Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.
The statutes — The laws which concern the worship and service of God.
The judgments — The laws concerning your duties to men. So these two comprehend both tables, and the whole law of God.
Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
In the sight of the nations — For though the generality of Heathens in the latter ages, did through inveterate prejudices condemn the laws of the Hebrews, yet it is certain, the wisest Heathens did highly approve of them, so that they made use of divers of them, and translated them into their own laws and constitutions; and Moses, the giver of these laws, hath been mentioned with great honour for his wisdom and learning by many of them. And particularly the old Heathen oracle expressly said, that the Chaldeans or Hebrews, who worshipped the uncreated God, were the only wise men.
For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
So nigh — By glorious miracles, by the pledges of his special presence, by the operations of his grace, and particularly by his readiness to hear our prayers, and to give us those succours which we call upon him for.
And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
So righteous — Whereby he implies that the true greatness of a nation doth not consist in pomp or power, or largeness of empire, as commonly men think, but in the righteousness of its laws.
Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.
Thou stoodest — Some of them stood there in their own persons, though then they were but young, the rest in the loins of their parents.
And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.
The midst of heaven — Flaming up into the air, which is often called heaven.
And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.
No similitude — No resemblance or representation of God, whereby either his essence, or properties, or actions were represented, such as were usual among the Heathens.
And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.
Statutes and judgments — The ceremonial and judicial laws which are here distinguished from the moral, or the ten commandments.
Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire:
In Horeb — God, who in other places and times did appear in a similitude in the fashion of a man, now in this most solemn appearance, when he comes to give eternal laws for the direction of the Israelites in the worship of God, and in their duty to men, purposely avoids all such representations, to shew that he abhors all worship of images, or of himself by images of what kind soever, because he is the invisible God, and cannot be represented by any visible image.
Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
Lest ye corrupt yourselves — Your ways, by worshipping God in a corrupt manner.
And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.
Driven — Strongly inclined.
Which the Lord hath divided unto all nations — Which are not Gods, but creatures, made not for the worship, but for the use of men; yea, of the meanest and most barbarous people under heaven, and therefore cannot without great absurdity be worshipped, especially by you who are so much advanced above other nations in wisdom and knowledge, and in this, that you are my peculiar people.
For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.
A consuming fire — A just and terrible God, who, notwithstanding his special relation to thee, will severely punish thee, if thou provoke him.
A jealous God — Who being espoused to thee, will be highly incensed against thee, (if thou follow after other lovers, or commit whoredom with idols) and will bear no rival or partner.
And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.
Ye shall serve Gods — You shall be compelled by men, and given up by me to idolatry. So that very thing which was your choice, shall be your punishment: it being just and usual for God to punish one sin by giving men up to another.
But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
If from thence thou seek the Lord — Whatever place we are in, we may from thence seek him. There is no part of the earth which has a gulf fixt between it and heaven.
When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
In the latter days — In succeeding ages.
For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?
The one side of heaven — That is, of the earth under heaven. Ask all the inhabitants of the world.
Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?
And live — And was not overwhelmed and consumed by such a glorious appearance.
Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?
By temptations — Temptations is the general title, which is explained by the following particulars, signs, and wonders, etc. which are called temptations, because they were trials both to the Egyptians and Israelites, whether they would be induced to believe and obey God or no.
By terrors — Raised in the minds of the Egyptians, or, by terrible things done among them.
And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;
In his sight — Keeping his eye fixed upon him, as the father doth on his beloved child.
And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel:
This is the law — More punctually expressed in the following chapter, to which these words are a preface.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter