Deuteronomy 4:34
Or has God assayed to go and take him a nation from the middle of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?
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4:24-40 Moses urged the greatness, glory, and goodness of God. Did we consider what a God he is with whom we have to do, we should surely make conscience of our duty to him, and not dare to sin against him. Shall we forsake a merciful God, who will never forsake us, if we are faithful unto him? Whither can we go? Let us be held to our duty by the bonds of love, and prevailed with by the mercies of God to cleave to him. Moses urged God's authority over them, and their obligations to him. In keeping God's commandments they would act wisely for themselves. The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom. Those who enjoy the benefit of Divine light and laws, ought to support their character for wisdom and honour, that God may be glorified thereby. Those who call upon God, shall certainly find him within call, ready to give an answer of peace to every prayer of faith. All these statutes and judgments of the Divine law are just and righteous, above the statutes and judgments of any of the nations. What they saw at mount Sinai, gave an earnest of the day of judgment, in which the Lord Jesus shall be revealed in flaming fire. They must also remember what they heard at mount Sinai. God manifests himself in the works of the creation, without speech or language, yet their voice is heard, Ps 19:1,3; but to Israel he made himself known by speech and language, condescending to their weakness. The rise of this nation was quite different from the origin of all other nations. See the reasons of free grace; we are not beloved for our own sakes, but for Christ's sake. Moses urged the certain benefit and advantage of obedience. This argument he had begun with, ver. 1, That ye may live, and go in and possess the land; and this he concludes with, ver. 40, That it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee. He reminds them that their prosperity would depend upon their piety. Apostacy from God would undoubtedly be the ruin of their nation. He foresees their revolt from God to idols. Those, and those only, shall find God to their comfort, who seek him with all their heart. Afflictions engage and quicken us to seek God; and, by the grace of God working with them, many are thus brought back to their right mind. When these things are come upon thee, turn to the Lord thy God, for thou seest what comes of turning from him. Let all the arguments be laid together, and then say, if religion has not reason on its side. None cast off the government of their God, but those who first abandon the understanding of a man.Temptations - Compare Deuteronomy 7:18-19; Deuteronomy 29:2-3; not, "i. e." the tribulations and persecutions undergone by the Israelites, out the plagues miraculously inflicted on the Egyptians.30. in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God—either towards the destined close of their captivities, when they evinced a returning spirit of repentance and faith, or in the age of Messiah, which is commonly called "the latter days," and when the scattered tribes of Israel shall be converted to the Gospel of Christ. The occurrence of this auspicious event will be the most illustrious proof of the truth of the promise made in De 4:31. By temptations; by tribulations and persecutions, which are commonly called temptations, which are here fitly mentioned as one great occasion first of their cries unto God, and then of God’s coming for their rescue. Or, temptations is the general title, which is explained by the following particulars,

signs and wonders, & c., which are called temptations, because they were trials both to the Egyptians and Israelites, whether thereby they would be induced to believe and obey God or no.

Great terrors, raised in the minds of the Egyptians, as the history showeth; compare Deu 2:25 34:12; or by terrible things done among them. Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation,.... As he now had done, namely, the nation of Israel out of the nation of the Egyptians; this he not only had assayed to do, but had actually done it; whereas no such instance like it could be produced, and especially as done in the manner this was:

by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war; the word "temptations" may be considered as a general word, as Aben Ezra thinks, and may signify the temptations by signs, &c. or the various essays and trials, ways, means, and methods taken by the Lord to bring about the event; by "signs" may be meant those which were required of Moses, and done by him before the people of Israel, and before Pharaoh, as proofs of his mission from the Lord, Exodus 4:1 and by "wonders", the ten plagues of Egypt, which were done by a supernatural and miraculous operation, and were amazing things; see Psalm 78:11; and by "war", either the slaying of the firstborn, with the destruction of the judges and gods of Egypt, as Aben Ezra; or the Lord's fighting for Israel at the Red sea, as Jarchi; he saved them and destroyed the Egyptians, and showed himself to be a man of war, Exodus 14:14.

and by a mighty hand and stretched out arm; phrases frequently used when this affair is spoken of, and are expressive of the mighty power of God in the above instances, and in the issue of them, bringing Israel out of Egypt; though Aben Ezra interprets it of the pillar of fire and cloud in which the Lord went before them:

and by great terrors; which the same writer interprets of the drowning of Pharaoh and his host in the sea, and dividing it for Israel; but may be understood not only of the terrors which possessed him and his people then, but at other times, especially at the time of the thunder and lightning, and when they sat in thick darkness, and particularly when all their firstborn were slain; see Deuteronomy 26:8,

according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes; among the men of Egypt, as the above writer, Pharaoh and his courtiers: the above things were done as before them for their terror, so before Israel for their encouragement.

Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by {y} temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?

(y) By so manifest proofs that none could doubt of it.

