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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 34

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1


Moses goes up Mount Nebo to the top of Pisgah, and God shews him

the whole extent of the land which he promised to give to the

descendants of Abraham, 1-4.

There Moses died, and was so privately buried by the Lord that

his sepulchre was never discovered, 5, 6.

His age and strength of constitution, 7.

The people weep for him thirty days, 8.

Joshua being filled with the spirit of wisdom, the Israelites

hearken to him, as the Lord commanded them, 9.

The character of Moses as a prophet, and as a worker of the

most extraordinary miracles, both in the sight of the Egyptians,

and the people of Israel: conclusion of the Pentateuch, 10-12.


Verse Deuteronomy 34:1. And Moses went up — This chapter could not have been written by Moses. A man certainly cannot give an account of his own death and burial. We may therefore consider Moses's words as ending with the conclusion of the preceding chapter, as what follows could not possibly have been written by himself. To suppose that he anticipated these circumstances, or that they were shown to him by an especial revelation, is departing far from propriety and necessity, and involving the subject in absurdity; for God gives no prophetic intimations but such as are absolutely necessary to be made; but there is no necessity here, for the Spirit which inspired the writer of the following book, would naturally communicate the matter that concludes this. I believe, therefore, that Deuteronomy 34:0, should constitute the first chapter of the book of Joshua.

On this subject the following note from an intelligent Jew cannot be unacceptable to the reader: -

"Most commentators are of opinion that Ezra was the author of the last chapter of Deuteronomy; some think it was Joshua, and others the seventy elders, immediately after the death of Moses; adding, that the book of Deuteronomy originally ended with the prophetic blessing upon the twelve tribes: 'Happy art thou, O Israel! who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord,' c. and that what now makes the last chapter of Deuteronomy was formerly the first of Joshua, but was removed from thence and joined to the former by way of supplement. This opinion will not appear unnatural if it be considered that sections and other divisions, as well as points and pauses, were invented long since these books were written; for in those early ages several books were connected together, and followed each other on the same roll. The beginning of one book might therefore be easily transferred to the end of another, and in process of time be considered as its real conclusion, as in the case of Deuteronomy, especially as this supplemental chapter contains an account of the last transactions and death of the great author of the Pentateuch." - Alexander's Heb. and Eng. Pentateuch.

This seems to be a perfectly correct view of the subject. This chapter forms a very proper commencement to the book of Joshua, for of this last chapter of Deuteronomy the first chapter of Joshua is an evident continuation. If the subject be viewed in this light it will remove every appearance of absurdity and contradiction with which, on the common mode of interpretation, it stands sadly encumbered.

Verse 5

Verse Deuteronomy 34:5. So Moses - died - according to the word of the Lord. — על פי יהוה al pi Yehovah, at the mouth of Jehovah; i. e., by the especial command and authority of the Lord; but it is possible that what is here said refers only to the sentence of his exclusion from the promised land, when he offended at the waters of Meribah.

Verse 6

Verse Deuteronomy 34:6. He buried him — It is probable that the reason why Moses was buried thus privately was, lest the Israelites, prone to idolatry, should pay him Divine honours; and God would not have the body of his faithful servant abused in this way. Almost all the gods of antiquity were defiled men, great lawgivers, eminent statesmen, or victorious generals. See the account of the life of Moses at the end of this chapter. Deuteronomy 34:10; Deuteronomy 34:10.

Verse 7

Verse Deuteronomy 34:7. His eye was not dim — Even at the advanced age of a hundred and twenty; nor his natural force abated - he was a young man even in old age, notwithstanding the unparalleled hardships he had gone through. See the account of his life at the end of this chapter (Deuteronomy 34:10).

Verse 9

Verse Deuteronomy 34:9. Laid his hands upon him — See on Numbers 27:18-23.

Verse 10

Verse Deuteronomy 34:10. There arose not a prophet, c. — Among all the succeeding prophets none was found so eminent in all respects nor so highly privileged as Moses with him God spoke face to face - admitted him to the closest familiarity and greatest friendship with himself. Now all this continued true till the advent of Jesus Christ, of whom Moses said, "A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me;" but how great was this person when compared with Moses! Moses desired to see God's glory; this sight he could not bear; he saw his back parts, probably meaning God's design relative to the latter days: but Jesus, the Almighty Saviour, in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, who lay in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared God to man. Wondrous system of legal ordinances that pointed out and typified all these things! And more wonderful system of Gospel salvation, which is the body, soul, life, energy, and full accomplishment of all that was written in the LAW, in the PROPHETS, and in the PSALMS, concerning the sufferings and death of Jesus, and the redemption of a ruined world "by his agony and bloody sweat, by his cross and passion, by his death and burial, by his glorious resurrection and ascension, and by the coming of the Holy Ghost!" Thus ends the PENTATEUCH, commonly called the LAW of MOSES, a work every way worthy of God its author, and only less than the NEW COVENANT, the law and Gospel of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST.

Now to the ever blessed and glorious TRINITY, FATHER, WORD, and SPIRIT, the infinite and eternal ONE, from whom alone wisdom, truth, and goodness can proceed, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.


The number of verses in ELLAH HADDEBARIM, Deuteronomy, is 955; the symbol of which is חנץ in which word ץ tsade stands for 900, נ nun for 50, and ח cheth for 5.

The middle verse is Deuteronomy 17:10. And thou shalt observe to do all that they command thee.

Its Pareshioth or larger sections are 11, the numerical symbol of which is חג chag; Psalms 118:27: Bind the SACRIFICE with cords to the horns of the altar. In which word ח cheth stands for 8, and ג gimel for 3.

Its Sedarim or smaller sections are 27, the symbolical sign of which is יגיד yaggid; Proverbs 12:17: He that speaketh truth, SHOWETH FORTH righteousness. In which word the two י yods stand for 20, ד daleth for 4, and ג gimel for 3.

Its Perakim or modern chapters are 34, the symbol of which is לבב lebab; Psalms 111:1. I will praise the Lord with my whole HEART. In which word the two ב beths stand for 4, and the ל lamed for 30.

The number of open sections is 34, of its close sections 124, total 158; the symbol of which is ינחילם yanchilem, 148, and כב-וד cab-od, 10, 1 Samuel 2:8: To make them to INHERIT the throne of his GLORY. The numerical letters of the word ינחילם yanchilem, 148, with וד od, 10, taken from כבוד cabod, make 158, the total of its open and close sections.

The number of verses in the whole Pentateuch is 5845, the memorial symbol of which is החמה hachammah, Isaiah 30:26: Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of THE SUN. In which word, the letters taken in their proper order make the sum, המכה . "5845"

The middle verse of the Law is Leviticus 8:8: And he put the breastplate upon him, and he put in the breastplate the URIM and the THUMMIM.

The number of OPEN sections in the whole Law is 290, the symbol of which is פרי peri; (Cant.) Deuteronomy 4:16: Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his precious FRUITS. The number of its CLOSE sections is 379, the symbol of which occurs in the word בשבעה bishbuah; Numbers 30:10: Or bound her soul with a bond BY AN OATH.

Total number of all the open and close sections, 669, the memorial symbol of which is לא תחסר lo techsar; Deuteronomy 8:9: THOU SHALT NOT LACK any thing in it.

SECTIONS of the Book of Deuteronomy, carried on from Numbers, which ends with the FORTY-THIRD.

The FORTY-FOURTH, called דברים debarim, begins Deuteronomy 1:1, and ends Deuteronomy 3:22.

The FORTY-FIFTH, called ואתחנן vaethchannen, begins Deuteronomy 3:23, and ends Deuteronomy 7:11.

The FORTY-SIXTH, called עיב ekeb, begins Deuteronomy 7:12, and ends Deuteronomy 11:25.

The FORTY-SEVENTH, called ראה reeh, begins Deuteronomy 11:26, and ends Deuteronomy 16:17.

The FORTY-EIGHTH, called שפטים shophetim, begins Deuteronomy 16:18, and ends Deuteronomy 21:9.

The FORTY-NINTH, called תצא tetse, begins Deuteronomy 21:10, and ends Deuteronomy 25:19.

The FIFTIETH, called תבא tabo, begins Deuteronomy 26:1, and ends Deuteronomy 29:8.

The FIFTY-FIRST, called נצבים nitstsabim, begins Deuteronomy 29:9, and ends Deuteronomy 30:20.

The FIFTY-SECOND, called וילך vaiyelech, begins Deuteronomy 31:1, and ends Deuteronomy 31:30.

The FIFTY-THIRD, called האזינו haazinu, begins Deuteronomy 32:1, and ends Deuteronomy 32:51.

The FIFTY-FOURTH, called וזאת הברכה vezoth habberachah, begins Deuteronomy 33:1, and ends Deuteronomy 34:12.

Verse 12


WE have now passed through the Pentateuch, and have endeavoured carefully to mark its important contents. Its antiquity sets it at the head of all the writings in the world; and the various subjects it embraces make it of the utmost consequence to every civilized part of the earth. Its philosophy, jurisprudence, history, geography, and chronology, entitle it to the respect of the whole human race; while its system of theology and religion demonstrably prove it to be a revelation from GOD. But on these topics, as many observations have already been made as the nature of a commentary professing to study brevity can possibly admit.

Of MOSES, the writer of the Pentateuch, considered as a historian and philosopher, a great deal has been said in the course of the notes on the book of GENESIS; and especially at the conclusion of the fiftieth chapter; to which the reader is particularly referred. Genesis 50:26.

Of Moses as a legislator, volumes might be written, and the subject not be exhausted. What is called the Law of Moses, is more properly the Law of God; and Torath Yehovah, the Law of Jehovah, is the grand title of the Pentateuch. Such a definition of this term as comports with the nature, structure, and design of the Pentateuch, has already been given in the note, Exodus 12:40, to which the reader is requested to refer. Could we conceive Moses to have been the author of this system, we must consider him more than mortal: no wisdom of man has ever yet been able to invent such a code of laws.

This merit however has been disputed, and his laws severely criticised by certain persons whose interest it was to prove religion to be a cheat, because they had none themselves; and whose case must be hopeless could it be proved to be true. To some whose mental taste and feeling are strangely perverted, every thing in heathenism wears not only the most fascinating aspect, but appears to lay claim to and possess every excellence. These have called up Confucius, Menu, Zoroaster, and Mohammed himself, to dispute the palm of excellence with Moses! To examine the claims of such competitors, and to decide on their respective merits would require a large treatise, and my limits confine me to a sketch. To any godly, impartial mind, properly acquainted with the subject, little needs to be said; to those who are prejudiced, all reasoning is thrown away. A few words on the merit of each of these competitors must suffice.

1. To Con fu tsee, the great Chinese lawgiver, corruptly called Confucius, are attributed, in the records of his country, a number of ordinances and institutions which do honour to his times and to his people; but alas! how much of the darkness, erroneousness, and infirmity of the human mind do they exhibit! And however profitable they may be, as prudential maxims and social regulations to a certain extent, how little are they calculated to elevate or ennoble the human mind, or inspire men with a just notion of vice and virtue! Their author had no correct notion of the Divine nature; his laws had no sanction but that of convenience or necessity, and, notwithstanding their boasted excellence, have left, from the time of their promulgation to the present day, the sum total of that immense nation which profess to be governed by them, in the thickest darkness of the most degrading idolatry, closely verging upon atheism itself! Not so the Mosaic code; it was the light that lightened the universe, and the glory of the people who were governed by its dictates. We have the firmest ground and the most ample authority to assert, that the greatest kings, the wisest statesmen, the most accomplished poets and rhetoricians, the most magnanimous heroes, and the most holy and useful people that ever existed, were formed on the model, and brought up in the bosom and under the influence, of the Mosaic institutions. While the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes of SOLOMON, the history and poetic compositions of DAVID, the inimitable discourses of ISAIAH, JEREMIAH, JOEL, HABAKKUK, and others of the Jewish prophets remain, every intelligent reader will have the fullest proofs of the truth of the above assertion, which shrinks not under the pretence of being hazarded; but which must spring up in every ingenuous mind, from the fullest conviction of its own truth, after a serious perusal of the sacred code in question. All those eminent personages were brought up in the Mosaic school and were prepared by the Pentateuch for the prophetic influence.

