BIBLE STUDY SERIES #533, 534 and 535

10 February, 2002

DEUTERONOMY 31: 1-15

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, down to today's study which moves to the first of the final four chapters of Deuteronomy.

In recent Studies, we had moved to two chapters, which formed what some commentaries term Moses' Third Discourse. We now continue with the final four chapters, reading at Deuteronomy 31, from verse 1.

You might wish to have your Bibles open to that 31st Chapter of Deuteronomy, and follow as we read today's Bible Study Scripture, the better to understand the comments based thereon.

Introducing this final block of chapters in Deuteronomy, under the heading "IV. - Moses' Farewell and Death.", Keil and Delitzsch present an introduction to the set, as follows: "With the renewal of the covenant, by the choice set before the people between blessing and curse, life and death, Moses had finished the interpretation and enforcement of the law (chap. i. 5.), and brought the work of legislation to a close. But in order that the work to which the Lord had called him might be thoroughly completed, it still remained for him, before his approaching death, to hand over the task of leading the people into Canaan to Joshua, who had been appointed as his successor, to finish writing out the laws, and to hand over the book of the law to the priests. The Lord also directed him to write an ode, as a witness against the people, on account of their obstinacy, and teach it to the Israelites. To these last arrangements and acts of Moses, which are narrated in chap. xxxi. and xxxii., there are added in chap. xxxiii. the blessing with which this man of God bade farewell to the tribes of Israel, and in chap. xxxiv. the account of his death, with which the Pentateuch closes."

The Companion Bible gives the opinion that verses 1-7 constitute Moses' seventh address, revealing thereby that Commentary's variance from others.

The New Bible Commentary heading "The Writing of the Law and The Song" introduces a note under the sub heading "The Law Written" which states "Moses now resigns his leadership of the people into the hands of Joshua (verse 3) and his teaching office to the priests (verse 9), and hands the precious book containing the written law to the Levites for safe keeping. Keil and Delitzsch comment that, at 120 years of age, Moses explains that he can "no more go out and in, i.e. no longer work in the nation and for it ... and the Lord has forbidden him to cross over the Jordan and enter Canaan... . The first of these reasons is not at variance with the statement in chap. xxxiv. 7, that up to the time of his death his eyes were not dim, nor his strength abated." After stating God's promises to Israel, Moses then gives Joshua the same assurances in the presence of all the people. Let us reserve further comments until we have read a portion of our Scripture from Deuteronomy 31.

1. And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel.
2. And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in: also the LORD hath said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan.
3. The LORD thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them: and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the LORD hath said.
4. And the LORD shall do unto them as he did to Sihon and to Og, kings of the Amorites, and unto the land of them, whom he destroyed.
5. And the LORD shall give them up before your face, that ye may do unto them according unto all the commandments which I have commanded you.
6. Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
7. And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.
8. And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.
9. And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel.

The New Bible Commentary notes of Joshua in verse 3 some linking references to chapter 1:23 and 3:21. It continues "Having been long since made leader of the army (Ex. xvii), and recently charged by the laying on of Moses' hands (Nu. xxvii. 18-23), Joshua is now to receive his commission directly from Jehovah (verse 14)." Of the words "Be strong and of a good courage (6).", it explains "Moses thus exhorts first the people and then Joshua (7). See Jos. i. 6, 9 and cf. Eph. vi. 10." On looking up the first of these, we read a succession of verses in each of which this command is repeated to Joshua by the LORD, and the Ephesians reference, reflects the same when commanding to put on the whole armour of God.

