Deuteronomy 32:36
For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.
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(36) For the Lord shall judge His people.—Quoted in Hebrews 10:30, in connection with the previous verse. According to this view “shall judge” means “shall punish,” not “shall defend.”

And repent Himself for His servants.—Or, and will be comforted over His servants. Comp. Ezekiel 5:13, “I will cause my fury to rest upon them, and I will be comforted;” and also Isaiah 1:24, &c.

None shut up, or left.—Comp. 1Kings 14:10; 1Kings 21:21; 2Kings 9:8, and especially Deuteronomy 14:26.

(37,38) He shall say,Where are their gods? . . . let them rise up and help you.—He did say so in Judges 10:14.

Deuteronomy 32:36. For the Lord, &c. — The Hebrew particle here rendered for, may properly be translated nevertheless, as it is Isaiah 9:1 : for here, it seems, a new paragraph begins; and having spoken of the dreadful calamity which would come upon his people, he now turns his discourse into a more comfortable strain, and begins to show that after God had sorely chastised them, he would have mercy upon them and turn their captivity. Judge his people — Shall plead their cause, shall protect and deliver them. Repent — Of the evils he hath brought upon them. None shut up — Either in their strong cities, or castles, or other hiding places, or in the enemy’s hands or prisons, whence there might be some hope or possibility of redemption; and none left, as the poor and contemptible people are neglected and usually left by the conquerors in the conquered land, but all seem to be cut off and destroyed.

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.Repent himself for - Rather, have compassion upon. The verse declares that God's judgment of His people would issue at once in the punishment of the wicked, and in the comfort of the righteous.

None shut up, or left - A proverbial phrase (compare 1 Kings 14:10) meaning perhaps "married and single," or "guarded and forsaken," but signifying generally "all men of all sorts."

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. For, or, nevertheless, or, but yet, as the particle chi is sometimes used, as Job 5:7 Isaiah 9:1 49:25. Having spoken of the dreadful calamity which would come upon his people, he now turns his discourse into a more comfortable strain, according to the usual method of the prophets, and here begins to show that after God had humbled and sorely chastised his people, yet at last he would have mercy upon them, and turn their captivity, as it here follows.

Shall judge his people, i.e. shall plead their cause, shall protect and deliver them, as that phrase is oft used. See Psalm 7:8 10:18 Isaiah 1:17 11:4 Jeremiah 5:28 22:16.

Repent himself for his servants, i.e. repent of the evils he hath brought upon them, will change his course and carriage towards them.

None shut up, or left: none shut up, either in their strong cities or castles, or other hiding-places, or in the enemy’s hands or prisons, whence there might be some hope or possibility of redemption; and none left, as the poor and contemptible people are neglected and usually left by the conquerors in the conquered land, as 2 Kings 25:12, but all seem to be cut off; and the people quite destroyed. So this phrase is used 1 Kings 14:10 21:21 2 Kings 9:8 14:26.

For the Lord shall judge his people,.... The true church and members of it, in opposition to the false and apostate church; his chosen and covenant people, whom he gave to Christ, and who are redeemed by his blood, and effectually called by his grace; the people he shall call out of Babylon, or preserve from the corruptions of it before its fall; and who are the objects of his love and delight; a distinct, peculiar, and special people, near unto him, and all righteous: these he will judge at this time, distinguish between them and the followers of antichrist; he will take their cause in hand, and plead it, and do justice to them; he will right their wrongs and injuries, and take vengeance on their enemies; he will protect and defend them, reign and rule over them. Now will be the time, when the witnesses slain are raised, that he will take to himself his great power and reign, and the time of the dead when they will be judged, and a reward given to his servants and prophets, to his saints, and all that fear his name; and when he will destroy them that have destroyed the earth, Revelation 11:17; so the Targum of Jonathan interprets this of the word of the Lord that shall judge his people in mercy:

