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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 32

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Verses 1-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 32:1-14 1”Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; And let the earth hear the words of my mouth. 2Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, As the droplets on the fresh grass And as the showers on the herb. 3For I proclaim the name of the Lord; Ascribe greatness to our God! 4The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. 5They have acted corruptly toward Him, They are not His children, because of their defect; But are a perverse and crooked generation. 6Do you thus repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you. 7Remember the days of old, Consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, Your elders, and they will tell you. 8When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, When He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples According to the number of the sons of Israel. 9For the Lord's portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. 10He found him in a desert land, And in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. 11Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, That hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. 12The Lord alone guided him, And there was no foreign god with him. 13He made him ride on the high places of the earth, And he ate the produce of the field; And He made him suck honey from the rock, And oil from the flinty rock, 14Curds of cows, and milk of the flock, With fat of lambs, And rams, the breed of Bashan, and goats, With the finest of the wheat-- And of the blood of grapes you drank wine.”

Deuteronomy 32:1-3 There is a series of imperatival language:

1. In Deuteronomy 32:1 three related to hearing:

a. “give ear” - BDB 24, KB 27, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

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

c. “hear” - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

2. In Deuteronomy 32:2 two related to moisture:

a. “drop” - BDB 791, KB 887, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

b. “distill” - BDB 633, KB 683, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

3. In Deuteronomy 32:3 “ascribe” - BDB 396, KB 393, Qal IMPERATIVE (possibly “proclaim” as Qal IMPERFECT is also used in a COHORTATIVE sense, which gives a balanced structure as in Deuteronomy 32:1 and 2)

Deuteronomy 32:1 “O heavens. . .the earth” These are two permanent things (cf. Micah 6:1-2). There was a need for two witnesses to confirm truth (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; chapters 4 and 31-32 [cf. Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:28; Deuteronomy 32:1] form a literary bracket). The “heavens” represents the sky (cf. Genesis 1:1). This phrase is similar to how Isaiah introduces YHWH's court case (cf. Isaiah 1:2).

Deuteronomy 32:2 Moisture was used as an analogy of the life-giving qualities of God's word. Four different words for rain are used (BDB 564, 378, 973, 914). This is also a possible allusion to YHWH as the giver of fertility, not Ba'al (cf. Deuteronomy 11:14, Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 28:12, Deuteronomy 28:24; Deuteronomy 33:28).

Deuteronomy 32:3 “the name of the LORD” Hebrew names were very important as representing character. The rabbis said that “Lord” reflected God in His love, kindness, and mercy. See Special Topic: “The Name” of YHWH.

Notice in Deuteronomy 32:3-4 several attributes are used to describe Israel's God:

1. “greatness” - BDB 152, cf. Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 5:24; Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 11:2; Deuteronomy 32:3; Numbers 14:19

2. “His work is perfect” - BDB 1071, meaning “wholesome,” “having integrity”

a. used of God's work, Deuteronomy 32:4

b. used of God's way, Psalms 18:30

c. used of God's law, Psalms 19:7-8

3. “all His ways are just” - BDB 1048, cf. Genesis 18:25; Psalms 33:5; Psalms 37:28; Psalms 99:4; Psalms 111:7; Isaiah 5:16; Isaiah 28:17; Isaiah 30:18; Isaiah 61:8

4. “a God of faithfulness” - BDB 53, cf. Psalms 36:5; Psalms 88:11; Psalms 89:1, Psalms 89:2, Psalms 89:5, Psalms 89:8, Psalms 89:24, Psalms 89:33, Psalms 89:49; Psalms 92:2, 119:90; Isaiah 25:1; Hosea 2:22

5. “a God ... without injustice” - BDB 732, cf. Job 34:10, this is condemned in His people, Leviticus 19:15, Leviticus 19:35; Deuteronomy 25:16

6. “righteous is He” - BDB 843, cf. Job 34:17; Psalms 116:5; Psalms 119:137; Psalms 129:4; Psalms 145:17

7. “upright is He” - BDB 449, cf. Psalms 25:8; Psalms 92:15

“God” This is from the Hebrew word Elohim. See Special Topic: Names for Deity.

Deuteronomy 32:4 “The Rock” This title (BDB 849) was used of God in Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:30, and Psalms 18:1-2; Psalms 19:14; 2 Samuel 22:2ff; Psalms 78:35; Isaiah 44:8). It speaks of (1) the strength, stability, the unchanging nature of the one true God or (2) God as a mighty, impregnable fortress.

