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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 32

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



The Divine song, in which God’s power, mercy to his people, and vengeance on his enemies exalted, their ingratitude is rebuked, Deuteronomy 32:1-18.

God’s wrath and future judgments, Deuteronomy 32:19-26.

Yet the idolatrous nations to be destroyed, and they at last to be enlarged, Deuteronomy 32:27-43.

He exhorts them to set their hearts on these words for their good, Deuteronomy 32:41-47.

God sendeth him up to Mount Nebo, there to see the promised land and die, Deuteronomy 32:48-52.

Verse 1

O ye heavens, and, O earth: either,

1. Angels and men; or,

2. You lifeless and senseless creatures, heaven and earth, which he calls upon partly to accuse the stupidity of Israel, that were more dull of hearing than these; and partly as witnesses of the truth of his sayings, and the justice of God’s proceedings against them.

Verse 2

Look what effect rain and dew have upon herbs and grass, which they make fresh and fragrant and growing, the same effect I may justly expect and hope that my discourse will have upon your hearts, i.e. to make them soft and pliable and fruitful. Or this may be a prayer, Let my doctrine drop, &c. Oh that it might do so, that my discourse might not be lost upon you, but be profitable to you! the future tense of the indicative mood being put for the imperative mood, as is usual.

Verse 3

The name of the Lord, i.e. his glorious excellencies and righteous and worthy actions, by which he hath made himself known, as a man is known by his name, and by which it will appear both that there is no blame to be laid upon him, whatsoever befalls you, and that it is gross madness to forsake such a God for dumb idols and mere vanities.

As I am about to publish the great power and majesty and glory of God, so do you also own and acknowledge it, as you have reason to do; or, do you attend to the words which God hath commanded me to speak to you in his name with that diligence, reverence, and godly fear which the presence of so great and glorious a Majesty calls for.

Verse 4

The rock, or, a rock, as for the stability and everlastingness of his nature, and invincibleness of his power, so also for his fixedness and immutability in his counsels and promises and ways; so that if there shall be a sad change in your affairs from a high and prosperous to a calamitous and deplorable condition, as there will be, remember that this proceeds from yourselves, and from the change of your ways and carriages towards God, and not from God, in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of change, James 1:17.

His work is perfect; all his works and actions are unblamable, as being perfect, wise, and righteous, as it follows.

All his ways are judgment; all his administrations in the world, and particularly all his dealings with you, are managed with judgment and justice.

A God of truth, constant to his promises: you cannot accuse him of any levity or unfaithfulness towards you to this day.

Verse 5

They, i.e. the Israelites, as the following words manifest.

Corrupted themselves: this phrase sometimes in Scripture notes sin, and sometimes destruction. And so the sense may be either,

1. Their wickedness is not from God, but from themselves, and their own choice; they have wilfully and industriously depraved themselves, and sold themselves to sin. Or rather,

2. Their destruction is not from God. who is just and true, &c., as was now said, but wholly and solely from themselves, and from their own wickedness, as it here follows.

Their spot is not the spot of his children, i.e. their blemishes or sins are not committed through ignorance, or frailty, or surprisal, as good men sometimes sin, but they proceed from design and deliberation, are accompanied with malice, and wilfulness, and contempt, and followed with obstinacy, impenitency, and incorrigibleness. So that they carry themselves not like my children and people, as they seem to be and profess to be, but like mine enemies.

They are a perverse and crooked generation; not only some few of them, but the whole body or generation of them, are

perverse, i.e. froward and untractable,

and crooked, i.e. irregular and disorderly, not agreeing with the straight and righteous nature of God and of his law. Compare Isaiah 42:16.

Verse 6

Hath bought thee; that hath redeemed and rescued thee from Egyptian bondage.

Made thee, i.e. advanced thee, as that word is used, 1 Samuel 12:6; Esther 6:6; Psalms 95:6; Psalms 149:2; Isaiah 43:7. Made thee, not only in a general and common way, by creation or production; but in a peculiar manner, by adoption, or making thee his peculiar people and children.

