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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Deuteronomy 4

Introduction

DEUTERONOMY CHAPTER 4

An exhortation to obey the law, Deuteronomy 4:1-13;

and warning against idolatry, Deuteronomy 4:14-24;

from the mischief of it upon themselves and children, Deuteronomy 4:25-28;

God’s promise upon their repentance, Deuteronomy 4:29-31;

and from God’s wonders towards them, Deuteronomy 4:32-40.

Cities of refuge are appointed, Deuteronomy 4:41-43.

Verse 1

The statutes; the laws which concern the worship and service of God. The judgments; the laws concerning your duties to men. So these two comprehend both tables, and the whole law of God.

Verse 2

Ye shall not add, by devising other doctrines or ways of worship than what I have taught or prescribed; see Numbers 15:39,Numbers 15:40; Deuteronomy 12:8,Deuteronomy 12:32; 1 Kings 12:33; Proverbs 30:6; Matthew 15:9; for this were to accuse me of want of wisdom or care or faithfulness in not giving you sufficient instructions for my own service.

Neither shall ye diminish, by rejecting or neglecting any thing which I have commanded, though it seem never so small.

Verse 6

For though the generality of heathen people in the latter and degenerate ages of the world, did, through inveterate prejudices, and for their own lusts and interest, condemn the laws of the Hebrews as foolish and absurd, yet it is most certain that divers of the wisest heathens did highly approve of them, so far that they made use of divers of them, and translated them into their own laws and constitutions; and Moses, the giver of these laws, hath been mentioned with great honour for his wisdom and learning by many of them. And particularly the old heathen oracle expressly said, that the Chaldeans or Hebrews, who worshipped the uncreated God, were the only wise men.

Verse 7

God nigh unto them, by glorious miracles, by the pledges of his special presence, by the operations of his grace, and particularly, as it here follows, by his readiness to hear our prayers, and to give us those succours which we call upon him for.

Verse 8

Whereby he implies that the true greatness of a nation doth not consist in pomp or power, or largeness of empire, as commonly men think, but in the righteousness of its laws.

Verse 10

Some of them stood in Horeb in their own persons, though then they were but young; the rest stood then in the loins of their parents, in whom they may well be said to stand there, because they are said to have entered into covenant with God, because their parents did so in their name and for their use.

Verse 11

Flaming up into the air, which is oft called heaven; and the midst or the heart of it is not only that which is strictly and properly the middle part, but that which is within it, though but a little way, in which sense places or persons or things are said to be in the heart of the sea, Exodus 15:8; Proverbs 23:34; Ezekiel 28:2; and Christ in the heart of the earth, Matthew 12:40.

Verse 12

i.e. No resemblance or representation of God, whereby either his essence or properties or actions were represented, such as were usual among the heathens.

Verse 14

Statutes and judgments, i.e. the ceremonial and judicial laws, which are here distinguished from the moral, or the ten commandments, Deuteronomy 4:13.

Verse 15

By which caution he insinuates man’s great proneness to the worship of images.

God, who in other places and times did appear in a similitude, in the fashion of a man, now in this most solemn appearance, when he comes to give eternal laws for the regulation and direction of the Israelites in the worship of God, and in their duty to men, he purposely avoids all such representations, to show that he abhors all worship of images, or of himself by images of what kind soever, as it here follows, Deuteronomy 4:16-19, because he is the invisible God, and cannot be represented by any visible image. See Isaiah 40:18; Acts 17:29.

Verse 16

i.e. Lest ye corrupt your minds with mean and carnal thoughts of God. Or, corrupt your ways or courses, by worshipping God in a corrupt manner, or by falling into idolatry.

A graven image, to wit, for worship, or for the representation of God, as it is explained Deuteronomy 4:19, for otherwise it was not simply unlawful to draw the picture or make a figure of a man or a beast.

Verse 17

Whereby the heathen nations did represent and worship God, some by an ox, some by a goat, or a hen, or a serpent, or a fish, &c.

Verse 19

Driven to worship them, i.e. strongly inclined, and in a manner constrained, partly by the glory of these heavenly bodies, which may seem to be made for higher purposes than to enlighten this lump of earth; partly from that natural propension which is in men to idolatry. Or, shouldest be driven or thrust, to wit, out of the way of the Lord, (as it is more fully expressed, Deuteronomy 13:5) or be seduced, or led aside, as silly sheep easily are, and worship them. Or, shouldest be cast down, or throw down thyself and worship them, i.e. worship them by falling down before them.

