Deuteronomy 32


The prophetical and historical song of Moses, showing forth the

nature of God's doctrine, 1-3.

The character of God, 4.

The corruption of the people, 5, 6.

They are called to remember God's kindness, 7,

and his dealings with them during their travels in the

wilderness, 8-14.

Their ingratitude and iniquity, 15-18.

They are threatened with his judgments, 19-28.

A pathetic lamentation over them because of their sins, 29-35.

Gracious purposes in their behalf, mixed with reproaches for

their manifold idolatries, and threatenings against his enemies,


A promise of salvation to the Gentiles, 43.

Moses, having finished the song, warmly exhorts the people to

obedience, 44-47.

God calls him up to the mount, that he may see the good land and

then die, 48-52.


Verse 1. On the inimitable excellence of this ode much has been

written by commentators, critics, and poets; and it is allowed by

the best judges to contain a specimen of almost every species of

excellence in composition. It is so thoroughly poetic that even

the dull Jews themselves found they could not write it in the

prose form; and hence it is distinguished as poetry in every

Hebrew Bible by being written in its own hemistichs or short half

lines, which is the general form of the Hebrew poetry; and were it

translated in the same way it would be more easily understood.

The song itself has suffered both by transcribers and translators,

the former having mistaken some letters in different places, and

made wrong combinations of them in others. As to the translators,

most of them have followed their own fancy, from good Mr.

Ainsworth, who ruined it by the most inanimate rhyming version,

to certain latter poets, who have cast it unhallowedly into a

European mould. See the observations at the end of the chapter.

See Clarke on De 32:52".

Give ear, O ye heavens] Let angels and men hear, and let this

testimony of God be registered both in heaven and earth. Heaven

and earth are appealed to as permanent witnesses.

Verse 2. My doctrine] likchi, from lakach, to

take, carry away; to attract or gain over the heart by

eloquence or persuasive speech. Hence the Septuagint translate

the word αποφθεγμα, an apophthegm, a sententious and weighty

saying, for the regulation of the moral conduct such, properly,

are the sayings in this inimitable ode.

Shall drop as the rain] It shall come drop by drop as the

shower, beginning slowly and distinctly, but increasing more and

more till the plenitude of righteousness is poured down, and the

whole canon of Divine revelation completed.

My speech shall distil as the dew] imrathi; my familiar,

friendly, and affectionate speeches shall descend gently and

softly, on the ear and the heart, as the dew, moistening and

refreshing all around. In hot regions dew is often a substitute

for rain, without it there could be no fertility, especially in

those places where rain seldom falls. And in such places only can

the metaphor here used be felt in its perfection. Homer uses a

similar figure when speaking of the eloquence of Ulysses; he says,

Il. iii., ver. 221:-



"But when he speaks what elocution flows!

Soft as the fleeces of descending snows."

On the manner in which dew is produced, philosophers are not yet

agreed. It was long supposed to descend, and to differ only from

rain as less from more; but the experiments of a French chemist

seemed to prove that dew ascended in light thin vapours, and that,

meeting with a colder region of the air, it became condensed and

fell down upon the earth. Other recent experiments, though they

have not entirely invalidated the former, have rendered the

doctrine of the ascent of dew doubtful. Though we know nothing

certain as to the manner of its production, yet we know that the

thing exists, and that it is essentially useful. So much we know

of the sayings of our God, and the blessed effects produced by

them: God hath spoken, and the entering in of his words gives

light and life. See Clarke on Ge 2:6.

As the small rain] seirim, from saar, to be

rough or tempestuous; sweeping showers, accompanied with a strong

gale of wind.

And as the showers] rebibim, from rabah to

multiply, to increase greatly; shower after shower, or rather a

continual rain, whose drops are multiplied beyond calculation,

upon the earth; alluding perhaps to the rainy seasons in the East,

or to those early and latter rains so essentially necessary for

the vegetation and perfection of the grain.

No doubt these various expressions point out that great variety

in the word or revelation of God whereby it is suited to every

place, occasion, person, and state; being "profitable for doctrine,

reproof, and edification in righteousness." Hence the apostle says

that GOD, at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past

unto the fathers by the prophets, and in these last times has

spoken unto us by his Son; Heb 1:1, 2.

