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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Deuteronomy 31

Deuteronomy 31:0

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJVNRSVTEVNJB
Joshua the New Leader of IsraelConcluding Events of Moses' LifeJoshua Becomes Moses' SuccessorCommissioning of Joshua
Deuteronomy 31:1-8Deuteronomy 31:1-6Deuteronomy 31:1-6Deuteronomy 31:1-6
Deuteronomy 31:7-8Deuteronomy 31:7-8Deuteronomy 31:7-8
The Law to Be Read Every Seven Years The Law Is To Be Read Every Seven YearsThe Ritual Reading of the Law
Deuteronomy 31:9-13Deuteronomy 31:9-13Deuteronomy 31:9-13Deuteronomy 31:9-13
Prediction of Israel's Rebellion The Lord's Last Instructions to MosesYahweh's Instructions
Deuteronomy 31:14-15Deuteronomy 31:14-15Deuteronomy 31:14-15Deuteronomy 31:14-15
Deuteronomy 31:16-23Deuteronomy 31:16-22Deuteronomy 31:16-18Deuteronomy 31:16-18
The Song of Witnesses
Deuteronomy 31:19-21Deuteronomy 31:19-22
Deuteronomy 31:22
Deuteronomy 31:23Deuteronomy 31:23Deuteronomy 31:23
The Law Placed Beside the Ark
Deuteronomy 31:24-29Deuteronomy 31:24-29Deuteronomy 31:24-29Deuteronomy 31:24-27
Israel Gathers to Hear the Song (Deuteronomy 31:28-44)
The Song of Moses(Deuteronomy 31:30-47) The Song of Moses(Deuteronomy 31:30-44)Deuteronomy 31:28-29
Deuteronomy 31:30Deuteronomy 31:30Deuteronomy 31:30Deuteronomy 31:30

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 31:1-6 1So Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. 2And he said to them, “I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I am no longer able to come and go, and the LORD has said to me, 'You shall not cross this Jordan.' 3It is the LORD your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the LORD has spoken. 4The LORD will do to them just as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when He destroyed them. 5The LORD will deliver them up before you, and you shall do to them according to all the commandments which I have commanded you. 6Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:1 “spoke these words” Possibly this should be “finished speaking,” following the Septuagint and some manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which transpose two Hebrew consonants (cf. NRSV, REB). This is the end of Moses' three sermons.

Deuteronomy 31:2 “I am a hundred and twenty” Moses' life of 120 years (cf. Deuteronomy 34:7) can be divided into three 40 year segments. Moses was 40 years being prepared at the royal academies of Egypt, 40 years in the desert training for his call, and 40 years from the time of the burning bush to the present (cf. Exodus 7:7 and Acts 7:23ff). Why mention his age? These are possible reasons: (1) in Egyptian literature 110 years was the age of wise men, but in Syria it was 120 years; (2) age limit of Genesis 6:3; or (3) another excuse of Moses for why he will not lead them into the Promised Land.

“I am no longer able to come and go” This is a Hebrew idiom for vitality (Joshua 14:11; NRSV, TEV, NJB, JPSOA)! However, old age had not taken away Moses' strength, cf. Deuteronomy 34:0. Possibly this was an excuse (cf. Deuteronomy 1:37) related to Moses' public disobedience recorded in Numbers 20:11-12. Deuteronomy 3:23-29 records Moses' pleading with God to let him enter the Promised Land (cf. Deuteronomy 32:48-52).

Deuteronomy 31:3 “the LORD your God who will cross ahead of you” God fights for them, though they must prepare for battle and participate (cf. Deuteronomy 31:3-6, i.e., holy war terminology). Moses was a tool used by God. God, Himself, was the one who delivered the people. In reality it is YHWH, not Joshua, who goes into battle ahead of His people!

“Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you” A new leader was needed because of Moses' disobedience. God will be with Joshua, but he too must do his covenant obligations (cf. Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 3:28).

