Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Hewing of New Tables of Stone and the Making of the Ark
The account of the former is extracted verbally from Exodus 34:1-4, JE, which adds other details, but has now no mention of the making of the Ark. It is, however, more than probable and ‘practically certain’ that D derived his words about the Ark, equally with those on the tables, from the original text of JE, and that they were afterwards omitted from JE ‘by the compiler as inconsistent with the more detailed particulars, which he preferred, contained in the narrative of P.’ So Driver, Exodus (in this series), p. 366. For the full argument see that note and also the introd. to the vol., p. lxvii f., and the note, pp. 278–280, on the religious ideas associated with the Ark and opinions as to its possible origin. In addition, it is only necessary to state here that the date of the disappearance of the Ark from Israel’s central sanctuary is not known. No Ark was in the Second Temple, but whether it had perished in the fall of Jerusalem, 587 b.c. (cp. 2Es 10:22), or even earlier, and therefore was not existent in the time of the deuteronomists (as may be inferred from the absence of any mention of it in the history after Solomon, and in the Prophets except for the quite ambiguous Jeremiah 3:16) is uncertain. See A. R. S. Kennedy, ‘Ark’ in Hastings’ D.B. (I. 150) and the present writer’s Jerusalem, ii. 256, 306 f. Its absence from the Second Temple, in harmony with Jeremiah 3:14-18, is in curious contrast to the very developed conception of the Ark in P, which raises interesting questions that cannot be pursued here.
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.1. Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first] So Exodus 34:1 a, JE.
and come up unto me into the mount] So probably in the original E; J has, come up in the morning unto Mt Sinai and present thyself to me, etc., followed by a command to keep the Mount free of men and cattle, Exodus 34:2-3.
and make thee an ark of wood] Almost certainly from the original E; see general note above. Ark or chest, so in Assyr. and Arabic, cp. 2 Kings 12:9 f., a chest for the temple-offerings, a money box; in Phoen. a coffin or sarcophagus, and so in Genesis 50:26. Of wood, in P, Exodus 25:10-16, of acacia wood (as below in Deuteronomy 10:3) with the dimensions 2½ x 1½ x 1½ cubits, to be overlaid, in and out, with pure gold, with a moulding and rings of gold, and staves of acacia wood likewise overlaid with gold. A great contrast to the very simple statement of D.! Further, according to P, the divine direction is not that Moses shall make the Ark, but that they shall make it.
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.2. And I will write … which thou brakest] So exactly Exodus 34:1 b, E; cp. above Deuteronomy 5:22, and tables of the covenant, Deuteronomy 9:9; Deuteronomy 9:11.
and thou shalt put them in the ark] Not now in E for the reasons given above. Hence D’s name, the ark of the covenant. See above on p. 64. For the same reason P calls the tables the tables of, and the Ark the Ark of, the testimony.
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.3. So I made an ark of acacia wood] Not now in JE, see above. P, Exodus 25:10; Exodus 37:1, Beṣal’el made the ark of acacia wood.
acacia wood] planks of shiṭṭim, the plur. of the tree shiṭṭah = shinṭah, Ar. ‘sant,’ a name given to several species of the thorny acacia; in Egypt to ‘A. (mimosa) Nilotica’ (Lane, Ar. Eng. Lex.); and by the Arabs of the Desert of the wanderings of Israel to the ‘A. tortilis’ and ‘A. laeta’ (Hart, Fauna and Flora of Sinai, Petra and W. Araba, 52). More probably the former, an upright tree, 10 or 15 feet high, with a thick trunk and occasionally very numerous (e.g. a grove of acacias, chiefly ‘tortilis,’ ten miles long in the Arabah, id. 31, cp. 8, 12, 92, and found on W. el Ithm, by which Israel probably passed to the Edomite plateau); the ‘A. laeta’ is a tropical tree found only in the Ghor, and there seldom. Both Tristram (Nat. Hist. of the Bible, 298 f.) and Post (Flora, 298 f. and art. ‘Shittah’ in Hastings’ D.B.) identify the Shittah tree with the Seyyâl acacia, but this is never called ‘Sunṭ’ by the Beduin to-day, and indeed is distinguished by them from ‘Sunṭ’ (Hart, op. cit. 52). Doughty mentions an acacia, called by the modern inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula ‘ṭolh,’ the only acacia wood which is not brittle, and is used by the Solubba, or tribe of smiths and carpenters, for saddle-trees and frames and vessels for milk, and also on the Arabian coast for ship-building (Arabia Deserta, i. 280, ii. 91, 678).
