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,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Deuteronomy 31:24-28. DELIVERY OF THE BOOKS OF MOSES TO THE LEVITES.
(24) When Moses had made an end of writing.—This means the completion of the books of Moses as he delivered them to Israel; not merely Deuteronomy, as above, in Deuteronomy 31:9, but the whole, including the song mentioned in Deuteronomy 31:22. The song was probably the end of the book as delivered to them by Moses.
In a book.—’Al-sêpher; upon a roll. The Pentateuch is written upon a single roll to this day.
(25) The Levites, which bare the ark.—Observe this, and comp. Deuteronomy 31:9, above.
(26) In the side of the ark.—More literally, beside, Rashi says, “The wise men of Israel differ about this in the treatise Baba Bathra (in the Talmud). Some of them say there was a leaf or slab projecting from the ark outside, and there the book was placed. Others say that it was placed beside the tables of the covenant in the ark itself.”
(28) Gather unto me all the elders.—In like manner Joshua gave a special charge to the elders at the close of his life (Joshua 23).
until they were finished; all the words of the law, and the whole five books of Moses, excepting some few verses, Deuteronomy 34:1, which were added by another hand, Joshua or Ezra.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,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)24. had made an end of writing the words of this law] If Law be the original reading, Deuteronomy 31:24-26 are not the sequel, but a parallel to Deuteronomy 31:9-13, for 9 also implies the completion of the writing of the Law in recording its delivery to the priests, the sons of Levi. But, as already said, it has been conjectured that for Law = Tôrah we should read Song = Shîrah.
until they were finished] Deuteronomy 31:30, Deuteronomy 2:15; cp. Joshua 4:10; Joshua 5:6; Joshua 8:24; Joshua 10:20.
24–30. Again the Law-Book (?) and the Song
A less vague description of these vv. is not possible. The text says that Moses having written the Law in a book charged the Levites to put it beside the Ark as a witness against thee (Deuteronomy 31:24-26). For Israel, which has been rebellious in his life—here the address changes from Sg. to Pl.—will be more so after his death (Deuteronomy 31:27). They shall assemble the elders of their tribes and officers that he may recite to them these words and call heaven and earth to witness against them. For after his death they will corrupt themselves and evil will befall them in the latter days (Deuteronomy 31:28-30).—These words can hardly refer to the Law, already recited to the people; they must be the words of this Song (Deuteronomy 31:30) which follows in 32. If the text be original which reads Tôrah = Law in Deuteronomy 31:24; Deuteronomy 31:26, then Deuteronomy 31:24-26 are parallel (not consecutive) to Deuteronomy 31:9-13, and we cannot conjecture a reason for separating the two passages by Deuteronomy 31:14-23, on Joshua and the Song.
Staerk (followed by Steuern. and Berth.) holds that Tôrah was originally Shîrah = Song. This conjecture is attractive. It restores unity to Deuteronomy 31:24-30 and their natural connection with Deuteronomy 31:16-22, and gets rid of the improbable fact that both Law and Song are described as witness against Israel; note too that this book (Deuteronomy 31:24; Deuteronomy 31:26) is not to be put in, but beside, the Ark. At the same time there is no other evidence (in the versions or elsewhere) that Shîrah may have stood in place of Tôrah, the Law may equally well with the Song be described as a witness against Israel, and the phrase these words more usually refers to what precedes than to what follows it. Notice a symptom of compilation, in that while the Levites are addressed in Deuteronomy 31:25 it is all Israel, against thee, which is addressed in Deuteronomy 31:26. The whole passage is therefore editorial, and the questions it raises are insoluble by us.
Staerk distinguishes two introductions to the Song, Deuteronomy 31:16-22; Deuteronomy 31:24-30, and so independently Driver; note the difference in their styles. Cullen (p. 181) retains the reading Tôrah = Law, and takes Deuteronomy 31:24-29 as a later addition to Deuteronomy 31:9-13, the original conclusion of the epilogue to the Code of D composed when Israel’s attitude to this was still satisfactory, and added when the nation fell away. For another view see the Oxf. Hex.
Verses 24-29. - After the installation of Joshua, only one thing remained for Moses to do that all things might be set in order before his departure. This was the finishing of the writing of the Book of the Law, and the committing it finally to the priests, to be by them placed by the ark of the covenant, that it might be kept for all future generations as a witness against the people, whose apostasy and rebellion were foreseen. Whether this section is to be regarded as wholly written by Moses himself, or as an appendix to his writing added by some other writer, has been made matter of question. It is quite possible, however, that Moses himself, ere he laid down the pen, may have recorded what he said when delivering the Book of the Law to the priests, and there is nothing in the manner or style of the record to render it probable that it was added by another. What follows from ver. 30 to the end of the book was probably added to the writing of Moses by some one after his death, though, of course, both the song in Deuteronomy 32, and the blessing in Deuteronomy 33, are the composition of Moses (see Introduction, § 6). Deuteronomy 31:15), in a pillar of cloud, which remained standing before it, as in Numbers 12:5 (see the exposition of Numbers 11:25). But before appointing Joshua, He announced to Moses that after his death the nation would go a whoring after other gods, and would break the covenant, for which it would be visited with severe afflictions, and directed him to write an ode and teach it to the children of Israel, that when the apostasy should take place, and punishment from God be felt in consequence, it might speak as a witness against the people, as it would not vanish from their memory. The Lord communicated this commission to Moses in the presence of Joshua, that he also might hear from the mouth of God that the Lord foreknew the future apostasy of the people, and yet nevertheless would bring them into the promised land. In this there was also implied an admonition to Joshua, not only to take care that the Israelites learned the ode and kept it in their memories, but also to strive with all his might to prevent the apostasy, so long as he was leader of Israel; which Joshua did most faithfully to the very end of his life (vid., Joshua 23 and 24). - The announcement of the falling away of the Israelites from the Lord into idolatry, and the burning of the wrath of God in consequence (Deuteronomy 31:16-18), serves as a basis for the command in Deuteronomy 31:19. In this announcement the different points are simply linked together with "and," whereas in their actual signification they are subordinate to one another: When thou shalt lie with thy fathers, and the people shall rise up, and go a whoring after other gods: My anger will burn against them, etc. קוּם, to rise up, to prepare, serves to bring out distinctly the course which the thing would take. The expression, "foreign gods of the land," indicates that in the land which Jehovah gave His people, He (Jehovah) alone was God and Lord, and that He alone was to be worshipped there. בּקרבּו is in apposition to שׁמּה, "whither thou comest, in the midst of it." The punishment announced in Deuteronomy 31:17 corresponds most closely to the sin of the nation. For going a whoring after strange gods, the anger of the Lord would burn against them; for forsaking Him, He would forsake them; and for breaking His covenant, He would hide His face from them, i.e., withdraw His favour from them, so that they would be destroyed. לאכל היה, it (the nation) will be for devouring, i.e., will be devoured or destroyed (see Ewald, 237, c.; and on אכל in this sense, see Deuteronomy 7:16, and Numbers 14:9). "And many evils and troubles will befall it; and it will say in that day, Do not these evils befall me, because my God is not in the midst of me?" When the evils and troubles broke in upon the nation, the people would inquire the cause, and would find it in the fact that they were forsaken by their God; but the Lord ("but I" in Deuteronomy 31:18 forms the antithesis to "they" in Deuteronomy 31:17) would still hide His face, namely, because simply missing God is not true repentance.
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