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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 32

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-18

Israel's Position and Apostasy

v. 1. Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth! Heaven and earth are not only called upon as witnesses in the event of Israel's future apostasy, but they are concerned also inasmuch as God's faithfulness and righteousness are revealed in heaven and in earth, the entire universe being filled by every exhibition of His glory.

v. 2. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, the gentle and persistent rain which brings forth fruit in abundance; my speech shall distil, gently flow, as the dew, as the small rain, mild showers, upon the tender herb, as it breaks forth from the buds in the spring, and as the showers upon the grass, upon the young vegetation. That was to be the effect of Moses' song upon the hearts of the people, like that of a mild and fructifying rain.

v. 3. Because I will publish the name of the Lord, proclaim, preach of His name; ascribe ye greatness unto our God; in their entire life, in words and deeds, they were to show that they acknowledged His exalted nature, His glory as Jehovah.

v. 4. He is the Rock, the unchangeable, unshakable Refuge, Protection, and Security for the forsaken and for all those that believe in Him; His work is perfect, without a single defect; for all His ways, His manner of dealing with men in the world, are judgment, in perfect agreement with justice; a God of truth, upon whom one may depend in all the vicissitudes of life, and without iniquity, just and right is He, falseness, crooked dealing, is absolutely foreign to Him. But the very opposite is true of the children of Israel.

v. 5. They have corrupted themselves, namely, in the various apostasies and rebellions charged against them since the days of Sinai; their spot is not the spot of His children, literally, "not His children, but their blemish," that is, all the rebellious people did not really belong to the children of Jehovah, but were properly considered a stain and a blemish upon the congregation of the Lord; they are a perverse and crooked generation. Cf Isaiah 1:4.

v. 6. Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? Instead of showing their appreciation of God's kindness and mercy by worshiping Him and clinging to Him, they showed themselves an arrogant people, devoid of all real understanding. Is not he thy father that hath bought thee, acquiring them as His own by the many manifestations of His goodness? Hath he not made thee and established thee? The miraculous deliverance of the children of Israel from the power of Pharaoh had been followed by the covenant of Sinai and by their acceptance as His peculiar people.

v. 7. Remember the days of old, the period of the Egyptian bondage and beyond, consider the years of many generations, the experiences which one generation after the other had had under the guidance of Jehovah; ask thy father, and he will show thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee, they were in a position to tell the younger generation of God's wonderful dealings with them, all of which were to be kept in mind always by all members of the nation.

v. 8. When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. From the very beginning it was a work of God's providence, of His government of the earth, to give to each tribe and nation as it was formed and as it grew, a place, a country, with boundaries; and He always had in mind the needs of that people whom He intended to choose for Himself, so that Israel should possess a land corresponding to its population.

v. 9. For the Lord's portion is His people, Jacob is the lot, the surveyed land, the possession, of His Inheritance. In this people, therefore, He took a special interest, to it He gave countless proofs of His fatherly love and care.

v. 10. He found him in a desert land, in a most helpless and disconsolate position, and in the waste, howling wilderness, where only the dismal and terrifying cry of wild animals could be heard, all of which is added to emphasize the position of Israel at that time. He led him about, He compassed him with the fullness of His loving care; he instructed him, without letting him out of His sight for as much as a moment; He kept him as the apple of His eye, with the most delicate tenderness.

v. 11. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, in encouraging the young to make an attempt at flying, fluttereth over her young, ready to save the weak and helpless, whose wings are not yet fully grown, from a bad fall, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings,

v. 12. so the Lord alone did lead him, the people of Israel, and there was no strange god with him. Jehovah being their only Helper and Stay, the children of Israel were under obligation to serve Him alone as God. It is a remarkable picture showing the loving care of Jehovah in leading the people forward to the proper independence.

v. 13. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, as the victorious conquerors of the land, that he might eat the increase of the fields, the rich products, all the wealth of the fruitful land; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock, an expressive description of the productiveness of Canaan's soil;

v. 14. butter of kine, including all the products gained from milk, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, noted for their excellence in every respect, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat, figurative for the finest and most nourishing grain; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape, unexcelled vine, full of fire and refreshment. Thus the various acts of God's mercy and goodness are enumerated, in sharp contrast to the apostasy which is now described.