34. Or hath God assayed] Rather, hath a god. The verb nissah is rendered in Deuteronomy 28:56 adventured. It is also used for the tempting or testing of Israel by God, Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 8:16, Deuteronomy 13:3 (4) (also in E), or of God by Israel, Deuteronomy 6:16 (also in JE).

to go] Heb. to come, which is better, meaning to come upon earth.

by temptations, by signs, and by wonders] Deuteronomy 7:19, Deuteronomy 29:2 (partly Deuteronomy 6:22, Deuteronomy 11:3). Temptations, rather tests, provings or experiments, massôth (from the verb explained in previous note), such as those applied to Phara‘oh; not only to prove him, but to offer him proofs that God was with Israel—so in the account of the plagues in JE, especially Exodus 8:9 ff; Exodus 9:27. Signs or evidences, ’othôth, in the widest sense, any distinguishing mark (e.g. blood on the doorposts of the Israelites, Exodus 12:13; a family mark or ensign, Numbers 2:2); but usually of an action or event attached to an oracle, either to illustrate or enforce its meaning (Isaiah stripped and barefoot, Isaiah 20:3) or to prove its divinity (Isaiah 7:3, etc.). These last, though startling, were not necessarily miraculous; cp. 1 Samuel 2:34, the death of Eli’s sons, Isaiah 8:18, the prophet’s sons with the ominous names and as above, Isaiah 20:3; but as in the cases before us they might be so. Orientals make no distinction, except, of degree, between one kind and another. Wonders, môphethîm (usually with signs; in addition to deuteronomic passages quoted above, and Deuteronomy 13:1 (2), see Isaiah 8:18; Isaiah 20:3), rather portents, more closely attached to the idea of the extraordinary than sign is. Also with the particular sense of foreshadowing, prodigium; cp. Zechariah 3:8. See also Driver’s Exodus p. 59.

by war] To ask whether this implies a supernatural element, or simply the inspiration of Israel’s armies, is to ignore the fact that Israel themselves made no such distinction. Jehovah himself was their warlord. J, Exodus 14:14, Jehovah shall fight for you, ye shall hold your peace; E, id. Exodus 14:24 b, He discomfited the Egyptian host; J, id. Exodus 14:25, He took off their chariot-wheels … so that the Egyptians said, Jehovah fighteth for them. But in other cases Israel themselves also fought.

by a mighty hand] In D 10 times, both with Sg. and Pl.; Deuteronomy 3:24, thy mighty hand; followed by outstretched arm, as here, Deuteronomy 5:15, Deuteronomy 7:19, Deuteronomy 11:2, Deuteronomy 26:8; alone, Deuteronomy 6:21, Deuteronomy 7:8, Deuteronomy 9:26; followed by great terrors, Deuteronomy 34:12. In JE (?), Exodus 3:19; Exodus 6:1, alone; cp. Deuteronomy 13:14; Deuteronomy 13:16, strength of hand.

and by a stretched out arm] In D 6 times both with Sg. and Pl.; of which five times (as above) with a mighty hand, and once Deuteronomy 9:29 with great power. Elsewhere in the Hex. only in P, Exodus 6:6, which also uses the verb stretch forth in Exodus 7:5.

by great terrors] Heb. môra’îm, terrifying things. LXX ὀράματα, marĕ’îm, accepted by Geiger; but it is weaker than the other. Cp. Deuteronomy 10:21, great and terrible things.

for you] LXX omits and for your God gives our God. The only plurals in this section; probably editorial.

before your eyes] Heb. thine eyes; the your of both EVV shows how easy it is to change the original forms of address under the influence of attraction: there is a similar instance in A.V. Deuteronomy 4:3 you for thee.Verse 34. - Hath God assayed, etc.; hath he ever made the attempt to come on the earth and take a nation from the midst of a nation, as he took the Hebrew people from among the Egyptians? By temptations (מַסּות, plu. of מַסָּה, a testing, a trial) - i.e. by the plagues inflicted on Pharaoh and his people, whereby they were tested and tried - by signs and by wonders. "The wonder (מופֵת) differs from the sign (אות) in this, that the former denotes the properly marvelous, the extraordinary, the uncommon, consequently the subjective apprehension of the miraculous event; the latter the significant element in the miracle, the reference to the higher, Divine design, the purpose of God in it, consequently to the objective side of the miracle (comp. Deuteronomy 13:2)" (Havernick, 'Comment. ub. Ezech,' p. 161). By war (cf. Exodus 14:14; Exodus 15:3-10); by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm (Exodus 6:6; Exodus 14:8; Deuteronomy 5:15); and by great terrors (Exodus 12:30-36), the effect on the Egyptians of the Divine inflictions (cf. Psalm 105:27-38; Psalm 106:21, 22). There among the heathen they would be obliged to serve gods that were the work of men's hands, gods of wood and stone, that could neither hear, nor eat, nor smell, i.e., possessed no senses, showed no sign of life. What Moses threatens here, follows from the eternal laws of the divine government. The more refined idolatry of image-worship leads to coarser and coarser forms, in which the whole nature of idol-worship is manifested in all its pitiableness. "When once the God of revelation is forsaken, the God of reason and imagination must also soon be given up and make way for still lower powers, that perfectly accord with the I exalted upon the throne, and in the time of pretended 'illumination' to atheism and materialism also" (Schultz).
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