By every prophet, evangelist, and apostle, God speaks a particular

language; all is his doctrine, his great system of instruction,

for the information and salvation of the souls of men. But some

portions are like the sweeping showers, in which the tempest of

God's wrath appears against sinners. Others are like the

incessant showers of gentle rain, preparing the soil for the

germination of the grain, and causing it to take root. And others

still are like the dew, mildly and gently insinuating convictions,

persuasions, reproofs, and consolations. The preacher of

righteousness who wishes to handle this word profitably, must

attend closely to those distinctions, that he may rightly divide

the word of truth, and give each of his hearers his portion of the

bread of life in due season.

Verse 4. He is the Rock] The word tsur is rendered

Creator by some eminent critics; and [Arabic] khalyk is the

reading in the Arabic Version. Rab. Moses ben Maimon, in his

valuable work, Moreh Nebochim, observes that the word tsur,

which is ordinarily translated rock, signifies origin, fountain,

first cause, &c., and in this way it should be translated here:

"He is the first principle, his work is perfect." As he is the

cause of all things, he must be infinitely perfect; and

consequently all his works must be perfect in their respective

kinds. As is the cause, so must the effect be. Some think the

word rock gives a very good sense: for, as in those lands, rocks

were the ordinary places of defence and security, God may be

metaphorically represented thus, to signify his protection of his

followers. I prefer the opinion of Maimon.

Verse 5. Their spot is not the spot of his children] This

verse is variously translated and variously understood. They are

corrupted, not his, children of pollution.-KENNICOTT. They are

corrupt, they are not his children, they are blotted.-HOUBIGANT.

This is according to the Samaritan. The interpretation commonly

given to these words is as unfounded as it is exceptionable:

"God's children have their spots, i. e., their sins, but sin in

them is not like sin in others; in others sin is exceedingly

sinful, but God does not see the sins of his children as he sees

the sins of his enemies," &c. Unfortunately for this bad

doctrine, there is no foundation for it in the sacred text, which,

though very obscure, may be thus translated: He (Israel) hath

corrupted himself. They (the Israelites) are not his children:

they are spotted. Coverdale renders the whole passage thus: "The

froward and overthwart generation have marred themselves to

himward, and are not his children because of their deformity."

This is the sense of the verse. Let it be observed that the word

spot, which is repeated in our translation, occurs but once in

the original, and the marginal reading is greatly to be preferred:

He hath corrupted to himself, that they are not his children; that

is their blot. And because they had the blot of sin on them,

because they were spotted with iniquity and marked idolaters,

therefore God renounces them. There may be here an allusion to

the marks which the worshippers of particular idols had on

different parts of their bodies, especially on their foreheads;

and as idolatry is the crime with which they are here charged, the

spot or mark mentioned may refer to the mark or stigma of

their idol. The different sects of idolaters in the East are

distinguished by their sectarian marks, the stigma of their

respective idols. These sectarian marks, particularly on the

forehead, amount to nearly one hundred among the Hindoos, and

especially among the two sects, the worshippers of Seeva, and the

worshippers of Vishnoo. In many cases these marks are renewed

daily, for they account it irreligious to perform any sacred rite

to their god without his mark on the forehead; the marks are

generally horizontal and perpendicular lines, crescents, circles,

leaves, eyes, &c., in red, black, white, and yellow. This very

custom is referred to in Re 20:4, where the beast gives his mark

to his followers, and it is very likely that Moses refers to such

a custom among the idolatrous of his own day. This removes all

the difficulty of the text. God's children have no sinful spots,

because Christ saves them from their sins; and their motto or mark

is, Holiness to the Lord.

Verse 8. When the Most High divided to the nations, &c.]

Verses 8 and 9, says Dr. Kennicott, give us express authority for

believing that the earth was very early divided in consequence of

a Divine command, and probably by lot, (see Ac 17:26;) and as

Africa is called the land of Ham,

(Ps 78:51; 105:23, 27; 106:22,)

probably that country fell to him and to his descendants, at the

same time that Europe fell to Japheth, and Asia to Shem, with

a particular reserve of Palestine to be the Lord's portion, for

some one peculiar people. And this separation of mankind into

three bodies, called the general migration, was commanded to Noah,

and by him to his sons, so as to take place in the days of Peleg,

about two hundred years afterwards. This general migration was

prior to the partial dispersion from Babel by about five hundred


He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the

children of Israel.] The Septuagint is very curious, εστησενορια

εθνωνκατααριθμοναγγελωντουθεου. "He established the bounds

of the nations according to the number of the angels of God." The

meaning of the passage seems to be, that when God divided the

earth among mankind, he reserved twelve lots, according to the

number of the sons of Jacob, which he was now about to give to

their descendants, according to his promise.

