Deuteronomy 32






In accordance with the Divine injunction, Moses composed an ode, which he recited

in the hearing of the people, and committed to writing, to remain with them as a witness

for God against them. With this end in view, the ode is directed principally to a

contrasting of the unchanging faithfulness of the Almighty with the anticipated

perversity and unfaithfulness of His people. The poem may be divided into six parts:


  • An introduction (vs. 1-3), in which the importance of the doctrine to

be delivered is announced.


  • The blamelessness and excellency of Jehovah are placed in contrast with

the corruptness and perversity of Israel (vs. 4-5).


  • The folly and ingratitude of the rebellious people is dwelt upon (vs. 7-



  • The purpose of God to punish and reject the rebellious generation is

declared (vs. 19-23).


  • The fulfillment of this purpose in the judgments which should come

upon the rebels, whilst mercy and favor should be showed to those that

repented and were humbled under the hand of God (vs. 24-34).


  • And finally, the judgment which God would execute on the enemies of

Israel, and the mercy He would show to His servants (vs. 35-43).  In this ode

Moses displays the genius of the poet, as in the other parts of this book he

has showed the sagacity of the legislator and the skill of the orator. Vigor

of diction, elevation of sentiment, vivacity of representation, beauty and

sublimity of imagery, characterize this ode throughout. Nor is the piety less

noticeable than the poetry; zeal for God, earnest desire far His honor, and

devout reverence of His majesty pervade and inspire the whole. Remarkable

also is this ode in relation to the later prophetic utterances in Israel.  Moses

condensed in a song the prophetic contents of his last address in chapters

27-30, wherewith he lives on in the memory and mouth of the people. He

here sets before them their whole history to the end of the days. In this ode,

each age of Israel has a mirror of its present condition and future fate.


1  “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the

words of my mouth.”  Heaven and earth are summoned to hearken to his words,

both because of their importance, and because heaven and earth were interested,

so to speak, as witnesses of the manifestation of God’s righteousness and

faithfulness about to be celebrated (compare ch. 4:26; 30:19; 31:28-29; Isaiah 1:2;

Jeremiah 2:12; 22:29).


2 “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as

the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass:”

The Hebrew verb here and in ch.33:28 is properly rendered by “drop;” it expresses

the gentle falling of a genial shower or the soft distillation of dew. The

clause is best taken imperatively, as it is by the Sepuagint, the Vulgate, and

Onkelos: Let my doctrine drop as the rain, let my speech distil, etc. The

point of comparison here is not the quickening, fructifying, vivifying

influence of the rain and dew, so much as the effective force of these

agents as sent from heaven to produce results. So might His doctrine come

with power into the minds of his hearers. Doctrine (hq"l, from jq"l; to

take); that which takes one (Proverbs 7:21, “fair speech,” By which

one is captivated), or which one takes or receives, viz. instruction

(Proverbs 4:2; Isaiah 29:24). Small rain; gentle showers, such as

conduce to the growing of herbs. The Hebrew word (μydiy[ic]) primarily

means hairs, and is here used of rain coming down in thin streams like hair.

Showers; heavy rain (μybiybiri from bb"r;, to be much or many, equal to

multitude of drops).


3 “Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness

unto our God.” The hearers of the song are summoned to join in the celebration

of the Divine majesty. The word rendered “greatness” occurs only in this book

(ch.3:24; 5:24; 9:26; 11:2), and in Psalm 150:2. It is the greatness of God as the

Almighty that is here celebrated.


4 “He is the Rock, His work is perfect:” -  rather, The Rock! His work is perfect,

i.e. blameless, without fault. God is called “the Rock” (rWxh"), as the unchangeable

Refuge and Stronghold of His people, by which they are sustained, and to which they

can resort for defense and protection at all times. The epithet is applied to God four

times besides in this song (vs. 15, 18, 30, 31); it occurs also frequently in the Psalms

(compare Psalm 19:14; 28:1; 31:2-3; 62:2, 7). The Hebrew word, tsur, gut,

or zur, appears in several proper names of the Mosaic period, as e.g. Pedahzur,

“Rock delivers” (Numbers 1:10), a name of the same import as Pedahel, “God

delivers” (Ibid. ch.34:28); Elizur, God is a Rock” (Ibid. ch. 1:5); Zuriel (Ibid.

ch.3:35) and Zurishaddai, “the Almighty is Rock” (Ibid. ch. 1:6; 2:12). Jehovah,

is here called Rock, without any qualification, the reason is that He is the only

True Rock, and all the strength and firmness of earth’s stones is but an ectype

of His unchangeable faithfulness and rectitude - “for all His ways are judgment:”

-  i.e. accordant with rectitude (Psalm 145:17) - “a God of truth” - rather, of

faithfulness (tn;Wm,a], from ˆm"a;, to stay, or be stayed, to be firm) - “and without

iniquity, just and right is He.”



God the Believer’s Rock (vs. 1-4)


In the last song which Moses utters ere he climbs the mount of Nebo to die, he declares,

“I will publish the Name of the Lord.”   Moses is qualified to draw attention to the

moral perfections of God because God had appeared to him (Exodus 34:5-7)  God’s

ways are judgment but they are according to justice!  His way is perfect and all moral

perfections are centered in Him!


  • His Name is “Jehovah.” The word involves self-existence, self-sufficiency,

immutability, pure being, personality. “I AM THAT I AM!” 


  • He is the Rock. On the rocks of Sinai was the Law proclaimed. In the rock-cleft

was Moses hidden. From the smitten rock the waters gushed forth. How natural

for Moses to apply this figure to the eternal God! In v. 31, Moses speaks of God

as “OUR ROCK.”  He was known to Israel as theirs, their own firm, changeless

ground of strength, through all the changing years!



COMFORT AND REFRESHMENT FOR MAN (v. 2) -  i.e. what the rain is to the

 herb, what the showers are to the grass, that is this teaching concerning God to

 the soul of man.


  • The Dew and Rain as Emblems of the Teaching Most Likely to Prove Effective


Ø      Gentle and invigorating.  It revives, refreshes, stimulates.

Ø      silent, but powerful.  Rocks are shattered by drops of water in their

pores and crevices.  (“For the Word of God is quick and powerful,

and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the

dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and

marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the

heart.”  (Hebrews 4:12)

Ø      pervasive,

Ø      kindly; yet: deep-reaching. They act on plants by watering their roots.

Take a lesson from them. It is not the best kind of teaching which is loud

and violent, which tries to force men’s convictions. Convictions must have

time to grow. Teaching must be loving. The earthquake, the whirlwind,

the fire, have their own place, but “the still small voice” is needed to

succeed them.  The Lord is peculiarly in that. Angry scolding, petulant

rebuke, biting censure, clever satire, seldom do much good. Love alone

wins the day. 


Religious teaching fails if it does not inspire men with such convictions of God’s greatness

as will lead them to fear, honor, worship, praise, and serve Him.  The special themes of

the gospel are peace, love, and good will to men.  This song of Moses has to deal with

stern truths, but even in its sternest passages it breathes the pathos of tender and sorrowful

affection. It dwells largely on God’s kindnesses and the people’s ingratitude, and ends with

loving promises.


Our heart wants God!  (“O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee:  my

soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where

no water is.” (Psalm 63:1; 84:2).  Spiritually, this God is as rain and as dew:

 refreshing,  enlivening, restoring.  This doctrine of God is meant to make the heart

productive of holiness.  God’s revelation of Himself is meant to draw men to Himself; in

doing this God saves them!  Moses would summon all to hear it. It is:


o       For all classes.

o       For all lands.

o       For all the ages.


The day will never come when this doctrine of God will be obsolete!



God the Rock (v.4)


(Compare vs. 15, 18, 31, 37.) This name for God occurs chiefly in this song of

Moses, and in the compositions of David and of later psalmists. It was a name full of

significance to those familiar with the desert. Rock, rock, rock!   Israel had seen little

else during the thirty-eight years of wandering. The older men could remember the

seclusion and granitic sublimity of the rock sanctuary of Sinai. The congregation had

mourned for Aaron under the shadow of Mount Hor, “rising high aloft into the blue

sky, like a huge, grand, but shattered rock-city, with vast cliffs, perpendicular

walls of stone, pinnacles, and naked peaks of every shape.” They had

witnessed the security of Edom in the hills in which now stand the wondrous rock-hewn

 ruin of Petra. They had traversed the defiles of the terrible and precipitous Arabah.

When David was hunted in the wilderness, he, too, was often led to think of God,

his Rock (>Psalm 18:2; 61:2; 62:2, 7). It is wilderness experience which still makes

the name so precious.



is not an arbitrary one. Nature abounds in shadows of the spiritual. It is

what the mind puts into the objects of its survey which makes them what

they are. The Alps and Andes are but millions of atoms till thought

combines them, and stamps on them the conception of the everlasting hills.

Niagara is a gush of water-drops till the soul puts into it that sweep of

resistless power which the beholder feels. The ocean, wave behind wave, is

only great when the spirit has breathed into it the idea of immensity. If we

analyze our feelings, we shall find that thought meets us wherever we turn.

The real grandeur of the world is in the soul which looks on it, which sees

some conception of its own reflected from the mirror around it; for mind is

not only living, but life-giving, and has received from its Maker a portion

of His own creative power. Rock is thus more than rock — its awfulness,

grandeur, immovability, everlastingness, strength, are born of spiritual

conceptions. These attributes do not in reality belong to it. Rock is

not everlasting, moveless, abiding, etc. Old rocks are being worn away,

new rocks are being formed; the whole system had a beginning and will

have an end (Psalm 90:2). It is not that these attributes belong to rock,

and are thence by metaphor attributed to God; but these attributes of God,

being dimly present in the mind, are by metaphor attributed to rock.

GOD is the TRUE ROCK,  the other is the image. God is rock, in virtue of:


Ø      The eternity of His existence (Psalm 90:2).

Ø      The omnipotence of His might (Daniel 4:35).

Ø      The wisdom of His counsel (Isaiah 40:13).

Ø      The immutability of His purpose (Psalm 33:11; Isaiah 46:10).

Ø      The faithfulness of His Word (Psalm 119:89-90).

Ø      The rectitude of His government (Psalm 145:17). Whence:

Ø      The perfection of His work.




Ø      Eternal (Revelation 1:11),

Ø      Unchangeable (Hebrews 13:8),

Ø      All powerful (Matthew 28:18),

Ø      Faithful (John 13:1; 14:18-20),

Ø      Righteous (Revelation 19:11), and

Ø      All Wise (Isaiah 9:6).





Ø      A Shelter (Psalm 61:3).

Ø      A Defense (Psalm 18:2; 62:6).

Ø      A Dwelling-place (Psalm 90:1).

Ø      A Shadow from the heat (Isaiah 32:2).

Ø      A Move-less standing-ground (Psalm 40:2).

Ø      A Foundation (Matthew 7:24-27). The rock smitten in the

wilderness furnishes the additional idea of:

Ø      A Source of Spiritual Refreshment.


o       Christ, the Rock on which His Church is built

(Matthew 16:18),

o       The smitten Savior (I Corinthians 10:4),

o       The spiritual Refuge and Salvation of His people

(Romans 8:1, 34-39).


And let us not forget Toplady’s hymn, “Rock of Ages.”  A hymn used by

God’s people for many ages!




  5 “They have corrupted themselves, their spot is

not the spot of His children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.”

Of this difficult passage the following seems the best construction and rendering: —

A perverse and crooked generation not his children, [but] their spot — has

become corrupt towards Him. The subject of the verb at the beginning of the

verse is the “perverse and crooked generation,” at the end of it, and between

the verb and its subject there is interjected parenthetically the clause, “not his

children, but their spot.” Spot is here used in a moral sense, as in Job 11:15;

31:7; Proverbs 9:7. These corrupt persons claimed to be children of God, but

they were not; they were rather a stain and a reproach to them (compare II Peter

2:13; Isaiah 1:4).  The Geneva Version,  has “They have corrupted themselves

towards Him by their vice, not being His children, but a froward and crooked



6  “Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish people and unwise? is not

He thy father that hath bought thee? hath He not made thee, and

established thee?”  Instead of gratefully acknowledging the Divine beneficence,

and dutifully obeying the Divine will, Israel had perversely and foolishly

requited the Lord for all His benefits, by apostasy from Him. Do ye thus

requite? The verb here signifies primarily to do to any one either good or

evil, whether in return for what he has done or not (Compare Genesis 50:15;

I Samuel 24:18; Proverbs 3:30); then, as a secondary meaning, to reward, repay,

requite, as here and Psalm 18:21. To bring more forcibly to their view the

ingratitude and folly of their conduct, Moses dwells upon

what God was and had been to the nation: their Father, in that He had, in

His love, chosen, them to be His people (Isaiah 63:16; 64:7; Malachi 2:10); their

Purchaser, who had acquired possession of them by delivering them out of Egypt

(compare Psalm 74:2); their Maker, who had constituted them a nation; and their

Establisher, by whom they had been conducted through the wilderness and settled

in Canaan.  7 Remember the days of old,” -  times of Israel’s deliverance from

bondage, and the times during which successive generations had lived and

experienced the goodness of the Lord. The form of the word rendered “days” is

poetical, and is found only here and in Psalm 90:15, which is also ascribed to Moses –

“consider the years of many generations:” - literally, years of generation and

 generation; “ - “ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they

will tell thee.”



God’s Righteousness and Man’s Iniquity (vs. 4-7)


The sin of man is only fully seen in contrast with God’s righteousness and love. The

light is needed to bring out the depth of the shadow. It reveals the “spot.”


  • GOD’S FAVOR TO ISRAEL. God’s dealings with Israel had been

marked by:


Ø      Rectitude (v. 4). He had done everything that was just and right to

them. His ways had been equal. He had given them just statutes. His

covenant-keeping faithfulness had been signally manifested. There was

not the shadow of a pretence for accusing God of injustice or of

infidelity to His engagements.


Ø      Love. Love and grace had been more conspicuous in His treatment of

them than even justice. It was shown in their election, in the deliverance

from Egypt, in the guidance of the desert, in pardon of offences, in the

many and undeserved favors which had been heaped upon them (compare

vs. 9-14). Rectitude and love have reached their FULLEST

MANIFESTATION IN THE GOSPEL!   The cross displays both.

It harmonizes their apparently conflicting claims, and exhibits them in new

glories. GOD’S CHARACTER  revealed IN CHRIST,  is the

 condemnation of an unbelieving world.



requital was an incredibly base one. They corrupted themselves. They

wantonly departed from the ways of right. They behaved ungratefully.

Instead of imitating God in the example of rectitude He had set them, and

walking before Him “as dear children,” they flung to the winds the

remembrance of His mercies, and brought disgrace upon His Name. He was

their Father (v. 6), but instead of reflecting the features of His image, they

dishonored and discredited it (compare Isaiah 1:2-4, which appears to be

based on this passage). Their sin was:


Ø      Self-caused. There was nothing which they had seen in their God to

cause it, to account for it, or to excuse it.

Ø      Irrational. Their powers, given by God, ought willingly to have been

devoted in His service. Obedience is the normal condition. Heaven and

earth, undeviatingly obeying the law of their existence, condemn man’s

apostasy (v. 1). The very brute creation testifies against him (Isaiah 1:3).


Ø      Ungrateful. God had bought them for Himself, had made a nation of

them, and established them in Canaan. Yet, without compunction, they

cast off His yoke.


Ø      Foolish.  The way they chose was the way of death, whereas in God’s

favor was life (v. 47), with every blessing that heart could wish for. The

same remarks apply to sinners — despising the gracious overtures

which God makes to them, with all the favors, temporal and spiritual,

He has actually shown them, and careering on to their eternal ruin.

O foolish people and unwise!”



8 “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when

He separated the sons of Adam,” –  From the very beginning, when God first

allotted to the nations a place and a heritage, He had respect in His arrangements

to the sons of Israel, who were His portion, and had as it were kept their interest

in view in all that He appointed and ordered.  “He set the bounds of the people

according to the number of the children of Israel.”  When the Most High

portioned out to the nations the heritage of each, He reserved for Israel, as the

people of His choice, an inheritance proportioned to its numbers. The Septuagint

has “according to the number of the angels of God,” an arbitrary departure from

the original text, in accommodation, probably, to the later Jewish notion of each

nation having its guardian angel.


9 “For the LORD’s portion is His people;” -  (compare Exodus 15:16; 19:5;

I Samuel 10:1; Psalm 78:71).  “Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.” - literally,

the cord, etc., the allusion being to the measuring of land by a cord, equivalent to

the portion by measure which Jehovah allotted to Himself as His inheritance

(compare Psalm 16:6).  [I recommend Deuteronomy ch.32 v. 9 – God’s

Inheritance by Arthur Pink – this web site – CY – 2012)


10 “He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling

wilderness;” - God’s fatherly care of Israel. In the desert land, and in the

waste howling wilderness; literally, in the land of the desert, in the waste

(the formless waste; the word used is that rendered, Genesis 1:2, “without form”),

the howling of the wilderness.  Israel is figuratively represented as a man

without food or water, and surrounded by howling, ferocious beasts, and

who must needs have perished had not God found him and rescued him.

