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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 4

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2553. B.C. 1451.

An exhortation to obedience, Deuteronomy 4:1-13 . A warning against idolatry, Deuteronomy 4:14-28 . A promise upon repentance, Deuteronomy 4:29-40 . Cities of refuge appointed, Deuteronomy 4:41-43 . The place where Moses repeated the law, Deuteronomy 4:44-49 .

Verse 1

Deuteronomy 4:1. Now therefore hearken, O Israel Having called to their remembrance the extraordinary dispensations of Divine Providence toward them, both in the way of mercy and judgment, he now calls upon their whole assembly, in the most serious and earnest manner, to consider what influence these things ought to have upon their conduct, answerable to the design of such mercies and judgments; namely, to render them punctually obedient to the laws of God, and cautions of offending him; this being the very intent for which they were conducted to the promised land, and the absolute condition of their peaceful and happy enjoyment of it. We may observe Moses here to speak with all possible energy of language. The greatness of the subject he is upon inspires him with more than usual warmth, and he cannot take a view of the extraordinary privilege and happiness bestowed upon his people, in having divine statutes and judgments to direct them, without rapture and admiration. He sees the happiness of their condition therein, and bestows all his zeal and spirit to make them sensible of it. He regards nothing but this only, as knowing this would be every thing to them, to make them great and happy. The statutes The laws which concerned the worship and service of God. The judgments The laws concerning their duty to men. So these two comprehend both tables, and the whole law of God.

Verse 2

Deuteronomy 4:2. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you By desiring other doctrines, or ways of worship, than what I have taught or prescribed. For this were to accuse me of want of wisdom, or care, or faithfulness, in not giving you sufficient instructions for God’s service. Neither shall ye diminish aught from it By rejecting or neglecting any thing which I have commanded, though it seem ever so small; but take my word, as it is, for your sole rule and guide in things temporal and eternal.

Verses 3-4

Deuteronomy 4:3-4. Are alive every one of you this day A singular providence watched over them, to preserve them in such good healthy that not one of so many thousands was dead since that time. Nor, in the war with the Midianites, did they lose so much as one man, Numbers 31:7-49.

Verse 6

Deuteronomy 4:6. In the sight of the nations For though the generality of heathen, in the latter ages, did, through inveterate prejudices, condemn the laws of the Hebrews, yet it is certain the wisest heathen did highly approve of them, so 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.”

Verses 7-8

Deuteronomy 4:7-8. So nigh By glorious miracles, by the pledges of his special presence, by the operations of his grace, and particularly by his readiness to hear our prayers, and to give us those succours which we call upon him for. So righteous Whereby he implies that the true greatness of a nation doth not consist in pomp and power, or largeness of empire, as commonly men think, but in the righteousness of its laws.

Verses 9-10

Deuteronomy 4:9-10. Only take heed Their only danger was, lest they should grow careless and unmindful of all the wonderful things that God had done for them; for which reason he would have every Israelite to make these weighty concerns the subject of his most frequent study and intense meditation. Especially the day When God delivered the law from mount Sinai to them, with such awful appearances of divine majesty. Thou stoodest S ome of them stood there in their own persons, though then they were but young; the rest in the loins of their parents.

Verses 11-12

Deuteronomy 4:11-12. The midst of heaven Flaming up into the air, which is often called heaven. No similitude No resemblance or representation of God, whereby either his essence, or properties, or actions were represented, such as were usual among the heathen.

Verse 14

Deuteronomy 4:14. To teach you statutes and judgments This relates to the rest of the laws which God gave to Moses, immediately after he himself had delivered to them the ten commandments, (Exodus 21:0.,) it being the people’s desire that God would communicate to them the rest of his will by Moses.

Verse 15

Deuteronomy 4:15. Ye saw no similitude in Horeb God, who, in some other places and times, did appear in a human form, now in this most solemn appearance, when he came to give eternal laws for the direction of the Israelites in the worship of himself, and in their duty to their fellow- creatures, purposely avoided all such representations, to show that he abhors all worship by images, of what kind soever, because he is the invisible God, and cannot be represented by any visible image.

