Deuteronomy 32 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Deuteronomy 32
Pulpit Commentary
Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
Verse 1. - Heaven and earth are summoned to hearken to his words, both because of their importance, and because heaven and earth were interested, so to speak, as witnesses of the manifestation of God's righteousness and faithfulness about to be celebrated (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:28, 29; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 2:12; Jeremiah 22:29).
My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass:
Verse 2. - My doctrine shall drop as the rain. The Hebrew verb here and in Deuteronomy 33:28 is properly rendered by" drop;" it expresses the gentle falling of a genial shower or the soft distillation of dew. The clause is best taken imperatively, as it is by the LXX., the Vulgate, and Onkelos: Let my doctrine drop as the rain, let my speech distil, etc. The point of comparison here is not the quickening, fructifying, vivifying influence of the rain and dew, so much as the effective force of these agents as sent from heaven to produce results. So might his doctrine come with power into the minds of his hearers. Doctrine (לֶקַה from לָקַח to take); that which takes one (Proverbs 7:21, "fair speech," By which one is captivated), or which one takes or receives, viz. instruction (Proverbs 4:2; Isaiah 29:24). Small rain; gentle showers, such as conduce to the growing of herbs. The Hebrew word (שְׂעִידִים) primarily means hairs, and is here used of rain coming down in thin streams like hair. Showers; heavy rain (רִבִיבִים from רָבַב, to be much or many, equal to multitude of drops).
Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
Verse 3. - I will publish the name of the Lord; literally, I will call, i.e. proclaim, or celebrate, etc. Ascribe ye greatness unto our God. The hearers of the song are summoned to join in the celebration of the Divine majesty. The word rendered" greatness" occurs only in this book (Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 5:21; Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 11:2), and in Psalm 150:2. It is the greatness of God as the Almighty that is here celebrated.
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
Verses 4, 5. - He is the Rock, his work is perfect; rather, The Rock! his work is perfect, i.e. blameless, without fault. God is called "the Rock" (הַצוּר), as the unchangeable Refuge and Stronghold of his people, by which they are sustained, and to which they can resort for defense and protection at all times. The epithet is applied to God four times besides in this song (vers. 15, 18, 30, 31); it occurs also frequently in the Psalms (cf. Psalm 19:14; Psalm 28:1; Psalm 31:2, 3; Psalm 62:2, 7; etc.). The Hebrew word, tsur, gut, or zur, appears in several proper names of the Mosaic period, as e.g., Pedahzur, "Rock delivers" (Numbers 1:10), a name of the same import as Pedahel, "God delivers" (Numbers 34:28); Elizur, "God is a Rock" (Numbers 1:5); Zuriel (Numbers 3:35) and Zurishaddai, "the Almighty is Rock" (Numbers 1:6; Numbers 2:12). "Jehovah," says Baumgarten, "is here called Rock, without any qualification, the reason is that he is the only true rock, and all the strength and firmness of earth's stones is but an ectype of his unchangeable faithfulness and rectitude. If one cleaves to the dualism of spirit and nature, and regards the figure as a merely subjective, arbitrary union of the two, such an expression is simply unintelligible; but if we would understand Scripture and religious speech, we must with all earnestness accustom ourselves to recognize the spiritual ground in nature, and apprehend this in the Biblical expression (comp. Steffens' 'Religionsphilosophie,' 1. s. 101, 102)." It is remarkable that none of the ancient versions have retained this epithet here. The LXX. have Θεὸς: the Vulgate, Dens ("Dei opera"); the Targum of Onkelos, תַּקִיפָא, "Mighty;" while the Peshito has simply the pronoun "his" appended to "works," . For all his ways are judgment; i.e. accordant with rectitude (cf. Psalm 145:17). A God of truth; rather, of faithfulness (אְמֶוּנָת, from אָמַן, to stay, or be stayed, to be firm). They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. Of this difficult passage the following seems the best construction and rendering: - A perverse and crooked generation not his children, [but] their spot - has become corrupt towards him. The subject of the verb at the beginning of the verse is the "perverse and crooked generation," at the end of it, and between the verb and its subject there is interjected parenthetically the clause, "not his children, but their spot." Spot is here used in a moral sense, as in Job 11:15; Job 31:7; Proverbs 9:7. These corrupt persons claimed to be children of God, but they were not; they were rather a stain and a reproach to them (cf. 2 Peter 2:13; Isaiah 1:4). The rendering above given is substantially that of De Wette, Knobel, Keil, and Herxheimer, by all of whom the "perverse generation "is regarded as the subject of the sentence. This is the view adopted also in the 'Speaker's Commentary.' Some would make "God" the subject, and render, "He hath corrupted to him, or to himself" (margin, Authorized Version; Ibn Ezra, etc.). Others take "spot" as the subject, thus: "Their spot or blemish hath corrupted before him children not his" (Lowth, Dathe); but such renderings are forced, and proceed on constructions of the text which are illegitimate. Donaldson ('Jashar,' pp. 186, 223, edit. See.), following Lowth's construction, appeals to בָּנִים לא אֵמֻן בָּם (ver. 20) as a similar inversion. But the two cases are not parallel. To make them so, we must have here בָנָיו לא מוּם בָּם, "his children in whom is no spot." Ewald takes מוּמָה as the noun here, instead of מוּם, and tracing it to the Syriac , juravit, renders "to him they, his not sons, have corrupted their oath," i.e. have broken it; and this Furst approves. But the phrase, "to corrupt an oath" is unexampled in the Old Testament, and there is no ground for changing the noun. The ancient versions vary considerably here: LXX., ἡμάρτοσαν οὐκ αὐτῷ τέκνα μωμητά: Aq., διέφθειραν αὐτῷ οὐκ δι υἱοὶ αὐτου: Sym., διέφθειραν πρὸς αὔτον οὐχ οἱυἱοι τὸ σύνολον: Vulgate, peccaverunt ei et non filii ejus in sordibus; Ver. Itala., peeca verunt non ei filii maculati; Syriac, "They corrupted but not him, children of defilement." These various renderings indicate that probably the text is and has long been corrupt. Some of the older English versions are worth noting on this verse. Rogers [Matthew], "The frowarde and overthwart generation hath marred them selves to himward, and are not his sonnes for their deformitie's sake;" Bishop's Bible, "Frowardly have they done agaynst him by their vices, not being his own children, but a wicked and froward generation;" Geneva Version, "They have corrupted themselves towards him by their vice, not being his children, but a froward and crooked generation."
They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.
Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?
Verses 6, 7. - Instead of gratefully acknowledging the Divine beneficence, and dutifully obeying the Divine will, Israel had perversely and foolishly requited the Lord for all his benefits, by apostasy from him. Do ye thus requite? The verb here signifies primarily to do to any one either good or evil, whether in return for what he has done or not (cf. Genesis 1:15; 1 Samuel 24:18; Proverbs 3:30); then, as a secondary meaning, to reward, repay, requite, as here and Psalm 18:21. To bring more forcibly to their view the ingratitude and folly of their conduct, Moses dwells upon what God was and had been to the nation: their Father, in that he had, in his love, chosen, them to be his people (cf. Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:7; Malachi 2:10); their Purchaser, who had acquired possession of them by delivering them out of Egypt (cf. Psalm 74:2); their Maker, who had constituted them a nation; and their Establisher, by whom they had been conducted through the wilderness and settled in Canaan. Days of old; the times of Israel's deliverance from bondage, and the times during which successive generations had lived and experienced the goodness of the Lord. The form of the word rendered "days" is poetical, and is found only here and in Psalm 90:15, which is also ascribed to Moses. The years of many generations; literally, years of generation and generation; "aetatum singularum annos" (Rosenmüller).
Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.
When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.
Verses 8, 9. - From the very beginning, when God first allotted to the nations a place and a heritage, he had respect in his arrangements to the sons of Israel, who were his portion, and had as it were kept their interest in view in all that he appointed and ordered. According to the number of the children of Israel. When the Most High portioned out to the nations the heritage of each, he reserved for Israel, as the people of his choice, an inheritance proportioned to its numbers. The LXX. has "according to the number of the angels of God," an arbitrary departure from the original text, in accommodation, probably, to the later Jewish notion of each nation having its guardian angel. The Lord's portion is his people (cf. Exodus 15:16; Exodus 19:5; 1 Samuel 10:1; Psalm 78:71). The lot of his inheritance; literally, the cord, etc., the allusion being to the measuring of land by a cord, equivalent to the portion by measure which Jehovah allotted to himself as his inheritance (cf. Psalm 16:6).