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous” This verse has several imperatival forms:

1. “be strong” - BDB 304, KB 302, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Deuteronomy 31:7, Deuteronomy 31:23

2. “be courageous” - BDB 54, KB 65, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Deuteronomy 31:7, Deuteronomy 31:23

3. “do not be afraid” - BDB 431, KB 432, negated Qal IMPERFECT, used in a JUSSIVE sense

4. “do not tremble” - BDB 791, KB 888, negated Qal IMPERFECT, used in a JUSSIVE sense, cf. Deuteronomy 1:29; Deuteronomy 7:21; Deuteronomy 20:3; Joshua 1:9

Numbers 1:0 and 2 are repeated by Moses to Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:7 and Numbers 3:0 and 4 are repeated in Deuteronomy 31:8 (#4 is parallel, but a different VERB, “be dismayed,” BDB 369, KB 365, Qal IMPERFECT).

A proper attitude and faith are essential! There are giants in the land, but YHWH is with His people (cf. Deuteronomy 31:3, Deuteronomy 31:4, Deuteronomy 31:5, Deuteronomy 31:6).

“He will not fail you or forsake you”

1. YHWH goes with them (i.e., “walks,” BDB 229, KB 246, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE)

2. YHWH will not fail them (i.e., “abandon,” BDB 951, KB 1276, Hiphil IMPERFECT)

3. YHWH will not forsake them (“leave,” BDB 736 I, KB 806, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Genesis 28:15)

This promise is repeated to Joshua in Joshua 1:5 and is repeated as a promise to NT believers in Hebrews 13:5! Our hope is in the unchanging gracious character of YHWH (e.g., Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 103:8; Psalms 145:8; Joel 2:13)!

Verses 7-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 31:7-8 7Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. 8The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Deuteronomy 31:7 This is a public transfer of power! This is the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 1:38 and Deuteronomy 3:28!

Deuteronomy 31:8 “He will be with you” This is restated, “I will be with you,” in Deuteronomy 31:23! The promise of YHWH's personal presence is the greatest blessing that can be given (cf. Exodus 3:12; Exodus 4:12, Exodus 4:15; Exodus 33:14-16; Deuteronomy 4:37; Joshua 1:5). It is the reason why His leaders and people should not be fearful of anyone or anything!

Verses 9-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 31:9-13 9So Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. 10Then Moses commanded them, saying, “At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, 11when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. 12Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the LORD your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. 13Their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live on the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.”

Deuteronomy 31:9 “Moses wrote this law” Several times in the Pentateuch it says, “Moses wrote” (cf. Exodus 17:14; Exodus 24:4,22; Exodus 34:1, Exodus 34:27, Exodus 34:28; Numbers 17:2, Numbers 17:3; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 5:22; Deuteronomy 31:9, Deuteronomy 31:22). Moses gave the Law to Israel to standardize the will of God for future generations.

“to the priests, the sons of Levi” It is interesting that there is some divergency in exactly who are “priests”:

1. tribe of Levi (always)

2. sons of Aaron (often)

All priests are Levites, but not all Levites are priests.

“to the elders” This refers to tribal elders. In this verse Moses entrusts the law to Israel's religious and secular (i.e., tribal) leaders. However, in reality, all of Israel's leaders and laws were seen as religious (i.e., YHWH's will). There was no secular versus sacred in Israel. All was sacred because all belonged to YHWH! There were special days and special places, but all of life was regulated by divine decrees!

Deuteronomy 31:10 There are two dates referred to in this verse:

1. one was every year, the Feast of Booths

a. Exodus 23:16-17; Exodus 34:22

b. Leviticus 23:33-43

c. Deuteronomy 16:13-15

2. one was every seventh year (i.e., the Sabbatical year)

a. Exodus 23:10, Exodus 23:11

b. Leviticus 25:1-7

c. Deuteronomy 15:1-6

Here Moses adds to the regular rituals the reading of the covenant.

