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Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Deuteronomy 10

 

 

Verse 1

This chapter reports the results of Moses' intercession, the renewal of the sacred covenant, and further instructions and persuasions to obedience.

"At that time Jehovah said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were on the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark. So I made an ark of acacia wood, and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables in my hand. And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which Jehovah spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and Jehovah gave them unto me. And I turned and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they are as Jehovah commanded me."

"The paramount event in these words is that Moses' intercession prevailed. God gave commandment to hew out other tables and wrote upon them the ten commandments."[1] Since the tabernacle and all of its elaborate furniture had not at this time been erected, some scholars have trouble with the mention here of that ark, into which Moses was to place the tables. Several plausible explanations of this are available, as follows:

(a) Alexander supposed that the placing of the tables in the ark did not occur until LATER, after the tabernacle and its furnishing had been completed. He wrote: "But, as all those things were closely connected, Moses mentions them here together without regard to the chronology."[2] This is indeed a logical and reasonable view, and it could certainly be correct.

(b) Jamieson, however, thought than in anticipation of the event of receiving the new tables, Moses instructed Bezaleel to make the ark and have it ready when he returned from the mount. "Most probably Moses gave these instructions to Bezaleel BEFORE he ascended the mount, that upon his descent the ark might be ready to receive the precious deposit."[3] This also is an adequate and reasonable explanation. No one can prove that this is not exactly what happened.

(c) However, it appears to us that a better explanation is that this ark which Moses individually himself prepared was a TEMPORARY ARK which served until the more elaborate gold-crowned ark could be prepared later. The fact of Moses being commanded directly, not merely to hew the tables, but to make the ark (Deuteronomy 10:1) tells us that Moses himself, not Bezaleel, was to make this one. It will be remembered that Moses' dwelling place, "his tent," was the substitute for the real "tent of meeting" during this period when the covenant was broken and had not been renewed. Significantly, it stood outside the camp of Israel, and not within it. (See Exodus 33:7ff and my comments in Vol. 2 of this series of commentaries). Since the Scriptures declare plainly that Moses made this ark, and that Bezaleel made the other one. This writer believes that there were indeed two arks, this one mentioned here being a SUBSTITUTE until the glorious one might be prepared later. It is mandatory to remember in researching questions of this type that the Word of God gives only a summary of all that was done, and that many of the details are hidden forever. Certainly, we are justified in rejecting the arbitrary conclusions of critics who promptly make a contradiction out of these verses, and from this, declare that "Deuteronomy and Exodus are by `different authors,' Exodus by `P' and Deuteronomy by `JE.'"[4]

"The purpose of these first five verses is, "To state in a comprehensive and general way that God had mercifully reaffirmed the covenant with the rebellious vassals, and Moses included the matter of the ark as a familiar and integral element in the standard ratification procedure."[5] This very important consideration is missed altogether by earlier writers. Wright, for example, could see nothing in this except a purpose "to freshen the peoples' historical memory."[6] The correspondence of this with "contemporary international suzerainty treaties, the same being in accordance with the legal customs of that era, etc."[7] is of very great significance, because it is also the basis of clearing up the mystery of Deuteronomy 10:6,7, which have troubled scholars for a century.

Verse 6
"(And the children of Israel journeyed from Beeroth Benejaakan to Moserah. There Aaron died, and there he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered in the priests office in his stead. From thence they journeyed unto Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbatha, a land of brooks of water."

Now these two verses have sent the scholars into a tailspin for generations. These verses are: "probably a fragment of an old itinerary,"[8] "obviously an interpolation,"[9] "probably a gloss, added by Moses when he wrote down his address,"[10] "These verses are evidently a parenthesis,"[11] etc.! Even the immortal McGarvey, basing his conclusion on there seeming to be a break in the thought, stated that, "These verses are not a part of the original text of Deuteronomy."[12]

Now it happens that these verses are NOT a gloss, an interpolation, or anything of the kind. The oldest manuscripts confirm their being an integral part of the Book of Deuteronomy. Although unable to explain them, some of the older commentators of the 19th century nevertheless confirmed the fact of the verses actually belonging to the text of Deuteronomy. Jamieson wrote:

"These verses are found in the most ancient Hebrew manuscripts, and we must receive them as they stand, although acknowledging our inability to explain their appearance here."[13]

The most obvious problem here is the statement that Aaron died at Mosera, whereas Numbers states unequivocally that he died at Mount Hor. However, as Alexander pointed out, "The places mentioned here are undoubtedly the same as those in Numbers." The general ignorance of mankind about all of the place names mentioned here should guard against all rash conclusions. Several of these places are in a very restricted area around Mount Hor. Mosera might well have been one of the shoulders of Hor.