Established thee, i.e. renewed and confirmed his grace and favour to thee, and not taken it away from thee, which thou hast oft provoked him to do.

Verse 7

The days of old, i.e. the history and events of ancient days or former ages, and thou wilt find that I had a respect unto thee, not only in Abraham’s time, but long before it. Compare Jeremiah 2:20.

Verse 8

When God by his providence did allot the several parts of the world to several people, which was done Genesis 10:0; Genesis 11:0. See Deuteronomy 2:5,Deuteronomy 2:9; Amos 9:7; Acts 17:26,Acts 17:27.

Separated the sons of Adam, i.e. divided them in their languages and habitations according to their families.

He set the bounds of the people, i.e. he disposed of the several lands and limits of the people, so as he did reserve a convenient and sufficient place for the great numbers of the people of Israel, whom he designed to make as numerous as the stars of heaven. And therefore he so guided the hearts of several people, that the posterity of Canaan, which was accursed of God, Genesis 9:25-27, and devoted to ruin, should be seated in that country which God intended for the children of Israel, that so when their iniquities were ripe, and God’s time came, they might be rooted out, and the Israelites might come in their stead.

Verse 9

It is no wonder God had so great a regard to this people, for he chose them out of all mankind to be his peculiar portion and treasure.

Verse 10

He found him, not by chance but as it were looking out and seeking for him, He met with him there. He did indeed manifest himself to him in Egypt, but it was in the wilderness at Sinai; where he found God, and God found him in an eminent manner, and revealed his mind and will to him, and entered into covenant with him, and imparted himself and his grace and blessing to him, that being the place appointed in Egypt for God and Israel to meet together, Exodus 3:12. By this word he also signifies both their lost condition in themselves, and that their recovery was not from themselves, but only from God, who sought and found them out by his grace.

In a desert land; in a place destitute of all the necessaries and comforts of life, which also was a type of that desolate and comfortless condition in which all men are before the grace of God finds them out. See Song of Solomon 3:6; Song of Solomon 8:5; Ezekiel 16:1; Hosea 9:10; Hosea 13:9.

In the waste howling wilderness, where instead of the voices of men, is nothing heard but the howlings, and yellings, and screeches of ravenous birds and beasts. See Isaiah 43:20; Micah 1:8.

He led him about; he conducted them from place to place by his cloudy pillar and providence. See Exodus 13:18, &c. Or,

he compassed him about, by his provident care over him, watching over him and preserving him on every side. Compare Psalms 32:7.

As the apple of his eye; as men use to keep the apple of their eye, i.e. with singular care and diligence, this being, as a most tender, so a most useful part. Compare Psalms 17:8; Proverbs 7:2; Zechariah 2:8.

Verse 11

Her nest, i.e. her young ones in the nest, by a common metonymy; which she by her cry and motion provoketh to fly by her example.

Spreadeth abroad her wings, as preparing herself to fly.

On her wings, or, as on her wings, i.e. gently, and tenderly, and safely too, as if she carried them not in her claws for fear of hurting them, but upon her wings. So it is only an ellipsis of the particle as, which is frequent, as hath been showed. Though some say the eagle doth usually carry her young ones upon her wings.

Verse 12

i.e. When they were shut up in Egypt, as in their nest, whence they durst not venture to fly nor stir, he taught, and encouraged, and enabled them to fly out and flee themselves from that bondage, and brought them into a state of liberty and safety; he dealt tenderly with them, bearing with their infirmities, keeping them from all harms.

No strange god with him, to wit, to assist him at that work, or to deliver them. The more unworthy they in giving to idols a share in that worship and service which they owe to God only.

Verse 13

On the high places of the earth, i.e. to conquer their strongest holds, which ofttimes are in the mountains, and their cities fenced with walls of greatest height and strength, Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 2:36; Deuteronomy 33:29; Isaiah 58:14. To ride upon in Scripture phrase is to subdue or conquer, as Psalms 45:4; Psalms 66:12; Revelation 6:2; Revelation 19:11,Revelation 19:14.

