Deuteronomy 32:33
Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Deuteronomy 32:33. Their vine is the poison of dragons — An expression of the same import with the former, signifying their fruits or works to be most depraved and pernicious, (Revelation 17:2,) and so resembling the poison of dragons. The cruel venom of asps — The venom of asps is called cruel, because it is accounted the most subtile and acute of all poisons, instantly penetrating into the vital parts.32:26-38 The idolatry and rebellions of Israel deserved, and the justice of God seemed to demand, that they should be rooted out. But He spared Israel, and continues them still to be living witnesses of the truth of the Bible, and to silence unbelievers. They are preserved for wise and holy purposes and the prophecies give us some idea what those purposes are. The Lord will never disgrace the throne of his glory. It is great wisdom, and will help much to the return of sinners to God, seriously to consider their latter end, or the future state. It is here meant particularly of what God foretold by Moses, about this people in the latter days; but it may be applied generally. Oh that men would consider the happiness they will lose, and the misery they will certainly plunge into, if they go on in their trespasses! What will be in the end thereof? Jer 5:31. For the Lord will in due time bring down the enemies of the church, in displeasure against their wickedness. When sinners deem themselves most secure, they suddenly fall into destruction. And God's time to appear for the deliverance of his people, is when things are at the worst with them. But those who trust to any rock but God, will find it fail them when they most need it. The rejection of the Messiah by the Jewish nation, is the continuance of their ancient idolatry, apostacy, and rebellion. They shall be brought to humble themselves before the Lord, to repent of their sins, and to trust in their long-rejected Mediator for salvation. Then he will deliver them, and make their prosperity great.Their vine - i. e., the nature and character of Israel: compare for similar expressions Psalm 80:8, Psalm 80:14; Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1.

Sodom ... Gomorrah - Here, as elsewhere, and often in the prophets, emblems of utter depravity: compare Isaiah 1:10; Jeremiah 23:14,

Gall - Compare Deuteronomy 29:18 note.

32. vine of Sodom … grapes of gall—This fruit, which the Arabs call "Lot's Sea Orange," is of a bright yellow color and grows in clusters of three or four. When mellow, it is tempting in appearance, but on being struck, explodes like a puffball, consisting of skin and fiber only. The poison of dragons; for although some write that the dragons of Greece have no poison in them, yet that the African and Arabian dragons, of which Moses here writes, have poison in them, is confessed by ancient heathen authors.

The cruel venom of asps; whose poison kills certainly and speedily, as Aristotle and others write. Their wine is the poison of dragons,.... Of these creatures, both land and sea dragons; see Gill on Micah 1:8; See Gill on Malachi 1:3; Pliny says (l) the dragon has no poison in it; yet, as Dalechamp, in his notes on that writer observes, he in many places prescribes remedies against the bite of the dragon; but Heliodorus (m) expressly speaks of some archers, whose arrows were infected with the poison of dragons; and Leo Africanus (n) says, the Atlantic dragons are exceeding poisonous: and yet other writers (o) besides Pliny have asserted that they are free from poison. It seems the dragons of Greece are without, but not those of Africa and Arabia; and to these Moses has respect, as being well known to him. The Targum of Jerusalem is,

"the poison of this people is like the poison of dragons as they drink wine;''and the Targum of Jonathan,"as the poison of dragons, when they are at or from their wine;''that is, after and as soon as they have drank it; for, according to natural historians, serpents, though they need and use but little drink, yet are very fond of wine: and it seems that thereby their poison becomes more sharp and intense, as Bochart (p) observes; wherefore the allusion is very proper and pertinent, and denotes the wine of fornication of the apostate church of Rome, frequently spoken of Revelation 14:8; which is no other than her corrupt doctrines, intoxicating, enticing, and leading to idolatry and superstition; and as the true Gospel of Christ is sometimes compared to wine, so the false doctrines of this church; but then it is such that is not only loathsome and abominable, but poisonous and pernicious to the souls of men, damnable and ruinous, and brings upon them swift destruction, 2 Peter 2:1; and may well be compared to the poison of dragons for such reasons; as also because they are doctrines of devils, and come from the great dragon, that old serpent called the devil and Satan, 2 Timothy 4:1,

and the cruel venom of asps; which, of all kind of serpents, Pliny (q) says is the least curable; nay, according to the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions of this clause, it is incurable; and so Aristotle says (r) there is no remedy for it; and so says Aelianus (s), who also observes (t), that the mark it makes is so small, that it is scarcely discerned by the sharpest eye. Pliny (u) represents it as a most revengeful creature; when its mate is killed by any, it will pursue the slayer, flee where he will, and as far and fast as he can: it breaks through all difficulties, and is not to be stopped by rivers, or any obstacles, and will attack the person, whom it presently knows, let him be in ever such a crowd: and therefore it and its poison may well be called cruel; and as the poison of this creature lies under its tongue, this is a fit simile to express the poisonous and pernicious doctrines of the apostate church.

