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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Deuteronomy 4



Verse 1

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.

Hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments. By statutes were meant all ordinances respecting religion, and the rites of divine worship; and by judgments, all enactments relative to civil matters. The two embraced the whole law of God.

That ye may live, and go in and possess the land. The enjoyment of the temporal blessings which God had promised to Israel were not to be forfeited by any transgression, except national apostasy, sinning presumptuously, and such like breaches of the fundamental articles of the covenant. The sacred history often represents these as the causes of the divine vengeance against them, as in this context.

Verse 2

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you - by the introduction of any pagan superstition, or forms of worship different from those which I have appointed (Numbers 15:39; 1 Chronicles 12:32; Matthew 15:9).

Neither shall ye diminish ought from it - by the neglect or omission of any of the observances, however trivial or irksome, which I have prescribed. The character and provisions of the ancient dispensation were adapted with divine wisdom to the instruction of that infant state of the congregation. But it was only a temporary economy; and although God here authorizes Moses to command that all its institutions should be honoured with unfailing observance, this did not prevent Him from commissioning other prophets to alter or abrogate them when the end of that dispensation was attained.

Verse 3-4

Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you.

Your eyes have seen what the Lord did because of Baal-peor. It appears, from this appeal to the spectators of the event, though it is not recorded in the history, that the pestilence and the sword of justice overtook only the guilty in that affair (Numbers 25:1-18), while the rest of the people were spared. The allusion to that recent and appalling judgment was seasonably made as a powerful dissuasive against idolatry; and the fact mentioned was calculated to make a deep impression on people who knew and felt the truth of it.

Verse 5

Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 6

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.

This is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations. Moses predicted that the faithful observance of the laws given them would raise their national character for intelligence and wisdom: and in point of fact it did do so; because although the pagan world generally ridiculed the Hebrews for what they considered a foolish and absurd exclusiveness, some of the most eminent philosophers expressed the highest admiration of the fundamental principle in the Jewish religion-the unity of God; and their legislators borrowed some laws from the constitution of the Hebrews.

Verse 7

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?

What nation is there so great? Here he represents their privileges and their duty in such significant and comprehensive terms as were peculiarly calculated to arrest their attention and engage their interest. The former-their national advantages-are described (Deuteronomy 4:7-8), and they were twofold: (1) God's readiness to hear and aid them at all times; and,

(2) The excellence of that religion in which they were instructed, set forth in the "statutes and judgments so righteous" which the law of Moses contained.

Their duty corresponding to these pre-eminent advantages as a people was also twofold:

(1) Their own faithful obedience to that law; and,

(2) Their obligation to imbue the minds of the young and rising generation with similar sentiments of reverence and respect for it.

Verse 8-9

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?

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 10

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.

The day that thou stoodest before the Lord ... in Horeb. The delivery of the law from Sinai was an era never to be forgotten in the history of Israel. Some of those whom Moses was addressing had been present, though very young; while the rest were federally represented by their parents, who in their name and for their interest entered into the national covenant.

Verse 11

And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of 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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 12

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.

Ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude. Although articulate sounds were heard emanating from the mount, no form or representation of the Divine Being who spoke was seen to indicate His nature or properties, according to the notions of the pagan.

Verse 13-14

And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 15

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:

Take ... good heed ... (for ye saw no manner of similitude). The extreme proneness of the Israelites to idolatry, from their position in the midst of surrounding nations already abandoned to its seductions, accounts for their attention being repeatedly drawn to the fact that God did not appear on Sinai in any visible form; and an earnest caution, founded on that remarkable circumstance, is given to beware, not only of making representations of false gods, but also any fancied representation of the true God.

