Deuteronomy 8

CHAPTER VIII

An exhortation to obedience from a consideration of God's past

mercies, 1, 2.

Man is not to live by bread only, but by every word of God, 3.

How God provided for them in the wilderness, 4.

The Lord chastened them that they might be obedient, 5, 6.

A description of the land into which they were going, 7-9.

Cautions lest they should forget God in their prosperity, 10-16,

and lest they should attribute that prosperity to themselves,

and not to God, 17,18.

The terrible judgments that shall fall upon them, should they

prove unfaithful, 19, 20.

NOTES ON CHAP. VIII

Verse 2. Thou shalt remember all the way] The various

dealings of God with you; the dangers and difficulties to which ye

were exposed, and from which God delivered you; together with the

various miracles which he wrought for you, and his longsuffering

towards you.

Verse 3. He-suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee] God never

permits any tribulation to befall his followers, which he does not

design to turn to their advantage. When he permits us to hunger,

it is that his mercy may be the more observable in providing us

with the necessaries of life. Privations, in the way of

providence, are the forerunners of mercy and goodness abundant.

Verse 4. Thy raiment waxed not old, &c.] The plain meaning of

this much-tortured text appears to me to be this: "God so amply

provided for them all the necessaries of life, that they never

were obliged to wear tattered garments, nor were their feet

injured for lack of shoes or sandals." If they had carvers,

engravers, silversmiths, and jewellers among them, as plainly

appears from the account we have of the tabernacle and its

utensils, is it to be wondered at if they also had habit and

sandal makers, &c., &c., as we are certain they had weavers,

embroiderers, and such like? And the traffic which we may suppose

they carried on with the Moabites, or with travelling hordes of

Arabians, doubtless supplied them with the materials; though, as

they had abundance of sheep and neat cattle, they must have had

much of the materials within themselves. It is generally supposed

that God, by a miracle, preserved their clothes from wearing out:

but if this sense be admitted, it will require, not one miracle,

but a chain of the most successive and astonishing miracles ever

wrought, to account for the thing; for as there were not less than

600,000 males born in the wilderness, it would imply, that the

clothes of the infant grew up with the increase of his body to

manhood, which would require a miracle to be continually wrought

on every thread, and on every particle of matter of which that

thread was composed. And this is not all; it would imply that the

clothes of the parent became miraculously lessened to fit the body

of the child, with whose growth they were again to stretch and

grow, &c. No such miraculous interference was necessary.

Verse 8. A land of wheat, &c.] On the subject of this verse I

shall introduce the following remarks, which I find in Mr.

Harmer's Observations on the Fertility of the Land of Judea,

vol. iii., p. 243.

"Hasselquist tells us that he ate olives at Joppa (upon his

first arrival in the Holy Land) which were said to grow on the

Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem; and that, independently of their

oiliness, they were of the best kind he had tasted in the Levant.

As olives are frequently eaten in their repasts, the delicacy of

this fruit in Judea ought not to be forgotten; and the oil that is

gotten from these trees much less, because still more often made

use of. In the progress of his journey he found several fine

vales, abounding with olive trees. He saw also olive trees in

Galilee; but none farther, he says, than the mountain where it is

supposed our Lord preached his sermon.

"The fig trees in the neighbourhood of Joppa, Hasselquist goes

on to inform us, were as beautiful as any he had seen in the

Levant.

"The reason why pomegranates are distinctly mentioned, in this

description of the productions of the land of promise, may be

their great usefulness in forming cooling drinks, for they are

used among the Asiatics nearly in the same way that we use lemons;

see vol. ii., 145.

"Honey is used in large quantities in these countries; and Egypt

was celebrated for the assiduous care with which the people there

managed their bees. Maillet's account of it is very amusing.

'There are,' says he, 'abundance of bees in that country; and a

singular manner of feeding them, introduced by the Egyptians of

ancient times, still continues there. Towards the end of October,

when the Nile, upon its decrease, gives the peasants an

opportunity of sowing the lands, sainfoin is one of the first

things sown, and one of the most profitable. As the Upper Egypt

is hotter than the Lower, and the inundation there goes sooner off

the lands, the sainfoin appears there first. The knowledge they

have of this causes them to send their bee-hives from all parts of

Egypt, that the bees may enjoy, as soon as may be, the richness of

the flowers, which grow in this part of the country sooner than in

any other district of the kingdom. The hives, upon their arrival

at the farther end of Egypt, are placed one upon another in the

form of pyramids, in boats prepared for their reception, after

having been numbered by the people who place them in the boats.

The bees feed in the fields there for some days; afterwards, when

it is believed they have nearly collected the honey and wax, which

were to be found for two or three leagues round, they cause the

boats to go down the stream, two or three leagues lower, and leave

them there, in like manner, such a proportion of time as they

think to be necessary for the gathering up the riches of that

canton. At length, about the beginning of February, after having

gone the whole length of Egypt, they arrive at the sea, from

whence they are conducted, each of them, to their usual place of

abode; for they take care to set down exactly, in a register, each

district from whence the hives were carried in the beginning of

the season, their number and the names of the persons that sent

them, as well as the number of the boats, where they are ranged

according to the places they are brought from. What is

astonishing in this affair is, that with the greatest fidelity of

memory that can be imagined, each bee finds its own hive, and

never makes any mistake. That which is still more amazing to me

is, that the Egyptians of old should be so attentive to all the

advantages deducible from the situation of their country; that

after having observed that all things came to maturity sooner in

Upper Egypt, and much later in Lower, which made a difference of

above six weeks between the two extremities of their country, they

thought of collecting the wax and the honey so as to lose none of

them, and hit upon this ingenious method of making the bees do it

successively, according to the blossoming of the flowers, and the

arrangement of nature.'"

