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Deuteronomy 9:7 says:

זְכֹר֙ אַל־תִּשְׁכַּ֔ח אֵ֧ת אֲשֶׁר־הִקְצַ֛פְתָּ אֶת־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר לְמִן־הַיּ֞וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יָצָ֣אתָ ׀ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֗יִם עַד־בֹּֽאֲכֶם֙ עַד־הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה מַמְרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם עִם־יְהוָֽה׃

(modified Sefaria.org translation)

Remember, don't forget, how you angered the LORD your God in the wilderness; from the day that you left the land of Egypt, until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.

Several points at both ends of the time spectrum, mentioned. There doesn't appear to be any mentioning in the Torah that they rebelled against G-d on the day that they left Egypt. As a matter of fact, contrarily, it says that they cooperated (See, for example, Exodus 12:50.) When they were in the desert before crossing the Sea of Reeds, G-d commands them to turn back and camp at Pi Hahirot, and they obeyed. (Exodus 14:4).

Perhaps, their first "test" of G-d occurred after they crossed the Sea of Reeds. Would that be considered "rebellion"?

Then, Moses implies that the rebellion happened constantly during the entire 40 years in the desert. The last "rebellion" we see mentioned is in Numbers, beginning chapter 25, where they followed the daughters of Mo'ab and worshiped idols.

There was a long period in the desert after that. The Torah does not mention much about what happened during about 38 years in the desert. Were they rebelling in the desert the whole time?

In short, is Moses claim to be taken literally? See a related statement that Moses says a bit later in the same chapter Deuteronomy 9:24:

מַמְרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם עִם־יְהוָ֑ה מִיּ֖וֹם דַּעְתִּ֥י אֶתְכֶֽם׃

You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.

This seems to be a harsher claim than the one before as it extends the time to even before they left Egypt!

Are Moses claims to be taken literally? What did he mean by stating this? Esp. in the 2nd statement of Moses; how did they rebel against G-d while they were still enslaved, which is about the time Moses "knew them"?

  • a quick glance -- the Ohr Hachaim seems to ay (in the preceding pasuk) that the claim is that there are still resha'im in the midst, and the Sforno (I think) says that they still have the tendency to complain even after being shown miracles as they have done cyclically all along. – rosends Aug 5 '15 at 21:41
  • @rosends See if you can turn your comment into an answer, and perhaps, get some points! – DanF Jul 28 '17 at 15:26
  • אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה אָקוּט בְּדוֹר וָאֹמַר עַם תֹּעֵי לֵבָב הֵם וְהֵם לֹא יָדְעוּ דְרָכָי. – kouty Jul 28 '17 at 15:28
  • @Kouty That's an interesting quote. But, that would be either G-d or David's "interpretation", not Moshe's. – DanF Jul 28 '17 at 15:31
  • @mevaqesh Sorry. Inconsistent behavior. I issued a bounty without accepting the answer. Pitka Tava. – DanF Oct 2 '17 at 15:07
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The Panim Yafot (Deut. 9:5) relates the sinfulness from the point they left Egypt to Exodus (13:17) which states that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, lest they return to Egypt. This was reflective of a sinful lack of faith on the part of the Israelites early on.

He relates the sinfulness from the day Moshe knew them, to the incident in Exodus (2:14) in which one Hebrew was striking another, and then attempted to intimidate Moshe who tried intervening. This may may have been indicative of more of a systemic behavioural problem among them.

ומה שאמר למן היום אשר יצאת מארץ מצרים וגו', היינו מ"ש [שמות יג, יז] ולא נחם אלהים דרך ארץ פלשתים כי אמר אלהים פן ינחם, הרי שהיה גלוי וידוע לפני הש"י שאין אמונתם שלימה...ממרים הייתם עם ה' מיום דעתי אתכם...כמו שפירש"י בפרשת שמות [ב, יד]...בשביל שהם דלטורין,

That which he said 'from the day that you left Egypt', refers to what is written (Exod. 13:17) 'God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer; for God said, “The people may have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt.”' It was clear to God that their faith was not complete...as Rashi explains

You have been rebellious with God since the day I knew you...as Rashi explains in Exodus (2:14)...for they had informers.

As noted by @ShmuelBrown, this explanation for the sinfulness "from the day I knew you" is basically stated by the Bekhor Shor as well in his commentary to 9:24, as well as the Hadar Z'kenim there. Unlike the Panim Yafot, though, the Bekhor Shor and Hadar Z'kenim do not imply that this was part of a systemic problem, rather than an isolated incident.

Regarding the rest of the forty years, The Tur implies somewhat that they were literally sinning continuously throughout the forty years in his short commentary to 9:24:

הפסוק מתחיל במ''ם ומסיים במ''ם לומר לך שכל מ' שנה שהייתם במדבר ממרים הייתם

The verse begins with a 'mem' and ends with a 'mem' to tell you that all forty years that you were in the wilderness, you were rebellious with God.

  • @DanF You are very welcome! It should be noted that I assumed that "from the day I knew you" referred to the period of his adulthood back in Egypt to redeem them. The Paim Yafot understands it even more literally, as referring to his youthful excursions among the Jews. – mevaqesh Jul 28 '17 at 18:30
  • Panim Yafot does seem to extend the definition, I think. I would lean towards somewhere midway. I.e., the point that he first called upon the elders after G-d commanded him to. It is notable, BTW, that after meeting with the elders and told that G-d was redeeming them, they "chickened out" and left Moshe and Aharon to face Pharaoh on their own. Perhaps, had they joined in, Pharaoh might not have hardened the burden, because he may have realized they were serious. At the least, They might not have blamed Moshe and Aharon for the problem. – DanF Jul 28 '17 at 18:58

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