Verses 16-17

Deuteronomy 4:16-17. Lest ye corrupt yourselves Corrupt your minds with mean thoughts of God, your hearts by suffering any creature to alienate your affections from him, or your ways by worshipping him in a corrupt manner, or by falling into idolatry. And make you a graven image For worship, or for the representation of God; which he forbids under the penalty of his displeasure. The likeness of any beast, &c. Dr. Chandler observes, that “this is the very picture of Egypt, which had gods of all sorts; dead persons deified, male and female, and numerous images of them; who worshipped as deities bulls, cows, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, birds, the ibis and hawk, serpents, crocodiles, river-horses, together with the sun, moon, and stars of heaven.”

Verse 19

Deuteronomy 4:19. Lest thou shouldest be driven Strongly inclined; to worship them. Which the Lord hath divided unto all nations Which are not gods, but creatures, made not for 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 in knowledge, and in this, that you are my peculiar people.

Verse 20

Deuteronomy 4:20. The Lord hath taken you Of his own free mercy, unmerited by you; and brought you forth out of the iron furnace The furnace wherein iron and other metals are melted, to which Egypt is compared, from the torment and misery which the Israelites there endured. To be unto him a people of inheritance His peculiar possession from generation to generation; and therefore for you to forsake God, and worship idols, would be wickedness and ingratitude to the highest degree.

Verse 21

Deuteronomy 4:21. That I should not go over Jordan And as God has granted you the favour which he has denied me, your obligation to him is greatly increased.

Verse 23

Deuteronomy 4:23. Lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God Lest you either disregard the knowledge of God’s law, or wilfully disobey it, now it is declared to you, and thereby bring misery and destruction upon yourselves.

Verse 24

Deuteronomy 4:24. A consuming fire A just and terrible God, who, notwithstanding his special relation to you, will severely punish you, if you provoke him. A jealous God Who, being espoused to you, will be highly incensed against you if you follow after other lovers, or commit whoredom (so to speak) with idols, and will bear no rival or partner.

Verse 25

Deuteronomy 4:25. And shall corrupt yourselves This seems to be evidently a prediction of what Moses foresaw would take place; which that he did is still more manifest in Deuteronomy 4:30.

Verses 28-29

Deuteronomy 4:28-29. Ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands 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 men up to another. If from thence thou seek the Lord Whatever place we are in, we may from thence seek him. There is no part of the earth which has a gulf fixed between it and heaven.

Verses 30-31

Deuteronomy 4:30-31. In the latter days Either in general in succeeding ages and generations, or particularly in the days of the Messiah, commonly called in Scripture, the latter, or last days. Here the apostacy and misery of the Jewish nation in the latter days is clearly foretold, as it is more at large in chap 28. But the passage also gives encouragement to hope for their conversion and redemption; and that even in those times when their case should seem most desperate; when they should have forsaken God and rejected the Messiah, toward the end of the world.

Verses 32-34

Deuteronomy 4:32-34. The one side of heaven That is, of the earth under heaven. Ask all the inhabitants of the world. And live And was not overwhelmed and consumed by such a glorious appearance. By temptations 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 they would be induced to believe and obey God or not. By terrors Raised in the minds of the Egyptians, or, by terrible things done among them.

Verse 37

Deuteronomy 4:37. Brought thee out in his sight Keeping his eye fixed on thee, as a father doth on his beloved child. He himself was present with thee, and marched along with thee in the pillar of cloud and fire. With his mighty power And not by any natural strength of thy own, thou wast delivered from that bondage in which all the thousands of Israel so long lived in Egypt.

Verse 39

Deuteronomy 4:39. Know and consider it in thy heart From all that thou hast seen, heard, and experienced. That the Lord he is God, &c. Settle it in thy heart that none but the Creator of all things could perform those mighty acts.

Verse 44

Deuteronomy 4:44. This is the law More particularly and fully expressed in the following chapter, to which these words are an introduction.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/deuteronomy-4.html. 1857.
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