The Feast of the Booths was an annual event meant to remind Israel of YHWH's gracious and powerful acts of deliverance from Egypt and His provision and presence during the wilderness wanderings. This festival of thanksgiving for deliverance/freedom, as well as the freedom from debt ceremony, occurred every seventh year (i.e., Sabbath year, cf. Leviticus 25:0). The combination of these two freedom events was a perfect time to review the Mosaic law covenant with this gracious, covenant-making God!

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE FEASTS OF ISRAEL

Deuteronomy 31:11 “the place which He will choose” This verse in Moses' day referred to the gathering of all males three times a year (cf. Leviticus 23:0) at the tabernacle (cf. Exodus 20:24; Deuteronomy 12:5, Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 12:13; Deuteronomy 14:25; Deuteronomy 15:20; Deuteronomy 16:7, Deuteronomy 16:16; Deuteronomy 17:8, Deuteronomy 17:10; Deuteronomy 18:6; Deuteronomy 26:2).

Later it would refer to the central shrine located in Jerusalem.

“you shall read this law in front of all Israel” This was a covenant renewal event. The Law was clearly revealed (i.e., read) and Israel committed herself to its keeping! Everyone in Israel's society was present (cf. Deuteronomy 31:12-13), even the newest generation (i.e., of Bar Mitzvah age, e.g., Isaiah 7:16).

The law was not only for a later king nor current leaders, but for all the people through their generation and even resident aliens!

Deuteronomy 31:12 “may hear. . .learn. . .fear” Notice the progression of VERBS:

1. “hear” - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERFECT, common in Deuteronomy, meaning “to hear so as to do”

2. “learn” - BDB 540, KB 531, Qal IMPERFECT

3. “fear” - BDB 431, KB 432, Qal PERFECT (see last paragraph below)

4. “be careful to observe”

a. BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal PERFECT

b. BDB 793, KB 889, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT

Notice that #1,2,3 are repeated in Deuteronomy 31:13 to relate to the new generation, which did not as yet know (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal PERFECT). This law was meant to be known and kept through multiple generations of Israelis.

In some ways this progression reminds me of Ezra (cf. Ezra 7:10). Israel is to fear or revere (BDB 431) YHWH (cf. Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 17:19), but not fear anyone or anything else!

Verses 14-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 31:14-18 14Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, the time for you to die is near; call Joshua, and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.” So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves at the tent of meeting. 15The LORD appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood at the doorway of the tent. 16The LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. 17Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, 'Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?' 18But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods.”

Deuteronomy 31:14 “call. . .present” These are two IMPERATIVES.

1. “call” - BDB 894, KB 1128, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “present” - BDB 426, KB 427, Hithpael IMPERATIVE (this refers to an official commissioning by YHWH, cf. 1 Samuel 10:19, or covenant renewal, cf. Joshua 24:1)

“the tent of meeting” There seems to have been two special tents connected to YHWH:

1. the tabernacle described in Exodus 25-27, which housed the Ark of the Covenant and was positioned at the center of the Israelite camp

2. the tent of meeting described in Exodus 33:7-11, erected outside of the camp of Israel, where Moses went to meet with YHWH

3. usually the cloud (i.e., which the rabbis call the Shekinah Cloud of Glory), which symbolized YHWH's personal presence, manifested itself at #1, but here at #2 (cf. Deuteronomy 31:15; Exodus 33:9)

4. It is possible that several other references relate to #2-Exodus 18:7-16; Numbers 11:16, Numbers 11:24, Numbers 11:26; Numbers 12:4

“that I may commission him” In Deuteronomy 31:7 Moses calls Joshua before the people. Here YHWH calls Moses and Joshua before Himself.

