Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.
Verses 1-40. - ADMONITIONS AND EXHORTATIONS. Moses, having presented to the people certain facts in their recent history which had in them a specially animating and encouraging tendency, proceeds to direct his discourse to the inculcation of duties and exhortations to obedience to the Divine enactments. This portion also of his address is of an introductory character as well as what precedes. Verses 1-8. - Exhortation to the observance of the Law generally. The Law was to be kept as a complete whole; nothing was to be taken from it or added to it; it comprised the commandments of Jehovah, and therefore they were not only to do it as what Moses, their leader and lawgiver, had enjoined, but to keep it as a sacred deposit, not to be altered or tampered with, and to observe it as what God their Sovereign had enacted for them. The dignity and worth of the Law are here asserted, and also its completeness as given by Moses. Any addition to it, no less than any subtraction from it, would mar its integrity and affect its perfection. Altered circumstances in process of time might, indeed, lead to the desuetude of some parts of the Mosaic enactments, and new institutions or laws might be required to meet a new condition of things, or even in that new condition to fence and sustain the primitive code; but that cede was to remain intact in the Statute-Book, and no alterations were to be made upon it that should affect its substance or nullify any of its principles. New laws and institutions appointed by God would, of course, have the same authority as those originally ordained by Moses; and such, it can hardly be doubted, were in point of fact under the Hebrew monarchy introduced by the prophets speaking in the name of God. The Law, nevertheless, was kept substantially entire. Even under the new dispensation, the Law has not been abolished. Christ, as he himself declared, came not to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). The sin of the Pharisees, for which they were censured by our Lord, lay in this, that they taught for doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9), and had "made the commandments of God of none effect by their traditions" (Matthew 15:6). Verses 1, 2. - Now therefore; rather And now. With this Moses passes from referring to what God had done for Israel to admonish Israel as to what they had to do as the subjects of God and the recipients of his favor. They were to give heed to all the statutes and judgments which Moses, as the servant of God, had taught them, in order that they might do them. Statutes (חֻקִּים), the things prescribed or enacted by law, whether moral, ritual, or civil; judgments (מִשְׁפָטִים), rights, whether public or private, all that each could claim as his due, and all he was bound to render to God or to his fellow-men as their due. These two comprehend the whole Law as binding on Israel. On the doing of these by the people depended life; these had been made known to them, not merely for their information, but specifically that they might do them, and thereby have life; not long life in the Promised Land alone, though this also is included (ver. 40; Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 6:2, etc.), but that higher life, that life which man lives "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3; cf. Leviticus 18:5; Ezekiel 20:11; Matthew 4:4), that spiritual life which is in God's favor (Psalm 30:5). Enjoying this life as the fruit of obedience, they should also possess as their inheritance the laud promised to their fathers.
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you.
Verses 3, 4. - The people had had personal experience of the danger, on the one hand, of transgressing, and the benefit, on the other, of keeping God's Law; they had seen how those who sinned in worshipping Baal-peer were destroyed (Numbers 25:3, 9), whilst those who remained faithful to the Lord were kept alive. This experience the people had had only lately before, so that a reference to it would be all the more impressive. Baal-peor, the idol whose cultus was observed at Peor. Baal (Bal, Be cf., Bel, Lord) was the common name of the supreme deity among the northern of the Semitic-speaking people, the Canaanites, the Phoenicians, the Aramaeans, and the Assyrians. There were thus many Baals. Followed: walked after; a common Biblical expression for religious adherence and service (cf. Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 9:14; and with a different formula, Numbers 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:8; Judges 2:12, etc.). Ye that did cleave unto Jehovah your God. "To cleave unto one" is expressive of the closest, most intimate attachment and communion (cf. Genesis 2:24; Isaiah 14:1). The phrase is frequently used of devotion to the service and worship of the true God (cf. Deuteronomy 10:20; Joshua 22:5; Joshua 23:8; Acts 2:23, etc.); here it expresses the contrast between the conduct of those who remained faithful to Jehovah and those who forsook him to worship Baal. Are alive every one of you this day. "Thus they that keep themselves pure in general defections, are saved from the common destruction (Ezekiel 9:4-6; 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 20:4)" (Ainsworth).
But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day.
Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
Verses 5, 6. - The institutes of Moses were the commandments of Jehovah, and therefore obedience to them was imperative. By this was conditioned the enjoyment by Israel of the Promised Land; and this would be their wisdom and understanding in the sight of the nations; to themselves it would be life, and to the nations it would convey an impression of their being the depositories of true wisdom and knowledge, so that they should be constrained to say, Surely a wise and understanding people is this great nation. "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that is wise winneth souls" (Proverbs 11:30). God's statutes make wise the simple (Psalm 19:8; Psalm 119:98, 99); and they who are thus made wise attract the attention of others by the fame of their wisdom. Thus the Queen of Sheba heard in her distant country of the wisdom of Solomon, and came to him to commune with him of all that was in her heart (1 Kings 10:1, etc.); and many throughout the ages who were seeking after truth among the heathen, were drawn to Israel by seeing how with them was the true knowledge of God. Israel was thus exalted because God was nigh to them, ready to hear their cry and to give them what they needed; which none of the gods of the nations were or could be to their votaries; and because, in the Law which God had given them, they had such instruction and direction as no heathen nation possessed.
Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
Verses 7, 8. - Translate, For what great nation is there that hath gods that draft near to it, as Jehovah our God whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there that hath righteous statutes and ordinances like this whole Law which I am giving before you this day? (comp. Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalm 34:17-20; Psalm 145:18; 1 Samuel 14:36; 1 Kings 18:26-29, 37; James 4:8). "True right has its roots in God; and with the obscuration of the knowledge of God, law and right, with their divinely established foundations, are also shaken and obscured (cf. Romans 1:26-32)" (Keil).
And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;
Verses 9-14. - The possession of the oracles of God by Israel was a benefit to them only as these were kept in mind and reverently obeyed. Therefore they were to take heed and diligently beware of forgetting the circumstances under which the Law had been received at Horeb. God had then commanded the people to be gathered together, so that they stood before the Lord, were in his manifested presence, and were made to hear his voice speaking to them from amidst the fire and the clouds that covered the mount. They had thus actual evidence and guarantee that the Law they had received was Divine; and this they were to keep in mind as long as they lived, and to communicate to their children in all coming time, that so they might fear the Lord; for on this rested that covenant which God had made with Israel, and which they were to keep as the condition of their continuing to enjoy privilege and life. Verse 9. - Keep thy soul diligently; i.e. Be very careful to preserve thy life (cf. Job 2:6; Proverbs 13:3; Proverbs 16:17; Proverbs 19:16; in all which passages the same formula is used as here). The Hebrew (נֶפֻשׁ) means primarily breath, then vital principle, natural life (anima), then soul life, the soul or mind (animus). The forgetting of the wonders they had seen would lead to their forgetting God, and so to their departing from him, and this would mar and ultimately destroy their life (cf. Joshua 23:11-16). The things which thine eyes have seen (see Exodus 19:10, etc.).
Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.
Verse 10. - Specially the day. The word "specially," introduced by the translators into the Authorized Version, is a needless interpolation. With this verse begins a new sentence, which is continued in ver. 11 on to the end of ver. 13. Render, On the day [i.e. at the time, the יום, is an adverbial accusative] when ye stood before Jehovah your God in Horeb... when ye came near and stood,... then Jehovah spake to you, etc.
And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.
Verse 11. - The mountain burned with fire unto the midst [unto the heart] of heaven; i.e. up to the Very skies; a rhetorical description of the mighty pillar of fire that blazed on Sinai, and betokened the presence of him whose symbol is fire. With darkness, clouds [cloud], and thick darkness; underneath the fire was a cloud of deep darkness, out of which it blazed, the "thick cloud" of Exodus 19:9, 16, and the "smoke" out of which the lightnings flashed, and over which the glory of the Lord, like devouring fire, rested on the top of the mountain (Exodus 19:18; Exodus 20:18; Exodus 24:16, 17).
And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.
Verse 12. - On this occasion the people heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; there was no form or shape apparent to the eye. No man can see God's face (Exodus 33:20, 23); "no man hath seen God at any time" (John 1:18); and though the nobles or elders of Israel who went up with Moses into the mount are said to have seen God, it is evident that what they saw was only some luminous manifestation of his glory, and not a form or shape of which a similitude could be made (Exodus 24:9-17). Even Moses, with whom God said that he would speak mouth to month, and who should behold the similitude of God (Numbers 12:8), was told that he could not see his face, his essential personality, but only his back, the reflection of his glory (Exodus 33:18-23).
