Deuteronomy 33:2
And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir to them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2)“And he said, Jehovah came from Sinai,

And dawned upon them from Seir;

He shone forth from mount Paran.

And there came from the ten thousands of holiness,

From His right hand, a fire of law [10] for them.”

[10] On this expression see an additional note at the end of the book.

The appearance of God on Sinai is described as a sunrise. His light rose from Sinai, and the tops of the hills of Seir caught its rays. The full blaze of light shone on Paran. (Comp. Psalm 1:2 : “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.”) He came with ten thousands of saints is a mere mistranslation. The preposition is “from,” not “with.” If the verb “he came,” in the fourth line, is taken to refer to God, we must translate: “He came from ten thousands of saints” (to sinful men). Rashi takes “from” to mean “part of.” “There came some of His ten thousands of saints, but not all of them.” I believe the true translation is what I have given. The law itself was “ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator” (Galatians 3:19). It is called “the word spoken by angels” in Hebrews 2:2. The language of Daniel 7:10—“A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him”—supplies a complete parallel. The fiery law came from the ten thousands on “His right hand;” or from them, and from His right hand. This construction is by far the most simple, and agrees with what we read elsewhere.

ADDITIONAL NOTE ON Deuteronomy 33:2. “A FIERY LAW.”

THE original expression, eshdath or esh dath, sometimes written as one word, and sometimes as two, has created some difficulty. Esh is “fire,” and dath, if taken as a distinct word, is “law.” But dath does not appear elsewhere in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, until we meet it in the book of Esther, where it occurs frequently. It is also found in Ezra 8:36. In the Chaldee of Daniel and Ezra it occurs six times. Modern authorities assert that it is properly a Persian word. But since it is found in the Chaldee of Daniel, it was in use among the Chaldæans before the Persian empire. The word has Semitic affinities. The Hebrewsyllable thêth would have nearly the same meaning. A datum (or dictum) is the nearest equivalent that we have. There seems no reason to doubt that the word dath had obtained a place both in Chaldee and in Hebrew at the time of the Captivity. It is perfectly possible that its existence in Chaldee dates very much earlier. We must remember that Chaldee was the language of the family of Abraham before they adopted Hebrew. “A Syrian ready to perish was my father,” is the confession dictated by Moses in Deuteronomy 26:5. Syriac and Chaldee in the Old Testament are names of the same language. In the Babylonish captivity the Jews really returned to their ancestral language. It is therefore quite conceivable that Chaldæan words lingered among them until the Exodus; and this word dath, if it be a true Chaldæan word, may be an example. But, obviously, these Chaldæan reminiscences would be fewer as the years rolled on. The three Targums all take dath to be “law” in this place. The LXX. has “angels” (ἄγγελοι), instead of the combination eshdath. Possibly the word was taken as ashdoth (plural of the Chaldee ashda), meaning “rays” (of light?) and so “angels.” Comp., “He maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire;” they “ran and returned as a flash of lightning” (Psalm 104:4; Ezekiel 1:14). It is also possible that the LXX. read r instead of d in the word which they had before them, and that they arrived at the meaning “angels” through the Hebrew word shârath, “to minister.” The confusion between r and d, which are extremely alike in Hebrew, is very common. The parallels referred to in the notes on the verse show that “fiery law” will yield a good sense. The only question is whether dath, “law,” can be reasonably supposed to have occurred in the Mosaic writings. If the word were at all generally known at that period, to whatever language it properly belonged, it would hardly have escaped such a man as Moses. I think it quite possible that the common translation may be right. The Hebrew commentators accept it. The only alternative I can suggest is that of the LXX., which cannot be verified with certainty.

