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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Deuteronomy 11

Introduction

CHAP. XI.

Moses commemorates the miracles of God: describes the land of Canaan; and promises them fertility, if they turn not aside to other gods: he proposes a blessing and a curse to them, and commands the one to be put upon mount Gerizzim, and the other upon mount Ebal.

Before Christ 1451.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. And know ye—for I speak not, &c.— Know ye, that is, reflect, consider; for such is the sense of the original word here, and in many other places. Isaiah 1:3.Ecclesiastes 5:1; Ecclesiastes 5:1. I speak is not in the Hebrew; but that or some such word must plainly be understood. Le Clerc includes within a parenthesis all these words; for I speak not with your children, who have not known, and who have not seen: So that, according to him, the verse runs thus: Know you this day (for I speak not with your children, &c.) the chastisement of the Lord. We might paraphrase the passage thus; "Your children have known only by tradition the things which you have seen: you have beheld the chastisement of the Lord, &c."

Verse 10

Ver. 10. And wateredst it with thy foot That is, with labour; for it is not Moses's design to compare the countries with respect to fertility; but with respect to the labour which it took in one to receive the fruits of the earth, and the facility with which they were received in the other; at the same time making the people sensible that they were to depend immediately, and in an especial manner, upon God's providence. As Egypt was not watered from heaven, but by the Nile only, they were used to supply the want of rain in an artificial manner. Dr. Shaw, upon this subject, observes, that "such vegetable productions as require more moisture than what is occasioned by the inundation, are refreshed by water drawn out of the river by instruments, and lodged afterwards in capacious cisterns. Archimedes's screw seems to have been the first that was made use of upon these occasions; though at present the inhabitants serve themselves with leathern buckets, or else with a sakiah (as they call the Persian wheel), which is the general as well as the most useful machine. However, engines and contrivances of both these kinds are placed all along the banks of the Nile, from the sea quite up to the cataracts; and as these banks, i.e. the land itself, become higher in proportion as we advance up the river, the difficulty of raising water becomes so much the greater. When therefore their various sorts of pulse, safranon, or carthamus, musa, melons, sugar-canes, &c. all of which are commonly planted in rills, require to be refreshed, they strike out the plugs that are fixed in the bottoms of the cisterns; and then the water gushing out, is conducted from one rill to another, by the gardener, who is always ready as occasion requires, to stop and divert the torrent, by turning the earth against it with his foot, and opening at the same time with his mattock a new trench to receive it. This method of conveying moisture and nourishment to a land rarely or ever refreshed with rain, is often alluded to in the Holy Scriptures, where also it is made the distinguishing quality betwixt Egypt and the land of Canaan." See Travels, p. 408. Another writer observes, that, "as there was very little rain in Egypt, and as the water of the Nile could not be conveyed to all parts of the country without labour, it was therefore watered with the feet in some places. How this was done, we seem not to know, but probably in some such manner as is used to this time among the Chinese, who convey water from one place to another, by treading on certain pieces of wood, or cogs, fixed to an engine. The cogs force the water from a low ground, through a tube into a higher ground. On the coast of Coromandel they also water the land with the feet, but in a different manner; a man walks backwards and forwards on a board, suspended properly, to one end of which a tub is affixed, which falls into the water and fills; the man by walking back, brings the tub up, which is emptied by another man on the ground, whence it runs where it is wanted, and then the first man walks on again. This method is not so good as the Chinese, in which the feet only are employed. It is however watering the land by the feet." The land of Canaan, as well as the land of Egypt, was sometimes subject to drought, and watered by labour. The editor of the observations remarks, that "This drought in summer occasions frequent watering in Judea. Bishop Pococke, in his journey from Acre to Nazareth, observes a well, from whence water, drawn up by oxen, was carried by women in earthen jars up a hill, to water plantations of tobacco. He mentions another well presently after, whose water was drawn up by boys in leathern buckets, and carried off in jars by women, as before. See Pococke's Travels, vol. 2: p. 61. If it should be asked, how does this agree with the present passages, which distinguish the Holy Land from Egypt, by its drinking the rain from heaven, (ver. 11.) while Egypt was watered with the foot? The answer, I imagine, which should be returned, is this: These passages themselves suppose gardens of herbs, and consequently such plantations as these were to be watered by art in the Jewish country; and the difference to be pointed out, was the necessity the Egyptians were under of watering their corn-lands in the same manner to prepare them for sowing; whereas the lands of Judea are prepared by the descent of rain. These lands of Egypt, indeed, are watered by the overflowing of the Nile, and are thereby so saturated with moisture, that, as Maillet assures us, they want no more watering for the producing of corn, and several other things, though the gardens require fresh supplies of moisture every three or four days; but then it is to be remembered, that immense labour was requisite to conduct the waters of the Nile to many of their lands. Maillet himself celebrates those works of the ancient kings of Egypt, by which they distributed the waters of the Nile through their whole country, as the greatest, the most magnificent, and the most admirable of all their works; and these, which they caused their subjects to undergo, were doubtless designed to prevent much heavier, which they must otherwise have submitted to. Perhaps there might be an emphasis in these words of Moses, which has not of late been at all understood: for the last mentioned author tells us, that he was assured, that the large canal which filled the cisterns of Alexandria, and is at least fifteen leagues long, was entirely paved, and its sides lined and supported by walls of brick, which were as perfect as in the times of the Romans. See Maillet's Descript. de l'Egypte, par. 1: p. 45. 144 and par. 2: p. 5, 6. If these bricks were used in the construction of their more ancient canals, and if those made by the Israelites in Egypt were designed for purposes of this kind, they must have heard with great pleasure the words of Moses, assuring them that the country, to which they were going, would want no canals to be dug, no bricks to be prepared for paving and lining them, in order to water it: labours, which had been so bitter to them in Egypt. This account is certainly favoured by Exo 1:14 where hard bondage in mortar and in brick is joined with the other services of the field.

Philo understands these hard services, of digging canals and cleansing them; and in this view, the mortar and the brick are very naturally joined with them. See de Vit. Mosis, lib. 1: Dr. Shaw has explained the term, watering with the foot: May I take the liberty of adding to it, that this way of watering, by conveying a little stream to the roots of plants, is so universal, that though the Misna forbids all watering of plants in the seventh year, as contrary to the law; yet R. Eleazar, (in Tit. Shebush) allows the watering the leaf of a plant, though not the root? A stranger to the eastern management would hardly know what to make of this indulgence." See Scheuchzer on the place.

Verse 11

Ver. 11. But the land whither ye go to possess it, is, &c.— Not a low country, like that of Egypt, but full of hills, which could not be made fruitful, except by rain from heaven; contrary to the case in Egypt. Concerning which, its augmentation by the Nile, its increase therefrom, and probable future sterility, we refer to Dr. Shaw, vol. 2 Chronicles 2:0 sect. 3 his remarks being too copious to be here admitted.

Verse 12

Ver. 12. A land which the Lord thy God careth for A land which the Lord, and not man, provideth for. The expressions in this verse are taken from the particular and extraordinary care of the husbandman, who, from the beginning of the year to the end, watches with a solicitous eye over his land, and takes every prudent and proper measure to render it fertile. Palestine was thus peculiarly under the eye of God, its increase or sterility arising immediately from him, as the people obeyed or disobeyed his commandments. This Houbigant would read in the future; a land which the Lord thy God will care for, and upon which his eyes shall always be; for, before the Israelites possessed Canaan, says he, the Lord did not regard that had more than Egypt: but there is nothing more common with the sacred writers, than to speak of the future in the present.

Verse 14

Ver. 14. The first rain, and the latter rain There is in these verses a remarkable change in the person, which is very common in Scripture, and frequently very expressive. See Dr. Lowth's Praelec. Poet. prael. 15:—In Judea and the neighbouring countries, they seldom have rain, but at two seasons, about the autumnal and vernal equinoxes, called the former and the latter rain: the one fell out about the time of sowing the seed in November, and served to prepare the ground, and to make the grain take root in the earth; and the other, when the corn was well grown up, towards earing-time, about the middle of April, to make the ears full and plump for harvest. "It is an observation at or near Jerusalem," says Dr. Shaw, "that, provided a moderate quantity of snow falls in the beginning of February, whereby the fountains are made to overflow, a little afterwards there is a prospect of a fruitful and plentiful year; the inhabitants making, upon these occasions, the like rejoicings with the Egyptians upon the cutting of the Nile; but in the summer season these countries are rarely refreshed with rain. See Psa 4:7. 1 Samuel 12:17." Travels, p. 335. Respecting the fertility of the land of Canaan, we refer to the same place, and to the Univ. Hist. vol. 3: b. 1 Chronicles 7:0 and Maundrell's journey from Aleppo, page 65. See also 2 Samuel 24:0.

Verse 16

Ver. 16. That your heart be not deceived They were in danger of being seduced into an imitation of their neighbours, by the specious colours they put upon their idolatry; as, the antiquity of it, universal consent, the pretence of directing their worship to the supreme God, and that they enjoyed fruitful seasons and other temporal blessings, as a reward for their worship.

Verse 21

Ver. 21. As the days of heaven upon the earth This phrase signifies a long time, indefinitely. So it is said of David in the Psalms, His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven. Psalms 89:29. Baruch says, that the Jews in Babylon were commanded to pray for Nebuchadnezzar and his son, that their days might be upon earth as the days of heaven. Such hyperbolical expressions are usual in all languages, and found in the best writers of antiquity. See, for example, Virgil AEn. 1: ver. 612.

