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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 18

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Deuteronomy 18:1 . They shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire. The sin- offerings, except the skin and the fat, which were burnt on the altar. The ecclesiastics having relinquished the two great sources of wealth, lands and trade, it was but common justice that the laymen should give the guardians of the altar a suitable supply of food and raiment for them and their families.

Deuteronomy 18:10 . Useth divination. One who attempts to discover secrets in a supernatural way. The Egyptian magicians pretended to divine by cups, as may be gathered from the pretext of Joseph; a very superstitious species of divination. So is the presumptuous prediction of future things. Joshua 13:22. 1 Samuel 6:2. An observer of times; that is, an observer of vain dreams, clouds, planets, or the flight of birds. All who sacrifice the use of their judgment to this sort of superstitious phantoms, leave God, to walk in the vanity of their minds. No man in covenant with Him who ruleth over heaven and earth, should account either days or times lucky or unlucky for the transaction of his affairs. An enchanter. One who, according to poets, divines by means of serpents. A witch. Le Clerc renders this term hariolus, a soothsayer. It occurs in Daniel 2:2, and Malachi 3:5; and is thought to import imprecations of evil to men, beasts, &c.

Deuteronomy 18:11 . A charmer. One who pretends to produce supernatural effects by words of incantation; or one who could allure serpents by imitations of their calls, and thereby pretend to divine intercourse with the invisible powers. Psalms 58:5. A necromancer; a witch or wizard, who has recourse to the souls of the dead. What can be more daring in a mortal; or what more wicked in the sight of God. A consulter with familiar spirits; one who has an evil genius attending him, who practises oby, as the Hebrew word imports. Exodus 22:18. Leviticus 19:31.


We find in Deuteronomy 18:8, that if a levite had a house and garden, like the priests, he still had equal claims with his poorer brethren to the provision made by the law for his maintenance. This marks in the fullest sense, that they who preach the gospel should live by the gospel. But while we support the equity of the divine law, we should add, that ministers who have property are bound to set an example of charity before the people. A man of contracted mind, sordid and avaricious, though he should preach like an archangel, will make no lasting impression on the minds of the people.

The Israelites on pain of death were not to have recourse to the diabolical and superstitious practices of divination, uniformly appendant to idolatry. The injunction is equally binding on us. In all common cases of affliction and trouble, the advice and counsel of good men will be quite sufficient; the throne of grace is an adequate source of wisdom and instruction. Let us never desire to know the secrets of providence before the time, nor ever try to know them out of God’s way.

Moses, to comfort the people, and wean them from all propensities to follow the blind ensnaring magic of the heathen, repeats the great promise God made him on Sinai, that the day would come when they should have another prophet like unto him; and so great should be the glory of that prophet, and the plenary character of his mission, that they should need no farther instruction. He could not speak this of a succession of prophets, as some have suggested, for there never was an uninterrupted succession; and the text speaks but of one, which was Christ. So the Jews understood the passage, for they asked John the baptist whether he was that prophet.

Eusebius has admirably illustrated this subject: it here follows, as translated by Dr. Jortin. “Treating of the prophecies concerning Christ, he produces first this of Moses; and then asks which of the prophets, after Moses, Isaiah for instance, or Jeremiah, or Ezekiel, or Daniel, or any other of the twelve, was a lawgiver, and performed things like Moses? Moses first rescued the Jewish nation from Egyptian superstition and idolatry, and taught them the true theology. Christ in like manner was the first teacher of true religion and virtue to the gentiles. Moses confirmed his religion by miracles, and so did Christ. Moses delivered the Jewish nation from Egyptian servitude: Christ delivers mankind from the power of evil demons. Moses promised the holy land, and therein a happy life to those who kept the law; and Christ a better country, that is a heavenly, to all righteous souls. Moses fasted forty days; and so likewise did Christ. Moses supplied the people with bread in the wilderness; and our Saviour fed five thousand at one time, and four thousand at another, with a few loaves. Moses went himself and led the people through the midst of the sea: Christ walked on the sea, and enabled Peter to walk likewise. Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and caused the sea to go back; our Saviour rebuked the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm. Moses’ face shone when he descended from the mount; and our Saviour’s shone like the sun in his transfiguration. Moses by his prayers cured Miriam of her leprosy; Christ with greater power, by a word, healed several lepers. Moses performed wonders by the finger of God; Christ by the finger of God cast out devils. Moses changed Oshea’s name to Joshua; and our Saviour did Simon’s to Peter. Moses constituted seventy rulers over the people; and our Saviour appointed seventy disciples. Moses sent out twelve men to spy out the land; and our Saviour twelve apostles to visit all nations. Moses gave several excellent moral precepts: our Saviour carried them to the highest perfection.”