"The Lord ... doth go before thee (8). The heathen thought of their divinities as confined to special localities (see xxix. 26n.), but the Lord delights to go before and with His people. He will not fail thee (8). Cf. Heb. xiii. 5 [in which God gives the same command by the hand of the writer of that epistle]. Fear Not, neither be dismayed (8). Fear comes so naturally to fallen man that this word of encouragement is often repeated from Genesis (xv. 1) to Revelation (i. 17). Moses wrote this law (9). These words, and those in verse 22, 'Moses wrote this song', are the only explicit statements in this book of what Moses himself wrote (cf. Nu. xxxiii. 2 [ where Moses was commanded to write the journeys of the Tribes]). The introductory phrases 'these be the words' (i. 1), 'this is the law (iv. 44), 'these are the words' (xxix. 1), 'this is the blessing' (xxxiii. 1), read like the words of a compiler, probably the same as the inspired writer of chapter xxxiv. It may not be possible to draw the exact line between what Moses did, or did not, write with his own hand, but the contemporary character of the record is abundantly evident, and its inspired character can be safely trusted. (See General Article, The Historical Literature, p. 33 [which conveys a useful general article of several columns in that Reference covering the whole question].) This law (9) must refer at least to the greater part of the book of Deuteronomy, and everything points to Moses' purpose of making a record that should be permanent. Emphasis on their permanence is seen in the contrast between 'his writings' and 'my words' in Jn. v. 47 [where Jesus asks "But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?]. The priests ... which bare the ark (9). See xviii. 1n [wherein "the priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi are distinguished from the other tribes in matters of their inheritance]. The distinction is clearly made between the priests who, together with the elders, are charged with teaching the law and the Levites who were charged with the care of the book. thou shalt read this law (11). The reading of the law by Joshua is recorded in Jos. viii. 34; cf. 2 Ki. xxiii. 2 [This is a reference where King Josiah, having launched the repairs to the house of the Lord receives word of the discovery of the book of the law therein and upon the reading thereof, the King began a great revival among the people.]. According to the Jewish Mishna the reading at the feasts included the first five chapters and other portions of Deuteronomy.

10. And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,
11. When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.
12. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:
13. And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.
14. And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation.
15. And the LORD appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle.

Summing up this passage, The New Bible Commentary notes: "Joshua commissioned (xxxi. 14, 15) The tabernacle of the congregation (14). 'The tent of meeting' (RV). See Ex. xxv. 9n. The Lord appeared (15). The cloudy pillar which had accompanied them through their wanderings (Ex. xxxiii. 9) now appears once more as Jehovah speaks face to face' with Moses for the last time.

We shall continue this Study next week.

17 February, 2002

DEUTERONOMY 31: 16-30

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, down to today's study which moves to the first of the final four chapters of Deuteronomy.

In recent Studies, we had moved to two chapters, which formed what some commentaries term Moses' Third Discourse. We now continue with the final four chapters, reading at Deuteronomy 31, from verse 16.

You might wish to have your Bibles open to that 31st Chapter of Deuteronomy, and follow as we read today's Bible Study Scripture, the better to understand the comments based thereon. By the way, back at verse 9, where Moses handed over the written law, as Keil and Delitzsch explain, Moses did not at that time intend to give the law-book entirely out of his own hands, but simply to assign the law to those persons who were to take care, that in the future the written law should be kept before the people, as the rule of their life and conduct, and publicly read to them. As the law-book was given, not only to the priests, but to all the elders (who could not touch the ark) the intent was obviously not just to store the book away in a holy place, but to use it in teaching everyone at the Feast of Tabernacles of the year of release..

The New Bible Commentary picks up the exposition on the passage under the sub-heading "The song written and the law completed (xxxi. 16-30)" in the words "From this point to the end of the next chapter attention is centred upon the future, and 'the song', which was given to Moses and Joshua both to write and to put into the mouth of the people for a continuing witness." The ideas that lie behind the ark, the covenant, the law and the witness or testimony, are all closely linked together. Keil and Delitzsch expound the theme of the imparting of God's commission from Moses to Joshua in greater detail, and they indicate that, although God foreknew that Israel would go into apostasy and be put out of their land, God, none-the-less would bring them into that Promised Land under Joshua, who was exhorted to prevent that apostasy as long as he was the leader of Israel. This, Joshua did faithfully to the very end of his life (See Joshua 23 and 24 for confirmation of this fact). We shall have more to say concerning the matter of the Mosaic song when we take up the subject in the next Bible Study, but for the present, let us now read and consider the words of Deuteronomy 31:16-30.

