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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 31

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-30



Having finished his exposition of the law, Moses looks on to the future, so that the subject to the end of Deuteronomy is prophetic. Moses begins by announcing that he is 120 years of age, and no longer fitted for the work he has done for years (vs.1-2). Besides this, God had told him he would not cross over Jordan.

Yet Israel did not depend on Moses, but on God, who would pass over before them. He would destroy the nations from the land, and Israel would dispossess them. But God would work now by means of Joshua, who would take Moses' place (v.3). As God did to Sihon and Og, so would He do with the nations of the land of Canaan (vs.4-5). Let Israel therefore be strong and courageous, depending on God's faithfulness, not intimidated by enemies who were totally inferior to God (v.6).

Moses then called Joshua, announcing him before all Israel as God's newly appointed leader, urging him to be strong and courageous, for he "must go with this people to the land." This was God's imperative decision, from which Joshua would have no way of escape. But Joshua is assured that the Lord will go before him, never leaving or forsaking him. Therefore there was no reason to fear (vs.7-8).



Together with their new leader, Israel must have the law written for them, which Moses did, delivering it to the priests. Then the priests were commanded to read this law before all Israel every seventh year at the feast of tabernacles, in the place of God's choosing, which was Jerusalem (vs.9-l0). The seventh year was the year of release from bondage or debt (Deuteronomy 15:1). The feast of tabernacles was one of the three feasts that all males in Israel were required to attend (Deuteronomy 15:16), so that in the seventh year all would hear the law read (v.11). But verse 12 speaks of gathering men, woman and little ones. It would not be possible that every individual from Israel would be gathered in Jerusalem at this time, but it is implied that all who were able to be there ought to be there, for the children should learn the truth of God too (v.13).



Moses had already approved Joshua before all the people (v.7), but now the Lord tells Moses that he must die shortly, and to call Joshua, so that God would inaugurate him as leader of Israel. Then the Lord appeared at the door of the tabernacle in a pillar of cloud (vs.14-15).

In spite of their having a new leader, God tells Moses that after his death Israel would become unfaithful, following the idols of the nations, forsaking God and breaking His covenant (v.16). This must have spoken deeply to the heart of Moses after his spending time and labor in declaring the law and pleading with Israel to keep it.

God's anger would be aroused and He would leave Israel to the painful results of their rebellion. Many evils would befall them, so they would realize that God was no longer among them (v.17). Yet, even then God would hide His face from them to make them feel their serious condition as they ought (v 18).

Therefore God provided a song for Israel, seen in the first 43 verses of chapter 32. Moses was to write it down for Israel to learn (v.19). When God has brought them into the land and they have become well fed and wealthy, turning to idols and provoking God, then this song would testify against them. If learning it by memory, they would remember it, and its words would serve at least to embarrass them when they acted in disobedience (vs.20-21). It is amazing how painstakingly God sought to impress on Israel from every angle their responsibility to Him, though He knew perfectly well that they would rebel.

Moses then wrote the song and taught it to Israel (v.22). At this time he inaugurated Joshua as leader in his place, encouraging him to be strong and courageous, for he would bring Israel into their land (v.23). Also, after he had completed writing the words of the law (the first five books of scripture), he commanded the Levites to put the Book of the Law beside the ark of the covenant (vs.25-26). This was a plain witness for God and a witness against the evils that the people would soon embrace, therefore a witness against them (vs.24-26).

Moses retained no hope whatever that Israel would be obedient. He says he knew that, since they had been rebellious during his life, this would only increase after his death (v 27). Therefore he asked for the gathering of the elders of all the tribes, not to give them any false hopes, but to tell them he knew that after his death Israel would become utterly corrupt and turn aside from God's commandments. Paul speaks similarly in Acts 20:29-30 to the Ephesian elders, "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves." This has proven just as true in the history of the Church as did the prophecy of Moses as regards Israel.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 31". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/deuteronomy-31.html. 1897-1910.
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