For the LORD'S portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.
He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
Verse 10. - God's fatherly care of Israel. In the desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; literally, in the land of the desert, in the waste (the formless waste; the word used is that rendered, Genesis 1:2, "without form"), the howling of the wilderness. "Israel is figuratively represented as a man without food or water, and surrounded by howling, ferocious beasts, and who must needs have perished had not God found him and rescued him" (Herxheimer). The apple of his eye; literally, the mannikin (אִישׁון) of his eye, the pupil; so called because in it, as in a mirror, a person sees his own image reflected in miniature (Gesenius), or because, being the tenderest part of the eye, it is guarded as one would a babe (cf. Psalm 17:8; Proverbs 7:2; Zechariah 2:12). By Delitzsch and others this explanation of the word is rejected as not philologically justified, there being no evidence that the termination ון had a diminutive force; and as not in keeping with the earnestness of the passages in which this word occurs. They prefer the explanation man image to mannikin. Anyhow, the use of the word here must be taken as indicating that Israel is ever in the eye of the Lord, the object of his constant and tenderest care.
As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:
Verse 11. - God's treatment of his people is compared to that of an eagle towards its young (cf. Exodus 19:4). In the Authorized Version, the apodosis of the sentence is made to begin at ver. 12, and ver. 11 is wholly understood of the eagle and its young. To this arrangement it has been objected that it overlooks the fact that the suffixes to the verbs "taketh" and "beareth" are singulars, and are to be understood consequently, not of the eaglets, but of Israel. It has, therefore, been proposed to render the passage thus: As an eagle which stirreth up its nest, fluttereth over its young, he spread out his wings, took him up, and carried him on his pinions. The Lord alone did lead him, etc. The comparison is thus made to pass into a metaphorical representation of the Lord's dealing with Israel. One feels that there is something violent in this, for whilst God's care for Israel might be fittingly compared to that of an eagle towards her young, it is less fit to speak of God himself as if he were an eagle with wings which he spread abroad and on which he bare Israel. The rendering in the Authorized Version is on this account to be preferred, if it can be grammatically vindicated. And this it may on the ground that the suffixes may be understood of the "nest" as containing the young ("continens pro contento," a common rhetorical trope in Scripture; see Glass., 'Philippians Sac.,' p. 686; cf. Virgil, 'AEneid,' 12:475, "nidisque loquacibus escam"); or the young may be referred to individually, "taketh it, beareth it," i.e. each of them; or, if the nest be understood, the whole body of them as therein contained. Stirreth up her [its] nest i.e. its nestlings; provocans ad volandum pullos suos, Vulgate. This is the explanation usually given of the initial clause of this verse; but its accuracy has been questioned, Furst would render the verb by "watchesover; "but though הֵעִיר, as the Hiph. of עוּר, to watch, may have this meaning, it is undoubtedly used generally in the sense of rousing, exciting, stirring up. Knobel retains this meaning, but understands the clause of the exciting of the nestlings by the parent bird coming to them with food. This is certainly more in keeping with what follows; for when the eagle nestles or broods over her young, she does not excite them to fly. Fluttereth over her young; rather, broods over, nestles, or cherishes (יְרַחֵפ). Spreadeth abroad her wings, etc. "I once saw a very interesting sight above one of the crags of Ben Nevis, as I was going in pursuit of black game. Two parent eagles were teaching their offspring, two young birds, the maneuvers of flight. They began by rising from the top of a mountain, in the eye of the sun; - it was about midday, and bright for this climate. They at first made small circles, and the young imitated them; they paused on their wings, waiting till they had made their first flight, holding them on their expanded wings when they appeared exhausted, and then took a second and larger gyration, always rising towards the sun, and enlarging their circle of flight, so as to make a gradually ascending spiral" (Davy, 'Salinertia;' see also Bochart, 'Hierozoicon,' 2:181). The general reference is to God's fostering care of Israel, and especially his dealing with them when "he suffered their manners in the wilderness" (Acts 13:18), disciplined them, and trained them for what they were appointed to do.
