Deuteronomy 4


Exhortations to obedience, 1.

Nothing to be added to or taken from the testimonies of God, 2.

The people are exhorted to recollect how God had destroyed the

ungodly among them, 3;

and preserved those who were faithful, 4.

The excellence of the Divine law, 5, 6.

No nation in the world could boast of any such statutes,

judgments, &c., 7, 8.

They are exhorted to obedience by the wonderful manifestations

of God in their behalf, 9-13.

Moses exhorts them to beware of idolatry, and to make no

likeness of any thing in heaven or earth as an object of

adoration, 14-20.

He informs them that he must die in that land as God had refused

to let him go into the promised land, being angry with him on

their account, 21, 22.

Repeats his exhortation to obedience, 23, 24.

Predicts the judgments of God against them, should they turn to

idolatry, 25-28.

Promises of God's mercy to the penitent, 29-31.

The grand and unparalleled privileges of the Israelites, 32-40.

Moses severs three cities on the east side of Jordan for cities

of refuge, 41, 42.

Their names, 43.

When and where Moses gave these statutes and judgments to

Israel, 44-49.


Verse 1. Hearken-unto the statutes] Every thing that

concerned the rites and ceremonies of religion; judgments-all that

concerned matters of civil right and wrong.

Verse 2. Ye shall not add] Any book, chapter, verse or word,

which I have not spoken; nor give any comment that has any

tendency to corrupt, weaken, or destroy any part of this


Neither shall ye diminish] Ye shall not only not take away any

larger portion of this word, but ye shall not take one jot or

tittle from the LAW; it is that word of God that abideth for ever.

Verse 6. Keep-and do them; for this is your wisdom] There was

no mode of worship at this time on the face or the earth that was

not wicked, obscene, puerile, foolish, or ridiculous, except that

established by God himself among the Israelites. And every part

of this, taken in its connection and reference, may be truly

called a wise and reasonable service.

The nations-and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and

understanding people.] Almost all the nations in the earth showed

that they had formed this opinion of the Jews, by borrowing from

them the principal part of their civil code. Take away what Asia

and Europe, whether ancient or modern, have borrowed from the

Mosaic laws, and you leave little behind that can be called


Verse 9. Only take heed to thyself] Be circumspect and


Keep thy soul diligently] Be mindful of thy eternal

interests. Whatever becomes of the body, take care of the soul.

Lest thou forget] God does his work that they may be had in

everlasting remembrance; and he that forgets them, forgets his own

mercies. Besides, if a man forget the work of God on his soul, he

loses that work.

Lest they depart from thy heart] It is not sufficient to lay up

Divine things in the memory, they must be laid up in the heart.

Thy word have I hidden in my heart, says David, that I might not

sin against thee. The life of God in the soul of man can alone

preserve the soul to life everlasting; and this grace must be

retained all the days of our life. When Adam fell, his condition

was not meliorated by the reflection that he had been once in

paradise; nor does it avail Satan now that he was once an angel of

light. Those who let the grace of God depart from their hearts,

lose that grace; and those who lose the grace, fall from the

grace; and as some have fallen and risen no more, so may others;

therefore, take heed to thyself, &c. Were it impossible for men

finally to fall from the grace of God, exhortations of this kind

had never been given, because they would have been unnecessary,

and God never does an unnecessary thing.

But teach them thy sons] If a man know the worth of his own

soul, he will feel the importance of the salvation of the souls of

his family. Those who neglect family religion, neglect personal

religion; if more attention were paid to the former, even among

those called religious people, we should soon have a better state

of civil society. On family religion God lays much stress; and no

head of a family can neglect it without endangering the final

salvation of his own soul.

See Clarke on Ge 18:32,

and See Clarke on Ge 19:38,

and See Clarke on De 6:7.

Verse 15. Ye saw no manner of similitude] Howsoever God chose

to appear or manifest himself, he took care never to assume any

describable form. He would have no image worship, because he is a

SPIRIT, and they who worship him must worship him in Spirit and in

truth. These outward things tend to draw the mind out of itself,

and diffuse it on sensible, if not sensual, objects; and thus

spiritual worship is prevented, and the Holy Ghost grieved.

Persons acting in this way can never know much of the religion of

the heart.