“He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.” 

- literally, the mannikin (ˆwOvyai) of his eye, the pupil; so called because in it, as in

A mirror, a person sees his own image reflected in miniature, or because, being

the tenderest part of the eye, it is guarded as one would a babe (compare Psalm 17:8;

Proverbs 7:2; Zechariah 2:8).  The use of the word mannikin here must be taken as

indicating that Israel is ever in the eye of the Lord, the object of His CONSTANT



11 “As an eagle” -  God’s treatment of His people is compared to that of an eagle

towards its young (compare Exodus 19:4). In the Authorized Version, the apodosis

of the sentence is made to begin at v. 12, and v.11 is wholly understood of the eagle

and its young. To this arrangement it has been objected that it overlooks the fact that

the suffixes to the verbs “taketh” and “beareth” are singulars, and are to be

understood consequently, not of the eaglets, but of Israel. It has, therefore, been

proposed to render the passage thus: As an eagle which stirreth up its nest,

fluttereth over its young, he spread out his wings, took him up, and carried

him on his pinions. The Lord alone did lead him, etc. The comparison is thus

made to pass into a metaphorical representation of the Lord’s dealing with Israel.

One feels that there is something violent in this, for whilst God’s care for

Israel might be fittingly compared to that of an eagle towards her young, it

is less fit to speak of God Himself as if He were an eagle with wings which

He spread abroad and on which He bare Israel. The rendering in the

Authorized Version is on this account to be preferred, if it can be

grammatically vindicated. And this it may on the ground that the suffixes

may be understood of the “nest” as containing the young, or the young may

be referred to individually, “taketh it, beareth it,” i.e. each of them; or, if the

nest be understood, the whole body of them as therein contained -“stirreth up

her nest,” - i.e. its nestlings. It is undoubtedly used generally in the sense of

rousing, exciting, stirring up, i.e. by the parent bird coming to them with food.

This is certainly more in keeping with what follows; for when the eagle nestles

or broods over her young, she does not excite them to fly - “fluttereth over

her young,” - :” rather, broods over, nestles, or cherishes (pjer"y]) -

“spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her

Wings:” - “I once saw a very interesting sight above one of the crags of

Ben Nevis, as I was going in pursuit of black game. Two parent eagles were

teaching their offspring, two young birds, the maneuvers of flight. They began

by rising from the top of a mountain, in the eye of the sun; — it was about

midday, and bright for this climate. They at first made small circles, and the

young imitated them; they paused on their wings, waiting till they had made their

first flight, holding them on their expanded wings when they appeared exhausted,

and then took a second and larger gyration, always rising towards the sun, and

enlarging their circle of flight, so as to make a gradually ascending spiral” (Davy,

‘Salinertia;’ see also Bochart, ‘Hierozoicon,’ 2:181). The general reference is to

God’s fostering care of Israel, and especially His dealing with them when

“He suffered their manners in the wilderness” (Acts 13:18), disciplined them,

and trained them for what they were appointed to do.


12 “So the LORD alone did lead him,” -  (compare Exodus 13:21; 15:13) –

“and there was no strange God with him.” - i.e. along with Jehovah, as aiding him.


13 “He made him ride on the high places of the earth,” - To ride over or drive

over the heights of a country is figuratively to subjugate and take possession of that

country (compare ch.33:29; Isaiah 58:14). Israel, having subjugated Canaan, could

eat of its produce, - “that he might eat the increase of the fields;” – as his own –

“and He made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock;”

Canaan abounded in wild bees, which had their hives in crevices of the rock, and in

olive trees, which grew on a rocky soil; as is still the case in Palestine.


14 “Butter of kine,” - The Hebrew word (ha;m]j,) here used designates milk in a

solid or semi-solid state, as thick cream, curd, or butter. As distinguished from this is

“and milk of sheep,” - where the word used (bl;j;) properly denotes fresh milk,

milk in a fluid state, and with all its richness (bl,j,, fatness) in it (compare Genesis

18:8; Isaiah 7:22) - “with fat of lambs,” - lambs of the best, “fat” being a figurative

expression for the best (Numbers 18:12) -  “and rams of the breed of Bashan,” - 

literally, rams, sons of Bashan; i.e. reared in Bashan, a district famous for its cattle –

“and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat;” - with the kidney-fat of wheat;

i.e. the richest fat, the best and most nutritious wheat -“and thou didst drink the

pure blood of the grape.”  The blood of the grape is the expressed juice of the grape,

which, being red, is compared to blood. The rendering “pure” here is not inapt.

The original word (rm,j,, from rm"j;, to boil up, to foam, to rise in bubbles) describes

this juice as it appears when pressed into a vessel, when the surface of the liquid is

covered with froth or foam. There is no ground for the explanation “fery wine”  -

wine in such a state was never among the Hebrews counted a blessing. That they

had and used fermented wine is certain; but what they specially esteemed as a

 luxury was the pure unadulterated juice of the grape freshly pressed out and

 drunk with the foam on it.



History’s Testimony for God (vs. 7-14)


A defective character often results from mental indolence. Men do not use

their faculties. Did they consider, reflect, and ponder, they would be bettor

men. To call into activity all our powers is an imperative and sacred duty.

For this purpose God has given them. Whose am I? whence have I come?

what is my business in life? what are my obligations to my Maker? — these

are questions possessing transcendent interest, and are vital to our joy. Ask

intelligently and thoroughly; then act upon the answers. God’s careful

provision for Israel had been long-continued, thoughtful, special (see

Isaiah 5:1-5).  No less, probably greater, has been his considerate and far-seeing

provision for us.




Ø      Our earth has for untold ages been undergoing preparation as a

suitable dwelling-place for man. Rocks have been formed for man’s

use, treasures of coal and metals have been stored up for his advantage.

The soil has been pulverized to receive his seed. A marvelous and

painstaking preparation has been made.


Ø      Equally conspicuous is God’s wisdom in selecting special territory for

special nations. Amidst all the hurly-burly of war, the unseen hand of

God has “divided to the nations their inheritance” (v.8).  Oceans and

rivers, mountains and deserts, have been God’s walls of partition.


Ø      All these selections have been subordinate to Israel’s welfare. All the

lines of God’s government met here. To Israel’s good everything was

to bend.


Ø      The reason of this is declared. “The Lords portion is His people.”

(v.9).   Some location on earth was to be reserved for Jehovah. He

too had chosen a dwelling-place, an inheritance. And His habitation

was in the hearts of His people Israel. “For to that man will I look,

 and with him dwell, who is of an humble and contrite spirit and

trembleth at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)  “Jacob is the lot of His

inheritance.” (v.9)




Ø      Apart from God, earth would be a barren desert. Man’s environment,

where God is not, would be discordant, unsuitable, painful. The

flowers and fruits of life are divinely provided.


Ø      Inscrutable are the methods of God’s training. “He led him about”

(v.10).  A masterly hand is in the matter, and we are very incompetent

critics. Those marches and counter-marches in the wilderness were all

needful to nourish robust courage and simple faith in the Hebrews. In

God’s arrangements no waste is permitted.


Ø      Tenderest kindness is here expressed. “He kept him as the apple of His

eye”  (Ibid.).  We count the eye among our most precious endowments.

It is protected by the most clever contrivances. No part of the body is

so delicate or so susceptible of pain. So God regards His chosen people.

As a man guards from harm his eye, so God guards His own.


Ø      Consummate skill was expended to develop the best qualities of Israel.

This is set forth by a piece of impressive imagery. As the eagle knows

the perils of indolence, and is anxious to train her young brood to early

self-exertion, she breaks up the nest, takes the eaglets on her strong

pinions, bears them heavenward, shakes them free, then, as they sink,

darts beneath them, bears them up again, and encourages them to seek

the sun; so, by a thousand kind devices, God taught His people “to seek

the things which are above.” (Colossians 3:2).  So precious an end is

worthy of the largest expenditure of means.



GOD. In proportion as man has loyally served his God, man has gained

earthly dominion. To Adam was accorded sovereignty over all living things

in air, or earth, or sea; and of the second Adam we read, “Thou hast put

all things under his feet”  (I Corinthians 15:27).


Ø      Victory over enemies is secured. “He made him ride on the high

places of the earth” (v.13).  Every mountain fortress was, one by one,

possessed. To ride is significant of military conquest. The triumphs

of Israel were swift, signal, and complete.


Ø      The peaceful conquest of nature followed. To the arts of industry, the

earth yielded in sevenfold profusion. The olives on the rugged hills

filled their presses with oil. Wild bees toiled early and late to lay up

stores of honey. Their cattle, plentifully fed, yielded butter and milk

in abundance.  (So also God has provided for the United States –

now that we are in the process of turning our back on Him, we

are starting to feel the consequences and “O, how we howl!”