“perfect” The Hebrew word (BDB 1071) means “self-sufficient,” “whole,” “complete” (cf. 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalms 18:30).

Notice the different ways YHWH is characterized (i.e., “the greatness of God,” Deuteronomy 32:3):

1. His work is perfect - BDB 1071

2. all His ways are just - BDB 1048

3. a God of faithfulness - BDB 53

4. a God without injustice - BDB 732

5. He is righteous - BDB 843

6. He is upright - BDB 449

What a powerful description of the God of creation and salvation. A God in whom all humans can trust and rely (e.g., for other characterizations see Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 4:31; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 103:8; Psalms 145:8).

“A God of faithfulness” This is the same word (BDB 53) used in Deuteronomy 32:20 referring to man's actions. It is translated “faith” in Habakkuk 2:4, “the righteous will live by his faith.” This shows the priority that God puts on His faithfulness and Deuteronomy 32:20 shows the priority He puts on the faith of His children. Faith and grace are both biblical concepts rather than just NT concepts. The only way to respond to God's grace is through faith. See Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith, and Faithfulness in the OT.

Deuteronomy 32:5 As YHWH is described in Deuteronomy 32:3-4, now His covenant children, who were supposed to reflect His character (cf. Deuteronomy 32:3-4), but did not, are described:

1. “acted corruptly toward Him” - BDB 1007, KB 1469, Piel PERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 4:16, Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 9:12; Deuteronomy 31:29; Genesis 6:12; Exodus 32:7; described in Psalms 14:1-3, it usually denotes idolatry

2. “not His children” - BDB 119 negated

3. “because of their defect” - BDB 548

a. physical mutilation which excluded one from priestly service, cf. Leviticus 21:17, Leviticus 21:18, Leviticus 21:21, Leviticus 21:23, and animals from being offered as sacrifice, cf. Leviticus 22:20-21; Deuteronomy 15:21; Deuteronomy 17:1

b. moral blemish, cf. Leviticus 22:25; Job 11:15; Proverbs 9:7

4. “perverse” - BDB 786 I, cf. Deuteronomy 32:20, the basic meaning is twisted, which denotes a defection from the standard (rule) of YHWH's character (righteous)

5. “crooked” - BDB 836, found only here, the meaning is parallel to #4

Deuteronomy 32:6 “He your Father” The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 222, has an interesting comment on this metaphor for God. It is used reluctantly in the OT because of the possible association with fertility worship (e.g., Jeremiah 2:27). This song of Moses is one of the earliest usages to describe God (cf. Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 8:5 and later in the prophets, cf. Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 63:16; Jeremiah 3:19; Hosea 11:1-3; Malachi 1:6). God's “fatherhood” is mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:6, Deuteronomy 32:18 and 19-20.

This fatherhood of corporate Israel is identified in God's relationship to the Davidic king (cf. 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 2:7; and 89:26).

Family metaphors (father-son; husband-wife) are the most powerful ways to communicate the intimate relationship that God desires with His human creation (made in His image and likeness). Humans can understand the depth of God's feelings and commitment by analogy to these foundational human experiences (i.e., family, marriage, children). See Special Topic: Fatherhood of God.

Deuteronomy 32:6-14 This continues a description of Israel and begins a legal case against them by enumerating all that YHWH had done for them:

1. their actions toward YHWH

a. “foolish” - BDB 614 I, cf. Deuteronomy 32:21

b. “unwise” - BDB 314, opposite in Deuteronomy 32:29; Deuteronomy 4:6; Psalms 107:43

2. YHWH's actions toward them:

a. He was their Father, Deuteronomy 32:6 - BDB 888 I, KB 1111, Qal PERFECT

b. He made them, Deuteronomy 32:6 - BDB 793 I, KB 889, Qal PERFECT, cf. Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:22 (this could refer to initial creation, but more likely in context, His founding them as a nation in the Exodus)

c. He established them, Deuteronomy 32:6 - BDB 465, KB 464, Polel IMPERFECT, Job 31:15; Isaiah 62:7

d. He found them, Deuteronomy 32:10 - BDB 592, KB 679, Qal IMPERFECT

(1) in a desert land

(2) in a howling waste of wilderness

e. He encircled them, Deuteronomy 32:10 - BDB 685, KB 738, Polel IMPERFECT, i.e., for protection