Deuteronomy 33:2. The Lord came — Namely, to the Israelites; manifested himself graciously and gloriously among them. He begins with this, that he may, in the first place, make them sensible of that most signal blessing which God had bestowed upon them, in choosing them to be his peculiar people. From Sinai — Beginning at Sinai, where the first appearance of God was. And rose up from Seir unto them, &c. — The plain meaning of the word is, that the same divine presence which was manifested to them on mount Sinai, accompanied them through all their journeys and encampments, especially about mount Seir and Paran, the principal places of their abode, till they came to the plains of Moab, where they were now encamped. Rose up from Seir — Namely, when, upon the removal of the cloud of glory, they marched from the neighbourhood of Idumea, in which is mount Seir. The original word signifies that his presence rose upon them like the sun from the mount, (Malachi 4:2,) and spread abroad his beams upon them from Paran, namely, when they encamped below that mount, whither they came from the wilderness of Sinai, Numbers 10:12; Numbers 13:1-3. Here God eminently manifested his presence and goodness, both in giving the people flesh, which they desired, and in appointing the seventy elders, and pouring forth his Spirit upon them. He came with ten thousands of his saints — Or holy ones, that is, angels, who attended him at the giving of the law, Psalm 68:17; see also Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19, and Hebrews 2:2. From his right hand — An allusion to the manner of men, who ordinarily both write and give gifts with their right hands. Thus God both wrote and gave the law. A fiery law — The law is termed fiery, because, like fire, it is of a searching, purging, and enflaming nature; because it inflicts fiery wrath on sinners for the violation of it, and principally, because it was delivered out of the midst of fire.33:1-5 To all his precepts, warnings, and prophecies, Moses added a solemn blessing. He begins with a description of the glorious appearances of God, in giving the law. His law works like fire. If received, it is melting, warming, purifying, and burns up the dross of corruption; if rejected, it hardens, sears, pains, and destroys. The Holy Spirit came down in cloven tongues, as of fire; for the gospel also is a fiery law. The law of God written in the heart, is a certain proof of the love of God shed abroad there: we must reckon His law one of the gifts of his grace.By "Seir" is to be understood the mountain-land of the Edomites, and by "mount Paran" the range which forms the northern boundary of the desert of Sinai (compare Genesis 14:6 note). Thus the verse forms a poetical description of the vast arena upon which the glorious manifestation of the Lord in the giving of the covenant took place.

With ten thousands of saints - Render, from amidst ten thousands of holy ones: literally from myriads of holiness, i. e., holy Angels (compare Zechariah 14:5). God is represented as leaving heaven where He dwells amidst the host of the Angels 1 Kings 22:19 and descending in majesty to earth Micah 1:3.

A fiery law - more literally as in the margin, with perhaps an allusion to the pillar of fire Exodus 13:21. The word is much disputed.

2-4. The Lord came—Under a beautiful metaphor, borrowed from the dawn and progressive splendor of the sun, the Majesty of God is sublimely described as a divine light which appeared in Sinai and scattered its beams on all the adjoining region in directing Israel's march to Canaan. In these descriptions of a theophania, God is represented as coming from the south, and the allusion is in general to the thunderings and lightnings of Sinai; but other mountains in the same direction are mentioned with it. The location of Seir was on the east of the Ghor; mount Paran was either the chain on the west of the Ghor, or rather the mountains on the southern border of the desert towards the peninsula [Robinson]. (Compare Jud 5:4, 5; Ps 68:7, 8; Hab 3:3).

ten thousands of saints—rendered by some, "with the ten thousand of Kadesh," or perhaps better still, "from Meribah" [Ewald].

a fiery law—so called both because of the thunder and lightning which accompanied its promulgation (Ex 19:16-18; De 4:11), and the fierce, unrelenting curse denounced against the violation of its precepts (2Co 3:7-9). Notwithstanding those awe-inspiring symbols of Majesty that were displayed on Sinai, the law was really given in kindness and love (De 33:3), as a means of promoting both the temporal and eternal welfare of the people. And it was "the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob," not only from the hereditary obligation under which that people were laid to observe it, but from its being the grand distinction, the peculiar privilege of the nation.

The Lord came, to wit, to the Israelites, i.e. manifested graciously and gloriously among them.

From Sinai, i.e. beginning at Sinai, where the first and most glorious appearance of God was, and so going on with them to Seir and Paran. Or, to Sinai, the particle mem oft signifying to, as is evident by comparing Isaiah 59:20, with Romans 11:26 1 Kings 8:30, with 2 Chronicles 6:21 2 Samuel 6:2, with 1 Chronicles 13:6. See also Genesis 2:8 11:2 13:11 1 Samuel 14:15. Or, in Sinai; mem being put for beth, in, as Exodus 25:18 Deu 15:1 Job 19:26 Psalm 68:29 72:16.

Rose up; he appeared or showed himself, as the sun doth when it riseth.

From Seir, i.e. from the mountain or land of Edom, which is called Seir, Genesis 32:3 36:8 Deu 2:4, to which place the Israelites came, Numbers 20:14, &c.; and from thence God led them on towards the Land of Promise, and then gloriously appeared for them in subduing Sihon and Og before them, and giving their countries unto them; which glorious work of God’s is particularly celebrated Judges 5:4. But because the land of Seir or Edom is sometimes taken more largely, and so reacheth even to the Red Sea, as appears from 1 Kings 9:26, and therefore Mount Sinai was near to it; and because Paran, which here follows, was also near Sinai, as being the next station into which they came from the wilderness of Sinai, Numbers 10:12; all this verse may belong to God’s appearance in Mount Sinai, where that glorious light which shone upon Mount-Sinai directly did in all probability scatter its beams into adjacent parts, such as Seir and Paean were; and so this is only a poetical and prophetical variation of the phrase and expression of the same thing in divers words, and God coming, or rising, or shining from or to or in Sinai, and Sear, and Paran note one and the same illustrious action of God appearing there with

ten thousands of his saints or holy angels, and there giving

a fiery law to them, as it here follows. And this interpretation may receive some strength from Habakkuk 3:3, where this glorious march of God before his people is remembered; only teman, which signifies the south, is put for Seir, which is here, possibly to signify that that Seir which is here mentioned was to be understood of the southern part of the country of Seir or Edom, which was that part adjoining to the Red Sea. Others refer this of Seir to the brazen serpent, that eminent type of Christ, which was erected in this place.

Mount Paran; a place where God eminently manifested his presence and goodness, both in giving the people flesh which they desired, and in appointing the seventy elders, and pouring forth his Spirit upon them, Num 11; though the exposition mentioned in the foregoing branch may seem more probable. With

ten thousands of saints, i.e. with a a great company of holy angels, Psalm 68:17 Daniel 7:10, which attended upon him in this great and glorious work of giving the law, as may be gathered from Acts 7:53 Galatians 3:19 Hebrews 2:2 12:22.

From his right hand; which both wrote the law and gave it to men; an allusion to men, who ordinarily write and give gifts with their right, and not with their left hand.

A fiery law. The law is called fiery, partly, because it is of a fiery nature, purging, and searching, and inflaming, for which reasons God’s word is compared to fire, Jeremiah 23:29; partly, to signify that fiery wrath and curse which it inflicteth upon sinners for the violation of it, 2 Corinthians 3:7,9; and principally, because it was delivered out of the midst of the fire, Exodus 19:16,18 Deu 4:11 5:22,23. And he said,.... What follows, of which, in some things, he was an eye and ear witness, and in others was inspired by the Spirit of God, to deliver his mind and will concerning the future case and state of the several tribes, after he had observed the common benefit and blessing they all enjoyed, by having such a law given them in the manner it was:

the Lord came from Sinai; there he first appeared to Moses, and sent him to Egypt, and wrought miracles by him, and delivered his people Israel from thence, and when they were come to this mount he came down on it, as Aben Ezra, from Gaon, or he came "to" it; so to Zion, Isaiah 59:20, is "out of" or "from Zion", Romans 11:26; here he appeared and gave the law, and from thence went with Israel through the wilderness, and conducted them to the land of Canaan:

and rose up from Seir unto them: not to the Edomites which inhabited Seir, as say Jarchi, and the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, but to the Israelites when they compassed the land of Edom; and the Lord was with them, and gave them some signal proofs of his power and providence, kindness and goodness, to them; particularly, as some observe, by appointing a brazen serpent to be erected for the cure those bitten by fiery ones, which was a type of the glorious Redeemer and Saviour, and this was done on the borders of Edom, see Numbers 21:4; for the words here denote some illustrious appearance of the Lord, like that of the rising sun; so the Targum of Onkelos,"the brightness of his glory from Seir was shown unto us;''and that of Jonathan,"and the brightness of the glory of his Shechinah went from Gebal:"

he shined forth from Mount Paran: in which the metaphor of the sun rising is continued, and as expressive of its increasing light and splendour: near to this mount was a wilderness of the same name, through which the children of Israel travelled, and where the Lord appeared to them: here the cloud rested when they removed from Sinai; here, or near it, the Spirit of the Lord was given to the seventy elders, and from hence the spies were sent into the land of Canaan, Numbers 10:12; in this wilderness Ishmael and his posterity dwelt, Genesis 21:21; but it was not to them the Lord shone forth here, as say the above Jewish writers, and others (d); but to the Israelites, for here Moses repeated the law, or delivered to them what is contained in the book of Deuteronomy, see Deuteronomy 1:1; beside, in a literal sense, as these mountains were very near one another, as Saadiah Gaon observes, the great light which shone on Mount Sinai, when the Lord descended on it, might extend to the other mountains and illuminate them, see Habakkuk 3:3,

and he came with ten thousands of saints: or holy angels, as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, and so Jarchi; which sense is confirmed by the authorities of Stephen the protomartyr, and the Apostle Paul, who speak of the law as given by the disposition of angels, they being present, attending and assisting on that solemn occasion, Acts 7:57; see Psalm 68:17; the appearance of those holy spirits in such great numbers added to the grandeur and solemnity of the giving of the holy law to the people of Israel, as the attendance of the same on Christ at his second coming will add to the lustre and glory of it, Luke 9:26,

from his right hand went a fiery law for them: the Israelites; Aben Ezra thinks the phrase, "his right hand", is in connection with the preceding clause; and the sense is, that fire came from the law, thousands of saints were at the right hand of God to surround Israel, as the horses of fire and chariots of fire surrounded Elisha; and the meaning of the last words, "a law for them", a law which stands or abides continually; and so the Septuagint version is,"at his right hand angels with him:''no doubt that law is meant which came from God on Mount Sinai, by the ministration of angels, into the hand of Moses; called a fiery law, because it was given out of the midst of the fire, Deuteronomy 5:26; so the Targum of Onkelos,