16. And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.

The Companion Bible has a few words concerning the first verse of our reading, as it draws attention to "shall sleep with thy fathers = shall lie down to sleep A beautiful euphemism ... for death. This is the first occurrence. It is used alike of good people and evil: of Ahab as well as David; of all the kings, even Jehoiakim, who had no burial." 38 Biblical references follow in the note. "Go a whoring" is the constant idiom for idolatry. That point would be well to keep in view when reading Hosea 1:2 where Hosea's wife, (Gomer), is stated to be "a wife of whoredoms."

17. Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?
18. And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.

As Jesus quoted Moses as a completely authoritative Old Testament Prophet, we have His authority for holding that these words were not the product of a subsequent writer of post-exilic times attempting to write the former history of Israel as if it has been foreseen in the prophetic words of Moses. I find it quite remarkable that Moses has here prophetically given God's words with the thrust which so precisely outlines what happened to Israel in subsequent centuries, which he could only have done as The Almighty God gave him the inspired words to speak and to record. To "break my covenant" (verse 16) draws attention to the symbolism of the breaking of the tablets of the law at Sinai.

19. Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.
20. For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant.
21. And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.
22. Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel.
23. And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.
24. And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished,
25. That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying,
26. Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.
27. For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?

Keil and Delitzsch write on verses 24-27 thus: "With the installation of Joshua on the part of God, the official life of Moses was brought to a close. Having returned from the tabernacle, he finished the writing out of the laws, and then gave the book of the law to the Levites, with a command to put it by the side of the ark of the covenant, that it might be there for a witness against the people, as He knew its rebellion and stiffneckedness." They continue "By the 'Levites who bare the ark of the covenant' we are not to understand ordinary Levites, but the Levitical priests, who were entrusted with the ark. 'The Levites' is simply a contraction for the full expression, 'the priests the sons of Levi; (vers. 9). It is true that, according to Num. iv. 4 sqq., the Kohathites were appointed to carry the holy vessels, which included the ark of the covenant, on the journey through the desert; but it was the priests, and not they, who were the true bearers and guardians of the holy things, as we may see from the fact that the priests had first of all to wrap up these holy things in a careful manner, before they handed them over to the Kohathites, that they might not touch the holy things and die (Num. iv. 15). Hence we find that on solemn occasions, when the ark was to be brought out in all its full significance and glory, - as, for example, in the crossing of the Jordan (Josh. iii. 3 sqq., iv. 9, 10), when encompassing Jericho (Josh. vi. 6, 12), at the setting up of the law on Ebal and Gerizim (Josh. viii. 33), and at the consecration of Solomon's temple (1 Kings viii. 3), - it was not by the Levites, but by the priests, that the ark of the covenant was borne. In fact the Levites were, strictly speaking, only their (the priests') servants, who relieved them of this and the other labours, so that what they did was done in a certain sense through them. Continuing at verse 28:

28. Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them.
29. For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.
30. And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended.

Some further words by Keil and Delitzsch might be taken up on the next Bible Study. The New Bible Commentary gives some thoughts on individual verses. "Write ye" (19) is a plural command to both Moses and Joshua. God will have two witnesses; the song and the written law. I know their imagination (21). God's foreknowledge is due to His insight into the heart of man whose 'imagination' is continually towards evil (Gn. vi. 5). The same day (22). Another explicit claim to Mosaic authorship. An end of writing (24). The first command to Moses to write occurs in Ex. xvii. 14 and this is the last reference to his so doing (see verse 9n.). ... In the side of the ark (26). 'By the side of the ark' (RV). It may be noted that there is no mention of the law among the contents of the ark in Heb. ix. 4. ... In the latter days (29). Cf. Gn. xlix. 1; Nu. xxiv. 14. The expression represents the horizon of prophetic vision, and is found in connection with messianic predictions (see Dn. ii. 28, 44). Until they were ended (30). The commencement and the ending of the writing, first of the book, and then of the song, are carefully noted. We shall continue next week.

