Deuteronomy 4:1
Now therefore listen, O Israel, to the statutes and to the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers gives you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
IV.

(1) Now therefore hearken.—The whole point of the exhortation in this chapter is the same which we find in Joshua’s address to the people (Joshua 24), that they should serve Jehovah. And the ground of the exhortation is His revelation of Himself in Horeb as their God.

The statutes . . . and the judgments.—Perhaps we should say “institutions and requirements” in modern language. For “judgments,” see Exodus 21-23.

That ye may live, and go in.Life is put before possession. The penalty of the broken law is death.

Deuteronomy 4:1. Now therefore hearken, O Israel — Having called to their remembrance the extraordinary dispensations of Divine Providence toward them, both in the way of mercy and judgment, he now calls upon their whole assembly, in the most serious and earnest manner, to consider what influence these things ought to have upon their conduct, answerable to the design of such mercies and judgments; namely, to render them punctually obedient to the laws of God, and cautions of offending him; this being the very intent for which they were conducted to the promised land, and the absolute condition of their peaceful and happy enjoyment of it. We may observe Moses here to speak with all possible energy of language. The greatness of the subject he is upon inspires him with more than usual warmth, and he cannot take a view of the extraordinary privilege and happiness bestowed upon his people, in having divine statutes and judgments to direct them, without rapture and admiration. He sees the happiness of their condition therein, and bestows all his zeal and spirit to make them sensible of it. He regards nothing but this only, as knowing this would be every thing to them, to make them great and happy. The statutes — The laws which concerned the worship and service of God. The judgments — The laws concerning their duty to men. So these two comprehend both tables, and the whole law of God.4:1-23 The power and love of God to Israel are here made the ground and reason of a number of cautions and serious warnings; and although there is much reference to their national covenant, yet all may be applied to those who live under the gospel. What are laws made for but to be observed and obeyed? Our obedience as individuals cannot merit salvation; but it is the only evidence that we are partakers of the gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ, Considering how many temptations we are compassed with, and what corrupt desires we have in our bosoms, we have great need to keep our hearts with all diligence. Those cannot walk aright, who walk carelessly. Moses charges particularly to take heed of the sin of idolatry. He shows how weak the temptation would be to those who thought aright; for these pretended gods, the sun, moon, and stars, were only blessings which the Lord their God had imparted to all nations. It is absurd to worship them; shall we serve those that were made to serve us? Take heed lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God. We must take heed lest at any time we forget our religion. Care, caution, and watchfulness, are helps against a bad memory.The general entreaty contained in this chapter is pointed by special mention and enforcement of the fundamental principles of the whole covenant Deuteronomy 4:9-40, the spiritual nature of the Deity, His exclusive right to their allegiance, His abhorrence of idolatry in every form, His choice of them for His elect people. Compare further Moses' third and last address, Deuteronomy 27-30. CHAPTER 4

De 4:1-13. An Exhortation to Obedience.

1. hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you—By statutes were meant all ordinances respecting religion and the rites of divine worship; and by judgments, all enactments relative to civil matters. The two embraced the whole law of God.An exhortation to obey the law, Deu 4:1-13; and warning against idolatry, Deu 4:14-24; from the mischief of it upon themselves and children, Deu 4:25-28; God’s promise upon their repentance, Deu 4:29-31; and from God’s wonders towards them, Deu 4:32-40. Cities of refuge are appointed, Deu 4:41-43.

The statutes; the laws which concern the worship and service of God. The judgments; the laws concerning your duties to men. So these two comprehend both tables, and the whole law of God.

Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments,.... The laws of God, moral, ceremonial, and judicial, which they are exhorted to attend to and obey, in consideration of the great and good things the Lord had done for them, ever since they came from Horeb, where they were given them; such as providing for them, and feeding them in the wilderness, preserving them from every hurtful thing, and delivering their enemies into their hands, the two kings of the Amorites, which they are put in mind of in the preceding chapters; hence this begins with "therefore hearken"; for nothing is a greater incentive to obedience than the kindness and goodness of God:

which I teach you for to do that ye may live; the law was taught by Moses, but the Gospel of grace and truth by Jesus Christ; and it was taught by him, as well as it was to be hearkened to by them, in order to yield obedience to it; for not bare hearing, but doing the law, is the principal thing of any avail; and which was to be done, that they might live; not a spiritual and eternal life, which are not by the works of the law, but are had only from Christ, through his grace and righteousness; but a corporeal life, and a comfortable enjoyment of the blessings of it, and particularly that that might be continued to them:

and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you; the land of Canaan, which the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had promised to give to their posterity, and which they were to hold by their obedience to his laws.

Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to {a} do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.

(a) For this doctrine stands not in bare knowledge, but in practice of life.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. And now] Emphatic call to the practical purpose of the discourse; the same in Deuteronomy 10:12, the beginning of the last stage of the second introduction to the Code.

O Israel, hearken] Sg. imper. confirmed by Sam. and LXX in a context using the Pl. form of address; an instance of the natural transition by the same author from one to the other, cp. Deuteronomy 4:5 and Deuteronomy 1:8.

the statutes and … the judgements] Heb. ḥuḳḳîm and mishpaṭîm, a common title for the deuteronomic Laws, Deuteronomy 4:1; Deuteronomy 4:5; Deuteronomy 4:8; Deuteronomy 4:14, Deuteronomy 5:1, Deuteronomy 11:32, Deuteronomy 12:1, Deuteronomy 26:16; sometimes combined with or varied by miṣwah, commandment, and ‘edwôth, solemnly pronounced decrees (see on Deuteronomy 4:45). Ḥôḳ means engraven or instituted, a statute covering ‘positive institutions or enactments, moral, ceremonial, civil (e.g. Deuteronomy 7:1-3; Deuteronomy 7:12; Deuteronomy 7:14; Deuteronomy 7:16 f. etc.)’; mishpaṭ, lit. judgement, judicial decision, ‘the provisions of the civil and criminal law’ (Driver).

which I teach you] The participle, am about to teach you; cp. Deuteronomy 4:5. It is remarkable that in the Pent. D alone uses this verb—teach and learn—of religion and the Law, and this no fewer than 17 times. The idea is the same as that of the prophets, especially Hosea and Jeremiah, that true religion rests on the knowledge of God, the people sinning because not understanding with the heart (Heb. for the practical intellect) what God is and demands; and perishing for lack of knowledge.

that ye may live] as a nation! That the national existence depends on the keeping of the Law is a principle of the deuteronomic writers. Understood in a thoroughly spiritual temper it is uncontestable. Every nation lives by loyalty to law, and the people who were loyal to the spirit of this law would be strong and survive. As a matter of fact Israel preserved its identity among the nations and survived the influences which overwhelmed the religions of its neighbours by its obedience. The Law was a fence about the people. But their danger was to substitute the letter for the spirit, as according to both Jeremiah and Jesus they did. On live cp. Deuteronomy 30:6.

