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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Deuteronomy 8



Moses exhorts them to obedience, from the recollection of God's singular blessings towards them.

Before Christ 1451.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. To know what was in thine heart Man's life is a state of probation. The wanderings of the children of Israel in the wilderness afford us a lively resemblance of the human pilgrimage through this world. God, who knows the hearts of all men, needs not to be informed how they are disposed towards him. The expression here, to know what was in thine heart, must therefore be understood after the manner of men; and the meaning is, that God did as men usually do when they want to try any one's sincerity; i.e. he laid opportunities in their way of giving unexceptionable proof of their integrity; a discovery, which, though of no signification with respect to God, was yet very useful to themselves, and instructive to others. Nothing tries the heart so much as adversity, and perhaps nothing is so useful to it. It is finely said by Seneca, "If you have not been an unhappy man, I am sure you are so: if you have travelled the stage of life without the opportunity of encountering an adversary, nobody can know what your strength is; no, not even yourself."

Verse 3

Ver. 3. That he might make thee know See Matthew 4:3.

Verse 4

Ver. 4. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, &c.— See Deu 29:5 and Nehemiah 9:21. Houbigant renders this, tuae vestes non sunt attritae; thy garments are not worn out, which is preferable to waxed old. With respect to this matter, we observe, first, that some interpreters, not content to take the words of Moses in the letter, very much aggrandize the miracle. 1st, The Jewish rabbis tell you, that their clothes not only were preserved from decay, and their feet from swelling and growing callous, but that their shoes and clothes still enlarged as their bodies grew bigger: with a thousand other particulars, too ridiculous to be mentioned. 2nd, The greater number of critics, ancient and modern, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Osiander, Bonfrere, Grotius, Marck, Ainsworth, Patrick, &c. take the words of Moses literally: they find here a double miracle, and, in consequence, a double proof of the paternal care of Providence over the Israelites in the uncultivated desarts of Arabia. The grand reason which supports this opinion is, that the preservation of the raiment of the Israelites is put upon a par with the sending of manna, which was certainly miraculous; and Moses speaks in the same manner, both of the one and of the other. Houbigant very strongly urges this reason, and defends this interpretation, opposing himself particularly to the opinion of Le Clerc, which is, 3rdly, as follows. He thinks it is hardly to be imagined, that Moses, whose intention it was to record the miracles which God wrought for the Israelites in the wilderness, should have mentioned this so transiently, and, as it were, by the bye, especially when it appears to have been one of the greatest of them; for there must have been as many miracles wrought as there were persons in the camp. He observes further, that God never uses to work miracles, unless they are quite necessary; yet here is one of the greatest miracles without any necessity at all: for, since it appears from Numb. ch. 7 and 8 that the Israelites had flocks of sheep and goats in the wilderness, and were not ignorant of the art of weaving, and as nothing hindered them from trafficking with their Arabian neighbours, it is evident that they might have been supplied with clothes in the regular way, either by making or purchasing them: from all which he concludes, that the words are to be thus understood; thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, i.e. "Providence has been so liberal in supplying your wants in this desart land, that you have never been necessitated, through poverty, to let your clothes grow old upon your backs, but have always been furnished with new, before the old were worn out." Neither did thy feet swell; i.e. for want of shoes to defend them. Agreeable to this interpretation, instead of thy foot did not swell, we read in chap. Deu 29:5 thy shoe did not wax old upon thy foot; i.e. "you were not reduced, through poverty, to wear shoes till they were grown so old and torn, that they could not defend your feet against tumors, and other inconveniences arising from heat, and rugged ways." They who consider the high eastern manner of expression, will more easily approve this interpretation of Le Clerc, which, indeed, is not peculiar to him; Spanheim, Burman, Bynaeus, Budaeus, Calmet, and many others have espoused it.

Verse 9

Ver. 9. A land whose stones are iron i.e. Where the iron mines are as plentiful as quarries of stone in other places. Out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass; i.e. copper, of which brass is made. See chap. Deuteronomy 33:25.

REFLECTIONS.—Repeated injunctions were given to urge their obedience; it was what God justly expected of them, and they need carefully perform. Two arguments are here mentioned.

1. What God had done for them in the wilderness. There they had gone through his gracious discipline, to humble and prove them, whether they would trust in his providence, and submit to his corrections; and there they had experienced astonishing interpositions of his mercy and grace to their bodies and souls. Note; (1.) We should remember often God's past dealings with us in mercy, as an encouragement to trust in the continuance of his care. (2.) We have need of every affliction which the Lord is pleased to lay upon us; our hearts are so proud and stubborn, that all is little enough to bend them. (3.) Trials are the proofs of our faith. God exercises us, that our graces, like gold in the furnace, may shine the brighter. (4.) God can supply his people in their deepest distresses. Let us take no indirect courses to relieve ourselves, and then verily we shall be fed. (5.) The rod of correction is the mark of parental love; instead of fainting, we should rejoice, when we are chastised of him.

