Deuteronomy 31:22
So that very day Moses wrote down this song and taught it to the Israelites.
JoshuaJ. Orr Deuteronomy 31:3-8, 23
The Authorship of the BookJ. Orr Deuteronomy 31:9, 24-26
The Written WordJ. Orr Deuteronomy 31:9, 24-27
The Honor Appertaining to God's LawD. Davies Deuteronomy 31:9-13, 24-29
The Lord's Charge to Moses and JoshuaR.M. Edgar Deuteronomy 31:14-23
The Official Investiture of JoshuaD. Davies Deuteronomy 31:14, 15, 23
The Last Precaution Against IdolatryD. Davies Deuteronomy 31:16-22, 29
God's Foresight of Israel's DeclensionJ. Orr Deuteronomy 31:16-22, 28-30
Farewell Song of MosesA. H. Drysdale, M. A.Deuteronomy 31:22-30
The Dying Song of MosesJ. M. Gibson, D. D.Deuteronomy 31:22-30
The Farewell OdeW. M. Taylor, D. D.Deuteronomy 31:22-30
The Last SongJ. Parker, D. D.Deuteronomy 31:22-30

We learn -

I. THAT THE FUTURE IS PERFECTLY UNVEILED TO GOD. God claims this power as one of his prerogatives (Isaiah 41:22; Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:25, 26; Isaiah 45:20, 21). And no one can question but that these predictions have been strikingly fulfilled. The people did corrupt themselves and turn aside, and evil did befall them in the latter days (ver. 29).

II. THAT THE PLAINEST WARNINGS ARE FREQUENTLY DISREGARDED. Israel was under no government of fate. Had the people repented, they would have been forgiven. The predictions are cast in absolute form, only because God saw that warning would not be taken. He would only too gladly have revoked his threatenings, had Israel, roused to alarm, turned from its evil (cf. the case of Nineveh). This, however, it did not do, but, with these woe-laden prophecies spread before it, rushed madly on, as if eager to fulfill them. How like sinners still. The plainest declarations, the most explicit warnings, the direst threatenings, are as little recked of as if no Word of God were in existence. Strange that God's Word should be so disregarded, and yet profession so often made of believing in it (cf. Jeremiah 36.)!

III. THAT GOD'S WORD HAS ITS USES EVEN THOUGH MEN PROVE DISOBEDIENT. It is to be spoken to them and taught them, "whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear' (Ezekiel 2:7). It tells them the truth. It shows them their duty. It warns them of the consequences of disobedience. It upholds a witness for God in their apostasy (ver. 19). It renders them inexcusable. A solemn responsibility thus attaches to us in the possession of God's Word.

IV. THAT A TIME WILL COME WHEN THE SINNER WILL BE FORCED TO CONFESS THAT GOD'S WORDS AGAINST HIM HAVE ALL BECOME TRUE. (Ver. 17.) Only that time may come too late (ver. 18). "Missing God is not true repentance" (Keil). - J.O.

Moses therefore wrote this song.
The old man whom we have known so long dies singing. All men should die so; all men may so die; God is not sparing in His gift of song or privilege of music; music was in His purpose long before speech; all things are to end in a great song. There are songs without words; there is singing without articulate and audible voice: we may sing with the spirit and with the understanding. Blessed are they who, before going up to Nebo to die, sing in the valley, and, so to say, pass out of sight with their singing robes around them; to this end we are invited in Christ, and in Christ this is the only possible end — namely, triumph, song; the rapture of expectancy and, the inspiration of hope. The song was to be a "witness" for God "against" the children of Israel — say, rather, as between Himself and the children of Israel. Witness does not always imply accusation; it quite as frequently implies confirmation, approval. It embodies in itself a sure testimony, strong because of its indisputableness. Moses wrote the song "the same day." We speak of our efforts of genius and the time required for the elaboration of this or that attempt to serve the sanctuary; but if you can write a song at all you can write it at once. Herein the great French poet's dictum is true: said one to Victor Hugo, "Is it not difficult to write, epic poetry?" "No," said the great genius of his day — "no, easy or impossible." What are the characteristics of a great song?