So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
Verse 12. - The Lord alone did lead him (cf. Exodus 13:21; Exodus 15:13). With him; i.e. along with Jehovah, as aiding him.
He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock;
Verse 13. - He made him ride on the high places of the earth. To ride over or drive over the heights of a country is figuratively to subjugate and take possession of that country (cf. Deuteronomy 33:29; Isaiah 58:14). Israel, having subjugated Canaan, could eat of its produce, the increase of the fields, as his own. Honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock. Canaan abounded in wild bees, which had their hives in crevices of the rock, and in olive trees, which grew on a rocky soil; as is still the case in Palestine.
Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.
Verse 14. - Butter of kine. The Hebrew word (חֶמְאָה) here used designates milk in a solid or semi-solid state, as thick cream, curd, or butter. As distinguished from this is the milk of sheep; where the word used (חָלָב) properly denotes fresh milk, milk in a fluid state, and with all its richness (חֶלֶב, fatness) in it (cf. Genesis 18:8; Isaiah 7:22). Fat of lambs; lambs of the best, "fat" being a figurative expression for the best (Numbers 18:12). Rams of the breed of Bashan; literally, rams, sons of Bashan; i.e. reared in Bashan, a district famous for its cattle. With the fat of kidneys of wheat; with the kidney-fat of wheat; i.e. the richest fat, the best and most nutritious wheat. And thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape. The blood of the grape is the expressed juice of the grape, which, being red, is compared to blood. The rendering "pure" here is not inapt. The original word (חֶמֶר, from חָמַר, to boil up, to foam, to rise in bubbles) describes this juice as it appears when pressed into a vessel, when the surface of the liquid is covered with froth or foam. There is no ground for the explanation "fery wine" (Keil); wine in such a state was never among the Hebrews counted a blessing. That they had and used fermented wine is certain; but what they specially esteemed as a luxury was the pure unadulterated juice of the grape freshly pressed out and drunk with the foam on it.
But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
Verses 15-18. - Israel's ungrateful return for the Lord's benefits. Verse 15. - Jeshurun. This name, formed from יָשַׂר, righteous, designates Israel as chosen to be a righteous nation; and in the use of it here lies the keenest reproach of apostate Israel, as fallen into a state the opposite of that to which it was destined. "By using the name righteous in place of Israel, Moses ironically censures those who had swerved from rectitude; by recalling to memory with what dignity they had been endowed, he the more sharply rebukes the perfidy which was their crime" (Calvin). This name appears also in Deuteronomy 33:5, 26, and in Isaiah 44:2; but in these places without any implied censure. By some the word is regarded as a diminutive from יָשׂוּר, the same as יָשָׂר, in the sense of rectulus, justulus, "the good little people" (Gesenius); others as a diminutive from XXX, Israel, as a sort of term of endearment (Grotius). But the latter of these derivations is impossible; and as to the former, there lacks evidence of the termination un having a diminutive significance in Hebrew. Besides, neither here nor in Deuteronomy 33:5 would a term of endearment be suitable. Waxed fat, and kicked (cf. Deuteronomy 6:11; Deuteronomy 8:10; Deuteronomy 31:20). The allusion is to an ox that had grown fat through good feeding, and had become unmanageable in consequence (cf. 1 Samuel 2:26: Hosea 10:4). Lightly esteemed. The Hebrew is strongly expressive here: Thou hast treated as a fool (נִבֵּל, from נָבַל to be foolish (cf. Micah 7:6).
They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger.
Verse 16. - They provoked him to jealousy. God had bound Israel to himself as by the marriage bond, and they by their unfaithfulness had incited him to jealousy (cf. Deuteronomy 31:16; Exodus 34:15; Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 1, etc.). Strange gods (cf. Jeremiah 2:25; Jeremiah 3:13).
They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.