v. 16. But Jeshurun, the people of righteousness, as they are called to remind them of God's loving and honoring plans for their permanent advancement as the just and righteous among the nations of the world, waxed fat, and kicked, like an ox that is fed too well, like a horse that feels his oats, Isaiah 10:27; thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness, as Moses, in turning directly to the people, applies the figure; then he forsook God, which made him, deliberately rejecting his Creator, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation, who not only had delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, but wanted to be their Redeemer from all spiritual dangers as well.

v. 16. They provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods, by forgetting the relation of faithfulness which the covenant laid upon them, with abominations provoked they Him to anger.

v. 17. They sacrificed unto devils, to demons, to wasters or destroyers, for thus the evil and harmful character of the heathen deities was often indicated; to gods whom they knew not, who neither by benefit nor by blessing had manifested themselves as true gods, to new gods that came newly up, but recently invented and accepted by the Israelites, whom your fathers feared not, for whom they felt no reverential awe, since they are mere products of the imagination.

v. 18. of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee. They had shown themselves coolly neglectful against Him whose care had partaken of the love of both father and mother toward them. They were thus unnatural children, an evil and perverse generation, a warning to all believers who are growing cold toward the rich blessings of God's grace.

Verses 19-43

Jehovah's Sentence and its Execution

v. 19. And when the Lord saw it, by the testimony of His own personal observation, He abhorred them, He rejected them with a feeling of bitterness, because of the provoking, the vexation, the grief, of His sons and of His daughters. The behavior of the children of Israel caused the Lord to plan their rejection with a severe punishment.

v. 20. And He said, I will hide My face from them, withdraw His mercy, be inaccessible to all their pleading for mercy. I will see what their end shall be, for their apostasy was bound to bring them everlasting destruction; for they are a very froward generation, perverse, wicked, children in whom is no faith, upon whom one cannot depend.

v. 21. They have moved Me to jealousy with that which is not God, by turning and clinging to idols of men's imagination; they have provoked Me to anger with their vanities, literally, "their nothingnesses," Leviticus 19:4; and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people, by turning in mercy to such as did not belong to the chosen nation; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation, by laying the blessing rejected by Israel upon a people who till then were godless. Cf Romans 10:19.

v. 22. For a fire is kindled in Mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains; for the judgment of God, as realized in the course of the centuries, not only upon Israel, but upon all those that rejected Him, in every form of severe punishment, extends beyond the earthly life and continues throughout eternity.

v. 23. I will heap mischiefs upon them, evils of every kind; I will send Mine arrows upon them, use them up in bringing retribution upon them.

v. 24. They shall be burned with hunger, become thin for lack of food, and devoured with burning heat, with a consuming pestilence, and with bitter destruction, an infectious epidemic; I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, raging beasts of prey, with the poison of serpents of the dust. Cf Leviticus 26:22.

v. 25. The sword without and terror within, on account of the utter helplessness and the terrible fate which would await them in the hands of the victorious and cruel enemy, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, cutting them off in the bloom of their youth, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs, the land thus being bereaved of its inhabitants.

v. 26. I said I would scatter them into corners, blow them away, exterminate them, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men;

v. 27. were it not that I feared the wrath of, that is, over, the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, misunderstanding or ignoring the fact that Jehovah's interference and not their power had destroyed Israel, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, has shown itself mighty, and the Lord hath not done all this. The transgression of Israel would be such as to merit annihilation, and it would be only the probable arrogance of the enemy in ascribing to themselves the punishment which was God's alone that would prevent His carrying out that intention.

v. 28. For they, Israel, are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them; they were utterly lacking in spiritual insight and wisdom.

v. 29. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! Complete destruction is their inevitable lot if Jehovah for His name's sake does not turn away His wrath.

v. 30. how should one chase a thousand and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up? If they would only cling to Jehovah, the Rock of their salvation, then it would be a small matter for them to overthrow all their enemies; but now their apostasy would result in their being sold into the power of their enemies, deprived of all their strength by the Lord.

v. 31. For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges. The heathen themselves were obliged to confess that the gods in whom they put their trust could not really be compared with Jehovah, the true God.

v. 32. For their vine, that upon which Israel was placing its trust, is the vine of Sodom and of the fields of Gomorrah, Isaiah 1:10; Isaiah 3-9; Jeremiah 23:14; their grapes are grapes of gall, on account of the bitterness of their transgressions, their clusters are bitter;

v. 33. their wine is the poison of dragons, of serpents, and the cruel venom of asps, of a very poisonous, deadly snake. Thus the vine and its fruits are a picture of the people and of its works. Cf Isaiah 5:2-4. In this entire section the punishment upon Sodom is suggested, as the formal announcement of the coming judgment, which now follows, indicates.

