Moses had now finished his work as the legislator and ruler and leader of Israel. But

ere he finally retired from his place, he had to take order for the carrying forward of the

work by the nomination of a successor to himself in the leadership; by committing the

keeping of the Law to the priests; and by anew admonishing the people to obedience,

encouraging them to go forward to the conquest of Canaan, animating them with the

assurance of the Divine favor and blessing, and pronouncing on them his parting




Deuteronomy 31







Last Acts of Moses (vs. 1-13)


1 “And Moses went” - i.e. disposed or  set himself. The meaning  intimates that

the speaking was consequent on Moses having arranged, disposed, or set himself

to speak -“and spake these words unto all Israel.”


2 “And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day;” –

When Moses stood before Pharaoh he was eighty years old (Exodus 7:7); since

then forty years had elapsed during the wanderings in the wilderness - “I can no

more go out and come in:’ - I am no longer able to work among and for the nation

as I have hitherto done (compare Numbers 27:17). This does not conflict with the

statement in ch.34:7, that up to the time of his death his eyes were not dim nor his

natural strength abated, for this is the statement of an observer, and it often happens

that an individual feels himself to be failing, when to those around him he appears

to possess unabated vigor. That Moses could no longer go in and out among the

people was God’s prohibition of his going over Jordan. This is simply another and

collateral reason why he had now to retire from his post as leader – “also the

LORD hath said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan.”


3 “The LORD thy God, He will go over before thee, and He will destroy

these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them: and Joshua,

he shall go over before thee, as the LORD hath said.  4 And the LORD

shall do unto them as He did to Sihon and to Og, kings of the Amorites,

and unto the land of them, whom He destroyed.  5 And the LORD shall

give them up before your face, that ye may do unto them according unto

all the commandments which I have commanded you.  6 Be strong and of

a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God,

He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

But though Moses was no longer to be their leader, he assures them that the

Lord would fulfill His engagement to conduct them to the possession of Canaan,

even as He had already given them the territory of the kings of the Amorites; and

he therefore exhorts them to be of good courage and fearlessly go forward to the

conquest of the land (compare ch.1:21).


7 “And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all

Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this

people” -  Moses, having in view the appointment of Joshua as his successor,

also encourages him to go forward on the strength of the Divine promise.

 unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give

them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.” -  i.e. shalt conduct them to

the full possession of the land.  8 And the LORD, He it is that doth go before

thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee:

fear not, neither be dismayed.”



Joshua (vs. 3-8,23)


Joshua a type of Jesus, the true Leader into the rest of God Hebrews 4:8). God has

given him, as formerly he gave the son of Nun, for “a Leader and Commander to

the people” (Isaiah 55:4).


  • THE MAN. Joshua as leader was:


Ø      Divinely appointed (v. 3).

Ø      Divinely led. “He doth go before thee” (v. 8). The captain had

a higher Captain (Joshua 5:14).

Ø      Divinely assisted. “He will be with thee” (v. 8). Our Leader is

Emmanuel — “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

Ø      He was to be strong and courageous (v. 7). The ground of true

courage is God being with us. It is said of the Savior, “He shall not

fail nor be discouraged” (Isaiah 42:4).



9 “And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the

sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and

unto all the elders of Israel.”  Moses turns next to the priests and the elders,

and to them he commits the Law which he had written, with the injunction to

read it to the people at the end of every seven years during the festival of the year

of release, viz. at the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34), when they

appeared before the Lord.  10 “And Moses commanded them, saying,

At the end of every seven years,”  (compare ch.15:1). The Law was

committed to the priests and elders, not merely to preserve it in safe keeping,

but that they might see to its being observed by the people; else why commit

it to the elders whose it was to administer rule in the nation, as well as to the

priests who alone had access to the ark of the covenant where the Law was

deposited? Moses entrusted the reading to the priesthood and the college of

elders, as the spiritual and secular rulers of the congregation; and hence the

singular, “Thou shalt read this Law to all Israel. By the Law here is meant

the Pentateuch; but it does not necessarily follow that the whole of the

Pentateuch was to be thus read. As the reading was to be only once in

seven years, it may be concluded that it was not so much for the information of

the people that this was done, as for the purpose of PUBLICLY DECLARING


UNITED STATES TODAY CY – 2012) and by a solemn ceremony

impressing on their minds THE CONDITION ON WHICH THEY HELD




not beginning to find this out with our economy and our national leader-

ship for starters?  - CY – 2012); and for this the reading of select portions of

the Torah would be sufficient - “in the solemnity of the year of release, in

the feast of tabernacles,” - The Feast of Tabernacles was appointed as the

season for the reading, doubtless because there was a connection between the

end for which the Law was read and the spirit and meaning of that festival as a

festival of rejoicing because of their deliverance from the uncertainty and

unsettledness of their state in the wilderness, and their establishment in a

well-ordered state where they could in peace and quietness enjoy THE


11 When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the

place which He shall choose,” -  (ch.16:16) - “thou shalt read this law

before all Israel in their hearing.” (compare Joshua 8:34; II Kings 23:2;

Nehemiah 8:1-12***).  12 Gather the people together, men and women,

and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear,

and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to

do all the words of this law:  13 And that their children, which have not

known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God,

as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.”



       A New Generation Receiving the Heritage of the Past (vs. 1-13)


The closing scene of Moses’ life is drawing nigh. The time is at hand when he and Israel

must part, and the leadership must be undertaken by another. As far as can be done,

two things have to be ensured — viz, the conservation of Israel’s Law, and the conduct

of the people to their goal.  “God buries his ministers, but He carries on his work.”

Hence Moses first addresses all the people; then he turns to Joshua, confirming him as

the future leader (vs. 7-8); and finally to the priests, who are to be henceforth the

custodians and guardians of the holy Law. Having thus handed over the leadership of

an army, and the conservation of a faith, Moses has little else to do but to go up

and die.  Hence our theme — A new generation entrusted with the heritage of

the past.


  • There has been given, prior to our time, a “precious faith,” which has

been handed down to the present day (vs. 12-13; II Peter 1:1; Jude 1:3).


  • Those who have been the leaders and warriors in God’s Israel in past

days have commended this faith to us, with all the earnestness created by

their deep and strong convictions, which, in the hard school of experience

and trial, were formed, fostered, and verified (vs. 3-4).


  • We are to maintain pure worship, brotherly fellowship, and

holy life.


  • In the fulfillment of this work we shall enjoy THE DIVINE PRESENCE



  • God’s providence will also go before us to clear the way (v. 8).


  • It behooves us to go forward, to “be strong and fear not” (v. 6);


  • Where the responsibilities of the men of the past leave off, OUR




The Importance of Knowing the Word of God (vs. 9-13)


The priests are to be the keepers and teachers of the Law. It is one remarkable

feature of the constitution of the Hebrew commonwealth, that such stress is laid

upon popular education. THIS WAS AGAIN AND AGAIN MADE A

MATTER OF DIVINE PRECEPT!  (And to think that on purpose, secular

America has chosen to deny this to the public under the mistaken notion of

that non-constitution phrase “SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE.”

Our country is reeling from the EFFECTS OF SUCH NONSENSE!  - CY –

2012)  And about this there were two main regulations:


o       one, that it was to begin at home;

o       two, that it was to have as its one golden thread running through

all, that the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom.


Over and above, however, the home teaching from childhood, there was to


THE LAW!   At this public reading, the people were to be gathered together.

“Young men and maidens, old men and children;” the stranger that was

within their gates

was not to be forgotten. ALL were to hear the Word of God, that they

might LEARN, FEAR, LOVE and OBEY.   It is to secure this most desirable

end that Moses, having written the Law, delivers it to the priests, the sons of Levi,

and gives them the charge of which the paragraph before us is the sum. Our theme is”

The value of the Word of God as an educating power in home and nation.



  • That both young and old were to have ever before them the truth that

their life was for God, WAS TO BE PERMEATED BY DIVINE

INFLUENCE and regulated by the Divine will.


  • That the will of God, so revealed was to be found in the Book of the Law.


  • That all classes of the people, home-born and alien, freemen and slaves,

were to be taught what was the Divine will concerning them.


  • That the object of the teaching was that they might grow up with an

intelligent apprehension of the deep meaning life and their life was

expected to blossom into one of piety. Men were to “fear” THE

LORD THEIR GOD  and to “observe to do all the words of

this Law.”


Ø      In God’s Word we have the noblest ethical standard in the world.

Ø      We have a revelation of a great redeeming plan steadily unfolded from

Genesis to Revelation.

Ø      We have a disclosure of God in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ø      We have the manifestation of power from heaven to begin a new

creation of grace.  “But as many as receive Him, to them gave

He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe

on His name.”  (John 1:12)

Ø      We have a body of doctrine for the life that now is.

Ø      We have glorious glimpses of the life which is to come.






To teach natural knowledge and leave out religion, is mistake of the

ages.  “Take an athletic man, the most perfect specimen of athletic

training, bone, flesh and sinew, if that is all, he is but a third of a man

and useless to society; send him to the schools and cram his mind full,

he is but two-thirds of a man and dangerous as well as useless.  Put

Christ in his heart to control and urge his purpose and you have an

ideal man, a complete man, a whole man!


No book can take the Bible’s place. No study can supersede that of the ways of God

to man. In the Book of God, and in that alone, can man learn that which shall make

him wise unto salvation. Here alone can we learn the mystery of God’s will which was

hidden from ages and generations, but now is made manifest.