and repent himself for his servants; by whom are meant not only the ministers of the Gospel, his witnesses that prophesy in sackcloth, and who will be slain when they have finished their testimony; but all that are effectually called by grace, who though they have been the servants of sin, and the vassals of Satan, yet by the grace of God become the servants of God and of righteousness; dislike and cast off their old masters; readily, willingly, and cheerfully, take upon them the yoke of Christ, and freely obey him, constrained by his love, and influenced by views of interest in him: and so serve him without any selfish views, owning that, when they have done all they can, they are but unprofitable servants: now for or on account of these he will repent himself, because of the evils he has suffered to come upon them, being moved with pity, and compassion to them in their miserable circumstances, as they will be in when the witnesses his servants will be slain; not that, properly speaking, repentance is in God; he never changes his mind, counsel, and purposes; he never alters his love, his choice, nor his covenant; or repents of his gifts, and calling of special grace; though he is sometimes said to repent of outward good things he has bestowed, or promised to bestow conditionality; and of evils he has threatened or inflicted; yet this is only to be understood of a change of his outward dealings and dispensations with men, according to his changeable will; and this will be the case now with respect to his servants, whom he will have suffered to be slain, and lie unburied; but repenting or changing his manner of conduct to them will revive them, and cause them to ascend to heaven; see Revelation 11:11,

when he seeth that their power is gone; not the hand and power of the enemy, going and prevailing over them, and strong upon them, as the Targum of Jonathan and Jarchi; but rather the hand and power of the righteous, as the Targum of Jerusalem; and respects not their internal power and strength, which they have not in themselves, but in Christ; though the exertion of that power, and the exercise of their graces, as faith, and hope, and love, will be greatly declined; but their external power, and protection which they had from Protestant princes; they being removed, and others not like them succeeding, or apostatizing to the church of Rome: the outward court or national establishments are a fence and protection to the inward court worshippers, or servants of God; when that shall be given to the Gentiles, the Papists, as it will, Revelation 11:2; the power or hand, the protecting sheltering hand of the saints, will be gone, and they will become a prey to their adversaries:

and there is none shut up or left; a phrase used to express the miserable state and condition of a people, when none are left, but all are carried off, or cut off, and destroyed, and there is none to help them; see 1 Kings 14:10; when there are none shut up in garrisons, and left there to defend a people; or there are none shut up in prison, or any left to till the ground; which is sometimes the case when a nation is conquered, and the greater part are carried captives; but it denotes such a general destruction, that there are none remaining any where, and thus it will be at the slaying of the witnesses. This passage has respect to their dead bodies, which will not be shut up in graves, nor any left to bury them, Revelation 11:9. There will scarcely be a professor of religion, or any that will appear to favour the witnesses slain in any respect; there will be"none to support and uphold,''as the Targum of Jerusalem; not to support and uphold the true religion, or to help the people of God in these their distresses: and when the Lord shall see all this, he will look upon them with an eye of pity and compassion; he will repent for his servants, according to the multitude of his tender mercies; and will plead their cause, and judge them, and will put on the garments of vengeance, and repay fury and recompense to his and their enemies, Isaiah 59:15; who will insultingly say as follows.

For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none {s} shut up, or left.

(s) When neither strong nor weak in a manner remain.

36 For the Lord shall judge for His people,

And relent for His servants’ sake,

When He sees that their grip is gone,

Nor fast nor free remaineth;

37 And shall say, Where be their gods

The rock whereon they refuged,

38 Which ate the fat of their sacrifice,

Drank the wine of their pouring?

Let them arise to your help,

Let them be a covert above you!

36. judge his people] As the parallel line shows, this means ‘will judge for his people.’

power] Lit. hand, i.e. hold or grip.

nor fast nor free] Heb. ‘aṣûr we ‘azûb, an alliterative phrase for the whole population. Whether it means in and out of prison, or under and free of taboo or ritual uncleanness, is doubtful.