v. 34. Is not this laid up in store with Me, both the sins of the people and the judgments of God, and sealed up among my treasures? The registers of guilt were still secret, but would be opened in due time.

v. 35. To Me belongeth vengeance and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time, at that time, when the foot would begin to be uncertain, when their fall would be imminent, then God would prove Himself the avenger, the rewarder, then the secrets with regard to their punishment, which He had kept hidden, would be revealed. For the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste; then the judgment, the vengeance of God, would strike Israel, bringing them to the verge of destruction.

v. 36. For the Lord shall judge His people, and repent Himself for (comfort) His servants, by punishing those who are only outward members of His people, and by saving those who are found true worshipers of Jehovah, when He seeth that their power is gone, when all the earthly props of Israel's power upon which it relied are taken away, and there is none shut up or left, that is, all men, all defenders, both married and single, are taken away.

v. 37. And He shall say, when He has thus brought punishment upon His people and avenged Himself upon His enemies in their midst, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted,

v. 38. which, namely, the idols of the false Israelites, did eat the fat of their sacrifices, accepting what the foolish Israelites consecrated to them, and drank the wine of their drink-offerings? Let them rise up and help you, and be your protection. Thus the helplessness and vanity of the idols are brought out.

v. 39. See now, by contemplating the fate which struck the foolish idolaters, that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me; Jehovah alone is the true God. I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand. To Him, as the almighty God, pertains the absolute power over the creatures of His hand.

v. 40. For I lift up My hand to heaven, in the gesture of one swearing a solemn oath, and say, I live forever.

v. 41. if I whet My glittering sword, in the capacity of champion of His people, and Mine hand take hold on judgment, namely, for the purpose of carrying it out, I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me, punish all the godless, not only among the heathen, but also among the Israelites.

v. 42. I will make Mine arrows drunk with blood, and My sword shall devour flesh, a very strong figure denoting the complete overthrow of the enemies; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy, literally, "from the unbarbered head of the enemy," said of one possessing vigorous strength and exhibiting proud arrogance.

v. 43. Rejoice, O ye nations, with His people, since all men are included in God's love; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance to His adversaries, and will be merciful unto His land and to His people. By the punishment of the bold offenders and by the extirpation of idolatry God intended to expiate the guilt resting upon His people and their country, and thus to consecrate and sanctify both the land and the people, His congregation of believers. Thus Moses, at the end of his song, prophesies of the Church of the New Testament, which will serve the Lord in righteousness and holiness.

Verses 44-52

Conclusion of Moses Address the Lord's Command to Him

v. 44. And Moses came and spake all the words of this song in the ears of the people, Deuteronomy 31:22, he and Hoshea, the son of Nun, for so Joshua, who probably wrote this account, modestly calls himself. He assisted Moses, and Israel could see that the two were in entire accord.

v. 45. And Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel, his entire proclamation herewith came to an end;

v. 46. and he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, through which I lay down my testimony, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this Law. Note that the obligation to impart the instruction of the Law to the children is here again stressed.

v. 47. For it is not a vain thing for you, an empty, meaningless proclamation; because it is your life, Deuteronomy 30-20; and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it. The promise of temporal blessings is again included, but in a manner which points forward to the enjoyment of everlasting happiness, in the life with Him.

v. 48. And the Lord spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying,

v. 49. Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, the range which runs parallel with the Jordan and the Dead Sea, unto Mount Nebo, the highest peak of the range, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession;

v. 50. and die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people, an expression which implies the immortality of the soul: as Aaron, thy brother, died in Mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people, Numbers 20:28;

v. 51. because ye trespassed against Me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the Wilderness of Zin, Numbers 20:11-13; because ye sanctified Me not in the midst of the children of Israel. Their rebellion had consisted in their expressing a doubt of the Lord's willingness to give water to such a rebellious people, whereas the Lord had intended to make this miracle a proof of His majesty and almighty power.

v. 52. Yet thou shalt see the land before thee, namely, from the top of Mount Nebo, where, on a clear day, a view of practically the entire country of Canaan may be obtained; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel. Thus the Lord visits the transgressions of His children with punishments which are often severe, but finally he grants them a blessed end and causes them to be added to the great number of those that died in the faith.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 32". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/deuteronomy-32.html. 1921-23.
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