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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 9

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-29

CRITICAL NOTES.—Moses dissuadeth them from self-righteousness by recital of past sins and rebellion.

Deuteronomy 9:1. This day, this time. Once before they had been at the borders of Canaan; but did not enter. Fenced Oriental cities surrounded with high walls; cf. Deuteronomy 1:28.

Deuteronomy 9:2. Anak, cf. Numbers 13:22-33; Joshua 11:21.

Deuteronomy 9:3. He, emphatic, consuming, cf. Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29. Swift and complete destruction.

Deuteronomy 9:4. My right. The land given not on account of their own merits, they must not pride themselves, therefore, in success.

Deuteronomy 9:5. The wickedness of the Canaanites, and the word uttered by oath to patriarchs were the reasons for giving the land to Israel.

Deuteronomy 9:6. Instead of meriting anything they were stiff-necked, hard of neck, obstinate and rebellious cf. Exodus 32:3; Exodus 33:3.

Deuteronomy 9:7-8. To prevent boasting of righteousness, acts of disobedience are rehearsed, in wild, as soon as free from Egypt. Also (even) in Horeb, “the conjunction introduces a special example of a general statement. The time and circumstances made the apostasy at Horeb particularly inexcusable.” (Sp. Com.)

Deuteronomy 9:9-12. These circumstances should be remembered. Moses up in the mountain, fasting, receiving the tables of the law, specially written with the finger of God. When God was speaking in fire. In the day of assembly, when all the people were called out of the camp to the foot of Sinai (Exodus 19:17); amid stupendous displays of divine majesty they corrupted themselves with the golden calf, cf. Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:6.

Deuteronomy 9:12-14. Almost verbatim from Exodus 32:7-10. Let me alone, desist from me, i.e., do not by intercession try to hinder me from destroying them. In Exodus 32:10, “let me rest,” i.e., cease to urge me.

Deuteronomy 9:15-17. The tables broken not as a mere outburst of indignation on his part, but as a declaration that they had broken the covenant by apostasy.

Deuteronomy 9:18-19. Moses briefly mentions the first intercession, Exodus 32:11-13. Afterwards another 40 days were spent, and a second intercession (Exodus 34:9) given here, “not only that he might make the people thoroughly aware that at that time Israel could not boast even of the righteousness of its eminent men (cf. Isaiah 43:27), but also to bring out the fact, which is still more fully described in Deuteronomy 10:6 sqq., that Aaron’s investure with the priesthood, and the maintenance of this institution, was purely a work of Divine grace.” (Delitz.)

Deuteronomy 9:20. Aaron left responsible, guilty, and proved unfit to lead.

Deuteronomy 9:22-24. Not only at Horeb, but at Tab., Numbers 11:1-3; Massah, Exodus 17:1 sqq.; Kib., Numbers 11:34; Numbers 33:16-17, and Kedesh, Numbers 13:26; Numbers 32:8. “The list is not arranged chronologically, but advances gradually from the smaller to more serious forms of guilt.” (Keil.)

Deuteronomy 9:25. Fell down second intercession, in fuller detail.

Deuteronomy 9:26-29. Essential points given. Israel were God’s people; He redeemed them, and must not look upon their sins, i.e., punish them; but remember His oath to their ancestors. His honour was concerned.

Deuteronomy 9:28. Not able, through incapacity or hatred (cf. Numbers 14:16), neither of which would hinder God from saving a people redeemed, and especially His own.

A MEMORABLE DAY.—Deuteronomy 9:1-3

Israel forty years before had reached the borders of the promised land, but to their mortification were driven back (cf. Hom. Deuteronomy 2:1-3). Now they were certain to enter it and nothing could hinder them. “Thou art to pass over Jordan this day.”

I. A day displaying Divine goodness. They had been fed, defended and guided. Goodness and mercies had followed them and that day crowned all.

II. A day reminding of Divine faithfulness. Long before had the promise been given to those who left all to follow Him. This promise was not forgotten, though delayed in its fulfilment. “God cannot lie.”