f. He cared for them, Deuteronomy 32:10 - BDB 106, KB 122, i.e., for protection, i.e., attentively consider (only here)

g. He guarded them, Deuteronomy 32:10 - BDB 665, KB 718, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Psalms 25:21; Psalms 31:23; Psalms 41:11-12; Psalms 61:7; Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8

h. cared for them as a mother eagle, Deuteronomy 32:11, cf. Exodus 19:4

(1) “stirs up its nest” - BDB 734, KB 802, Hiphil IMPERFECT, i.e., to activity

(2) “hover over” - BDB 934, KB 1219, Piel IMPERFECT, cf. Genesis 1:2

(3) teach babies to fly

(a) spread wings - BDB 831, KB 975, Qal IMPERFECT

(b) caught them - BDB 542, KB 534, Qal IMPERFECT

(c) carried them - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal IMPERFECT

i. He guided them, Deuteronomy 32:12 - BDB 634, KB 685, Hiphil IMPERFECT

j. He made them ride on the high places of the earth, Deuteronomy 32:13 - BDB 938, KB 1230, Hiphil IMPERFECT, cf. Isaiah 58:14

k. He fed them, Deuteronomy 32:13-14

(1) “ate” - BDB 37, KB 46, Qal IMPERFECT

(2) “suck” - BDB 413, KB 416, Hiphil IMPERFECT

(3) “drank” - BDB 1059, KB 1667, Qal IMPERFECT

Deuteronomy 32:7 There are several commands in this verse related to Israel remembering YHWH's care and provision:

1. “remember” - BDB 269, KB 269, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “consider” - BDB 106, KB 122, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. “ask” - BDB 981, KB 1371, Qal IMPERATIVE

4. “elder will tell you” - BDB 616, KB 665, Hiphil JUSSIVE

It was this historical information testified to in (1) the ancestral tradition passed down from generation to generation (cf. Deuteronomy 4:9-10; Deuteronomy 6:7, Deuteronomy 6:20-25; Deuteronomy 11:19; Deuteronomy 32:46) and (2) this Song of Moses that witnessed against Israel!

Deuteronomy 32:8 This verse asserts that Israel's God is also the only God (cf. Deuteronomy 4:35, Deuteronomy 4:39; Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 32:27). He and He alone sets the boundaries of all nations (cf. Deuteronomy 2:5, Deuteronomy 2:9, Deuteronomy 2:19; Genesis 10:0). This is not henotheism, but monotheism!

“The Most High” This name for God (BDB 751) is first used in Numbers 24:16 (Elyon). This seems to be an abbreviation for El Elyon (cf. Genesis 14:18, Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:20, Genesis 14:21; Psalms 78:35). This name for deity is used in connection with “the nations” (cf. Psalms 47:1-3). See Special Topic: Names For Deity.

NASB“According to the number of the sons of Israel” NKJV, NJB“according to the number of the children of Israel” NRSV“according to the number of the gods” TEV“He assigned to each nation a heavenly being” REB“according to the number of the sons of God”

The Septuagint has “the number of the angels of God” (El). This translation seems to fit better (cf. The Jewish Study Bible, p. 441) because: (1) cf. Deuteronomy 29:26; (2) it follows the reading of the scroll from cave four of Qumran scrolls; (3) national angels are mentioned in Daniel 10:0 and 12. Each nation had an assigned angel (cf. Daniel 10:13), but Israel had YHWH (although Michael is also said to be Israel's angel, cf. Daniel 12:1).

Deuteronomy 32:9 “the LORD's portion is His people” Conversely His people's portion is God Himself (cf. Exodus 19:5; Psalms 16:5; Psalms 73:26; Lamentations 3:24). The Israelites were in a unique sense YHWH's special covenant people (cf. Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18). See Special Topic: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN.

Deuteronomy 32:10 “He found him in a desert land,

And in the howling waste of a wilderness” This is an allusion to YHWH's choice of Israel in romantic terms (cf. Jeremiah 2:23-; Hosea 2:14-15). This imagery supplements the exodus motif (cf. Deuteronomy 1:19). It expresses in a powerful metaphor YHWH's initiating love for Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 10:14-15; Amos 3:2).

There are two contrasting ways in the Mosaic literature of evaluating the wilderness wandering period:

1. a time of faith and faithfulness

a. Deuteronomy 32:10-14

b. Jeremiah 2:1-3

c. Hosea 2:14-23

2. a time of faithlessness

a. Numbers 14:1-11

b. Deuteronomy 1:26-33

c. Psalms 95:8-11

d. Hosea 9:10-14

e. Jeremiah 2:4-13

f. Ezekiel 23:0

“the pupil of His eye”

In English this would be “the apple of His eye.” This is another metaphor which denotes Israel as a special child (cf. Psalms 17:8). Literally the Hebrew is “little man of His eye.”

Deuteronomy 32:11

NASB, NKJV“Like an eagle. . .that hovers over its young” NRSV“like an eagle that stirs up its nest” TEV“like an eagle watching its nest” NJB“as an eagle watches over its young”

This shows God as an extremely protective and powerful parent (cf. Deuteronomy 32:19). This concept of God as an eagle is that of God as a mother bird (cf. Deuteronomy 32:18; Genesis 1:2; Exodus 19:4; Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34). Deity is described as both male (cf. Deuteronomy 32:6) and female (cf. Deuteronomy 32:11). The NJB and REV translations follow the Septuagint.


Deuteronomy 32:12 “The Lord alone guided him” This term (BDB 94) is used to designate YHWH's exclusive relationship to Israel. He and He alone guided them!

Deuteronomy 32:13 “ride on the high places of the earth” This is a metaphor for YHWH's abundance (as is all of Deuteronomy 32:14) given to Israel (cf. Isaiah 58:14; Habakkuk 3:19).

“honey from the rock” This refers to the honey of wild bees, which often lived in the cracks of the rocks (cf. Psalms 81:16).

“oil from the flinty rock” This refers to the wild olive trees that grew where not even grass could grow. Verses Deuteronomy 32:13 and 14 are talking about the abundant produce of the Promised Land.

Verses 15-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 32:15-18 15”But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked- You are grown fat, thick, and sleek- Then he forsook God who made him, And scorned the Rock of his salvation. 16They made Him jealous with strange gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. 17They sacrificed to demons who were not God, To gods whom they have not known, New gods who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread. 18You neglected the Rock who begot you, And forgot the God who gave you birth.

Deuteronomy 32:15 “Jeshurun” This word means “the upright one” (BDB 449), and is a poetic name for Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 33:5, Deuteronomy 33:26; Isaiah 44:2, see Special Topic: Israel the Name.) This is a touch of sarcasm (i.e., Deuteronomy 32:15-16).

“kicked” This VERB (BDB 127, KB 142, Qal IMPERFECT) is used only twice in the OT and seems to be a metaphor of rejection (cf. 1 Samuel 2:29). As cattle kick at their owners so Israel kicks at her God!

Deuteronomy 32:15-18 “fat” When Israel was blessed (cf. Deuteronomy 31:20) she rejected YHWH:

1. “forsook God who made him” (cf. Deuteronomy 32:6) - BDB 643, KB 695, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 31:16, Deuteronomy 31:17; Judges 10:6

2. “scorned the Rock of his salvation” (cf. Deuteronomy 32:4) - BDB 614, KB 663, Piel IMPERFECT, this is the VERB form of the ADJECTIVE “foolish,” found in Deuteronomy 32:6 (cf. Psalms 74:18)

How did Israel “forsake” and “scorn” YHWH?

1. they made Him jealous with strange gods, Deuteronomy 32:16

2. the made Him jealous with abominations, Deuteronomy 32:16

3. they sacrificed to demons, Deuteronomy 32:17

a. who were not known

b. new gods

c. unknown to their fathers

4. they neglected the Rock, Deuteronomy 32:18 - BDB 1009, KB 1477, Qal JUSSIVE but in an IMPERFECT sense (only here)

5. they forgot their God, Deuteronomy 32:18 - BDB 1013, KB 1489, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 4:23, forgetting the covenant is forgetting YHWH

Deuteronomy 32:17 “They sacrificed to demons who were not God” This concept is also used in Psalms 106:37. The OT talks very little about the demonic. Paul alludes to this verse in 1 Corinthians 10:20.



Verses 19-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 32:19-22 19”The Lord saw this, and spurned them Because of the provocation of His sons and daughters. 20Then He said, 'I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom is no faithfulness. 21They have made Me jealous with what is not God; They have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation, 22For a fire is kindled in My anger, And burns to the lowest part of Sheol, And consumes the earth with its yield, And sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.

