Deuteronomy 1:1-8, 19-40
Set rather conspicuously at the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy is this rather matter-of-fact statement: “It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea” ( v 2). At first inkling, one might think Moses was simply noting another leg of the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness, but as we read further, we discover that the Israelites were not then at Kadesh-barnea but on the east side of the Jordan River in the land of Moab (v 5). So what is the Holy Spirit doing by inserting what seems to be a purely informational note?
Israel was now poised to cross the Jordan and begin taking possession of Canaan.Their journey of forty years (v 3) was over. Their wandering resulted when God had led them to the southern border of Canaan where they sent twelves spies to investigate the land. All of the spies reported that the land was indeed rich and bountiful, but ten spoke of giants and well-fortified cities. Only Caleb and Joshua believed they could defeat the inhabitants and take possession. However, the people listened to the bad report of the ten and complained against Moses and God. As a result, God refused to allow that generation to enter the land, and He caused them all to wander in the wilderness until that generation died off.
Now that time of wandering was finally over - forty years of eating manna, living in tents, moving from place to place to place, watching the sun sink into the parched desert every evening - forty years of watching a generation die off. So, why does Moses point out that eleven days’ journey from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea? Horeb is Mount Sinai. After receiving the law at Sinai, Israel went directly to Kadesh-barnea to begin conquering Canaan. It was from there that they had sent out the twelve spies! Because of fear and unbelief, what should have
been a journey of only eleven days turned into forty years of wandering.
Surely there are lessons in all of this for us.