III. A day to be improved. “Hear” (Deuteronomy 9:1) and learn duty. “Understand” how to practise it. “Drive them out,” and thus co-operate with God (Deuteronomy 9:3.) When we appreciate and improve our privileges God will assure us of His presence and help. “As the Lord hath said unto thee”—


God assures them of victory over enemies, and of possession of Canaan. But they were not to think that it was on account of their own righteousness—because good in their character or obedient in their service—that this favour was given to them. Israel were a stiff-necked and the Canaanites a corrupt people, all, therefore, must be ascribed to God’s grace.

I. In gaining earthly possessions. Health and strength, houses and lands, family possessions and social distinctions are God’s gifts and not human acquisitions. If we boast of our prudence and skill, from whence do these come? The means and the materials of prosperity must be ascribed to God’s favour. Success in any undertaking, positions in life are not deserved, not given to merit, but in sovereign mercy. No credit whatever is due to us. “They got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them (Psalms 44:3.)

II. In conflict with mighty foes. The Anakims were famous in report and mighty in stature. Israel could not “stand before” them in the field. God alone could destroy them. Many foes array themselves against the Christian. Doubts and fears within; dangers and difficulties without, make him shrink from the encounter. Sinful habits, giant evils of every degree and strength oppose his efforts and progress. But faith in God makes “valiant in fight” He remembers the promise, the scenes of conflict and triumph in past experience and the victories of God’s people in every age. Then his trembling heart takes courage, he goes into the combat, and the foe is vanquished or retreats. With God it is “Athanasius against the world,” Luther against Popedom. Not by our own valour and numbers, in God’s strength alone can we overcome. “One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, He it is that fighteth for you. (Joshua 23:10; cf. Leviticus 26:8.)

III. In the bestowment of religions privileges. Christian ordinances and residence in a Christian country—pardon of sin a fruitful life—perfect peace and the joys of heaven spring from grace and not from “works of righteousness which we have done (Titus 3:5). There is no worth, no merit or cause in us. Hence Wickliffe’s prayer: “Lord, save me gratis.”“If by grace then is it, no more (longer) of works (as a moving cause), otherwise (in that case) grace is no more (longer) grace (i.e. it ceases to be grace)” (Romans 2:6).

“Tis not by works of righteousness
Which our own hands have done,” etc.

PENITENT REMEMBRANCE OF PAST SIN.—Deuteronomy 9:7-8; Deuteronomy 9:22-23

To make it evident that they had no reason to boast of their own righteousness, Moses reviews their sins. Generally they had provoked God, specially in certain places, and it was a mercy they had not been destroyed long before this. We forget our sins, think only of our good deeds, and become self-righteous, and self-satisfied. “Remember and forget not.”

I. Remember sin in its aggravating circumstances. Sin at any time is risky, but peculiar circumstances intensify its guilt.

1. Aggravated by the special places in which it was committed. Even at the Red Sea (cf. Exodus 14:11, and Psalms 106:7), when starting in their pilgrimage; also in Horeb Deuteronomy 5:8, amid flames of fire and awful darkness (Exodus 32:3-4). At Taberah they were discontented (Numbers 11:1-3); at Massah they murmured (Exodus 17:1); at Kibroth-hattaavah they lusted (Numbers 11:4); and at Kadesh-barnea, on the very borders of the land of promise, they reproached God and sought to return to Egypt (Numbers 14:1). The list begins with lower forms, and advances to more aggravating evils. How often have we on solemn occasions and in holy places “been rebellious against the Lord.”

2. Aggravated by the frequency of its commission. “From the day thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place” (Deuteronomy 9:7.) Time after time were they warned, and check after check was given, but “they believed not His Word” (Psalms 106:24). Can we not remember solemn vows on beds of sickness, deep impressions in the House of God, followed up by forgetfulness and acts of wilful sin? “All their transgressions in all their sins” (Leviticus 16:21).