24 February, 2002

DEUTERONOMY 32: 1-43 - THE SONG - PART I

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, down to today's study which moves to the second of the final four chapters of Deuteronomy.

We now continue with the reading at Deuteronomy 32.

You might wish to have your Bibles open to that 32nd Chapter of Deuteronomy, and follow as we read today's Bible Study Scripture, the better to understand the comments based thereon. Before we begin this chapter, I might complete a few thoughts by Keil and Delitzsch on the end of the last chapter, as they lead into this present Study. Writing on verses 28-30 of chapter 31, they say "Directly after handing over the book of the law Moses directed the elders of all the tribes, together with the official persons, to gather round him, that he might rehearse to them the ode which he had written for the people. The summons, 'gather unto me,' was addressed to the persons to whom he had given the book of the law. The elders and officers, as the civil authorities of the congregation, were collected together by him to hear the ode, because they were to put it in the mouth of the people, i.e. to take care that all the nation should learn it. The words, 'I will call heaven and earth as witnesses against you,' refer to the substance of the ode about to be rehearsed, which begins with an appeal to the heaven and the earth ... . The reason assigned for this in ver. 29 is a brief summary of what the Lord had said to Moses in vers. 16-21, and Moses thought it necessary to communicate to the representatives of the nation. ... . Let us now proceed to Deuteronomy 32, starting with verse 1. This chapter forms a most important summary of God's purposes in Israel, and to do it justice, we ought to read long quotations out of several sources by way of commentary, either before we begin, or after we reach verse 43, but time forces us to attempt a shorter portion for today, and we shall spend further time on the passage in the next Study.

Perhaps by way of introduction I should read some thoughts from the New Bible Commentary. It introduces the chapter as follows: "At the crossing of the Red Sea Moses sang a song unto the Lord (Ex. xv.1; cf. Rev. xv. 3), and now at the end he teaches the people the Lord's song. It has been called 'the key to all prophecy', for it recounts the birth and childhood of the nation, their ingratitude and apostasy, their punishment and restoration. Seen otherwise, its theme is the name of the Lord, His loving care for His people, His righteousness and His mercy. It carries us from the creation to the final judgment, and begins and ends with praise." Let us make a start on Deuteronomy 32 now. We will read through it to obtain a sense of the continuity of thought in the song, but return to examine parts in greater detail next week.

1. Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
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:
3. Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
4. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
5. They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.
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?
7. Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.
8. When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.
9. For the LORD'S portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.

Here, I might just draw attention to those last two verses, for they give a distinct answer to any who think that God does not consider any one group distinctly separated for His purposes from every other group on the face of the earth. God does choose and select among racial lines because He made a commitment to the Biblical Patriarchs, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (renamed Israel), to Joseph and the other sons of Jacob. These commitments God must carry out through subsequent history, lest otherwise He become a liar to those Patriarchs, and thus unable to sit in judgment upon Satan for the very same offence, namely, lying to the descendants of Adam and Eve. In fact, this is Satan's only hope of evading such a judgment, and he will therefore do anything within his power to cause such a failure on the part of The Almighty. Returning to our passage at verse 10:

10. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
11. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:

Note here the example God uses, of the eagle teaching its young to fly by pushing them out of the nest, and, as they flutter downward, swooping beneath to catch them in mid-flight as they tumble, and returning them to the nest.

12. So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
13. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock;
14. Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.
15. But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
16. They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger.
17. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.
18. Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.
19. And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters.
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.
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.
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.
23. I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them.
24. They shall be burnt with hunger, 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.
25. The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy 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.
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!
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?
31. For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.
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:
33. Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
34. Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?
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.
36. For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.
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.
39. See now that I, even I, am he, 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.
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.
42. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.
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 I explained, we are not through our examination of the parts of the song, and will return to these next week.

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