HLM Banner HLM banner

The Saddest Verse in the Bible

The Saddest Verse in the Bible


(It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.) — Deuteronomy 1:2

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Devarim which means “words,” from Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22.

I once took a Bible class¸ and when we began studying Deuteronomy, our teacher stated that the second verse of Deuteronomy was the saddest verse in the entire Torah. Really? The verse simply states a fact: “It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.” How can that possibly be construed as sad?

For the answer, we need to go all the way back to when the Israelites left Egypt and follow them through the next 40 years until this very moment standing at the border of the Promised Land.

Seven weeks after the Israelites left Egypt, they stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and experienced the revelation of God and the giving of the Torah. But as we remember, things didn’t turn out well. Moses was up on Mount Sinai for 40 days, and when he came down with the Ten Commandments in hand, the people had constructed a golden calf to worship. As a result, Moses smashed the tablets, and it took another 80 days for him to receive the second set.

The Israelites spent another six months building the Tabernacle and learning how to serve and worship God. Just over a month after that, the people once again embarked on their journey. However, they were delayed another month when, after complaining about the lack of meat, God rained down quail upon them.

Next, Miriam caused another week’s delay after speaking inappropriately about Moses. At this point, the Israelites could have continued just a few more days and entered Canaan. Unfortunately, the people’s refusal to enter the Promised Land after hearing the negative report from ten spies led to 38 more years wandering in the desert.

The people who Moses addressed at the beginning of Deuteronomy were an entirely new generation. The men who left Egypt had all died in the desert as punishment for believing the ten spies. Our verse teaches us that what should have been an eleven-day journey to Canaan took over 38 years and a tremendous loss of life. And why? It all boils down to a lack of faith in God.

How sad indeed. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way for us.

Let’s not waste a minute longer. Trust God, hold on tightly to your faith, and replace complaints with gratitude. That’s the shortest path to our own great destiny.

Your turn:

When has a lack of faith detoured you? How did you get back on track?

Hebrew Word of the Day

July 21, 2020

Tisha B'Av

A Time to Weep — Zman Livkot


Yael Eckstein with prayers at Western Wall

Let Us Pray for Each Other

Just as you have blessed The Fellowship, we would be honored to take your prayers to God at the Western Wall, the holiest site in His Holy City, Jerusalem.

Monthly Teaching Resource

Eckstein Family on Shabbat

Tisha B’Av - Teaching Our Children Hope

Listen as Fellowship President and CEO Yael Eckstein explains the Jewish observance, Tisha B’Av, which occurs this month at sundown July 29-July 30, and the lessons of hope that can be found in the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, from her audiobook, Generation to Generation: Passing on a Legacy of Faith to Our Children. **

Please be patient with us! You may experience a short delay before the audio begins.

How to Help

sad elderly woman Maria from Ukraine wearing scarf

Bless and Be Blessed

God promises to “bless those who bless [Israel].” You can take part in His promise by being a blessing to a lonely elderly Jewish person who has nowhere else to turn. Your gift will help provide food, medicine, and shelter to someone in desperate need. Join us in helping these precious souls with your best gift today.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay informed about issues affecting Israel, the Jewish people, Jewish-Christian relations, receive daily devotionals, and more.