If this solicitude were as ancient as the dwelling of Israel in

Egypt, they must have been anxious to know whether honey, about

which they took such care in Egypt, was plentiful in the land of

promise; and they must have been pleased to have been assured it

was. It continues to be produced there in large quantities:

Hasselquist, in the progress of his journey from Acra to Nazareth,

tells us that he found "great numbers of bees, bred thereabouts,

to the great advantage of the inhabitants." He adds, "they make

their bee-hives, with little trouble, of clay, four feet long, and

half a foot in diameter, as in Egypt. They lay ten or twelve of

them, one on another, on the bare ground, and build over every ten

a little roof." Mr. Maundrell, observing also many bees in the

Holy Land, takes notice that by their means the most barren places

in other respects of that country become useful, perceiving in

many places of the great salt plain near Jericho a smell of honey

and wax as strong as if he had been in an apiary.

By Hasselquist's account it appears, that the present

inhabitants of Palestine are not strangers to the use of hives.

They are constructed of very different materials from ours, but

just the same with the Egyptian hives. They seem to be an ancient

contrivance; and indeed so simple an invention must be supposed to

be as old as the days of Moses, when arts, as appears from his

writings, of a much more elevated nature were known in Egypt. I

cannot then well persuade myself to adopt the opinion of some of

the learned, that those words of Moses, in De 32:13,

He made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil cut of the

flinty rock, are to be understood of his causing Israel to dwell in

a country where sometimes they might find honey-comb in holes of

the rock. It is very possible that in that hot country these

insects, when not taken due care of, may get into hollow places of

the rocks, and form combs there, as they sometimes construct them

in ours in hollow trees, though I do not remember to have met with

any traveller that has made such an observation. But would this

have been mentioned with so much triumph by Moses in this place?

The quantities of honey produced after this manner could be but

small, compared with what would be collected in hives properly

managed; when found, it must often cost a great deal of pains to

get the honey out of these little cavities in the hard stone, and

much the greatest part must be absolutely lost to the inhabitants.

The interpretation is the more strange, because when it is said in

the next clause, "and oil out of the flinty rock," it is evidently

meant that they should have oil produced in abundance by olive

trees growing on flinty rocks; and consequently, the sucking honey

out of the rock should only mean their enjoying great quantities

of honey, produced by bees that collected it from flowers growing

among the rocks: the rocky mountains of this country, it is well

known, produce an abundance of aromatic plants proper for the

purpose. Nor does Asaph, in the close of the eighty-first Psalm,

speak, I apprehend, of honey found in cavities of rocks; nor yet

is he there describing it as collected from the odoriferous plants

that grow in the rocky hills of those countries, if the reading of

our present Hebrew copies be right: but the prophet tells Israel

that, had they been obedient, God would have fed them with the fat

of wheat, and with the rock of honey would he have satisfied them,

that is, with the most delicious wheat, and with the richest, most

invigorating honey, in large quantities, both for eating and

making agreeable drink. Its reviving, strengthening quality

appears in the story of Jonathan, Saul's son, 1Sa 14:27; as the

using the term rock to signify strength, &c., appears in a

multitude of places. The rock of a sword, Ps 89:43,

for the edge of the sword, in which its energy lies, is, perhaps,

as strange an expression to western ears.

I shall have occasion to speak of the excellence of the grapes

of Judea in a succeeding chapter; I may therefore be excused from

pursuing the farther examination of the productions of this

country, upon giving my reader a remark of Dr. Shaw's to this

purpose, that it is impossible for pulse, wheat, or grain of any

kind, to be richer or better tasted than what is sold at

Jerusalem. Only it may not be amiss to add, with respect to this

country's being well watered, that the depth, tehom, spoken of

in this passage, seems to mean reservoirs of water filled by the

rains of winter, and of great use to make their lands fertile; as

the second word tealotheiha seems to mean wells, or some

such sort of conveniences, supplied by springs, and the first

word; naharotheiha rivers or running streams, whether

carrying a larger or smaller body of water. What an important

part of this pleasing description, especially in the ears of those

that had wandered near forty years in a most dry and parched

wilderness! I will only add, without entering into particulars,

that the present face of the country answers this description.

Verse 9. A land whose stones are iron] Not only meaning that

there were iron mines throughout the land, but that the loose

stones were strongly impregnated with iron, ores of this metal

(the most useful of all the products of the mineral kingdom) being

every where in great plenty.

Out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.] As there is no such

thing in nature as a brass mine, the word nechosheth should

be translated copper; of which, by the addition of the lapis

calaminaris, brass is made. See Clarke on Ex 25:3.

Verse 15. Who led thee through that-terrible wilderness] See

the account of their journeying in the notes, See Clarke on Ex 16:1,

&c.; Nu 21:10-35, &c.

Fiery serpents] Serpents whose bite occasioned a most violent

inflammation, accompanied with an unquenchable thirst, and which

terminated in death. See Clarke on Nu 21:6.

Verse 16. Who fed thee-with manna] See this miracle described

See Clarke on Ex 16:13, &c.

Verse 18. God-giveth thee power to get wealth] Who among the

rich and wealthy believes this saying? Who gives wisdom,

understanding, skill, bodily strength, and health? Is it not God?

And without these, how can wealth be acquired? Whose is

providence? Who gives fertility to the earth? And who brings

every proper purpose to a right issue? Is it not God? And without

these also can wealth be acquired? No. Then the proposition in

the text is self-evident: it is God that giveth power to get

wealth, and to God the wealthy man must account for the manner in

which he has expended the riches which God hath given him.

Copyright information for Clarke