Verse 9. The Lord's portion is his people] What an astonishing

saying! As holy souls take GOD for their portion, so GOD takes

them for his portion. He represents himself as happy in his

followers; and they are infinitely happy in, and satisfied with,

God as their portion. This is what is implied in being a saint.

He who is seeking for an earthly portion, has little commerce with

the Most High.

Verse 10. He-the Lord, found him-Jacob, in his descendants, in

a desert land-the wilderness. He led him about forty years in

this wilderness, De 8:2,

or yesobebenhu, he compassed him about, i. e., God defended

them on all hands, and in all places. He instructed him-taught

them that astonishing law through which we have now almost passed,

giving them statutes and judgments which, for depth of wisdom, and

correct political adaptation to times, places, and circumstances,

are so wondrously constructed, as essentially to secure the

comfort, peace, and happiness of the individual, and the prosperity

and permanency of the moral system. Laws so excellent that they

have met with the approbation of the wise and good in all

countries, and formed the basis of the political institutions of

all the civilized nations in the universe.

Notwithstanding the above gives the passage a good sense, yet

probably the whole verse should be considered more literally. It

is certain that in the same country travellers are often obliged

to go about in order to find proper passes between the mountains,

and the following extracts from Mr. Harmer well illustrate this


"Irwin farther describes the mountains of the desert of Thebais

(Upper Egypt) as sometimes so steep and dangerous as to induce

even very bold and hardy travellers to avoid them by taking a

large circuit; and that for want of proper knowledge of the way,

such a wrong path may be taken as may on a sudden bring them into

the greatest dangers, while at other times a dreary waste may

extend itself so prodigiously as to make it difficult, without

assistance, to find the way to a proper outlet. All which show us

the meaning of those words of the song of Moses, De 32:10:

He led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of

his eye.

"Jehovah certainly instructed Israel in religion by delivering

to him his law in this wilderness; but it is not, I presume, of

this kind of teaching Moses speaks, as Bishop Patrick supposes,

but God's instructing Israel how to avoid the dangers of the

journey, by leading the people about this and that dangerous,

precipitous hill, directing them to proper passes through the

mountains, and guiding them through the intricacies of that

difficult journey which might, and probably would, have confounded

the most consummate Arab guides. They that could have safely

enough conducted a small caravan of travellers through this

desert, might have been very unequal to the task of directing such

an enormous multitude, encumbered with cattle, women, children,

and utensils. The passages of Irwin, that establish the

observation I have been making, follow here: 'At half past eleven

we resumed our march, and soon came to the foot of a prodigious

hill, which we unexpectedly found we were to ascend. It was

perpendicular, like the one we had passed some hours before; but

what rendered the access more difficult, the path which we were to

tread was nearly right up and down. The captain of the robbers

seeing the obstacles we had to overcome, wisely sent all his

camels round the mountain where he knew there was a defile, and

only accompanied us with the beast he rode. We luckily met with

no accident in climbing this height.' p. 325. They afterwards

descended, he tells us, into a valley, by a passage easy enough,

and stopping to dine at half past five o'clock, they were joined

by the Arabs, who had made an astonishing march to overtake them,

p. 326. 'We soon quitted the dale, and ascended the high ground

by the side of a mountain that overlooks it in this part. The

path was narrow and perpendicular, and much resembled a ladder.

To make it worse, we preceded the robbers, and an ignorant guide

among our people led us astray. Here we found ourselves in a

pretty situation: we had kept the lower road on the side of the

hill, instead of that towards the summit, until we could proceed

no farther; we were now obliged to gain the heights, in order to

recover the road, in performing which we drove our poor camels up

such steeps that we had the greatest difficulty to climb after

them. We were under the necessity of leaving them to themselves,

as the danger of leading them through places where the least false

step would have precipitated both man and beast to the

unfathomable abyss below, was too critical to hazard. We hit at

length upon the proper path, and were glad to find ourselves in

the road of our unerring guides the robbers, after having won

every foot of the ground with real peril and fatigue.' p. 324.

Again: 'Our road after leaving the valley lay over level ground.

