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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 4

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do [them], that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.

The statutes and the judgments. — By "statutes" we may understand the moral law, by "judgments" the judicial, which was fitted to the Jews: Like, as Solon being asked whether he had given the best laws to the Athenians, answered, The best that they could suffer. As for the ceremonial law, it is called "statutes that were not good," because they commanded neither virtue nor vice in themselves, as one Mr Weems. gives the reason.

Verse 2

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish [ought] from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Ye shall not add. — The Jews have added their deuteroseis; the Turks their alfurta; the Papists their unwritten verities, which they equalise, at least, to the Holy Scriptures; and so argue them of insufficiency and imperfection. Oι σοφοι ημων δευτερωσι , Our wise men teach tradition See 1 Corinthians 1:20 .

Verse 3

Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you.

Destroyed them. — Hanging them up in gibbets, as it were, before your eyes, to warn you.

Verse 4

But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God [are] alive every one of you this day.

Are alive. — Your innocency prevailed for your safety, as it usually doth in a common defection.

Verse 6

Keep therefore and do [them]; for this [is] your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation [is] a wise and understanding people.

For this is your wisdom.Omnis sapientia hominis in hoc uno est, saith Lactantius, Lactan., Inst., lib. iii, cap. 30. ut Deum cognoscat et colat: hoc nostrum dogma, hac sententia est: To know and do the will of God, this is the whole of man’s wisdom. "The heart of the wise man is at his right hand," Ecclesiastes 10:2 as teaching it to put things in practice, and to "prove by experience what that good, and holy, and acceptable will of God is." Romans 12:2

A wise and understanding people. — The Spaniards are said to seem wise and are fools; the French to seem fools and are wise; the Portuguese neither to be wise, nor so much as to seem so; the Italians both to seem wise and to be so. But may not that of the prophet be fitly applied to them all, "Behold, they have rejected the Word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them?" Jeremiah 8:9

Verse 7

For what nation [is there so] great, who [hath] God [so] nigh unto them, as the LORD our God [is] in all [things that] we call upon him [for]?

Who hath God so nigh unto them. — Yea, this was it that made them so great a nation, who otherwise were but methe mispar, few in number. This made Moses so passionately cry out, "Happy art thou, O Israel! who is like unto thee, O people, saved by the Lord!" Deuteronomy 33:29

Verse 8

And what nation [is there so] great, that hath statutes and judgments [so] righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

So righteous.See Trapp on " Deuteronomy 1:1 "

Verse 9

Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons;

Only take heed.Cavebis autem, si pavebis.

Lest thou forget. — Eaten bread is soon forgotten.

Teach them thy sons. — A special help against forgetfulness; yea, this is the best art of memory. Of all things God cannot abide to be forgotten.

Verse 10

[Specially] the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and [that] they may teach their children.

Specially the day. — A high favour, and most honourably mentioned. Nehemiah 9:13

Verse 12

And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only [ye heard] a voice.

Ye saw no similitude. — Numa the Roman lawgiver would not permit any image, whether painted or carved, to be placed in their temples, eo quod nefas duceret praestantiora deterioribus adsimulare, because he held it unlawful to set forth a better thing by a worse, … Hence it was that the Roman temples had no pictures in them for a hundred and seventy years after the building of that city. Irenaeus reproves the heretics called Gnostici, for that they carried about the image of Christ, made in Pilate’s time, after his own proportion; for "to whom will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?" Isaiah 40:18

Verse 14

And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.

Statutes and judgments.See Trapp on " Deuteronomy 1:1 "

Verse 15

Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day [that] the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire:

Take ye therefore good heed. — These many cautions note our proneness to this evil above others. This appeareth somewhat in children so delighted with pictures, and in that idolomania of these Jews, of the eastern churches, and of the synagogue of Rome.

Verse 16

Lest ye corrupt [yourselves], and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,

The likeness of male or female. — As the blind Ethnics did, concluding their petitions with that general, Dii, Deaeque omnes. Servius.

Verse 17

The likeness of any beast that [is] on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air,

The likeness of any beast. — Which was a piece of the Egyptian madness. Israel, by being there, had learned to set up one calf, Jeroboam two.

