Deuteronomy 32:17
They sacrificed to devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.
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(17) They sacrificed unto devils, not to God.—St. Paul repeats this expression in 1Corinthians 11:20.

Gods that came newly up.—Literally, that came from close at hand. Compare the description of the idol in Isaiah 44:15, easily made from the firewood; and see also Wisdom Of Solomon 13:13, “A carpenter taking a crooked piece of wood, and full of knots, hath carved it diligently, when he had nothing else to do”—a comment on the passage in Isaiah 44

32:15-18 Here are two instances of the wickedness of Israel, each was apostacy from God. These people were called Jeshurun, an upright people, so some; a seeing people, so others: but they soon lost the reputation both of their knowledge and of their righteousness. They indulged their appetites, as if they had nothing to do but to make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts of it. Those who make a god of themselves, and a god of their bellies, in pride and wantonness, and cannot bear to be told of it, thereby forsake God, and show they esteem him lightly. There is but one way of a sinner's acceptance and sanctification, however different modes of irreligion, or false religion, may show that favourable regard for other ways, which is often miscalled candid. How mad are idolaters, who forsake the Rock of salvation, to run themselves upon the rock of perdition!Devils - Render, destroyers. The application of the word to the false gods points to the trait so deeply graven in all pagan worship, that of regarding the deities as malignant, and needing to be propitiated by human sufferings.

Not to God - Rather, "not God," i. e., which were not God; see the margin and Deuteronomy 32:21. Compare Deuteronomy 13:7; Deuteronomy 29:25.

17. They sacrificed unto devils—(See on [168]Le 17:7). Unto devils, i.e. unto idols, which the devils brought into the world in opposition to God, in and by which the devils ofttimes manifested themselves unto men, and gave them answers, and received their worship. Compare 1 Corinthians 10:20. The Gentiles pretended to worship God in those idols, and the devils which inspired them deluded the nations with false pretences that they were a sort of lower gods. Moses therefore takes off this mask, and shows the Israelites that these pretended gods were really devils, those great enemies of mankind, and therefore that it was the height of madness to honour or worship them.

Not to God: this he saith, either because though at first they joined God and idols together in worship, yet at last they quite forsook God, and adhered to idols only; or because God utterly rejected those sacrifices which they offered to him together with idols, and took them for no sacrifices. See 1 Corinthians 10:21.

Whom they knew not, or, who never knew them, i.e. never showed any kindness to them, or did them any good; for so words of knowledge are oft used, as Psalm 1:6 Hosea 13:5.

That came newly up; not simply or absolutely, for some of these gods had been worshipped for many generations, and had a fair pretence of long antiquity, but comparatively to the true God, who is the Ancient of days, Daniel 7:9, and who was worshipped from the beginning of the world. To this original and first antiquity Moses recalls them; as also our Saviour doth recall the Jews to the first institution, Matthew 19:8. And therefore we may safely follow both their patterns in despising all pretences of antiquity, which are contrary to God’s first institutions contained (as all confess) in the Holy Scriptures.

Whom your fathers feared not, i.e. served not, worshipped not, but justly despised and abhorred them. They sacrificed to devils, not to God,.... Their sacrifices being continued, when it was the will of God they should cease, were reckoned by him not as, offered to him, but to demons, and to such that were not God; they being therein under the instigation of Satan, and doing his lusts, John 8:44; just as Pagans and Papists, worshipping idols under the influence and direction of Satan, are said to worship devils, and sacrifice to them, 1 Corinthians 10:20; and indeed setting up their own righteousness was sacrificing to their own net, and burning incense to their own drag, to an idol, and not to God: to which may be added, that whereas they trampled under foot the Son of God, and did despite to the Spirit of grace, by which Christ cast out devils, and offered himself without spot, they excluded two of the divine Persons in the Deity, and so worshipped not the true God, Father, Son, and Spirit:

to gods whom they knew not, to gods that came newly up; such as angels, into the worship of which they fell, as their writings testify (i), and to which the apostle seems to have respect, Colossians 2:18,

whom your fathers feared not; paid no regard unto, put no trust or confidence in; or, as the Targum of Jonathan,"with whom your fathers had nothing to do:''as they had not with the idol of man's righteousness, but wholly looked unto and trusted in the grace and righteousness of Christ, and expected salvation alone by him: the Gospel of righteousness and salvation by Christ was preached to our first parents in Eden's garden, which they embraced and believed in; Noah was an heir and preacher of the righteousness of faith, that is, of the righteousness of Christ, received by faith; that righteousness, which was what Abraham believed in, was imputed to him for his justifying righteousness; and Jacob waited for the Messiah, the salvation of God; in short all the Old Testament saints were saved by the grace of Christ, as we are; the idols, the works of men's own righteousness, are new deities they paid no deference to, placed no confidence in.

