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Moses, in giving the people assurance that they are to overcome the nations of Canaan and dispossess them, seeks to guard them against ascribing success to their own righteousness. “The Lord giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness.” How impressive his words as he sweeps in thought through their whole history! “Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you.”
1. Nations greater… cities great and fenced This description of the nations and cities is similar to what we have in Deuteronomy 1:38.
Whom thou knowest The majority of the spies who had been sent to search the land brought back reports which the people credited, and which disheartened them. See Deuteronomy 1:28, also Numbers 12:28.
3. Understand therefore It is better not to render the verb as an imperative. It should be read in connexion with the first verse. Thou art to pass over Jordan at this time, and thou shalt know this day that Jehovah thy God, he that goeth before thee, a consuming fire, he will destroy them. So shalt thou drive them out. Some critics, as Knobel and Colenso, write as if the speaker, in the ardour of his discourse, had forgotten that he had earlier said, Thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee, (Deuteronomy 7:22.) There the thought expressed is that the whole land is not at one fell blow to be depopulated. Here the speaker has in mind those whom they are to meet in battle. Over them they are to have overwhelming victory.
4, 5. Speak not,… For my righteousness Moses sees as one of the perils to which the people will be exposed the disposition to ascribe their success to themselves, or as bestowed upon them on account of their own righteousness; so he repeats, to make it more impressive, Not for thy righteousness,… but for the wickedness of these nations.
In Deuteronomy 9:7-24 Moses reminds the people of the long record of their rebellious acts against Jehovah. From Egypt to the borders of the land promised to them for an inheritance they have murmured and rebelled.
8. Also in Horeb ye provoked the Lord How startling the indictment against them! How emphatic the condemnation! Their sins are brought out in bold relief, with the background of Horeb, the mountain of God, to deepen the effect. The mountain was radiant with the august splendour of the divine presence, the words of the law were echoing from the craggy granite peaks; the people are turning back in their hearts to the land of their taskmasters. At the very time Moses is in communion with Jehovah, while for forty days and forty nights he neither eats bread nor drinks water, the people, instead of fasting and praying and worshipping, turn to idolatrous rites.
9. When I was gone… to receive the tables of stone How incisive these words of rebuke! At the time when Moses was occupied with the holiest of duties waiting to receive the tables of the law from Jehovah’s own hand, forgetful of himself, with no thought for his bodily wants even then the people are preparing for the worship of a golden calf! Their apostasy at such a time seems almost unaccountable.
12-14. Get thee down quickly The words of Jehovah are taken almost literally from Exodus 33:7-10.
17. I took the two tables,… and brake them before your eyes This was equivalent to declaring that the covenant which Jehovah had made with them was now broken by their apostasy. Comp. Exodus 32:1-17.
18. As at the first, forty days Moses spends a second period in fasting. Comp. Exodus 34:28.
20. I prayed for Aaron also Not only upon the people, but also upon Aaron, rested the indignation of Jehovah. Moses acts as a mediator for his brother. In the accounts in Exodus 32:0 there is no special mention of this intercession. Here Moses makes it prominent, not only that he might make the people thoroughly aware that at that time Israel could not even boast of the righteousness of its eminent men, but also to bring out the fact that Aaron’s investiture with the high priesthood and the maintenance of that institution was purely a work of divine grace. Keil.
21. I took your sin, the calf The word which is here translated sin is used sometimes for that which is the occasion of sin. Comp. Hosea 10:8.
22, 23. Not only at Horeb was Jehovah angry with the people, but at Taberah, where they were discontented with the divine guidance, (Numbers 11:1,) and at Massah, where they murmured on account of water, (Exodus 17:1,) and at Kibroth-hattaavah, the graves of lust, (Numbers 11:4,) where they showed their loathing for the food Jehovah furnished, and longed for the abundant provisions of Egypt, and at Kadesh-barnea, where they were unbelieving, disobedient, and rebellious. Taberah, burning, is not named in the list of the encampments. It was probably near the place called Kibroth-hattaavah.
25-29. Remember thy servants After the above enumeration of the principal occasions when the people awakened the anger of Jehovah, Moses returns to the apostasy at Horeb. He repeats the substance of his intercession with Jehovah, as given in Exodus 32:11-13.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany