Deuteronomy means the second giving of the Law, since the generation to whom the Law was first given had now died. In Hebrew, the Book is simply "The Words". The book is largely didactic, rather than narrative. In the first three chapters, Moses records the journeying from Egypt to their arrival opposite Jericho.
v1: The people had arrived opposite Jericho; Num 33.48-49.
v2: It was possible to cross much of the desert in a mere 11 days. Yet Israel endured 40 years.
v3-5: The earlier generation had died out, in fulfilment of God's words. Moses took time to explain the commands of God. It was necessary that the people had a first hand knowledge of the commands of God.
In the same way, a true Christian has a first hand knowledge of Christ. Later, the effect of the lack of such knowledge led the nation into idolatry; see Judg 2.7, 10.
Moses does not encourage the new generation to look back to Egypt, but rather to look forward to the promised land. This was to be their motivation to obedience to God.
v6: "The Lord our God spoke to us", this was the wonderful privilege of the people of God.
v7-8: The land had been promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Now the people were to enter and possess the land.
v9-18: Moses had set leaders over the people. It seems that the people readily accepted this delegated leadership (v14).
The judgment is God's (v17), and He expects the standards to be applied to be His standards. By implication, the leaders had to know what God expected of them. They had therefore to be both knowledgeable, and to be able to apply God's word.
v19: Having left Horeb, the people arrived in Kadesh.
v20: Kadesh was the 'doorway' into Canaan, the edge of the "hill country of the Amorites."
v21: At Kadesh, God encouraged the people to go up into Canaan. This was the same place from which the twelve spies had set out (Num 13.26).
v22-24: Moses spoke of the people requesting to send the spies; even though it was the previous generation; he is involving his hearers, such that they might own the decisions and understand the subsequent rebellion.
v25: Moses was selective in what he reported (compare Num 13.27). He did not want to leave Joshua, the new leader, with a rebellious people.
v26: In spite of Moses' words, and the testimony of the twelve spies, the people refused to go to Canaan.
v27: They murmured in their tents, thinking that God would not see.
v28: The people became discouraged through fear of man; Is not our God greater than any?
v29-31: Moses brought words of encouragement, reminding the people of God's faithfulness and power. Since God had brought them this far, could He not bring them into the promised land also?
v32: They lost out through unbelief; see Heb 3.19. Trust in God may lead us through hardship and trial, but it is always the best way. The Israelites were unwilling to pay the price of obedience; they paid a much greater price, of disobedience.
v33: The ever-present pillar of cloud and fire was a testimony of God's faithfulness; He had already proved Himself. And here was a constant reminder of His faithfulness.
v34-35: The Lord was angry at their unbelief. The people were therefore not allowed to enter the land.
v36: God gave Caleb permission to enter the land. He does not treat godly and wicked alike. The reason is clear, "he followed the Lord wholeheartedly."
v37: Even Moses lost his temper, through the constant grumbling of the people, and he too lost out on entry into Canaan.
v38: Joshua is also picked out. He would enter the land, and would lead the people.
v39: Compare 1 Cor 1.27-29; God chose the foolish things, the despised things, the children, to inherit the blessings of Canaan. These children had no knowledge of good and evil, yet they would enter the land.
v40: This command is placed at the end of Num 14. The people, having reached near to Canaan, now had to turn around, and suffer many years of wandering.
v41-45: Some of the Israelites decided to go towards Canaan, but without God's approval. They was routed, and returned to camp.
v46: They stayed at Kadesh, and wandered around in that region, for 38 years.