It is as if we can’t take it and “the little selfish imp tries to wiggle

himself into notice somehow!” – CH Spurgeon – CY – 2012)

Under the curse of civil strife and petty feuds of the Canaanites,

crops had been devastated, and flocks had been destroyed. Now,

peace reigned in every valley, and the very trees blossomed with

ruddy gladness. Hill and plain poured their unceasing tributes at

the feet of lordly man.


  • The SOLE AUTHOR of this splendid inheritance is GOD!   THE

LORD ALONE did lead him.”  “BY HIMSELF” -  (Hebrews 1:3).

The deities of the Amorites (if they had any power at all)

had bestowed on their votaries an inheritance of lust and war and ruin.

(Basically, their own ideas and vulgar thoughts – “They that make them

are like unto them; so is everyone that trusteth in them.” – Psalm 115:8 –

CY – 2012)  In whatever respect Israel’s inheritance was a contrast, it

was due to the beneficence of Jehovah. He had blessed them with an

ungrudging hand.  ‘Twas the indulgence of his native instinct to give

and to make glad. NO SANE MAN among them could reach any other

conclusion than that JEHOVAH WAS THE GIVER OF ALL!  And

with one voice they should have rung with many hearty hallelujahs:

“The Lord hath done great things for us whereof we are glad.”

(Psalm 126:3).  The gift was unique. It was conspicuously a deed of grace



Israel Ungrateful Return for the Lord’s Benefits (vs. 15-18)


15 “But Jeshurun” - This name, formed from rc"y;, righteous, designates Israel as

chosen to be a righteous nation; and in the use of it here lies the keenest reproach

 of apostate Israel, as fallen into a state the opposite of that to which it was

destined.  By using the name righteous in place of Israel, Moses ironically censures

those who had swerved from rectitude; by recalling to memory with what dignity they

had been endowed, he the more sharply rebukes the perfidy which was their crime.

(Compare the United States demeaning itself as well – CY – 2012). This

name appears also in ch.33:5, 26, and in Isaiah 44:2; but in these places without any

implied censure - “waxed fat, and kicked:” - (compare ch.6:11; 8:10; 31:20).

The allusion is to an ox that had grown fat through good feeding, and had become

unmanageable in consequence - “thou art waxen fat, thou art grown  thick, thou

art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and  lightly

esteemed” -    The Hebrew is strongly expressive  here: Thou hast treated as a fool

 (lBeni, from lb"n; to be foolish (compare Micah 7:6) - “the Rock of his salvation.”


16 “They provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations

provoked they Him to anger.” They provoked Him to jealousy. God had bound

Israel to Himself as by the marriage bond, and they by their unfaithfulness had

incited Him to jealousy (compare ch.31:16; Exodus 34:15; Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 1.).

Strange gods (compare Jeremiah 2:25; 3:13).


17 “They sacrificed unto devils,” - shedim, a word which occurs only here and

Psalm 106:37. It stands connected with the verb dWv, to rule, and means primarily

“lords.” The Septuagint renders by daimo>niadaimonia - demons. In Assyrian it

is said to be a name for demigodsn - “not to God;” - rather, to a not God, a

composite term in apposition to shedim; the meaning is rightly given in the margin of

the Authorized Version, “which were not God”  - “to gods whom they knew

not, to new gods that came newly up,” -  The word rendered by “newly” (bwOrq;)

properly means “near;” it is an adjective both of place and of time; here it is the

latter, equal to of a near time, recently — gods recently invented or discovered -

 “whom your fathers feared not.”


18 “Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten

God that formed thee.”  Moses here returns to the thought of v. 15, for the

Purpose of expressing it with greater force, and also of leading on to the description

he is about to give of the Lord’s acts towards the nation who had so revolted from

Him. Thou art unmindful;  Septuagint -  ejgkate>lipevengkatelipes -  to

desert, forsake or leave - That formed thee; literally, that brought thee forth

or caused thee to be born.



        God Provoked to Jealousy by an Unfaithful People (vs. 15-18)


This paragraph is a continuation of the same theme as that touched on in preceding

verses. It not only sets forth the waywardness of the people but is a prophecy.

Moses sees the people in the enjoyment of all the blessings of God’s providence;

he looks onward, and, with the seer’s eye, he beholds them in the Promised Land,

their wanderings over, and their marches hither and thither exchanged for a settled

life in a land of plenty and of delight. There they are prospering abundantly;

and if they only used their prosperity aright they would be doubly blessed, even with

that blessing which “maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow therewith”  (Proverbs

10:22).  But, alas! how different is the picture here drawn! And how precisely did the

after-reality answer thereto! There is in these verses a logical order of thought, in the

sketch given, first, of Israel’s downward course; and then, of the effect of that

on the relations between them and their God.



IN THE MIDST OF WORLDLY PROSPERITY.  There are four steps in

the descent:


Ø      Prosperity generates willfulness, and a resistance to the Divine claims.

If men can have their own way entirely, for a while, and secure precisely

Their own ends, such success, if not sanctified, will but create a self-will and

self-assertion stronger than ever. “Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked.” The

restraints of duty, conscience, and God, will be irksome, and will provoke to

resistance. Men will “kick against the pricks.”  (Acts 9:5)  (When I first

started coaching in 1966, it was under Roy Woolum.  He had a saying in

dealing with the basketball team, “You guys can’t stand prosperity!”

This the team had in common with the Israelites and apparently, with

the citizenry of the United States today! – CY – 2012)


Ø      Another stage will surely follow on. The irritation which was at first felt

will subside, and insensibility will steal over the soul. “Thou art waxen fat,

thou art grown thick.” Stubborn obstinacy without the former stings of

conscience leads to  “Past feeling” (Ephesians 4:19) – which is a terrible



Ø      To this there will follow a third stage. “He forsook God... and lightly

esteemed the Rock of his salvation.” Here there sets in A THINKING


How true is the picture here given to the actual progress of sin in the

soul everywhere!


Ø      Then the problem is compounded!  To this succeeds not only neglect of

God, but the substitution of other gods (vs. 16-17)! This actually came

about (see Jeremiah 2., specially v. 13). The heart of man must have a

supreme object of love (Why?  God designed us that way! – CY  - 2012);

and if God be not enthroned in the heart, some rival will be seated there.


Note — How very little all possible worldly good can do for a man unless

there is a process of spiritual renewal and culture going on, which will

enable him to sanctify all to the highest purposes! Yea, more. If worldly

prosperity is not sanctified to God and by Him, it will be as a dead weight

upon the spirit. It will engender, first resistance, then deadness, then

estrangement, then idolatry! This is the sure and certain effect of an

accumulation of worldly good, when its possessor is not led by Divine

grace to use it wisely and piously. It is an evil much to be lamented that so

many glory in the accumulation of things, while neglecting the culture and

education of their souls. It brings with it aa prodigious strength of self-will,

without the knowledge of self-government.  (The United States has

achieved this stage as I write  - CY – 2012)  And of all men in the world,

they are of the least use to their generation.  (This is brought home to us

as we decline as a nation of influence in the world!  - Why?  Because it

is a natural result of sin in the world!  - CY – 2012)


o       How May Such Evil Be Guarded Against?.”


§         Let us regard our souls as of infinitely more important

than our possessions. What we are is beyond measure

of more concern than what we have. Our culture for

eternity is of the first importance.


§         Let us from the outset of life regard God as the Author of

all good, and as therefore having the first claim on our regard.


§         Let us cultivate the devotional habit of receiving all our

temporal comforts as from God. If we have used means to

secure them, He it is who has given us the means to use; who

has given us the power to use them, and who has made those

means a success.


§         Let us seek wisdom from above to hallow all our good for

God, and to “honor the Lord with our substance, and

 with the first-fruits of all our increase” (Proverbs 3:9 –

see comments about tithing in ch.14:22 – this web site).


§         Conscious of the deceitfulness of the human heart, let us

entreat our God to fill us with the power of the Spirit,

 as well as to give us providential mercies. Then, the first

will ensure the sanctification of the second. The larger our

possessions, the more we need of the Spirit of God, to ensure

their becoming a blessing, and to prevent their becoming a



o       If We Have Fallen into Such Evil, How May We be Recovered



§         Let the very suggestion that a spiritual paralysis may have

stolen over the soul, startle us into the inquiry. Is this the case

with us?


§         Let us inquire solemnly, “What shall it profit a man, if be

 shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?”

(Mark 8:36)


§         Let us repent before God of the wrong we have done to Him

in seeking from creature comforts the joy which He alone

can give.


