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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 31

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

Verse 1


The man of GOD, having finished his sermon to the people, in this chapter makes a particular address to Joshua, whom the LORD had appointed as his successor: enjoins him to be valiant for GOD, and assures him of the divine favor: Moses gives the law which he had written to the priests, commanding it to be read every seventh year. By the LORD'S foretelling Moses, he admonishes them of their degeneracy. He writes a song and rehearseth it in the ears of the people, which song is contained in the succeeding chapter.

Deuteronomy 31:1

There is somewhat very interesting in this view of Moses, and in the subject of his long sermon. The law, as a prelude to the gospel, is always interesting; for by the law, saith an apostle, is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 . And certain it is, that the law is the truest schoolmaster unto CHRIST. Galatians 3:24 .

Verse 2

The age of Moses is twice recorded by him; once in this place, and again, Deuteronomy 34:7 . And it is very remarkable, that as this period of 120 years, if divided into three parts, makes 40 each: so at everyone of these portions, he was placed by the LORD in a different situation. The first forty years of his life he lived in the court of Pharaoh; the second as a shepherd, when sojourning with his father-in-law the priest of Midian; and the third in the wilderness, as a leader of the LORD'S people. How strange and mixed are the events in the life, even of the most eminent of GOD'S servants! Who would have thought, that the poor child Pharaoh's daughter took up and nursed for her own, and who was apparently exposed to immediate danger, should have been in the very same moment, all along designed by the LORD for the deliverance of his people. But Reader! turn your thoughts from hence to an infinitely higher character than Moses, even Moses' LORD; and in the person of the LORD JESUS CHRIST behold, from equally slender appearances, the foundation of the sinner's hope. Who that beheld the SON of GOD, in the days of his appearing, when brought into the temple in substance of our flesh, would have conceived that this was He who was appointed of GOD, to deliver his people from sin and death by an everlasting salvation? None but those to whom, like Holy Simeon, the HOLY GHOST made him known, could have conceived such mighty things were hid under the humblest appearance. Luke 2:26-29 .

Verse 3

Observe, how Moses dwells upon the sweet title of the LORD thy GOD: Not JEHOVAH alone, but JEHOVAH in covenant with Israel. Oh! it is precious to connect these things. And is there not somewhat referring to the LORD JESUS, in what is said here of Joshua? Not only the LORD thy GOD shall go over before thee, but it is said, that Joshua shall go over before the people. Is not this typical of JESUS our Joshua?

Verses 4-6

Faith in the LORD'S promise, and faith in the LORD'S person, are the tokens, on the part of his people, of the LORD'S being with them, by his HOLY SPIRIT enabling them to believe, and to depend upon him.

Verses 7-8

The inability of Moses to go over Jordan, and the ability of Joshua, should be well noticed by the Reader. As Moses' natural strength was not diminished, certain it is, his want of strength was not the cause; neither was the personal power of Joshua the reason of these things. But if we look at Moses as typical of the law, and Joshua as typical of JESUS and his gospel: then we see how impossible it was for the law to bring souls to GOD, and how suited alone that Almighty Joshua is, to plant his people in his holy mountain. For the law made nothing perfect; but a better hope did, by which we draw nigh unto GOD. Hebrews 7:19 .

Verse 9

Moses is the writer of those five books which bear his name; but it should seem, that over and above the sacred volume of these five books, he wrote the law to deposit in the ark separately: laying it up in the ark, not only for its security, and to imply its sacredness, but it carried with it this also, that in JESUS, which that ark typified, the whole law is kept and completed. He saith himself; by his type David, thy law is within my heart; or as it might have been read, in the midst of my bowels, meaning part of himself. Psalms 40:8 .