Verses 16-19

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, and make you a graven image. The things are here specified of which God prohibited any image or representation to be made for the purposes of worship; and, from the variety of details entered into, an idea may be formed of the extensive prevalence of idolatry in that age. In whatever way idolatry originated, whether from an intention to worship the true God through those things which seemed to afford the strongest evidences of His power, or whether a divine principle was supposed to reside in the things themselves, there was scarcely an element or object of nature but was deified. This was particularly the case with the Canaanites and Egyptians, against whose superstitious practices the caution, no doubt, was chiefly directed. The former worshipped Baal and Astarte, the latter Osiris and Isis, under the figure of a male and a female.

It was in Egypt that animal worship most prevailed; because the natives of that country deified, among beasts, the ox, the heifer, the sheep, and the goat, the dog, the cat, and the ape; among birds, the ibis, the hawk, and the crane; among reptiles, the crocodile, the frog, and the beetle; among fish, all the fish of the Nile. Some of these deities, as Osiris and Isis, were worshipped over all Egypt, the others only in particular provinces; in addition to which they embraced the Zabian superstition, the adoration of the Egyptians, in common with that of many other people, extending to the whole starry host. The very circumstantial details here given of the Canaanite and Egyptian idolatry were owing to the past and prospective familiarity of the Israelites with it in all these forms.

Verse 20

But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.

But the Lord hath ... brought you forth out of the iron furnace - i:e., a furnace for smelting iron. A furnace of this kind is round, sometimes thirty feet deep, and requiring the highest intensity of heat. Such is the tremendous image chosen to represent the bondage and intense affliction of the Israelites (Rosenmuller).

To be unto him a people of inheritance - his special possession from age to age; and therefore for you to abandon his worship for that of idols, especially the gross and debasing system of idolatry that prevails among the Egyptians, would be the greatest folly, the blackest ingratitude.

Verses 21-24

Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 25

When thou shalt beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger:

When ... ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves. The condition on which the grant of Canaan was given to them was their continued obedience to the principles of the Mosaic law; and the moment that these should be abandoned through a general national apostasy, their title to that land would be forfeited.

Verse 26

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you. This solemn form of adjuration has been common in special circumstances among all people. It is used here figuratively, or as in other parts of Scripture where inanimate objects are called up as witnesses (Deuteronomy 32:1; Isaiah 1:2).

Verse 27

And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 28

And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.

There ye shall serve gods. compulsory measures of their tyrannical conquerors would force them into idolatry, so that their choice would become their punishment.

Verse 29

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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 30

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 - either toward the destined close of their captivities, when they evinced a returning spirit of repentance and faith, or in the age of Messiah, which is commonly called "the latter days," and when the scattered tribes of Israel shall be converted to the Gospel of Christ. The occurrence of this auspicious event will be the most illustrious proof of the truth of the promise made in Deuteronomy 4:31.

Verses 31-40

(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verses 41-43

Then Moses severed three cities on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;

Then Moses severed three cities on this side Jordan - (see the notes at Numbers 35:6-8; Joshua 20:7-8).

Verse 44

And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel:

This is the law which Moses set. This is a preface to the rehearsal of the law, which, with the addition of various explanatory circumstances, the following chapters contain.

Verse 45

These are the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which Moses spake unto the children of Israel, after they came forth out of Egypt,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 46

On this side Jordan, in the valley over against Bethpeor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon, whom Moses and the children of Israel smote, after they were come forth out of Egypt: Beth-peor - i:e., house or temple of Peor. It is probable that a temple of this Moabite idol stood in full view of the Hebrew camp while Moses was urging the exclusive claims of God to their worship; and this allusion would be very significant if it were the temple where so many of the Israelites had grievously offended.

Verse 47-48

And they possessed his land, and the land of Og king of Bashan, two kings of the Amorites, which were on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 49

And all the plain on this side Jordan eastward, even unto the sea of the plain, under the springs of Pisgah.

The springs of Pisgah - more frequently Ashdoth-pisgah (Deuteronomy 3:17; Joshua 12:3; Joshua 13:20) - the roots or foot of the mountains east of the Jordan.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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