Deuteronomy 32:19-22 This paragraph is repetitious of preceding themes. Poetry is very repetitious. God's covenant people reject Him and He rejects them (cf. Hosea 1:9; Hosea 2:23; Romans 9:25). His rejection (i.e., anger) is for the purpose of reconciliation. He will use “a people” to provoke Israel to jealousy (and hopefully faith, cf. Romans 11:11, Romans 11:14). This sounds very much to me like Paul's discussion in Romans 9-11. Paul even quotes Deuteronomy 32:21 in Romans 10:19!

The added irony is that Israel left YHWH for non-existent gods (i.e., vanities, cf. Jeremiah 2:13). Oh, the stupidity of human idolatry (cf. Isaiah 40:19-20; Isaiah 44:9-20; Jeremiah 10:3-5, Jeremiah 10:14)!

Deuteronomy 32:20 “I will hide My face from them” This is a metaphor for the cessation of YHWH's personal care and attention (cf. Deuteronomy 31:17-18).

“For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom is no faithfulness” These two lines of poetry describe the tragedy of Israel who had YHWH's special care and presence (cf. Romans 9:4-5). They are characterized as:

1. perverse (BDB 246) - a term usually used in Proverbs (cf. Deuteronomy 2:12, Deuteronomy 2:14; Deuteronomy 6:14; Deuteronomy 8:13; 10:31,31; 16:30; 23:33). It is related to the Hebrew word for “stocks” (BDB 246), which put one's body into a crooked or twisted posture.

2. no faithfulness (BDB 53 negated) - a term also common to Proverbs (cf. Deuteronomy 13:17; Deuteronomy 20:6; also note Psalms 31:23; Isaiah 26:3; see Special Topic at Deuteronomy 1:32).

3. This characterization is parallel to Deuteronomy 32:5:

a. perverse (BDB 786 I)

b. crooked (BDB 836)

YHWH is the true standard or rule (see Special Topic: Righteousness). His covenant people have deviated from the standard.

“I will see what their end shall be YHWH had previously shown Moses the future of Israel in Deuteronomy 31:29, as He will later do Joshua in Deuteronomy 24:19.

Deuteronomy 32:21 “idols” This is literally “vapor” or “vanity” (BDB 210) and represents that which is worthless or non-existent. Here, like Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 8:19; Jeremiah 10:14-15; Jeremiah 16:19-20, it is used of idols. See a play on the word in Isaiah 57:13.

Deuteronomy 32:22 This verse is metaphorical of the complete destruction and judgment that God will bring on rebellious Israel (cf. Jeremiah 15:14; Jeremiah 17:4). All of God's creation (i.e., earth, sheol) are affected! This is not a reference to the place of eternal punishment.


Verses 23-27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 32:23-27 23”'I will heap misfortunes on them; I will use My arrows on them. 24They will be wasted by famine, and consumed by plague And bitter destruction; And the teeth of beasts I will send upon them, With the venom of crawling things of the dust. 25Outside the sword will bereave, And inside terror - Both young man and virgin, The nursling with the man of gray hair. 26I would have said, “I will cut them to pieces, I will remove the memory of them from men,” 27Had I not feared the provocation by the enemy, That their adversaries would misjudge, That they would say, “Our hand is triumphant, And the Lord has not done all this.”'

Deuteronomy 32:23-25 This paragraph describes metaphorically YHWH's judgment on Israel:

1. “I will heap misfortunes on them” - BDB 705, KB 763, Hiphil IMPERFECT, found only here. The Qal means “to sweep away” or “snatch away.”

2. “I will use My arrows on them” - BDB 477, KB 476, Piel IMPERFECT. This VERB'S basic meaning “is to bring something to completion,” i.e., totally destroy (cf. Deuteronomy 32:22).

a. wasted by famine, Deuteronomy 32:24, cf. Deuteronomy 28:22

b. consumed by plague, Deuteronomy 32:24 (or famine, BDB 536 II, “burning heat”)

c. bitter destruction, Deuteronomy 32:24 (or poisonous pestilence, cf. #e)

d. the teeth of beasts, Deuteronomy 32:24, cf. Leviticus 26:22

e. venom of crawling things, Deuteronomy 32:24, cf. Amos 5:18-19

f. sword (outside), Deuteronomy 32:25

g. terror (inside), Deuteronomy 32:25

(1) young men (of marriageable age)