Verse 16. The likeness of male or female] Such as Baal-peor

and the Roman Priapus, Ashtaroth or Astarte, and the Greek and

Roman Venus; after whom most nations of the world literally went a


Verse 17. The likeness of any beast, &c.] Such as the Egyptian

god Apis, who was worshipped under the form of a white bull; the

ibis and hawk, among the FOWLS, had also Divine honours paid to

them; serpents and the crocodile among REPTILES; besides monkeys,

dogs, cats, the scarabaeus, leeks, and onions! See this

explained at large, See Clarke on Ex 20:4.

Verse 19. When thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars]

The worship of the heavenly bodies was the oldest species of

idolatry. Those who had not the knowledge of the true God were

led to consider the sun, moon, planets, and stars, as not only

self-existing, but the authors of all the blessings possessed by

mankind. The knowledge of a rational system of astronomy served

to destroy this superstition; and very little of it remains now in

the world, except among a few Christian and Mohammedan

astrologers; those miserable sinners who endeavour, as much as

possible, to revive the old idolatry, while vainly professing to

believe in the true God! Nor is it to be doubted that God will

proceed with them as he has done of old with the worshippers of

the host of heaven. Sound philosophy is next in importance to

sound divinity; and next to the study of the work of grace is that

of the operations of God in nature; for these visible things make

known his eternal power and Godhead.

Verse 20. Out of the iron furnace] From this mention of the

word iron furnace there can be little doubt that the Israelites

were employed in Egypt in the most laborious works of metallurgy.

Digging, smelting, and forging of iron in so hot a climate must

have been oppressive work indeed.

Verse 21. The Lord was angry with me] And if with me, so as to

debar me from entering into the promised land, can you think to

escape if guilty of greater provocations?

Verse 24. Thy God is a consuming fire] They had seen him on

the mount as an unconsuming fire, while appearing to Moses, and

giving the law; and they had seen him as a consuming fire in the

case of Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their company. They had,

therefore, every good to expect from his approbation, and every

evil to dread from his displeasure.

Verse 26. I call heaven and earth to witness against you] A

most solemn method of adjuration, in use among all nations in the

world. So Virgil, AEn., lib. xii., ver. 176, &c.

Tum pius AEneas stricto sic ense precatur:

Esto nunc Sol testis et haec mihi terra vocanti-

Fontesque fluviosque voco, quaeque aetheris alti

Relllgio, et quae caeruleo sunt numina ponto, &c.

"Then the great Trojan prince unsheathed his sword,

And thus, with lifted hands, the gods adored:

Thou land for which I wage this war, and thou

Great source of day, be witness to my vow!-

Almighty king of heaven and queen of air,

Propitious now and reconciled by prayer,-

Ye springs, ye floods, ye various powers who lie

Beneath the deep, or tread the golden sky,-


God and man being called upon to bear testimony to the truth of

what was spoken, that if there was any flaw or insincerity, it

might be detected; and if any crime, it might not go unpunished.

Such appeals to God, for such purposes, show at once both the

origin and use of oaths. See Clarke on De 6:13.

Verse 27. The Lord shall scatter you among the nations] This

was amply verified in their different captivities and dispersions.

Verse 28. There ye shall serve gods-wood and stone] This was

also true of the Israelites, not only in their captivities, but

also in their own land. And it may now be literally the case with

the ten tribes who were carried away captive by the Assyrians, and

of whose residence no man at present knows any thing with

certainty. That they still exist there can be no doubt; but they

are now, most probably, so completely incorporated with the

idolaters among whom they dwell, as to be no longer distinguish

able: yet God can gather them.

Verse 29. But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord] God is

longsuffering, and of tender mercy; and waits, ever ready, to

receive a backsliding soul when it returns to him. Is not this

promise left on record for the encouragement and salvation of lost


Verse 30. When thou art in tribulation in the latter days] Are

not these the times spoken of? And is there not still hope for

Israel? Could we see them become zealous for their own law and

religious observances-could we see them humble themselves before

the God of Jacob-could we see them conduct their public worship

with any tolerable decency and decorum-could we see them zealous

to avoid every moral evil, inquiring the road to Zion, with their

faces thitherward; then might we hope that the redemption of

Israel was at hand: but alas! there is not the most distant

evidence of any thing of the kind, except in a very few solitary

instances. They are, perhaps, in the present day, more lost to

every sacred principle of their own institutions than they have

ever been since their return from the Babylonish captivity. By

whom shall Jacob arise? for in this sense he is small-deeply

fallen, and greatly degraded.

