Messianic Education Trust
(Deut 1:1 - 3:22)

D'varim/Deuteronomy 1:8   See, I have given the land before you; come and take possession of the land

View whole verse and interlinear translation ...

These are the powerful stirring orders of The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem, reported by Moshe at the start of his summary of history and the Torah for the generation of Israelites waiting on the Plains of Moab to enter the Promised Land, the land that HaShem had sworn to give to Avraham, Yitz'khak and Ya'akov and their children after them. There are three imperative verbs and the repeated direct object - , the land - in this sequence. The words were spoken, not at Moshe's current audience, but at the generation who have died in the wilderness, the generation that sent the spies into the Land and then baulked at going up themselves because of the bad report brought by ten of the twelve spies.

The first verb, , is the Qal ms imperative from the root , to look or see (Davidson). Gunther Plaut explains that "this word is frequently employed in D'varim as an introduction and can be compared to the English: look here ..." It grabs the people's attention so that they listen carefully to what follows. The Who Is ...

Ba'al HaTurim: Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher (1269-1343 CE), born in Cologne, Germany; lived for 40 years in and around Toledo, Spain; died en route to Israel; his commentary to the Chumash is based upon an abridgement of the Ramban, including Rashi, Rashbam and Ibn Ezra; it includes many references to gematria and textual novelties
Baal HaTurim comments that, "The Holy One, blessed be He, told this to Moshe to tell the people. Alternatively, the singular form refers to each and every individual." Everyone needed to engage, because although the following imperatives are plural, addressed to the people as a whole, each person needed to pay attention and engage with what HaShem was saying. The use of the verb 'see' is spotted by the early Sages, who pick up on the visual link to suggest that "Moshe said to them: I say this to you not on the basis of an estimate or a vague rumour, but from that which you can see with your own eyes" (Sifrei, 7).

The second verb, , is the Qal 1cs affix form of the root , to give. HaShem is speaking and relates His past action: He has given the Land to the Israelites. The following word - - is an unusual choice; rather than the expected "to you", this means "before you" and has a distinctly different nuance. Jeffrey Tigay points out that "whereas 'give to you' means 'give you title', the expression 'give before you' means 'place at your disposal' or 'deliver into your control'. Israel had already been promised title; now they are being given control; they had only to go and take it." The Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno adds that "the inhabitants of the land will melt away before you", as Rahab will describe to Joshua's two scouts forty years later (Joshua 2:9), "and will not rise up."

The third and fourth verbs - and , the Qal mp imperatives from the roots and respectively, meaning "to come or enter" and "to take, possess, inherit" - together form HaShem's instructions to the people: "Come and take possession!" Who Is ...

Ramban: Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman of Gerona or Nachmanides (1194-1270 CE), Spanish rabbi, author and physician; defended Judaism in the Christian debates in Barcelona before making aliyah
Nachmanides points out that "this is not a promise but a command." What Is ...

Sifrei: An early composite midrash/commentary on B'Midbar and D'varim; probably composed around the time of the Mishna (200CE); known and referenced in the Talmud; the B'Midbar portion from the school of R. Simeon, the D'varim portion from that of R. Akiva
Sifrei tells us that "Moshe said to them: when you enter the land, you will need no weapons - just take a compass and divide it up" (Sifrei 7), and Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi adds, "there is no-one objecting to the matter, so you do not need war. Had they not sent the spies, they would not have needed weapons." Rabbi Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch picks up on Rashi's last point, emphasising that "without one stroke of a sword were Israel to have taken possession of the Land, had they only lived up to the ideals of their calling." This would have happened, the Sforno explains, "because due to their fears, [the nations] will turn and flee or die without doing battle."

So why is Moshe relating this story to the younger generation, those waiting to cross the Jordan and enter the Land? Is this just for the sake of history so that the people don't forget the story of where they have come from? Who Is ...

Nechama Leibowitz: (1905-1997 CE), born in Riga, graduate of the University of Berlin, made aliyah in 1931; professor at Tel Aviv University; taught Torah for over 50 years
Nechama Leibowitz reminds us that when these words were spoken, Israel "had actually stood on its threshold." They were on the brink, on the edge, about to enter the Land. They could really have done this forty years ago; they could have entered the Land from Kadesh Barnea, coming up from the south west, without skirting the Dead Sea or crossing the Jordan. This was their moment; they could have taken the Land, perhaps even without weapons as the Sages suggest. "But," Leibowitz adds, "instead of going boldly forward to enter the heritage promised them by G-d, they hesitated and wished to bolster their little faith by means of spies, instead of trusting in the divine pillar of cloud and the 'hornet' that paved the way before them."