(l) Nat. Hist. l. 29. c. 4. (m) Ethiopic. l. 9. c. 19. p. 438. (n) Descriptio Africae, l. 9. p. 763. (o) Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 8. c. 4. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 72. (p) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 3. c. 14. col. 438, 439. (q) Nat. Hist. l. 29. c. 4. (r) Hist. Animal. l. 8. c. 29. (s) De Animal. l. 1. c. 54. & l. 6. c. 38. (t) Ibid. l. 9. c. 61. (u) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 23.

Their {r} wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.

(r) The fruit of the wicked are as poison, detestable to God, and dangerous for man.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
33. venom of dragons] Or, foam of.

pitiless poison of asps] Poison, rôsh, as in Deuteronomy 29:17; asps, or according to some, cobras, the hooded kind, in Egypt and the lower parts of Syria, especially S. of Beersheba, Heb. pethanîm, Isaiah 11:8, etc.Verse 33. - The wine of these grapes is poison and venom. Dragons; tannin (cf. Exodus 7:9, 10). Cruel [deadly] venom of asps. The pethen, one of the most poisonous of snakes, the bite of which was immediately fatal (Kitto, 'Bibl. Cycl.,' 3:494; Smith's 'Dict.,' 1:21). These figures express the thought that Israel had utterly corrupted their way and become abominable; probably also it is intimated that, as they had imitated the impiety of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, they deserved to perish as they did (J.H. Michaelis). "I should say, I will blow them away, I will blot out the remembrance of them among men; if I did not fear wrath upon the enemy, that their enemies might mistake it, that they might say, Our hand was high, and Jehovah has not done all this." The meaning is, that the people would have deserved to be utterly destroyed, and it was only for His own name's sake that God abstained from utter destruction. אמרתּי to be construed conditionally requires לוּלי: if I did not fear (as actually was the case) I should resolve to destroy them, without leaving a trace behind. "I should say," used to denote the purpose of God, like "he said" in Deuteronomy 32:20. The ἁπ. λεγ. אפאיחם, which has been rendered in very different ways, cannot be regarded, as it is by the Rabbins, as a denom. verb from פּאה, a corner; and Calvin's rendering, "to scatter through corners," does not suit the context; whilst the meaning, "to cast or scare out of all corners," cannot be deduced from this derivation. The context requires the signification to annihilate, as the remembrance of them was to vanish from the earth. We get this meaning if we trace it to פּאה, to blow, - related to פּעה (Isaiah 42:14) and פּהה, from which comes פּה, - in the Hiphil "to blow away," not to blow asunder. השׁבּית, not "to cause to rest," but to cause to cease, delere (as in Amos 8:4). "Wrath upon the enemy," i.e., "displeasure on the part of God at the arrogant boasting of the enemy, which was opposed to the glory of God" (Vitringa). פּן, lest, after גּוּר, to fear. On this reason for sparing Israel, see Deuteronomy 9:28; Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13.; Isaiah 10:5. Enemy is a generic term, hence it is followed by the plural. נכר, Piel, to find strange, sc., the destruction of Israel, i.e., to mistake the reason for it, or, as is shown by what follows, to ascribe the destruction of Israel to themselves and their own power, whereas it had been the word of God. "Our hand was high," i.e., has lifted itself up or shown itself mighty, an intentional play upon the "high hand" of the Lord (Exodus 14:8; cf. Isaiah 26:11). - The reason why Israel did not deserve to be spared is given in Deuteronomy 32:28 : "For a people forsaken of counsel are they, and there is not understanding in them." "Forsaken of counsel," i.e., utterly destitute of counsel.

This want of understanding on the part of Israel is still further expounded in Deuteronomy 32:29-32, where the words of God pass imperceptibly into the words of Moses, who feels impelled once more to impress the word which the Lord had spoken upon the hearts of the people.

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