Verse 36. - The Lord shall judge his people (cf. Psalm 135:14; 1 Peter 4:17). And repent himself for his servants; rather, and have compassion upon his servants. And there is none shut up, or left. The words rendered "shut up or left" are a proverbial expression for "every one, men of all sorts" (cf. 1 Kings 14:10; 1 Kings 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8; 2 Kings 14:26); but how the words are to be rendered or explained is uncertain. Rosenmüller renders as in the Authorized Version; Gesenius has, "the shut up and the let go free, the bond and the flee;" so also Furst and De Wette; De Dieu, "married and single, conjugatus et coelebs," referring to the Arabic usage in support of his conclusion ('Animad. in Ver. Test.,' p. 114), and this Keil approves. Ewald has "kept in (by legal impurity) or at large." The explanation of Gesenius and Furst seems best. Deuteronomy 32:36"Vengeance is Mine, and retribution for the time when their foot shall shake: for the day of their destruction is near, and that which is determined for them cometh hastily. For the Lord will judge His people, and have compassion upon His servants, when He seeth that every hold has disappeared, and the fettered and the free are gone." - The Lord will punish the sins of His people in due time. "Vengeance is Mine:" it belongs to Me, it is My part to inflict. שׁלּם is a noun here for the usual שׁלּוּם, retribution (vid., Ewald, 156, b.). The shaking of the foot is a figure representing the commencement of a fall, or of stumbling vid., Psalm 38:17; Psalm 94:18). The thought in this clause is not, "At or towards the time when their misfortune begins, I will plunge them into the greatest calamity," as Kamphausen infers from the fact that the shaking denotes the beginning of the calamity; and yet the vengeance can only be completed by plunging them into calamity, - a though which he justly regards as unsuitable, though he resorts to emendations of the text in consequence. But the supposed unsuitability vanishes, if we simply regard the words, "Vengeance is Mine, and retribution," not as the mere announcement of a quality founded in the nature of God, and residing in God Himself, but as an expression of the divine energy, with this signification, I will manifest Myself as an avenger and recompenser, when their foot shall shake. Then what had hitherto been hidden with God, lay sealed up as it were in His treasures, should come to light, and be made manifest to the sinful nation. God would not delay in this; for the day of their destruction was near. איד signifies misfortune, and sometimes utter destruction. The primary meaning of the word cannot be determined with certainty. That it does not mean utter destruction, we may see from the parallel clause. "The things that shall come upon them," await them, or are prepared for them, are, according to the context, both in Deuteronomy 32:26 and also in Deuteronomy 32:36., not destruction, but simply a calamity or penal judgment that would bring them near to utter destruction. Again, these words do not relate to the punishment of "the wicked deeds of the inhuman horde," or the vengeance of God upon the enemies of Israel (Ewald, Kamphausen), but to the vengeance or retribution which God would inflict upon Israel. This is evident, apart from what has been said above against the application of Deuteronomy 32:33, Deuteronomy 32:34, to the heathen, simply from Deuteronomy 32:36, which unquestionably refers to Israel, and has been so interpreted by every commentator. - The first clause is quoted in Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30, in the former to warn against self-revenge, in the latter to show the energy with which God will punish those who fall away from the faith, in connection with Deuteronomy 32:36, "the Lord will judge His people." - In Deuteronomy 32:36 the reason is given for the thought in Deuteronomy 32:35. דּין is mostly taken here in the sense of "procure right," help to right, which it certainly often has (e.g., Psalm 54:3), and which is not to be excluded here; but this by no means exhausts the idea of the word. The parallel יתנחם does not compel us to drop the idea of punishment, which is involved in the judging; for it is a question whether the two clauses are perfectly synonymous. "Judging His people" did not consist merely in the fact that Jehovah punished the heathen who oppressed Israel, but also in the fact that He punished the wicked in Israel who oppressed the righteous. "His people" is no doubt Israel as a whole (as, for example, in Isaiah 1:3), but this whole was composed of righteous and wicked, and God could only help the righteous to justice by punishing and destroying the wicked. In this way the judging of His people became compassion towards His servants. "His servants" are the righteous, or, speaking more correctly, all who in the time of judgment are found to be the servants of God, and are saved. Because Israel was His nation, the Lord judged it in such a manner as not to destroy it, but simply to punish it for its sins, and to have compassion upon His servants, when He saw that the strength of the nation was gone. יד, the hand, with which one grasps and works, is a figure employed to denote power and might (vid., Isaiah 28:2). אזל, to run out, or come to an end (1 Samuel 9:7; Job 14:11). The meaning is, "when every support is gone," when all the rotten props of its might, upon which it has rested, are broken (Ewald). The noun אפס, cessation, disappearance, takes the place of a verb. The words עזוּב עצוּר are a proverbial phrase used to denote all men, as we may clearly see from 1 Kings 14:10; 1 Kings 21:21; 2 Kings 4:8; 2 Kings 14:6. The literal meaning of this form, however, cannot be decided with certainty. The explanation given by L. de Dieu is the most plausible one, viz., the man who is fettered, restrained, i.e., married, and the single or free. For עזוּב the meaning caelebs is established by the Arabic, though the Arabic can hardly be appealed to as proving that עצוּר means paterfamilias, as this meaning, which Roediger assigns to the Arabic word, is founded upon a mistaken interpretation of a passage in Kamus.
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