Verse 17. - Devils; shedim, a word which occurs only here and Psalm 106:37. It stands connected with the verb שׁוּד, to rule, and means primarily "lords." The LXX. render by δαιμόνια, demons. In Assyrian it is said to be a name for demigods. Not to God; rather, to a not God, a composite term in apposition to shedim; the meaning is rightly given in the margin of the Authorized Version, "which were not God." To new gods that came newly up. The word rendered by "newly" (קָרוב) properly means "near;" it is an adjective both of place and of time; here it is the latter, equal to of a near time, recently - gods recently invented or discovered.
Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.
Verse 18. - Moses here returns to the thought of ver. 15, for the purpose of expressing it with greater force, and also of leading on to the description he is about to give of the Lord's acts towards the nation who had so revolted from him. Thou art unmindful; LXX., ἐγκατέλιπες: Vulgate, dereliquisti. The Hebrew word שָׁיָה occurs only here, and the meaning is doubtful. From the rendering of the versions, it would seem to be allied to the Arabic , saha, oblitus est. That formed thee; literally, that brought thee forth or caused thee to be born; "qui te eduxit ex utero materno" (Jarchi. Cf. for the use of the verb, Psalm 29:9). In the Samaritan Codex, מהלל, "who hath glorified or praised thee," is the reading, instead of מחלל; and this the Syriac also expresses. The other versions, however, support the Masoretic reading.
And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters.
Verses 19-33. - Because of their rebellion. God would cast them off and visit them with terrible calamities. Verse 19. - When the Lord saw how they had departed from him to serve idols, he abhorred (rather, spurned or rejected) them in consequence of the provocation which their unworthy conduct had given him.
And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.
Verse 20. - God himself comes forth to announce his resolution to withdraw his favor from them, and to inflict chastisement upon them; he would withdraw his protecting care of them, and see how they would fare without that; and he would also send on them the tokens of his displeasure. A very froward generation, etc.; literally, a generation of perversities, an utterly perverse and faithless race.
They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
Verse 21. - (Cf. Deuteronomy 5:16.) Because they had moved God to jealousy and provoked him to anger by their vanities, their nothingnesses, mere vapors and empty exhalations (הִבְלָים; cf. Jeremiah 10:6; John 2:8; 1 Corinthians 8:4); as they had forsaken him for a no-God, he would send retribution on them by adopting as his a no-people, and giving to a foolish nation, i.e. a nation not before possessed of that true wisdom the beginning of which is the fear of the Lord, the privileges and blessings which Israel had forfeited by their apostasy. By "a no-people" is not to be understood a savage tribe not yet formed into a community, but a people without God, and not recognized by him as in covenant union with him (cf. Romans 10:19; Ephesians 2:12; 1 Peter 2:10).
For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.
Verse 22. - (Cf. Jeremiah 15:14; Jeremiah 17:4; Lamentations 4:11.) The lowest hell; the lowest sheol, the uttermost depth of the under-world. The Hebrew sheol (שְׁאול) answering to the Greek ἅδης, by which it is usually rendered by the LXX., is a general designation of the unseen state, the place of the dead. By some the word is derived from שָׁאַל, to ask, because sheol is ever asking, is insatiable (Proverbs 30:16); but more probably it is from a root signifying to excavate, to hollow, and, like the German holle, means primarily a hollow place or cavern. The Divine wrath kindles a consuming fire, that burns down to the lowest depths - to the deepest part of sheol - consumes the earth's produce, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. This does not refer to any particular judgment that was to befall the national Israel, but is a general description of the effects of the Divine wrath when that is poured forth in judgments on men.
I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them.
Verse 23. - I will spend mine arrows upon them; I will inflict on them so many calamities that none shall remain. The evils sent on men by God are represented as arrows shot on them from above. (Cf. ver. 42; Job 6:4; Psalm 7:13; Psalm 38:2; Psalm 45:5; Psalm 58:7; Zechariah 9:14; Homer, 'Iliad,' 1:45, etc.)
They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.