To suck honey out of the rock; this being a land flowing with honey, Exodus 3:8,Exodus 3:17, where the bees made honey even in woods, as 1 Samuel 14:0, or in the holes of rocks, or in the trees that grew upon or among rocks.

Oil out of the flinty rock: the olive trees grow and fructify most in rocky or hilly places.

Verse 14

With fat of lambs; for though the fat wherewith the inward parts were covered was not to be eaten by them, but offered to God, Leviticus 3:9,Leviticus 3:10, yet that fat which was fast joined to and mixed with the flesh they might eat, as the Jewish doctors note.

Bashan; a place famous for excellent cattle, Numbers 32:4,Numbers 32:33.

With the fat of kidneys of wheat, i.e. with the finest of the grains or kernels of wheat, compared to kidneys for their shape, and plumpness, and largeness. Compare Psalms 81:16; Psalms 147:14.

The pure blood of the grape; wine not mixed with water, but pure as it comes from the grape, which was of a red or bloody colour. See Psalms 75:8; Isaiah 27:2.

Verse 15

Joshurun, i.e. Israel, as is agreed by Christian and Jewish interpreters, whom he calls right, or upright, or righteous, (as the word signifies,) not that they were so indeed, but partly by way of instruction, to mind them what they professed, and promised, and ought to be; and partly by way of exprobration, to show them how unlike they were to the people of God, which they pretended to be, and what a shame it was to them to degenerate so much from their their name and profession.

Waxed fat, and kicked, as well-fed and wanton cattle used to do; he grew insolent and rebellious against God, and against his word and Spirit.

Thou art covered with fatness; which is here rightly understood and supplied, by comparing this place with Job 15:27; Psalms 17:10.

Verse 16

To jealousy, i.e. to anger and fury,

for jealousy is the rage of a man, Proverbs 6:31. And withal it implies the ground of his anger, to wit, their falseness to God, whom they had owned and accepted as their Husband, and their spiritual whoredom with other gods.

Verse 17

Unto devils, i.e. unto idols, which the devils brought into the world in opposition to God, in and by which the devils ofttimes manifested themselves unto men, and gave them answers, and received their worship. Compare 1 Corinthians 10:20. The Gentiles pretended to worship God in those idols, and the devils which inspired them deluded the nations with false pretences that they were a sort of lower gods. Moses therefore takes off this mask, and shows the Israelites that these pretended gods were really devils, those great enemies of mankind, and therefore that it was the height of madness to honour or worship them.

Not to God: this he saith, either because though at first they joined God and idols together in worship, yet at last they quite forsook God, and adhered to idols only; or because God utterly rejected those sacrifices which they offered to him together with idols, and took them for no sacrifices. See 1 Corinthians 10:21.

Whom they knew not, or, who never knew them, i.e. never showed any kindness to them, or did them any good; for so words of knowledge are oft used, as Psalms 1:6; Hosea 13:5.

That came newly up; not simply or absolutely, for some of these gods had been worshipped for many generations, and had a fair pretence of long antiquity, but comparatively to the true God, who is the Ancient of days, Daniel 7:9, and who was worshipped from the beginning of the world. To this original and first antiquity Moses recalls them; as also our Saviour doth recall the Jews to the first institution, Matthew 19:8. And therefore we may safely follow both their patterns in despising all pretences of antiquity, which are contrary to God’s first institutions contained (as all confess) in the Holy Scriptures.

Whom your fathers feared not, i.e. served not, worshipped not, but justly despised and abhorred them.

Verse 18

Of the Rock, i.e. of God, one of whose titles this is, above, Deuteronomy 32:4; Isaiah 44:8; or of Christ, who is called the Rock, 1 Corinthians 10:4, whom the Israelites are said to have tempted, there, Deuteronomy 32:9.