(2) young women (virgin of marriageable age)

(3) children (nursing)

(4) elderly (man of gray hair)

Deuteronomy 32:26-27 YHWH would have destroyed them:

1. cut them to pieces, Deuteronomy 32:26 - BDB 802, KB 907, Hiphil IMPERFECT, but COHORTATIVE in meaning to match the next VERB (only here, LXX has “scattered them”)

2. remove the memory of them, Deuteronomy 32:26 - BDB 991, KB 1407, Hiphil COHORTATIVE (i.e., totally exterminate)

3. This is only one of several texts which assert Israel's complete annihilation if they disobey the covenant (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 28:20-22; Deuteronomy 30:19).

But to do so would thwart His purpose for Israel. Israel's enemies would claim victory and attribute it to YHWH (cf. Deuteronomy 32:27).

Verses 28-33

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 32:28-33 28”For they are a nation lacking in counsel, And there is no understanding in them. 29Would that they were wise, that they understood this, That they would discern their future! 30How could one chase a thousand, And two put ten thousand to flight, Unless their Rock had sold them, And the Lord had given them up? 31Indeed their rock is not like our Rock, Even our enemies themselves judge this. 32For their vine is from the vine of Sodom, And from the fields of Gomorrah; Their grapes are grapes of poison, Their clusters, bitter. 33Their wine is the venom of serpents, And the deadly poison of cobras.

Deuteronomy 32:28-33 The question is to whom this paragraph is directed-Israel or their enemies (cf. Deuteronomy 32:26-27)?

1. against Israel?

a. Deuteronomy 32:28-29

b. Deuteronomy 32:30 as reverse holy war

c. Deuteronomy 32:32 Israel's current rebellion

2. against her enemies?

a. Deuteronomy 32:30 as current military failure of Israel's part (cf. Joshua 23:10)

b. Deuteronomy 32:30-31, their Rock had sold them and the Lord had given them up

c. Deuteronomy 32:32-33, Canaanite abominations

d. Deuteronomy 32:34-43 are about YHWH's rejection and judgment of Canaanite idolatry

Deuteronomy 32:28-29 Notice the words in Deuteronomy 32:28-29 for “thinking”:

1. “lacking in counsel” - BDB 1, KB 2, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE

2. “no understanding in them” - BDB 108 negated

3. “that they were wise” - BDB 53, Qal PERFECT

4. “they understood this” - BDB 968, KB 1328, Hiphil IMPERFECT

5. “that they would discern” - BDB 106, KB 122, Qal PERFECT

Israel is incapable of right thinking!

Deuteronomy 32:30 Notice the parallel of verse Deuteronomy 32:30 c and d:

1. “their Rock had sold them” - BDB 569, KB 581, Qal PERFECT, cf. Judges 2:14; Judges 3:8; Judges 4:2; Judges 10:7; Psalms 44:10; Isaiah 50:1

2. “the LORD had given them up” - BDB 688, KB 742, Hiphil PERFECT

Israel's defeat is possible because the divine Warrior (holy war) has left them because of the covenant disobedience. Verses Deuteronomy 32:32-33 are an extended metaphor of wine symbolizing Canaanite worship. It is deadly (i.e., poison, bitter, venom)!

Verses 34-43

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 32:34-43 34”'Is it not laid up in store with Me, Sealed up in My treasuries? 35Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.' 36For the Lord will vindicate His people, And will have compassion on His servants, When He sees that their strength is gone, And there is none remaining, bond or free. 37And He will say, 'Where are their gods, The rock in which they sought refuge? 38Who ate the fat of their sacrifices, And drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you, Let them be your hiding place! 39See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. 40Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, And say, as I live forever, 41If I sharpen My flashing sword, And My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, And I will repay those who hate Me. 42I will make My arrows drunk with blood, And My sword will devour flesh, With the blood of the slain and the captives, From the long-haired leaders of the enemy.' 43Rejoice, O nations, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And will render vengeance on His adversaries, And will atone for His land and His people.”

Deuteronomy 32:34 It seems to me contextually that Deuteronomy 32:34 can relate to Deuteronomy 32:32-33. It is also possible that it refers to Deuteronomy 32:35 (a quote from YHWH [i.e., Deuteronomy 32:34-35] like Deuteronomy 32:39-42). The larger context is still YHWH heaping judgment on Israel so that the nations will not get the wrong message. YHWH will judge them and vindicate His people. It does not state whether Israel repents or that YHWH's eternal redemptive purposes must be allowed to manifest in history. A rebellious covenant people is the lesser of two evils (i.e., the idolatrous nations). The Messiah will come and Israel will still be covenant breakers!