2. The Institutes of MENU, lately clothed in an English dress by the elegant hand of Sir William Jones, have been thought to stand in fair competition with the laws of Moses. I have read them carefully, with strong prejudice in their favour; and have endeavoured, to the best of my judgment, duly to appreciate their worth. I have sought for resemblances to the Mosaic institutions, because I thought it possible that the same God who was so fully known in Jewry, might have made at least a partial revelation of himself in Hindostan; but while I alternately admired and regretted, I was ultimately disappointed, as I plainly saw that the system in its essential parts lacked the seal of the living God. My readers may justly question my competency to form a correct opinion of the work under consideration - I shall not therefore obtrude it, but substitute that of the translator, who was better qualified than perhaps any other man in Europe or Asia, to form a correct judgment of its merits. "The work," says he, "now presented to the European world, contains abundance of curious matter, extremely interesting both to speculative lawyers and antiquaries; with many beauties which need not be pointed out, and with many blemishes which cannot be justified or palliated. It is a system of despotism and priestcraft, both indeed limited by law, but artfully conspiring to give mutual support though with mutual checks. It is filled with strange conceits in metaphysics and natural philosophy; with idle superstitions, and with a scheme of theology most obscurely figurative, and consequently liable to dangerous misconception. It abounds with minute and childish formalities, with ceremonies generally absurd and often ridiculous; the punishments are partial and fanciful; for some crimes dreadfully cruel, and for others reprehensibly slight; and the very morals, though rigid enough on the whole, are in one or two instances, as in the case of light oaths and pious perjury, unaccountably relaxed." - PREFACE to the Institutes of Menu.

We may defy its enemies to prove any of these things against the Pentateuch. Priestcraft and despotism cannot appear under its sanction: GOD is KING alone, and the priest his servant; and he who was prevented, by the very law under which he ministered, from having any earthly property, could consequently have no secular power. The king, who was afterwards chosen, was ever considered as God's deputy or vice-gerent; he was obliged to rule according to the laws that were given by God through Moses, and was never permitted either to change them, or add a single precept or rite to the civil or sacred code of his country. Thus despotism and priestcraft were equally precluded. As to its rites and ceremonies, they are at once dignified and expressive; they point out the holiness of their author, the sinfulness of man, the necessity of an atonement, and the state of moral excellence to which the grace and mercy of the Creator have promised to raise the human soul. As to its punishments, they are ever such as the nature and circumstances of the crime render just and necessary - and its rewards are not such as flow merely from a principle of retribution or remunerative justice, but from an enlightened and fatherly tenderness, which makes obedience to the laws the highest interest of the subject.

At the same time that love to God and obedience to his commandments are strongly inculcated, love and benevolence to man are equally enforced, together with piety, which is the soul of obedience, patriotism, the life of society; hospitality to strangers, and humanity to the whole brute creation. To all this might be added that it includes in it, as well as points out, the Gospel of the Son of God, from which it receives its consummation and perfection. Such, reader, is the law of God given through Moses to the people of Israel.