That begat thee, i.e. who hath adopted you to be his people, and hath showed as much care and kindness to you as if he had begotten you.

Verse 19

Because of their sins, whereby they provoked him to anger. Or, by reason of his great and just anger against them he abhorred, or reprobated, or cast off his sons and his

daughters, for such they were by calling and profession, but not in truth and reality, Deuteronomy 32:5.

Verse 20

I will see what their end shall be; I will see and observe what will be the issue of all this, what will become of them at last; but this God doth not see only by way of speculation, but practically, i.e. considers with himself what he shall do with them, and how he shall punish them, and sees what he wills or purposes to do. A speech after the manner of men. Or

I will see is put for I will make them and others to see, what the fruit of such actions shall be. Hebrew verbs in cal do ofttimes take the signification of hiphil. In whom there is no faith; perfidious, that have broken their covenant so solemnly made with me.

Verse 21

With those which are not a people, i.e. with the Gentile or heathenish nations, who are none of my people, who scarce deserve the name of a people, as being without yoke, without the knowledge and fear of God, which is the foundation of all true policy and government, and without righteous and necessary laws; and many of them are destitute of all government, and laws, and order, barbarous and rude, and savage, and brutish in their manners. And yet these people I will prefer before you, and take in your stead; receive them, and reject you; which, when it came to pass, how desperately it provoked the Jews to jealousy, may be gathered from Matthew 21:43; Acts 11:2,Acts 11:3; Acts 22:21-23; 1 Thessalonians 2:15,1 Thessalonians 2:16.

A foolish nation; so the Gentiles were both in the opinion of the Jews, and in truth and reality, notwithstanding all their pretences to wisdom, Romans 1:22, there being nothing more foolish or brutish than the worship of idols. See Jeremiah 10:8; 1 Corinthians 12:2.

Verse 22

A fire is kindled, i.e. great and grievous judgments shall be inflicted, which oft come under the name of fire, &c. See Deuteronomy 4:24; Ezekiel 30:8; Amos 2:2,Amos 2:5.

Unto the lowest hell, or, unto hell, or the graves beneath. The sense is, it shall not only burn up all the corn and fruits and buildings which appear above ground, but it shall reach to the inwards and depths of the earth, and burn up the very roots and hopes of future increase.

Verse 23

i.e. Even empty my quiver, and send upon them all my plagues, which, like arrows shot by a skilful and strong hand, shall speedily reach, and certainly hit, and mortally wound them. Compare Zechariah 9:14.

Verse 24

With hunger; with famine, which burneth and parcheth the inward parts, and makes the face black as a coal, Lamentations 4:8.

With burning heat; from fevers or carbuncles or other inflaming distempers.

Serpents of the dust, who feed upon the dust, Genesis 3:14, and lurk in it, that they may surprise unwary passengers, Genesis 49:17.

Verse 27

The wrath of the enemy, i.e. their rage against me, as it is expressed Isaiah 37:28,Isaiah 37:29; their insolent and furious reproaches against my name, as if I were unnatural and cruel to my people, or unable to deliver them. Compare Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13; Deuteronomy 9:28; Joshua 7:9. The fear hereof is ascribed to God after the manner of men.

Strangely, i.e. insolently and arrogantly, above what they used to do. Or,

make themselves strangers, i.e. either really not acknowledge, or pretend they did not know, that which I had publicly declared, and they either did or easily might have known, to wit, that this judgment was inflicted upon them by my hand for their sins.

Verse 28

They; either,

1. The enemies last mentioned, who are foolish people, and therefore make so false and foolish a judgment upon things. Or rather,

2. The Israelites themselves, of whom he speaks both in the foregoing Deuteronomy 32:26, and in the whole foregoing chapter, and in the next verse Deuteronomy 32:29, and afterwards.

Void of counsel; that have not wisdom to direct themselves, nor discretion to desire and receive counsel from others, but rashly and madly go on in those courses which will certainly ruin them.

Verse 29

What their end will be; and that although God spare them long, yet at last judgment will certainly overtake them.