Deuteronomy 31:15 “a pillar of cloud” This same pillar of cloud was what separated the children of Israel from the army of Egypt (cf. Exodus 13:21-22; Exodus 14:19-20). This pillar is what filled the Temple when Isaiah saw God “high and lifted up” in Isaiah 6:0. This was a physical symbol of the presence of God. It stayed with the Israelites throughout their wilderness wandering. It functioned in several ways:

1. it showed YHWH's presence

2. it led the Israelites from place to place

3. it shaded them by day

4. it lit up their camp by night

Once they crossed Jordan, YHWH's presence was manifested over the Ark of the Covenant, but the cloud disappeared.

Deuteronomy 31:16 “this people will arise and play the harlot” This reveals YHWH's foreknowledge of Israel's continuing sin of idolatry (cf. Deuteronomy 4:15-28; Deuteronomy 31:29). Notice the progression of the idolatry in the VERBS:

1. “will arise” - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal PERFECT, e.g., Exodus 32:6

2. “play the harlot” - BDB 275, KB 275, Qal PERFECT

a. act as a harlot

(1) Leviticus 21:7, Leviticus 21:9, Leviticus 21:14

(2) Deuteronomy 22:21; Deuteronomy 23:18

b. metaphorically of the Promised Land, Leviticus 19:29

c. metaphorically of foreign alliances

(1) Isaiah 23:17

(2) Jeremiah 3:1

(3) Ezekiel 16:26, Ezekiel 16:28

d. metaphorically of fertility idolatry

(1) Exodus 34:15, Exodus 34:16

(2) Leviticus 17:7; Leviticus 20:5

(3) Deuteronomy 31:16

3. “will forsake Me” - BDB 736, KB 806, Qal PERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 28:20; Judges 10:6, Judges 10:10; Jeremiah 1:16

4. “break My covenant” - BDB 830, KB 974, Hiphil PERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 31:20; Leviticus 26:15; Jeremiah 11:10

Deuteronomy 31:17 “My anger will be kindled” This VERB (BDB 354, KB 351, Qal PERFECT) is often used of YHWH's anger:

1. against Moses, Exodus 4:14

2. against Israel, Exodus 22:24; Exodus 32:10; Numbers 11:1, Numbers 11:10; Numbers 32:10; Deuteronomy 6:15; Deuteronomy 7:4; Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 31:17

3. against the spies, Numbers 12:9

4. against Balaam, Numbers 22:22

5. against the land, Deuteronomy 29:27

“I will forsake them and hide My face from them” These two VERBS describe anthropomorphically YHWH's nullification of the covenant. YHWH does to them what they did to Him (cf. Deuteronomy 31:16).

1. “I will forsake them” - BDB 736, KB 806, Qal PERFECT

2. “hide My face from them” - BDB 711, KB 771, Hiphil PERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 31:18; Deuteronomy 32:20; Isaiah 59:2; Isaiah 64:7). This is an idiom for the removal of covenant fellowship and blessing.

The consequences are:

1. they shall be consumed

a. VERB, “to be” - BDB 224, KB 243, Qal PERFECT

b. consumed/devoured - BDB 37, KB 46, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT

2. many evils and troubles will come

a. “will come” - BDB 592, KB 619, Qal PERFECT

b. evil - BDB 949

c. troubles - BDB 865 I

3. YHWH's presence (cf. Deuteronomy 31:6, Deuteronomy 31:8) will not be with them (i.e., “our God is not among us”)

Deuteronomy 31:18 The threat from Deuteronomy 31:17 (i.e., “I will hide my face from them”) is emphatically repeated (Hiphil INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and Hiphil IMPERFECT).

“other gods” The Jewish Study Bible asserts that “our God” of Deuteronomy 31:17 should be translated “our gods” and relate to “other gods” in Deuteronomy 31:18 (cf. P. 439).

The first term (BDB 43) seems to be a singular form derived from Elohim (BDB 43) in Deuteronomy 31:18. The first term can be used of a pagan god (cf. 2 Chronicles 32:15; Daniel 11:37), but also for YHWH (cf. Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalms 50:22; Psalms 114:7; Psalms 139:19; Proverbs 30:5; Isaiah 44:8).

Verses 19-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 31:19-22 19”Now therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, so that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel. 20For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. 21Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.” 22So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the sons of Israel.

Deuteronomy 31:19 “write this song for yourselves” This would be a witness for God against the future actions of Israel.

This, of course, is a legal metaphor (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:28; Joshua 24:22)! Israel was responsible to instruct every new generation in YHWH's law!

Deuteronomy 31:20 “they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous then they will turn to other gods” The hardest times for the people of God are during the times of great prosperity! We tend to forget so easily (cf. Deuteronomy 6:10-15; Deuteronomy 8:11-20; Deuteronomy 32:15-18).

Notice the downward progression into rebellion:

1. they will turn to other gods - BDB 815, KB 937, Qal PERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 31:18; Deuteronomy 29:18; Deuteronomy 30:17

2. serve them - BDB 712, KB 773, Qal PERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 7:4; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 11:16; Deuteronomy 13:6, Deuteronomy 13:13; Deuteronomy 17:3; Deuteronomy 28:14, Deuteronomy 28:36, Deuteronomy 28:64; Deuteronomy 29:18, Deuteronomy 29:26; Deuteronomy 30:17

3. spurn Me - BDB 610, KB 658, Piel PERFECT, cf. Numbers 14:11, Numbers 14:23; Isaiah 1:4

4. break My covenant - BDB 830, KB 974, Hiphil PERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 31:16; Leviticus 26:15; Jeremiah 11:10; Jeremiah 31:32

Deuteronomy 31:21 “when many evils and troubles have come upon them” These evils and troubles were mentioned in Deuteronomy 31:17 and predicted in Deuteronomy 4:30.

“(for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants)” This is a promise of a faithful remnant and continued knowledge of YHWH's law.

“intent” The Hebrew word yetzer is sometimes translated “imagination of the heart” (BDB 428 I, it can be in a positive sense, Isaiah 26:3). This is the OT way of saying that YHWH knows the tendency toward rebellion which is within mankind (i.e., Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21; Psalms 103:14; Jeremiah 18:23).

Verse 23

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 31:23 23Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.”

Deuteronomy 31:23 Moses spoke these words to Israel in Deuteronomy 31:6. Moses spoke these words to Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:7 (cf. Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 3:28). Now (Deuteronomy 31:23) YHWH speaks these words directly to Joshua (cf. Joshua 1:6, Joshua 1:7, Joshua 1:9), who stood with Moses at the door of the tabernacle.

1. “be strong” - BDB 304, KB 302, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “be courageous” - BDB 54, KB 65, Qal IMPERATIVE

“I will be with you” This statement identifies the PRONOUN “he” of Deuteronomy 31:23a. This is YHWH's greatest gift (cf. Exodus 3:12; Exodus 4:12, Exodus 4:15; Exodus 33:14-16; Deuteronomy 4:37; Deuteronomy 31:6, Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:5)!

Verses 24-29

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 31:24-29 24It came about, when Moses finished writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete, 25that Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, 26”Take this book of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may remain there as a witness against you. 27For I know your rebellion and your stubbornness; behold, while I am still alive with you today, you have been rebellious against the LORD; how much more, then, after my death? 28Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to witness against them. 29For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands.”

Deuteronomy 31:26 “beside the ark” The KJV has “in,” but the better translation is “beside” (NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB, cf. Exodus 25:16; 1 Kings 8:9); and for “the ark” see Exodus 25:10-22.

In the OT apparently only the two tablets of stone on which the Ten Commandments written by God (Exodus 31:18) were contained in the Ark (as well as the pieces of the first set that Moses broke, e.g., Exodus 32:19; Exodus 34:1). There are three other items which were placed beside the Ark:

1. a jar of manna, Exodus 16:33-34

2. Aaron's rod that budded, Numbers 17:10

3. this copy of the law written by Moses

However, there must have been some confusion about this within rabbinical circles, because the author of Hebrews asserts that the Ark contained the stone tablets and #1 and #2 (cf. Hebrews 9:4).

