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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 9

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven, This day - means this time. The Israelites had 40 years before reached the confines of the promised land, but were obliged, to their great mortification, to return. But now were they certainly to enter it.

To possess nations greater and mightier than thyself - (see the note at Deuteronomy 7:1.) No obstacle could prevent their possession: neither the fortified defenses of the towns nor the resistance of the gigantic inhabitants, of whom they had received from the spies so formidable a description.

Cities great, and fenced up to heaven. Oriental cities generally cover a much greater space than those in Europe; because the houses often stand apart, with gardens and fields intervening. They are almost all surrounded with walls, built of burnt or sun-dried bricks, about 40 feet in height. All classes in the East, but especially the nomad tribes, in their ignorance of engineering and artillery, would abandon in despair the idea of an assault on a walled town which European soldiers would demolish in a few hours.

Verse 2

A people great and tall, the children of the Anakims, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before the children of Anak!

Anakims ... of whom thou hast heard say. The currency of this familiar saying in the days of Moses warrants the inference, which is supported by other and independent reasons, that the Anakim had obtained a hold upon Canaan at a comparatively recent period-most probably subsequent to the time of Abraham.

Verse 3

Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 4

Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.

Speak not ... saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land. Moses takes special care to guard his countrymen against the vanity of supposing that their own merits had procured them the distinguished privilege. The Canaanites were a hopelessly corrupt race, and deserved extermination (Leviticus 18:24-25: cf. Genesis 15:16); but history relates many remarkable instances in which God punished corrupt and guilty nations by the instrumentality of other people as bad as themselves. It was not for the sake of the Israelites, but for His own sake, for the promise made to their pious ancestors, and in furtherance of high and comprehensive purposes of good to the world, that God was about to give them a grant of Canaan.

It has been justly observed that the Canaanites, with the exception of the inhabitants of the Pentapolis, far from exhibiting evidences of great and extensive demoralization, appear in the days of Abraham a liberal, polite, and virtuous community, showing respect to the patriarch as 'a prince of God' (Genesis 23:6), and enjoying the fruits of peace and prosperity. 'The degradation of the race who ruled over the land of Canaan is almost as incomprehensible for its rapidity as for its enormity. Soon after Abraham's death the shepherd power in Egypt was finally broken. Then began the great war of the races. It must have been during the interval of Israel's sojourn in Egypt that the work of depravation was consummated' (Corbaux, 'J.S.L.' Jan., 1853, p. 287.)

Verses 5-6

Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 7

Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD.

Remember ... how thou provokedst the Lord. To dislodge from their minds any presumptuous idea of their own righteousness, Moses rehearses their acts of disobedience and rebellion, committed so frequently, and in circumstances of such awful and impressive solemnity, that they had forfeited all claims to the favour of God. The candour and boldness with which he gave, and the patient submission with which the people bore, his recital of charges so discreditable to their national character, has often been appealed to as among the many evidences of the truth of this history.

Verse 8

Also in Horeb ye provoked the LORD to wrath, so that the LORD was angry with you to have destroyed you.

Also in Horeb - rather, 'even in Horeb,' where it might have been expected they would have acted otherwise.

Verses 9-11

When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 12

And the LORD said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.

Arise, get thee down ... for thy people ... have corrupted themselves. With a view to humble them effectually, Moses proceeds to particularize some of the most atrocious instances of their infidelity; and he begins with the impiety of the golden calf-an impiety which, while their miraculous emancipation from Egypt, the most stupendous displays of the Divine Majesty that were exhibited on the adjoining mount, and the recent ratification of the covenant by which they engaged to act as the people of God, were fresh in memory, indicated a degree of inconstancy or debasement almost incredible.

Verses 13-16

Furthermore the LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 17

And I took the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes.

I took the two tables ... and brake them before your eyes - not in the heat of intemperate passion, but in righteous indignation; from zeal to vindicate the unsullied honour of God, and, by the suggestion of His Spirit, to intimate that the covenant had been broken, and the people excluded from the divine favour.

Verse 18

And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.

I fell down before the Lord. The sudden and painful reaction which this scene of pagan revelry produced on the mind of the pious and patriotic leader can be more easily imagined than described. Great and public sins call for seasons of extraordinary humiliation; and in his deep affliction for the awful apostasy, he seems to have held a miraculous fast as long as before. These 40 days are not mentioned in the book of Exodus.

Verse 19

For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you. But the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 20

And the LORD was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and I prayed for Aaron also the same time.

The Lord was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him. By allowing himself to be over-borne by the tide of popular clamour, he became a partaker in the guilt of idolatry, and would have suffered the penalty of his sinful compliance had not the earnest intercession of Moses on his behalf prevailed.

Verse 21

And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount.

I took your sin - i:e., the fruit of your sin. I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount. It is too seldom borne in mind that though the Israelites were supplied with water from this rock when they were stationed at Rephidim (Wady Feiran), there is nothing in the Scripture narrative which should lead us to suppose that the rock was in the immediate neighbourhood of that place (see the notes at Exodus 17:5-6).

The water of this smitten rock was probably the brook that descended from the mount. The water may have flowed to the distance of many miles from the rock, as the winter torrents do now through the wadies of Arabia Petrea (Psalms 78:15-16). And the rock may have been smitten at such a height, and at a spot bearing such a relation to the Sinaitic valleys, as to furnish in this way supplies of water to the Israelites during the journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir and Kadesh-barnea (Deuteronomy 1:1-2). On this supposition, new light is perhaps cast on the figurative language of the apostle, when he speaks of 'the rock following' the Israelites (1 Corinthians 10:4) (Wilson's 'Lands of the Bible').

Verses 22-24

And at Taberah, and at Massah, and at Kibroth-hatta'avah, ye provoked the LORD to wrath.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 25

Thus I fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the LORD had said he would destroy you.

Thus I fell down before the Lord ... as I fell down at the first. After the enumeration of various acts of rebellion, he had mentioned the outbreak at Kadesh-barnea, which, on a superficial reading of this verse, would seem to have led Moses to a third and protracted season of humiliation. But on a comparison of this passage with Numbers 14:5, the subject and language of this prayer show that only the second act of intercession (Deuteronomy 9:18) is now described in fuller detail.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/deuteronomy-9.html. 1871-8.
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