Verse 30

How should one chase a thousand? whence should this miraculous change come, that whereas God had promised that five Israelites should chase an hundred of their enemies, &c., Deuteronomy 26:8, now, on the contrary,

one enemy

should chase a thousand Israelites?

Their Rock, i.e. their God, as before, Deuteronomy 32:4,Deuteronomy 32:18, who was their only refuge and defence; had sold them, to wit, for bond-slaves, had quitted his right and relation to them, and given them up into their enemies’ hands.

Shut them up, as it were, in the net which their enemies had laid for them.

Verse 31

Who by their dear-bought experience have been forced to acknowledge that our God was far stronger than they and their false gods together. See Exodus 14:25; Numbers 23:0; 1 Samuel 4:8; Jeremiah 40:3.

Verse 32

For, or but; for these words seem to contain an answer to that question, Deuteronomy 32:30, How should, &c. To this he answers,

1. Negatively; It was not from impotency in God, for if he had not forsaken and delivered them up, they could not have been so easily chased.

2. Positively; But, saith he, the true reason was this, their vine, &c. Of the vine of Sodom: The people of Israel, which I planted and brought up as a choice vine, are now degenerated and become like the vine of Sodom; their principles and practices are all corrupt and abominable. Compare Isaiah 1:10.

Their clusters are bitter; their fruits or actions are most loathsome to me, malicious and mischievous to others, and at last will be pernicious to themselves.

Verse 33

The poison of dragons; for although some write that the dragons of Greece have no poison in them, yet that the African and Arabian dragons, of which Moses here writes, have poison in them, is confessed by ancient heathen authors.

The cruel venom of asps; whose poison kills certainly and speedily, as Aristotle and others write.

Verse 34

i.e. All their wickedness mentioned before. My longsuffering towards them may make them and others think that I have forgotten their sins, but I remember them punctually, they are sealed up as in a bag, Job 14:17, and as men seal up their treasures that nothing be lost; and I shall bring them to their remembrance also.

Verse 35

It is my office to punish sin, and therefore as I know their sins, so I will assuredly punish them. Their feet shall slide; they who now think they stand fast and unmovable, they shall fall into utter destruction.

In due time; though not so soon as some may expect it, yet in that time when it shall be most proper and seasonable, when they have filled up the measure of their sins. This due time may be the same with that fulness of time, Galatians 4:4, when Christ came into the world, whom this people by wicked hands crucified and slew, Acts 2:23, for which wrath came upon them to the uttermost, 1 Thessalonians 2:15,1 Thessalonians 2:16.

Is at hand, Heb. is near. So the Scripture oft speaks of those things which are at many hundred years’ distance, to meet with objections arising in men’s minds from the delays of them, and to signify, that though they may be afar off as to our measures of time and expectation of the things, yet in God’s account they are near, they are as near as may be; as soon as ever the fit and the full time is come, they come instantly, they are nearer than sinners would have them; when the measure of their sins is once full, the judgment shall not be deferred.

Verse 36

For, or, nevertheless, or, but yet, as the particle chi is sometimes used, as Job 5:7; Isaiah 9:1; Isaiah 49:25. Having spoken of the dreadful calamity which would come upon his people, he now turns his discourse into a more comfortable strain, according to the usual method of the prophets, and here begins to show that after God had humbled and sorely chastised his people, yet at last he would have mercy upon them, and turn their captivity, as it here follows.

Shall judge his people, i.e. shall plead their cause, shall protect and deliver them, as that phrase is oft used. See Psalms 7:8; Psalms 10:18; Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 11:4; Jeremiah 5:28; Jeremiah 22:16.

Repent himself for his servants, i.e. repent of the evils he hath brought upon them, will change his course and carriage towards them.

None shut up, or left: none shut up, either in their strong cities or castles, or other hiding-places, or in the enemy’s hands or prisons, whence there might be some hope or possibility of redemption; and none left, as the poor and contemptible people are neglected and usually left by the conquerors in the conquered land, as 2 Kings 25:12, but all seem to be cut off; and the people quite destroyed. So this phrase is used 1 Kings 14:10; 1 Kings 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8; 2 Kings 14:26.