Verses 24, 25. - The evils threatened are famine, pestilence, plague, wild beasts, poisonous reptiles, and war. They shall be burnt with hunger, etc.; render: Sucked out by hunger, consumed with pestilential heat, and bitter plague; I will send against them the tooth of beasts and the poison of things that crawl in the dust. When hunger, pestilence, and contagious disease had wasted and exhausted them, then God would send on them wild beasts and poisonous reptiles. Shall be burnt. The Hebrew word occurs only here; it is a verbal adjective, meaning, literally, sucked out, i.e. utterly exhausted; LXX., τηκομένοι λιμῷ. Tooth of beasts and poison of serpents; poetical for ravenous and poisonous animals ¢cf. Leviticus 26:22). Shall destroy; literally, shall make childless, shall bereave, viz. the land which is thought of as a mother whose children were destroyed. The verb is here sensu prsegnanti, shall bereave by destroying, etc. (cf. 1 Samuel 15:23; Lamentations 1:20; Jeremiah 18:21).
The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.
I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men:
Verses 26, 27. - Israel's desert was to be utterly destroyed, but God refrained from this for his own Name's sake. I said, I would scatter them into corners; rather, I should say, I trill blow them away, i.e. disperse them as by a mighty wind. The verb here is the Hiph, of פָאָה, to breathe, to blow, and is found only here. The rabbins make it a denominative from פֵאָה, a corner, and this the Authorized Version follows; others trace it to an Arabic root, פאא, amputavit, excidit, and render, "will cut them off." The idea intended to be conveyed is obviously that of entire destruction, and this is not satisfied by the representation of their being scared or driven into corners. Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy. Various renderings and interpretations of this passage have been given.

1. Were it not that I feared the provocation of the enemy, i.e. that I should be provoked to wrath by the enemy ascribing the destruction of Israel to their own prowess.

2. Were it not that I feared a wrath upon the enemy, with much the same meaning.

3. Were it not that I feared the fury of the enemy, i.e. against Israel - feared lest the enemy should be encouraged to rise up against Israel and ascribe their destruction to their own valor. Of these that most generally approved is the first. (On this reason for sparing Israel, see Deuteronomy 9:28; Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13, etc.; Isaiah 10:5, etc.; Ezekiel 20:13, 14.) Should behave themselves strangely; rather, should mistake or falsely pretend. The verb is the Piel of נָכַר, to look upon, to mark, and conveys the idea of looking on askance or prejudicially, hence being ignorant of, mistaking, feigning, or falsely pretending. Our hand is high; rather, was high, i.e. was mighty in power. Vers 28-33. - The cause of Israel's rejection was that they were a people utterly destitute of counsel and without understanding. Had they been wise, they would have looked to the end, and acted in a way conducive to their own welfare, instead of rushing upon ruin.
Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, and the LORD hath not done all this.
For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them.
O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
Verse 29. - Oh that they were wise, that they understood this; rather, If they were wise they would understand this. They would consider their latter end! i.e. the end to which they were going, the inevitable issue of the course they were taking.
How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut them up?
Verse 30. - If Israel were wise, they could easily overcome all their foes through the help of the Almighty (Leviticus 26:8); but having forsaken him, they were left by him, and so came under the power of the enemy.
For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.
Verse 31. - The heathen had also a rock in which they trusted - their idol-gods; but even they knew and felt that their rock was not as the Rock of Israel, for, having often experienced the almighty power of God, they could not but acknowledge that he was mightier far than the gods whom they worshipped (cf. Exodus 14:25; Numbers 33, 34; Joshua 2:9; 1 Samuel 5:7). Moses is here himself again the speaker.
For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter:
Verse 32. - If the Rock of Israel was so much mightier than the rock of their enemies, how came it that Israel was beaten and put to flight by their enemies? The reason is here given: It was because Israel had become wholly corrupt and vitiated that they were forsaken of the Lord and left to the power of their enemies. Their vine; i.e. Israel itself (cf. Psalm 80:9, etc.; Isaiah 5:2; Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1 ). The vine of Sodom. It has been supposed that there is reference here to a particular plant, and different plants have been suggested as deserving to be so named. But it is more probable that Sodom and Gomorrah are here advanced as types of what is depraved, and to the moral taste nauseous (cf. Isaiah 1:10; Jeremiah 23:14). Gall (cf. Deuteronomy 29:18).
Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
Verse 33. - The wine of these grapes is poison and venom. Dragons; tannin (cf. Exodus 7:9, 10). Cruel [deadly] venom of asps. The pethen, one of the most poisonous of snakes, the bite of which was immediately fatal (Kitto, 'Bibl. Cycl.,' 3:494; Smith's 'Dict.,' 1:21). These figures express the thought that Israel had utterly corrupted their way and become abominable; probably also it is intimated that, as they had imitated the impiety of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, they deserved to perish as they did (J.H. Michaelis).
Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?
Verses 34-43. - Notwithstanding the iniquity of Israel and the judgments that should come upon them, God would have compassion upon them for his Name's sake, and would appear for their vindication and defense. The "this" in ver. 34 is by some understood of the sinful doings of the Israelites which God should not forget or overlook. So the Targum of Onkelos: "Are not all their works manifest before me, kept against the day of judgment in my treasures?" So also Calvin, "Quanquam de poenis hunc versum quidam exponunt, acsi Deus assereret diversas earum species apud se paratas esse, quas depromat quoties libuerit: rectius tamen est de sceleribus intelligere." But there is a more 'comprehensive reference here. Not only the deeds of the transgressors, but the judgments that should come on Israel, and also God's interposition on their behalf, were laid up in store with him, and sealed up among his treasures. All that had been done had been noted, and all that should happen was decreed, and should certainly come to pass. The "this' has thus both a retrospective and a prospective reference; it includes both the sin of the nation and God's dealing with them afterwards, as well as his judgments on their enemies. Verse 34. - My treasures. God's treasures contain not only a store of blessing, but also instruments of punishment, which as he sees meet, he sends forth on men (cf. Deuteronomy 28:12; Job 38:22, 23; Psalm 135:7).
To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.
Verse 35. - Render: Vengeance is mine, and retribution for the time when their feet shall totter; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and that which is prepared for them maketh haste. The tottering of the feet represents the incipient fall. God would manifest himself as the Avenger when their calamity began to come upon them.
For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.
Verse 36. - The Lord shall judge his people (cf. Psalm 135:14; 1 Peter 4:17). And repent himself for his servants; rather, and have compassion upon his servants. And there is none shut up, or left. The words rendered "shut up or left" are a proverbial expression for "every one, men of all sorts" (cf. 1 Kings 14:10; 1 Kings 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8; 2 Kings 14:26); but how the words are to be rendered or explained is uncertain. Rosenmüller renders as in the Authorized Version; Gesenius has, "the shut up and the let go free, the bond and the flee;" so also Furst and De Wette; De Dieu, "married and single, conjugatus et coelebs," referring to the Arabic usage in support of his conclusion ('Animad. in Ver. Test.,' p. 114), and this Keil approves. Ewald has "kept in (by legal impurity) or at large." The explanation of Gesenius and Furst seems best.
And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted,
Verse 37. - The Lord would show his people the utter worthlessness of idols, and bring them to acknowledge him as the only true God. Their gods; the idols to which Israel had turned, the strange gods which they had foolishly and sinfully preferred to Jehovah.
Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.
Verse 39. - See now that I am, even I am he. The Hebrew is more expressive, See now that I, I am; LXX., ἴδετε ἴδετε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι (cf. Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 48:12; John 8:24 18:5). Their own experience of the utter impotency of these idol-gods to help them or to protect themselves flora the stroke of the Almighty was enough to convince them that they were no gods, and that he alone was to be feared and worshipped.
For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.
Verses 40, 41. - These verses should be read continuously: For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, As I live forever, if I whet my glittering sword, and if my hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, etc. Lifting up the hand to heaven was a gesture intended to express that the person taking an oath appealed to God as a witness of his oath, and who would perish for falsehood (cf. Genesis 14:22); and "as the Lord liveth" was a common formula in taking an oath (cf. Numbers 14:21; 1 Samuel 14:39, 45; Jeremiah 5:2). As God could swear by none greater, he swore by himself (cf. Exodus 6:8; Numbers 14:30; Isaiah 45:23; Jeremiah 22:5; Hebrews 6:17), that if he did come forth to avenge himself of his enemies, he would not spare, but would do thoroughly what he had come forth to do. - Glittering sword; literally, lightning of sword (cf. Ezekiel 21:10 [15]).