Early in the book of Judges, we find the story of Deborah the prophetess and Barak the warrior. Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging the country at the time and heard from Hashem that He was about to deliver Israel from Jabin the king of Canaan. She summoned Barak and gave him HaShem's specific command and battle plan, down to the detail of where the battle was to take place. Barak equivocated: "If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go" (Judges 4:8, ESV); he hesitated, wanting to make sure. Was Deborah sure enough about HaShem's command that she was willing to risk her own life on it? Back comes the response: "I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the L-RD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman" (v. 9, ESV). And so it transpired; HaShem routed the army of Sisera - "And the L-RD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword ... Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left" (vv. 15-16, ESV), but Sisera, the Canaanite commander, escaped and was killed by Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite. Israel has rest for forty years, but there is no record of Barak as their leader. Barak lost his moment and the potential reward of permanent leadership because he hesitated and - essentially - doubted the word of the L-rd.

On a day when lots of people were asking if they too could be His disciples, Yeshua gave what many people think was a surprisingly curt response to the chap who said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home" (Luke 9:61, NASB). Now this had explicit biblical precedent, since when Elijah called Elisha to be his disciple, Elisha responded, "Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you" (1 Kings 19:20, NASB) to which Elijah agreed: "Go back again, for what have I done to you?" (ibid., NASB). But Yeshua's reply was very different: "No one, after putting his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of G-d" (Luke 9:62, NASB). Why should Yeshua be so much less tolerant than Elijah? Aren't family ties - and in particular, honouring father and mother - important and commanded in the Torah? Perhaps this chap got short shrift because he was the third in a row to say the same thing - "I will follow you but ..."; perhaps they were trying to test or annoy Yeshua to see how far they could push Him. Darrell Bock comments that "Yeshua's demands are new and radical, and these men could hardly have known that their requests would be countered so directly and emphatically. The point is not so much to rebuke the would-be disciple for having deficient desire as to warn about what association with Yeshua involves and to point out with rhetorical clarity the newness of times that Yeshua brings."1

Taking these events together - Israel failing to go up and take possession of the Land, Barak hesitating over his commission, and the enquirer's diffident offer of commitment - I think we see a consistent picture. G-d sets opportunities before us and tells us to engage with them; all too often, we hesitate or equivocate, either to be sure that we really did hear what we thought we heard, or to try and bolster up our little faith. By so doing, we miss the moment and it passes us by. We fail to speak out when a word is needed; we don't give someone a hand when they ask; we turn away when a challenge or rebuke should have been given; and - as a result - the kingdom of G-d misses out and both we and the other people involved are improverished by our inaction. Little faith isn't a problem for G-d - Yeshua told His disciples that "if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20, ESV) - He can cope with what we have and are prepared to risk and put on the table. Yeshua was even tolerant of no faith; the father who cried out, "help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24, ESV) did receive healing for his son. He might not have believed, or known what he believed, but he did turn up and ask for healing!

What kills the power of G-d is hesitation, equivocation, delay, prevarication and procrastination. The question for all of us today is, "Are we prepared to get up from sitting on our thumbs and take possession of what G-d has given us?" Are we actually prepared to do something, to take a risk, to take G-d at His word and put His promises into action? There are lots of them out there, just waiting for someone to recognise the moment, hear the Spirit nudge them and do it. So don't look back, don't look over your shoulder; speak out and make it happen. For the sake of the kingdom, do something!

1. - Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53, ECNT, Baker Academic 1996, page 983.

Further Study: B'resheet 17:7-8; Mark 9:21-23

Application: How are you doing on the action front? Will you step out and pick up the destiny and the authority that G-d has given you to make a difference in this world, or are you stuck in the hesitation that leads to forty years wandering in the desert?

Comment - 08:04 15Jul18 S: This spoke to me and challenged me profoundly today; thank you. I am a person of such weak faith and hesitate all the time.

Comment - 04:48 21Jul18 John Lanclos: Awesome thought, the use of yarash, take possession of reminds me of Amos 9:12 where Edom is to take possession of the land; and is understood by Yaaqov in Acts 15 that mankind, i.e. the gentiles must seek Master Yah, to become called by the name of YHWH. THUS either yarash is being understood as darash "seek after" or Yaaqov is telling us that before we can possess we must first diligently seek after Master Yah (MarYah/MarIah A term used in the Aramaic Peshitta N.T. to indicate both the humanity and Divinity of the Messiah, and the Father. Depending on context).
To seek after is to take action, to search out the land or promise is part of idea of possessing.

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© Jonathan Allen, 2018

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