The Reading of the Law (vs. 10-13)



solemnity — at the Feast of Tabernacles (v. 10). Our feelings in reading

the Scriptures, or in hearing them read, ought always to be of a solemn and

reverential kind. But it is well to avail ourselves of every aid which may

lend solemnity and impressiveness to the reading of words so sacred.



sabbatical year “the year of release.” Leisure hours cannot be better

employed than in making ourselves acquainted with “what God the Lord

will speak” (Psalm 85:8). We should avail ourselves of the leisure of

others to endeavor to instruct them.


  • IT WAS TO BE READ PUBLICLY.  (v. 11.) The private reading

of the Law would doubtless be attended to in many pious homes. But the

practice would not be general (scarcity and expensiveness of manuscripts,

want of education, religious indifference). The Levites were to teach Israel

            the Law (ch.33:10; Leviticus 10:11; Malachi 2:7); but they might

not do so, or the people might not wait on their instructions. The public reading

of the Law, even once in seven years, was thus calculated to be of great advantage.

As long as the practice was observed, multitudes would derive benefit from it.

The reading was of the nature of a public testimony, but also, as we see in

Nehemiah 8:1-12, for purposes of real instruction. The public reading of Scripture,

with or without comment, is an important means of edification. Read with

intelligence and judgment, the Word commends itself. And such readings

are necessary. Many have Bibles, yet do not read them; many read and do

not understand.



YOUNG. (v. 12.) All are interested in listening to the Word of God.

Men and women, little children, strangers, no class but has a concern-in it.

None but may be edified by it. Children ought to be more recognized than

they are in religious services. Need for making them feel that they too are

interested in what is being said; that the Bible has a message for them as

well as for their elders.








cannot have too much of the Bible in our minds and memories. The Psalmist

said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against

thee.”  (Psalm 119:11)  The more we study it, the more like Christ shall we

become. He whose “delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law

doth he meditate day and night,” is blessed, and he shall be like the tree

whose roots are in the waters, duly fruitful and ever green (Psalm 1:2-3).

His conscience shall be reinforced and become increasingly tender; his heart

shall be elevated in its affections and longings; and his mind shall be trained

to what is high and holy. Thus is the whole being enriched and the life enlarged.

May we deposit the Word of God with as much care in our hearts as the

Levites did the rolls of Moses in the ark!



 The Transference of Leadership to Joshua (vs. 14-23)


After nominating Joshua as his successor, and assigning the keeping of the Law to the

priesthood and body of elders, Moses was summoned by the Lord to appear with

Joshua in the tabernacle, that Joshua might receive a charge and appointment to his

office. At the same time, God announced to Moses that after his death the people

would go astray, and turn to idolatry, and violate the covenant, so that God’s anger

should be kindled against them, and  He would leave them to suffer the

consequences of their folly and sin. In view of this, Moses was directed to write a

song and teach it to the people, that it might abide with them as a witness against them,

rising up, as songs will do, in the memory of the nation, even after they had apostatized

from the path in which the author of the song had led them.


14 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that

thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle

of the congregation,” –  properly, the tent of meeting (compare Exodus 33:7;

39:32)  -  “that I may give him a charge.” -  may constitute him (hW;xi; compare

Numbers 27:19; this was to be done in the sight of the people by appointing and

confirming him in this office.  “And Moses and Joshua went, and presented

themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation.”


15 “And the LORD appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud:

and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle.”

(compare Exodus 33:9; 40:38; Leviticus 16:2; Numbers 12:5).


16 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy

fathers;” -  (compare II Samuel 7:12; Psalm 13:3; 76:5; Daniel 12:2; Matthew

27:52; John 11:11; I Thessalonians 4:14). The death of men, both good and bad,

Is often called a sleep, because they shall certainly awake out of it by resurrection –

and this people will rise up, and go a whoring” -  (compare Exodus 34:15;

Judges 2:17) - “after the gods of the strangers of the land,” -  literally, after

gods of strangeness of the land; i.e. after gods foreign to the land, as opposed to

Jehovah, the alone proper God of the land He had given to them - “whither they

go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I

have made with them.”


17 “Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will

forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be

devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that

they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because

our God is not among us?  18 And I will surely hide my face in that day

for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned

unto other gods.”  I will hide my face from them; will not look on them with

complacency, will withdraw from them my favor and help (ch.32:20;

Isaiah 8:17; 64:7; Ezekiel 39:23).