and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first] So Exodus 34:4 a, JE.
and went up into the mount, with the two tables in mine hand] So substantially Exodus 34:4 b, J.
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.4. And he wrote on the tables … the ten words] Exodus 34:28, J. This adds the words of the covenant, for which D has according to the first writing, cp. Deuteronomy 9:10.
the ten words] See above p. 81.
in the mount out of the midst of the fire] Above Deuteronomy 9:10.
in the day of the assembly] See on Deuteronomy 9:10, Deuteronomy 5:22.
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.5. And I turned and came down from the mount] So Deuteronomy 9:15 and Exodus 32:15, E, but of Moses’ first descent with the tables.
and put the tables in the ark] This also certainly from the original form of E; see above, general note on Deuteronomy 10:1-3. P, Exodus 40:20 has put the testimony in the ark.
and there they be] Whether this is said in accommodation to the date of the speaker, or as still true of the writer’s time in the seventh century, is uncertain. See above, the general note on Deuteronomy 10:1-3. All that is certain is that such was the fact till at least the time of Solomon, cp. 1 Kings 8:9.
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.6. children of Israel] Non-deuteronomic; see on Deuteronomy 4:44.
Beeroth Bene-jaakan] Wells of the tribe so-called; in P, Numbers 33:31, the place name is simply that of the tribe, without wells. ‘Aḳan, Genesis 36:27 = Ya‘aḳan, 1 Chronicles 1:42, was a Ḥorite tribe. The place would probably be in the ‘Arabah.
Moserah] Numbers 33:31, Moserôth; the place is unknown.
there Aaron died, and there he was buried] This happened at Mt Hor acc. to P, Numbers 20:28; Numbers 33:38.
and Eleazar his son, etc.] P, Numbers 20:25-28; Numbers 32:2; Numbers 32:28; but see above, general note.
6, 7. Interruption of the address by a piece of narrative, recording certain stations of Israel with Aaron’s death and Eleazar’s succession, in which Israel are spoken of in the 3rd pers., and the phraseology is not deuteronomic. Obviously the fragment of an old itinerary. Although the names it contains are also found in an itinerary given by P, Numbers 33, they occur here in a different order; another name is given to the death-place of Aaron than P gives, nor do we find P’s usual formula for Israel on the march they journeyed from … and pitched at.… The fragment is therefore from another source than P. That this was E (D’s main source) is almost certain. The fragment uses E’s formula, they journeyed from thence to …, and may originally have formed part of the same itinerary of E, from which there are fragments in Numbers 21; E, too, assumes the succession of Eleazar to Aaron, Joshua 24:33, and therefore probably had already mentioned this. (So already Vatke, Einl. i. d. A. T. 377 f., 383; but more fully Bacon, Triple Tradition of Exodus, 207 f., 257 f., 343 f. So, too, Driver, Steuern., Bertholet, and Marti on this passage, and Cornill, Einleitung). Why the fragment should be inserted here is not clear, unless the historical retrospect originally concluded with Deuteronomy 10:5. It seems more in place after Deuteronomy 10:11, but may owe its position here to the design of some editor to ascribe the consecration of the tribe of Levi to a later date than Ḥoreb, in the attempt to harmonise the conflicting data of D and P concerning the tribe of Levi and the priesthood. For other explanations see Driver’s Deut. 120.
From thence they journeyed unto Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbath, a land of rivers of waters.7. From thence they journeyed] E’s formula, Numbers 21:12-13.