II. Remember sin in bitter experience. In the light of inward feelings we may read the guilt of sin. Outward acts make deep impressions within us, and our own memory records the fruits of past disobedience. Israel had seen the death of arrogant Egyptians and wicked idolators—the miraculous power and gracious rewards of Jehovah. They knew the rewards of obedience, and the consequences of disobedience. They had been chastised and delivered, and sin in them had impaired memory, and blotted out all remembrance of God and His goodness. Most bitter is the fruit of sin in conscience and life. Its remnants are corruption, shame, and death. “What fruit (moral results) had ye in those things whereof ye are now ashamed (self reproached), for the end of these things as death (in its widest and most solemn sense” (Romans 6:21).

“Our pleasant vices make instruments to scourge us.”—Shakespeare.

III. Remember sin in its consequences before God. Sin not only brings bitter experience, but exposes to serious consequences before God.

1. God was provoked. “Ye provoked the Lord to wrath.” He is not insensible, does not overlook sin. It is opposition to His nature, authority, and government. “Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.”

2. Death was threatened. “Angry with you to have destroyed you.” Sin kindled the fire of Jehovah against them; but He was slow, very slow, to destroy them. They escaped, as we must escape, by a Mediator. “Had not Moses, His chosen, stood before Him in the breech to turn away His wrath.”

THE SIN OF HOREB.—Deuteronomy 9:8-12

Israel continually sinned, and therefore deserved not the land into which they were about to enter. But some sins were specially provoking and shameful. The molten calf at Horeb must never be forgotten.

I. It was a violation of God’s covenant. They had solemnly pledged themselves to obey God, and ratified the covenant with blood. “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:3-8). Feelings soon change, and emotions die away. Men are not cultured, not spiritual enough to worship an invisible (Romans 1:20-25; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 11:27), they become sensual and demand a visible God. When we substitute anything for God, we practically deny Him. “They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image.”

II. It was a provocation in most solemn circumstances. The purpose of assembling, the scenes around them, and the reason for the absence of their leader, lent solemnity to the occasion. Moses contrasts the levity and guilt of the people, with his interview with God and his fasting on the mount. God was near, but they forgot Him. They defied every barrier. Moses was fasting, praying, and receiving the law; God was appearing in awful signs, yet they “quickly turned aside out of the way.” “Also (even) in Horeb ye provoked the Lord.”

III. It was most corrupting in its influence. They “have corrupted themselves” (Deuteronomy 9:12). All sin debases body and mind. It is a moral putrefaction, and offensive to God. It renders men unprofitable (i.e. corrupt, useless, unfit for the end of their creation), Romans 3:12; Psalms 14:1-3. Man, once the high priest of Nature, the glorious link between the material and the spiritual, has forsaken his Maker, thrown off his holy robes and “corrupted his way.” “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy.”


On this part of Israel’s history we copy from Spurgeon’s Treasury of David (Psalms 106:7).

To provoke, is an expression setting forth a peculiar and more than ordinary degree of misbehaviour, and seems to import an insolent daring resolution to offend. A resolution not contented with one single stroke of disobedience, but such as multiplies and repeats the action till the offence greatens and rises into an affront; and as it relates to God, so I conceive it aimed at Him in a threefold respect.

1. It rises up against the power and prerogative of God. An assault upon God sitting upon the throne, snatching his sceptre, defiance of his royalty and supremacy. He that provokes God, dares Him to strike to revenge the injury and invasion upon His honour—considers not the weight of His arm, but puffs at all and looks the terrors of revenging justice in the face.

2. Provoking God imports an abuse of His goodness. God clothed with power is the object of fear; but as He displays goodness, of love. By one He commands, by the other He wins, courts our obedience. An affront on His goodness, tenderness and love, as much exceeds an affront of His power as a wound at the heart transcends a blow on the hand. For when God works miracles of mercy to do good upon a people as He did upon the Israelites, was it not a provocation, infinitely base and insufferable, a degree of ingratitude, higher than the heavens struck at, and deeper than the sea that they passed through.

