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THE CLOSE OF MOSES ’ LIFE
ENCOURAGEMENT (Deuteronomy 31:1-8 )
The law has been rehearsed and Moses’ exhortation is drawing to a conclusion. Several days may have been occupied in the review covered by Deuteronomy thus far. And now, Israel, by its leaders, having been gathered together at the place of meeting, Moses is apprising them of his imminent departure.
Though advanced in years (Deuteronomy 31:2 ), was he conscious of mental or physical decay (Deuteronomy 34:7 )? Can you perceive a reason for the mention of this fact? Has it any bearing on the truth and virility of the divine messages Moses was chosen to communicate? What indicates that it was by revelation he knew of his approaching separation? Name three or four elements of the encouragement Moses gives Israel in Deuteronomy 31:3-6 .
RESPONSIBILITY (Deuteronomy 31:9-13 )
What provision was made for the perpetuity of the law (Deuteronomy 31:9 )? Note the allusion to the bearing of the ark by the priests, which they did on extraordinary occasions (Joshua 3:3-8 ; 1 Chronicles 15:11-12 ), although commonly it was borne by the Levites.
While the people were to be instructed in the law in their homes, what public rehearsal of it was here provided for (Deuteronomy 31:10-11 )? We appreciate how this guaranteed the preservation of the sacred oracles from generation
to generation, and can thank God for remembering us in this obligation upon them.
PREDICTION (Deuteronomy 31:14-30 )
In what language is the infidelity of Israel foretold (Deuteronomy 31:16 )? What would cause this apostasy? What consequence would follow (Deuteronomy 31:17-18 )? When God says, “I will forsake them,” “I will hide My face,” etc., He refers to that withdrawal of His protection as symbolized by the cloud of glory, the shekinah. This never appeared in the second temple, i.e., after the Babylonian captivity, and, its non-appearance was a prelude of “all the evils that came upon them, because their God was not among them.”
Where was the book of the law placed (Deuteronomy 31:26 )? In the Revised Version “in” is “by.” It is thought that it was deposited in a receptacle by the side of the ark which contained nothing but the tables of stone (1 Kings 8:9 ). But some, guided by Hebrews 9:4 , believe it was placed within, and that this was the copy found in the time of Josiah (2 Kings 22:8 ).
INSPIRATION (Deuteronomy 32:1-43 )
In Deuteronomy 31:19 Moses is commanded to write a song and teach it to Israel, and get them singing it as a witness for God against them in the day of their unfaithfulness. National songs take deep hold of the memories and have a powerful influence in stirring the deepest feelings of a people, and because of this God causes this song to be composed, and is indeed Himself the composer of it. In the Revised Version the whole chapter down to verse 44 is arranged as poetry.
After the exordium (Deuteronomy 32:1 ), notice the comparison of the divine instruction to what gentle, useful and beautiful feature of nature (Deuteronomy 32:2 )? What gives this instruction this character (Deuteronomy 32:3 )? Point out the seven attributes of God indicated in the ascription of praise that follows (Deuteronomy 32:3-4 ). Notice that these attributes constitute the proclamation of His name. Preachers and Christian workers will find the outline of a rich discourse here.
After the exordium we come to an indictment of the people (Deuteronomy 32:5-6 ). It is predictive as indicating what they would do in the future, and yet also a historic record of what they had already done. These verses, especially Deuteronomy 32:5 , are clearer in the Revised Version. The indictment leads to a reminiscence of God’s goodness to them, to deepen their repentance in that day as it shall quicken their gratitude (Deuteronomy 32:7-14 ).
With Deuteronomy 32:8 , compare Acts 17:26-27 in the light of Deuteronomy 2:5-9 of the present book, and Genesis 10:5 , and observe that God has from the beginning reserved Palestine for this people, through whom He would show forth His wonders to the other nations. And admirably suited is the locality for the purpose. In Ezekiel it is described as “the middle of the earth,” and as from a common center the glad tidings were, and shall be, “wafted to every part of the globe.”
Notice the figure in Deuteronomy 32:11-12 . When the eaglets are sufficiently grown, the mother bird at first supports them on the tip of her wing, encouraging and aiding their feeble efforts to higher flight.
This reminiscence of God’s goodness is followed by another indictment, fuller than the former, and showing the aggravation of the people’s sin.
“Jeshurun” is a poetic name for Israel. Notice the reference to “demons” of v Deuteronomy 32:17 (RV) and observe that such beings exist and are the real objects of the worship of false religions.