19 “Now therefore write ye this song” - This refers to the song which follows in

next chapter. Moses and Joshua were both to write this song, Moses probably as the

author, Joshua as his amanuensis, because both of them were to endeavor to keep the

people from that apostasy which God had foretold - “for you, and teach it the

children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for

me against the children of Israel. 20 For when I shall have brought them into

the land which I swear unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey;

and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they

turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my

covenant.  21 And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are

befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it

shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their

imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them

into the land which I swear.  22 Moses therefore wrote this song the same

day, and taught it the children of Israel.  23 And He gave Joshua the son

of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt

bring the children of Israel into the land which I swear unto them: and I

will be with thee.”  And He gave - The subject here is God, not Moses, as is

evident partly from v. 14, and partly from the expression, the land which

I aware unto them; and I will be with thee (compare Exodus 3:12).



The Delivering of the Law to the Levites for Reference and Safe Keeping

(vs. 24-29)


After the installation of Joshua, only one thing remained for Moses to do that all things

might be set in order before his departure. This was the finishing of the writing of the

Book of the Law, and the committing it finally to the priests, to be by them placed by

the ark of the covenant, that it might be kept for all future generations as a witness

against the people, whose apostasy and rebellion were foreseen.  Whether this section

is to be regarded as wholly written by Moses himself, or as an appendix to his writing

added by some other writer, has been made matter of question. It is quite possible,

however, that Moses himself, ere he laid down the pen, may have recorded what he

said when delivering the Book of the Law to the priests, and there is nothing in the

manner or style of the record to render it probable that it was added by another. What

follows from v. 30 to the end of the book was probably added to the writing of Moses

by some one after his death, though, of course, both the song in Deuteronomy 32, and

the blessing in Deuteronomy 33, are the composition of Moses.


24 “And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of

this law in a book, until they were finished, 25 That Moses commanded the

Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD,” - i.e. the priests

whose business it was to guard and to carry the ark of the covenant; “the priests

the sons of Levi,” as in v. 9. According to Numbers 4:4, it was the Kohathites who

carried the ark on the journey through the desert; but they seem merely to have acted

in this respect as the servants or helpers of the priests, who alone might touch the ark,

and by whom it was carefully wrapped up before it was handed to the Kohathites.

On special occasions the priests themselves carried the ark (compare Joshua 3:3;

4:9-10; 6:6,12; 8:33; I Kings 8:3) -  “saying,”


26 “Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark” - at or by

the side of the ark. According to the Targum of Jonathan, it was in a coffer by

the right side of the ark that the book was placed; but the Talmudists say it was

put within the ark, along with the two tables of the Decalogue (‘Baba Bathra,’ 14);

but see I Kings 8:8 -  “of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may

be there for a witness against thee.”


27 “For I know thy rebellion,” - rather, rebelliousness, i.e. tendency to

rebel. In Numbers 17:10, the people are described as בְנֵי מְרִי,

sons of rebelliousness;” Authorized Version, “rebels”-  “and thy stiff

neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been

rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?”


28 “Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that

I may speak these words” -  the words of his charge, and especially the song

he had composed, and which it would be the business of these officers to teach

to the congregation -“in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record

against them.”  (compare ch.32:1).


29 “For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves,” –

literally, corrupting, ye will corrupt (הַשְׁחַת תשׁחִתוּן, sc. דַרֵכֵיֶכם);

i.e. your ways (for the phrase, see Genesis 6:12) - “and turn aside from

the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the

latter days;” -  the after-time, the future, as in ch. 4:30; Numbers 24:14 –

because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to

anger through the work of your hands.” – i. e. the idols they might make

(compare ch. 4:28). By some, however, the phrase is interpreted of evil deeds

in general.


30 “And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the

words of this song, until they were ended.”



God’s Foresight of Israel’s Declension (vs. 16-22, 28-30)



claims this power as one of his prerogatives (Isaiah 41:22; 42:9; 45:20-23).

And no one can question but that these predictions have been strikingly

fulfilled. The people did corrupt themselves and turn aside, and evil did

befall them in the latter days (v. 29).



DISREGARDED. Israel was under no government of fate. Had the

people repented, they would have been forgiven. The predictions

are cast in absolute form, only because God saw that warning would not

be taken. He would only too gladly have revoked His threatenings

(see Ezekiel 33:11), had Israel, roused to alarm, turned from its evil

(compare the case of Nineveh in the book of Jonah). This, however, it did

not do, but, with these woe-laden prophecies spread before it, rushed

madly on, as if eager to fulfill them. How like sinners still. The plainest

declarations, the most explicit warnings, the direst threatenings, are as little

reckoned of as if no Word of God were in existence. Strange that God’s

Word should be so disregarded, and yet profession so often made of

believing in it!



PROVE DISOBEDIENT. It is to be spoken to them and taught them,

“whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear’ (Ezekiel 2:7). It

tells them the truth. It shows them their duty. It warns them of the

consequences of disobedience. It upholds a witness for God in their

apostasy (v. 19). It renders them inexcusable. A solemn responsibility

thus attaches to us in the possession of God’s Word.




HAVE ALL BECOME TRUE. (v. 17.) Only that time may come too

late (v. 18).



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