(i) Vid. Van Till in loc.

They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to {l} new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.

(l) Scripture calls new, whatever man invents, be the error ever so old.

17. demons] Heb. shedîm, only here and in Psalm 106:37, ‘certainly a Babylonian loan-word,’ shedu, a good demon figured in the bull-colossi that guarded the entrances to temples (Zimmern, KAT3[152], 455 f., 460–2, 649); but according to Psalm 106:37 human sacrifices were offered them, which of course does not preclude the idea that they were protective spirits.

[152] Die Keilinschriften und das AIte Testament, 3rd edition (1903), by H. Zimmern and H. Winckler.

no God] Heb. ’Eloah as in Deuteronomy 32:15.

whom they had not known] Deuteronomy 11:28, Deuteronomy 13:2; Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 13:13, Deuteronomy 28:64.

new ones lately come in] Or arrived.

dreaded] Lit. bristled or shuddered at, Heb. sacar, as in Jeremiah 2:12, Ezekiel 27:35; Ezekiel 32:10. Some, however, translate knew, on the strength of the Ar. sacara.Verse 17. - Devils; shedim, a word which occurs only here and Psalm 106:37. It stands connected with the verb שׁוּד, to rule, and means primarily "lords." The LXX. render by δαιμόνια, demons. In Assyrian it is said to be a name for demigods. Not to God; rather, to a not God, a composite term in apposition to shedim; the meaning is rightly given in the margin of the Authorized Version, "which were not God." To new gods that came newly up. The word rendered by "newly" (קָרוב) properly means "near;" it is an adjective both of place and of time; here it is the latter, equal to of a near time, recently - gods recently invented or discovered. "As an eagle, which stirreth up its nest and soars over its young, He spread out His wings, took him up, carried him upon His wings." Under the figure of an eagle, which teaches its young to fly, and in doing so protects them from injury with watchful affection, Moses describes the care with which the Lord came to the relief of His people in their helplessness, and assisted them to develop their strength. This figure no doubt refers more especially to the protection and assistance of God experienced by Israel in its journey through the Arabian desert; but it must not be restricted to this. It embraces both the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt by the outstretched arm of the Lord, as we may see from a comparison with Exodus 19:4, where the Lord is said to have brought His people out of Egypt upon eagles' wings, and also the introduction into Canaan, when the Lord drove the Canaanites out from before them and destroyed them. This verse contains an independent thought; the first half is the protasis, the second the apodosis. The nominative to "spreadeth abroad" is Jehovah; and the suffixes in יקּחהוּ and ישּׂאהוּ ("taketh" and "beareth") refer to Israel or Jacob (Deuteronomy 32:9), like the suffixes in Deuteronomy 32:10. As כּ cannot open a sentence like כּאשׁר, we must supply the relative אשׁר after נשׁר. קנּו העיר, to waken up, rouse up its nest, i.e., to encourage the young ones to fly. It is rendered correctly by the Vulgate, provocans ad volandum pullos suos; and freely by Luther, "bringeth out its young." "Soareth over its young:" namely, in order that, when they were attempting to fly, if any were in danger of falling through exhaustion, it might take them at once upon its powerful wings, and preserve them from harm. Examples of this, according to the popular belief, are given by Bochart (Hieroz. ii. p. 762). רחף, from רחף to be loose or slack (Jeremiah 23:9): in the Piel it is applied to a bird in the sense of loosening its wings, as distinguished from binding its wings to its body; hence (1) to sit upon eggs with loosened wings, and (2) to fly with loosened wings. Here it is used in the latter sense, because the young are referred to. The point of comparison between the conduct of God towards Jacob and the acts of an eagle towards its young, is the loving care with which He trained Israel to independence. The carrying of Israel upon the eagle's wings of divine love and omnipotence was manifested in the most glorious way in the guidance of it by the pillar of cloud and fire, though it was not so exclusively in this visible vehicle of the gracious presence of God as that the comparison can be restricted to this phenomenon alone. Luther's interpretation is more correct than this - "Moses points out in these words, how He fostered them in the desert, bore with their manners, tried them and blessed them that they might learn to fly, i.e., to trust in Him," - except that the explanation of the expression "to fly" is narrowed too much.
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