This verse has two Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLES:

1. laid up in store - BDB 485, KB 481 (found only here)

2. sealed up - BDB 367, KB 364, cf. Job 14:17

Deuteronomy 32:35 The first line of this verse is quoted in the NT in Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30. The term “vengeance” (BDB 668) is also mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:41 and 43. It is often used by Isaiah and Jeremiah:

1. against Israel - Isaiah 59:17

2. against Israel's enemies - Isaiah 34:8; Isaiah 35:4; Isaiah 61:2; Isaiah 63:4; Jeremiah 46:10; Jeremiah 50:15, Jeremiah 50:18; Jeremiah 51:6, Jeremiah 51:11

The term “retribution” (BDB 1024) is also found in Isaiah 59:18 (twice) in a context where YHWH will restore a sinful Israel (i.e., Zion).

“In due time their foot will slip” This VERB (BDB 556, KB 555, Qal IMPERFECT) can refer to:

1. a personal fall into trouble - David in Psalms 38:17

2. a divine judgment - Isaiah 24:19

3. a divine promise of restoration - Psalms 94:18; Isaiah 54:10

Humans stumble and nature is disrupted (cf. Isaiah 24:19), but God will restore both (cf. Romans 8:18-25).

The last two lines of poetry in Deuteronomy 32:35 denote the rapid and sure coming of God's justice:

1. day of calamity (BDB 15) is near (BDB 898)

2. the impending things are hastening upon them (BDB 301 I, KB 300, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE)

Deuteronomy 32:36 In this song of warning and prediction of Israel's disobedience resulting in divine judgment, there is also the promise of YHWH's forgiveness and restoration.

1. The LORD will vindicate His people - BDB 192, KB 220, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Psalms 135:14

2. The LORD will have compassion on His servants - BDB 636, KB 688, Hithpael IMPERFECT

God will judge His people (Psalms 7:8; Psalms 96:10), but in so doing, will establish them!

Deuteronomy 32:37-38 YHWH mocks Canaanite idolatry (cf. Jeremiah 2:27-28; Jeremiah 11:12-13). He calls on their gods to act on their behalf (Deuteronomy 32:38):

1. Let them rise - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal IMPERFECT used as a JUSSIVE

2. Let them help - BDB 740, KB 810, Qal IMPERFECT used as a JUSSIVE

3. Let them be your hiding place - BDB 224, KB 243, Qal JUSSIVE (this term [BDB 340, KB 337, Qal PERFECT] is always used of taking refuge in YHWH. He and He alone is the safe place)

Deuteronomy 32:39-40 YHWH establishes His uniqueness (monotheism). Notice the use of antithetical parallelism:

1. See - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. I am He - cf. Exodus 3:13-14 (YHWH)

3. There is no god beside Me - cf. Deuteronomy 4:35, Deuteronomy 4:39; Deuteronomy 33:26; Exodus 8:10; Exodus 9:14; Isaiah 44:6, Isaiah 44:8; Isaiah 45:7

4. I who put to death or give life - cf. 1 Samuel 2:6; 2 Kings 5:7 (also note Romans 9:0)

5. I have wounded, and it is I who heal - cf. Job 5:18; Isaiah 45:7; Hosea 6:1; Amos 3:6 (often in the OT all causality is attributed to God as a way to express the truth of monotheism)

6. There is no one who can deliver from My hand - cf. Psalms 50:22; Isaiah 43:13; Daniel 4:35

In Deuteronomy 32:40 YHWH (the ever-living, only living God) takes an oath by His own character! This lifting of the hand (BDB 669, KB 724, Qal IMPERFECT) may be in contrast to the nations (i.e., lifting their hand as a sign of victory over Israel) in Deuteronomy 32:27. YHWH lifts His hand to swear an oath (cf. Ezekiel 20:5-6).

Deuteronomy 32:41-43 YHWH describes His actions of justice against idolaters (Deuteronomy 32:41-42). In Deuteronomy 32:43 He asserts His commitment to His promise to Israel.