3. Provoking God imports an affront upon His long suffering and his patience. The musings of Nature in the breast tell us how keenly, how regretfully, every man resents the abuse of His love; how hardly any prince, but one, can put up an offence against His mercy; and how much more affrontive to despise majesty ruling by the golden sceptre of pardon, than by the iron rod of penal law. But patience is a further, a higher advance of mercy—mercy drawn out at length, wrestling with baseness, and striving if possible even to weary and outdo ingratitude; therefore sin against this is the highest pitch of provocation. For when patience is tired, let all the inventions of mankind find something further upon which to hope, or against which to sin. The Israelites sinned against God’s patience, one offence following upon another, the last rising highest, until the treasures of grace and pardon were so far drained and exhausted, that they provoked God to swear; and what is more to swear in His wrath and with a full purpose of revenge, that they should never enter into His rest.—Robert South.


Deuteronomy 9:1. Go in.

1. Land to be possessed.
2. Go in and possess it—with courage in conflict—in dependence upon God’s presence, not upon self-righteousness and human prowess. Israel were not casual invaders, forsaken of God, but now emboldened, and must no longer delay (cf. Numbers 13:25.) “Fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life.”

Deuteronomy 9:2. Great and tall.

1. Men of stature physically.
2. Mentally of gigantic mind.

3. Spiritually “the measure of the stature of the fulness in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 4:13.)

Deuteronomy 9:4. Speak not. Man apt to be proud in heart. When proud in heart he speaks, boasts of self-righteousness and good deeds. God seeks to check this spirit by His Word and providence—“Many had proved wise if they had not thought themselves so.” Bp. Hall.

Deuteronomy 9:4-6. God doth drive them out—in sovereign power—on account of their constant wickedness, therefore nothing due to you, fear lest you forfeit possessions and God’s favour.

Deuteronomy 9:7. Grievous sins.

1. Forgetfulness of God, “forget not.”
2. Rebellion. “Ye have been rebellious against the Lord.
3. Continual provocation. “From the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt.”

Deuteronomy 9:8. The Lord was angry. God is said to be angry when he doeth as an angry man useth to do: viz.

(1) chide;
(2) smite; revenge being the next effect of anger.—Trapp.

1. A charge. “Ye provoked the Lord,” by impenitence, forgetfulness, and disobedience.

2. A consequence. “The Lord was angry with you to have destroyed you.” We are under deep obligations to God as Creator, Benefactor, and Saviour; but too often unfaithfully forget his benefits, ungratefully murmur against his dealings and live in habitual rebellion. (Isaiah 1:2-3.)

Deuteronomy 9:8-12. I. The absent leader. “I was gone up into the mount.” a. The purpose of his absence “to receive the tables of stone.” b. The length of his absence, “forty days and forty nights.” II. The Apostate People, “turned aside out of the way.” (Deuteronomy 9:12.) III. The sacrilegious act. “They have made them a molten calf.” (Exodus 32:7.) IV. The fearful consequences. God forsaken and self corruption. There is intimate connection between idolatry and self corruption.

Corrupted themselves.

1. Sin self debasing.
2. God’s service our honour and adornment. God should be our glory, and we should not be a shame or dishonour to him. “Adorn the doctrine of God; make it trim, neat, and lovely in the sight of others. (Titus 2:10.) Let there be beautiful harmony between profession and practice.

The sin of Horeb. I. The sin remembered.

1. Idolatry. Not merely forgetting, or disowning God, but setting up an idol in his place.
2. Idolatry of the worst kind: changing the glory of God into the similitude of an ox.
3. The idolatry of Egypt under which they had suffered, and from which they had been delivered.
4. Idolatry after many wonderful interpositions of the true God in their behalf. II. The remembrance of sin.
1. For humiliation. It was the sin of their fathers.
2. For self condemnation. “We have sinned with our fathers.” It was our nature in them, and it is their nature in us that has committed this great sin.—Treasury of David.