§         Let us implore His renewing and sanctifying grace to enlighten

our understandings, to regulate our affections, to mold our will,

to empower and transform our life. If God fills us by His grace,

then will earthly good be sanctified. Our God will be our

 richest joy of all, He will be our Shield and Exceeding

Great Reward!” (Genesis 15:1) - and every worldly

comfort will yield us double joy, when hallowed by Him and

for Him.



     God’s Casting Off of Israel Because of their Rebellion (vs. 19-33)


19 “And when the LORD saw it, He abhorred them, because of the

provoking of his sons, and of his daughters.”  When the Lord saw how they had

departed from Him to serve idols, He abhorred (rather, spurned or rejected) them

in consequence of the provocation which their unworthy conduct had given Him.


20 “And He said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall

be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.”

God Himself comes forth to announce His resolution to withdraw His favor from them,

and to inflict chastisement upon them; He would withdraw His protecting care of them,

and see how they would fare without that; and He would also send on them the tokens

of His displeasure. A very froward generation, etc.; literally, a generation of

perversities, an utterly perverse and faithless race.


21 “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have

provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy

with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish

nation.” Because they had moved God to jealousy and provoked Him to anger by

their vanities, their nothingnesses, mere vapors and empty exhalations  (μyl;b]hi;

Jeremiah 10:6; I Corinthians 8:4); as they had forsaken Him for  a no-God, He

would send retribution on them by adopting as His a no-people, and  giving to a

foolish nation, i.e. a nation not before possessed of that true wisdom the

beginning of which is the fear of the Lord, the privileges and blessings which

Israel had forfeited by their apostasy. By “a no-people” is not to be understood a

savage tribe not yet formed into a community, but a people without God, and not

recognized by Him as in covenant union with Him (compare Romans 10:19;

Ephesians 2:12; I Peter 2:10).


 22 “For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest

hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the

foundations of the mountains.”  (Compare Jeremiah 15:14; 17:4; Lamentations

4:11.) The lowest hell; the lowest sheol, the uttermost depth of the under-world.

The Hebrew sheol (lwOav]) answering to the Greek a[dhv – hades – grave – hell –

 by which it is usually rendered by the Septuagint, is a general designation of the

unseen state, the place of the dead. By some the word is derived from la"v;, to

ask, because sheol is ever asking, is insatiable (Proverbs 30:16); but more probably

it is from a root signifying to excavate, to hollow, and, like the German holle,

means primarily a hollow place or cavern. The Divine wrath kindles a consuming fire,

that burns down to the lowest depths — to the deepest part of sheol — consumes

the earth’s produce, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. This does not

refer to any particular judgment that was to befall the national Israel, but is a general

description of the effects of the Divine wrath when that is poured forth in judgments

on men.


23 “I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them.”

I will inflict on them so many calamities that none shall remain. The evils sent on

men by God are represented as arrows shot on them from above. (Compare v.42;

Job 6:4; Psalm 7:13; 38:2; 45:5; 58:7; Zechariah 9:14).


24 “They shall be burnt with hunger,” -  render: Sucked out by hunger,

 consumed with pestilential heat, and bitter plague; I will send against them

 the tooth of beasts and the poison of things that crawl in the dust - “and

devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the

teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.”  The evils

threatened are  famine, pestilence, plague, wild beasts, poisonous reptiles, and war.

When hunger, pestilence, and contagious disease had wasted and exhausted them,

then God would send on them wild beasts and poisonous reptiles. Shall be burnt.

The Hebrew word occurs only here; it is a verbal adjective, meaning, literally, sucked

out, Septuagint, thkome>noi limw~| - taekomenoi limo - utterly exhausted;  Tooth

 of beasts and poison of serpents; poetical for ravenous and poisonous animals

(compare Leviticus 26:22).


25 “The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy” - literally, shall make

childless, shall bereave, viz. the land which is thought of as a mother whose children

were destroyed. The verb is here sensu praegnanti, shall bereave by destroying,

(compare I Samuel 15:23; Lamentations 1:20; Jeremiah 18:21) - “both the young

man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.”


26 “I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance

of them to cease from among men:  27  Were it not that I feared the wrath of

the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and

lest they should say, Our hand is high, and the LORD hath not done all this.”

Israel’s desert was to be utterly destroyed, but God refrained from this for His own

Name’s sake. I said, I would scatter them into corners; rather, I should say,

I will blow them away, i.e. disperse them as by a mighty wind. The verb here is

the Hiph, of ha;p;, to breathe, to blow, and is found only here. The rabbins make

it a denominative from ha;pe, a corner, and this the Authorized Version follows;

others trace it to an Arabic root, aap, amputavit, excidit, and render,

“will cut them off.”  The idea intended to be conveyed is obviously that of entire

destruction, and this is not satisfied by the representation of their being scared or

driven into corners. Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy. Various

renderings and interpretations of this passage have been given.


  • Were it not that I feared the provocation of the enemy, i.e. that I should

be provoked to wrath by the enemy ascribing the destruction of Israel to

their own prowess.


  • Were it not that I feared a wrath upon the enemy, with much the same



  • Were it not that I feared the fury of the enemy, i.e. against Israel

feared lest the enemy should be encouraged to rise up against Israel and

ascribe their destruction to their own valor. Of these that most generally

approved is the first. (On this reason for sparing Israel, see ch. 9:28;

Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13-16, Isaiah 10:5-7; Ezekiel 20:13-14.)


Should behave themselves strangely; rather, should mistake or falsely pretend.

The verb is the Piel of rk"n;, to look upon, to mark, and conveys the idea of looking

on askance or prejudicially, hence being ignorant of, mistaking, feigning, or falsely

pretending. Our hand is high; rather, was high, i.e. was mighty in power.


The cause of Israel’s rejection was that they were a people utterly destitute of

counsel and without understanding. Had they been wise, they would have

 looked to the end, and acted in a way conducive to their own welfare,



28“For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding

in them.  29 O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would

consider their latter end!”  If they were wise they would understand this,

 the end to which they were going, THE INEVITABLE ISSUE OF THE



30 “How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to

flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut

them up?”  If Israel were wise, they could easily overcome all their foes

through the help of the Almighty (Leviticus 26:8); but having forsaken

Him, they were left by Him, and so came under the power of the enemy.


31 “For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves

being judges.”  The heathen had also a rock in which they trusted — their

idol-gods; but even they knew and felt that their rock was not as the Rock

of Israel, for, having often experienced the almighty power of God, they

could not but acknowledge that he was mightier far than the gods whom

they worshipped (compare Exodus 14:25; Numbers chapters 33 & 34.;

Joshua 2:9-11; I Samuel 5:7). Moses is here himself again the speaker.

(I would like to highly recommend Acts 17 – Dwight Moody Sermon –

The Great Redemption – this web site – I apologize for the quality of

Its presentation but it will be well worth the effort!  - CY – 2012)


32 “For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of

Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter:”

If the Rock of Israel was so much mightier than the rock of their enemies, how

came it that Israel was beaten and put to flight by their enemies? The reason is here

given: It was because Israel had become wholly corrupt and vitiated that they were

forsaken of the Lord and left to the power of their enemies. Their vine; i.e. Israel

itself (compare Psalm 80:9,  Isaiah 5:2; Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1 ). The vine of

Sodom. It has been supposed that there is reference here to a particular

plant, and different plants have been suggested as deserving to be so

named. But it is more probable that Sodom and Gomorrah are here

advanced as types of what is depraved, and to the moral taste nauseous

(compare Isaiah 1:10; Jeremiah 23:14). Gall (compare ch. 29:18).


33 “Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.”

The wine of these grapes is poison and venom. Dragons; tannin (compare

Exodus 7:9-10). Cruel [deadly] venom of asps. The pethen, one of the most

poisonous of snakes, the bite of which was immediately fatal. These figures

 express the thought that Israel had utterly corrupted their way and

become abominable; probably also it is intimated that, as they had imitated

the impiety of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, they deserved to

perish as they did.


Notwithstanding the iniquity of Israel and the judgments that should come upon them,

God would have compassion upon them for His Name’s sake, and would appear

for their vindication and defense. The “this” in v. 34 is by some understood of the

sinful doings of the Israelites which God should not forget or overlook. So the Targum

of Onkelos: “Are not all their works manifest before me, kept against the day

of judgment in my treasures?”  But there is a more ‘comprehensive reference here.