Gudgodah to Jotbathah] P, Numbers 33:32 f.; Hor-haggidgad and Yoṭbathah—unknown. Both names are possibly derived from the character of the landscape. Ar. ‘gadgad’ is hard, level ground; and Yoṭbah, or Yoṭbathah, is probably goodliness or pleasantness: a land of brooks of water. On all these names Doughty’s remarks (Ar. Des. i. 49) are instructive:
‘Here a word of the camping grounds of Moses: all their names we may never find again in these countries,—and wherefore? Because they were a good part passengers’ names and without land-right they could not remain in the desert, in the room of the old herdsmen’s names. There is yet another kind of names, not rightly of the country, not known to the Beduins, which are caravaners’ names. The caravaners passing in haste, with fear of the nomads, know not the wide wilderness without their landmarks; nor even in the way, have they a right knowledge of the land names. What wonder if we find not again some which are certainly caravaners’ names in the old itineraries.’
At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, unto this day.8. At that time] Cp. Deuteronomy 9:20, Deuteronomy 10:1. If, as we have seen to be most probable, Deuteronomy 10:6-7 are a later intrusion and out of place where they stand, that time is not that of the sojourn at Yoṭbathah after Aaron’s death (though the editor who inserted Deuteronomy 10:6-7 may have meant to imply this; see the general note to these vv.), but the time at Ḥoreb (Deuteronomy 10:1). This conclusion is confirmed (a) by the subsequent Deuteronomy 10:10, in which the retrospect still rests on Ḥoreb; (b) by the natural connection between the mention of the making of the Ark and that of the appointment of its bearers; (c) by the fact that another line of tradition, P, assigns to Ḥoreb the consecration of Levites to priestly duties, and also makes this follow the order to build the ark (and sanctuary); and (d) because, although no such setting apart is recorded in JE, these lines of the tradition may also have originally contained it and even hint at it in Exodus 32:29, immediately after the account of the zeal of all the sons of Levi in the punishment of the people’s apostasy with the golden calf (see Dillmann on that and on this passage; also Driver’s note on Exodus 32:29).
the Lord separated] set apart, with a solemn religious sense, as for Himself; the verb is used when He takes Israel from other peoples, Leviticus 20:24 (H); or when Moses is directed to separate the Levites from the midst of the children of Israel, Numbers 16:9 (P), that the Levites may be mine, Numbers 8:14 (P); or of the separation of the cities of refuge, Deuteronomy 4:41, Deuteronomy 19:2; Deuteronomy 19:7; and even of separating a person to evil, Deuteronomy 29:21 (20), and putting aside beasts that are unclean, Leviticus 20:25.
the tribe of Levi] Unambiguous, leaving no question possible as to whether they are meant in part or whole—a question which would have arisen had the term the Levites (in view of its narrower meaning in P) been used. Cp. Deuteronomy 18:1, all the tribe of Levi.
to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord] D’s name for the Ark; see on Deuteronomy 10:2. The O.T. data of the bearing of the Ark are summarily these. In JE, Joshua 3:6, the priests bear the Ark; and the priests bear it also at the consecration of Solomon’s Temple, 1 Kings 8:3; 1 Kings 8:6. Here in D the office is assigned to the whole (see above) tribe of Levi. These terms are combined in Deuteronomy 31:9 according to which the Ark is borne by the priests the sons of Levi; cp. the deuteronomic verse, Joshua 3:3, the priests the Levites bearing it. But in P, Numbers 4:1; Numbers 4:4; Numbers 4:15, the bearing of the Ark is specially allotted to one clan of Levi, the Kohathites, who are distinguished from the priests—in P, Aaron and his sons—by being forbidden to perform the more sacred priestly functions, Numbers 4:15; Numbers 4:17-20. Clearly then P differs from D, in which the whole tribe of Levi is regarded as priests and as such carry the Ark, besides performing the other more sacred functions which now follow.
to stand before the Lord to minister unto him] Both vbs, which are used of a servant’s attitude and duty to his human master (stand before, 1 Kings 10:8; minister, Genesis 39:4) are also employed (with and without the name of God, and either together or separately), specially to express religious service and in particular the distinctive office and functions of the priests, Deuteronomy 17:12 (before Jehovah); Jdg 20:28 (before the Ark), Ezekiel 44:15; 2 Chronicles 29:11. In D these are laid upon the whole tribe of Levi as here, in Deuteronomy 18:5; Deuteronomy 18:7, God hath chosen him, Levi, out of all thy tribes to stand to minister in the name of Jehovah, him and his sons for ever; and Deuteronomy 21:5, the priests the sons of Levi … for them hath Jehovah chosen to minister unto him. P uses the phrase to stand before Jehovah neither of the priests nor of the Levites, but says that the Levites stand before the congregation. The verb to minister (shârçth) P, both of Aaron and his sons, the priests, and of the Levites. Of the priests either absolutely Exodus 28:35; Exodus 39:26, or within the holy place Exodus 28:43, Exodus 29:30, Exodus 39:1, and in the priests’ office Exodus 35:19, Exodus 39:41; or of their ministry of the altar, i.e. the sacrifices, Exodus 30:20; and only once with regard to God Himself, Exodus 28:41, to minister unto me. Of the Levites P never uses to minister to Jehovah; but either to minister alone, Numbers 3:31; or to the camp, Numbers 4:9; or in the sanctuary, Numbers 4:12, cp. Numbers 1:50; or at the altar (in preparing it for the priests), Numbers 4:24; or to Aaron, Numbers 18:2. P and D then differ thus, that while D uses the double phrase, stand before and minister to Jehovah of the whole tribe of Levi, P says that the Levites stand before the congregation, and uses the phrase minister to Jehovah only of the priests, and intends by it the most sacred priestly functions of sacrifice, etc., the Levites’ ministering being confined to less sacred duties in regard to the care of the fabric of the Tabernacle and the Camp and in assisting the priests.
to bless in his name] So Deuteronomy 21:5 again of the sons of Levi, the priests. This is another of the distinctive priestly duties (though sometimes discharged by kïngs, 2 Samuel 6:18; 1 Kings 8:14; 1 Kings 8:55). It is twice assigned by P to Aaron: Leviticus 9:22, Numbers 6:23; and it is included in 1 Chronicles 23:18 among the offices to which Aaron was set apart.
unto this day] Cp. for ever in Deuteronomy 18:5.
Our detailed examination of this verse, and other O.T. passages relevant to the subject, makes it clear that in the Book of Deuteronomy all the tribe of Levi or sons of Levi are regarded as priests; and that every son of Levi, or Levite, could perform the distinctive priestly functions; whereas in P all these functions are limited to Aaron and his sons, except the bearing of the Ark, which is assigned to a Levite clan the Kohathites; while Levite has become a technical name for the non-Aaronic members of the tribe, to whom priestly functions were forbidden and who had less sacred duties about the altar and sanctuary. These distinctions are unknown to D: to him Levites and priests are identical terms. It is impossible to suppose that D silently presupposed the distinctions in P. There is not the slightest sign anywhere in his language that this was the case. On the contrary his addition, that the exercise of the priests’ office by all Levites continued to his own day and was for ever proves that he did not know P. And this is confirmed with its consequence, a late date for P, by the evidence of the earlier historical writings and especially by a comparison of Samuel and Kings with Chronicles. See further Chapman in Int. to the Pent. (in this series), pp. 154 ff., and App. vii. 5 and cp. below on Deuteronomy 18:1-8.
8, 9. The setting apart of the tribe of Levi to bear the Ark and perform other priestly functions. It is not wholly certain whether this passage belongs to the address itself or is another intrusion; yet with its opening clause (cp. Deuteronomy 10:1) the deuteronomic phraseology is resumed, and the appointment of the bearers of the Ark follows naturally upon 1–5, which record the making of the Ark; see further on Deuteronomy 10:8. The general question arising from the difference between the data of Deut. (and the pre-deuteronomic writers) and those of P regarding the tribe of Levi and the offices here assigned to the whole tribe, will be more suitably discussed later on.
Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, according as the LORD thy God promised him.9. Wherefore] i.e. because of God’s separation of the tribe to Himself.
Levi hath no portion nor inheritance] Deuteronomy 12:12, Deuteronomy 14:27; Deuteronomy 14:29, Deuteronomy 18:1 f. In P of Aaron Numbers 18:20.
the Lord is his inheritance] What this means is defined in Deuteronomy 18:1, they shall eat the offerings of Jehovah made by fire, and his inheritance; details follow in 3 f.
according as … spake unto him] This is not recorded in the Pent., but may have been found in the original form of JE; see on Deuteronomy 10:8. LXX om. the Lord thy God, and so relieves the text from one of the two instances of the Sg. address in this section.
And I stayed in the mount, according to the first time, forty days and forty nights; and the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also, and the LORD would not destroy thee.10, 11. These vv. present no little difficulty alike by their position, their language and their substance. They are separated from the historical retrospect by Deuteronomy 10:6-9. They are in the Sg. address, while it is in the Pl. Do they belong to it, or to Deuteronomy 10:12 ff., which continue the hortatory discourse? They record an intercession by Moses, and compare it with a previous intercession or intercessions. Is this identical with one of those recorded in the historical retrospect or a fresh one? The explanations have been many and various, but may be grouped under three heads: (a) Deuteronomy 10:10 is secondary, the result of various attempts by scribes, working on Exodus 32-34 and this passage, to arrange the different references to intercessions by Moses; while Deuteronomy 10:11 a is the continuation of Deuteronomy 10:5 and the conclusion of the historical retrospect (Steuernagel); (b) Deuteronomy 10:10-11 are the natural sequel to Deuteronomy 9:13-14, and with these form a summary narrative parallel to the rest of Deuteronomy 9:9 ff.; they belong not to the retrospect, but to the hortatory discourse continued in Deuteronomy 10:12 ff. (Bertholet, who omits with LXX the troublesome words as at the first time). These arguments, though ingenious, are not convincing. On the whole, the most probable explanation is (c) that which takes Deuteronomy 10:10 as a natural recapitulation of Deuteronomy 9:18 ff., carried in Deuteronomy 10:11 to its proper conclusion. This view is supported by the possible Heb. pluperfect in Deuteronomy 10:10, I had stayed; by the repetition from Deuteronomy 9:19 of the words: ‘and Jehovah hearkened unto me at that time also’ (yet see on Deuteronomy 9:19 b); by the fact that it was natural to repeat these words once again after the prayer Deuteronomy 9:26-29, which otherwise remains without answer to it being recorded; and by the unfinished condition in which the retrospect would be left without Deuteronomy 10:11 (Steuern.’s instinct is right in retaining at least Deuteronomy 10:11 a). The single Sg. would not destroy thee is a difficulty, but may be explained as due to the attraction of the neighbouring Sg. in Deuteronomy 10:12 ff. Almost all MSS of LXX have you.
10. And I stayed] The Heb. may well be translated, And I had stayed.
as at the first time] om. by LXX.
11. take thy journey] get thee to thy journey, lit. to thy breaking of camp. See on Deuteronomy 2:1.
And the LORD said unto me, Arise, take thy journey before the people, that they may go in and possess the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give unto them.
And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,12. And now] in conclusion; in the same way opened the concluding stage of the first discourses, Deuteronomy 4:1.