Verse 33. Did ever people hear the voice of God] It seems to

have been a general belief that if God appeared to men, it was for

the purpose of destroying them; and indeed most of the

extraordinary manifestations of God were in the way of judgment;

but here it was different; God did appear in a sovereign and

extraordinary manner; but it was for the deliverance and support

of the people. 1. They heard his voice speaking with them in a

distinct, articulate manner. 2. They saw the fire, the symbol of

his presence, the appearances of which demonstrated it to be

supernatural. 3. Notwithstanding God appeared so terrible, yet no

person was destroyed, for he came, not to destroy, but to save.

Verse 34. From the midst of another nation] This was a most

extraordinary thing, that a whole people, consisting of upwards of

600,000 effective men, besides women and children, should, without

striking a blow, be brought out of the midst of a very powerful

nation, to the political welfare of which their services were so

essential; that they should be brought out in so open and public a

manner; that the sea itself should be supernaturally divided to

afford this mighty host a passage; and that, in a desert utterly

unfriendly to human life, they should be sustained for forty

years. These were such instances of the almighty power and

goodness of God as never could be forgotten.

In this verse Moses enumerates seven different means used by the

Almighty in effecting Israel's deliverance.

1. TEMPTATIONS, massoth, from nasah, to try or

prove; the miracles which God wrought to try the faith and prove the

obedience of the children of Israel.

2. SIGNS, othoth, from athah, to come near;

such signs as God gave them of his continual presence and especial

providence, particularly the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire,

keeping near to them night and day, and always directing their

journeys, showing them when and where to pitch their tents, &c.,


3. WONDERS, mophethim, from yaphath, to

persuade; persuasive facts and events, says Parkhurst, whether

strictly miraculous, and exceeding the powers of nature, as

Ex 7:9; 11:9, 10; or not, as Isa 20:3; Eze 12:6, 11. It

probably means typical representations: in this signification the

word is used, Zec 3:8. Joshua, the high priest, and his

companions were anshey mopheth, typical men, raised up

by God as types of Christ, and proofs that God would bring his

servant THE BRANCH. All the dealings of God with this people, and

even the people themselves, were types-present significators of

distant facts and future occurrences.

4. WAR, milchamah, hostile engagements; such as those with

the Amalekites, the Amorites, and the Bashanites, in which the

hand of God was seen rather than the hand of man.

5. A MIGHTY HAND, yad chazakah; one that is strong to

deal its blows, irresistible in its operations, and grasps its

enemies hard, so that they cannot escape, and protects its friends

so powerfully that they cannot be injured. Neither stratagem nor

policy was used in this business, but the openly displayed power

of God.

6. A STRETCHED-OUT ARM, zeroa netuyah; a series of

almighty operations, following each other in quick astonishing

succession. Let it be noted that in the Scriptures, 1. The finger

of God denotes any manifestation of the Divine power, where

effects are produced beyond the power of art or nature. 2. The

hand of God signifies the same power, but put forth in a more

signal manner. 3. The arm of God, the Divine omnipotence

manifested in the most stupendous miracles. 4. The arm of God

stretched out, this same omnipotence exerted in a continuation of

stupendous miracles, both in the way of judgment and mercy. In

this latter sense it appears to be taken in the text: the

judgments were poured out on the Egyptians; the mercies wrought in

favour of the Israelites.

7. GREAT TERRORS, moraim gedolim; such terror,

dismay, and consternation as were produced by the ten plagues, to

which probably the inspired penman here alludes: or, as the

Septuagint has it, ενοραμασινμεγαλοις, with great or portentous

sights; such as that when God looked out of the cloud upon the

Egyptians, and their chariot wheels were taken off, Ex 14:24, 25.

More awful displays of God's judgments, power, and might, were

never witnessed by man.

Verse 41. Then Moses severed three cities] See the law

relative to the cities of refuge explained, See Clarke on Nu 35:11, &c.

Verse 43. Bezer in the wilderness] As the cities of refuge are

generally understood to be types of the salvation provided by

Christ for sinners; so their names have been thought to express

some attribute of the Redeemer of mankind. See them explained

Jos 20:7, 8.

I SUPPOSE the last nine verses of this chapter to have been

added by either Joshua or Ezra.

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