1. The first most noticeable characteristic of this song is that it is intensely theological. The keyword is GOD — in His majesty, in His compassion, in His righteousness, in His tears — God is a species of incarnation thousands of years before the event of Bethlehem.

2. Another characteristic of the song is its broad human history. Read the thirty-second chapter from end to end, and you will find it a record of historical events. Facts are the pedestals on which we set sculptured music. We must know our own history if we would know the highest religious arguments, and apply with unquestionable and beneficent skill great Christian appeals. The witness must be in ourselves: we must know, and taste, and feel, and handle of the Word of Life, and live upon it, returning to it as hunger returns to bread and thirst flies swiftly to sparkling fountains. When you are doubtful as to religious mysteries, read your own personal record: when metaphysics are too high or too deep, peruse facts, put the pieces of your lives together, see how they become a shape — a house not made with hands, a temple fashioned in heaven. The days are not to be detached from one another, they are to be linked on and held in all the symbolism and reality of their unity.

3. Hence, another characteristic of the song is its record of providence. God found Jacob "in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about," etc.; and then comes all the detail of providential care and love, and all the sublime appeal arising out of the undisputed goodness of God. We do not need providence to be proved by wordy argument, for we ourselves are living illustrations of God's nearness, and greatness, and love. We must never give up this arm of our panoply; this weapon is a weapon strong and keen; we must in the use of it testify what we have seen and known, and we must magnify God by facts that have occurred within the limits of our own observation and experience. Every Christian man is a miracle; every Christian life is a Bible; every devout experience is a proof of the possibility of inspiration.

4. The song is also accusatory: "Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked; thou art waxen fat," etc. When a song accuses, how terrific is the indictment! Who expects a song to double back upon the singer and accuse him of ingratitude, presumption, or forgetfulness? Our hymns are witnesses for us and against us; our very music has some plain things to tell us; even in song we do not escape justice. The songs of the Bible are not mere sentiments melodised and turned into a species of aesthetic luxury: Bible songs are Bible theology, Bible statutes, Bible precepts, Divine interventions and providences.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

A most noticeable and outstanding feature of this great song is its series of pictures for the popular imagination, and its long array of vivid figures, to school and chasten a stiff-necked people. There is nothing hero of abstract reasoning or cold analysis. Everything is presented in concrete form as to a nation still in its spiritual childhood. This is the educative song of Israel. In tone it is both tender and terrifying. Its imagery, sometimes winning, sometimes startling, lends itself to warmest expostulations and appeals. How graphic and memorable are its emblems! The Divine words are at the outset likened to the gentle rain and dew; God Himself is the Rock, for stability and faithfulness; His training of Israel, like the eagle with its fledglings; the people, an intractable and stubborn ox resentful of the yoke; their apostate conduct, that of a faithless wife; the Divine love glowing and gleaming about them like the fire of spousal jealousy, and His indignation like an armed host — these, and other figures follow in quick succession, many of them derived from Israel's wilderness experiences. For it is the poetry of the desert that dominates the song. But while the imagery is derived from the past, the song itself reaches out to the future. It is, in fact, a prophetic outline of Jewish history, designed to lodge in the nation's heart the solemn truth thatSorrow tracketh wrong, As echo follows song.This is the primitive or moral prophecy, the type and canon of all future prophetic work. as Moses first song was the type of all that was to be spiritually poetic.

(A. H. Drysdale, M. A.)

