Deuteronomy 4:9
Only take heed to yourself, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life: but teach them your sons, and your sons' sons;
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(9) Only take heed to thyself.—The exhortation contained in the following verses lays special emphasis on one point—the worship of the invisible Jehovah without images. This more than anything else would tend to separate the religion of Israel from that of all other nations.

Teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.—A command which Israel evidently failed to obey. For a generation speedily rose up “which knew not Jehovah nor yet the works which he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). It is worth while to observe that we cannot find any trace of a system of national education in Israel until many years later. When education is purely parental, it is likely to be neglected in many instances. It is not every parent who finds himself able to “teach his sons, and his sons’ sons.”

Deuteronomy 4:9-10. Only take heed — Their only danger was, lest they should grow careless and unmindful of all the wonderful things that God had done for them; for which reason he would have every Israelite to make these weighty concerns the subject of his most frequent study and intense meditation. Especially the day — When God delivered the law from mount Sinai to them, with such awful appearances of divine majesty. Thou stoodest — Some of them stood there in their own persons, though then they were but young; the rest in the loins of their parents.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.A full stop should end Deuteronomy 4:9; and Deuteronomy 4:10 begin, At the time that thou stoodest, etc. Deuteronomy 4:11 then ye came near, etc. Moses, exhorting to heedful observance of the Law, strives to renew the impressions of that tremendous scene which attended its promulgation at Sinai. 7-9. what nation is there so great—Here he represents their privileges and their duty in such significant and comprehensive terms, as were peculiarly calculated to arrest their attention and engage their interest. The former, their national advantages, are described (De 4:7, 8), and they were twofold: 1. God's readiness to hear and aid them at all times; and 2. the excellence of that religion in which they were instructed, set forth in the "statutes and judgments so righteous" which the law of Moses contained. Their duty corresponding to these pre-eminent advantages as a people, was also twofold: 1. their own faithful obedience to that law; and 2. their obligation to imbue the minds of the young and rising generation with similar sentiments of reverence and respect for it. No text from Poole on this verse. Only take heed to thyself,.... To walk according to this law, and not swerve from it:

and keep thy soul diligently; from the transgressions and breaches of it:

lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen; either the statutes and judgments set before them, and the circumstances of the delivery of them; or the punishment inflicted on the breakers of them; or the favours bestowed on those that observed them:

and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life; out of thy mind and memory, and have no place in thy affections, through a neglect and disuse of them:

but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons; their children and grandchildren, that they may be trained up in them in their youth, and so not depart from them when grown up, and in years; see Deuteronomy 6:7.

Only take heed to thyself, and {h} keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;

(h) He adds all these words, to show that we can never be careful enough to keep the law of God and to teach it to our posterity.

9. Only] Not restriction to one point, but emphasis on the principle of the whole of the Law. For the use of this restrictive adverb so frequent in D see on Deuteronomy 10:15.

take heed to thyself] Found in JE, Genesis 31:24, etc., but frequent in D—9 times thus, and 5 more generally.

keep thy soul diligently] Rather, guard well thyself (cp. 23 Pl.) or thy life; cp. 1, that ye may live.

lest thou forget the things which thine eyes saw] The experience of the nation as a whole is meant, and not only that of the generation addressed. So the prophets frequently call on their contemporaries to remember what happened to the nation long ago. Hence the transition in this verse to the Sg. is natural and does not imply another author. Similarly throughout the following discourse 5–11. See on Deuteronomy 10:21.

thy heart] The seat not of the emotions but of the practical intellect, or, as here, of the memory. Cp. our ‘to get by heart,’ ‘lay to heart.’

make them known unto thy children] First instance of the frequent enforcement to hand on the religious tradition: 10, Deuteronomy 6:7; Deuteronomy 6:20 f., Deuteronomy 11:19, Deuteronomy 31:13, Deuteronomy 32:46.

