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31:1-34:12 MOSES’ LAST DAYS
Arrangements for the future (31:1-29)
Knowing he had only a few more days to live, Moses handed over the leadership of Israel to his divinely appointed successor, Joshua. He reminded both Joshua and the people that fearless commitment to the task ahead, combined with total trust in God, would guarantee victory over the Canaanites and possession of the promised land (31:1-8,14-15,23; see notes on Numbers 27:12-23).
Moses then made three separate arrangements to ensure that people did not forget their covenant obligations. First, he commanded the priests and leaders to make sure that the entire law was read publicly every seven years (9-15). Second, he himself wrote a song that would stick in people’s minds as a constant warning and reminder (16-23. The song is recorded in Chapter 32). Third, he put his own written record of the law in a safe place beside the ark, as a witness against the people when they turned away from it. This copy of the law beside the ark was an absolute standard of reference in all matters of life and conduct (24-29).
These arrangements were again consistent with ancient practices concerning a covenant between an overlord and his subject people. The covenant document was kept in the people’s sanctuary, and the leaders conducted periodic public readings to remind the people of their covenant obligations.
The song of Moses (31:30-32:47)
Being aware of the people’s tendency to rebellion against God (see v. 29), Moses left with them a song that he wanted everyone to take notice of (30). The song reminded the people of God’s loving care for them and of the need for faithfulness on their part towards him. It dealt with the future as well as the past, and reminded the people that in justice God would punish them and in mercy he would forgive them.
As rain benefits young grass, so Moses’ words should benefit Israel (32:1-3). Like a rock, God gave Israel (Jeshurun) protection and stability; as their Father, he gave them an honoured place among the nations and a land for an inheritance; but through stubborn selfishness they ruined themselves and disgraced their Father (4-9). God cared for Israel with love and tenderness, giving his people all they needed for a life of contentment; but instead of being thankful, they treated him with contempt. Instead of worshipping him, they worshipped other gods (10-18). Therefore, in his righteous anger, God punished them (19-25).
However, God would not allow the nation to be completely destroyed, lest people thought that they, and not God, controlled Israel’s destiny. If they had any understanding, these nations would realize that they could have no victory at all over Israel unless Israel’s God allowed it (26-30). Israel’s God was just and mighty; the enemies’ gods were wicked, immoral and cruel (31-33).
Yahweh was still the supreme ruler. Even when he used other nations to punish his people, he would also punish those nations, along with their gods, for their own wickedness. Then Israel too would see the uselessness of false gods. They would return to Yahweh, and he would heal them (34-43).
The people were to memorize and sing this song, so that it would remind them to keep God’s law and warn them of what would happen if they ignored it. God gave the law for their good, and by keeping it they would enjoy life in the land he had given them (44-47).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 31". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20