For poetic sublimity, for devout piety, for holy expostulation, and for solemn warning, this farewell ode has never been surpassed, and it furnishes an incidental proof of the fact that, unlike most other men, Moses continued, to the very end of his long life, to grow in those qualities of imagination and fiery enthusiasm which are usually regarded as the special characteristics of youth. There is in it a wondrous combination of the strength of manhood with the experience of old age, and of the imaginative force of youth with the wisdom which increasing years supply. Nor is this all: there is a marvellous interblending of the various relationships in which Moses stood at once to God and to the people. He praises Jehovah with the fervour of a seraph, and he pleads with the people with the tenderness of a father. He deals with national subjects in the spirit of a statesman, and warns of coming doom with the sternness of a prophet. Now the strains are soft and low, as if they came from the cords of an AEolian harp stirred by the breeze of a gentle summer eve; anon they are loud and stormful, as if some gust of passionate intensity had come sweeping over his spirit; now they are luminous with the recollection of God's mercies, and again they are lowering, as if laden with the electric burden of God's coming wrath. Of course, in all he spoke as he was moved by the Holy Ghost; but, as the Spirit used not the vocal organs only, but the soul of the man, this ode conclusively proves that if Moses had not been the grandest lawgiver and statesman of his nation, and even of the world, be might have been one of the noblest poets. It shows, too, that there was in him the exceedingly rare alliance of a mind which was alive to the importance of the minutest details of legislation, with a soul whose wings could soar into the loftiest regions of thought and feeling. With undimmed eye he looked on more trying light than that of the common sunshine, and with unabated force he ascended, even at the age of six-score years, a more ethereal height than that of Pisgah; so that, if this ode had been found elsewhere than in the Bible, mere literary critics would have risen into ecstasies over its exquisite manifestation of beauty in the lap of terror.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The subject of the song is Jehovah and His people, and the substance of it is given in Deuteronomy 32:3-6. The faithfulness of Jehovah, the God of truth, the Rock of salvation, and the unfaithfulness of His fickle and foolish people — such are clearly to be the main ideas of the song. In the after developments there are three things very powerfully set forth.

I. WHAT ISRAEL OWES TO GOD (vers. 7-14). Here the great things which God had done for them are brought out in a few bold delineations, mingling strength and pathos in a marvellous degree. He shows how from the beginning God had set His regardful eyes upon them, how He had guided the history of all other nations in a manner subservient to their welfare, making them and their development the historic centre of the ancient world; how He had found them poor, helpless wanderers in the wilderness, and formed them into a people there — His own people, whom He had fed and led and trained as a tender mother might — and at last brought into the goodly land He had promised them, exalting them high among the nations of the earth, and giving them richly all things to enjoy.

II. HOW WILL ISRAEL PAY THE DEBT? To this question the prophetic song gives a sad answer. Israel will pay her debt of gratitude to God by base ingratitude, beginning with self-indulgence, and going on to neglect of Jehovah and the worship of strange gods. Such is the sad prophetic picture in verses 15-18. Thus Israel requites God.