That these verses are not a disconnected entry into this address is evident when the continuity of the office of High Priest is seen as a most vital and necessary element in the renewal of the Covenant, which is Moses' subject here. Dummelow observed this: "The notice of Aaron's death here seems to be inserted to show that the sin of Aaron and the people did not bring the priesthood to a close."[14]

In Adam Clarke's unabridged commentary, a Dr. Kennicott is quoted in a rather lengthy article affirming that the Samaritan Pentateuch clears up, absolutely, all of the problems encountered in these verses, confirming them as an abbreviated account of what is written in Numbers.[15]

Scholars who, prior to the discovery of the suzerainty treaty format of the Book of Deuteronomy, complained of "a break" here, were simply mistaken about their being a "break in the thought." Kline pointed out that "Deuteronomy 10:6-7 are relative to the context; for they enhance the covenant-renewing grace of God by recalling, just here, that the Lord re-instituted the priesthood of Aaron."[16]

Verse 8
"At that time, Jehovah set apart the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, to stand before Jehovah to minister unto him, and to bless in his name unto this day. Wherefore Levi hath no portion nor inheritance with his brethren; Jehovah is his inheritance, according as Jehovah thy God spake unto him. And I stayed in the mount, as at the first time, forty days and forty nights: and Jehovah hearkened unto me that time also; Jehovah would not destroy thee. And Jehovah said unto me, Arise, take thy journey before the people; and they shall go in and possess the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give unto them."

"At that time" is a reference to the time of the golden calf incident.[17]

"Unto this day" (Deuteronomy 10:8) is an expression that Moses often injected into his discourse, and it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, any proof of a LATE DATE or of a DIFFERENT AUTHOR from Moses. Of course, critics jump at the chance to use the passage exactly that way.[18]

Verse 12
"And now, Israel, what doth Jehovah thy God require of thee, but to fear Jehovah thy God, and to love him, and to serve Jehovah thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of Jehovah, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Behold, unto Jehovah thy God belongeth heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is therein. Only Jehovah had a delight in thy fathers to love them, even you above all peoples, as at this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked. For Jehovah your God, he is God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty, and the terrible, who regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward."

Notice that we have another one of those Mosaic injections into his speech, "as at this day." The reason for this lies in the very great importance that Moses attached to this glorious day when, shortly afterward, Israel would enter Canaan. This repeated mention of "this day" is exactly the equivalent of what Cardinal Cushing did in his prayer at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy as President of the U.S.A. The Cardinal told God no less than five times in that single prayer what the date was! "On this 21st of January, 1961 ..." etc., etc.

Micah 6:8 is an echo of this passage, indicating that Deuteronomy is far older than the minor prophets (848-844 B.C.), and at the time of their writing, already well known throughout Israel.

"What doth Jehovah thy God require of thee ... etc.?" (Deuteronomy 10:12). (For a full discussion of this remarkable text see Vol. 2, Minor Prophets, in my series of commentaries, pp. 357-361.) It is much more clear here in Deuteronomy that the full duty of Israel, as outlined here, included, absolutely, the keeping of the commandments and ordinances of God. Commentators on the Micah passage have attempted to make it a release from all duties, except those of `serving humanity,' one writer even going so far as to affirm that, "The true worship of God is the service of man."[19] An erroneous view of this kind degenerates holy religion into mere humanism, which in the last analysis is pure atheism and the ultimate seed-bed of every evil ever known to mankind.

A lesson for today in this passage is that, "If God expected the kind of ultimate and total devotion enjoined here from those who had received physical deliverance only at God's hands, what level of devotion should we return who have known and received the blessings of Christ's atoning death, the promise of eternal life, etc.?"[20]

"Commandments ... which I command thee this day for thy good ..." (Deuteronomy 10:13) One of the little noted facts regarding God's commandments is that all of them, without exception, are designed for the benefit and blessing of the recipients. The full import of this is that man's truest happiness and blessing in this present life, as well as his hope of heaven, are achieved in faithful obedience to the commandments of the Lord. As Dummelow put it, "The path of duty is also that of safety and welfare."[21]

"Unto Jehovah ... belongeth the heaven of the heaven of the heavens ..." (Deuteronomy 10:14). The Hebrew here actually has this: "All of the words here are in the plural number, the heavens of the heavens of the heavens."[22] As Clarke noted, "To say that the first heaven denotes the atmosphere, the second the starry heavens, and the third the abode of the blessed (where God is), is saying but very little in the way of explanation."[23] His conclusion as to the meaning of these words was this:

