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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Deuteronomy 32

Verse 1

Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.

Give ear, O ye heavens ... hear, O earth. The magnificence of the exordium, the grandeur of the theme, the frequent and sudden transitions, the elevated strain of the sentiments and language, entitle this song to be ranked among the noblest specimens of poetry to be found in the Scriptures.

The song opens with a beautiful apostrophe to the heavens and the earth to listen to his strains. The same sentiment had been previously expressed by Moses in the plain though rhetorical form, "I call heaven and earth to witness against thee this day (Deuteronomy 30:19). But cast into the special style of poetry, it appears much stronger and more impressive.

Such an appeal to universal nature is frequently made by Hebrew bards when the matter of their discourse is of more than ordinary importance (cf. Psalms 50:3-4; Isaiah 1:2; Micah 6:1-2).

Verses 2-3

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:

My doctrine shall drop ... The language may justly be taken as uttered in the form of a wish or prayer. May my doctrine (discourse) drop as the rain! My speech distil as the dew! Like showers on the tender blade; like copious dew drops [ wªkirbiybiym (H7241), multitude of drops] on the grass! [The Septuagint interprets it in the optative mood, prosdokasthoo hoos huetos to apofthengma mou, kai katabeetoo hoos drosos ta reemata mou, hoosei ombros. Ep' agroostin, kai hoosei nifetos epi chorton.] The comparison of wholesome instruction to the pure, gentle, and insinuating influence of rain or dew is frequently made by the sacred writers (Isaiah 5:6; Isaiah 55:10-11). The metaphor was probably borrowed from Egypt, in the hieroglyphic imagery of which the beneficial influence of instruction was symbolized by the representation of a sky-dropping dew.

Verse 3. Because I will publish-for I will proclaim the name of the Lord (cf. Exodus 34:5-7). Some render the word, 'I address you in the name of the Lord.' The announcement of that gracious name, with the attractive attributes of which it is the sign, carries with itself the reason of the sweet simile used in this verse; for as the parched verdure and tender blades are revived by the refreshing influence of the showers or the dew, so the conscience stricken hearts of men receive new life and vigour from the doctrine which proclaims the mercy and the faithfulness of God.

Ascribe ye greatness unto our God [ godel (H1433), majesty, royal magnificence; Septuagint, megaloosunee (G3172); (Hebrews 1:3).]

Verse 4

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.

He is the Rock - a word expressive of power and stability. The application of it in this passage is to declare He is the Rock - a word expressive of power and stability. The application of it in this passage is to declare that God had been true to His covenant with their fathers and them. Nothing that He had promised had failed; so that if their national experience had been painfully chequered by severe and protracted trials, notwithstanding the brightest promises, that result was traceable to their own undutiful and perverse conduct; not to any vacillation or unfaithfulness on the part of God (James 1:17), whose procedure was marked by justice and judgment, whether they had been exalted to prosperity or plunged into the depths of affliction. [ Ha-Tsuwr (H6697). Houbigant, deriving this word from the Hebrew verb tsuwr (H6697), to carve, renders the passage, 'He is the Creator;' and so also does the Septuagint, which has: Theos]. But the metaphor of a "rock" as a refuge, or to represent the divine faithfulness and stability of purpose, occurs more than once in this song (Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 32:31; Deuteronomy 32:37) and frequently in other parts of Scripture (cf. Psalms 18:3; Psalms 18:11; Psalms 31:3; Psalms 73:26; Psalms 89:27; Psalms 94:22; Isaiah 17:10; Isaiah 30:29).

It accords with the design of the song to render this word by "Rock," as descriptive of His righteous dealings toward Israel, and His faithfulness to His promises. This exordium places in striking contrast the moral perfections of Yahweh with the unworthy requital made to Him for all His distinguishing goodness by the people of Israel, whose perverse character and gross corruptions are, by a sudden transition common in sacred poetry, forthwith spoken of.

Verse 5

They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.

They have corrupted themselves - i:e., the Israelites, by their frequent lapses and their inveterate attachment to idolatry.

Their spot is not the spot of his children. This is an allusion to the marks which idolaters inscribe on their foreheads or their arms, with paint or other substances, in various colours and forms-straight, oval, or circular-according to the favourite idol of their worship. There is no reason to believe that the ancient people of God were ever distinguished by any visible marks on their persons of their devotion to His service. But they had witnessed those outward badges of idolatry on the pagan people with whom they had come in contact: so that the figurative language of the song would be universally understood to mean that their character and conduct were not such that observers would recognize in them any resemblance to the worshippers of the true God.