Dr. Jortin enlarges upon these hints of Eusebius, with several improvements and additions. “Moses in his infancy was wonderfully preserved from the destruction of all the male children: so was Christ. Moses fled from his country to escape the hands of the king: so did Christ, when his parents carried him into Egypt. Afterwards “the Lord said to Moses in Midian, go, return into Egypt; for all the men are dead which sought thy life.” Exodus 4:19. So the angel of the Lord said to Joseph, in almost the same words, Arise, and take the young child, and go into the land of Israel; for they are dead which sought the young child’s life, Matthew 2:20, pointing him out as it were for that prophet who should arise like unto Moses. Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction: Christ refused to be made king, choosing rather to suffer affliction. Moses, says St. Stephen, was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; and Josephus says that he was a very forward and accomplished youth, and had wisdom and knowledge beyond his years. St. Luke also observes of Christ, that he increased betimes in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man; and his discourses in the temple with the doctors, when he was twelve years old, were a proof of it. Moses contended with magicians, who were forced to acknowledge the divine power by which he was assisted: Christ ejected evil spirits, and received the same acknowledgment from them. Moses was not only a lawyer, a prophet, and a worker of miracles, but a king and priest; in all these offices the resemblance between Moses and Christ was singular. Moses brought darkness over the land: the sun withdrew his light at Christ’s crucifixion. And as the darkness which was spread over Egypt was followed by the destruction of their firstborn, and of Pharaoh and his host; so the darkness at Christ’s death was the forerunner of the destruction of the Jews. Moses foretold the calamities which would befal the nation for their disobedience; so did Christ. The Spirit which was in Moses was conferred in some degree upon the seventy elders, and they prophesied: Christ conferred miraculous powers upon his seventy disciples. Moses was victorious over powerful kings and great nations; so was Christ by the effects of his religion, and by the fall of those who persecuted the church. Moses conquered Amalek by holding up both his hands: Christ overcame his enemies and ours when his hands were fastened to the cross. Moses interseded for transgressors, caused atonement to be made for them, and stopped the wrath of God; so did Christ. Moses ratified the covenant between God and the people, by sprinkling them with blood; so did Christ with his own blood. Moses desired to die for the people, and prayed that God would forgive them, or blot him out of his book: Christ did more, he died for sinners. Moses instituted the passover, when a lamb was sacrificed none of whose bones were broken, and whose blood protected the people from destruction: Christ was that paschal lamb. Moses lifted up the serpent, that they who looked upon it might be healed of their mortal wounds: Christ was that serpent. All Moses’ affection towards the people, all his cares and toils on their account were repaid by them with ingratitude, murmuring and rebellion; the same returns the Jews made to Christ for all his benefits. Moses was ill used by his own family, his brother and sister rebelled against him; there was a time when Christ’s own brethren believed not in him. Moses had a very wicked and perverse generation committed to his care and conduct; and to enable him to rule them, miraculous powers were given to him, and he used his utmost endeavour to make the people obedient to God, and to save them from ruin, but in vain; in the space of forty years they all fell in the wilderness except two. Christ also was given to a generation not less wicked and perverse, his instructions and his miracles were lost upon them; and in about the same space of time, after they had rejected him, they were destroyed. Moses was very meek above all men that were on the face of the earth; so was Christ. The people could not enter into the land of promise, till Moses was dead; by the death of Christ the kingdom of heaven is opened to all believers. In the death of Moses and Christ there is also a resemblance of some circumstances. Moses died, in one sense, for the iniquities of the people; it was their rebellion which was the occasion of it, which drew down the displeasure of God upon them and upon him. Moses went up, in the sight of the people, to the top of mount Nebo, and there he died, when he was in perfect vigour, when his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. Christ suffered for the sins of men, and was led up, in presence of the people, to mount Calvary, where he died in the flower of his age, and when he was in his full natural strength. Neither Moses nor Christ, as far as we may collect from sacred history, were ever sick, or felt any bodily decay or infirmity, which would have rendered them unfit for the toils they underwent; their sufferings were of another kind. Lastly, as Moses a little before his death promised another prophet; so Christ another comforter.”

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 18". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/deuteronomy-18.html. 1835.
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