9–24. Against Idolatry

The truth that is beneath the whole Law: God is revealed not in images, but by words and deeds of redemption. Warned to lay their experience to heart (Deuteronomy 4:9), Israel are reminded of the revelation at Ḥoreb, solely by words and the covenant (Deuteronomy 4:10-14); let them recall they saw no form (Deuteronomy 4:15) lest they make any idol of any living thing in earth, air or sea (Deuteronomy 4:16-18) or worship the host of heaven, assigned by Jehovah to other peoples (Deuteronomy 4:19), but no gods for those whom He hath redeemed for Himself (Deuteronomy 4:20). For their sakes, Moses is not to cross Jordan (Deuteronomy 4:21 f.); so he enjoins them to take heed. Jehovah is a devouring fire (Deuteronomy 4:23 f.).

In substance the passage is a unity—except perhaps Deuteronomy 4:19. In form it is in the Pl. address with a few transitions to the Sg.; all, except Deuteronomy 4:10, confirmed by Sam. and LXX. These are typical of the various causes which may have led to frequent transitions. The Sg. is logically explicable in Deuteronomy 4:9, perhaps too in 10; coincides in 19 with the only change of subject, and so possibly marks a later addition; in 21 may be due to the later addition of a formula; while 24 is possibly a quotation and the preceding thee in 23 due to the attraction of its Sg. The language is in the main deuteronomic, but the section has been taken (along with 32–40) as from another hand than Deuteronomy 1:6 to Deuteronomy 4:8 (alternatively Deuteronomy 1:6 to Deuteronomy 4:4) on these grounds: that the same author would not have repeated in 21 f. what he has narrated in Deuteronomy 3:26; that 10 ff. imply that Moses is addressing the same generation as was alive at Ḥoreb and are therefore discrepant with Deuteronomy 1:35 ff. and Deuteronomy 2:16, while agreeing with the Second Discourse, cp. Deuteronomy 7:16; that of the phrases used some are found in D only in 5–26, 28 (lest thou forget, 9, 23, Deuteronomy 6:12, Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 8:19, Deuteronomy 9:7, Deuteronomy 25:19; which thine eyes have seen, 9, Deuteronomy 7:19, Deuteronomy 10:21, cp. Deuteronomy 11:7; all the days of thy life, 9, Deuteronomy 6:2, Deuteronomy 16:3, Deuteronomy 17:19); others are found only in P (male and female, winged fowl, anything that creeps, 17 f.) or other late writers (figure, 16, iron furnace, 20). Note, too, people of inheritance, 20, for the usual peculiar people. The discrepancy (see below) is not conclusive; neither does the language necessarily imply an exilic date; even the phrases found elsewhere only in P are very general. The similarities to 5–26, 28 may imply a date subsequent to the latter; but are too few to render such an inference certain.Verses 9-14. - The possession of the oracles of God by Israel was a benefit to them only as these were kept in mind and reverently obeyed. Therefore they were to take heed and diligently beware of forgetting the circumstances under which the Law had been received at Horeb. God had then commanded the people to be gathered together, so that they stood before the Lord, were in his manifested presence, and were made to hear his voice speaking to them from amidst the fire and the clouds that covered the mount. They had thus actual evidence and guarantee that the Law they had received was Divine; and this they were to keep in mind as long as they lived, and to communicate to their children in all coming time, that so they might fear the Lord; for on this rested that covenant which God had made with Israel, and which they were to keep as the condition of their continuing to enjoy privilege and life. Verse 9. - Keep thy soul diligently; i.e. Be very careful to preserve thy life (cf. Job 2:6; Proverbs 13:3; Proverbs 16:17; Proverbs 19:16; in all which passages the same formula is used as here). The Hebrew (נֶפֻשׁ) means primarily breath, then vital principle, natural life (anima), then soul life, the soul or mind (animus). The forgetting of the wonders they had seen would lead to their forgetting God, and so to their departing from him, and this would mar and ultimately destroy their life (cf. Joshua 23:11-16). The things which thine eyes have seen (see Exodus 19:10, etc.). The Israelites had just experienced how a faithful observance of the law gave life, in what the Lord had done on account of Baal-peor, when He destroyed those who worshipped this idol (Numbers 25:3, Numbers 25:9), whereas the faithful followers of the Lord still remained alive. בּ דּבק, to cleave to any one, to hold fast to him. This example was adduced by Moses, because the congregation had passed through all this only a very short time before; and the results of faithfulness towards the Lord on the one hand, and of the unfaithfulness of apostasy from Him on the other, had been made thoroughly apparent to it. "Your eyes the seeing," as in Deuteronomy 3:21.
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