Verses 10-13

The law was read, no doubt, by the Israelites in their houses, among their children and families. Deuteronomy 11:18-20 . And we know, that Moses was read in the synagogue every Sabbath-day. Acts 15:21 . But this reading once in every seventh year, which was the year of release, it was to be in the whole assembly of Israel, in a more express and public manner. But Reader! is there not somewhat typical here? Yes! and very sweet it is. The year of release pointed to the year of release in JESUS. In this release by the LORD JESUS from sin and destruction, from the breaches of the law, and all its condemning power; JESUS, who is the sum and substance of the law, having fulfilled it in his own person for his people, is constantly read and constantly made over to them, in all his offices, relations, and character; and hence his gospel is expressly called, the acceptable year of the LORD. Luke 4:18-19 . And it is worthy observation, that not only the males were required, as in the three great feast days of the year, to go up to Jerusalem, but in this year of release, the women, and children, and strangers were to be present. Teaching as expressly as possible, that neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free, male nor female, are separately interested, but all are one in CHRIST JESUS. Galatians 3:28 . Reader! pray observe the sweetness and tenderness of that part of the precept, that the children which have not known anything: Anything of what? Apply it to the year of release in JESUS, and what is its gracious contents, but that our little ones, who receive from us in our fallen state, the seeds of sin, may be very early made acquainted, both with their ruined state by nature, and the only way of recovery by grace, in that merciful scheme of salvation, which is alone in the LORD JESUS. Oh! for grace to all parents, to record a memorial of this among their offspring!

Verse 14

Moses is again admonished of his death. Reader! it is a blessed thing, to be as the Apostle, who died daily. Is it your case? How stands your heart affected to death! If in JESUS, surely you know somewhat of this spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:31 .

Verse 15

This must have been a very refreshing season, to the servants of the LORD: of that glorious appearing of the Shechinah latterly, we do not read so much, as when the people came first out of Egypt. Reader! you and I have no cause to envy our fathers of the church in the wilderness, on account of those manifestations. JESUS hath since that period tabernacled among us in substance of our flesh, Oh! that you and I may, by faith, be enabled to say, and we have seen his glory. John 1:14 .

Verses 16-18

How gracious is GOD, even in his judgments. Though he foresaw Israel's backsliding, and in consequence gives Moses a commission to forewarn them of it, yet he provides means also for their recovery. But Reader, let not you and I stop here. Though our GOD foresaw our rebellion and unworthiness, and though he knew we should be backsliders from the womb, yet this did not stop the spring of mercy in JESUS, he sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10 .

Verses 19-22

The LORD'S mercy is again magnified, in causing all the grand leading points of Israel's history to be incorporated in this song; the particulars of which are all of a gospel tendency, and will meet us in the following chapter. What is here said serves to show us, that though it is called Moses' Song, the work is, in fact, of the HOLY GHOST.

Verses 23-26

We should compare this passage, in order to see the gospel sense of it, with that memorable one in the New Testament. Revelation 11:19 .

Verses 27-30

The melancholy prediction of the man of GOD, which we have lived to see fulfilled, so long and so awful as it is, in the dispersion of the Jews, would be enough to overpower the mind of every serious and truly awakened soul, were we not comforted with the assurance the HOLY GHOST hath given concerning their recovery. It is the cry of every faithful believer, Oh! that the deliverer may arise, to turn away ungodliness from Jacob! LORD! call home thy banished ones. Romans 11:26 .

Verse 30


READER! pause over this Chapter, and behold in Moses the dying circumstances of all mankind. Both saints and sinners, ministers and people, even Moses, the highly favoured servant of the LORD, must go down to the grave, though as to the circumstances attending his death, he was peculiarly favoured in going up to the mount, to give forth his soul, as some have thought, upon the very mouth of GOD. Here again, dearest JESUS, let my soul, from the view of the universal condition of mankind, turn my thoughts to thee, who by thy precious death hast overcome death, and by thy triumph over death and the grave, hast opened to thy people everlasting life. Sweet and refreshing is the thought, amidst the humbling prospect, of dissolution, that JESUS ever liveth; and though all our circumstances around are perishing, and we ourselves involved in the same, yet the hour is hastening, when death shall be swallowed up in victory!

In the view of Israel's perverseness, LORD, give me grace to behold the universal taint of all mankind. Am I better than they? No: in no wise. All are included under sin. Oh! thou precious sin-bearing LAMB of GOD! let everything and every view, both of the sin of others and my own, tend to endear thy person, and thy righteousness, to my heart, convinced, that there is salvation in no other, neither is there any other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 31". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/deuteronomy-31.html. 1828.
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