THE GREAT INTERCESSION—Deuteronomy 9:13-20

This is a second mediation on the Mount. A mediation most remarkable and instructive. The crisis was terrible and trying to the great leader. But Moses stood “in the breach” and warded off the danger.

I. The need of intercession. Read these verses with Exodus 32:0, and we have the whole story.

1. The people had sinned. They had openly broken the law they solemnly vowed to keep. They had bowed to a calf in pretence of worshipping Jehovah. The contagion spread. The noise in the camp was not the noise of war, but of riot and dancing. “Ye have sinned a great sin.”

2. The people were exposed to death through sin. God was provoked to “anger and not displeasure” (Deuteronomy 9:19). Sin is no trifle; it rouses Divine wrath, and this wrath burns sometimes like a fire. “Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them” (Exodus 32:10). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

3. Aaron’s life was endangered. “The Lord was angry with Aaron to have destroyed him” (Deuteronomy 9:20). Too weak to resist, he yielded to the people, received their gifts, and helped them to make the golden calf. He was a partaker in the guilt of idolatry, and would have suffered the penalty but for the intercession of Moses. “Neither be partaker of other men’s sins.”

II. The intercessor provided. “I fell down before the Lord.” The spirit in which Moses pleaded, the arguments which he used, and the results which he gained, are special features in this intercession. In Moses we have—

1. Great earnestness. “I fell down,” not in mere formal attitude, but with intense feeling and energy. He was humble, but earnest.

2. Great sympathy. Formerly he had chosen their lot (Hebrews 11:25), and notwithstanding their unworthiness he does not forget them. His feeling for his people is a type of the sympathy of Jesus, our Mediator.

3. Great disinterestedness. He wished not for greatness at their expense, but refused an offer most tempting. His self-sacrifice is seen—(a) In abstaining from food. “I did neither eat bread nor drink water, because of all your sins.” (b) In his willingness to sacrifice life itself for their sake. “Blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book” (Exodus 32:32).

4. Great boldness. His seemed a hopeless case, and “the odds were against him;” yet he ventures near, and pleads with boldness at God’s feet.

5. Great perseverance. Many say, “You might as well give it up, it is all lost labour;” out Moses intercedes though repelled, “Let me alone;” intercedes though he himself “was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the Lord was wroth.” Long and perseveringly did he plead. I fell down “as at the first, forty days and forty nights.”

III. The results of the intercession. Disheartening as were the circumstances, blessed results were gained.

1. God hearkened to Moses. What a change from, “Let me alone, that my wroth may wax hot against them.”

2. The people were delivered. They were not consumed for their sins. “The Lord repented of the evil which He thought to do unto His people” (Exodus 32:14).

3. Aaron’s life was spared. “I prayed for Aaron also at the same time” (Deuteronomy 9:20). What encouragement for us to plead for our friends and fellow-sinners. Never despair, for God is omnipotent and “delighteth in mercy.” “Is there anything too hard for the Lord” (Deuteronomy 9:2). If Moses prevailed, how much more does Jesus “who ever lives to intercede for us.”

AARONS SIN.—Deuteronomy 9:20

While Moses was up in the Mount, Aaron was left in charge to advise, direct and control the people. But how did he act? (cf. Exodus 24:14; Exodus 32:21-23).

I. Aaron’s sin. Weak-minded, he was easily drawn into sin, aided and abetted it. We must neither bring sin upon others nor encourage them in it. His excuses were insufficient and false. “What did this people unto thee, that thou has brought so great a sin upon them?”

II. Aaron’s exposure to danger. His whole conduct so angered God that he would have been destroyed but for the intercession of Moses. “The Lord was angry, very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him.” No man’s character and position can shelter him from the wrath of God.