As it would be next to an impossibility to find the way over these

stony flats, where the heavy foot of a camel leaves no impression,

the different bands of robbers have heaped up stones at unequal

distances for their direction through this desert. We have

derived great assistance from the robbers in this respect, who are

our guides when the marks either fail, or are unintelligible to

us.' The predatory Arabs were more successful guides to Mr. Irwin

and his companions, than those he brought with him from Ghinnah;

but the march of Israel through deserts of the like nature, was

through such an extent and variety of country, and in such

circumstances as to multitudes and incumbrances, as to make Divine

interposition necessary. The openings through the rocks seem to

have been prepared by Him to whom all things from the beginning of

the world were foreknown, with great wisdom and goodness, to

enable them to accomplish this stupendous march." See Harmer's

Observat., vol. iv. p. 125.

He kept him as the apple of his eye.] Nothing can exceed the

force and delicacy of this expression. As deeply concerned and as

carefully attentive as man can be for the safety of his eyesight,

so was God for the protection and welfare of this people. How

amazing this condescension!

Verse 11. As an eagle stirreth up her nest] Flutters over her

brood to excite them to fly; or, as some think, disturbs her nest

to oblige the young ones to leave it; so God by his plagues in

Egypt obliged the Israelites, otherwise very reluctant, to leave a

place which he appeared by his judgments to have devoted to


Fluttereth over her young] yeracheph, broodeth over them,

communicating to them a portion of her own vital warmth: so did

God, by the influences of his Spirit, enlighten, encourage, and

strengthen their minds. It is the same word which is used in

Ge 1:2.

Spreadeth abroad her wings, &c.] In order, not only to teach

them how to fly, but to bear them when weary. For to this fact

there seems an allusion, it having been generally believed that

the eagle, through extraordinary affection for her young, takes

them upon her back when they are weary of flying, so that the

archers cannot injure them but by piercing the body of the mother.

The same figure is used See Clarke on Ex 19:4; in the note. The

nesher, which we translate eagle, is supposed by Mr. Bruce to mean

the rachama, a bird remarkable for its affection to its young,

which it is known actually to bear on its back when they are


Verse 12. So the Lord alone did lead him] By his power, and by

his only, were they brought out of Egypt, and supported in the


And there was no strange god] They had help from no other

quarter. The Egyptian idols were not able to save their own

votaries; but God not only saved his people, but destroyed the


Verse 13. He made him ride] yarkibehu, he will cause

him to ride. All the verbs here are in the future tense, because

this is a prophecy of the prosperity they should possess in the

promised land. The Israelites were to ride-exult, on the high

places, the mountains and hills of their land, in which they are

promised the highest degrees of prosperity; as even the rocky part

of the country should be rendered fertile by the peculiar

benediction of God.

Suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock]

This promise states that even the most barren places in the

country should yield an abundance of aromatic flowers, from which

the bees should collect honey in abundance; and even the tops of

the rocks afford sufficient support for olive trees, from the

fruit of which they should extract oil in abundance: and all this

should be occasioned by the peculiar blessing of God upon the


Verse 14. Fat of kidneys of wheat] Almost every person knows

that the kidney is enveloped in a coat of the purest fat in the

body of the animal, for which several anatomical reasons might be

given. As the kidney itself is to the abundantly surrounding fat,

so is the germ of the grain to the lobes or farinaceous parts.

The expression here may be considered as a very strong and

peculiarly happy figure to point out the finest wheat, containing

the healthiest and most vigorous germ, growing in a very large and

nutritive grain; and consequently the whole figure points out to

us a species of wheat, equally excellent both for seed and bread.

This beautiful metaphor seems to have escaped the notice of every


Pure blood of the grape.] Red wine, or the pure juice of

whatever colour, expressed from the grapes, without any

adulteration or mixture with water: blood here is synonymous with

juice. This intimates that their vines should be of the best

kind, and their wine in abundance, and of the most delicious


Verse 15. Jeshurun] the upright. This appellative is

here put for Israel, and as it comes from yashar, he was

right, straight, may be intended to show that the people who once

not only promised fair, but were really upright, walking in the

paths of righteousness, should, in the time signified by the

prophet, not only revolt from God, but actually fight against him;

like a full fed horse, who not only will not bear the harness, but

breaks away from his master, and endeavours to kick him as he

struggles to get loose. All this is spoken prophetically, and is

intended as a warning, that the evil might not take place. For

were the transgression unavoidable, it must be the effect of some

necessitating cause, which would destroy the turpitude of the

action, as it referred to Israel; for if the evil were absolutely

unavoidable, no blame could attach to the unfortunate agent, who

could only consider himself the miserable instrument of a dire

necessity. See a case in point, 1Sa 23:11, 12, where the

prediction appears in the most absolute form, and yet the evil was

prevented by the person receiving the prediction as a warning.

The case is the following:-

The Philistines attacked Keilah and robbed the threshing-floors;

David, being informed of it, asked counsel of God whether he

should go and relieve it; he is ordered to go, and is assured of

success; he goes, routs the Philistines, and delivers Keilah.

Saul, hearing that David was in Keilah, determines to besiege the

place. David, finding that Saul meditated his destruction, asked

counsel of the Lord, thus: "O Lord God of Israel, thy servant hath

certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy

the city for my sake. Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into

his hand? Will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? And

the Lord said, He will come down. Then said David, Will the men

of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the

Lord said, They will deliver thee up. Then David and his men

(about six hundred) arose and departed out of Keilah, and went

whithersoever they could go: and it was told Saul that David was

escaped from Keilah, and he forbore to go forth." Here was the

most positive prediction that Saul would come to Keilah, and that

the men of Keilah would deliver David into his hands; yet neither

of these events took place, because David departed from Keilah.

But had he continued there, Saul would have come down, and the men

of Keilah would have betrayed their deliverer. Thus the

prediction was totally conditional; and so were all these

prophecies relative to the apostasy of Israel. They were only

fulfilled in those who did not receive them as warnings.

See Jer 18:8-10.

The Rock of his salvation.] He ceased to depend on the fountain

whence his salvation issued; and thinking highly of himself, he

lightly esteemed his God; and having ceased to depend on him, his

fall became inevitable. The figure is admirably well supported

through the whole verse. We see, first, a miserable, lean steed,

taken under the care and into the keeping of a master who provides

him with an abundance of provender. We see, secondly, this horse

waxing fat under this keeping. We see him, thirdly, breaking away

from his master, leaving his rich pasturage, and running to the

wilderness, unwilling to bear the yoke or harness, or to make any

returns for his master's care and attention. We see, fourthly,

whence this conduct proceeds-from a want of consciousness that his

strength depends upon his master's care and keeping; and a lack of

consideration that leanness and wretchedness must be the

consequence of his leaving his master's service, and running off

from his master's pasturage. How easy to apply all these points

to the case of the Israelites! and how illustrative of their

former and latter state! And how powerfully do they apply to the

case of many called Christians, who, having increased in riches,

forget that God from whose hand alone those mercies flowed!

Verse 17. They sacrificed unto devils] The original word

shedim has been variously understood. The Syriac, Chaldee,

Targums of Jerusalem and Jonathan, and the Samaritan, retain the

original word: the Vulgate, Septuagint, Arabic, Persic, Coptic,

and Anglo-Saxon, have devils or demons. The Septuagint has εθυσαν

δαιμονιοις, they sacrificed to demons: the Vulgate copies the

Septuagint: the Arabic has [Arabic] sheeateen, the plural of

[Arabic] Sheetan, Satan, by which the rebellious angels appear to

be intended, as the word comes from the root [Arabic] shatana, he

was obstinate, proud, refractory, went far away. And it is likely

that these fallen spirits, having utterly lost the empire at which

they aimed, got themselves worshipped under various forms and

names in different places. The Anglo-Saxon has [Anglo-Saxon],


New gods that came newly up] mikkarob bau, "which

came up from their neighbours;" viz., the Moabites and Amorites,

whose gods they received and worshipped on their way through the

wilderness, and often afterwards.

Verse 18. Of the Rock that begat thee] tsur, the

first cause, the fountain of thy being.

See Clarke on De 32:4.

Verse 19. When the Lord saw it, &c.] More literally, And the

Lord saw it, and through indignation he reprobated his sons and

his daughters. That is, When the Lord shall see such conduct, he

shall be justly incensed, and so reject and deliver up to

captivity his sons and daughters.

Verse 20. Children in whom is no faith] lo emon bam,

"There is no steadfastness in them," they can never be depended

on. They are fickle, because they are faithless.

Verse 21. They have moved me to jealousy] This verse contains

a very pointed promise of the calling of the Gentiles, in

consequence of the rejection of the Jews, threatened De 32:19; and

to this great event it is applied by St. Paul, Ro 10:19.