3. Of the laws of Zerdust or Zeratusht, commonly called Zoroaster, It is unnecessary to speak at large; they are incapable of comparison with the Mosaic code. As delivered in the Zend Avesta, they cannot so properly be called a system as a congeries of puerility, superstition, and absurdity; with scarcely a precept or a rite that has any tendency to elevate the mind, or raise man from his state of moral degradation to a proper rank in civilized society, or to any worthy apprehension of the Maker and Governor of the universe. Harmlessness is the sum of the morality they seem to inculcate, with a certain superstitious reverence for fire, probably as the emblem of purity; and for animal life, principally in reference to the doctrine of the Metempsychosis or transmigration of souls, on which it seems to have been originally built.

4. The KORAN of MOHAMMED is the only remaining competitor that can be supposed to be at all qualified to dispute the palm with the Pentateuch of Moses; but the pretensions of this production will be soon settled, when it is known that it possesses not one excellence, the purity and elegance of its language excepted, which it has not borrowed from the writings of Moses and the prophets, or the sayings of Christ and his apostles. This is a fact which none can successfully dispute, and of which the Koran itself bears the most unequivocal evidences. What can be fairly claimed as the peculium of the Arab lawgiver makes a motley mixture with what he has stolen from the book of God, and is in general as absurd and weak as it is on the whole false and wicked. As to the boasted morality of the Koran, it will have as little to exult in of this kind when the law and the Gospel have taken from it that of which they have been plundered, as the daw in the fable had when the different fowls had plucked away their own feathers, with which the vain bird had decorated herself. Mohammed, it is true, destroyed idolatry wherever he came; and he did the same by true religion; for Judaism and Christianity met with no more quarter from him than the grossest errors of pagan idolatry. To compare him with the pure, holy, disinterested, humane, and heavenly-minded Jewish legislator, would be as gross political as it would be palpable religious blasphemy. When we allow that he was a man of a deep and penetrating mind, well acquainted with the superstitious turn of his countrymen; austere, cunning, and hypocritical; a great general and a brutal conqueror, who seemed to sacrifice at no other shrine than that of his lust and ambition, we do him no injustice: the whole of his system bears the most evident proofs of imposition and forgery; nor is there a character to which imposture can lay claim that does not appear prominently in the Koran, and in every part of the Mohammedan system. The chief of these distinctive marks have already been examined in reference to the Pentateuch, in the concluding note on Exod. xviii. These are all found in the Koran, but not one of them in the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch therefore is of God; the Koran came from another quarter.

5. The different systems of the Grecian ethic philosophers cannot come into this inquiry. They were in general incongruous and contradictory, and none of them was ever capable of forming a sect that could be said to have any moral perpetuity.

6. The laws of Lycurgus and Solon could not preserve those states, at the basis of which they were laid; which the laws of Moses have been the means of preserving the people who held them, amidst the most terrible reverses of what are called fortune and fate, for nearly the space of 4,000 years! This is one of the most extraordinary and astonishing facts in the whole history of mankind.

7. The republic of Plato, of which it is fashionable to boast, is, when stripped of what it has borrowed from Moses, like the Utopia of Sir T. More, the aerial figment of a philosophic mind, en delire; both systems are inapplicable and impracticable in the present state of man. To persons under the influence of various and discordant passions, strongly actuated by self-interest, they can never apply. They have no tendency to change the moral state of society from vice to virtue: a nation of saints might agree to regulate their lives and conduct by them, but where is such to be found? Though Plato has borrowed much from Moses, yet he has destroyed the effect of the whole by not referring the precepts and maxims to God, by whom alone strength to fulfil them could be furnished. It is the province of the revelation of God to make the knave an honest man; the unholy and profane, pure and pious; and to cause all who act by its dictates to love one another with pure hearts fervently, and to feel the finest and fullest impressions of

"The generous mind that's not confined at home,

But spreads itself abroad through all the public,

And feels for every member of the land."

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 34". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/deuteronomy-34.html. 1832.
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