They are a perverse and crooked generation, [ dowr (H1755) `iqeesh (H6141) uwptaltol (H6618)] - a false (deceitful), and crooked [from paathal (H6617), to twist], and twisted generation. Such being the unhappy state of Israel, the sacred bard expostulates with them, why they had made so base a return to God for all His benefits.

Verse 6

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?

Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? [ Hª-la-Yahweh (H3068) tigmªluw (H1580) zo't (H2063). If the first word should stand according to this reading of the text, being the only passage in which it appears in full form, then Yahweh (H3068) is in the accusative governed by the verb. But many scholars propose letting the Hebrew interrogative particle ha- stand by itself, and prefixing la- to Yahweh, as the verb gaamaal (H1580), when used in the sense to reward, to recompense, is commonly followed by the preposition `al (H5921) (cf. 2 Chronicles 20:11; Psalms 103:10). But the meaning is the same, whichever of the two constructions is preferred.]

Is not he thy father that hath bought thee? - i:e., redeemed, emancipated thee from Egyptian bondage. [ Qaanaah (H7069), is applied to this event (Exodus 15:16), and generally to redemption from captivity (Deuteronomy 28:68; Nehemiah 5:8; Isaiah 11:11).]

Hath he not made thee, and established thee? - i:e., advanced the nation of Israel to special privileges and unprecedented distinction.

Verse 7

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.

Remember the days of old ... Hengstenberg beautifully and justly remarks ('Christology,' 2:, p. 170, 171), that this parting hymn of Moses is the germ of all prophetism: the sacred bard here throws himself into the midst of future generations in Israel, and appeals to their personal experience or traditional knowledge of God's signal favour to their nation. 'He mourns over their ingratitude and apostasy, as if it were already past, because he foresees that it will be so; and he, in the spirit, transfers himself into those future times, and says that which then only should be said.'

Verses 8-9

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.

When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance. In the division of the earth, which Noah is believed to have made by divine direction in the days of Peleg (Genesis 10:5; Genesis 10:25; Deuteronomy 2:5-9; Acts 17:26-27), Palestine was reserved by the wisdom and goodness of Heaven for the possession of His special people, and the display of the most stupendous wonders. The theater was small, but admirably situated for the convenient observation of the human race-at the junction of the two great continents of Asia and Africa, and almost within sight of Europe. From this spot, as from a common center, the report of God's wonderful works, the glad tidings of salvation through the obedience and sufferings of His own eternal Son, might be rapidly and easily wafted to every part of the globe.

He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. 'Though Peleg is not named, a division of the earth is noticed; and the relation to the number of the children of Israel may point to its 72 (12 x 6) names that occur in the text (Genesis 10:1-32), if we exclude Noah and his three sons' (Pye Smith, Kitto's 'Cyclopaedia,' art. 'Dispersion of Nations').

The dispersion of mankind took place in an orderly manner, according to their families and language (see the notes at Genesis 10:1-32), each people being guided by the secret over-ruling providence of God to the country they were destined to inherit. In this heaven-directed distribution of lands, the posterity of Canaan were located in the country of that name, the divine Proprietor having eventually assigned it to the children of Israel; and when the corruptions of the former had increased to such a height that their iniquity was full, God interposed by His judgments to exterminate them, and make way for the children of Israel. Others think that the words "according to the number of the children of Israel," are used with a special reference to the vast population of Israel in later ages, when, though they should multiply to so extraordinary an amount, the land of Canaan, by its mountain terraces, etc., was made sufficient for containing its teeming multitudes.

Another rendering, which has received the sanction of eminent scholars, has been proposed as follows: 'When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, and set the bounds of every people, the children of Israel were few in numbers, when the Lord chose that people and made Jacob His inheritance' (cf. Deuteronomy 30:5; Genesis 34:30; Psalms 105:9-12). [The Septuagint renders the latter clause: esteesen horia ethnoon kat' arithmon angeloon Theou, according to the number of the angels (cf. Daniel 10:13).]

Also, on the origin of the dogma of the tutelary spirits of the nation, and the popular belief of the Jews in this doctrine, supposed to have been derived from the contact with the Egyptians, who divided the earth into 70 parts, see Hody, 'On the Septuagint Version;' Hengstenberg, 'On Daniel,' p. 234; Pusey, 'On Daniel,' p. 362; Seluyn's 'Notae Criticae Deuteronomy,' p. 65; Alford, on Matthew 18:10, and on Acts 17:26.

Verse 9. Jacob is the lot of his inheritance, [ chebel (H2256)] - a rope, a measuring line, a definite tract of country (see the notes at Deuteronomy 3:4; Deuteronomy 3:13-14).

Verse 10

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.