Not only the deeds of the transgressors, but the judgments that should come on Israel,

and also God’s interposition on their behalf, were laid up in store with Him, and

sealed up among His treasures. All that had been done had been noted, and

all that should happen was decreed, and should certainly come to pass. The

“this’ has thus both a retrospective and a prospective reference; it includes

both the sin of the nation and God’s dealing with them afterwards, as well

as His judgments on their enemies.  (vs. 34-43)


34 “Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my

treasures?  My treasures. God’s treasures contain not only a store of

blessing, but also instruments of punishment, which as He sees meet, He

sends forth on men (compare ch.28:12; Job 38:22-23; Psalm 135:7).


35 “To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide

in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things

that shall come upon them make haste.”  Render: Vengeance is mine, and

retribution for the time when their feet shall totter; for the day of their

calamity is at hand, and that which is prepared for them maketh haste.

The tottering of the feet represents the incipient fall. God would manifest Himself

as the Avenger when their calamity began to come upon them.



The Devil’s Counterfeit Coin (vs. 30-35)


It is not in the power of Satan to originate any new thing. Knowing that his

power is restricted, the utmost he can do is to make spurious imitations of

God’s good things. His base purpose is to deceive man with SPECTRAL

ILLUSIONS.   His nefarious design is to raise before the world’s eye an




EXTERNAL TO HIMSELF. To the men of the East, this external

foundation of trust was best described as a rock. What the solid rock is

amid the loose alluvial soil of Egypt, or amid the shifting sand of the

desert, that God is designed to be unto every man. Complete independence

is impossible to created man. He can never be self-contained nor self-

nourished.  Pure atheism has never been a permanent resting-place for the

human heart. When the invisible God is forsaken, the human mind swings

toward idolatry. The carnal mind finds delight in a ground of confidence

that is visible and tangible.  (While they condemn those who trust in the

God of the universe.  Doesn’t make a lot of sense!  - CY – 2012)   Some

god we must have, if it be only the shadowy deity named Fate, or Law,

or Chance.



HUMAN TRUST. The only point of similarity is the name. The devil

borrows this, so as the better to throw dust in the eyes of his followers.

“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them

which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ,

who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”  (II Corinthians 4:4)

Our God is a Rock; the world also has its counterfeit rock. By the

judgments and verdict of worldly men, our Rock differs in toto from

theirs.  Their rock, they acknowledge, is unstable and unreliable. They

trust it simply because they know not a better. It is misnamed a rock.

Their rock deserts them in the hour of greatest need. Ah! fortune, say

they, is fickle. Very tyrannical and self-willed is fate. But our God is a

Rock in very deed. He never forsakes His liege disciples. In the darkest

hour He is nearest — the shadow of a great rock in a weary land”

(Isaiah 32:2). 




All through life, we find that the false counterfeits the true. The thief puts

on the pretence of honesty. The villain trains himself to use fair speech.

The adulterer wears the garb of virtue. Beauty is the robe of God, but the

devil fabricates meretricious tinsel. He, too, has his “Promised Land,” but it

is a fool’s paradise. He has his vine, but his vine is the vine of Sodom,

which generates drunkenness and unchastity. He also has his fields, but

they are fields of Gomorrah. The fruits are pleasant to the eye, but they

turn to ashes in the mouth. There is the appearance of grapes, but lo! the

juice is gall — the clusters are bitterness itself. And not only is the

experience disappointing, it is even disastrous and deadly. This pretended

wine is only poison, it is a gilded pill. Cruel deceit has provided this

counterfeit banquet. Beneath the glamour of a fair exterior, there is the

“serpent’s venom.”   (For our  perusal, I offer the following excerpt

from Spurgeon’s Sermon – Number 1500 or Lifting Up the Brazen

Serpent –  # 5a - this web site – it contains the remedy – I recommend it

highly  - CY – 2012)


What an awful thing it is to be bitten by a serpent! I dare say some of you

recollect the case of Gurling, one of the keepers of the reptiles in the

Zoological Gardens. It happened in October 1852, and therefore some of

you will remember it. This unhappy man was about to part with a friend

who was going to Australia and according to the wont of many he must

needs drink with him. He drank considerable quantities of gin, and though

he would probably have been in a great passion if any one had called him

drunk, yet reason and common-sense had evidently become overpowered.

He went back to his post at the gardens in an excited state. He had some

months before seen an exhibition of snake, charming, and this was on his

poor muddled brain. He must emulate the Egyptians, and play with

serpents. First he took out of its cage a Morocco venom-snake, put it

round his neck, twisted it about, and whirled it round about him. Happily

for him it did not arouse it so as to bite. The assistant-keeper cried out,

“For God’s sake put back the snake,” but the foolish man replied, “I am

inspired.” Putting back the venom-snake, he exclaimed, “Now for the

cobra.” This deadly serpent was somewhat torpid with the cold of the

previous night, and therefore the rash man placed it in his bosom till it

revived, and glided downward till its head appeared below the back of his

waistcoat. He took it by the body, about a foot from the head, and then

seized it lower down by the other hand, intending to hold it by the tail and

swing it round his head. He held it for an instant opposite to his face, and

like a flash of lightning the serpent struck him between the eyes. The blood

streamed down his face, and he called for help, but his companion fled in

horror; and, as he told the jury, he did not know how long he was gone, for

he was “in a maze.” When assistance arrived Gurling was sitting on a chair,

having restored the cobra to its place. He said, “I am a dead man.” They

put him in a cab, and took him to the hospital. First his speech went, he

could only point to his poor throat and moan; then his vision failed him,

and lastly his hearing, His pulse gradually sank, and in one hour from the

time at which he had been struck he was a corpse. There was only a little

mark upon the bridge of his nose, but the poison spread over the body, and

he was a dead man. I tell you that story that you may use it as a parable

and learn never to play with sin, and also in order to bring vividly before

you what it is to be bitten by a serpent.


Thus fares it with all who leave their God. They find out the bitter

 mistake at last. So sang Byron in his last days —


“The worm, the canker, and the grief

Are mine alone.”



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD. “Is not this laid up in store

with me, and sealed up among my treasures?” (v.34)  God knew well what

the effects of an idolatrous course would be, what bitter vexation and

disaster would come at last. But He foresaw that it was better for men that

they should pass through this experience than that He should remove the

possibility of it. He might have prevented, by exercise of power, the

stratagems of the tempter. He might have curtailed Satan’s freedom, and

put on him chains of darkness from the first. But His infinite wisdom has

decided otherwise.  He foresees more glorious results from this method,

so He patiently waits; He calmly watches the stages of the process.

“Their foot,” says He, shall slide in due time the day of their

calamity is at hand” (v, 35).  Now, it is difficult to discern between a

grain of living seed and a grain of dead sand; but put both into the

furrowed field, and give them time, so when the day of harvest comes,

the man who sowed the sand will be covered with shame, while he who

sowed good seed will bear gladly his sheaves into the heavenly garner.

Our business now is to discriminate between God’s corn and the devil’s

chaff. “The day will declare it.”  (I Corinthians 3:13; compare the parable

of the Sower and the Tares – Matthew 13:24-30)



The Short-sightedness of Sinners (vs. 29-35)


“Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would

consider their latter end!” Such is the moan with which this paragraph

begins. By “this” is meant the consequence which will certainly follow on

their departure from God. By “their latter end” is meant the latter days of

their history, when sins which were beforehand in germ should have

wrought out to full development. We need not again recount the historical

aspects of this serious outlook. We will but note, in a series of consecutive

thoughts, the truths which are here indicated, and which are of universal

and perpetual application:


o       to individuals,

o       families, and

o       nations.




If men take no reckoning of their “latter end,” it is the reverse of wise. Our

Saviour asks, “What shall it profit a man?” etc. To take heed only to

present appearances and to avoid all preparations for the future, is folly in

the extreme.




POWER CAN AVERT OR MODIFY. They may be “sealed up” —

Hidden from sight at present, but they are “laid up in store” (Romans 2:5;

I Thessalonians 5:3).



OF HIS OWN LAWS. “To me belongeth vengeance.” Vengeance cannot

safely be entrusted to frail and passionate man. Only in the hands of “THE

JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH” (Genesis 18:25) is there an absolute

guarantee that in its infliction there will be neither excess nor defect.

No weakness will cause delay or halt. No vindictiveness will induce any

variation from the right.



NOT BE POSTPONED TOO LONG. “Their feet shall slide in due time”

(v. 35).  Time is on God’s side. In the moral world there is not a moment’s

pause. Character is ripening for good or for ill, and great issues are

working out at every tick of the dial.




THE SIDE OF EVIL. The figurative expressions in each clause are of

terrific significance. They indicate:


Ø      The failure of the refuge to which they had fled.

Ø      The collapse of their strength in great emergencies.

Ø      Bitterness of misery.

Ø      Venomous poison as the fruit of their vine of Sodom.


Now is the day for accumulating; hereafter will be the day for the

manifestation, of these hidden treasures of ill.