And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.
Verse 13. - His covenant; God's gracious engagement with Israel for their good, and by which they were bound to observe all his commandments. God declared this at Sinai when he uttered the ten commandments (words, דְבָרִים), "the words of the covenant, the ten words" (Exodus 34:28), which he afterwards gave to Moses on two tables of stone, written with the finger of God (Exodus 24:12; Exodus 31:18). Besides these, there were other statutes and ordinances which Moses was commanded to teach the people, and which, with them, comprised the Law given at Sinai (see Exodus 21. and following chapters).
And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.
Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire:
Verses 15-20. - As the people had seen no form or figure when God spake to them, so they were to beware for their very lives (cf. ver. 9) of acting corruptly by making any kind of image, whether of man or of beast, for the purpose of worshipping God as represented by it; they were also to beware of being so attracted by the splendor of the heavenly bodies as to be forcibly seduced to worship them and offer them religious service. They were not in this respect to imitate the heathen; for God, who had delivered them out of the furnace of Egyptian bondage, had taken them for himself to be his special possession; and therefore they were to take heed not to forget the covenant of Jehovah their God, nor to offend him by making any image or representation of him as the object of worship. Among the heathen, and especially in Egypt, images were the very pillar and support of religion; but in Israel, as God had revealed himself to them without form, it was as a spirit he was to be worshipped, and not under any outward representation.
Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
Verse 16. - Graven image (פֶסֶל), carved work or sculpture, whether of wood, or metal, or stone - the similitude of any figure - the form of any idol (סֶמֶל, form, statue, idol) - the likeness - figure (תַבְנִית, a building, a model, a form, or figure) - of male or female - in apposition to graven image, and illustrative of it.
The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air,
Verses 17, 18. - The likeness - the figure - of any beast, etc. A warning against the animal-worship of Egypt.
The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:
And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.
Verse 19. - Lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, etc. The worship of the heavenly bodies, especially star-worship, prevailed among the Canaanites and many of the Semitic tribes, but was not confined to them; the Egyptians also reverenced the sun as Re, the moon as Isis, and the stars as the symbols of deities. The Israelites were thus, both from past associations and from what they might encounter in Canaan, exposed to the danger of being seduced into idolatry. Shouldest be driven: shouldest be urged on, drawn, or constrained (cf. Deuteronomy 13:13). Which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven, God had allotted (חָלַק) to all mankind the heavenly bodies for their advantage (Genesis 1:14-18; Psalm 104:19; Jeremiah 31:35); it was, therefore, not competent for any one nation to seek to appropriate them as specially theirs, and it was absurd for any to offer religious service to objects intended for the service of man. Targum: Which the Lord thy God prepared for all peoples under heaven; Vulgate: Quae creavit Dominus Deus tuus in ministerium cunctis gentibus. This seems better than the interpretation that God had "allotted them for worship, i.e. had permitted them [the nations] to choose them as the objects of their worship" (Keil, etc.); for:
1. There is no distinction here between the Hebrews and the other nations of the earth; "all nations" includes them as well as the heathen.
2. Though God permitted the heathen to worship the heavenly bodies, he never allotted these to men in order that they might worship them. "It noteth God's bounty in giving all people the use of those creatures, and the base mind of man to worship such things as are given for servants unto men" (Ainsworth).
But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.
Verse 20. - Iron furnace - furnace for smelting iron: "figure of burning torment in Egypt" (Herxheimer). This reference to the smelting of iron shows that, though the implements of the ancient Egyptians were mostly of copper, iron must also have been in extensive use among them. Other references to the use of iron are to be found in the Pentateuch; see Genesis 4:22; Leviticus 26:19; Numbers 35:16; Deuteronomy 3:11; Deuteronomy 8:9; Deuteronomy 19:5; Deuteronomy 27:5 (Goguet, 'Origine des Lois,' 1:172; Wilkinson, 'Ancient Egypt,' 1:169; 2:155). To be unto him a people, etc. (cf. Exodus 19:4-6; Deuteronomy 7:6).
Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance:
Verses 21-24. - Moses, after again referring to his being not permitted to enter Canaan, takes occasion anew to warn the people against forgetting the covenant of Jehovah and making any image of God, seeing he is a jealous God, and a consuming fire. Verse 21. - The Lord was angry with me... and swore, etc. Neither in Numbers 20:12, nor in Numbers 27:12-14, is there any mention of God's having sworn that Moses should not enter Canaan with the people; but it is absurd to suppose, as some have done, that the writer here has confounded this with what is recorded in Numbers 14:21, 28, - that is inconceivable; and it certainly does not follow, because no mention is made in Numbers of God's having sworn, that he did not swear on this occasion; if he confirmed with an oath his decree that the generation that rebelled at Kadesh should not enter Canaan, the probability surely is that he would do the same when he announced to Moses the decree that he should not conduct Israel into the promised laud. "It is perfectly obvious, from Deuteronomy 3:23, sqq., that all the details are not given in the historical account of the event referred "(Keil).
But I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan: but ye shall go over, and possess that good land.
Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee.
Verse 23. - A graven image, or the likeness of any thing, etc. - literally, a graven (sculptured) image of a form of all that Jehovah thy God hath commanded thee; s.c. not to make (cf. Deuteronomy 16-18 and Deuteronomy 2:37).
For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.
Verse 24. - A consuming fire. When God spoke to Israel at Sinai, his glory appeared "like devouring (consuming) fire on the top of the mount" (Exodus 24:17); and in allusion to this Moses here calls God "a consuming fire." He is so to all his enemies, and to all who disobey him; by severe inflictions he will punish, and, if they persist in their hostility and rebellion, will ultimately destroy them (comp. Deuteronomy 9:3; Isaiah 10:16-18; Amos 5:6; Zephaniah 1:18; Hebrews 12:29). A jealous God; LXX., Θεὸς ζηλωτής God has a burning zeal for his own glory; he guards it with jealous care; and he will not spare those who do him dishonor, especially those who are guilty of idolatry, whereby they "change the truth of God into a lie" (Romans 1:25; cf. Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 6:14, 15; Deuteronomy 32:16, etc.; Psalm 78:58, etc.; Nahum 1:2). He is jealous also over his people, because he loves them, and will not endure any rival in their affection and devotion.
When thou shalt beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger:
Verses 25-31. - Moses enforces the warning against idolatry, by predicting the evil that should come upon the nation through the apostasy of those who should in after times turn from Jehovah to strange gods. When they should have begotten children and children's children, and had been long in the land, i.e. when in after years a generation should arise that had not known the things they had seen, or had forgotten them (ver. 9), and the nation should then become wanton and corrupt, and fall into idolatry (cf. Deuteronomy 6:10, etc.; Deuteronomy 8:7, etc.; Deuteronomy 31:20, 21; 32:15, etc.; Hosea 13:6); then should they utterly perish from off the land of which they were now about to take possession. Verse 25. - Have remained long in the land; literally, have become old, an ancient nation, etc. To provoke him to anger; i.e. so as that he should be displeased and grieved, and roused to punish.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.
Verse 26. - I call heaven and earth to witness. Moses speaks in the name of the Lord of all, and so calls to witness the whole created universe to attest his words; the heavens and earth are witnesses for God, and when evil comes on those who transgress his Law, they declare his righteousness (Psalm 50:4, 6), in that what has befallen the sinner is only what was announced beforehand as the penalty of transgression. Soon; hastily (מַהֵר), without delay (cf. Deuteronomy 7:4, 22 ["at once," Authorized Vers.]; 9:3 ["quickly"], 12, 16). Prolong days; usually equal to have a long life (cf. Deuteronomy 5:16; Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 11:9; Deuteronomy 17:20, etc.); here it means "continue long to occupy." Only as they continued faithful to Jehovah could they continue as a people to possess the land; severed from him, they lost their title to occupy Canaan, and ceased to be his special people; as a nation they would be destroyed by being scattered among other nations. From Leviticus 26:33, etc., and Deuteronomy 28:64, it is evident that the author had in view "all the dispersions which would come upon the rebellious nation in future times, even down to the dispersion under the Romans, which continues still; so that Moses contemplated the punishment in its fullest extent" (Keil).
And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you.