What doth … require of thee] what is … asking of thee. Cp. Micah 6:8, seeking from thee. The force of the question lies in this, that it is nothing impossible or extraordinary or complicated, that God demands, but what is simple and within the people’s duty.
to fear] Deuteronomy 4:10 (q.v.), Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 6:13, Deuteronomy 10:20.
to walk in all his ways] See on Deuteronomy 5:33.
to love him … with all thy heart, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 6:5.
to serve] or worship; see on Deuteronomy 4:19, Deuteronomy 6:13; combined with love or fear, Deuteronomy 10:20, Deuteronomy 11:13, Deuteronomy 13:4, etc., and deuteronomic passages in other books.
13. to keep] or in that thou keepest, for this is how they are to fear and love Him.
commandments … and statutes] Varied from Deuteronomy 7:11. for thy good, Deuteronomy 6:24. That the verse is made up of formulas does not necessarily prove its secondary character (Steuern.).
12, 13 sum up once more the main demand of the discourses.
Chs. Deuteronomy 10:12 to Deuteronomy 11:32. Final Exhortations, Introductory to the Laws
Enforced by the preceding Retrospect, the discourse continues to urge its practical conclusions of full fear and love to God, by worshipping and obeying Him (Deuteronomy 10:12-13); because, though all heaven and earth is His, He was pleased to love the fathers of Israel and to choose their posterity (Deuteronomy 10:14-15). Changing to the Pl. address the discourse urges Israel to circumcise their hearts and be no more stiffnecked, for their God is the greatest God and Lord, mightiest and most terrible and absolutely impartial (Deuteronomy 10:16-17). He secures justice for the widow and orphan and loves the stranger, as Israel, themselves strangers in Egypt, must do (Deuteronomy 10:18-19). Returning to the Sg. exhortations follow to fear, worship, and cleave to Jehovah, for He is Israel’s God who has done all these mighty things for the people, and out of seventy individuals who went down to Egypt, made them a multitude like to the stars; therefore loving God they shall keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 10:20 to Deuteronomy 11:1). Once more in the Pl., Israel are reminded of the discipline of God, which they themselves have experienced in their deliverance from Egypt and guidance through the desert, and in the punishment for rebellion of Dathan and Abiram (Deuteronomy 10:2-7); therefore they shall keep the commandment, that they may be strong, possess the land and prolong their days upon it (Deuteronomy 10:8-9). Oscillating between Sg. and Pl. there follows a description of the distinction of the land from the flat and rainless Egypt, irrigated from the Nile by the foot of man: it is a land whose water comes from heaven and God’s eyes are always upon it (Deuteronomy 10:10-12); if Israel observe His commandments (vv. here the discourse passes from Moses to the person of the Deity), He will give the rains in their seasons and fulness of crops (Deuteronomy 10:13-15). Let them not turn away from Him to other gods, lest in His anger He send drought and they perish (Deuteronomy 10:16-17). Therefore they shall lay His words to heart, bind them as signs on their hands and brows, teach them to their children, and write them by their doors and gates that their days, and their children’s, may be long in the land (Deuteronomy 10:18-21). For if they keep all his commandments (vv. the discourse is already again in the person of Moses) God will expel all these nations and give them every part of the land they tread, from the desert to Lebanon and from the Euphrates to the Western Sea (Deuteronomy 10:22-22). The speaker, in short, has set a blessing and a curse before Israel on conditions respectively, and they shall put them up on Gerizim and Ebal on the other side of Jordan, which they are about to cross and then they must keep all the statutes and judgments now to be delivered to them (Deut 10:26–32).—So we reach the close of the discourses introductory to the Laws. The frequent changes between the Sg. and Pl. forms of address, sometimes coinciding with transitions to subjects not always relevant to the main theme of the discourses, are proof of the composite character of this closing section; and after the text (which, as the versions show, is by no means certain) has been corrected, furnish material for the question whether it is possible to discriminate two original discourses, introductory to the Code, one Sg. the other Pl., or whether the changes of address may be explained by the expansion of one original at the hands of editors.
To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?
Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD'S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is.14. This and the next v. state motives for the fear and love just enjoined: for fear, because He is the greatest God, to whom all things belong; for love because, though He is such, He yet loved Israel’s fathers and chose their posterity, even those whom Moses is addressing.
the heaven, etc.] A characteristic deuteronomic accumulation.
heaven of heavens] i.e. the highest heavens (the same idiom as in Deuteronomy 10:17). Whether this idiomatic superlative (first here and then echoed in later passages, 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 68:33; Psalm 148:4) or the plural positive heavens was the germ of the later idea of the plurality of heavens (in the Jewish apocalyptic books and the N.T., e.g. 2 Corinthians 12:2; Ephesians 4:10 R.V.) is uncertain; but the development of the idea was due to the influences of Babylonian and Persian cosmologies and eschatologies. See S. D. F. Salmond, art. ‘Heaven’ in Hastings’ D.B., and Charles, Secrets of Enoch, 30–47.
Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.15. Only] Heb. raḳ. The use of this restrictive adverb with disjunctive force—a sharp word with the sound of a wrench in it—is found in many O.T. writings, but is particularly frequent in Deut., occurring no less than 20 times, and in deuteronomic passages elsewhere. It is prefixed to clauses which limit, qualify, condition, or offer contrasts to, what has preceded them. The exact meaning varies according to the context, and therefore it is transl. by different English adverbs or conjunctions in R.V. It introduces exceptions to, or reservations upon statements of fact, only or but (Deuteronomy 2:28; Deuteronomy 2:35; Deuteronomy 2:37, Deuteronomy 3:11; Deuteronomy 3:19), or laws, notwithstanding, only (better, saving that), but (Deuteronomy 12:15-16; Deuteronomy 12:23; Deuteronomy 12:26, Deuteronomy 15:23, Deuteronomy 17:16, Deuteronomy 20:14; Deuteronomy 20:20); or a different law for different circumstances, but (Deuteronomy 20:16); or an indispensable condition to a command or promise, only, if only (Deuteronomy 4:9, Deuteronomy 15:5); or an antithesis to what precedes, only (= nevertheless, as here); or a purely assertive statement, as if singling out the fact asserted and putting it beyond doubt, surely, only (Deuteronomy 4:6, Deuteronomy 28:13; Deuteronomy 28:33).
had a delight in] See on Deuteronomy 7:7, set his love upon you.
to love] See on Deuteronomy 6:5.
chose] See on Deuteronomy 7:6.
even you] The only Pl. in this section, 12–15. It is explicable either by the attraction of the following Pls., or as a later insertion, and this is supported by its abruptness; even is not expressed in the text.
Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.16. Circumcise the foreskin of your heart] The same metaphor in Jeremiah 4:4 (cp. Deuteronomy 9:25); whether it is original to the prophet or to D is impossible to determine. In view of the style of Jeremiah’s earlier discourses, in which abrupt and unrelated metaphors are frequently conjoined, and of the secondary character of these verses before us, the presumption is that the metaphor is here derived from Jeremiah. ‘Wohl bei Jeremias ursprünglich,’ Wellh. Comp. Hex. 193. Steuernagel states the converse opinion.
stiffnecked] See Deuteronomy 9:6 Sg. and 13 Pl.
16–19. The form of address changes to Pl., and a qualification is made of the great statement just given. Though God has elected (for reasons of His own) to love Israel’s fathers and to choose their posterity after them out of all peoples to be His peculiar people, He is not one that regards persons, but as He takes the part of the helpless within Israel so He loves also the foreigner resident among them, and therefore Israel must love the foreign sojourner, having themselves been sojourners in Egypt. No doubt all this is more or less relevant to the main theme of the discourse, but it is outside it, and as its introduction is coincident with the change to the Pl. address, the passage must be considered as a later addition, or additions (for Deuteronomy 10:18-19 is still a further departure from Deuteronomy 10:16-17). The same idea, that Israel cannot count on God’s partiality for them if they continue to be stiffnecked, had been already put by Amos in a more striking form, Amos 3:2, you only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will visit on you all your iniquities. Cp. John 8:31-45; and Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6, in which the argument of this passage is developed.