2. What God was about to do for them. Canaan was before them: a land watered with copious streams, the vallies standing thick with corn, the hills covered with vines and olives, and every pleasing fruit; where plenty crowned the happy year, and filled their tables with abundance; whilst mines of precious ore enriched the bowels of the earth, and opened hidden sources of wealth. Deeply, therefore, they were bound to serve that master who paid them such abundant wages. How glorious the earthly, but how much better the heavenly Canaan, watered with the river of life, adorned with the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord; flowing with wine of everlasting consolation, and rich in treasures that never wax old or decay! May my lot fall in this pleasant land!

Verse 10

Ver. 10. When thou hast eaten, &c. thou shalt bless the Lord The Jews upon these words ground one of their positive precepts, that every one should bless God at his meals; a precept, not more commendable than reasonable: for what can be more reasonable than thankfully to acknowledge God, the giver of all good? And what time more proper to acknowledge him, than when his bounty has satisfied our hunger, and quenched our thirst? Upon this laudable and ancient custom, which was not peculiar to the Jews, but prevailed among almost all the nations of the earth, we refer the reader to Parker's excellent seventh Occasional Annotation on the place; where, as well as in Godwin and Lewis's Antiquities, an exact detail of the custom will be found. We conclude with observing, that the Turks and Chinese are punctual in their prayers at meals. What a disgrace must it be for Christians to yield to these infidels! to sit down at their table, and partake of God's blessings, without ever gratefully acknowledging his goodness, who giveth them all things richly to enjoy!

Verse 14

Ver. 14. Then thine heart be lifted up An usual effect of prosperity and great riches, as Euripides observes: υβριν δε τικτει πλουτος ; wealth breeds pride and contempt of others; for when men are elated by their distinguished circumstances, they easily fancy themselves to be very important persons, and possessed of extraordinary merit; and, in proportion to their vanity, and the high thoughts they entertain of themselves, they are apt to have an unbecoming and insolent contempt of others, as if they were of a different nature from their fellow-creatures, and originally formed in a higher order of being. Nor is this the worst: another fatal effect of affluent prosperity, is, that it makes men forget the Lord their God; for when every thing about us is gay, and has a smiling aspect, we are too apt to be careless and inconsiderate, and to be diverted by pleasure from greater and more important concerns; and when the mind is thus weakened and dissolved, it is no wonder if men pride themselves in their riches, as their ultimate happiness, and, for want of reflecting on the instability of all human affairs, think themselves self-sufficient, and lose that just sense which they ought to have of the sovereignty of their Maker, and of their absolute and necessary dependance upon him. See Foster's Sermons, vol. 1: ser. 8.

Verse 15

Ver. 15. Scorpions The scorpion is a small insect, which has a bladder full of poison: the belly is divided into seven rings, from the last of which the tail proceeds, which tail is armed with one, and sometimes with two stings, whence it darts a dangerous poison; it fixes violently with its snout, and by its feet or claws, on such persons as it seizes, so that it cannot be plucked off without difficulty, and hence its name עקרב akrab. See Parkhurst on the word. The desarts of Arabia are full of these noxious creatures. See Scheuchzer on the place.

Verse 16

Ver. 16. Who fed thee—with manna,—that he might humble thee, &c.— God fed the Israelites with manna forty years; 1st, To humble them, by making them continually and experimentally sensible that they owed their subsistence, their life and being, to him, every moment. 2nd, To put their faith and obedience to the proof. 3rdly, To render them more sensible of their happiness in the future enjoyment of the good things of Canaan. God, says Maimonides, was pleased to accustom the Israelites to labour in the wilderness, that he might increase their happiness when they came into the land of Canaan; for this is certain, that a transition from labour to repose is far sweeter than continual rest. Nor could they so easily have subdued the land, and reduced the inhabitants, if they had been trained up to toils and hardships. The following verses, as Grotius remarks, fully explain this. The Vulgate, which Calmet and Houbigant follow, gives another turn to this verse: Who fed thee in the wilderness with mature, unknown to your fathers; and who, after having humbled and proved thee, in fine, or, at the end, hath had pity upon thee.

Verse 17

Ver. 17. Thou say in thine heart, My power, &c.— See Isaiah 10:13.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 8". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.