He found him in a desert land, [ yimtsaa'eehuw (H4672), he found] - i:e., 'assisted,' 'sustained,' provided for him [ bª'erets (H776) midbaar (H4057)] in a pasture land uninhabited, but occupied by nomadic people. But Hengstenberg ('Pentateuch,' 1:, p. 125) regards the word "found" as so special that it cannot be attributed to an accidental agreement. The phrase is borrowed by Hosea (Hosea 9:10), "I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness," 'where,' says Hengstenberg, 'the general image of an agreeable discovery, in the Pentateuch, is individualized by the prophet under the image of grapes.' The reason why "the wilderness" is selected as the starting point of Israel's career is, that there only they began to feel themselves a free and independent people.

And in the waste howling wilderness, [ uwbtohuw (H8414) yªleel (H3214) yªshimon (H3452)] - and in a desolate howling wilderness: very different term from the former. These epithets show clearly that they are not descriptive of the general character of the wilderness, but only of particular portions of it-namely, either the great Arabah, the long, parched, dreary valley which extends from the Dead Sea to Akaba, or to the sterile region east of the Seir mountains, on the border of the Arabian desert, which the Israelites were under necessity of traversing toward the close of their migrations-which is described elsewhere as great and terrible, infested by "fiery serpents" and the perilous state of which is alluded to by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:6).

The phraseology, "waste howling wilderness" is commonly considered an Oriental expression for a desert full of wild beasts, whose loud roars at night form a terrific element in the scene. But perhaps the "howling" refers rather to the loud rushing sound of the Khamsin, which, amid the prevalence of an awful death-like silence everywhere, blows with tremendous impetuosity, charged with clouds of sand and gravel, darkening the air, and excluding the prospect of every object far and near. The roaring sweep of this tempestuous blast over the wide area of the desert renders the figurative description in the song exceedingly striking and impressive.

He led him about, he instructed him. 'Jehovah (Yahweh),' says Harmer ('Observations,' 4:, p. 123), 'certainly instructed Israel in religion, by delivering to him his law in the wilderness; but it is not of this kind of teaching Moses here speaks, but of God's instructing Israel how to avoid the dangers of the journey, by leading the people about this and that dangerous precipitous hill, directing them to proper passes through the mountains, and guiding them through the intricacies of that difficult journey which might, and probably would, have confounded the most consummate Arab guides. They that could have safely enough conducted a small caravan of travelers through this desert might have been very unequal to the task of directing such an enormous multitude, encumbered with cattle, women, children, and utensils.'

He kept him as the apple of his eye, [ kª'iyshown (H380) `eeynow (H5869)] - as the little man of his eye; i:e., the pupil, in which, as in a mirror, a person can discern the image of himself reflected in miniature (cf. Proverbs 7:2). It is a beautiful image, and, by alluding to the care with which every person defends his eye from injury, conveys a graphic idea of the tender, vigilant assiduity with which the Lord watched over His people.

Verse 11

As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:

As an eagle ... fluttereth over her young. This beautiful and expressive metaphor is founded on the extraordinary care and attachment which the female eagle cherishes for her young. When her newly-fledged progeny are sufficiently advanced to soar in their native element, she, in their first attempts at flying, supports them on the tip of her wing, encouraging, directing, and aiding their feeble efforts to longer and sublimer flights. So did God take the most tender and powerful care of His chosen people. He carried them out of Egypt and led them through all the horrors of the wilderness to the promised inheritance (Exodus 19:4: see an interesting description of a parent eagle teaching her brood their first lessons in flying, Sir H. Davy's 'Salmonia,' p. 99).

Verse 12

So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.

So the Lord alone did lead him ... Isaiah (Isaiah 63:11) represents the Holy Spirit as the conductor of Israel through the wilderness-an incontestible proof that the Spirit is a divine Spirit.

Verses 13-14

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;

He made him ride on the high places ... All these expressions seem to have special reference to their home in the Trans-Jordanic territory, that being the whole of Palestine that they had seen at the time when Moses is represented as uttering these words, honey of the wild bees which hive in the crevices of the rocks, the oil from the olive as it grew, singly or in small clumps on the tops of hills, where scarcely anything else would grow, the finest wheat (Psalms 81:16; Psalms 147:14), and the prolific vintage.

But 'the words may prophetically refer to their settlement in Canaan, of which "the high places of the earth" are very descriptive. Palestine, being a hilly country, may well be denominated 'the heights of the earth' (cf. Ezekiel 5:5; Ezekiel 6:2; Ezekiel 33:28; Ezekiel 35:12; Ezekiel 36:1). [The Septuagint has: anebibasen autous epi teen ischun tees gees.] Of those richly productive mountains the Lord put Israel in full, free, and permanent possession; and that people, in cultivating them by artificial terraces to the very summit, found their country, through the blessing of God, rich and prosperous in the highest degree.

He made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock. Honey, which was a principal article of food with the Hebrews, is got abundantly in Palestine still, the bees depositing their honey in the crevices of the rocks and in hollow trees (1 Samuel 14:25; 1 Samuel 14:27; Matthew 3:4). The abundant supply of honey was an attractive prospect to hold out, as bees are not numerous in Egypt, from the scarcity of flowers. But in form, as well as in the habit of depositing their honey in the clefts of the rocks, they are similar to those in Palestine (Wilkinson).

Oil of olive, which was also used for a variety of purposes, was plentiful in many parts of the Holy Land; the sides of the smaller hills are covered with olive trees, which grow thrivingly upon the parterres between the rocks. Oil was an article of export to Egypt (Hosea 12:1). Harmer thinks, that as the latter clause refers to planted and cultivated olive trees on the mountains, so the first part of the parallelism must refer to the aromatic plants and flowers on the hillsides, from which the bees imbibe the fragrant juice which they carry home to their hives in which the honey is made. Some parts of the country are redolent of honey. Indeed, from the wide application of the term "honey" among the Hebrews, who used it to denote the juice of the palm tree, of the fig tree, as well as of grapes when made into a kind of syrup, we think there is some probability that the "honey" in this passage was yielded by trees on the hill-sides as well as the oil (see also Roger's 'Domestic Life in Palestine,' p. 78).

Verse 14. Butter of kine, [ chem'at (H2529) baaqaar (H1241); Septuagint, bouturon booon, thick, curdled milk] (Genesis 18:8; Judg. 4:25 : cf. Josephus, 'Antiquities.' b. 5:, ch. 5:, sec. 25) - the substance produced by churning; an operation which among the Bedouin Arabs is performed in a very primitive manner, by shaking or swinging it in a goat's skin between two upright posts (Wilde's 'Travels,' 2:, p. 181; Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 1:, p. 445; 2:, p. 418), and resulting in the separation of the unctuous from the wheyey part of the fluid (Chandler's 'Travels,' 1:, p. 2; Shaw's 'Travels,' 1:, p. 308).

The cream is what is meant in this passage, for butter is used in Palestine only in a semi-liquid state; and sour milk, called leban, is considered a refreshing and grateful beverage, frequently offered to travelers.

And milk of sheep, [ wachªleeb (H2461) - new or fresh milk] (Genesis 18:8; Genesis 49:12).

With fat of lambs, [ kaariym (H3733), well-fed lambs]. The name signifies leaping and frisking, as animals fed on a rich pasture. The fat itself was prohibited (Leviticus 3:17).

Rams of the breed of Bashan - literally, the sons of Bashan; Bashan, the rich pastoral country east of Jordan assigned to the half-tribe of Manasseh (Numbers 32:1-42), and celebrated for its fat and robust cattle (Psalms 22:12; Ezekiel 39:18; Amos 4:1).

And goats, [ wª`atuwdiym (H6260)] - perfect in form, and age, and stature.

With the fat of kidneys of wheat - i:e., the marrow or farina of the grain (Psalms 81:16; Psalms 147:14).

And thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape, [ chaamer (H2561)] - and the blood of the grape thou didst drink red wine - i:e., fermented (cf. Isaiah 27:2). The variety of produce here specified betokened a country rich in natural capabilities and internal resources. Milk and butter alone are employed to describe a poor uncultivated pasture-land, occupied by nomads (Isaiah 7:22). But butter combined with honey, and the other associated elements of this picture, convey the idea of a land in a high state of beauty and productiveness.

Verse 15

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.

But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked [ wayib`aaT (H1163)] - kicked as a full-fed, headstrong ox; figuratively, rebelled against God. [ Yªshuruwn (H3484) - a poetical name for Israel, implying affection and endearment; from yaashar (H3474), straight, righteous. Dimin., Jeshurun, 'the good little people' (Gesenius). But Hengstenberg rejects this definition, denying the termination " - un" to be the Hebrew sign of a diminutive, and maintaining that Jeshurun is only a rare appellative, expressive of their covenanted relation to God. But their practice did not correspond to their privileges.]

The metaphor here used is derived from a pampered animal, which, instead of being tame and gentle, becomes mischievous and vicious, in consequence of good living and kind treatment. So did the Israelites conduct themselves by their various acts of rebellion, murmuring, and idolatrous apostasy.

