 35 but keeping the livestock and everything else of value. 36 The Lord helped us capture every town from the Arnon River gorge north to the boundary of Gilead, including the town of Aroer on the edge of the gorge and the town in the middle of the gorge.

37 However, we stayed away from all the Ammonite towns, both in the hill country and near the Jabbok River, just as the Lord had commanded.


  1. 1.1-5 Suph … Paran … Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab: The exact location of these towns is not known.
  2. 1.1-5 Mount Sinai: The Hebrew text has “Horeb,” another name for Mount Sinai.
  3. 1.1-5 Egypt: The Israelites would soon enter Canaan, but they would have entered the land of Canaan from Kadesh-Barnea 40 years earlier if they had not rebelled against God (see verses 6-40).
  4. 1.1-5 eleventh month: Shebat, the eleventh month of the Hebrew calendar, from about mid-January to mid-February.
  5. 1.6 Mount Sinai: See the note at 1.1-5.
  6. 1.9 Mount Sinai: See the note at 1.1-5.
  7. 1.19 Mount Sinai: See the note at 1.1-5.
  8. 1.24 Bunch Valley: Or “Eshcol Valley,” famous for its large bunches of grapes.
  9. 1.28 The people … we are: Most Hebrew manuscripts; a few Hebrew manuscripts and one ancient translation “the people who live there are stronger than we are, and there are more of them than there are of us.”
  10. 1.28 Anakim: Perhaps a group of very tall people that lived in or near Palestine before the Israelites. See also 2.10,11, 20,21; Numbers 13.33.
  11. 1.33 the cloud … the fire: See Exodus 40.34-38; Numbers 9.15-23.
  12. 1.38 Joshua: Hebrew “Joshua son of Nun.”
  13. 1.40 Red Sea: Hebrew yam suph, here referring to the Gulf of Aqaba, since the term is extended to include the northeastern arm of the Red Sea (see also the note at 11.4).
  14. 1.44 Seir: An area of hills and mountains that was part of the territory of Edom.
  15. 1.46 Red Sea: See the notes at 1.40; 11.4.
  16. 2.1 hill country of Seir: See the note at 1.44.
  17. 2.4 your relatives, the descendants of Esau: Esau was the brother of Jacob, the ancestor of the nation of Israel. Esau's descendants were also known as the nation of Edom.
  18. 2.8 We went past … Esau: According to Numbers 20.14-21, the king of Edom did not let the Israelites go through his land.
  19. 2.9 Ar: One of the main cities of Moab (see Numbers 21.28); sometimes it may have stood for the whole territory of Moab.
  20. 2.9 them: The Hebrew text has “the descendants of Lot”; the nation of Moab descended from Moab, who was the son of Lot, the nephew of Abraham.
  21. 2.10,11 Emim … Anakim … Rephaim: These may refer to a group or groups of very tall people that lived in or near Palestine before the Israelites (see also Numbers 13.33).
  22. 2.12 Edomites: The Hebrew text has “the descendants of Esau,” who became the nation of Edom.
  23. 2.15,16 getting rid of: Or “sending diseases on.”
  24. 2.19 them: The Hebrew text has “descendants of Lot”; the nation of Ammon descended from Benammi, who was the son of Lot, the nephew of Abraham.
  25. 2.21 Anakim: See the note at 2.10,11.
  26. 2.22 Edomites: See the note at 2.12.
  27. 2.23 Philistines: The Hebrew text has “the Caphtorim from Caphtor,” probably referring to the Philistines who originally came from Crete.
  28. 2.24 Arnon River gorge: The northern boundary of Moab's territory and the southern boundary of Sihon's kingdom.
  29. 2.28,29 Edomites and Moabites: Hebrew “descendants of Esau, who live in Seir and Moabites who live in Ar.”

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