Verse 37

He shall say: the Lord, before he deliver his people, will first convince them of their former folly in forsaking him and following idols; he will find an occasion from that miserable and hopeless condition into which their idols have brought them, to upbraid them with it.

Verse 38

i.e. To whom you offered sacrifices and oblations after the manner of the Gentiles. See Exodus 34:13; Psalms 106:28; 1 Corinthians 10:20.

Let them help you, if they can do it. Compare Judges 10:14; Jeremiah 2:28.

Verse 39

See now; learn now by your own sad experience what vain and impotent things idols are, and what a silly thing it was in you to put your trust in them, as they did Deuteronomy 32:37.

I am he, i.e. the only true, and omnipotent, and irresistible God, as it here follows.

Verse 40

I lift up my hand to heaven, i.e. I solemnly swear that I will do what here follows, that as I will deliver my people, so I will fully avenge myself upon all mine enemies, whom I have used as rods to scourge my people.

I live for ever, i.e. As sure as I live. Compare Jeremiah 4:2; Hebrews 6:13; Revelation 10:5,Revelation 10:6.

Verse 41

If once I begin to prepare for war, and for the execution of my sentence.

Take hold on judgment, i.e. of the instruments of judgment, of the weapons of war. A metaphor from warriors that take their weapons into their hand when they intend to fight.

Verse 42

Of the captives; whom my sword hath sorely wounded, though not utterly killed.

From the beginning of revenges upon the enemy, i.e. when once I begin to revenge myself and my people upon mine and their enemies, I will go on and make a full end. Or, with the head, or with the blood of the head, i.e. of the chief or chiefs, of the revenges of the enemy, i. e. of the revengeful or malicious enemy of God and of his people. The noun substantive is oft put for the adjective; as Genesis 17:5, a multitude of nations is put for many nations, Romans 4:17; Genesis 45:22, changes of raiment, i.e. changeable raiment; and Psalms 99:4, the king’s strength, i.e. the strong and mighty king; and so here, the revenges of the enemy, i.e. the revengeful enemy. And by the head may be here understood either the devil, or the beads and rulers of those empires which were enemies to God’s people. Or, of the head shall be the revenges upon the enemies, i.e. I will take vengeance upon all mine enemies, yea, upon the head or heads of them.

Verse 43

With his people. This translation is justified by St. Paul, Romans 15:10, the particle with being oft understood, as Leviticus 26:42. He calls upon the nations to rejoice and bless God for his favours, and especially for the last wonderful deliverance which shall be given to the Jews when they shall be converted unto the gospel in the last days, which they have all reason to do, not only kern that duty of sympathy which they owe to all people, and especially to God’s ancient people, whereby they are to rejoice with them that rejoice, but because of that singular advantage and happiness which all nations will have at that time, and upon that occasion. Or, Rejoice, O ye Gentiles, his people; i.e. O you Gentiles, who once were not God’s people, but now are his people, do you rejoice for God’s mercies to the Jews his ancient people, bless God for their conversion and salvation.

Verse 44

Hoshea, or Joshua, who is here joined with Moses in this action, because though Moses only spake the words, yet Joshua consented to them; and, it may be, afterwards repeated them; this being not a song to be sung once for all, but a standing monument, which was written and kept for future use, Deuteronomy 31:22, &c., and to be repeated again and again upon solemn occasions, which Joshua and other magistrates were to take care of.

Verse 47

It is not an unprofitable or contemptible work I advise you to, but well worthy of your most serious care, oft to remember and diligently to consider it.

Verse 49

Nebo was a ridge or top of the mountains of Abarim. See Poole "Numbers 27:12"; See Poole "Deuteronomy 3:27".

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Deuteronomy 32". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/deuteronomy-32.html. 1685.
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