Paul uses the first line of Deuteronomy 32:43 in Romans 15:10 and asserts that it shows that YHWH loves and includes Gentiles. Paul, in Romans 15:0, also quotes Psalms 18:49 or 2 Samuel 22:5; Psalms 117:1 and Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 42:4 (cf. Matthew 12:21) to assert the same truth.

YHWH is willing to forgive Israel based on His character and promises, not their actions. This, in essence, is the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:22-38. Human hope is ultimately in the unchanging character of a gracious God in Whose image and likeness they are created!

Deuteronomy 32:43 “Rejoice” This VERB (BDB 943, KB 1247) is a Qal IMPERATIVE. It is a shout of joy, cf. Job 38:7; Isaiah 12:6; Isaiah 24:14; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 54:1; Jeremiah 31:7.

There is a phrase added here by the Septuagint which is quoted by the author of the NT book of Hebrews (who used the Septuagint) in Deuteronomy 1:6.

Notice how the PRONOUNS in Deuteronomy 32:34-43 change from first person to third person. This is literary variety, not different authors. YHWH is speaking.

Verses 44-47

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 32:44-47 44Then Moses came and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he, with Joshua the son of Nun. 45When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46he said to them, “Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. 47For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.”

Deuteronomy 32:44 “Joshua” The names Joshua and Jesus are based on the same two Hebrew words, “YHWH” and “salvation” (a VERB must be supplied).

Joshua is positioned with Moses before the people to confirm and establish his leadership role.

Deuteronomy 32:46 “Take to your heart” This VERB (BDB 962, KB 1321) is a Qal IMPERATIVE. The same idiom can be seen in Ezekiel 44:5. Israel has a choice, an informed choice based on YHWH's past actions and current promises (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:28), but she must choose now!

See Special Topic: Heart.

“you shall command your sons” This emphasizes the educational responsibility of parents (cf. Deuteronomy 32:32:7).

Deuteronomy 32:47 “it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life” This is the concept of God's word as having an independent power once spoken (cf. Duet. Deuteronomy 8:3; Psalms 33:6, Psalms 33:9; Isaiah 55:11). This word (Moses writings) can bring life and health (cf. Deuteronomy 30:20) or death and destruction (cf. Deuteronomy 30:19). Obedience is the continuing key to its effectiveness!

Verses 48-52

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 32:48-52 48The LORD spoke to Moses that very same day, saying, 49”Go up to this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab opposite Jericho, and look at the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the sons of Israel for a possession. 50Then die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, 51because you broke faith with Me in the midst of the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the sons of Israel. 52For you shall see the land at a distance, but you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving the sons of Israel.

Deuteronomy 32:49-50 These two verses have several IMPERATIVES:

1. “go up,” Deuteronomy 32:49 - BDB 748, KB 828, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “look at,” Deuteronomy 32:40 - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. “die,” Deuteronomy 32:50 - BDB 559, KB 562, Qal IMPERATIVE

4. “be gathered,” Deuteronomy 32:50 - BDB 62, KB 74, Niphal IMPERATIVE

The last acts of Moses are scripted by a God who loved him, used him, and held him responsible for his actions!

Deuteronomy 32:49 “Abarim” This is the mountain range (cf. Numbers 27:12-14).

“Mount Nebo” This is the highest peak in that mountain range. Possibly this peak is very close to the northern part of the Dead Sea across from Jericho on the opposite side of the Jordan Valley.

Deuteronomy 32:50 “Then die on the mountain” The implication of the verse is that this will be the end of Moses' earthly life (cf. Deuteronomy 32:34), but he will live on with his family and countrymen who have died before.

“Mount Hor” Aaron's death and burial are first recorded in Numbers 20:22-29; Numbers 33:38-39. However, Deuteronomy 10:6 says he died and was buried at Moseroth (cf. Numbers 33:30-31). Hard Sayings of the Bible, p. 166, says Moserah is the name of the area and Mount Hor the name of the specific mountain.

Deuteronomy 32:51 “because you broke faith with Me” (cf. Numbers 20:0; Numbers 27:14; Deuteronomy 1:37; Deuteronomy 3:23-27). This is parallel to “because you did not treat Me as holy.” Moses' open and obvious disobedience before all the people in Numbers 20:0 and again in Numbers 27:0, caused him to be publicly judged by God and not allowed to enter the Promised Land.

Deuteronomy 32:52 This is further expanded in chapter 34.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 32". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/deuteronomy-32.html. 2021.
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