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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Deuteronomy 4



Verses 1-43

The separation of the Cities of Refuge as a pause to the first discourse.

Deuteronomy 4:41-43

41Then [After that] Moses severed three cities on this [that] side Jordan, toward the sun-rising; 42That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares [without design] and hated him not in times past [yesterday, the third day]; 43and that fleeing [and flee] unto one of these cities he might live: Namely, Bezer in the wilderness, in the plain country, of [for] the Reubenites; and Ramoth in Gilead, of [for] the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, of [for] the Manassites.


Through the whole fourth chapter down to the fortieth verse, “life” has been the thought insisted upon. If in the connection the relations to God have been made prominent, the preservation of life in our relations to our fellow-men, our neighbors, is still a very obvious, supplementary realization of the same thought. Then there is no more effective form of the fundamental idea of the whole law, which should be carried out, than that Moses, while he takes breath, should immediately use the pause, to follow the word with the deed, and therewith show his hearers what was also expected from them. See the divine command in question, [These verses are clearly in place. They narrate an occurrence which took place between the close of the first and beginning of the second discourse, and therefore are inserted here. Aside from the connection in thought, and the moral lesson they teach, they belong historically here and no where else.—A. G.]. For the later mention, and perhaps first full completion of the Mosaic separation, comp. on Joshua 20. The closer limitation, Deuteronomy 4:41, toward the sun-rising explains on this side Jordan, as the East Jordanic cities in distinction from the Canaanitic cities of refuge in chap19. Comp. that chap. The separation by Moses, as it rested upon a divine command, raises the free cities to sacred places ( Exodus 21:14; 1 Kings 2:28 sq.; 1 Kings 1:50 sq). The regulation, Deuteronomy 4:42 ( Numbers 35:15 sq.), prevents or restrains blood revenge; for the life of man is not merely precious to the slain, so that his murder must be revenged, but is alike costly to the slayer, who indeed as the murderer must pay with his own life that which he has violently taken, but whose life, even on that account, as he has simply given the fatal stroke (without foreknowledge, without any premeditated hostility) must be preserved. Deuteronomy 4:43. Bezer, “probably Bosor, 1 Maccabees 5:36, but not yet certainly ascertained” (Keil). The plain country ( Deuteronomy 3:10) is the Amoritic: thus the wilderness is used for the steppes of the Euphrates wilderness ( 1 Chronicles 5:9-10) to which Reuben lay open on the east. If the six places of refuge, on the west and east side of Jordan, were arranged at equal distances, we should look for Bezer over against Hebron. Ramoth in Gilead, is identical with Ramoth Mizpeh, a border city of Gad, now Salt, the only inhabited city in Belka, whose castle, surrounded by steep mountains, rises in a narrow rocky valley, the houses rising as terraces. Golan, east of the sea of Galilee, but not certainly discovered, although the district Gaulanitis bears its name.


Calvin: “Athough he was not able to fulfil in every part, the divine command to select six cities, he did not delay until the three other cities could be added, from whence we may learn that although we may not immediately complete what God commands, we should not delay, and still we are not to be over anxious since He may intend to complete it through others.” Wurt. Bib.: “Sins are not all of the same dye, Matthew 12:31-32.” The refuge cities east of Jordan; 1) their significant number (three, the number of the divine life); 2) their typical position (toward the sun-rising) in reference to their chief significance, the preserving of life; in reference to Mal. [ Deuteronomy 4:2]; Luke 1:78; 2 Peter 1:19; 2 Peter 3) their significance, over against the custom of blood revenge, and for the law of God. The sacredness of human life. [The whole law is unto life. Obedience to it is not only the path to life hereafter, but to life here, Deuteronomy 4:1; Deuteronomy 4:40; Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 4:4. This provision of the cities of refuge, with all the arrangements as to ease of access, shows how sacredly the law guards human life. It claims indeed life for life, thus lays its restraints upon human passion and violence, but still protects the unintentional and therefore guiltless man slayer.—A. G.].

Verses 44-49

Title introductory to the second discourse

Deuteronomy 4:44-49

44, 45And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel: These are the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which Moses spake unto the 46 children of Israel, after they came forth out of Egypt, On this [that] side Jordan, in the valley over against Beth-peor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon, whom Moses and the children of Israel smote, after [as they came][FN1] they were come forth out of Egypt: 47And they possessed his land, and the land of Og, king of Bashan, two kings of the Amorites, which were on this [that] side Jordan, toward the sun-rising; 48From Aroer, which is by the bank of the river Arnon, even unto Mount Sion, which is Hermon, 49And all the plain on this [that] side Jordan eastward, even unto the sea of the plain, under the springs [slopes] of Pisgah.


Since the second discourse constitutes peculiarly [Bib. Com.: “Testimonies, statutes, and judgments, i.e., commandments considered first as manifestations or attestations of the will of God, next as duties of moral obligation, and thirdly as precepts securing the mutual rights of men.”—A. G.]. What was presupposed in the time announcement, Deuteronomy 1:3, is here and in Deuteronomy 4:46, expressly declared in the בְּצֵאתָס־; the auditory after the terminus a quo, and at the same time according to the obligatory grounds or reasons, as in Exodus 20:2; Exodus 19:1. Comp. also upon Deuteronomy 1:1; Deuteronomy 3:29; Deuteronomy 1:4. For Deuteronomy 4:47, see Deuteronomy 2:33 sq.; Deuteronomy 3:1 sq. For Deuteronomy 4:48, see Deuteronomy 2:36; Deuteronomy 3:12; Deuteronomy 3:8-9. For Deuteronomy 4:49, see Deuteronomy 3:17. “It is not strange that the geographical and historical elements which form the basis of the narrative should be presented again in this title, since these stand in the closest connection with the subjects of the discourse, which now first takes its right course.”—Baumgarten.


Deuteronomy 4:44-45. Calvin: “Moses shows, with how many words also, that he has only explained to them the law in its integrity.” Deuteronomy 4:46 sq. Calvin: “The taste of grace received should lead us to press more eagerly forward.” Deuteronomy 4:49. Richter: “Every look at Pisgah was for Moses a reminder of his approaching death ( Deuteronomy 3:27) therefore he hastens to arrange all things with and for Israel.” The law Isaiah, 1) for a testimony, and thus it is doctrine; 2) for a support, and thus an ordinance for Church, State, family; 3) for justice, and thus a seal, as also a glass and restraint. If God makes demands upon man He has first given to him, and will give, so that he may have all fulness.


FN#1 - Deuteronomy 4:46. Lit, in their coming.—A. G.].


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 26th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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