It was thus Moses spoke to the people of Israel while they were still on the other side of Jordan, in the desert plain that looks towards the Red Sea, with Pharan and Thophel and Laban and Haseroth, a country where gold abounds, for its frontiers;
the plain that is spanned by a journey of eleven days from Horeb to Cades-Barne, by way of mount Seir.
It was the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year, when Moses handed on to the Israelites the commands which the Lord had entrusted to him.
He had now given them victory over Sehon, king of the Amorrhites, that lived at Hesebon, and Og, king of Basan, that lived at Astaroth and Edrai,
still beyond the Jordan, in the Moabite country.
Moses, then, began to expound the law, with these words:
We were still at Horeb when the Lord our God said to us, This mountain has been your home long enough;
it is time for you to turn back, and make your way to the hill country of the Amorrhites and its neighbourhood. Low ground and high ground, southern plain and sea-coast, all Chanaan including mount Lebanon, right up to the great river Euphrates,
I have given it all (said he) into your hands; go in and take possession of it; it is the home the Lord promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their posterity after them.
It was at this time, too, that I said to you,
The charge of you is too heavy for my own strength, such increase has the Lord your God given you. To-day, you are countless as the stars in heaven;
may the Lord, the God of your fathers, add many thousands yet to your number, and grant you the blessing he has promised!
But I have not strength to bear, alone, the weight of all your affairs, all your quarrels;
you must give me men of ripe wisdom and quick minds, high in repute among their fellow-tribesmen, to be appointed your rulers.
And when I had your answer, approving my design,
I chose out of all your tribes men of wisdom and repute, and I appointed them to be your rulers, with powers over a thousand men, or a hundred, or fifty, or ten together, issuing commands to you as need arose.
And this was the charge I gave them: Listen to the pleadings of each man, and give a just award to citizen and to stranger alike.
Listen impartially to great and small, without undue regard for any man; it is God’s justice you are administering. If any quarrel seems hard to decide, refer it to me, and I will take cognisance of it myself.
At this time, too, I gave you all the commandments you were to follow.
So we left Horeb, and traversed that wide desert whose terrible aspect is well known to you, on the way to the hill country of the Amorrhites, as the Lord bade us. And when we reached Cades-Barne
I told you, Now you have made your way to these mountains of the Amorrhites, which the Lord means to give you for your own.
The land you see before you is the Lord’s gift to you, a divine gift; march in and take possession of it, in fulfilment of the promises he made to your fathers; let there be no cowardice, no shrinking here.
Whereupon you all preferred a request to me that men should be sent out to view the land, and bring back word how best to approach it, what cities you should first assail;
and I, listening to your words with approval, chose out twelve such men, one from each tribe.
These set out, and traversed the hill country as far as the Valley of Grapes; viewed the whole land,
and brought back with them such sample of its fruits as would show us how fertile it was; This is a fair land, they said, that the Lord means to give us.
But you had no heart for the enterprise, put no trust in the promises of the Lord your God.
The whisper went round in your tents, The Lord wishes us ill; that is why he has brought us away from Egypt, to leave us at the mercy of the Amorrhites, and so make an end of us.
What enterprise is this? The messengers we sent have taken the heart out of us, with their tales of a great multitude of men, taller in stature than we are, of cities walled up to the skies, of the sons of Enac they saw there.
And I reasoned with you, Do not be afraid, do not shrink before them;
will not the Lord God who is your leader fight on your side, as he did in Egypt for all to see?
Your own eyes have witnessed how the Lord your God carried you through the desert as a man carries his little son, all the long road you have travelled to reach this spot.
But even so you had no confidence in the Lord your God,
that had led you on the march and marked out your encampments for you, guiding you on your journey in fire by night, in cloud by day.
Listening to this talk of yours, the Lord was angry with you, and he took an oath
that none of that worthless generation should live to see the fair land that was his promised gift to your fathers,
except Caleb the son of Jephone. He was to see it, he and his sons should have the gift of the ground his feet had trodden, because he had carried out the Lord’s will.
And what marvel that the people should feel his displeasure, when the Lord was angry with me too for your sakes? There is no entering there, he told me, for thee either.
Josue the son of Nun, thy servant, shall go in instead of thee; bid him take heart and play the man; it shall be for him to apportion Israel its lands.
These little ones of yours, that were to pass, you thought, into captivity, these sons of yours, that cannot yet discern right from wrong, shall have leave to enter; theirs the land shall be, my promised gift.
As for you, turn your steps back towards the Red Sea again, back into the desert.
Ah no, you answered me, we confess our fault against the Lord; we ourselves are ready to set forth and do battle, as the Lord our God would have us. And even as you were on your way to the hill country, all armed,
the Lord gave me a message for you, Do not march to the attack, or you will be overthrown by your enemies; I am at your side no longer.
My warning went unheard; puffed up with pride, you disobeyed the Lord’s word and marched on into the hill country,
till the Amorrhite mountain-dwellers came out to meet you, and chased you away, thick as a swarm of bees, cut you down all the way from Seir to Horma.
Many were the plaints you uttered in the Lord’s presence when you came back, but he would not listen to you,
and long you waited in idleness, there at Cades-Barne.