Verse 27. - Few in number; literally, men of number, i.e. that may be counted; few as compared with the heathen among whom they should be dispersed (Genesis 34:30). Shall lead you. The verb here (נִהֵג, Piel of נָהַג) is frequently used in the sense of conducting gently and kindly (Isaiah 49:10; Isaiah 63:14; Psalm 48:14; Psalm 78:52); but it also means to drive, to carry off, to convey forcibly (Exodus 14:25; Genesis 31:26; Exodus 10:13; Psalm 78:26); the connection shows that it is in the latter sense it is to be taken here. Dispersed among the heathen, they, who had dishonored God by making an image to represent him, should be compelled to do service to mere dead idols, the work of men's hands, which not only could not hear or see, as God can, but also could not-perform even such animal functions as eating and smelling (Psalm 115:4-7; Jeremiah 10:3-9). These idols are called "gods" by Moses, because they were so counted by those who worshipped them; elsewhere he stigmatizes them as "abominations," things to be loathed and abhorred (שִׁקּוּצִים, Deuteronomy 27:15; Deuteronomy 29:17). As had been their sin, so should be their punishment; as they had dishonored God, so should they be themselves dishonored; as they had worshipped by an image him who is spirit and without form, they should be made to sink down to an utterly materialized worship, that of mere idols, the work of men's hands; as they had apostatized from the one holy and true God, they should be degraded to become the servants of abominations, objects of loathing and abhorrence (Jeremiah 16:13; Acts 7:42). God, however, would not utterly cast them off: if, in their misery and degradation, they should repent and turn again to him and seek him sincerely and earnestly, they should find him; for he is a merciful God, and mindful of the covenant which he swam unto their fathers (cf. Leviticus 26:39, etc.).
And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.
But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
Verse 29. - With all thy heart and with all thy soul. As true religion consists in loving the Lord with all the heart and soul, the whole inner nature (Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12), so true repentance consists in a turning from sin and all ungodliness to God, in a coming from a state of enmity to him, or of indifference to his claims, to honor, reverence, and serve him intelligently and sincerely, thinking of him aright, adoring his perfections, delighting in him u the alone good, giving to him that honor which is his due, and doing his will from the heart (cf. 2 Chronicles 15:15). When men have apostatized from God, it is often by means of "tribulation" that they are brought to a right state of mind towards him, and to a true repentance "not to be repented of;" and to effect this is the design of all the chastisements which God sends on his own people (Hebrews 12:5-11; cf. Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 29:10-13; L 4, etc.; Ezekiel 6:11, etc.).
When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
Verse 30. - In the latter days; in the afterward of days (בְּאַחֲריִת הַיָּמִים; "end," Deuteronomy 11:12)-a phase used sometimes to designate the times of the Messiah (Isaiah 2:2; Hosea 3:5; comp. Acts 2:17; 1 Peter 1:20; Hebrews 1:1; 1 John 2:18); but here, as generally, it simply indicates futurity, the time to come (cf. Genesis 49:1; Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 31:29, etc.). This, however, may include the far distant future, and so points to the time when Israel shall finally return to the Lord and be saved, through the acknowledgment of him whom they despised and rejected when he came as the Messiah promised to the fathers. As St. Paul grounds the assurance of the final redemption of Israel, as a whole, on their calling of God (Romans 11:26-29), so Moses here sees in God's covenant the ground of the ever-watchful care and grace of God to Israel, and the security of their final restoration as a nation.
(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.
Verse 31. - Will not forsake thee; literally, will not let thee loose, will not lose hold of thee, will not cast thee off (cf. Romans 11:1, etc.). "Israel will return and find God, because he loses not hold of it" (Herxheimer). "The sinner will incline to seek God only when he apprehends him as gracious and ready to hear" (Calvin).
For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?
Verses 32-40. - Still more to enforce his warning against apostasy, and urge to obedience and faithful adherence to the service of Jehovah, Moses appeals to what they had already experienced of God's grace in the choosing of them to be his people, in his speaking to them to instruct them, and in the miracles which he had wrought for their deliverance and guidance; grace such as had never been showed before to any nation, or heard of since the creation of the world, and by which those who had experienced it were laid under the deepest obligations of gratitude and duty, to love and serve him by whom it had been showed. With this appeal he closes his first address. Verse 32. - For. This connects the statement that fellows with that which precedes as its cause; it is because Jehovah is a merciful God, that the unparalleled grace showed to Israel had been displayed. The days that are past, etc., i.e. inquire from the earliest time of man's abode on the earth. From the one side of heaven unto the other; search the records of all times and places, whether any so great a thing has ever happened or been heard of.
Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?
Verse 33. - (Cf. ver.
Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?
Verse 34. - Hath God assayed, etc.; hath he ever made the attempt to come on the earth and take a nation from the midst of a nation, as he took the Hebrew people from among the Egyptians? By temptations (מַסּות, plu. of מַסָּה, a testing, a trial) - i.e. by the plagues inflicted on Pharaoh and his people, whereby they were tested and tried - by signs and by wonders. "The wonder (מופֵת) differs from the sign (אות) in this, that the former denotes the properly marvelous, the extraordinary, the uncommon, consequently the subjective apprehension of the miraculous event; the latter the significant element in the miracle, the reference to the higher, Divine design, the purpose of God in it, consequently to the objective side of the miracle (comp. Deuteronomy 13:2)" (Havernick, 'Comment. ub. Ezech,' p. 161). By war (cf. Exodus 14:14; Exodus 15:3-10); by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm (Exodus 6:6; Exodus 14:8; Deuteronomy 5:15); and by great terrors (Exodus 12:30-36), the effect on the Egyptians of the Divine inflictions (cf. Psalm 105:27-38; Psalm 106:21, 22).
Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.
Verse 35. - All this Israel was made to see, in order that they might know that Jehovah is alone God, and beside him is no other. God (הָךאלֺלהִים, the God), the one living and true God.
Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.
Verse 36. - (Cf. Exodus 20:18-22.) To indicate still further the pre-eminence of Israel, Moses emphasizes the supernatural character of the revelation God had given to them, and the awful manner of its delivery; God spake to them with audible voice, out of heaven, amidst fire, and they heard his words out of the fire. To instruct thee. The verb here used (יָסַד) means primarily to bind and thence to correct, to chasten, which meaning some interpreters would give here. But the word means also to correct by instruction, to instruct or persuade (cf. Isaiah 8:11; Isaiah 28:26; Psalm 16:7); and the connection, both with what precedes and with what follows, requires this meaning here.
And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;
Verse 37. - And because he loved thy fathers (cf. Genesis 15:5-7; Exodus 13:15-17, etc.). Inasmuch as God had loved their fathers, the patriarchs, and had chosen them their descendants to be his people, and had delivered them out of Egypt, that he might establish them in the Promised Land, having driven out thence nations mightier than they, therefore were they to consider in their heart and acknowledge that Jehovah alone is God, and that in the wide universe there is no other. The apodosis in this sentence begins at ver. 39, and not, as in the Authorized Version, at "he chose," in ver. 37, nor at "brought thee," as some suggest. Because he loved thy fathers, and chose his [i.e. Abraham's] seed after him, and brought thee, etc., - for all this thou shalt keep his statutes, etc. In his sight; literally, in his face, i.e. in his presence, by himself present with them; with special reference to Exodus 33:14, where the same word is used as here. Onkelos has here "by his Word," and the rabbins explain it of "the angel of his presence, as it is said, Isaiah 63:9" (Bechai, fol. 194 b.).
To drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day.
Verse 38. - As it is this day; as this day has shown, or as it has come to pass this day, in the overthrow, namely, of Sihon and Og.
Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.
Verse 39. - Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, etc.; literally, bring back into thy heart. "Because we cannot lay hold of spiritual things in thought instantly in a moment, God commands to make them to revert, i.e. again and again to recall them to the mind" (Bechai, fol. 194 b).
Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.
Verse 40. - Upon the earth, - rather upon the land (הָאֲדָמָה) - which the Lord thy God giveth thee forever. The comma after "thee" in the Authorized Version should be deleted. "The sum of this whole exhortation is
(1) to acknowledge and lay to heart that God is the alone God of the universe, in heaven and on earth; hence
(2) to be obedient to his laws; and so
(3) to have, as a recompense, a happy continuance in the beloved land" (Herxheimer). The conclusion of the exhortation reverts to its beginning (comp. Deuteronomy 5:40; ver. 1).