SINNERS SUDDENLY. “The things that shall come upon them make

haste” (v. 35; compare Matthew 24:36-44; Mark 13:35-37; II Peter 3:10).

It is one remarkable feature of the Mosaic outlook, that the lawgiver scarcely

ever refers to another life, but to the working out of God’s judgments in

this. The future life comes into view in the New Testament. The law of

sowing and reaping holds good for both worlds (Galatians 6:7).




BE LAMENTED. “Oh that they were wise!” (v. 29; compare Jeremiah

9:1; Psalm 119:136).  (I recommend Spurgeon Sermon – Isaiah 1 – To the

Thoughtless – this web site – CY – 2012)


* Those who have to direct or influence national affairs should remember that a wrong

    policy is a foolish one. No nation will continue to thrive that fights against God.


* Heads of families should remember that, by a course of disloyalty to

   God, they are sowing the seeds of dishonor, grief, and shame in their

   families, and are entailing sorrow on the children of their care.


* Let each individual learn that whatever a man soweth that shall he also

   reap, both in this world and in that which is to come.  “Woe to him that

  striveth with his Maker.”  ( Galatians 6:7-8; Isaiah 45:9)



36 “For the LORD shall judge His people,” - (compare Psalm 135:14; I Peter

4:17-18) -“and repent Himself for His servants,” - rather, and have compassion

 upon His  servants -  “when He seeth that their power is gone, and there is none

shut up, or left.”  The words rendered “shut up or left” are a proverbial expression

for “every one, men of all sorts” (compare I Kings 14:10; 21:21; II Kings 9:8;

14:26); but how the words are to be rendered or explained is uncertain.


37 “And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted,

38  Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their

drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.”

The Lord would show his people the utter worthlessness of idols, and bring them to

acknowledge Him as the only true God. Their gods; the idols to which Israel had

turned, the strange gods which they had foolishly and sinfully preferred to Jehovah.


39 “See now that I, even I, am He,” -  The Hebrew is more expressive, See now

that I, I am; Septuagint -  i]dete i]dete o[ti ejgw> eijmi – idete idete hoti ego eimi –

behold, behold, that I am He -  (compare Isaiah 41:4; 48:12; John 8:24 18:5). Their

own experience of the utter impotency of these idol-gods to help them or to protect

themselves from the stroke of the Almighty was enough to convince them that they

were no gods, and that He alone was to be feared and worshipped -“and there is

no God with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there

any that can deliver out of my hand.”


The next two verses should be read continuously:


40 “For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.  41 If I whet my

glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance

to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.”  Lifting up the hand to

heaven was a gesture intended to express that the person taking an oath appealed to

God as a witness of his oath, and who would perish for falsehood (compare Genesis

14:22); and “as the Lord liveth” was a common formula in taking an oath (compare

Numbers 14:21; I Samuel 14:39, 45; Jeremiah 5:2). As God could swear by none

greater, He swore by Himself (Exodus 6:8; Numbers 14:30; Isaiah 45:23; Jeremiah

22:5; Hebrews 6:17), that if He did come forth to avenge Himself of His enemies,

He would not spare, but would do thoroughly what He had come forth to do.

 Glittering sword; literally, lightning of sword (compare Ezekiel 21:10,15).


42 “I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall

devour flesh;” - literally, shall eat flesh;  the edge of the sword is called its mouth,

because, like a mouth, it is said to eat and devour - “and that with the blood of the

slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.”

Different renderings of this have been given: Septuagint -  ajpo< kefalh~v ajrco>ntwn

ejcqrw~napo kephalaes archonton echthron – from the heads of their enemies –

 from the head of the hostile princes; from the head of the chiefs of the enemy, from

the hairy head of the foe. twO[r"p], the plural of [r"p,, hair, locks, signifies primarily

hairs, and a head of hairs, and may be taken as equivalent to “a hairy head;” but the

word is also used in the sense of “princes” or “chiefs” (probably because such were

distinguished by copious flowing locks; compare Judges 5:2); hence the rendering,

“head of the chiefs.” The former is to be preferred here, for why chiefs or princes

Should be referred to in this connection does not appear (compare Psalm 68:22).

The rendering of the Authorized Version is wholly unauthorized. This verse

presents an instance of alternate parallelism; each half falls into two members,

and of the four members thus constituted, the third corresponds

to the first, and the fourth to the second; thus —


a.      “I will make my arrows drunk with blood,

b.       And my sword shall devour flesh;


a’ With the blood of the slain and the captives,

b’ From the hairy head of the foe.”



43 “Rejoice, O ye nations, with His people: for He will avenge the blood

of His servants, and will render vengeance to His adversaries, and

will be merciful unto His land, and to His people.” As this song commenced

with an appeal to heaven and earth to give glory to the Lord (vs. 1-3), so it very

suitably closes with an appeal to the heathen to rejoice with his people on account

of the acts of the Lord”. Rejoice, O ye nations, with His people. The Authorized

Version here follows the Septuagint -  eujfra>nqhte e]qnh meta< tou~ laou~

aujtou~ - euphranthaete ethane meta tou laou autou – rejoice ye Gentiles

with His people - and so Paul cites the passage in Romans 15:10. The Jewish

interpreters generally render, Praise His people, O nations; and this several

Christian interpreters adopt. But  it is the Divine righteousness manifested

 in the vindication of His people from their enemies that is to be celebrated,

and not the people themselves, as what follows shows. Here as elsewhere the

nations and the people are in contrast.


Moses, having composed this song, came, accompanied by Joshua, and they

together spoke it in the hearing of the people; after which Moses took occasion to

urge upon them anew the importance of keeping the commandments of God. (vs. 44-47)


44  “And Moses came and spake all the words of this song in the ears of

the people, he, and Hoshea the son of Nun.”  Moses invariably writes this name

Jehoshuah (Jehovah is help; compare Numbers 13:8; ch. 31:3, 7, 14). The use

of Hoshea here is due to the fact that this account is part of the supplement added

by another writer to the writing of Moses


45 “And Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel:

46 And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I

testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children

to observe to do, all the words of this law.”  Compare ch. 6:7; 11:19.)


47 “For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life:” -  these are

not mere empty words; they are of vital import (compare ch.30:20) - “and through

this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan

to possess it.”


On the day on which Moses rehearsed this song in the hearing of the people, his

death was announced to him by God, and the command was again given to him

to ascend Mount Nebo, thence to survey the Promised Land, and there to be gathered

to his people. The same in substance, the command as given here differs slightly in form

and in some minor particulars from that as recorded by Moses himself (Numbers




Life at Stake!  (vs. 44-47)


We have seen in ch.31:7-8, that Moses gave Joshua a charge, and told him that he

must lead the people into the Promised Land. After that came the utterance of this

song. When it was uttered, Joshua stood side by side with Moses. The joint

presence of both the old and new leaders this signifying, that, though the earthly

administration changed hands, THE SAME MESSAGE WOULD BE PASSED,


feature’s about this closing public scene of the life of Moses:


o       Here is an assembly, met to hear Moses’ last song.

o       Though it is the last, there is in it nothing new. It is the

one message:  God’s goodness, faithfulness, and love,

calling for their reciprocation andobedience.

o       This old message is reimpressed on their hearts.

o       The people were to command their children to observe it.

The children were, in their home life, to receive an

education for God.

o       This is urged upon them by the consideration that all that

is precious to them in life depends on their obedience to

God’s message.

o       Moses and Joshua appear together before the people, as


 which the aged leader had laid down, the younger one would

accept, enforce, and transmit. There was a change in

human leaders, but not in Divine laws or the Divine message.

And to all the solemn sanctions with which Moses guarded the

Law, Joshua here pledges himself before the people and before

his God. Hence we get this theme:  AMID ALL CHANGES





  • Let us clearly declare and show that there is at this moment a message of

law and a revelation of grace, which have come to us, not of man, but by

the inspiration of the Spirit of God, by the manifestation of God in Christ,

and by the power of the Holy Ghost on and since the day of Pentecost.

This message is, in sum and substance, given in:


Ø      John 3:16;

Ø      I Timothy 1:15;

Ø      Revelation 22:17;

Ø      Titus 2:11-13.


This message is the development of that which through Moses was given

but in germ (John 5:46-47; Matthew 5:17).


  • Here past and present generations meet, giving out THE SAME WORDS!

We have now “the faith once [for all] delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).

Aged patriarchs in their declining years do reiterate the same message they

gave when in the vigor of youth. And young men, filled with the same spirit,

and having their hearts kindled with the same fire, take it up with the

earnest hope and prayer that it may suffer no loss in their hands! Often have

 a Moses and a Joshua thus stood side by side.