Verse 24

Ver. 24. Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread i.e. Within the compass of the bounds here marked out, and so long as you fulfil the condition mentioned, ver. 22.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The way to conquest was obedience. On this depended their strength; for then the mighty God would be their helper; and thus also they would secure long possession, which else they would quickly forfeit. Note; Sin shortens the days of the wicked, and causes the lands to cast out their inhabitants. 2. On their obedience also the fertility of their land depended. Canaan was not like Egypt, which had the Nile cut into innumerable canals, from whence the ground was watered; but owed its fruitfulness to the descending rains, which God would cause to descend plentifully upon them, and make them overflow with corn, and wine, and oil. Note; (1.) Mercies coming from the immediate hand of God are doubly sweet. (2.) Godliness has the promise of the life that now is. (3.) The more we enjoy from God's gift, the more bound we are to live to God's glory. 3. The consequences of their disobedience would be the very reverse of all this. If they turned aside to idols, the wrath of God would be kindled against them, and they would be utterly consumed from the good land, and the land itself be left desolate, under the curse of God; the fulfilment of which is this day most visible, it being now a very barren spot, and almost without inhabitants. Note; They who will not be influenced by God's mercies, will sink under his judgments.

2nd, Though the directions in this chapter had been given before, they were no vain repetitions; all was little enough for their admonition. 1. They are charged to lay up these words in their memories, and to embrace them with cordial affection; to place them ever in their view, that they may not be forgotten, and to be talking of them at home and abroad, making them matter of constant instruction to their children, and of familiar converse with their friends. Note; When the heart is filled with the knowledge and love of God's word, the lips will ever be bringing forth that good conversation which ministers grace to the hearers. 2. The blessing assured them is certain possession of the land of Canaan, an enlargement of their borders to Euphrates, with an abiding inheritance for their children; and security from all their foes; whom a holy awe should restrain from daring to molest them. Note; (1.) Religion stamps a reverence on its professors, which keeps their enemies in awe of them. (2.) Godliness transmitted with our possessions, is the surest means to perpetuate them in our families.

Verse 26

Ver. 26. A blessing and a curse Concerning this blessing and curse, and its remarkable completion in the history of the Jews, we shall have occasion to speak more fully when we come to the 28th chapter; as well as concerning Gerizim and Ebal, when we come to Joshua 8:33.

Verse 30

Ver. 30. Over against Gilgal These words do not refer to the situation of the two mountains Gerizim and Ebal, which were in the middle of the tribe of Ephraim, several miles west from Gilgal; but they refer to the Canaanites, (i.e. one of the seven devoted nations, properly called Canaanites,) whose territories are here said to extend from the plain of Gilgal, which was near Jordan, (Joshua 2:9.) to these mountains, Gerizim and Ebal, which lay near the plain or oaken grove of Moreh; that very place of Canaan, where Abraham formerly dwelt. Genesis 12:6. The Samaritan has it, over against Gilgal, near the oak of Moreh, towards Sichem. See Genesis 35:4.

Reflections on the foregoing chapters, by Lord Clarendon.

"There could not be a better way found out, though that was not sufficient to keep the children of Israel in their integrity towards God, than by the frequent putting them in mind, and fixing in their memory the history of all the miracles which he had wrought for them, from the time of their being in Egypt, to their being in a triumphant condition in the land of Canaan; in which they had been eye-witnesses of more and greater miracles, than all the world besides had been acquainted with from the time of the deluge. All that he expected from them for all his mercies, was, that they would acknowledge him as their God, and depend upon him, and not have recourse to other gods, from whom they had received no benefit, and who never had done, nor ever could do good for those who depended upon them. And if the memory of all the wonders he had done in Egypt, their walking through the sea as upon dry land, and seeing all those who pursued them covered and drowned in that very sea: if their having found bread in the wilderness, and a dry rock having given them drink when they were at the point of fainting: if the subduing many nations, more warlike than themselves, and putting them into the quiet possession of their habitations and dominions: if all this would not imprint a notion of his omnipotence and paternal affection in their hearts, in such indelible characters, that they should never be in doubt to whom they ought to pay their vows, or whither to repair in their distress; they must be more brutish creatures, and more unworthy of his future protection and preservation, than the fowls of the air or the beasts of the field."
"We are much more inexcusable than these Israelites, if, after the clear and full information we have received, and which is every day inculcated, of the history of the whole life and death of our Saviour, the infinite benefits we have received from him, and the infinite torments which he endured for us, we do either forget the matter or the manner of those obligations. But if, by the vain hopes or fears of this world, our ambition of honour and preferment, or our apprehension of punishment or disgrace, we are startled in the performance of our duty to him, and observation of his commands; we have—pretend what we will—forgot what he did, and what he said; how much he despised the world, and all the temptations thereof, out of his love and value of us, and only to teach us the way to come to him in a better world. If we be terrified, by the power and threats of princes, from doing any thing which he has enjoined us, or to act any thing that he has forbidden us to do; we have forgotten that kings are to tremble before him for those very threats, and for using the power he has given them so unrighteously; whilst we should at the same time be commended and justified for being obstinate in his commandments. There needs nothing under divine grace but a constant and due reflection that there will be a day of judgment, no man knows how soon; and that he, who died himself to save us, is to sit judge upon that day; to make us appear before him with confidence as fit objects of his mercy."

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 11". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/deuteronomy-11.html. 1801-1803.