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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 4

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-49

Chapter 4

NOW therefore ( Deuteronomy 4:1 )

Moses is now making application.

NOW therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and to the judgments, which I teach you, to do them, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD the God of your fathers is given to you. For ye shall not add unto the word which I commanded, neither shall ye diminish from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you ( Deuteronomy 4:1-2 ).

So the forbidden to add or take away from the commandments, from the word that God had spoken through Moses. When we get to the book of Revelation, again there is a prohibition to adding to or taking away from the words of that prophecy.

It is interesting how people like to mess around with the word of God, adding or taking away. But that is something that we have been forbidden to do, not to add or to diminish from that which God has declared.

Behold, [he said] I have taught you the statutes the judgments, the LORD commanded me. Now keep them and do them: for this is your wisdom and understanding. For what nation is there that is so great, who had the God that is so near to them, as the LORD our God is in all of the things which we call upon him for? For what nation is there so great, that has the statutes and judgments that are so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? Only take heed to yourself, and to keep thy soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them to your sons, and to your sons' sons ( Deuteronomy 4:5-9 );

Teach them to your children, to your grandchildren these commandments, these statutes. There's no nation in all the world that has had the privileges that we have had. God being so near to them and giving them such a righteous law. And then he speaks about how that the law came there on Mount Horeb or Mount Sinai-Horeb and how that the people were fearful because of the thunder and the lightning.

[And Moses said,] Now you heard the words, but you did not see any similitude; only you heard a voice. And the voice declared unto you the covenant, and he commanded you to perform, the ten commandments; he wrote them on two tables of stones. [verse fifteen] Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for you saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb in the midst of the fire: Lest you would corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of any male or female, The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flies in the air, The likeness of any thing that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: And lest thou lift up thine eyes into heaven, when you see the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the host of heaven, and you be driven to worship them ( Deuteronomy 4:12-13 , Deuteronomy 4:15-19 ),

Now, he points out the fact that when they heard the voice of God they didn't see any form at all, deliberately so. For God did not want them making any kind of a representative likeness of God. Now in all of the nations around them they had all of their little carvings, all of their little idols that were representing their gods. Some of them were female idols with multi-breasts, some of them were male-type idols. Some of them were weird, wings. Some of them looked like fish. Some of them looked monstrous, gargoyle kind. This is God. This is what God looks like. He said, "not so". God doesn't want you making any graven image. God doesn't want you making any kind of a representative likeness of Him. It's not to be done.

Now there is a compelling force within man to worship. It's a part of human nature. And here he has said,

Lest when you look at the stars, and the moon, and the host of

heaven, that you'd be driven to worship heaven" ( Deuteronomy 4:19 )

There is something within man that drives him to worship. You've gotta worship something. It's like Bob Dylan said, "You've gotta serve somebody" and that's true. You're driven to serve somebody. There's a driving, compelling force for you to serve somebody and it is always tragic when men leave the worship and serving of the true and the living God, the creator and the sustainer of the universe of all life and life forms. And they begin to make a likeness of God like a man or like a woman or like an animal and they begin to bow down and worship these little likenesses. They begin to offer their prayers before these likenesses. There's something within man that compels him to worship but God doesn't want you worshiping before any altar.

When the woman of Samaria said unto Jesus, "Our fathers say that we're to worship God in this mountain. You say that we are to worship Him in Jerusalem. Where do we worship God?"( John 4:20 ). Jesus said, "The day is coming and now is when they that worship God will neither worship in this mountain nor in Jerusalem for God is a spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth and God is seeking such to worship Him"( John 4:23-24 ).

God cannot be localized. Nor should we try to make any kind of a representation of God. I personally have great problems with any pictures of Christ. I really don't care for them. That's personal, that's with me, that's something personal. I'm not telling you to go home and get rid of all the pictures. It's just something personal within me. I don't care for any pictures of Christ. God didn't want man making any kind of representation of Himself.

So they heard the voice but they didn't see any likeness, they didn't see any form lest they would create some form and begin to worship it. Men are driven to worship.

Furthermore the LORD was angry with me [He said] for your sakes, and he sware that I should not go over Jordan, that I should not go over into the good land, which the LORD God gives to you for an inheritance: But I must die in this land, and I must not go over Jordan: but you shall go over, and possess the good land ( Deuteronomy 4:21-22 )

"For your sakes." You see, Moses recognizes that it was for their sakes that God was sticking to his word.

For the LORD thy God-well before,

Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant ( Deuteronomy 4:23 )

Now the danger of forgetting, the peril of forgetting.

which God made with you, and you make a graven image, or a likeness of any thing, that the LORD thy God has forbidden you. For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God ( Deuteronomy 4:23-24 ).