1–8. Enforcement of the Impending Legislation

The main purpose of the discourse, the enforcement of the Laws about to be given, for on the practice of these depends Israel’s survival in the Land (Deuteronomy 4:1 f.)—let them remember Ba‘al-Pe‘or! (Deuteronomy 4:3 f.)—as well as their wisdom and fame as a people (Deuteronomy 4:5 f.); what other has such a God or such laws? (Deuteronomy 4:7 f.). Deuteronomy 4:1 closely joins with the preceding Deuteronomy 1:6 to Deuteronomy 3:29, which indeed requires some such practical conclusion as is provided in Deuteronomy 4:1-4, and the unity of these vv. with Deuteronomy 1:6 to Deuteronomy 3:29 is generally recognised, but as we shall see there is no reason to doubt that Deuteronomy 4:5-8 also belong to that unity.Verses 1-40. - ADMONITIONS AND EXHORTATIONS. Moses, having presented to the people certain facts in their recent history which had in them a specially animating and encouraging tendency, proceeds to direct his discourse to the inculcation of duties and exhortations to obedience to the Divine enactments. This portion also of his address is of an introductory character as well as what precedes. Verses 1-8. - Exhortation to the observance of the Law generally. The Law was to be kept as a complete whole; nothing was to be taken from it or added to it; it comprised the commandments of Jehovah, and therefore they were not only to do it as what Moses, their leader and lawgiver, had enjoined, but to keep it as a sacred deposit, not to be altered or tampered with, and to observe it as what God their Sovereign had enacted for them. The dignity and worth of the Law are here asserted, and also its completeness as given by Moses. Any addition to it, no less than any subtraction from it, would mar its integrity and affect its perfection. Altered circumstances in process of time might, indeed, lead to the desuetude of some parts of the Mosaic enactments, and new institutions or laws might be required to meet a new condition of things, or even in that new condition to fence and sustain the primitive code; but that cede was to remain intact in the Statute-Book, and no alterations were to be made upon it that should affect its substance or nullify any of its principles. New laws and institutions appointed by God would, of course, have the same authority as those originally ordained by Moses; and such, it can hardly be doubted, were in point of fact under the Hebrew monarchy introduced by the prophets speaking in the name of God. The Law, nevertheless, was kept substantially entire. Even under the new dispensation, the Law has not been abolished. Christ, as he himself declared, came not to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). The sin of the Pharisees, for which they were censured by our Lord, lay in this, that they taught for doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9), and had "made the commandments of God of none effect by their traditions" (Matthew 15:6). Verses 1, 2. - Now therefore; rather And now. With this Moses passes from referring to what God had done for Israel to admonish Israel as to what they had to do as the subjects of God and the recipients of his favor. They were to give heed to all the statutes and judgments which Moses, as the servant of God, had taught them, in order that they might do them. Statutes (חֻקִּים), the things prescribed or enacted by law, whether moral, ritual, or civil; judgments (מִשְׁפָטִים), rights, whether public or private, all that each could claim as his due, and all he was bound to render to God or to his fellow-men as their due. These two comprehend the whole Law as binding on Israel. On the doing of these by the people depended life; these had been made known to them, not merely for their information, but specifically that they might do them, and thereby have life; not long life in the Promised Land alone, though this also is included (ver. 40; Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 6:2, etc.), but that higher life, that life which man lives "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3; cf. Leviticus 18:5; Ezekiel 20:11; Matthew 4:4), that spiritual life which is in God's favor (Psalm 30:5). Enjoying this life as the fruit of obedience, they should also possess as their inheritance the laud promised to their fathers. Moses then describes how, notwithstanding his prayer, the Lord had refused him permission to cross over into Canaan and see the glorious land. This prayer is not mentioned in the historical account given in the fourth book; but it must have preceded the prayer for the appointment of a shepherd over the congregation in Numbers 27:16, as the Lord directs him in His reply (Deuteronomy 3:28) to appoint Joshua as the leader of the people. In his prayer, Moses appealed to the manifestations of divine grace which he had already received. As the Lord had already begun to show him His greatness and His mighty hand, so might He also show him the completion of His work. The expression, "begun to show Thy greatness," relates not so much to the mighty acts of the Lord in Egypt and at the Red Sea (as in Exodus 32:11-12, and Numbers 14:13.), as to the manifestation of the divine omnipotence in the defeat of the Amorites, by which the Lord had begun to bring His people into the possession of the promised land, and had made Himself known as God, to whom there was no equal in heaven or on earth. אשׁר before אל מי (v. 24) is an explanatory and causal relative: because (quod, quia), or for. "For what God is there in heaven and on earth," etc. These words recall Exodus 15:11, and are echoed in many of the Psalms, - in Psalm 86:8 almost verbatim. The contrast drawn between Jehovah and other gods does not involve the reality of the heathen deities, but simply presupposes a belief in the existence of other gods, without deciding as to the truth of that belief. גּבוּרת, manifestations of גּבוּרה, mighty deeds.
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