BIBLE STUDY SERIES #494, 495 and 496

13 May, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 9: WARNINGS - PART V

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, and the formation of a national entity through which it has pleased Almighty God to work in accomplishing that task, down to Deuteronomy 9, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood. The aged Prophet, Moses, is, in this chapter, carrying forward his last great oration to the Tribes of Israel prior to their crossing of the Jordan River and their military entry into their Promised Land.

Today we are going to be studying Deuteronomy 9:1-6. As is our custom, we shall be inserting comments as we come to them.

The Companion Bible, in beginning the notes on this chapter, marks a simple division at verse 7. It briefly points to verses 1-6 in the one word "Prospective", and to the passage which runs from 9:7 to 10:11 in the one word "Retrospective."

The New Bible Commentary, introducing its insights on this chapter under the heading "The people reminded of their sins and demerits", states these thoughts: "Moses afresh urges humility as they..." (that is to say, the younger generation of the Tribes of Israel gathered before him) ..."remember their past sins and failures. He recalls their fears (thou knowest (2) is emphatic), but renews God's promise (shall destroy (3) is also emphatic). He repeats the nature of their calling to 'possess' the land ... and God's purpose in the destruction of the Canaanites and the abolition of idolatry." Perhaps at that point, with this overview, we should move to the reading of that first portion of the Scripture text:

1. Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven,
2. A people great and tall, the children of the Anakims, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before the children of Anak!
3. Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee.
4. Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.
5. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
6. Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people.

That passage, I believe, ought to have been most carefully reviewed and underscored before the zealous intransigences and self-righteous positions which created the tensions in that strife-torn land in our own generation were adopted.

The Companion Bible comments on the phrase "this day", stating "i.e. it is declared this day that ...", and puts the wording in the form "Hear, O Israel this day." At verse 2, "children of the Anakims" it shows that the word "children" actually is "sons" and the Anakims named here draw the explanation "The descendants of Anak; the progeny of the second irruption of fallen angels ... ." I believe that latter comment might lead to some interesting discussions, but as with a number of rather more obscure statements, we will doubtless be well instructed on the details at the time of Christ's Second Advent! In verse 3, "the Lord thy God = Jehovah thy Elohim." Also in verse 3, that reference mentions of the three peoples, Midian, Ammon and Philistines, that each is later mentioned as being subdued in Scripture. In the case of Midian, it points to Judges 8:28, for Ammon, to Judges 11:33, and for Philistines, to I Samuel 7:13, but adds compare Nehemiah 9:24. At verse 5, it points out that with the more general word "fathers" this Scripture actually names all three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in connection with the oath. This might be a useful reference for Bible Students to keep in mind as a proof-text reference, in order to support the contention that the oath of The LORD was imparted in succession, (and, we might add, was actually increased, amplified and reinforced therewith) to each of these particular Patriarchs, as the Oath was to be fulfilled specifically within that Israelitish line of descent.

Introducing this same chapter, Keil and Delitzsch first grant to us some comments by way of an overview, and then their more specific verse by verse exposition. They begin with these thoughts: "Besides the more vulgar pride which entirely forgets God, and attributes success and prosperity to its own power and exertion, there is one of a more refined character, which very easily spreads - namely, pride which acknowledges the blessings of God; but instead of receiving them gratefully, as unmerited gifts of the grace of the Lord, sees in them nothing but proofs of its own righteousness and virtue. Moses therefore warned the Israelites more particularly of this dangerous enemy of the soul, by first of all declaring without reserve, that the Lord was not about to give them Canaan because of their own righteousness, but that He would exterminate the Canaanites for their own wickedness ...; and then showing them for their humiliation, by proofs drawn from the immediate past, how they had brought upon themselves the anger of the Lord by their apostasy and rebellion against their God, directly after the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai; and that in such a way, that it was only by his earnest intercession that he had been able to prevent the destruction of the people ... and to secure a further renewal of the pledges of the covenant... ."

Homing in more directly on those verses which we have just read, Keil and Delitzsch give a summary sentence, stating "Warning against a conceit of righteousness, with the occasion for the warning." They continue "As the Israelites were now about to cross over the Jordan ('this day,' to indicate that the time was close at hand), to take possession of nations that were superior to them in size and strength ..., and great fortified cities reaching to the heavens ... and as they also knew that Jehovah their God was going before them to destroy and humble these nations, they were not to say in their heart, when this was done, For my righteousness Jehovah hath brought me in to possess this land... . Jehovah would destroy the Canaanites, by bringing them down, humbling them before Israel, so that they would be able to drive them out and destroy them quickly." Here, the commentary explains that "quickly" is no more opposed to Chapter 7:22 "thou mayest not destroy them quickly", than God's not delaying to requite (Chapter 7:10) is opposed to His long-suffering. "So far as the almighty assistance of God was concerned, the Israelites would quickly overthrow the Canaanites; but for the sake of the well-being of Israel, the destruction would only take place by degrees." They continue: "When therefore Jehovah thrust out these nations before them ..., the Israelites were not to say within themselves 'By (for, on account of) my righteousness Jehovah hath brought me (led me hither) to possess this land ... but because of the wickedness of these nations... ."

They tell us further that Moses "mentions, in addition to righteousness, straightness or uprightness of heart, to indicate briefly that outward works do not constitute true righteousness, but that an upright state of heart is indispensable, and then enter more fully into the positive reasons. The wickedness of the Canaanites was no doubt a sufficient reason for destroying them, but not for giving their land to the people of Israel, since they could lay no claim to it on account of their own righteousness. The reason for giving Canaan to the Israelites was simply the promise of God, the word which the Lord had spoken to the patriarchs on oath ... and therefore nothing but the free grace of God, - not any merit on the part of the Israelites who were then living, for they were a people 'of a hard neck,' i.e. a stubborn, untractable generation."

On the next Bible Study, we shall be examining further on this great oration by the elderly Prophet Moses before all Israel, as they prepared for their entry into that Land of Promise across the Jordan River.

20 May, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 9: WARNINGS - PART VI

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, and the formation of a national entity through which it has pleased Almighty God to work in accomplishing that task, down to Deuteronomy 9, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood.

Today we are going to be studying Scriptures from the passage found in Deuteronomy 9:7-29. As is our custom, we shall be inserting comments as we come to them.

The aged Prophet Moses is giving his last great oration before the assembled Tribes of the Children of Israel, and we had, in our last study, examined the first six verses of this chapter, in which, with great concern and foresight, that Prophet has told this, the younger generation of Israel how that their God will go with them to destroy those who presently reside within the borders of Canaan. This, God will do, not because the Israelites are a perfect people, for they had on numerous occasions, within the recent memory of this and the former generation, sinned against The Commandments which God had given them, and Moses is at pains to point out those short-comings before The LORD. Rather, God proposes to assist their conquest for two main purposes. These are, first, because of the terrible wickedness of the Canaanites, and also second, because God would fulfil His pledged word to their forefathers, the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Let us now begin the reading of today's Scripture portion, and in our imagination, stand among those youthful Israelites, now grown to maturity and hardened to the adversities of their recent 38-year lifestyle in the Wilderness of Sinai, and imagine ourselves, as one among them, as Moses proceeds to drive home the points which he is delivering before the assembly of Israel here, in the plains of Moab, near the Jordan River.

7. Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD.
8. Also in Horeb ye provoked the LORD to wrath, so that the LORD was angry with you to have destroyed you.
9. When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water:
10. And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.

Moses' stay atop Mount Sinai, being forty days in length, was prophetically related to the forty days which Jesus Christ later spent in the Wilderness prior to His ministry at His First Advent. It once again, reinforces the significance of that number, forty, as betokening a time of trial or period of testing of character. Other Biblical examples will probably come to the minds of those following this Study.

That last verse records in the clearest possible manner the fact that the Ten Commandments were given to Moses by Yahweh, the Almighty God, Who had written them Himself on the stone tablets which Moses then brought down from the top of Mount Sinai. You will remember that as Israel had sinned during the 40 days while Moses was absent, receiving those commandments, Moses, coming within sight of the veritable carnival of worship of the Golden Calf which, in their impatience the Israelites had demanded to be made, had broken the tablets, symbolic of breaking the covenant. Moses had then to return to plead before God, for the people, and to hew two other stone tablets on which the Commandments were again written.