He forsook God, [ wayiTosh (H5203) 'Elowah (H433)] - he rejected God. Eloah, in the singular, as a name of the true God, is of rare occurrence. It is found 57 times in the Old Testament, 52 times applied to the true God only. Of the 57 times, two instances are in this song (namely, the present and Deuteronomy 32:17); one in 2 Chronicles 32:15, one in Nehemiah 9:17,41 times in Job. The rest are in the poetical and prophetical books. It appears, then, that 'Eloah, as a singular noun applied to the true God, occurs but twice in the prose portions of Scripture; whence it may be safely concluded that the plural 'Elohiym (H430) is the proper prose form, while the other is a poetical term not used in prose for the true God until the Chaldee dialect became familiar to the Jews during the captivity.

Verse 16

They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger.

They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, [ bªzaariym (H2114)] - strangers (Jeremiah 3:13; Jeremiah 5:19; singular, Isaiah 43:12); else with [ 'eel (H410)] god (Psalms 44:21; Psalms 81:10).

Verse 17

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.

They sacrificed unto devils, [ lasheediym (H7700), lords, = bª`aaliym (H1168) (Gesenius); Septuagint, daimoniois]. The Hebrews regarded idols as lords who constrained men to worship them (cf. Psalms 106:37 with 1 Corinthians 8:5; 1 Corinthians 10:20: see also the note at Leviticus 17:7, where "devils," in the King James Version, is the translation of a different Hebrew word from that in the present context.

Gods whom they knew not - implying that the true God had made Himself known by a long series of miraculous interpositions, and with promises of continued favour to them and their posterity, on condition of their stedfast allegiance.

New gods, [ chadaashiym (H2319)] - i:e., whom they had not previously worshipped.

That came newly up [ miqaarob (H7138)] from near; i e from Moab Ammon and Canaan That came newly up, [ miqaarob (H7138)] - from near; i:e., from Moab, Ammon, and Canaan.

Whom your fathers feared not. It was often urged upon the Israelites, as a motive for stedfastly adhering to the worship of God, that He was the God of their fathers (Exodus 3:13; Deuteronomy 1:11; Deuteronomy 4:1; Deuteronomy 13:6; Joshua 18:3; 2 Chronicles 28:9; Jeremiah 44:3). There are two sets of idols mentioned in this passage-namely, "devils," i:e., demons, the spirits of dead men. That practice they learned from the Egyptians. The other, 'gods which came newly up,' was derived from the nations with whom they had recent contact-Phoenician idols.

Verse 18

Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 19

And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters.

He abhorred them, [ wayin'aats (H5006)] - he rejected them with hatred and aversion.

Because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters - i:e., by their sins.

Verse 20

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.

And he said ... Certain words occur which make no part of the measures, or are not taken into the account of the verse. The word, "And he said," stands by itself. Then the line,

"I will hide my face from them,"

and "I will see what is their latter end,"

is the trimeter answering to it (cf. Deuteronomy 32:26-27. 'I said:' see Lowth's 'Preliminary Dissertations,' p. 41, also

p. 45).

Verse 21

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.

I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people. This special use of the mercy shown to the Gentiles is in harmony with what is stated in other passages, where God is represented as provoking the Jews to jealousy by imparting to the Gentiles those blessings which in former times were confined to the Jews only (cf. Romans 11:11-14 with Matthew 12:41).

The point lies in the expression used here [ `am (H5971)] - a people in the fullest idea of unity being applied to Israel, in contradistinction to [ gowyim (H1471)] nations, who are described as [ lo' (H3808) `am (H5971)] non-people, from their want of the principle of a divine unity.

A foolish nation. Those who in the former distich were called "not a people," are here called "a foolish nation," from their devoted attachment to a foolish idolatry (cf. Romans 1:22).

Verse 22

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.

A fire is kindled in mine anger. Fire is mentioned as a natural concomitant of, and therefore an appropriate figure for, a declaration of anger or severe displeasure.

Unto the lowest hell, [ `ad (H5704) Shª'owl (H7585)] - unto Sheol; i:e., to the lowest or last degree. [Septuagint, hioos Hadou katoo.]

Verse 23

I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them.

I will spend mine arrows upon them. War, famine, pestilence (Psalms 77:17) are called in Scripture the arrows of the Almighty.

Verse 24

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.

Serpents of the dust, [ zochªleey (H2119)]. This term for reptiles occurs only here (Job 32:6; Job 7:17).

Verse 25

The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.

The sword without, and terror within shall destroy, [ tªshakel (H7921)] - shall bereave (King James Version margin).

Verse 26

I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men:

I said, I would scatter them. One leading design of the selection of Israel was, besides the instituted means of preserving in that nation the knowledge and worship of God, to diffuse the same knowledge to some extent among the surrounding pagan by this miraculous procedure and distinguishing favour to them. A regard to this object is frequently manifested in the plan of the divine government of that people, and as a motive influencing the measures of the divine dispensation (Exodus 9:14; Numbers 14:11-26).