Verse 22. The lowest hell] sheol tachtith, the

very deepest destruction; a total extermination, so that the

earth-their land, and its increase, and all their property, should

be seized; and the foundations of their mountains-their strongest

fortresses, should be razed to the ground. All this was fulfilled

in a most remarkable manner in the last destruction of Jerusalem

by the Romans, so that of the fortifications of that city not one

stone was left on another. See the notes on Mt 24:1-51.

Verse 23. I will spend mine arrows upon them.] The judgments

of God in general are termed the arrows of God, Job 6:4;

Ps 38:2, 3; 91:5; see also Eze 5:16; Jer 50:14;

2Sa 22:14, 15. In this and the following verses, to the 28th

inclusive, God threatens this people with every species of

calamity that could possibly fall upon man. How strange it is

that, having this law continually in their hands, they should not

discern those threatened judgments, and cleave to the Lord that

they might be averted!

It was customary among the heathens to represent any judgment

from their gods under the notion of arrows, especially a

pestilence; and one of their greatest deities, Apollo, is ever

represented as bearing a bow and quiver full of deadly arrows; so

Homer, Il. i., ver. 43, where he represents him, in answer to the

prayer of his priest Chryses, coming to smite the Greeks with the


ωςεφατευχομενος. τουδεκλυεφοιβοςαπολλων.



εζετεπειταπανευθενεων. μεταδιονεηκε.


"Thus Chryses pray'd; the favouring power attends,

And from Olympus' lofty tops descends.

Bent was his bow the Grecian hearts to wound;

Fierce as he moved, his silver shafts resound;---

The fleet in view, he twang'd his deadly' bow,

And hissing fly the feather'd fates below.

On mules and dogs the infection first began;

And last the vengeful arrows fix'd in man."

How frequently the same figure is employed in the sacred

writings, every careful reader knows; and quotations need not be


Verse 24. They shall be burnt with hunger] Their land shall be

cursed, and famine shall prevail. This is one of the arrows.

Burning heat] No showers to cool the atmosphere; or rather

boils, blains, and pestilential fevers; this was a second.

Bitter destruction] The plague; this was a third.

Teeth of beasts-with the poison of serpents] The beast of the

field should multiply upon and destroy them; this was a fourth:

and poisonous serpents, infesting all their steps, and whose

mortal bite should produce the utmost anguish, were to be a fifth

arrow. Added to all these, the sword of their enemies-terror

among themselves, De 32:25,

and captivity were to complete their ruin, and thus the arrows of

God were to be spent upon them. There is a beautiful saying in

the Toozuki Teemour, which will serve to illustrate this point,

while it exhibits one of the finest metaphors that occurs in any

writer, the sacred writers excepted.

"It was once demanded of the fourth Khaleefeh, (Aaly,) on whom

be the mercy of the Creator, 'If the canopy of heaven were a BOW;

and if the earth were the cord thereof; and if calamities were

ARROWS; if mankind were the mark for those arrows; and if

Almighty GOD, the tremendous and the glorious, were the unerring

ARCHER; to whom could the sons of Adam flee for protection?' The

Khaleefeh answered, saying, 'The sons of Adam must flee unto the


Verse 27. Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy]

Houbigant and others contend that wrath here refers not to the

enemy, but to God; and that the passage should be thus translated:

"Indignation for the adversary deters me, lest their enemies

should be alienated, and say, The strength of our hands, and not

of the Lord's, hath done this." Had not God punished them in such

a way as proved that his hand and not the hand of man had done it,

the heathens would have boasted of their prowess, and Jehovah

would have been blasphemed, as not being able to protect his

worshippers, or to punish their infidelities. Titus, when he took

Jerusalem, was so struck with the strength of the place, that he

acknowledged that if God had not delivered it into his hands, the

Roman armies never could have taken it.

Verse 29. That they would consider their latter end!]

archaritham, properly, their latter times-the glorious days of the

Messiah, who, according to the flesh, should spring up among them.

Should they carefully consider this subject, and receive the

promised Saviour, they would consequently act as persons under

infinite obligations to God; his strength would be their shield,

and then:-

Verse 30. How should one chase a thousand] If therefore they

had not forgotten their Rock, God their author and defence, it

could not possibly have come to pass that a thousand of them

should flee before one of their enemies.

Verse 31. For their rock] The gods and pretended protectors of

the Romans.

Is not as our Rock] Have neither power nor influence like our


Our enemies themselves being judges.] For they often

acknowledged the irresistible power of that God who fought for

Israel. See Ex 14:25; Nu 23:8-12, 19-21; 1Sa 4:8.