With regard to the higher critics who assign all such writings to some later writer The Companion Bible, Appendix 47 shows that a definite "book" is "spoken of throughout the Old Testament as being constantly written in, with directions how it was to be added to and kept up by the prophets raised up from time to time for that purpose, among others." Starting with Exodus 17:14, there then follows in this Appendix a list of 32 Old Testament references with notes on each, at which points the links in this chain are open to examination, from Exodus to Malachi.

Now let us return, in imagination to hear the rest of the chapter, for Moses speaks clearly, and the force of his words, as that of a great orator, might be hindered by intervening comments. This is in spite of his earlier protest when being sent as God's representative to Pharaoh, to demand that he let Israel go out from their Egyptian bondage. You might remember his words to Yahweh taken from Exodus 4:10, "I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue"!

11. And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant.
12. And the LORD said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.
13. Furthermore the LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
14. Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven: and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they.
15. So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands.
16. And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the LORD your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the LORD had commanded you.
17. And I took the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes.
18. And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
19. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you. But the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also.
20. And the LORD was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and I prayed for Aaron also the same time.
21. And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount.
22. And at Taberah, and at Massah, and at Kibrothhattaavah, ye provoked the LORD to wrath.
23. Likewise when the LORD sent you from Kadeshbarnea, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you; then ye rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and ye believed him not, nor hearkened to his voice.
24. Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.
25. Thus I fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the LORD had said he would destroy you.
26. I prayed therefore unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
27. Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin:
28. Lest the land whence thou broughtest us out say, Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he hath brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.
29. Yet they are thy people and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest out by thy mighty power and by thy stretched out arm.

Thus we come back to the point previously made, as expressed by The New Bible Commentary. It is God's righteousness which Israel is to execute upon the inhabitants of the Promised Land. It is not earned by Israel, as Moses "sets the promise in sharp contrast with their unworthiness which is emphasized by the recital of ix. 7-x. 11 ..." (a portion of which we have just read), "... and preaches the doctrine of the unmerited grace of God as clearly as St. Paul. The calling of Israel is unconditional, springs from the sovereign choice of God's love (vii. 7-9), and is irrevocable (Rom. xi. 29). The blessings, on the other hand, are conditional upon obedience."

One comment in the sentence which immediately follows upon the quotation we have just used might be questionable because it expresses a Christian view which is unfamiliar with the Israel message. However in line with Romans 14:1, the general thrust, even there, can be accepted by the Christian student. During the coming week we might meditate upon the applications of Moses' words in the context of our own personal experiences of life as well as in that of the nations of Israel in a wider application.

27 May, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 10: WARNINGS - PART VII

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, and the formation of a national entity through which it has pleased Almighty God to work in accomplishing that task, down to Deuteronomy 10, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood. The aged Prophet, Moses, is, in this chapter, carrying forward his last great oration to the Tribes of Israel prior to their crossing of the Jordan River and their military entry into their Promised Land.

In the previous Study, we read how Moses had interceded, pleading that the wrath of The LORD would not be applied to Israel of the former generation for their great sin at the foot of Mount Sinai. You will doubtless recall the nature of that sin. The people had waited with increasing doubt and frustration for those first forty days while their leader, Moses, was absent atop the Mount, receiving the first set of The Ten Commandments which The Almighty had prepared. While Moses was absent, they had grown impatient and restless, and among them there had arisen that dread decision to dispense with the leadership of Moses, of whose present circumstance they began to have doubts, and to create a religious object of worship fashioned after a design of their own heart's desire. It was that "golden calf", and its design doubtless followed after a pattern learned in Egypt where they had been surrounded by evidences of the multiple deities symbolised in idols, representations of animal gods and goddesses which abounded in that land.

Perhaps it was in part a decision encouraged by the "mixt multitude" of Numbers 11:4 that sought to emulate the Egyptian deities, so that they might return to Egypt bearing it in their midst, to symbolise their willingness to merge once again into the bondage of that land, where they might hope to eat once more as they had in the past. As Numbers 11:5 puts it, "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick." In their restless state, the people had begun to crave a more familiar deity of their own imagination and they had demanded that the aged Aaron, the remaining religious leader in their midst, fashion it. In the presence of a god of their own creation, that golden calf, many of the people had worshipped, and some had even begun a wild celebration in its presence. Moses returned to this spectacle with anger and dismay. The Levites, his own tribe, had rallied to him when he called for a sword to sweep away the instigators and followers of this great sin. By so doing, the men of Levi had there made amends at least in part, for the actions of Levi who, with Simeon, had initiated the slaughter of the inhabitants of Shechem over the defilement of their full-sister, Dinah, mentioned back in Genesis 34:2-26 and 49:5-7.

