Christianity 201

June 28, 2013

How an Eleven Day Trip Took 40 Years

I once heard a Bible teacher state that Deuteronomy 1:2 — a verse describing Israel’s wilderness wanderings — is “the most tragic verse in the Bible.”

In many of our translations the verse appears in parenthesis, almost as an afterthought or a footnote in an era before footnotes:

(It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.)

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary notes:

For Israel, the journey to Canaan by this route proved to be of forty years duration. (p. 157)

The International Bible Commentary says the verse’s inclusion

…may be a contrast between the eleven days required and the forty years taken. (p. 260)

A year ago Bill Berry wrote on this passage in the context of how Deuteronomy is a restatement of things already covered in previous books, but how verse two is a microcosm of how God sometimes has to restate things covered in our lives so that we will get it…

Okay, now we’re taken by our chronological Bible read into the “book of redundancy,” as I call it. … Deuteronomy, … which, when I’ve read it in the past, always seemed to be quite a bit repetitive from a lot of what was already covered in Leviticus and Numbers. Actually, I know that the word “Deuteronomy” comes from the Greek “deutero” [second] and “nomos” [law]; so, … the title for this book means a “restatement of the law;” and that’s exactly what Moses is writing here, an historical recounting and restatement of “The Law” for the posterity of the people, as well as a chronicling of their trek through the wilderness in God’s purification process of these very fallible and forgetful children.

And it is this latter reason for Moses writing Deuteronomy which has captured my application attention… God repeating, via Moses, all of this information about why He turned an 11 day trek into one which lasted 40 years was worthy material for His people (which includes me). They needed to get it – AGAIN; and so do I. Therefore, it’s worthy enough for me to pay close attention to this Book as I read through it one more time, trying to glean what God has for me by reading what He had Moses write for the Israelites.

I’m certainly no different than God’s stiff-necked and recalcitrant Old Covenant Jews. I can so easily go into pity-party mentality and grumble about my circumstances. I too often tend to see things my way rather than seek out – or just simply trust – life as God’s way. I wander though life with a self-inflated attitude when my Savior keeps saying over and over to me, in a personally redundant paraphrase of Luke 9: 23, [God’s Spirit speaking to me Christ’s thoughts] … “Bill, if you want to follow after Me as My disciples, you just have to deny yourself, trust me in all of our travels through life, and simply follow Me.”

But like the Israelites, wandering through the desert on the way to God’s promised-land, do I get it? No, … even though God redundantly keeps trying to show me this truth and message of obedience in so many different ways, I’m coming to believe that God needs to be very redundant in repeating His message of truth through His word over and over and over so that people like me can wander in the wilderness of life and die to our sin nature, giving us life and direction, through God’s grace and truth, taught so repetitively in His word.

So, as I read through Deuteronomy … AGAIN, … I’m going to expect that God is going to give me truth after truth after truth for my living just as He was doing through Moses in this Book of repetition for His children, the Israelites. Hopefully, I’ll see those truths and die to self, allowing me to live … in and through God’s truth revealed by His Spirit through His word.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, say it again so that I’ll hear it this time! Amen.


  1. Good to give Deuteronomy a careful study because it is oft quoted by Jesus. I like the powerful argument that builds up in Chapter 8 and the very clear lessons to be learned.

    Comment by George Hartwell — June 28, 2013 @ 9:21 pm | Reply

  2. The same applies to the whole Bible – we need to read it again and again – and we praise God that each time we do, when looking to Him, He either shows us something new or again shows us something He has shown us before but we need to see again.

    I have considered the most tragic words in the Bible are found in Psalm 78:41 “They limited the Holy One of Israel” – (which are similar to Deut 1:2 in a general sense)

    What an incongruous thought! We – His created beings – can limit the omnipotent God.
    I must ask myself how often I ‘limit’ what God wants to achieve through me.

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — July 3, 2013 @ 9:32 pm | Reply

    • We could probably build quite a list. Here’s one from Judges 2:10 (NIV)

      After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — July 3, 2013 @ 10:20 pm | Reply

  3. Thank you for this, I had God keep pointing to me to read Deuteronomy, and couldn’t figure out why, after reading it twice. BUT, your answer is MINE too.

    Comment by marthaclaytonbanfield — February 16, 2016 @ 11:01 am | Reply

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