There is a passage in Virgil, Eclog. iv., ver. 58, very similar

to this saying of Moses:-

Pan Deus Arcadia mecum si judice certet,

Pan etiam Arcadia dicat se judice victum.

"Should the god Pan contend with me," (in singing

the praises of the future hero, the deliverer,

prophesied of in the Sibylline books,) "were even

Arcadia judge, Pan would acknowledge himself to be

vanquished, Arcadia herself being judge."

Verse 32. For their vine is of the vine of Sodom] The Jews are

as wicked and rebellious as the Sodomites; for by the vine the

inhabitants of the land are signified; see Isa 5:2, 7.

Their grapes] Their actions, are gall and worm-wood-producing

nothing but mischief and misery to themselves and others.

Their clusters are bitter] Their united exertions, as well as

their individual acts, are sin, and only sin, continually. That

by vine is meant the people, and by grapes their moral

conduct, is evident from Isa 5:1-7. It is very likely that the

grapes produced about the lake Asphaltites, where Sodom and

Gomorrah formerly stood, were not only of an acrid, disagreeable

taste, but of a deleterious quality; and to this, it is probable,

Moses here alludes.

Verse 33. Their wine] Their system of doctrines and teaching,

is the poison of dragons, &c., fatal and destructive to all them

who follow it.

Verse 34. Sealed up among my treasures?] Deeds or engagements

by which persons were bound at a specified time to fulfil certain

conditions, were sealed and laid up in places of safety; so here

God's justice is pledged to avenge the quarrel of his broken

covenant on the disobedient Jews, but the time and manner were

sealed in his treasures, and known only to himself. Hence it is


Verse 35. Their foot shall slide in due time, &c.] But Calmet

thinks that this verse is spoken against the Canaanites, the

enemies of the Jewish people.

Verse 36. The Lord shall judge his people] He has an absolute

right over them as their Creator, and authority to punish them for

their rebellions as their Sovereign; yet he will repent himself-he

will change his manner of conduct towards them, when he seeth that

their power is gone-when they are entirely subjugated by their

adversaries, so that their political power is entirely destroyed;

and there is none shut up or left-not one strong place untaken,

and not one family left, all being carried into captivity, or

scattered into strange lands. Or, he will do justice to his

people, and avenge them of their adversaries; see De 32:35.

Verse 37. He shall say] He shall begin to expostulate with

them, to awaken them to a due sense of their ingratitude and

rebellion. This may refer to the preaching of the Gospel to them

in the latter days.

Verse 39. See now that I-am he] Be convinced that God alone

can save, and God alone can destroy, and that your idols can

neither hurt nor help you.

I kill, and I make alive, &c.] My mercy is as great as my

justice, for I am as ready to save the penitent as I was to punish

the rebellious.

Verse 40. For I lift up my hand to heaven]

See concerning oaths and appeals to God in Clarke's note on "De 6:13".

Verse 42. From the beginning of revenges] The word

paroth, rendered revenges, a sense in which it never appears to be

taken, has rendered this place very perplexed and obscure. Mr.

Parkhurst has rendered the whole passage thus:-

I will make my arrows drunk with blood;

And my sword shall devour flesh,

With the blood of the slain and captive

From the hairy head of the enemy.

Probably merosh paroth may be more properly

translated, from the naked head-the enemy shall have nothing to

shield him from my vengeance; the crown of dignity shall fall off,

and even the helmet be no protection against the sword and arrows

of the Lord.

Verse 43. Rejoice, O ye nations] Ye Gentiles, for the casting

off of the Jews shall be the means of your ingathering with his

people, for they shall not be utterly cast off. (See Ro 15:9,

for in this way the apostle applies it.) But how shall the

Gentiles be called, and the Jews have their iniquity purged? He

will be merciful unto his land and to his people, vechipper,

he shall cause an atonement to be made for his land and people;

i. e., Jesus Christ, the long promised Messiah, shall be crucified

for Jews and Gentiles, and the way to the holiest be made plain by

his blood.

The people have long been making atonements for themselves, but

to none effect, for their atonements were but signs, and not the

thing signified, for the body is Christ; now the Lord himself

makes an atonement, for the Lamb of God alone taketh away the sin

of the world. This is a very proper and encouraging conclusion to

the awfully important matter of this poem.

