Deuteronomy 32:5
They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5)—“He (Israel) hath destroyed himself.

Their undutifulness,[5] that is their blot,

[5] Literally, they are no sons to him. (Comp. Deuteronomy 32:20.)

A froward and crooked generation !”

These first two lines are given up as hopeless by many interpreters, not because the words are difficult of translation, but from the great variety of possible interpretations. After careful consideration of the passage with a learned Christian Hebrew,[6] I venture to propound this as the true translation. It is substantially identical with that of the English margin. The Hebrew consists of five words only (1) “He-hath-corrupted (2) to-him (3) not (4) his-sons (5) their blemish.” That the first two ought to be taken together, if the text is correct, seems certain. The same construction is found in Numbers 32:15, “ye shall destroy all this people,” and also in 1Samuel 23:10, “to destroy the city.” As to the third and fourth words, we have thought that their true relation is the same which we find in Deuteronomy 32:21, a “not-God,” and a “not-people,” and also in Deuteronomy 32:5, not-wise.” In like manner Israel are in this verse called “not-sons of His.” Their not-sonship, their unfilial, undutiful, ungodly behaviour to Him who is the perfection of truth and sincerity, a very Rock of fidelity to them, that is their great blemish. He has said, “Israel is my son, even my firstborn.” But all Israel’s behaviour gives Him the lie. The contrast between the two descriptions—the faithful God of Deuteronomy 32:4, and the unfaithful children of Deuteronomy 32:5—is the cardinal point in the verse. In the form of the expression, lo-bânâv is strictly parallel to the Lo-ammi of Hosea 1:9. The “froward and crooked generation” supplies two words to Psalm 18:26, “with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward” Compare also the context of the two passages. Many other interpretations have been proposed, and some have altered the text. I believe the text to be correct, and that this is the true meaning.

[6] Mr. Bernhard Maimon, to whom I desire once for all to express my great obligations for assistance in this and many other difficulties.

Deuteronomy 32:5. They have corrupted themselves — Notwithstanding that God hath fully displayed these excellences in his dealings with the Israelitish nation, yet how corrupt and ungrateful hath been their behaviour! Their spot — The wickedness with which they are stained; is not of his children — Plainly shows they are not his children, but of their father the devil, John 8:44. God’s children have no such spot. Indeed, the text does not affirm that they have any spot at all. The Hebrew לא בניו מומםlo banau, mumam, may be properly rendered as in the margin, or, as Le Clerc has it, according to the Samaritan version, the sons of pollution are not his. The true characteristic of the sons of God is to imitate and resemble God, 1 John 3:10. It is true they are not without infirmities of various kinds, from which none dwelling in flesh are exempt. But they do not give that name to known sin, which they are always careful to avoid, and to walk in all well-pleasing before God. On the contrary, the Israelites are here denominated a perverse and crooked generation; froward and untractable; irregular and disorderly. In opposition to such characters the sons of God are described (Php 2:15) as “being blameless and harmless in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, shining as lights in the world, and holding forth the word of life.”32:3-6 He is a Rock. This is the first time God is called so in Scripture. The expression denotes that the Divine power, faithfulness, and love, as revealed in Christ and the gospel, form a foundation which cannot be changed or moved, on which we may build our hopes of happiness. And under his protection we may find refuge from all our enemies, and in all our troubles; as the rocks in those countries sheltered from the burning rays of the sun, and from tempests, or were fortresses from the enemy. His work is perfect: that of redemption and salvation, in which there is a display of all the Divine perfection, complete in all its parts. All God's dealings with his creatures are regulated by wisdom which cannot err, and perfect justice. He is indeed just and right; he takes care that none shall lose by him. A high charge is exhibited against Israel. Even God's children have their spots, while in this imperfect state; for if we say we have no sin, no spot, we deceive ourselves. But the sin of Israel was not habitual, notorious, unrepented sin; which is a certain mark of the children of Satan. They were fools to forsake their mercies for lying vanities. All wilful sinners, especially sinners in Israel, are unwise and ungrateful.Render: "It" (i. e. "the perverse and crooked generation") "hath corrupted itself before Him (compare Isaiah 1:4); they are not His children, but their blemish:" i. e., the generation of evil-doers cannot be styled God's children, but rather the shame and disgrace of God's children. The other side of the picture is thus brought forward with a brevity and abruptness which strikingly enforces the contrast.5. They have corrupted themselves—that is, the Israelites by their frequent lapses and their inveterate attachment to idolatry.

their spot is not the spot of his children—This is an allusion to the marks which idolaters inscribe on their foreheads or their arms with paint or other substances, in various colors and forms—straight, oval, or circular, according to the favorite idol of their worship.

They, i.e. the Israelites, as the following words manifest.

Corrupted themselves: this phrase sometimes in Scripture notes sin, and sometimes destruction. And so the sense may be either,

1. Their wickedness is not from God, but from themselves, and their own choice; they have wilfully and industriously depraved themselves, and sold themselves to sin. Or rather,

2. Their destruction is not from God. who is just and true, &c., as was now said, but wholly and solely from themselves, and from their own wickedness, as it here follows.

Their spot is not the spot of his children, i.e. their blemishes or sins are not committed through ignorance, or frailty, or surprisal, as good men sometimes sin, but they proceed from design and deliberation, are accompanied with malice, and wilfulness, and contempt, and followed with obstinacy, impenitency, and incorrigibleness. So that they carry themselves not like my children and people, as they seem to be and profess to be, but like mine enemies.

They are a perverse and crooked generation; not only some few of them, but the whole body or generation of them, are

perverse, i.e. froward and untractable,

and crooked, i.e. irregular and disorderly, not agreeing with the straight and righteous nature of God and of his law. Compare Isaiah 42:16. They have corrupted themselves,.... This and what follows may seem to be the characters of the enemies of Christ, who lightly esteemed and rejected him, set in a contrast with him; who were not only corrupt by nature, as all men are, but were men of corrupt minds in their tenets and principles; who corrupted the word of God by their traditions, in the times of Christ; and were men of corrupt practices themselves, and corrupters of others:

their spot is not the spot of his children; of the children of the divine Person before described; Christ the rock has "children" given him by his Father, in whose adoption he has a concern, and by whose Spirit they are regenerated: these have their "spots"; by which are meant sins, and by those men are stained and polluted; so called in allusion to the spots of animals, as leopards; or to spots in faces and garments, through dirt and the like: by nature they are as others, and while in an unregenerate estate, and indeed after conversion; though they are washed from their sins by the blood of Christ, and are justified by his righteousness, and so without spot, yet in themselves they are not without spots or sins, as their confessions and complaints, and all experience testify: but the spots or sins of wicked men are not like theirs; the children of Christ sin through infirmity of the flesh, and the force of temptation, but wicked men through the malignity of their hearts, willingly and purposely; what good men do of this kind they hate, but what Christless and graceless sinners do they love; saints do not continue in sin, but ungodly men do, and proceed to more ungodliness, and wax worse and worse; gracious souls when they sin, are sorry for it, repent of it, are melted for it, and take shame to themselves on account of it; but unconverted men repent not of their wickedness, are hardened in it, and glory of it; see the character of the Jews in Christ's time, to which this song refers, John 8:44; though these clauses may be rendered to another sense, more agreeably to the context, and to the Hebrew accents, as they are by some; "is there any corruption in him? no" (n), that is, is there any corruption in the illustrious Person before described, as without iniquity, just, and right? no, none at all in his nature, divine or human; not in his divine nature, being the incorruptible God; nor in his human nature, which is entirely free from that corruption by sin, common to all that des, tend from Adam by natural generation, he being conceived under the power of the Holy Ghost; nor any in his life and conversation, being perfectly agreeable to the pure and holy law of God; nor any in his doctrines, however they may be charged by ignorant and malicious men, a proof of which follows: or "his children are their spot" (o); so the clause may be rendered; the spots of the Jewish nation, the most wicked and vilest among them, became his children; not only the lowest and meanest of them, as to civil and worldly things, but the more ignorant and the more wicked, even publicans and harlots; these, and not the righteous, he came to call and save, and did receive; these were regenerated by his grace, and they believed in him; and to them gave he power to become his children: but then did they remain the wicked persons they had been? no, they were made new creatures, they were internally sanctified, and lived holy lives and conversations; a clear proof this, that there was no corruption in Christ, nor in his doctrine, and that he neither by his tenets nor example encouraged sin, but all the reverse; Wisdom is justified of her children, Matthew 11:19; but then the rest, and the far greater part of the Jewish nation, in his time, have their character truly drawn, as follows:

they are a perverse and crooked generation; men of perverse and crooked natures, tempers, dispositions, ways, and works; who walked contrary to the will and law of God, and were indeed contrary to all men, 1 Thessalonians 2:15; this is the very character that is given of them, Matthew 17:17.

(n) "an est ipsi corruptio? non", Cocceius, van Till, Vitringa. (o) "filii ejus macula eorum", Van Till; "filii ejus labes ipsorum", Cocceius.

They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. The text of the first line is corrupt; lit. he has dealt corruptly (as in Deuteronomy 9:12, cp. Deuteronomy 31:29) with him, not his sons, their blemish. Sam. LXX: they dealt corruptly not his sons, blameworthy things. Possible emendations, they dealt corruptly with him sons of blemish; his sons have corrupted their faithfulness to him; or as above. The line is overloaded. On blemish in physical sense see Deuteronomy 15:21, Deuteronomy 17:1.

twisted and crooked] Or tortuous; cp. Deuteronomy 5:20.Directly after handing over the book of the law, Moses directed the elders of all the tribes, together with the official persons, to gather round him, that he might rehearse to them the ode which he had written fore the people. The summons, "gather unto me," was addressed to the persons to whom he had given the book of the law. The elders and officers, as the civil authorities of the congregation, were collected together by him to hear the ode, because they were to put it in the mouth of the people, i.e., to take care that all the nation should learn it. The words, "I will call heaven and earth as witnesses against you," refer to the substance of the ode about to be rehearsed, which begins with an appeal to the heaven and the earth (Deuteronomy 32:1). The reason assigned for this in Deuteronomy 31:29 is a brief summary of what the Lord had said to Moses in Deuteronomy 31:16-21, and Moses thought it necessary to communicate to the representatives of the nation. "The work of your hands" refers to the idols (vid., Deuteronomy 4:28).
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