Unto all nations, which are not gods, but creatures, made not for the worship, but for the use of men, yea, of the meanest and most barbarous people under heaven, and therefore cannot without great absurdity be worshipped, especially by you who are so much advanced above other nations in wisdom and knowledge, and in this, that you are my peculiar people.

Verse 20

i.e. The furnace wherein iron and other metals are melted, to which Egypt is fitly compared, not only for the torment and misery which they there endured, but also because they were thoroughly tried and purged thereby, as metals are by the fire.

A people of inheritance; his peculiar possession from generation to generation. See Exodus 19:5 Deuteronomy 7:6; Titus 2:14. And therefore for you to forsake God, and worship idols, will be not only wickedness and madness, but most abominable ingratitude.

Verse 21

God hath granted you the favour which he denied to me, which greatly increaseth your obligation to God.

Verse 23

Or, commanded thee, to wit, not to do, which is easily understood by comparing this place with Exodus 20:4,Exodus 20:5, and with Genesis 3:11, where this phrase is fully expressed. See more on Leviticus 4:2; Deuteronomy 2:37.

Verse 24

A consuming fire; a just and terrible God, who, notwithstanding his special relation to thee, will severely punish and destroy thee if thou provokest him by idolatry, or other ways.

A jealous God, who being espoused to thee, will be highly incensed against thee, (if thou followest after other lovers, or committest whoredom with idols,) and will bear no rival or partner.

Verse 25

In the sight of the Lord: these words are here added, either,

1. As a caution. Your idolatry, though possibly secretly and cunningly managed, will not be hid from him; he sees it, and he will punish it. Or,

2. To aggravate their spiritual whoredom, as being committed in the sight and presence of their Lord and Husband, whose eye is alone peculiarly upon them in all their ways, than it is upon other people. Or,

3. By way of opposition unto men’s judgment. Idolatry ofttimes seems good, and reasonable, and religious in the eyes of men, but, saith he, it is evil in the eyes of the Lord, whose judgment is most considerable.

Verse 26

Heaven and earth; either,

1. Figuratively, i.e. God, and angels, and men. Or rather,

2. Properly; it being usual in Scripture to call in the senseless creatures as witnesses in such cases, as Deuteronomy 32:1; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 2:12.

Verse 28

i.e. Idols. You shall be compelled by men, and given up by me to idolatry. So that very thing which was your choice shall be your punishment; it being just and usual for God to punish one sin by giving them up to another, as is manifest from Romans 1:24,Romans 1:25.

Verse 29

If thou seek him; if thou desirest his help and favour. See Deuteronomy 30:2; Isaiah 45:6.

With all thy heart, i.e. sincerely and fervently.

Verse 30

In the latter days; either in general, in succeeding ages and generations; or particularly, in the days of the Messias, which are commonly called in Scripture

the latter, or last days, as Isaiah 2:2; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1; Daniel 2:44; Hebrews 1:2 Hebrews 1:9:26. And so this may respect the conversion and redemption of the Jewish nation even in those times when their case seems most desperate, when they have forsaken their God and rejected their Messias for many ages, to wit, towards the end of the world.

Verse 31

i.e. Made with thy fathers, including their posterity, as Genesis 17:7.

Verse 32

From the one side of heaven, i.e. of the earth under heaven. Ask all the inhabitants of the world. Compare Matthew 24:31, with Mark 13:27.

Verse 33

i.e. And was not overwhelmed and consumed by such a glorious appearance. See Exodus 24:11; Exodus 33:20

Verse 34

By temptations; by tribulations and persecutions, which are commonly called temptations, which are here fitly mentioned as one great occasion first of their cries unto God, and then of God’s coming for their rescue. Or, temptations is the general title, which is explained by the following particulars,

signs and wonders, & c., which are called temptations, because they were trials both to the Egyptians and Israelites, whether thereby they would be induced to believe and obey God or no.

Great terrors, raised in the minds of the Egyptians, as the history showeth; compare Deuteronomy 2:25; Deuteronomy 34:12; or by terrible things done among them.

Verse 36

Out of heaven, i.e. out of the air, above Mount Sinai. See Exodus 19:9; Exodus 20:18,Exodus 20:22. Upon earth; at the top of Mount Sinai.

Verse 37

In his sight; keeping his eye fixed upon him, as the father doth on his beloved child. Or, with his presence, i.e. he did not send them forth by Moses, but he himself was present with them, and as it were marched along with them, in the pillar of cloud and fire.

Verse 41

As God had commanded him Numbers 35:6,Numbers 35:14

Verse 44

Which hath been generally intimated already, but is more particularly and punctually expressed in the following chapter, to which these words are a preface.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/deuteronomy-4.html. 1685.