We study the Torah according to the triennial cycle every Sabbath.
We must understand the paragraph divisions in Torah, which are inspired by the Spirit and preserved by Moses and the Jewish scribes (but discarded by the English translators), are key to help us understand what God is trying to tell us. He wants to be understood, and has provided these helps to aid us!
Deu 1:1-2:1 ends in a parsha stumah, a weak paragraph division.
This means that this portion of Scripture begins teaching an overarching theme, but does not complete it.
The book of Deuteronomy is a series of five speeches given by Moses to the 2nd generation of Israel, after the completion of the wandering in the wilderness for forty years. The congregation is encamped in Moab on the other side of the Jordan, opposite Jericho (Deu 1:1). Moses is getting ready to die, and Joshua is getting ready to assume the leadership of the congregation and take Israel into the Land. These five speeches are Moses’ final words to Israel before his death.
Anyone can go through the book of Deuteronomy themselves, even in English translations, and note that the entire book is in quotes, as it is a record of Moses’ speeches, and can make note of the verses which indicate a cessation of one speech and the beginning of the next.
Speech one runs from chapters 1-4 (beginning in Deu 1:6), and is an introduction to his main topic. Speech two is the main speech; its purpose is to “explain this torah” (Deu 1:5), and runs from chapters 5-26 (beginning in Deu 5:1). Speech three runs from chapters 27-28 (beginning in Deu 27:1), and is the admonition to the congregation. Speech four runs from chapters 29-30 (beginning in Deu 29:2); its topic is repentance and restoration in the latter days. Speech five runs from chapters 31-32 (beginning in Deu 31:2); its topic is transferring the leadership to Joshua and the benediction.
Going back to Deu 1:1-2:1, outlining the parsha:
Deu 1:1-5 – introduction and setting;
Deu 1:6-8 – command to leave Sinai;
Deu 1:9-18 – establishing judges and justice for the 1st generation;
Deu 1:19-21 – arrival at the Promised Land;
Deu 1:22-33 – refusal to enter; sin, rebellion and unbelief;
Deu 1:34-2:1 – refusal to accept the Lord’s judgment; sin and defeat.
The theme of this portion of Scripture, is the sin, unbelief, and failure of the 1st generation to enter the Promise which God had provided for them.
Now these things happened to them for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come (1 Cor 10:11). Let us not fail to note, that the congregation had been redeemed from death by faith in the blood of the Lamb at Passover; they had been baptized into the Red Sea (1 Cor 10:2) and delivered from all Pharaoh’s army; and they had received the Torah and entered into the covenant, the marriage covenant, with YHVH, before Moses begins his recital. Many of the people who were unbelievers had already perished in the golden calf incident. The people who refused to enter in were covenant believers!
This is the warning. God has a destination for us; let us not get so comfortable in the world (Egypt) or in the wilderness that we refuse to enter in to God’s ultimate destination for us!
10/11/09 Update: As I went back through this parsha, to study out the greater paragraph from Deu 1:1-3:29, I discovered that this parsha forms a chiastic structure. Chiastic structures are a teaching tool the Spirit employs in Torah (and throughout Scripture; I have found them in Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings also) that points like an arrow to a central important message or event that is not to be forgotten. In a chiastic structure, the elements from the beginning of the passage are repeated at the end of the passage in reverse order, around the central axis, the central point or theme.
1A 1:1-2 – the journey from Sinai through the wilderness to Kadesh Barnea;
1B 1:3-5 – this section of the structure itself forms a mini structure: Moses spoke YHVH’s commandments (vs. 3) and explained His Torah (vs. 5) which mirrors and surrounds the defeat of the Amorites, the central axis (vs. 4);
1C 1:6-7 – turn toward your Land;
1D 1:8 – YHVH has set the Land before the 1st generation, go in and possess it;
1E 1:9-18 – YHVH established judges and justice for the 1st generation;
1F 1:19 – journey through the wilderness;
1G 1:20-21 – YHVH has set the Land before the 1st generation, do not fear, believe and go in and possess it;
1H 1:21 – Do not be discouraged;
1I 1:22-24 – twelve men go up to the Land;
–> X 1:25 – The Land is good;
2I 1:26-27 – the congregation will not go up to the Land;
2H 1:28 – Our brothers have discouraged our hearts;
2G 1:29-33 – YHVH has set the Land before the 1st generation, do not fear; unbelief and refusal to go in and possess it;
2F 1:34 – the unbelievers will journey through the wilderness;
2E 1:34-38 – YHVH established His judgment – the unbelievers will not go in, and Moses will not go in, but Caleb and Joshua will go in;
2D 1:39 – YHVH has set the Land before the 2nd generation, who will go in to possess it;
1C 1:40 – turn back toward the wilderness;
2B 1:41-45 – rebellion against YHVH’s commandment, and Israel is defeated BY the Amorites;
2A 1:46-2:1 – the journey from Kadesh Barnea through the wilderness to the Red Sea.
Do you see how even the form of the structure points like an arrow to the central theme? The Land is good! What the Lord gives us, is good! When He asks us to do something, it is for our good! It is not to destroy us, it is not to hurt us, it is not to keep us down, under, or behind! He is good, His gifts are good, and His commandments are good! They are to be obeyed for our good!