"the writing of his right hand out of the midst of fire, the law he gave unto us;''and because of its effects on the consciences of men, where it pierces and penetrates like fire, and works a sense of wrath and fiery indignation in them, by reason of the transgressions of it, it being the ministration of condemnation and death on that account; and, because of its use, it serves as a lantern to the feet, and a light to the path of good men: this law may include the judicial and ceremonial laws given at this time; but it chiefly respects the moral law, and which may be said to come from God, who, as Creator, has a right to be Governor of his creature, and to enact what laws he pleases, and from his right hand, in allusion to men's writing with their right hand, this being written by the finger of God; and because a peculiar gift of his to the Israelites, gifts being given by the right hand of men; and may denote the authority and power with which this law came enforced, and Christ seems to be the person from whose right hand it came: see Psalm 68:17.

(d) Vid. Pirke Eliezer, c. 41.

And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten {b} thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.

(b) Meaning, infinite angels.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 (3). Nor shall the Son of an Unlawful Marriage Enter the Congregation nor his Descendants.

bastard] This meaning is derived from the LXX ἐκ πόρνης. More probably the Heb. mamzer (elsewhere only in Zechariah 9:6) signifies the offspring either of such unlawful unions as are exemplified in Deuteronomy 22:30 (Deuteronomy 23:1), which was the opinion of the Rabbis (Mishnah, ‘Yebamoth’ Deuteronomy 4:13, cp. Levy, Chald. u. Neuhebr. Wörterbuch, sub voce), or of the equally forbidden marriages with foreign wives, Nehemiah 13:23 ff.

2. The Lord] Jehovah; as frequently, the Divine Name opens the poem; see on Deuteronomy 1:6.

Sinai] See Deuteronomy 1:2; Deuteronomy 1:6, on Ḥoreb, and on the view that the mountain lay in Se‘îr cp. Jdg 5:4.

rose] Like the sun: rays, or beams, forth.

unto them] So Heb. and Sam. But LXX, Targ., Vulg. read to us. V. Gall (followed by Berth. and Marti) reads to his people.

shined forth] Or flashed, so of God in Psalm 50:2; Psalm 80:1 (2), Psalm 94:1; and Job.

Paran] See Deuteronomy 1:1; mount Paran, as in Habakkuk 3:3, is not to be identified with any one range in that mountainous wilderness: mount is collective.

came] Better comes, hies or is sped; a vb common in Aram. but in Heb. used only in poetry.

from Merîbath-Kadesh] A probable conjecture from the Heb. meribeboth-ḳodesh = from holy myriads and LXX with myriads of Ḳadesh. Others propose, with him (so Sam. Pesh. Targ. instead of comes) were holy chariots (markeboth-kodesh). From the Targ. with him were holy myriads arose the late Jewish belief that angels (cp. LXX ἄγγελοι in next clause) ministered at the giving of the Law, Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19, Hebrews 2:2.

At his right hand] Or from; confirmed by the Versions; yet it is possible that for mîmîno we should read miyyamîn = from the South, in parallel to the previous lines.

was a fiery law] Very questionable. The Heb. consonants ’sh d th are written as one word, but read by the Massoretes as two, ’esh dath = fire, law; but their construction is awkward and dath is a late word from the Persian and improbable here. Sam. reads two words, each = light; if the first be read as a vb we get the probable there flashed light. Dillm. adding two consonants reads a burning fire. By reading one word we have an equivalent of the Aram. ’ashidoth = lightning flashes; cp. Habakkuk 3:4, He had horns (i.e. rays) from his hand. LXX ἄγγελοι, cp. Psalm 104:4 his ministers a flame of fire. The line may be an intrusion; it is not one of a couplet.

2–5. The Proem—The Origin of Israel

The Revelation by which the tribes became a nation is described in the mingled figures of a dawn and a thunderstorm, theophanies frequent in the Ar. poetry of the desert where natural phenomena suggestive of divine appearance and power are few (hardly more than these and the rainbow); and used several times in Heb. poetry of Jehovah the Inhabiter of Sinai; Jdg 5:4 f., Habakkuk 3:3 ff.; cp. Psalm 18:29. and contrast 1 Kings 19:11 f. See further Early Poetry of Israel, 56 ff.