“covenant” See Special Topic: Covenant.

Deuteronomy 31:27 “For I know your rebellion and your stubbornness” Moses had experienced Israel's rebellious tendencies (cf. Deuteronomy 31:21) during his lifetime (cf. Deuteronomy 9:7-29).

NASB“stubbornness” NKJV“stiff neck” NRSV, TEV“stubborn” NJB“stiff necked”

The term is a combination of “neck” (BDB 791) and “stiff” or “hard” (BDB 904). Israel is often described by this unflattering combination (cf. Exodus 32:8; Exodus 33:3, Exodus 33:5; Exodus 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:6, Deuteronomy 9:13; Deuteronomy 31:27). The VERB is used in Deuteronomy 10:16; 2 Kings 17:14; Nehemiah 9:16, Nehemiah 9:17, Nehemiah 9:29; Jeremiah 7:26; Jeremiah 17:23; Jeremiah 19:15. The same thought is expressed in Isaiah 48:4 and Ezekiel 2:4; Ezekiel 3:7.

In a sense Deuteronomy 31:27-29 are a prophecy, based on the past actions of Israel. This same kind of prophecy is also found in Joshua 24:19-20. Israel's best efforts were not enough. The first covenant would fail to restore the intended intimacy between YHWH and His highest creation (i.e., mankind) in the Garden of Eden. It would take a New Covenant (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:22-38) based on YHWH's actions. Mankind was incurably rebellious (cf. Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21; Jeremiah 17:9).

Deuteronomy 31:28 This verse has three imperatival VERBS:

1. “assemble” - BDB 874, KB 1078, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

2. “speak” - BDB 180, KB 210, Piel COHORTATIVE

3. “call” - BDB 729, KB 795, Hiphil COHORTATIVE

Moses addresses the leaders (i.e., elders and officers), who symbolize all Israel, directly. This may refer to a representative national council (e.g., Judges 21:16).

“the heavens and the earth to witness against them” The ratification witnesses are often mentioned in covenant contexts (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:28; Deuteronomy 32:1).

In this chapter there are also two other witnesses:

1. Moses' song, Deuteronomy 31:19, Deuteronomy 31:21

2. law scroll, Deuteronomy 31:26

Deuteronomy 31:29 Notice the downward progression prophesies after Moses' death (cf. Joshua 24:19-28):

1. you will act corruptly - BDB 1007, KB 1469, both the Hiphil IMPERFECT and the INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE, cf. Deuteronomy 4:16, Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 9:12

2. turn from the way - BDB 693, KB 747, Qal PERFECT

3. you will do that which is evil (BDB 948 II) in the sight of the Lord - BDB 793 I, KB 889, Qal IMPERFECT

4. provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands (BDB 795 and 388, i.e., idolatry) - BDB 494, KB 491, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, cf. Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 9:18; Deuteronomy 32:16; 1 Kings 16:7; 2 Kings 17:7; 2 Kings 21:6; Jeremiah 25:6, Jeremiah 25:7; Jeremiah 32:30; Jeremiah 44:8

Deuteronomy 31:30 This verse should go with chapter 32.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is God changing leaders?