If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.
I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.
Verse 42. - My sword shall devour flesh; literally, shall eat flesh; "the edge of the sword is called its mouth, because, like a mouth, it is said to eat and devour" (Gesenius). From the beginning of revenges upon the enemy. Different renderings of this have been given: LXX., ἀπὸ κεφαλῆς ἀρχόντων ἐχθρῶν, "from the head of the hostile princes;" "from the head of the chiefs of the enemy" (Geseuius, Furst, Rosenmüller); "from the hairy head of the foe" (Keil, Herxheimer, Knobel). פְרַעות, the plural of פֶרַע, hair, locks, signifies primarily hairs, and a head of hairs, and may be taken as equivalent to "a hairy head;" but the word is also used in the sense of "princes" or "chiefs" (probably because such were distinguished by copious flowing locks; cf. Judges 5:2); hence the rendering, "head of the chiefs." The former is to be preferred here, for why chiefs or princes should be referred to in this connection does not appear (cf. Psalm 68:22). The rendering of the Authorized Version is wholly unauthorized. This verse presents an instance of alternate parallelism; each half falls into two members, and of the four members thus constituted, the third corresponds to the first, and the fourth to the second; thus -

a "I will make my arrows drunk with blood,

b And my sword shall devour flesh;

a' With the blood of the slain and the captives,

b' From the hairy head of the foe."
Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.
Verse 43. - "As this song commenced with an appeal to heaven and earth to give glory to the Lord (vers. 1-3), so it very suitably closes with an appeal to the heathen to rejoice with his people on account of the acts of the Lord" (Keil). Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people. The Authorized Version here follows the LXX., εὐφράνθητε ἔθνη μετὰ τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ, and so St. Paul cites the passage in Romans 15:10. The Jewish interpreters generally render, Praise his people, O nations; and this several Christian interpreters adopt. But as Rosenmüller remarks, it is the Divine righteousness manifested in the vindication of his people from their enemies that is to be celebrated, and not the people themselves, as what follows shows. Here as elsewhere the nations and the people are in contrast.
And Moses came and spake all the words of this song in the ears of the people, he, and Hoshea the son of Nun.
Verses 44-47. - Moses, having composed this song, came, accompanied by Joshua, and they together spoke it in the hearing of the people; after which Moses took occasion to urge upon them anew the importance of keeping the commandments of God. Verse 44. - Hoshea the son of Nun. Moses invariably writes this name Jehoshuah (Jehovah is help; cf. Numbers 13; Deuteronomy 31:3, 7, 14, 20, etc.). The use of Hoshea here is due to the fact that this account is part of the supplement added by another writer to the writing of Moses.
And Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel:
And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law.
Verse 46. - (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:7; Deuteronomy 11:19.)
For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.
Verse 47. It is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life; these are not mere empty words; they are of vital import (cf. Deuteronomy 30:20).
And the LORD spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying,
Verses 48-52. - On the day on which Moses rehearsed this song in the hearing of the people, his death was announced to him by God, and the command was again given to him to ascend Mount Nebo, thence to survey the Promised Land, and there to be gathered to his people. The same in substance, the command as given here differs slightly in form and in some minor particulars from that as recorded by Moses himself (Numbers 27:12-14).
Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession:
Verse 49. - Abarim (cf. Numbers 21:10, 20). Nebo (cf. Numbers 32:3, 38). An idol Nebo was worshipped by the Moabites (Isaiah 46:1).
And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people:
Verse 50. - And be thou gathered unto thy people. "To Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This signifies," saith R. Isaac, "that he should be associated and joined to the souls of the just who are called his people. For the people of Moses were not buried in Mount Abarim, and therefore he doth not speak of gathering his body to their bodies, but of his soul to their souls ('Chissute Emuna,' L 11)" (Patrick).
Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of MeribahKadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.
Verse 51. - (Cf. Numbers 20:13, 24.) Because ye sanctified me not (cf. Numbers 27:14; 1 Peter 3:15).
Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel.
Verse 52. - Yet thou shalt See the land (cf. Hebrews 11:13).

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