2 The Lord from Sinai is come

And risen on us from Se‘îr,

Hath flashed from the hills of Parán,

And sped from Merîbath-Ḳadesh.

[From the South (?) blazed fire (?) on them.]

3 Lover indeed of His people,

His hallowed are all in His hand,

They, they fall in (?) at Thy feet,

They take up Thine orders.

4 [Moses commanded us law]

His domain is the Assembly of Jacob,

5 And King He became in Yeshurun,

When the heads of the people were gathered,

The tribes of Israel were one.Verse 2. - And he said. Here begin the words of Moses. He commences by depicting the majesty of Jehovah as he appeared to Israel when he came to make the covenant with them and give them his Law. The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them, etc. Seir is the mountain land of Edom to the cast of Sinai. Mount Paran is probably the range of lofty hills which form the southern boundary of the Promised Land to the north of the desert of Et-Tih. These places are not mentioned as scenes of different manifestations of the Divine glory, but as indicating the extent to which the one manifestation given at Sinai reached. The light of the Divine glory that rested on Sinai was reflected also from the mountains of Seir and Paran (cf. Hebrews 3:3; Judges 5:4). He came with ten thousands of saints; rather, he came from ten thousands of holy ones; literally, out from myriads of holiness; i.e. "from his celestial seat, where myriads of angels surround his throne" (Rosenmüller). The rendering "with," though that of the Targum, LXX., and Vulgate, cannot be retained; nor does Scripture represent God as attended by angels when he comes forth to manifest his glory to men. They are represented as surrounding his throne in heaven (1 Kings 22:19; Job 1:6; Daniel 7:10), as his servants awaiting his behest, and his host that do his pleasure (Genesis 28:12; Genesis 32:2, 3; Psalm 103:21); and God is represented as dwelling in the midst of them (Psalm 68:17). Hence he is represented here as coming forth from among them to manifest himself to his people. A fiery law. There is a various reading here; instead of אֵשׁ םדּת, fire of law, many codices have אשׁדת in one word, and this is supported by the Samaritan text and other authorities, and is accepted by most critics and interpreters. It is a fatal objection to the textual reading that דַּת is not a Semitic word, but one of Persian origin, brought by the Jews from Babylonia, and found only in the post-exilian books (Esther 1:8, 19; Esther 2:8, 12; Esther 3:8, 14; Esther 4:11, 15; Ezra 7:12, 21; Ezra 8:36; Daniel 2:9, 13, 15; Daniel 6:5, 9, 13, 16); and in them as applied to the Law of God only by heathens. It is, therefore, altogether improbable that this word should be found in any Hebrew writing anterior to the Captivity. Besides, what is the sense of אֵשׁ דַּת, supposing דת to mean "law?" The words cannot be rendered, as in the Authorized Version, by "fiery law;" they can only be rendered by "a fire, a law," or "a fire of law," and What either of these may mean it is not easy to see. The ancient versions vary here very considerably: LXX., ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ ἄγγελοι μετ αὐτοῦ: Vulgate, fin dextera ejus ignea lex; Targum of Onkelos, "Written by his right hand, from the midst of the fire, a law gave he to us;" Syriac, "With myriads of his saints at his right hand. He gave to them, and also caused all peoples to love them." The best Hebrew manuscripts have אשׁדת as one word. The Masoretic note is, "The Chatiph is one word, and the K'ri two." The word אשׁדת is best explained as a compound of אֵשׁ, fire, and שׁדא, an Aramaic word signifying to throw or dart; the Syriac , or the Hebrew יָדָה, having the same signification, so that the meaning is "fire-dartings:" from his right hand went rays of fire like arrows shot forth (cf. Habakkuk 3:4; Exodus 19:16). To them; i.e. to the Israelites, to whom this manifestation was vouchsafed. "That self-same day," viz., the day upon which Moses had rehearsed the song to the children of Israel, the Lord renewed the announcement of his death, by repeating the command already given to him (Numbers 27:12-14) to ascend Mount Nebo, there to survey the land of Canaan, and then to be gathered unto his people. In form, this repetition differs from the previous announcement, partly in the fact that the situation of Mount Nebo is more fully described (in the land of Moab, etc., as in Deuteronomy 1:5; Deuteronomy 29:1), and partly in the continual use of the imperative, and a few other trifling points. These differences may all be explained from the fact that the account here was not written by Moses himself.
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