Deuteronomy 31:7-8, 23

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Delivered 19 September 2015


NOTE: The Scripture text is taken from Messianic Jewish Family Bible: Tree of Life Version, © 2014 by Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society. Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the drash.


7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong! Be courageous! For you are to go with this people into the land Adonai has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you are to enable them to inherit it. 8 Adonai—He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you. Do not fear or be discouraged.” … 23 Then he commissioned Joshua son of Noon and said, “Chazak! [Be strong] Be courageous! For you will bring Bnei-Yisrael into the land I swore to them—and I will be with you." (Deut 31:7-8, 23 TLV)


Today's Parashah is part of the final address of Moses to the twelve tribes of Israel. He calls Joshua son of Nun ["noon"] forward to issue a public and special charge. Moses had previously ordained Joshua as his successor [Num 27:15-23], but now Moses will give him specific instructions as part of his assumption of command, what we in the Army call the Commander's Intent. In verse 7 there are two commands and two prophetic exhortations:

The first command is Be strong

The verb means to be firm or strong and here relates to attitude not physical strength. Chazaq is the same word used in Exodus for Pharaoh hardening his heart. So the underlying meaning of the command is "You are going to wipe out seven nations and you cannot afford to have pity. This is total war."

The Septuagint translates chazaq with a verb that means "act like a man," or in modern English "man up." Paul uses this same verb in 1 Corinthians 16:13 where he says, "Stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong." The idiom "man up" can refer to the action of getting prepared to fight, to rise to an occasion to complete a task, or to take care of one's responsibilities.

The second command is Be courageous

The verb means to be stout, strong, bold, or alert. The Septuagint uses a verb that means strength to overcome. The verb describes one who willingly "gets into the action." Carl von Clausewitz in his classic book On War said,: "War is the province of danger, and therefore courage above all things is the first quality of a warrior." He also said that in warfare "timidity will do a thousand times more damage than audacity."

The first prophetic exhortation is "you will go": The practical meaning of the verb is "You will keep on going until the mission is accomplished." The Masoretic Text has "you will go with this people," but the Septuagint clarifies with "you will go before the people." Joshua would "take point" as we say in the Army. Whoever "takes point" has to be strong and courageous, because he could be among the first to die in battle.

The second prophetic exhortation is by your leadership you will "enable the people to inherit the land by taking possession of it." The Septuagint adds "and distribute by lot to them." In other words, Joshua would insure transference of the title deed of the Land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That deed has never been revoked.

In verse 8 Moses reveals a simple combat support plan, a four-fold promise followed by two exhortations.

ADONAI will go before you. and ADONAI will be with you

He will remove obstacles, give early warning, protect your flanks and your rear, and finally give victory over your enemies.

He will not fail you and He will not forsake you.

ADONAI will not fail to give you intelligence and guidance, to provide you with courage, and to stay with you until you have made a complete conquest of the Canaanites, and settled the people of Israel in their land. SO

Do not fear, or do not stand in awe of your enemy as the ten fearful spies did.

Do not be discouraged at the number and strength of the enemy, nor at any difficulties that might happen along the way. Paul drew on this inspiration when he said in his Roman letter, "If God is for us, who is against us." [Rom 8:31]

verse 23 occurs in the tent of meeting where Adonai appearing in the Shekinah repeats the previous instruction of Moses, confirming the divine call on Joshua's life, and God's reliance on him to accomplish the mission. Rashi interprets the charge here to mean “Everything depends upon you. There can be only one leader for a generation, not two leaders for a generation."

ADONAI then made him a personal Promise

"I will be with you," which the Targum of Jonathan interprets as, "my Memra shall be Your help." Yeshua, who is the Memra, said to his disciples! “I will be with you.”

Does this passage have a lesson for this season of the Days of Awe? The charge to Joshua also applied to the Israelites who would follow him into battle and so it becomes a call for self-examination, and then a call to embrace the commands given to Joshua. Because if we are willing to obey we may be sure that God will provide the empowerment keep His commands.

The Torah provides a simple method for conducting this analysis. In this very chapter of Devarim ADONAI required that in the seventh month of every Sabbatical year, which happens to be this month, the Torah instruction of ADONAI was to be read to the people. The reading was not merely for educational purposes, but for covenant renewal. For them commitment to God's commands was essential to taking and keeping the Land. The same principle holds true for us.

With rabbi's permission I am going to read the Ten Commandments or more literally the Ten Words of ADONAI that in effect summarize all His instructions. And, we know from Yeshua's teaching, God implied much more in these commandments. Would you please stand with me. Man up! As I read each Word of ADONAI treat it as a mirror to examine your life and character. Be honest with God, because with confession comes cleansing and forgiveness. After I each commandment you will respond with AMAYN and after the reading is completed there will be final response on the slide.

Hear O Israel the Ten Words of ADONAI ELOHIM (Sh'mot 20:2-17)

       ALEPH "I am ADONAI your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
And all say "AMAYN."

       BET "You shall have no other gods before Me. Do not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or on the earth below or in the water under the earth. Do not bow down to them, do not let anyone make you serve them. For I, ADONAI your G-d, am a jealous G-d, bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to the thousands of generations of those who love Me and keep My mitzvot.
And all say "AMAYN."

       GIMMEL "You must not take the Name of ADONAI your G-d in vain, for ADONAI will not hold him guiltless that takes His Name in vain.
And all say "AMAYN."

       DALET Remember Yom Shabbat, to keep it holy. You are to work six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat to ADONAI your G-d. In it you shall not do any work; not you, nor your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your cattle, nor the outsider that is within your gates. For in six days ADONAI made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Thus ADONAI blessed Yom Shabbat, and made it holy.
And all say "AMAYN."

       HEY "Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long upon the land which ADONAI your G-d is giving you.
And all say "AMAYN."

       VAV "Do not murder.
And all say "AMAYN."

       ZAYIN "Do not commit adultery.
And all say "AMAYN."

       CHET "Do not steal.
And all say "AMAYN."

       TET "Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.
And all say "AMAYN."

       YOD "Do not covet your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s."
And all say "AMAYN."

These are the Ten Words of the G-d of Israel.

And all the people said,

“We will serve ADONAI our G-d and we will obey His voice. Amayn!”

Works Cited

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (1040-1105), Commentary on the Tanakh. Online.

Von Clausewitz: Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831), On War. Anatol Rapoport, ed. Penguin Books, 1968.

Copyright © 2015 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.