And people say, "Oh, there we go. The Old Testament concept of God; a consuming fire, a jealous God". Look at Hebrews in the New Testament, declares, "For our God is a consuming fire"( Hebrews 12:29 ).

It is interesting that fire is used as a figure for God. Because what can you say about fire? It's everywhere. The scientists have a word, Eremacausis, which refers to the slow burning fire of nature and it's everywhere. It's in all of the material universe. There is that slow burning fire which is gradually destroying everything. We no long-we no sooner put this building up, before we got the last nail in, the slow-burning fire had begun to deteriorate it. Before we could cover the roof with the roofing materials, some of the nail heads began to oxidize. What was it? Slow burning fire of nature; it's everywhere.

Isaiah records how that at one time the Assyrians had invaded the land and the people called upon the Lord and an angel of the Lord went through the camp of the Assyrians and in one night destroyed a hundred and eighty-five thousand front line fighting troops. And when the children of Israel woke up in the morning and looked out upon the camp of the Assyrians there were nothing but corpses and it said, "And fear gripped the hearts of the sinners in Zion"( Isaiah 33:14 ).

Terror took hold on the hypocrites and they said, "Who among us could dwell in the devouring fire?" ( Isaiah 33:14 ). They saw the fire of God and its effect upon their enemies and a fear gripped their hearts, and they said, "Who amongst us" and the word dwell can also be translated approach or flee "from the devouring fire". And in reality there is no place that you can flee from the presence of God. "If I ascend into heaven thou art there. If I descend into hell thou art there". And the same fire of God that burns in heaven is the same fire of God that burns in hell.

It isn't who can escape, but who can flee from it. In reality you are in the fire of God. You can't escape it. The question is what is it doing to you? And that all depends on what you are. For you see, fire can, in the case of steel, transmit into permanency as it is forged in the fire, tempered by the fire, transmitting it into permanency. But that same fire can absolutely destroy and consume a piece of wood. The Bible says that our works are one day gonna be tried by fire. And some of our works like wood, hay and stubble are just gonna go up in smoke. Those that can endure, those that are last through the fire, you'll be rewarded for. "Our God is a consuming fire, our God is a jealous God." A very interesting figure that is used of God.

But let's jump down for a moment to verse thirty-one.

(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) and he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them ( Deuteronomy 4:31 ).

Yes, He's a consuming fire and those enemies of God shall be destroyed by that consuming fire. Consuming is just a qualifying word and that is a word that qualifies really the enemies of God; that which the fire will do to enemies of God. But that same fire transmits us into permanency because from us it consumes the dross and the impurities of our life. It's the refining fire of God burning within our hearts, consuming dross transmitting into permanency.

And so when you beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have remained a long time in the land, and corrupt yourselves ( Deuteronomy 4:25 ),

Now this is almost a prophecy. He lapses into a prophetic thing here. So in generations to come, your children's children and all, you're in the land; they're gonna start making graven images.

You shall do evil in the sight of the LORD your God, and you'll provoke him to anger: I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto you're going over to Jordan to possess it; and ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed. And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you ( Deuteronomy 4:25-27 ).

And so here He is prophesying the failure of the nation and of the fact that they would be driven out of the land and dispersed into all the world and yet you will be left, though few in number; the remnant.

Now the interesting miracle of history is that even though the Jews were driven from the land as was prophesied here, yet they were left a nation. They were left an ethnic group of people and this is unparalleled in history. No other ethnic group has been able to maintain a national identity without a homeland, outside of the Jew. And yet they have maintained that national identity.

And then there you will serve the gods, the work of men's hands, of wood and stone and so forth. And when you are in tribulation, and these things come upon you, even in the latter days, if thou shalt turn to the LORD, and thou shalt be obedient to his voice; (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers. For ask now of the days that are past ( Deuteronomy 4:28 , Deuteronomy 4:30-32 ),

Look back in your history books He is saying, and see.

Since God created man upon the earth, whether there has been any such thing as this great thing, or has been heard like it? Did ever the people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of fire, as you have heard, and still lived? Or has God ever taken a nation like he has taken you, from another nation, by the great signs and all, that he brought against the Egyptians and make you to hear his voice. And because he loved your fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them ( Deuteronomy 4:28-37 ),

Now, He said he didn't do this because of your greatness or because of your goodness but because of His love for your fathers.

To drive out the nations, and to give you a land. Know therefore this day, consider it in your heart, that the LORD he is the God of heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else ( Deuteronomy 4:38-39 ).

And so again the exhortation to keep the statutes and the commandments.

Now, they appointed the three cities of refuge that should be on the east bank of the Jordan River where those who were guilty of manslaughter could slay, could flee and be protected from the manslayer. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/deuteronomy-4.html. 2014.
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