III. Aaron’s deliverance. “I prayed for Aaron also the same time.” The most eminent and eloquent men sin and need an intercessor. Moses mildly rebuked his brother, but retaliates not. He prays for him and delivers him from death. What value, what power in the prayers of God’s people. “The effectual fervent (in thought) prayer of a righteous man availeth (energizes) much.” (James 5:16.)

What are men better than sheep or goats,
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer,
Both for themselves and those who call them friend!
For so the whole round earth is, every way
Bound by gold chains about the fact of God.


Deuteronomy 9:13. A stiff-necked people. A metaphor taken from a horse that stiffens his neck against the reins and will not be guided by the rider. Hence it denotes a people obstinate, rebellious, who will not submit to God (cf. Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3; 2 Chronicles 30:8; Psalms 75:5; Jeremiah 17:23; Acts 7:51).

Deuteronomy 9:14. Let me alone.

1. God’s indignation and apparent refusal to bless.
2. The power of prayer to change circumstances, if not the purpose of God. “The Lord repented of the evil.”

I will make” of thee a nation.

1. The promise—a nation, mightier and greater than they.
2. The condition of its fulfilment. To obtain self aggrandisment at the sacrifice of the people.
3. The refusal of this condition. The test was severe, but the spirit in which it was met redounds to the honour of Moses.

Deuteronomy 9:15-17. The broken tables.

1. An expression of righteous indignation. Perhaps a revival of the spirit which had formerly led him astray (Exodus 2:12).

2. A symbol of the broken covenant.
3. A witness to exclusion from Divine favour. This was a solemn sight, which should have deeply impressed their hearts when they saw the blessings which they had lost.

Deuteronomy 9:18 to Deuteronomy 19:1. Fear of Divine anger.

2. Prayer for Divine help.
3. Interposition of Divine mercy.

Deuteronomy 9:20. Learn.—

1. That a good man may very grievously sin.
2. That his good deeds cannot save him from the consequences of his sin.
3. That there is no sin which does not require atonement and mediation.

THE IDOL DESTROYED.—Deuteronomy 9:21

Israel in Egypt had some leaning towards idolatry; but miraculous events since the exodus had checked this tendency. Now in the absence of Moses, the cry was raised “Make us a god.” The god was made and then destroyed. In this we see—

1. The Anger of Moses. The gospel enjoins broadest love to the sinner, but deepest indignation against sin. Pity not only makes benevolent and charitable, but imparts strength and zeal to resist Satan. Yet like all other passions, “righteous indignation,” needs controlling grace and must not be unwisely exercised. “That anger is without sin; that is, against sin.” (Mason). “Be ye angry and sin not.”

2. The courage of Moses. The meekest man may be firm and courageous. Six hundred thousand seem paralyzed before one man who stands up for God (Deuteronomy 32:30). When conscious of right and our cause good we need not fear. “The righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1; Psalms 53:5). Virtue is bold and goodness never fearful.

3. The vanity of the idol. How impotent this God before Moses. How stupid the people and how foolish their conduct! How irrational to adore idols less valuable, less honoured than their makers! The golden idols of self, and worldly pleasure are blind and senseless. Their worship is folly, wickedness and death. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

GRIEVOUS REBELLIONS.—Deuteronomy 9:22-24

Moses here reminds them of minor sins, of other places besides Horeb, in which they rebelled against God. These memorials of sin and punishment should humble them and enhance God’s mercy to them. Notice—

I. The Divine Command. “Go up and possess the land.” This direction had been given many times—given with emphasis and detail. God repeats directions in “line upon line” to satisfy reasonable doubt and stimulate to hearty obedience. Let us say with the prophet, “I will watch to see what he will say unto me.”

II. Israel’s disobedience to this command. “Ye rebelled against the commandment.”

1. Unbelief was the source of this rebellion. “Ye believed Him not.” Without faith no impression can be made upon the heart by sense, reason, or miracle. Stones are rounded and smoothed by the friction of water; but the heart of unbelief is hard and insensible to Divine goodness and Divine threatening.