Then Moses severed three cities on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;
Verses 41-43. - APPOINTMENT OF THREE CITIES OF REFUGE BEYOND JORDAN. A short historical notice is here inserted, probably because it was during the interval between the first and second addresses of Moses that he carried into effect the Divine command to appoint cities of refuge for the manslayer (Numbers 35:9, etc.; cf. Exodus 21:13). This notice, therefore, is here in its proper place in the order of the narrative. That Moses should, just at this stage, have made this appointment was fitting and proper, seeing he had been urging on the people obedience to the Divine statutes and commandments, and had represented their conquest of the territory of Sihon and Og as an earnest of their ultimate possession of the whole land of the Amorites. By appointing these cities, Moses gave an example of obedience to God's injunction, and, at the same time, not only asserted on the part of Israel a right of proprietorship in this trans-Jordanic territory, but assumed as certain that, on the ether side of Jordan also, the same right of proprietorship should be possessed and exercised by Israel in the fulfilling of the whole law concerning cities of refuge (cf. Deuteronomy 19:1, etc.). That this section belongs properly to Numbers 35, 36, and has been interpolated here by some later hand, is a pure assumption, for which there is no ground. Verse 41. - On this side Jordan; beyond Jordan, more expressly defined as toward the sun rising, viz. on the east of that river.
That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live:
Verse 42. - Unawares; literally, in lack or want of knowing (בְּבְלִי־דַעָת), i.e. unconsciously, unintentionally; in Numbers 35:31, 15, another word (בִּשְׁגָגָה, by mistake) is used, rendered in the Authorized Version by "unwittingly;" in Joshua 20:3, both words are used. In times past; literally, yesterday, three days since, i.e. formerly, heretofore (cf. Genesis 31:2; Exodus 5:8).
Namely, Bezer in the wilderness, in the plain country, of the Reubenites; and Ramoth in Gilead, of the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, of the Manassites.
Verse 43. - Names of the cities set apart. Bezer; LXX. βοσόρ; one of the cities of the plain or table-land of the Amorites, on the east of Jordan (Deuteronomy 3:10; Joshua 20:8), afterwards a Levitical city in the tribe of Reuben (Joshua 21:36). It is probably the Bosor of I Macc. 5:36; it has not been identified with any existing locality, but the ruined heaps of Burazin to the east of Hesban, or those of Berza in the same district, may mark its site. Ramoth in Gilead; probably the same as Ramoth-mizpeh (Joshua 13:26); it lay to the northwest of Philadelphia (Rabba or Rabbath-Ammon, hod. Amman), on the Jabbok ('Onom.,' s.v." Rammoth" and "Remmoth"); a Levitical city in the tribe of Gad (Joshua 21:38), hod. Es Salt, six hours from Amman (Von Raumer, Porter). Golan in Bashan. Eusebius identifies this with Gaulon, a very large village in Batanaea, from which the surrounding region had its name, viz. Gaulonitis, hod. Jolan ('Onom.,' s.v. "Gau-lon "); it was a Levitical city in the tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 21:27; 1 Chronicles 6:71); it has not been identified.
And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel:
Verse 44. - This is the Law - the Torah - which Moses set before the children of Israel. "He meaneth that which hereafter followeth; so this belongeth to the next chapter, where the repetition of the laws begins" (Ainsworth); cf. Deuteronomy ver. 1; 6:1; Leviticus 6:9; Leviticus 7:1, etc.
These are the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which Moses spake unto the children of Israel, after they came forth out of Egypt,
Verse 45. - Testimonies; ordinances attested and confirmed by God; the word used here (עֵדות, plu. of עֵדַה) occurs only in Deuteronomy (here and Deuteronomy 6:17, 20) and in the Psalms. Statutes and judgments (cf. Deuteronomy 4:1). After they came forth out of Egypt; "i.e. not immediately after their exit, But, as ver. 46 shows, when they were already beyond Jordan" (Herxheimer); literally, in their coming out: i.e. during the process of their passing from Egypt to Canaan; more exactly defined by what follows.
On this side Jordan, in the valley over against Bethpeor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon, whom Moses and the children of Israel smote, after they were come forth out of Egypt:
Verse 46. - In the valley (cf. Deuteronomy 3:29). In the land of Sihon; on ground already captured and possessed by Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 2:32-36; Deuteronomy 3:1-17; ver. 48; cf. Deuteronomy 3:9, 12-17).
And they possessed his land, and the land of Og king of Bashan, two kings of the Amorites, which were on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;
From Aroer, which is by the bank of the river Arnon, even unto mount Sion, which is Hermon,
And all the plain on this side Jordan eastward, even unto the sea of the plain, under the springs of Pisgah.
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