Moses had then to create a second set of stone tablets upon which he returned to the mountain top where The Almighty wrote The Commandments again on these fresh tablets. All of these occurrences bear, to us of a later, and hopefully a more perceptive generation, the marks of prophetic outline which may well be seen reflected down the concourse of history, for they all formed a pattern to which Paul makes reference in I Corinthians 10:5-7. Writing therein, Paul states "But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play."

Today we are going to begin studying Deuteronomy 10 beginning at verse 1. As is our custom, we shall be inserting comments as we come to them. Moses is continuing his great oration of warning to the present more youthful generation of the children of Israel. He records his words thus:

1. At that time the LORD said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood.
2. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark.
3. And I made an ark of shittim wood, and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables in mine hand.
4. And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the LORD spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the LORD gave them unto me.
5. And I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they be, as the LORD commanded me.
6. And the children of Israel took their journey from Beeroth of the children of Jaakan to Mosera: there Aaron died, and there he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered in the priest's office in his stead.
7. From thence they journeyed unto Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbath, a land of rivers of waters.

Here, we must understand that Moses is recounting with less detail what had actually happened. Commentaries seem to diverge somewhat concerning the construction of the wording of this passage and the thoughts of Moses as he recounted them.

The Companion Bible note at verse 1 concerning the word "ark" explains that this word is "First used of Joseph's coffin (Gen. 50. 26); used of money-box (2 Kings 12. 9). Not the ark of the covenant made later, but a temporary box." The note at verse 2 states "brakest = breakedst in pieces, or smashed."

As we shall see shortly, at verse 3, The New Bible Commentary makes a comment concerning the ark mentioned in that verse which bears another variant possibility of meaning. The New Bible Commentary, at the beginning of Deuteronomy 10, begins with the sub-heading "The ark and the Levites (x. 1-11)." and continues "In verses 1-11 Moses concludes his retrospect on the events at Horeb. His thoughts travel from his repeated intercessions back to the ten commandments, and the tables laid up in the ark, still in their midst; to the death of Aaron, to Eleazar (6) and to the Levites still carrying on their work. They may have been standing near him as he spoke."

The New Bible Commentary continues of the words "I made an ark (3). See Ex. xxv. 10n. This apparently refers to the ark subsequently made by Bezaleel under Moses' direction (Ex. xxxv), or perhaps to a temporary receptacle made with his own hands." Proceeding to the words "he wrote" in verse 4, that reference points us to the subsequent unfolding of God's purpose in 2 Cor. iii. 3, a reference in which Paul writes to the Corinthians "Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart." Of the words at verse 5, "As the Lord commanded me", it notes "A frequent phrase in Exodus (e.g. vii. 6), Moses' own obedience (see Heb. iii. 2) gives force to his counsels to others." That reference in Hebrews, incidentally, beginning with the previous verse, and continuing to verse 6 to gain an appreciation of the matter, reads:

1. Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
2. Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
3. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
4. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
5. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;
6. But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."

However, as Keil and Delitzsch note, "Here again Moses links together such things as were substantially connected, without strictly confining himself to the chronological order, which was already well known from the historical account, inasmuch as this was not required by the general object of his address. God had already given directions for the preparation of the ark of the covenant, before the apostasy of the nation (Ex. xxv. 10 sqq.); but it was not made till after the tabernacle had been built, and the tables were only deposited in the ark when the tabernacle was consecrated (Ex. xl. 20). - Vers. 6 and 7. And the Israelites owed to the grace of their God, which was turned towards them once more, through the intercession of Moses, not only the restoration of the tables of the covenant as a pledge that the covenant itself was restored, but also the institution and maintenance of the high-priesthood and priesthood generally for the purpose of mediation between them and the Lord."

We are about out of time, for today, so we shall reserve some further thoughts on this passage by Keil and Delitzsch for our next Study.

RETURN TO BIBLE STUDY
RETURN TO B.I.W.F. HOME PAGE