'The same motive,' says Graves ('Lectures on the Pentateuch,' 2:, p. 362), 'is represented as operating to prevail upon Jehovah (Yahweh) to withhold the full punishment in justice due to the crimes of this wayward people.' Thus, in his last solemn hymn, in which the lawgiver exhibits a prophetic sketch of the entire dealing of God with His people, after enumerating the signal punishments which would follow their apostasies, he adds, "I would scatter them into corners, 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."

Verses 27-28

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 29

O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!

Oh that they ... would consider their latter end! - the terrible judgments which, in the event of their continued and incorrigible disobedience, would impart so awful a character to the close of their national history.

Verse 30

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?

How should one chase a thousand ... The express promise given to Israel, on condition of their religious allegiance to God, that 5 of that people should, by His miraculous aid, chase 100 of their enemies (Leviticus 26:8), would not be fulfilled, and they would be ignominiously defeated and trampled upon by a handful of enemies. The reason was, that God, their great and only refuge would withdraw His protection and dissolve His relation to them, so that they would fall into the power of their enemies, and be sold for slaves, having been 'shut up' in the net laid for them.

Verse 31

For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.

For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges. They were compelled, by dear-bought experience, to acknowledge the supremacy of Israel's God (Exodus 14:25; Numbers 23:1; 1 Samuel 4:8; Jeremiah 43:3).

Verse 32

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:

Their vine is of the vine of Sodom. This fruit, which the Arabs call 'Lot's sea orange,' is of a bright yellow colour, and grows in clusters of three or four. When mellow, it is tempting in appearance; but, on being struck, explodes like a puff-ball, consisting of skin and fibre only (see Josephus, 'Jewish Wars,' b. 4:, ch.

viii., sec. 4). Hasselquist ('Travels,' p. 289) considers the fruit referred to:

`which grew Near that bituminous lake where Sodom stood,'

to be the Solanum melongena of Linnaeus, which abounds in the vicinity of the Dead Sea, and which is filled with dust, occasioned by the attack of an insect, tenthredo, which converts the whole of the inside into dust, leaving nothing but the rind entire, and without any loss of colour.

Chateaubriand describes the shrub as prickly, its leaves long and slender, while its fruit is altogether like the lime of Egypt, both in colour and shape. Before it ripens it is swollen out, and has a biting, bitter taste; when it is withered, it yields a dusky seed, which may be compared to ashes, and which has a taste like pepper.

Robinson ('Biblical Researches,' 2: p. 236) takes it to be the 'Asher of the Arabs, the Aulepias gigantea vel procera of botanists, which, though growing plentifully in Upper Egypt and Nubia, is in Palestine confined to the borders of the Dead Sea. It is much larger than the Solanum melongena. The stem Isaiah 6:0 or 8 inches in diameter, and the height of the tree is from 10 to 15 feet. 'We saw it and the 'Asher growing side by side; and the latter arrested our attention by its singular accordance with the ancient story. It must be plucked and handled with great care, in order to preserve it from bursting. We attempted to carry some of the boughs and fruit with us to Jerusalem, but without success' (see also Munk's 'Palestine;' Wolff's 'Missionary Journey,' p. 491; Porter's 'Syria and Palestine,' p. 243: cf. Isaiah 5:2).

The highly poetical image founded on the "vine of Sodom" was employed to exhibit the universal corruption and hopeless degeneracy of Israel in latter ages (see Michaelis, 'Questions proposed to the Danish Travellers,' No. 64).

Grapes of gall, [ rowsh (H7219)] - poppy; a poisonous plant of extremely rapid growth and great acridity. Grapes of gall, [ rowsh (H7219)] - poppy; a poisonous plant of extremely rapid growth and great acridity. It is usually associated with wormwood (Deuteronomy 29:17; Psalms 69:22; Lamentations 3:5; Hosea 10:4); "gall" - i:e., the water or juice of poppy (Jeremiah 8:14; Jeremiah 9:14; Jeremiah 23:15).

Their clusters are bitter (cf. 2 Kings 4:39-41; Isaiah 5:2-4; Jeremiah 2:21).

Verse 33

Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.

Their wine is the poison of dragons, [ chªmat (H2534) taniynim (H8577), the heat] - i:e. (as ulcerating the bowels), the poison or venom of serpents.