Verse 18

The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that [is] in the waters beneath the earth:

The likeness of any fish. — As was Dagon, the god of the Philistines, whence he had his name.

Verse 19

And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, [even] all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.

All the host of heaven. — Called the queen of heaven. Jeremiah 7:18

Should be driven. — Or, Drawn by the enticement of the devil, who is ειδωλοχαρης , saith Synisius, a great imagemonger; or by the seduction of others, or of thine own evil heart; for nemo sibi de suo palpet: quisque sibi Satan est, saith a father.

Which the Lord thy God hath divided. — And shall we fight against God, as Jehu did against Jehoram, with his own servants, nay, with those things which he hath given us for common servants to us all?

Verse 20

But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, [even] out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as [ye are] this day.

But the Lord. — Deliverance commands obedience: Servati sumus ut serviamus,

Verse 21

Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee [for] an inheritance:

And sware that I should not. — So that you have a privilege above me; only beware how you provoke him, as I did, through unbelief.

Verse 22

But I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan: but ye shall go over, and possess that good land.

But I must die. — This was a sore affiiction to this good man, and is therefore so often mentioned. Cato Major also died three years before the destruction of Carthage, which he had so vehemently urged, and would so gladly have outlived. Plut.

Verse 24

For the LORD thy God [is] a consuming fire, [even] a jealous God.

For the Lord thy God. — And should therefore be served truly, that there be no halting; and totally, that there be no halving. Hebrews 12:28-29

Verse 25

When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt [yourselves], and make a graven image, [or] the likeness of any [thing], and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger:

And shalt have remained long. — So that thou thinkest there is no removing thee, thou art so rooted and riveted. Nicephorus Phocas having built a mighty wall, heard from heaven, Though thou built as high as heaven, ενδον το κακον, ευαλωτος η πολις , Sin is within, all will be lost.

Verse 28

And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.

And there ye shall serve gods. — As ye have made a match with mischief, so ye shall have enough of it. Ephraim is joined to idols, … See Acts 7:42 .

Verse 29

But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find [him], if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.

But if from thence. — Sweet and sour make the best sauce. Promises and menaces mixed, soonest operate upon the heart. The Sun of Righteousness loves not to set in a cloud; nor the God of consolation to leave his children comfortless.

Verse 30

When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, [even] in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;

Even in the latter days. — This is by some understood of the Messiah’s days, which are the latter times of the world; Hosea 3:5 1 Corinthians 10:11 and they believe that here is pointed at the great and last conversion of the Jews.

Verse 32

For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and [ask] from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been [any such thing] as this great thing [is], or hath been heard like it?

For ask now of the days.Historiae suntfidae monitrices; great good use is to be made of history, - this holy history especially, whereof every word is pure, precious, and profitable.

Verse 37

And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;

Therefore he chose. — He chose for his love, and then loved for his choice: after God’s example, deligas quem diligas.

Verse 39

Know therefore this day, and consider [it] in thine heart, that the LORD he [is] God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: [there is] none else.

That the Lord he is God in heaven. — A philosopher Empedocles. could say, that God is a circle, whose centre is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere; ubi est Deus? quid dixi miser? sed ubi non est? Where is God? or rather, where is not God? He is higher than heaven, lower than hell, broader than the sea, longer than the earth. Nusquam est et ubique est, quia nec abest ulli, nec ullo capitur loco. Bernard. He is nowhere, and yet everywhere; far from no place, and yet not contained in any place.

Verse 42

That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live:

That thou mayest prolong thy days. — Hence some Lutherans Heming et alii. have gathered that God hath not determined the set period of man’s days, but that it is in men’s power to lengthen or shorten them. But this is against Job 7:1 ; Job 14:14 Ecclesiastes 2:3 Isaiah 38:5 ; Isaiah 38:15 . Stat sua cuique dies. Our hairs are numbered, much more our days.

That the slayer.See Trapp on " Numbers 35:6 " See Trapp on " Numbers 35:7 "

Verse 44

And this [is] the law which Moses set before the children of Israel:

And this is the law. — That is, This that followeth in the next chapter, whereunto these verses serve for a preface.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/deuteronomy-4.html. 1865-1868.
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