This second indictment is followed by an announcement of punishment (Deuteronomy 32:19-28 ). Note the allusion to the calling out of the Gentiles into the Church in Deuteronomy 32:21 (third clause). What are God’s arrows (Deuteronomy 32:23 )? See for answer the following verses famine, pestilence, wild beasts, the sword, fear, captivity, etc. Why would He not altogether destroy such a faithless people (Deuteronomy 32:26-27 )?
The announcement of punishment leads to a promise of forgiveness and restoration in the latter time (Deuteronomy 32:29-43 ). When will the Lord lift His hand from off His people (Deuteronomy 32:36 )? How shall He afflict them who afflicted Israel (Deuteronomy 32:41 )? What shows that the day of Israel’s blessing will be that of the whole earth (Deuteronomy 32:43 )? Compare Psalms 65:0 .
THE BLESSING AND THE END
After Moses ended his song (Deuteronomy 32:44 ) he exhorted the people in language familiar to us (Deuteronomy 32:45-47 ), and then the voice of the Lord was heard to what purport (Deuteronomy 32:49-50 )? And why (Deuteronomy 32:51 )? Can you recall the details referred to in that verse? If not, look up the story again as indicated in the margin of your Bible. What grace does God show Moses, in spite of his disobedience (Deuteronomy 32:52 )? Does Moses complain at his disappointment? On the contrary, what does he now do, as indicated in the next chapter?
BLESSING THE TRIBES (Deuteronomy 33:0 )
Notice the sublime exordium (Deuteronomy 33:2-3 ). From what object of nature is the metaphor borrowed? Why does he describe the law as fiery? (Compare again Exodus 19:16-18 .) Nevertheless, in what spirit had the law been given (Deuteronomy 33:3 )? What shows the law to have been a great privilege to as well as a great obligation upon Israel (Deuteronomy 33:4 )?
Which tribe is first blessed (Deuteronomy 33:6 )? Reuben, as we saw in Genesis 49:0 , was denied the right of primogeniture, and yet he was to hold rank as one of the tribes of Israel. Observe the reward of Levi (Deuteronomy 33:8-11 ) for their zeal in supporting Moses at the time of Israel’s idolatry (Exodus 32:26-28 ). What indicates their impartiality in executing judgment at that time (Deuteronomy 33:9 )?
Read the beautiful words expressive of Benjamin’s blessing (Deuteronomy 33:12 ). Historically it means that the land of this tribe was located near the temple. “Between his shoulders” might be rendered “on his borders,” and means that Matthew Moriah, the site of the temple, lay in the territory of Benjamin, although Matthew Zion, on which Jerusalem itself stood, was in Judah.
How does the language of Joseph’s blessing (Deuteronomy 33:13-17 ) show that his territory would be diversified in beauty and rich in productions?
What shows that Zebulun’s progeny would be sailors and traders, while that of Issachar would be landsmen (Deuteronomy 33:18 )? And yet would not the latter traffic in the things the Zebulunites would bring home with them (Deuteronomy 33:19 )?
Do you remember on which side of the Jordan Gad was located, and why? May this explain the reference (Deuteronomy 33:20 ) to the enlargement of his borders? What expression (Deuteronomy 33:21 ) may refer to his having been settled in his territory by Moses himself, and before the conquest by Joshua?
What is said of Dan (Deuteronomy 33:22 )? His original settlement was in the south, but these quarters being limited, he suddenly leaped, made an irruption, and established a colony in the north.
Which tribe seemed to have no occasion for murmuring with their assignment (Deuteronomy 33:23 )? And which was a close second (Deuteronomy 33:24-25 )? Is there anything to indicate that Asher’s soil may have been particularly adapted to the olive? Were there any minerals in his rocky coast?
MOSES’ DEATH (Deuteronomy 34:0 )
This chapter seems to have been written after the death of Moses, and has been regarded as a kind of introduction to Joshua.
Travelers say that no miraculous powers were necessary to be communicated to Moses to discern what is here recorded (Deuteronomy 34:1-3 ), and that anyone could see the same from that elevation, the climate being very “subtle and flee from vapor.”
What distinction had Moses in his death above all other men (Deuteronomy 34:6 )? While the concealment of Moses’ tomb seems wise to prevent its becoming the resort of superstitious pilgrims, yet that there was a deeper reason for it seems clear from Jude 1:9 . What that was we may not at present know, and yet there are hints about it which will be considered later on.
What eulogium does inspiration pronounce upon Moses (Deuteronomy 34:10-12 )?
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Gray, James. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 32". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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