2. Refusing to hear was the sign of unbelief. “Nor hearkened to His voice.” Listless inattention to the word is sure proof of unbelief. If we believe not the word of God, we cannot esteem His gifts nor “possess the land.” “When pilgrims to the celestial city begin to doubt the Lord of the way, they soon come to think little of the rest at the journey’s end, and this is the surest way to make them bad travellers” (Spurgeon). “They could not enter in because of unbelief.”

III. The rebellion which resulted from this disobedience. Stubborn refusal was repeated, and rebellion, open and long-continued, was the sad result. Continuance in sin and unbelief always go together. There is reflex influence upon faith and character. First unbelief, then disobedience to the word, and, lastly, open defiance. “Man knows the beginning of sin; but who bounds the issues thereof?” says one. “He addeth rebellion unto his sin” (Job 34:37).


Moses retires to his mediation on account of apostasy at Sinai (cf. Deuteronomy 9:18-20). Whether the forty days mean a second, or only describe the first period, we see how earnest and prolonged the intercession was.

I. The intercession of Moses for his people. The sin at Horeb was most provoking—the climax of one long rebellion. God threatened destruction, and Moses goes between to intercede and save.

1. In the agony of prayer. “I fell down “in profound humility and intense anxiety. The best of men have thus pleaded for others. Knox cried, “O Lord, give me Scotland, or I die.” It is said that Latimer was so constant and earnest in prayer during his imprisonment, that he was unable to rise up without help.

2. With symbols of grief (Deuteronomy 9:18). His soul was stirred within him, and he fasted in grief. Personal need and personal advancement were forgotten. “I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4).

II. The pleas which Moses urged in this intercession. He was obliged to own their wickedness, and could only bow his head in solemn prayer. “Their character was bad indeed,” says Matthew Henry, “when he that appeared an advocate for them could not give them a good word, and had nothing else to say on their behalf, but that God had done great things for them, which really did but aggravate their crime.”

1. He pleads God’s ownership of them. “Thy people and thine inheritance.” After creating and purchasing them wilt Thou destroy them! “Remember Thy congregation which Thou has purchased of old.”

2. He pleads God’s goodness to them. They were redeemed and brought out of Egypt. He knew them; had taken great care of them and worked miracles on their behalf. How strange, how inconsistent now to forsake them! No man is willing to lose his property and no king will relinquish his dominions. God will, therefore, keep his own and maintain His right over His people.

3. He pleads God’s covenant with their fathers. “Remember Thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” The people are still the posterity of Jacob, and their rebellion does not alter Thy purpose to give them the land. God desires to be reminded of His promise, that a sense of His faithfulness and our unworthiness may be deepened within us.

4. He pleads the honour of God Himself. (Deuteronomy 9:28.) We should ever be jealous for the glory of God and the interests of His people. If God destroyed Israel what would the Egyptians say! How the enemy would rejoice and sound aloud their triumph. (cf. Exodus 32:12-13.) They would say:

1. God was unable to help. “The Lord was not able to bring them into the land.” Was Divine energy spent. Had God been overcome or lost His omnipotence to save. Oh never let this be said! That mighty hand is not shortened that it cannot save. (Isaiah 59:1.) “Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? (Isaiah 50:2), or,

2. God hated His people. “Because He hated them.” Stiffnecked and most provoking had they been; but Divine love was unchangeable. God will never cast off His people. “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.”


Deuteronomy 9:21. Dust in the brook. The dregs of sin. No other water to drink, and this most bitter and unsatisfactory. Sin curses our blessings and embitters our enjoyments. (Malachi 2:2.) As Moses destroyed the form, calcined the material of this idol and reduced it to powder, so must all idols be destroyed. The people seemed to swallow their own sin, so bitterness follows indulgence. “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.” “He shall drink as he brews,” says Mt. Henry.

