For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Void of counsel.—Literally, perishing in counsels, or, perhaps, spoiling the plans of Jehovah. Yet they said, “Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet” (Jeremiah 18:18).Deuteronomy 9:28-29; Ezekiel 20:9, Ezekiel 20:14, Ezekiel 20:22.They; either,
1. The enemies last mentioned, who are foolish people, and therefore make so false and foolish a judgment upon things. Or rather,
2. The Israelites themselves, of whom he speaks both in the foregoing Deu 32:26, and in the whole foregoing chapter, and in the next verse Deu 32:29, and afterwards.
Void of counsel; that have not wisdom to direct themselves, nor discretion to desire and receive counsel from others, but rashly and madly go on in those courses which will certainly ruin them. Deuteronomy 32:6; and instances of their ingratitude, folly, and want of counsel and understanding, have been already mentioned, and punishment for the same inflicted on them, according to this prophetic song; so that the prophecy respecting them is issued, and another people are taken notice of, even their enemies, of whom the Jewish writers in general interpret these words, and what follows; and was true of the Gentiles, both of the Pagan sort of them, who took too much to themselves, and ascribed the destruction of the Jews, and their conquest of them, to themselves, and their idols; and of false Christians among them, when the Roman empire became Christian, such as expressed themselves in the language of the latter part Deuteronomy 32:27, "our hand is high", &c. which plainly showed them to be a people devoid of the true knowledge of the Scriptures, they should have made the men of their counsel, and have consulted; and of the Gospel of Christ, which is the counsel of God, as the Arians, Pelagians, &c. must be, or they would never imbibe and advance tenets so diametrically opposite thereunto:
neither is there any understanding is them; of divine and spiritual things, of the Scriptures, and the doctrines of them; of the person of Christ, and his divine perfections, or they would never deny his deity; of the righteousness of God, of that which is required in the law, and revealed in the Gospel, or they would never set up a righteousness of their own for justification; and of themselves, their unrighteousness, impurity, and impotence to that which is good; or they would never so strongly assert the purity of human nature, and the power of man's freewill: God foreseeing all the folly, and want of counsel and understanding in the Gentile world, under different characters, preserved a remnant of the Jews as a standing admonition to them.For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)28. void] More exactly forlorn, Heb. ’obed, cp. Deuteronomy 22:3, Deuteronomy 26:5.
28–33. It is doubtful whether these vv. relate to Israel or its arrogant foes. The latter I deem the more probable. So already Geddes.Deuteronomy 32:22, the determination of the Lord with regard to the faithless generation is explained by the threat, that the wrath of the Lord which was kindled against this faithlessness would set the whole world in flames down to the lowest hell. We may see how far the contents of this verse are from favouring the conclusion that "no-people" means a barbarous and inhuman horde, from the difficulty which the supporters of this view had found in dealing with the word כּי. Ewald renders it doch (yet), in total disregard of the usages of the language; and Venema, certe, profecto (surely); whilst Kamphausen supposes it to be used in a somewhat careless manner. The contents of Deuteronomy 32:22, which are introduced with כּי, by no means harmonize with the thought, "I will send a barbarous and inhuman horde;" whilst the announcement of a judgment setting the whole world in flames may form a very suitable explanation of the thought, that the Lord would excite faithless Israel to jealousy by a "no-people." This judgment, for example, would make the worthlessness of idols and the omnipotence of the God of Israel manifest in all the earth, and would lead the nations to seek refuge and salvation with the living God; and, as we learn from the history of the kingdom of God, and the allusions of the Apostle Paul to this mystery of the divine counsels, the heathen themselves would be the first to do so when they saw all their power and glory falling into ruins, and then the Israelites, when they saw that God had taken the kingdom from them and raised up the heathen who were converted to Him to be His people. The fire in the nose of the Lord is a figurative description of burning wrath and jealousy (vid., Deuteronomy 29:19). The fire signifies really nothing else than His jealousy, His vital energy, and in a certain sense His breath; it therefore naturally burns in the nose (vid., Psalm 18:9). In this sense the Lord as "a jealous God" is a consuming fire (vid., Deuteronomy 4:24, and the exposition of Exodus 3:2). This fire burns down even to the lower hell. The lower hell, i.e., the lowest region of sheol, or the lower regions, forms the strongest contrast to heaven; though we cannot deduce any definite doctrinal conclusions from the expression as to the existence of more hells than one. This fire "consumes the earth with its increase," i.e., all its vegetable productions, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. This description is not a hyperbolical picture of the judgment which was to fall upon the children of Israel alone (Kamphausen, Aben-Ezra, etc.); for it is a mistake to suppose that the judgment foretold affected the Israelitish nation only. The thought is weakened by the assumption that the language is hyperbolical. The words are not intended to foretell one particular penal judgment, but refer to judgment in its totality and universality, as realized in the course of centuries in different judgments upon the nations, and only to be completely fulfilled at the end of the world. "Calvin is right therefore when he says, "As the indignation and anger of God follow His enemies to hell, to eternal flames and infernal tortures, so they devour their land with its produce, and burn the foundations of the mountains;...there is no necessity therefore to imagine that there is any hyperbole in the words, 'to the lower hell.'" This judgment is then depicted in Deuteronomy 32:23-33 as it would discharge itself upon rebellious Israel.
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