  • The message now is far fuller and clearer than it was when given to

Israel of old. How much, Christian preachers and teachers can tell. Yet in

three respects they are similar.


Ø      Both reveal the love of God, and recount a great deliverance.

Ø      Both solicit, in Heaven’s name, the response of the peoples’

hearts (see Romans 5:8; 12:1; II Corinthians 5:14-21).

Ø      Both require, on the ground of Divine love to man, love to

the redeemed brotherhood, and good will to all men

(I Corinthians 13.; John 4:10-19).


  • The commanding force of THE GOSPEL MESSAGE THROUGH OUR

LORD JESUS CHRIST than that sent through Moses. True, there was

terror at Sinai; there is tenderness in Calvary. Moses orders; Jesus pleads.

Moses speaks in thunderings; Jesus with tears. Yet must we not mistake

tenderness for weakness, nor gentleness for lack of authority or of power.

(See the entire argument in the Epistle to the Hebrews.)


  • All that can give fullest value to this life and joy to the next, depends on

how we treat this message from God. “It is not a vain thing for you; it is

your life” (v. 47).  We can but hint.


Ø      The enjoyment of peace with God (Romans 5:1).

Ø      The growth of character in holiness.

Ø      The true enjoyment and use of this earthly life, as families,

as nations, as individuals, depend on loyalty to God.

“Godliness is profitable unto all things; having promise

of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”

(I Timothy 4:8).


  • All our hope for the next life depends on our response to God; hence the

close of the verse just quoted — “and of that which is to come.” Apart

from the acceptance of Jesus Christ by faith, and a life of loyalty to God,

there is not a gleam of light or hope for the next life (see Hebrews 2:3).

If God did not allow His message through Moses to be slighted with

impunity, certainly He will not suffer men to “trample under foot the

Son of God, and count the blood of the covenant….an unholy thing

…..and do despite unto the Spirit of grace”  (Hebrews 10:29), -

 and then leave them unpunished!


  • What dread, what awful possibilities as to the fate of immortal souls

are trembling in the balance, while they refrain from “yielding themselves

unto God!” How earnestly and frequently may we with reason reiterate the

words, “It is your life!” All that ensures life here and hereafter being a

blessing, depends on the way men treat Jesus Christ and His salvation.


  • However many changes there may yet be in the bearers of this

message, yet, down to the end of time, God will never send a greater.

Moses and Joshua. The old generation passing away, the new coming on

the stage. They meet and greet. The faithful and tried veteran passes on

the word. The younger messenger, with solemn vow to God before his

brother man, receives it, and swears before high heaven that he will

maintain the message unimpaired, and in his turn “commit it to faithful

men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (II Timothy 2:2)


“Thus shall the bright succession run,

Till the last courses of the sun.”



Your Life (v.47)

The doing or not doing of God’s will, the obeying or not obeying of God’s

Word, is a matter of life and death to us. This is the simple and solemn and

uniform testimony of Scripture from its first page to its last. The gospel,

with its revelation of “life and immortality,” only heightens the solemnity of

the alternative. Instead of bare “life,” it is now “ETERNAL LIFE” which is

proposed for our acceptance, and which is lost or forfeited by sin. If “life”

is the promise, the counter-alternative is death, and “DEATH” accordingly is

denounced against the sinner in gospel, as in Law. “The wages of sin is

death” (Romans 6:23). Eternity is a factor to be taken into account

here, as well as in the case of “life.” Death, indeed, is not nonexistence, but

it is the loss of all that makes existence a boon; the extinction in the soul of

holiness, happiness, and love. Whatever the final state of the lost may be,

it will be true death. The man loses his “soul”his “life”“himself”

(Matthew 16:26; Luke 9:25). Oh that men were wise, that they understood

these things, and acted on their choice as wise men should!


48 “And the LORD spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying,

49 Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo,” - (compare

Numbers 21:10, 20). Nebo (compare Numbers 32:3, 38). An idol Nebo was

worshipped by the Moabites (Isaiah 46:1) - “which is in the land of Moab, that

is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the

children of Israel for a possession:” 


50 “And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto

thy people;” - “To Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This signifies that he should be

associated and joined to the souls of the just who are called his people. For the

people of Moses were not buried in Mount Abarim, and therefore he doth not speak

of gathering his body to their bodies, but of his soul to their souls - “as Aaron thy

brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people:”


51 “Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at

the waters of MeribahKadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye

sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.”  (Compare Numbers

20:13, 24.) Because ye sanctified me not (Numbers 27:14; I Peter 3:15).


52 “Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither

unto the land which I give the children of Israel.”  (compare Hebrews 11:13).



Obedient unto Death (vs. 48-52)


In Moses, Faith had achieved one of her most signal triumphs. From early

youth to latest manhood, he had acted and “endured as seeing Him who is

invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).  No earthly or visible honor had ever enchanted

his vision. He had lived very simply “in his Great Taskmaster’s eye.” Therefore

it was that he submitted to be deprived of the earthly Canaan without a murmur,

“for he looked for a city which had foundations, whose builder and maker

was God” (Ibid. v. 10).  To him death was but a darksome passage to an

enduring home.



Moses was a type of Christ, and has left us an example deserving our

imitation. It should be enough for us to know that God requires it. It is

no accident — no unforeseen event. Every circumstance touching the

believer’s death is wisely arranged by God. “Precious in the sight of the

Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).  Our Elder Brother has

passed the dark valley before us, and His presence lights up the once

gloomy way. “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” (Ibid. 23:4)

At the girdle of our Captain hang “the keys of death and of Hades”

(Revelation 1:18).  “He opens, and no man shuts” (Ibid. 3:7).  To the

genuine disciple death is no terror. “It is my Father’s voice I hear. I see his

beckoning hand. I feel his sustaining arm.” “Death is swallowed up in

victory.” (Isaiah 25:8; I Corinthians 15:54)



MERCIFUL. To the full-grown and ripe Christian, earth has little

attraction. Its joys pall upon the taste. We aspire after nobler and better

things. “I would not live always.” A time comes in the good man’s history

when he wishes the probation to close, and the real life to begin. The heir

longs for his majority and for the ancestral heritage. The believer dies

because death is the most convenient portal by which he can enter heaven.

Yet judgment is mingled with the mercy. Moses was on the tiptoe of

earthly expectancy — on the threshold of a great success, when God

required him to relinquish all for heaven. To him it was revealed, in

clearest form, that earlier sin required this late correction. For Israel’s

sake, for the world’s sake, and for Moses’ sake, his trespass must

bear fruitage in loss and sorrow. In the very nature of things, it is

impossible that men can sin without privation of some kind. We may

flatter ourselves, at times, that God has winked at our folly, and that

no ill consequence has ensued. But judge not prematurely. Possibly,

in our last hours of life, the remembrance of that sin will rob us of

our peace, will impose some serious loss. In the moral realm, whatsoever

a man sows, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7-8)




solid reasons in the Divine mind (partly hidden and partly revealed) why

Moses should die upon the mount. He might have viewed the magnificent

prospects, and then have descended to die. But mountains have often been

selected by God as the scene of grand events. On the summit of a mountain

we are inspired with a sense of awe. We take in the sense of the infinite.

We are constrained to worship. Thence we are already half disposed to

mount and soar to heaven. This is suggestive. When through much active

energy of faith we have climbed the heights of practical holiness, we feel

that the work of life is done. We have finished our course. There has been

steady advancement thus far, and now, what next? We feel that the world

is beneath our feet; and from this pinnacle of moral elevation we wait the

revelation of the future, we prepare for the strange transition.

From such an elevation of faith, too, we clearly discern the scene of the

Church’s future conquests. The past is a light which irradiates the

prospective triumphs of truth and holiness. “Much land remains to be

possessed;” but the assurance of success is absolute. Already the foes of

God are at our feet. “HE MUST REIGN TILL HE HATH PUT ALL


BE DESTROYED IS DEATH.”  (I Corinthians 15:25-26)



TO SOCIETY. “Thou shalt be gathered unto thy people” (v. 50). 

Whatever thoughts, or hopes, or fears this language of God suggested to

Moses’ mind, it suggests to our minds one of the charms of heaven. We

love to think of it as a home. Next to the ecstasy which God’s presence

shall inspire, is the rapture of reunion with departed friends. “In my

Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2).  No question need

distress us touching mutual recognition. Moses and Elijah were

recognized as such when they came down in glorified state, and

conversed with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-31).

 Not a faculty shall be wanting there which we possessed here. “Then

shall we know, even as also we are known” (I Corinthians 13:12).  If men

from distant climes shall “sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in

the kingdom of God (Luke 13:29), one main element of honor and of joy

would be missed unless these illustrious patriarchs were known.



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