Deuteronomy 9:24-26. The great sin. The terrible danger. The power of a righteous man in turning away danger. Mighty as was the sin of Israel, the prayer of Moses was mightier. How earnestly should we plead for a backsliding people and a guilty world! “I prayed, and he had a hard tug of it; but prayer is the best lever at a dead lift.”—Trapp.

Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 27:1. A people enslaved, wicked and rebellious; yet chosen, redeemed and purchased.

2. God’s remembrance and faithfulness. “Thou O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by Thy name; leave us not.” (Jeremiah 14:9; cf. Psalms 90:7; 1 Kings 8:51.)


Deuteronomy 9:1-3. Mightier. Never covet easy paths. The Lord keep you and me from that sin, beloved. (J. H. Evans.) A soldier in battle should feel as if the whole battle depended upon himself. Pass over. We are afraid of being desperate Christians. Oh, let us be desperate! The Church needs extremity—a great tug out of the world. (Lady Powerscourt.) Stand before. A passionate desire and unwearied will can perform impossibilities, or what seem to be such to the old and feeble. If we do but go on some unseen path will open up the hills. We must not allow ourselves to be discouraged by the apparent disproportion between the result of the single efforts and the magnitude of the obstacles to be overcome.—Sharp.

Deuteronomy 9:4-6. My righteousness. It is the peculiar glory of gospel grace to humble every believer in the dust, and from gratitude and love to produce the best obedience. This grace will carry us, if we do not wifully betray our trust, victoriously through all difficulties (2 Corinthians 12:9).

“The greatest attribute of Heav’n is mercy;
And ’tis the crown of justice, and the glory
Where it may kill with right, to save with pity.”—Beaumont and Fletcher.

Deuteronomy 9:7. Forget. The sin of the understanding leads on to the sin of the memory. What is not understood will soon be forgotten. Men feel little interest in preserving husks; if they know nothing of the inner kernel they will take no care of the shells. It was an aggravation of Israel’s sin that when God’s mercies were so numerous they yet were able to forget them. Surely some out of such a multitude of benefits ought to have remained engraven upon their hearts; but if grace does not give us understanding, nature will soon cast out the memory of God’s great goodness.—Spurgeon.

Deuteronomy 9:8-17. Horeb. The ox image here is sarcastically called “a calf;” idols are worthy of no respect, scorn is never more legitimately used than when it is poured upon all attempts to set forth the Invisible God.—Spurgeon.

Molten image. They had given up the true God whom it had been their glory to adore, and had set up a rival to Him, not a representation of Him; for how should He be likened to a bullock? False gods, attempts to represent the true God, and indeed, all material things which are worshipped are so much filth upon the face of the earth, whether they be crosses, crucifixes, virgins, wafers, relics, or even the Pope himself. God abhors them and so do we.—Spurgeon.

Deuteronomy 9:12. Arise from off thy knees, the petitioner’s posture. St. James, they say, had knees as hard as camels’ knees, with continual kneeling; and Hilarion was found dead in his oratory with knees bent, eyes and hands lifted up.—Trapp.

Deuteronomy 9:17. Cast them. Drive away nature and back it comes at a gallop (French proverb). Whosoever is out of patience is out of possession of his soul. Men must not turn bees and kill themselves in stinging others.—Bacon.

Deuteronomy 9:22-24. From the day that I knew you. To fall out at starting was a bad sign. Those who did not begin well can hardly be expected to end well. Israel is not quite out of Egypt, and yet begins to provoke the Lord by doubting His power and questioning his faithfulness to his promise.—Spurgeon.

Deuteronomy 9:26-29. Prayed. “The gift of the knees.” “The impotence of man with the omnipotence of God.” It is not the length but the strength of prayer that is required, not so much the labour of life, as the travail of the heart.

“Pleads he in earnest? look upon his face;
His eyes do drop no tears, his prayers are in jest;
His words come from his mouth, ours from our breast:
He prays but faintly, and would be denied;
We pray with heart and soul, and all beside.”


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/deuteronomy-9.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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