God’s Reasons for Driving Out the Canaanites
In Deuteronomy 8 Moses cautioned the people to recognize God as the source of all the blessings they would enjoy in the Promised Land (8:11-16) lest they be lifted up by pride (8:17). In Deuteronomy 9 Moses cautioned the people to recognize God as the source of their military victories (9:1-3) lest they pridefully take the credit for those victories (9:4-6). Moses assured the Israelites that they would cross over the Jordan to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than them (9:1), including the Anakim (9:2), a race of individuals whose intimidating appearance had struck terror in the hearts of the spies (Numbers 13:28, 31). The Anakim controlled the land in the southern part of Canaan with Hebron being their chief city. Joshua dispossessed them (Joshua 11:21-22). Caleb was given possession of Hebron (Joshua 15:13-14 and Judges 1:20). Moses assured the Israelites of victory over the Anakim (9:3).
Moses knew that the military victories in Canaan had the potential of being misinterpreted by the Israelites. He knew that the people would be tempted to think that they had been successful in battle because of their righteousness. Moses quickly reminded the Israelites that God would not grant them any victories on the basis of their righteousness. Instead they would experience military victories for the following reasons: First, because of the wickedness of their enemies (9:4). Second, because of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (9:5). Third, because of God’s grace (9:6). The Israelites were a stubborn people who did not deserve God’s goodness. Read also Psalm 44:1-3.
Practical Consideration: We must all face giants along life’s journey. Just as the Israelites had to face the Anakim in Canaan, so must we face Anakim in our spiritual journey. There will be many occasions on life’s journey when we will face seemingly impossible situations, intimidating circumstances, and demoralizing odds. Just as Moses assured the Israelites that God would go before them against the Anakim, we too, can be assured of God’s presence and aid as we face the giants on our journey.
Israel‘s Rebellion by Worshiping the Golden Calf
These verses illustrate Israel’s stubbornness. Moses reviewed the golden calf incident (Exodus 24:12-18 and chapters 32 and 34) to help the people understand that they had not been given the Promised Land because of their righteousness or the uprightness of their heart (9:5). They were, in fact, a forgetful and rebellious people. Notice the following significant facts in the review of the golden calf incident.
First, notice the difference between the behavior of Moses and that of the Israelites (9:9). When Moses went up on Mount Horeb he neither ate bread nor drank water for forty days and nights (9:9) while he patiently waited on the Lord to give him “the tablets of the covenant” (9:11). However, “when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain” (Exodus 32:1), they asked Aaron to make them a god. Aaron willingly obliged the people’s request (Exodus 32:2-6).
Practical Consideration: We must use our influence for good. When Moses was absent, the people grew impatient and asked Aaron to assist them in making a god. Aaron should have used his influence to encourage the people to patiently wait for Moses to return. Instead, Aaron assisted them in their sin. Someone has stated “we must neither bring sin upon others nor encourage them in it.” We have a responsibility to guard our influence. Henry Ward Beecher wrote, “The humblest individual exerts some influence, either for good or evil, upon others.” We should always use our influence for good.
Second, notice the nature of the Israelite’s rebellion. Verse 10 indicates that the people had heard the terms of the covenant before they were written. Therefore, their rebellion and violation of the first two commandments was willful and not out of ignorance.
Third, notice the anger of the Lord over the Israelite’s rebellion (9:13-16). Within days of hearing the terms of the covenant, the people “turned aside quickly from the way which the Lord had commanded [them]” (9:16). God told Moses to leave the mountain and return to the people (notice that God referred to them as “your” people and “this” people but not “My” people) to behold what they had done. God told Moses that He would deal with the people in a two-fold manner (9:14). First, by destroying them. Second, by blotting out their name from under heaven. God could still fulfill His purpose through Moses.
Practical Consideration: Short memories can lead to big problems. After hearing the terms of the covenant (9:10) and before those terms were written on the stone tablets (9:11), the Israelites quickly violated the first two commandments. The Israelites had short memories and consequently got themselves in big trouble. James (1:23-24) commented on the problem of a short memory: “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”
Fourth, notice the anger of Moses over the Israelite’s rebellion (9:17 and Exodus 32:19). Moses smashed the tablets of the law in the presence of the people, a powerful visual object lesson that illustrated the Israelite’s breaking of the covenant.
Fifth, notice the steps of action Moses took to deal with the situation (9:18-21). Moses interceded for the people and for Aaron (9:18-20 and 26-29). Notice the following things about Moses’ prayer: Moses was earnest in prayer: “And I fell down before the Lord” (9:18). Moses persevered in prayer: “forty days and nights” (9:18). Moses fasted in prayer: “I neither ate not drank water” (9:18). Moses was bold in prayer: “For I was afraid … but the Lord listened to me” (9:19). Moses interceded in prayer: “so I also prayed for Aaron at the same time” (9:20). Moses followed-up on his prayer by completely destroying the golden calf (9:21).
Practical Consideration: Our concern for others should find expression in prayer. The concern of Moses for the welfare of the Israelites found expression in earnest intercessory prayer. The prayer of Moses was heard and honored by God and Israel was spared destruction. James (5:16b) notes, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” It is often easier to give up on people than to earnestly pray for them. Our concern for others should find expression in earnest and sincere intercessory prayer.
Other Examples of Israel‘s Rebellion
These verses pick up again on the theme of verse 7. They provide further illustrations of Israel’s rebellion. John D.W. Watts comments on the gist of these verses: “You have [always] been rebellious against the Lord. The implication is: ‘And you still are!'”
The following is a quick reference to the incidents referred to in these verses.
• Taberah (Numbers 11:1-3). The word “taberah” means, “burning.” A place so named to serve as a reminder of the complaining of the people and the anger of the Lord, which was kindled by their complaining.
• Massah (Exodus 17:7). The name “massah” means test. A place so named to serve as a reminder of the incident where the people complained because of lack of water and put God to the test. Refer to the comments on Deuteronomy 6:16 on page 17 of these notes.
• Kibroth-hattaavah (Numbers 11:31-35). A term that means “the graves of greediness.” A place so named to serve as a reminder to the people of their inordinate selfishness.
• Kadesh-barnea (Numbers 13-14). The place where the report of the ten spies inspired gross unbelief on the part of the Israelites. Refer to the comments on Deuteronomy 1:19-46 on pages 2 and 3 of these notes.
Practical Consideration: A review of our past can accentuate God’s grace and goodness towards us. Moses reviewed the past of the Israelites, a past filled with numerous instances of grumbling, greediness, failure, and faithlessness. This review served as a background that accentuated the goodness of God. A review of our past will likely yield numerous instances that can serve to accentuate God’s grace and goodness towards us.
Moses’ Intercession for Israel‘s Rebellion
These verses more fully describe the content of Moses’ intercession for the people. Notice the number of personal pronouns Moses used in his prayer to remind God that the people, though rebellious, were His (9:26 and 29). Moses also reminded God of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (9:27). Moses also urged God to consider what the heathen nations would say if He destroyed Israel. While God was certainly justified in destroying Israel, Moses was concerned that the heathen nations might misunderstand such an action and conclude that God was unable to lead them to the Promised Land (9:28).