III. HOW WILL GOD REQUITE ISRAEL? Almost all that remains of the song is taken up with the fearful answer to this question, setting forth how God takes notice of it first, and is filled with indignation; how He hides His face and leaves His people to themselves and to the bitter fruits of their ingratitude; how He takes their precious privileges from them, and gives them to those who till then had been "no people"; how, finally, He lets loose on them all the fury of His vengeance, and utterly destroys their place and nation. All this we find realised in history. The entire history of the founding of the Christian Church, especially in the light in which it is put by the great apostle, who again and again quotes the words of this song in connection with the calling of the Gentiles, is a fulfilment of these warning words of Moses. All this is very dark; but it is dark only to those who "forsake God, and lightly esteem the Rock of their salvation" (ver. 15). The very faithfulness of God to His most terrible threatenings is an additional reason why those who believe in Him should exercise most unshaken confidence in Him. Then, too, if you examine the song throughout, you will find it full of evidence of the goodness and long-suffering of the Lord. Though there is inflexible justice, both in the prophecy itself and in its fulfilment, yet throughout all it is evident that He speaks and acts, "who delighteth not in the death of him that dieth"; who "willeth not that any should perish, but that all should turn unto him and live We have looked at this song as a witness against Israel. This was doubtless its original design; but its scope is far wider. This song was written for a witness against all who enjoy Israel's privileges and follow Israel's sins. Even among the Gentiles, though all are alike welcome, and exclusive privileges are now done away entirely in Christ Jesus, there have been and are those who are far in advance of others in respect to the advantages they enjoy. First came the Greek and Latin races, united in the mighty Roman Empire. To them first, among the Gentiles, the Gospel was preached; and by them first, as a nation and race, was the Gospel received. Three hundred years had not passed away from the death of "Jesus of Nazareth" till the faith of "that same Jesus" was the established religion of the Roman Empire; and not long thereafter the privileges of the Gospel were within reach of almost the whole of that vast population. What a change from the martyr days, the days of hiding in the catacombs! Was it not as true of the Christians of the Roman Empire as it was of ancient Israel, that God had "found them in a desert land," had "led them about," had "kept them as the apple of His eye," and had at last "made them ride upon the high places of the earth," and given them to "eat the increase of the fields"? Well, how did the favoured people then pay their debt of gratitude? Was it not the old story over again? "Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked." They "waxed fat, grew thick, were covered with fatness; then they forsook God, and lightly esteemed the Rock of their salvation." They became self-indulgent, "earthly, sensual, devilish." Corruption of manners and corruption of doctrine set in "like a flood;" they turned to "strange gods"; they worshipped saints and relics, and bowed down to images; they adored the consecrated wafer. The very light that was in them became darkness, and "how great was that darkness!" And as, before, the heritage of truth and blessing had passed from the Jew to the Gentile, so now it passed from the Roman to the Teuton. These Teutonic races of the north had been "no people" in the eyes of the empire of Rome. They had been known only as barbarians, both in the Greek and Latin tongues. Yet these "no people," these "barbarians," who had fallen one by one before the all-conquering might of Rome, became the very people who fell heirs to the legacy of Divine truth, and the great blessings which accompany its possession. For, though the first reformation seemed for a time to work among the Latin races also, it was only for a time; the hold of corruption was too firm for it to last, and they all relapsed into the darkness from which at first they had seemed ready to emerge, while among the Germanic races the light of truth continued to shine and to diffuse itself over a widening area. And now it is the Teutonic races who are in the position of Israel of old, and principally those who speak the English language. Who can tell what we who speak the English tongue owe to Jehovah, "the Rock of our salvation"? Where did He "find" us? Was it not "in a desert land" indeed — a very howling wilderness? See what the early Britons were when first they heard Jehovah's name. And how has the Lord "led" them since then! How tenderly did He "bear" our fathers on, teaching them by degrees the use of that liberty which has grown with Britain's growth, and strengthened with her strength. And how has He now "made us to ride upon the high places of the earth," and given "us the increase of the fields"! For is it not a patent fact that the destinies of the world are at this moment, under God, swayed by those who speak our mother tongue, while the great mass of the world's wealth is ill their hands? And all this we owe to Him who is "Head over all things." Not only our rich spiritual privileges, but even our temporal greatness, our and position and power and wealth in the world, we owe to Jehovah, God of Israel, "the Rock of our salvation." Well, how do we "requite the Lord"? Is it not very much in the old way? Is not wealth breeding self-indulgence and luxury; and are not these leading us, as a people, to forget God, and "lightly to esteem the Rock of our salvation"? Are there not many "strange gods" among us: Mammon, Fashion, Pleasure? And what of this sad revival of Middle-Age superstition? Has not the sign of Rome been written with a pen of iron and the point of a diamond? And why this haste to be partakers again of her sin and of her plagues? Oh, is not this song a witness against us too? God is long-suffering indeed, and it is well that He is, or where should we English-speaking people be today? But His long-suffering has a limit, as is evident from the past.

(J. M. Gibson, D. D.)

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