For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:17. God of gods, and Lord of lords] Heb. idiom for the highest God and Lord (cp. Deuteronomy 10:14, heaven of heavens).
the great God, the mighty, and the terrible] The Heb. can also mean, as in A.V., a great God, etc.; or the superlative, the God, the greatest, most mighty, and terrible. This is probably to be preferred. Yet even so there is no assertion, such as we find in exilic and post-exilic writers, of the sole Godhead of Jehovah. See above on Deuteronomy 6:4.
regardeth not persons] Lit. lifteth not up faces (opposed to turning away faces), i.e. either by granting their requests (Genesis 19:21) or receiving them graciously (Genesis 32:20); or by being inordinately influenced by them (Job 32:21); or, as here, by showing them an unjust partiality (cp. Deuteronomy 28:50). The same idea concerning human judges is found in Deuteronomy 1:17, but expressed by another verb.
reward] or, bribe, Exodus 23:8, R.V. a gift. See further on Deuteronomy 16:19.
He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.18. fatherless, widow, and stranger] i.e. the foreigner sojourning in Israel. See on Deuteronomy 24:17. The three are combined there and in Deuteronomy 24:19-21, also in Exodus 22:21-22.
Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.19. Love ye the stranger] This carries the principle further than it is expressed in Exodus 22:21, and even almost as far as Christ carried it. Cp. P, Leviticus 19:33.
for ye were strangers] So Exodus 22:21 (editorial) and frequently in D.
20–11:1. Resumption of the Sg. address in possible, but not necessary, continuation of Deuteronomy 10:14-15. Deuteronomy 10:20 naturally suggests the opening of Deuteronomy 10:21, and is therefore not to be taken as a later intrusion because it repeats Deuteronomy 6:13 (Steuern.).
Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.20. See on Deuteronomy 6:13, which this repeats (with LXX, Sam., read, as there, and him) but adds another clause,
and to him shalt thou cleave] This verb dabaḳ is used in J of close and warm affection from man to woman (Genesis 2:24; Genesis 34:3), and in J and D of the adhesion of evil (Genesis 19:19; Deuteronomy 13:17 (18) of the devoted thing, Deuteronomy 28:21; Deuteronomy 28:60 of diseases). It is not applied to the relation of Israel to God in the Pent, except in D, Deuteronomy 10:20, Deuteronomy 11:22, Deuteronomy 13:4 (5), Deuteronomy 30:20, in which passages it is combined with some or other of the verbs love, fear, obey, serve, walk after. In Deuteronomy 4:4 the adj. dabeḳ is used by itself. Cp. deuteronomic passages in Joshua 22:5; Joshua 23:8.
He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.21. He] in an emphatic position.
thy praise] Either the object of thy praise (cp. Psalm 109:1, God of my praise), or cause of thy fame, thy renown, viz. by the deeds He has done for thee, Jeremiah 17:14.
great and terrible things] Deuteronomy 4:34 great terrors; cp. Deuteronomy 6:22, Deuteronomy 7:19.
which thine eyes have seen] So Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 29:3 (2), all Sg. as here; but in Deuteronomy 29:2 (1) before your eyes; cp. Deuteronomy 11:2. The nation is regarded as identical through all its generations. See on Deuteronomy 4:9.
Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the LORD thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude.22. Thy fathers went down, etc.] A.V. and R.V. miss both the emphatic order of the original and an idiom in it. Translate, Seventy persons did thy fathers go down into Egypt, but now, etc. The number is found elsewhere only in P, Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5, and this verse is regarded as derived from P and therefore a late addition to D. Yet this round number may have been a common tradition once found in JE; and indeed P treats it as an accepted fact, to which he has to reconcile his other data. ‘The number 70 is not invented by P, since he puts it together in Genesis 46:8-27 only with trouble and difficulty’ (Cornill, Einleitung, 35 f.). There remains, however, the term nephesh for person, very characteristic of, though not confined to, P. With the whole v., cp. Deuteronomy 26:5.
made thee as the stars, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 1:10.