|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
31:9-13 Though we read the word in private, we must not think it needless to hear it read in public. This solemn reading of the law must be done in the year of release. The year of release was typical of gospel grace, which is called the acceptable year of the Lord; for our pardon and liberty by Christ, engage us to keep his commandments. It must be read to all Israel, men, women, children, and to the strangers. It is the will of God that all people should acquaint themselves with his word. It is a rule to all, therefore should be read to all. Whoever has read of the pains taken by many persons to get scraps of the Scriptures, when a whole copy could not be obtained, or safely possessed, will see how thankful we should be for the thousands of copies amongst us. They will also understand the very different situation in which the Israelites were placed for many ages. But the heart of man is so careless, that all will be found too little, to keep up a knowledge of the truths, precepts, and worship of God.
Verses 9-13. - Moses turns next to the priests and the elders, and to them he commits the Law which he had written, with the injunction to read it to the people at the end of every seven years during the festival of the year of release, viz. at the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Leviticus 23:34), when they appeared before the Lord. At the end of every seven years (cf. Deuteronomy 15:1). The Law was committed to the priests and elders, not merely to preserve it in safe keeping, but that they might see to its being observed by the people; else why commit it to the elders whose it was to administer rule in the nation, as well as to the priests who alone had access to the ark of the covenant where the Law was deposited? Moses "entrusted the reading to the priesthood and the college of elders, as the spiritual and secular rulers of the congregation; and hence the singular, Thou shalt read this Law to all Israel" (Keil). By the Law here is meant the Pentateuch; but it does not necessarily follow that the whole of the Pentateuch was to be thus read. As the reading was to be only once in seven years, it may be concluded that it was not so much for the information of the people that this was done, as for the purpose of publicly declaring, and by a solemn ceremony impressing on their minds the condition on which they held their position and privileges as the chosen people of the Lord; and for this the reading of select portions of the Torah would be sufficient. The Feast of Tabernacles was appointed as the season for the reading, doubtless because there was a connection between the end for which the Law was read and the spirit and meaning of that festival as a festival of rejoicing because of their deliverance from the uncertainty and unsettledness of their state in the wilderness, and their establishment in a well-ordered state where they could in peace and quietness enjoy the blessings which the bounty of God bestowed. When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 16:16). Thou shalt read this law (cf. Joshua 8:34; 2 Kings 23:2; Nehemiah 8:1, etc.).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Moses wrote this law,.... The book of Deuteronomy, or the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, which he had now finished, and which all of them together are sometimes called the law, Galatians 4:21,
and delivered it unto the priests, the sons of Levi; who were the teachers of the law, as Aben Ezra observes; see Malachi 2:7; and therefore it was proper to put it into their hands, to instruct the people in it, and that the people might apply to them in any matter of difficulty, or when they wanted to have any particular law explained to them:
which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord; for though they were the Levites, and particularly the Kohathites, who in journeying carried the ark; see Numbers 4:5; yet sometimes it was borne by the priests; see Joshua 3:13,
and unto all the elders of Israel; the judges and civil magistrates in the respective tribes; for as there were in the book of the law several things which belonged to the priests to perform, and all of them they were to instruct in, so there were others which were to be the rule of judgment to judges, and all civil magistrates, and which they were to take care were put in execution; and therefore it was proper that they should have a copy of this law, and which must be here understood; for it cannot be thought that one and the same copy should be given both to the priests and to all the elders. The Jews say Moses wrote thirteen copies of the law, twelve for the twelve tribes, and one to be put into the ark, to convict of fraud or corruption, should any be made (s).
(s) Debarim Rabba, sect. 9. fol. 244. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
De 31:9-13. He Delivers the Law to the Priests, to Read It Every Seventh Year to the People.
9-13. And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests—The law thus committed to writing was either the whole book of Deuteronomy, or the important part of it contained between the twenty-seventh and thirtieth chapters. It was usual in cases of public or private contract for two copies of the engagement to be made—one to be deposited in the national archives or some secure place for reference, should occasion require. The other was to remain in the hands of the contracting parties (Jer 32:12-14). The same course was followed on this renewal of the covenant between God and Israel. Two written copies of the law were prepared, the one of which was delivered to the public representatives of Israel; namely, the priests and the elders.
the priests, … who bare the ark of the covenant—In all ordinary journeys, it was the common duty of the Levites to carry the ark and its furniture (Nu 4:15); but, on solemn or extraordinary occasions, that office was discharged by the priests (Jos 3:3-8; 6:6; 1Ch 15:11, 12).
all the elders of Israel—They were assistants to the priests and overseers to take care of the preservation, rehearsal, and observance of the law.
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