Israel shall be long scattered, peeled, and punished, but they

shall have mercy in the latter times; they also shall rejoice with

the Gentiles, in the common salvation purchased by the blood of

the Saviour of all mankind.

Verse 44. And Moses came] Probably from the tabernacle, where

God had given him this prophetic ode, and he rehearsed it in the

ears of the people.

Verse 46. Set your hearts unto all the words] Another proof

that all these awful denunciations of Divine wrath, though

delivered in an absolute form, were only declaratory of what God

would do IF they rebelled against him.

Verse 47. Through this thing ye shall prolong your days]

Instead of being cut off, as God here threatens, ye shall be

preserved and rendered prosperous in the land which, when they

passed over Jordan, they should possess.

Verse 49. Get thee up into this mountain Abarim] The mount of

the passages, i. e., of the Israelites when they entered into the

promised land. See Clarke on Nu 27:12.

Verse 50. And die in the mount-as Aaron] Some have supposed

that Moses was translated; but if so, then Aaron was translated,

for what is said of the death of the one is said of the death of

the other.

Verse 51. Ye trespassed against me-at the waters of Meribah]

See Clarke on Nu 20:12.

Verse 52. Thou shalt see the land before thee] See Nu 27:12,

&c. How glorious to depart out of this life with God in his heart

and heaven in his eye! his work, his great, unparalleled

usefulness, ending only with his life. The serious reader will

surely join in the following pious ejaculation of the late Rev.

Charles Wesley, one of the best Christian poets of the last


"O that without a lingering groan

I may the welcome word receive;

My body with my charge lay down,

And cease at once to work and live!"

IT would require a dissertation expressly formed for the

purpose to point out the general merit and extraordinary beauties

of this very sublime ode. To enter into such particulars can

scarcely comport with the nature of the present work. Drs. Lowth,

Kennicott, and Durell, have done much in this way; and to their

respective works the critical reader is referred. A very

considerable extract from what they have written on this chapter

may be found in Dr. Dodd's notes. In writing this ode the design

of Moses was,

1. To set forth the Majesty of God; to give that generation and

all successive ones a proper view of the glorious perfections of

the object of their worship. He therefore shows that from his

holiness and purity he must be displeased with sin; from his

justice and righteousness he must punish it; and from the

goodness and infinite benevolence of his nature he is ever

disposed to help the weak, instruct the ignorant, and show

mercy to the wretched, sinful sons and daughters of men.

2. To show the duty and interest of his people. To have such a

Being for their friend is to have all possible happiness, both

spiritual and temporal, secured; to have him for their enemy is to

be exposed to inevitable destruction and ruin.

3. To warn them against irreligion and apostasy; to show the

possibility of departing from God, and the miseries that would

overwhelm them and their posterity should they be found walking in

opposition to the laws of their Creator.

4. To give a proper and impressive view of the providence of God,

by referring to the history of his gracious dealings with them and

their ancestors; the minute attention he paid to all their wants,

the wonderful manner in which he led, fed, clothed, protected, and

saved them, in all their travels and in all perils.

5. To leave on record an everlasting testimony against them,

should they ever cast off his fear and pollute his worship, which

should serve at once as a warning to the world, and a vindication

of his justice, when the judgments he had threatened were found to

be poured out upon them; for he who loved them so long and so

intensely could not become their enemy but in consequence of the

greatest and most unprincipled provocations.

6. To show the shocking and unprecedented ingratitude which

induced a people so highly favoured, and so wondrously protected

and loved, to sin against their God; and how reasonable and just

it was, for the vindication of his holiness, that God should pour

out upon them such judgments as he had never inflicted on any

other people, and so mark their disobedience and ingratitude with

fresh marks of his displeasure, that the punishment should bear

some proportion to the guilt, and that their preservation as a

distinct people might afford a feeling proof both of the

providence and justice of God.

7. To show the glory of the latter days in the re-election of

the long reprobated Jewish nation, and the final diffusion of his

grace and goodness over the earth by means of the Gospel of


And all this is done with such strength and elegance of diction,

with such appropriate, energetic, and impressive figures and

metaphors, and in such a powerful torrent of that soul-penetrating,

pure poetic spirit that comes glowing from the bosom of God, that

the reader is alternately elated or depressed, filled with

compunction or confidence, with despair or hope, according to the

quick transitions of the inimitable writer to the different topics

which form the subject of this incomparable and wondrously varied

ode. May that Spirit by which it was dictated give it its fullest,

most durable, and most effectual impression upon the mind of every


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