"The words were probably intended to point out the immensity of God's creation, in which we may readily perceive one system of heavenly bodies, and others beyond it, and still others in endless progression in space ... every star a sun, with its peculiar and attendant worlds. Thus there might be systems of systems in endless gradation up to the throne of God."[24]

"Circumcise therefore ... thy heart ..." (Deuteronomy 10:16). This is a metaphor. As Davies put it, "Physical circumcision implied consecration of the entire man to Jehovah. The verb `to circumcise' came thus to be used figuratively of the heart."[25] This verse shows that even under the Mosaic Law, there were deep spiritual overtones to all that was enjoined. As Paul said, "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God" (Romans 2:28,29). As Oberst observed, "A mere outward alteration would not (and could not) be enough for God. The inner man, the hidden man of the heart must be changed."[26]

This metaphor was carried forward into the N.T. by the apostle Paul, and although there are some superficial resemblances between circumcision and Christian baptism, it is a gross error to affirm that, "Baptism in the New Testament is strictly analogous to circumcision under the Old Testament."[27] Here are some of the fundamental differences:

Circumcision was observed on the eighth day of life, but baptism is for penitent believers.

Circumcision was for males only, but baptism is for all who come into the kingdom.

Circumcision did not bring one into the Abrahamic covenant; one was born into that covenant. But baptism is the means of one's coming "into Christ," and therefore, into the covenant with God.

Circumcision was practiced upon the individual without his consent and even against his will, but the divine rule for baptism is that everyone who wishes to be saved, having believed in Christ, must repent and "have himself baptized."[28]

Circumcision was a "sign of the covenant," but baptism is "for," "unto," "in order to receive" the remission of sins.

Circumcision had nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins.

"God of gods ... Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty, and the terrible ..." (Deuteronomy 10:17). The use of various names for God is evident in such a passage as this. No one could believe that several different authors were called upon as "the sources" of such declarations. What we have are synonyms for the Almighty! No loftier monotheism is to be found in the Bible. God is the first Cause, the uncaused Beginning and Creator of all things. Whom God has determined to save, none can destroy, and whom He elects to destroy, none can save! How absolutely essential is it that a mortal man should know and receive such a God as His rightful Lord, submit to His teachings, and in consequence be able to claim Him as a friend.

This verse is worthy to be compared with the great N.T. texts which extol the Father of Lights, the Father of Mercies, the Everlasting Father, etc. as Blessed and Only Potentate, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, who Only Hath Immortality, and Lord of Lords and King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16). The characteristics added here, namely, that "He regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward," are merely another way of saying that "God is no respecter of persons," and that no one can bribe God!

Verse 18
"He doth execute justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loveth the sojourner, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the sojourner; for ye were sojourners in the land of Egypt. Thou shalt fear Jehovah thy God; him thou shalt serve; and to him thou shalt cleave, and by his name shalt thou sware. He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen. Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now Jehovah thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude."

As Cousins noted, "God's people are still thought of as being "foreigners."[29] There are several Biblical words used in reference to this quality of being citizens not of this world, but of another. They are: strangers, foreigners, pilgrims, sojourners, etc. Paul's famous passage, "Our citizenship is in heaven ..." etc. (Philippians 3:20) is based upon this conception. All such expressions eventually refer back to Abraham who dwelt in tents but never owned any land in Canaan except a burial place. When one thinks of the great wealth of the patriarchs, it is still astonishing that none of them ever built a house. They accepted for themselves the status of "pilgrims and sojourners." The word "pilgrim," especially, catches the sentiment of this. Pilgrim actually and literally means "one who crosses the field," and it came into use during the Crusades, when all across Europe, it was nothing unusual for settled citizens to see a lonely traveler crossing a field or a clearing on the way to the Holy Land. The word came to have a sacred connotation for one who, leaving all secondary considerations behind, pressed onward to the achievement of some sacred goal. In this connection also, we remember that the orthodox Jew today never actually completes his residence, but leaves a token part of it unfinished.

"Thou shalt fear Jehovah thy God, and him shalt thou serve ..." (Deuteronomy 10:20). Dummelow pointed out that this was one of the replies that Jesus made to Satan in the Temptation.[30]

"Deuteronomy 10:21-22 are a summary of all that has just been said."[31] What is taught is that the total devotion of the whole life should be to the service of God. It is God to whom one must cleave. "The Hebrew word here for `cleave' means `to cling to' or `hold fast to' with warm affection."[32] "`He is your praise' means he is the sole object of your praise."[33]

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 10:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". "http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/view.cgi?book=de&chapter=010". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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