2. How is God's foreknowledge and man's choice related in this chapter?

3. Why did Israel turn away from God?

Deuteronomy 31:30-52

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJVNRSVTEVNJB
The Song of Moses(Deuteronomy 31:30-47)The Song of Moses(Deuteronomy 31:30-47)The Song of Moses(Deuteronomy 31:30-44)Israel Assembles to Hear the Song(Deuteronomy 31:28-44)
Deuteronomy 32:1-14Deuteronomy 32:1-43Deuteronomy 32:1-43Deuteronomy 32:1-44
(Deuteronomy 32:1-6)(Deuteronomy 32:1-3)(Deuteronomy 32:1-3)(Deuteronomy 32:1-3)
(Deuteronomy 32:4-9)(Deuteronomy 32:4-6)(Deuteronomy 32:4-9)
(Deuteronomy 32:7-9) (Deuteronomy 32:7-9)
(Deuteronomy 32:10-12)(Deuteronomy 32:10-27)(Deuteronomy 32:10-12)(Deuteronomy 32:10-11)
(Deuteronomy 32:12-14)
(Deuteronomy 32:13-14) (Deuteronomy 32:13-14)
Deuteronomy 32:15-18 (Deuteronomy 32:15-18)(Deuteronomy 32:15-39)
Deuteronomy 32:19-22 (Deuteronomy 32:19-22)
Deuteronomy 32:23-27 (Deuteronomy 32:23-27)
Deuteronomy 32:28-33(Deuteronomy 32:28-33)(Deuteronomy 32:28-33)
Deuteronomy 32:34-43
(Deuteronomy 32:34-35)(Deuteronomy 32:34-38)(Deuteronomy 32:34-38)
(Deuteronomy 32:36-38)
(Deuteronomy 32:39-42)(Deuteronomy 32:39-43)(Deuteronomy 32:39-42)
(Deuteronomy 32:40-42)
(Deuteronomy 32:43) (Deuteronomy 32:43)(Deuteronomy 32:43)
Deuteronomy 32:44-47Deuteronomy 32:44-47 Deuteronomy 32:44(Deuteronomy 32:44)
Moses' Final InstructionsThe Law, the Source of Life
Deuteronomy 32:45-47Deuteronomy 32:45-47
Moses to Die on Mount Nebo Moses' Death Foretold
Deuteronomy 32:48-52Deuteronomy 32:48-52Deuteronomy 32:48-52Deuteronomy 32:48-52

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This may be a literary genre of the ancient Near East whereby a leader gives his last blessing, warning, and prophecy before his death:

1. Jacob - Genesis 49:0 (also poetic form)

2. Moses - Deuteronomy 29:2-12

3. Joshua - Joshua 23:1-33

4. Samuel - 1 Samuel 12:0

5. David - 1 Kings 2:1-9

B. Some scholars see this poem: (1) in light of a Hittite treaty pattern, but (2) others see it as a court scene. In the context of the book of Deuteronomy, option 2 seems best, although the whole book of Deuteronomy fits the second millennium B.C. treaty pattern (which gives evidence for Mosaic authorship).

C. The poem is ancient (archaic forms). Almost all scholars assume it goes back to ancient times in Israel's history.

D. There are many allusions to songs in the OT, particularly Psalms and Isaiah. They are sung at times of victory:

1. the Egyptian palace guard destroyed in the Red Sea, Exodus 15:0

2. before entering the transJordan, Numbers 21:17

3. the Canaanite army of Hazor destroyed, Judges 5:0

4. Babylon destroyed (Isaiah 13:0) by YHWH's Messiah (Isaiah 11:0), Isaiah 12:5

E. Hebrew Poetry

SPECIAL TOPIC: HEBREW POETRY

Verse 30

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 31:30 30Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were complete:

Deuteronomy 31:30 “Then Moses spoke. . .the words of this song” This verse should go with chapter 32 of Deuteronomy. Notice that NASB marks it as the beginning of a paragraph with a final colon, not a period (cf. JPSOA).

“in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel” One wonders how many people made up this assembly. It would have included men, women, and older children or the model of Deuteronomy 31:12. But this referred to a city or town. How many people would have been able to hear one man speak? Usually the leader spoke to:

1. the tribal leaders and they passed it on (cf. Deuteronomy 31:28)

2. the Levites and they passed it on

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 31". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/deuteronomy-31.html. 2021.