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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 4

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


Verse 1

THE PEOPLE EXHORTED TO FAITHFULLY OBSERVE THE LAW, Deuteronomy 4:1-40. After the preceding historical review Moses passes to a forcible exhortation to keep the law of Jehovah. He commences by urging the people to keep the requirements of Jehovah without adding to them or taking from them. He warns them of the perils of disobedience by recalling to their minds the fate of those who joined in the idolatrous and licentious rites of Baal-peor. He reminds them that they who kept Jehovah’s commandments are alive. He tells them that their greatness as a nation and their position in the estimation of other nations would depend upon their observance of these statutes and requirements. He warns them not to forget what they have seen in their past experience. By the sublime scenes of Horeb, when Jehovah spake unto them out of the midst of the fire, they are warned against idolatry. The discourse passes to a threatening of their dispersion among the nations as the punishment for their turning away from God, but with a promise of their restoration if they shall again seek Jehovah. Again, Moses appeals to the wonders of their past history. He tells them God loved their fathers. He brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand. He is to drive out great and mighty nations so as to give them an inheritance. This first discourse closes with promises of prosperity if they will keep the commandments and statutes of Jehovah.

1. The statutes and… judgments That is, the whole law. Compare the same expression in Leviticus 19:37, and in this book, Deuteronomy 26:16.

Verses 1-40


First Discourse, Deuteronomy 1:6 to Deuteronomy 4:40.

Addressing the people, with the Promised Land in their sight, Moses reviews the events that have occurred in their march from Horeb to the plains of Moab. He reminds them how God had fulfilled his promises, and how they had sinned, and by their unbelief and rebellion had been kept from entering into the promised possession; and he admonishes them not to forfeit by new transgressions the land they are destined to conquer.

Verse 2

2. Ye shall not add unto the word The Pharisees received condemnation from Christ for adding to the law. Matthew 15:3.

Verse 3

3. Of Baal-peor Moses refers to that recent judgment of God upon the sins of the people when twenty-four thousand were slain. Numbers 25:1-9.

Verses 10-12

10-12. The day that thou stoodest before the Lord Here should commence a new sentence. Our translators have incorrectly brought into the text the word specially. In the day when you stood in the presence of Jehovah your God in Horeb, etc., then you drew near. Moses in these verses reminds the people of the chief events connected with the giving of the law.

The mountain burned… unto the midst of heaven To the heart of heaven. “A rhetorical description of the awful majesty of the pillar of fire in which the glory of Jehovah appeared upon Sinai, intended to impress deeply upon the minds of the people the remembrance of this manifestation of God.” Keil.

Verse 13

13. Ten commandments Literally, ten words. Comp. Exodus 20:1-17.

Upon two tables of stone Comp. Exodus 31:18; Exodus 34:1.

Verses 15-24


Idolatry in various and in most gross forms prevailed throughout the East among the nations with whom Israel would be brought in contact. Moses in these few passages comprehends the various form of idolatry prevalent.

Verse 19

19. The Lord… hath divided The view held by many of this passage is that God permitted the nations to choose the heavenly bodies as objects of worship as Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and some modern critics, as Keil and Knobel. The meaning is, rather, that God has given the nations the heavenly bodies for service, and to lead them to the knowledge of himself. Comp. Romans 1:20.

Verse 20

20. Out of the iron furnace A furnace for smelting iron is the figure descriptive of the terrible sufferings Israel endured in Egypt.

Verse 21

21. Angry with me Comp. Deuteronomy 1:37.

Verse 24

24. God is a consuming fire This term is applied to Jehovah with special reference to his manifestation of himself in Sinai. Comp. Exodus 24:17, where it is said the glory of Jehovah was like devouring, or consuming, fire. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in Hebrews 12:29, quotes from these passages, “Our God is a consuming fire.”

Verses 25-28


Verse 26

26. I call heaven and earth to witness Heaven and earth are personified in this solemn form of adjuration, as in Isaiah 1:2, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth.” Comp. also Deuteronomy 32:1, of this book.

Verse 27

27. The Lord shall scatter you How clearly this was fulfilled in the nation’s history! Assyrians, Babylonians, the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties, and finally the Romans, scattered the rebellious people.

Verses 29-40

29-40. Terrible as will be their punishment if they forget Jehovah their God, there is hope of his mercy and love if they shall ever repent. Moses does not close his discourse without again reminding them of the glorious works wrought in connexion with their deliverance. Deuteronomy 4:37-39 inclusive would better be read: “Because he loved thy fathers, and chose his [Abraham’s] seed after him, and brought thee out of Egypt in his sight with great power, to drive out nations mightier and stronger than thou art from before thy face, and to bring thee in, and to give thee their land for an inheritance that thou mightest know and consider in thy heart that Jehovah he is the God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath.”

In his sight Literally, by his face by his personal presence. In Exodus 33:14, Jehovah is represented as saying to Moses, “My presence [literally, my face ] shall go with thee.”

As it is this day By the conquest of Og and Sihon the Israelites had a pledge that the nations of Canaan would be dispossessed.

Verses 41-43


According to Numbers 35:14, Moses had been commanded to select three cities on the east of Jordan and three in Canaan. The first three are here selected by Moses. The other three were not selected until the land was apportioned to the tribes in Canaan. See Joshua 20:7.

Verse 43

43. Bezer This city is mentioned in Joshua 20:8; Joshua 21:36, and 1 Chronicles 6:63. By some it is thought to be the same as Bosor. 1Ma 5:36 . It may possibly be the modern Berza of Robinson.

Ramoth in Gilead By some writers considered the same as Ramath-mizpeh. Comp. Joshua 20:8, with Deut 13:26. It was situated fifteen Roman miles west of Rabbath-Ammon.

Golan in Bashan According to Eusebius it was a large village in Batanaea even in his day. The district received its name Gaulonitis from Golan.

Verse 44

Second Discourse, Deuteronomy 4:44 to Deuteronomy 16:19.


44. This is the law Thorah (law) is the word that brought to the mind of Israel the ten words spoken by Jehovah on Sinai, together with the legislation and comments of Moses.

Verse 48

48. Mount Sion, which is Hermon See note on Deuteronomy 3:9.

Verse 49

49. Springs of Pisgah The same Hebrew expression is found here as in Deuteronomy 3:17, where our version treats it as a proper name. It should be rendered slopes of Pisgah.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/deuteronomy-4.html. 1874-1909.
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