And the cruel venom of asps, [ wªro'sh (H7219) ... 'akzaar (H393)] - the violent deadly poison [ pªtaaniym (H6620)] of asps or adders. [Septuagint, thumos aspidoon aniatos, the incurable poison of asps.] The Pethen is in all probability the Boetoen of the Arabs, the Colyber naja of Egypt. It is described by Forskall as being 'wholly spotted (in blotches) black and white, a foot in length, nearly 2 inches thick, oviparous. Its bite is instant death; the body of the wounded person swells greatly' (Taylor's 'Fragments' in Calmet).

Verse 34

Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?

Is not this laid up in store with me? - i:e., all their wickedness, of which previous mention has been made. Their sins, though long borne with patience, are all remembered, being sealed up in a bag (Job 14:17) as a treasure carefully kept; and they, too, shall be put in painful remembrance of them.

Verse 35

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.

To me belongeth vengeance and recompense. It is my office, in the course of my providential government, to punish; and as I am well acquainted with all their sins, shall visit them in righteous retribution. Their foot shall slide in due time. Though they now fancy themselves secure, firm, and immovable, they shall ere long totter to their fall. The phraseology was founded on the difficulty of walking in a hill-country along narrow footpaths. 'Ours,' says Dr. Thomson ('Land and Book,' 1:, p. 106), 'has frequently been not more than a foot wide, of hard, smooth rock, and with a profound gorge yawning beneath. To slide and fall is, in a thousand places, certain destruction; and no threatenings against the workers of iniquity are more terrible than that they shall be set in slippery places, that their feet shall slide in due time.' This "due time" may be the captivity, or "the fullness of time," when, after their rejection and crucifixion of Christ, wrath came upon them to the wittermost (Acts 2:13; Galatians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16).

For the day of their calamity is at hand, [ qaarowb (H7138); Septuagint, engus-is near. Although this awful judgment was not to be inflicted until a distant futurity, yet, as viewed through the telescope of prophecy, it might be said to be "at hand."

And the things that shall come upon them make haste. The punishment of sinners, though long deferred, is certain; and when they have filled up the measure of their iniquities, the judgment will forthwith fall in full weight upon them.

Verse 36

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.

For the Lord shall judge his people - i:e., will make a just discrimination, and winnow the wheat from the chaff; the faithful from the idolatrous and the wicked among His people.

And repent himself for his servants - i:e., change his procedure toward them.

When he seeth that ... there is none shut up, or left, [ `aatsuwr (H6113) wª`aazuwb] - the shut up and the let go free, or, the bond and the free; i:e., all the people were carried off or destroyed (1 Kings 14:10; 1 Kings 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8; 2 Kings 14:26); none were shut up in fortresses, concealed in caves, or immured in prisons, and none were left, a poor contemptible remnant to occupy the depopulated land (2 Kings 25:12).

Verse 37

And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted,

He shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted? Previous to their deliverance, God in His providence will convince His people, from the degraded and miserable state into which idolatry had reduced them, of the vanity and the helplessness of idols.

Verse 38

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.

Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices - i:e., to whom Israel, in the times of their apostasy, did offer sacrifices and libations like the pagan (Psalms 106:28; 1 Corinthians 10:20-21).

Let them rise up and help you - i:e., if they can hear and answer your supplications (Judges 11:24; Jeremiah 2:28).

Verse 39

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.

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me. Profit by the lessons of dear-bought experience, and retain an abiding conviction henceforth of the impotence of idols, and at the same time of the being and absolute perfections of the great God who, as sovereign ruler of men, will show mercy and favour to His people, but will inflict upon those who oppose Him judicial vengeance, which no power can avert or escape.

Verse 40

For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.

For I lift up my hand to heaven - the usual form of solemn adjuration.

And say, I live for ever - i:e., as sure as I am the self-existent Yahweh, I will execute my promises as well as my threatenings. The inviolable oath announces the certainty of the historic fulfillment of all the divine acts described in this prophetic song. God is not, as some ancient philosophers maintained, a passive or indifferent spectator of events that take place in the world. Although invisible to the eye of sense, He makes Himself known by His varying dispensations, and shows by their results that He is always the same, whether He kill or make alive: the grand agent who makes His presence recognized and His glory manifested in the expanding scheme of Providence (Jeremiah 4:2; Hebrews 6:13; Revelation 10:5-6). The object of the antithesis in this series of animated interrogatories and declarations is to show the essential difference between the true God and idols (see Pye Smith,'s 'Scripture Testimony,' 2:, p. 168, note; Hengstenberg's 'Christology,' 1:, p. 215).

Verse 41

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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 42

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.

From the beginning of revenges upon the enemy. LeClerc renders these words; 'from the head, the princes (Judges 5:2) (to the lowest soldiers) of the enemy;' others, 'from the hairy scalp of the enemy' (cf. Psalms 68:21).

Verse 43

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.

Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people, [ harªniynuw (H7442) gowyim (H1471) `amow (H5971)] - shout for joy, ye nations, his people. The Hebrew text has not the preposition with. [Our translation is evidently taken from the Septuagint, which has: eufrantheete ethnee meta tou laou autou, rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people; and is quoted by Paul, Romans 15:10.]

The Septuagint version differs to a remarkable degree from the Hebrew text in this passage (see the note at Hebrews 1:6), where the reading of the Septuagint is adopted by the inspired author, and reasons are assigned by Bleek and Ebrard for giving it a preference, in point of antiquity, to the text in our present Hebrew Copies. (See also Bengel's 'Gnomon,' and Alford, in loco citato.)

The Hebrew text seems more fully in accordance with the concluding strain of the song, where God's people alone are addressed, and a call is made upon them to raise their jubilant song of praise - "Rejoice, ye pagan (who are now), his people." The burden of the song related to the severe and protracted chastisement of God's ancient people for the abuse of their distinguished privileges, and to the unmistakeable evidence that would be furnished, even by His judgments upon them, that He was the true God.

The latter portion describes the compassion and returning mercy of God toward multitudes of the Jews, who, separated in the furnace of affliction from the mass of that apostate and obdurate race, should, through the public avowal of their faith, be received into the Church; and their conversion, accompanied, as many think, by a restoration to the land of their fathers, pave the way for the spiritual regeneration of all the Gentile nations.

The ultimate design of the chequered dispensations of Providence is to preserve the true Israel, throughout the extended family of man, from the doom which sin has entailed upon the world; and hence, at the close of the song, the redeemed of the Lord are called to raise their triumphal song, "Rejoice, ye nations, (as) his people."

And will be merciful unto his land, and to his people, [ wªkiper (H3722)] - and will make atonement for, will pardon or forgive; i:e., as the verb is used in the reflexive sense, will be propitious to 'his land and his people.' So long as the Jews shall persist in their sinful state of unbelief and apostasy, the divine vengeance will fall with unabated severity upon their polluted land: both the justice and the holiness of God must be opposed to the cessation of the heavy judgment inflicted upon that people and their country. But when those judgments shall have produced their intended effect in the destruction of the enemies of God, and in the nascent spirit of repentance and faith among the descendants of Jacob, their transgressions are covered, and "The Lord will have mercy upon Zion; for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come."

In this inspired composition-which is not a lyric, but a song of a unique description, a historico-prophetical poem-written on the eve of the occupation of Canaan, and well calculated by its poetical form, as well as its striking imagery, to take a deep hold of the popular mind-every successive generation of the Jewish people was reminded of their close relations to Yahweh as the Founder, Benefactor, and Ruler of their common-wealth, and of the vital importance of a faithful allegiance to Him, as, according to the fundamental principle of its constitution, the source of their national stability and prosperity.

They found traced out in broad and distinct outline the diversified course of their national experience, from its commencement at the exodus, and the weary pilgrimage in the wilderness, to their happy settlement in the promised land, with all the marvelous tokens of the divine presence and favour, and the special privileges by which their nation was pre-eminently distinguished. While they would dwell with rapture on the bright picture drawn of the halcyon days of young Israel, they would observe the horizon gradually overcast and troubled by gloomy and threatening clouds in the advanced times of the monarchy, until there supervened the dark, disastrous, long night of the dispersion; and in contemplating this sad picture of the decline and fall of their nation, the painful truth was enforced upon them that they were the guilty authors of their own misfortunes, by severing, through willful apostasy and blind unbelief, the bonds of their covenanted relations with God.

Thus this song would serve as a seasonable and useful monitor to all classes of the people, and in every succeeding age, of the character of God, as inviolably true and faithful to His promises, as well as His threatenings; and as it was given to be a prophetic witness, embracing the whole future of the kingdom of God, it may yet be destined to exert a potent influence on the reflecting minds or awakened consciences of the existing or future race of Jews, who, in pondering over the literal fulfillment of the prophetic Word in the severe and long-continued judgment, may be led to hope for a still more signal display of the divine love in the redemption of Israel.

Then, when, being converted, they shall have professed their faith in Jesus as the true Messiah; when the name of Jew shall be dropped from the vocabulary of the world; when persecution shall have been put down without, ignorance and superstition banished within, and all mankind are united in one glorious Church by the bonds of Christian brotherhood-then shall be raised the triumphal song, 'Rejoice, O ye nations, now his people: for the Lord has avenged the blood of his servants; he has rendered vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful (propitious) to his land, and to his people.'

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 32". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/deuteronomy-32.html. 1871-8.