Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
De 32:1-43. Moses' Song, Which Sets Forth the Perfections of God.
1. Give ear, O ye heavens; … hear, O earth—The magnificence of the exordium, the grandeur of the theme, the frequent and sudden transitions, the elevated strain of the sentiments and language, entitle this song to be ranked amongst the noblest specimens of poetry to be found in the Scriptures.
My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass:
2, 3. My doctrine shall drop, &c.—The language may justly be taken as uttered in the form of a wish or prayer, and the comparison of wholesome instruction to the pure, gentle, and insinuating influence of rain or dew, is frequently made by the sacred writers (Isa 5:6; 55:10, 11).
Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
4. He is the Rock—a word expressive of power and stability. The application of it in this passage is to declare that God had been true to His covenant with their fathers and them. Nothing that He had promised had failed; so that if their national experience had been painfully checkered by severe and protracted trials, notwithstanding the brightest promises, that result was traceable to their own undutiful and perverse conduct; not to any vacillation or unfaithfulness on the part of God (Jas 1:17), whose procedure was marked by justice and judgment, whether they had been exalted to prosperity or plunged into the depths of affliction.
They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.
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.
Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?
6. is not he thy father that hath bought thee—or emancipated thee from Egyptian bondage.
and made thee—advanced the nation to unprecedented and peculiar privileges.
Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.
When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.
8, 9. When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance—In the division of the earth, which Noah is believed to have made by divine direction (Ge 10:5; De 2:5-9; Ac 17:26, 27), Palestine was reserved by the wisdom and goodness of Heaven for the possession of His peculiar people and the display of the most stupendous wonders. The theater was small, but admirably suited for the convenient observation of the human race—at the junction of the two great continents of Asia and Africa, and almost within sight of Europe. From this spot as from a common center the report of God's wonderful works, the glad tidings of salvation through the obedience and sufferings of His own eternal Son, might be rapidly and easily wafted to every part of the globe.
he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel—Another rendering, which has received the sanction of eminent scholars, has been proposed as follows: "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam and set the bounds of every people, the children of Israel were few in numbers, when the Lord chose that people and made Jacob His inheritance" (compare De 30:5; Ge 34:30; Ps 105:9-12).
For the LORD'S portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.
He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
10. found him in a desert land—took him into a covenant relation at Sinai, or rather "sustained," "provided for him" in a desert land.
a waste howling wilderness—a common Oriental expression for a desert infested by wild beasts.
As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:
11. As an eagle … fluttereth over her young—This beautiful and expressive metaphor is founded on the extraordinary care and attachment which the female eagle cherishes for her young. When her newly fledged progeny are sufficiently advanced to soar in their native element, she, in their first attempts at flying, supports them on the tip of her wing, encouraging, directing, and aiding their feeble efforts to longer and sublimer flights. So did God take the most tender and powerful care of His chosen people; He carried them out of Egypt and led them through all the horrors of the wilderness to the promised inheritance.
So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock;
13, 14. He made him ride on the high places, &c.—All these expressions seem to have peculiar reference to their home in the trans-jordanic territory, that being the extent of Palestine that they had seen at the time when Moses is represented as uttering these words. "The high places" and "the fields" are specially applicable to the tablelands of Gilead as are the allusions to the herds and flocks, the honey of the wild bees which hive in the crevices of the rocks, the oil from the olive as it grew singly or in small clumps on the tops of hills where scarcely anything else would grow, the finest wheat (Ps 81:16; 147:14), and the prolific vintage.
Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.
But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
15. But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked—This is a poetical name for Israel. The metaphor here used is derived from a pampered animal, which, instead of being tame and gentle, becomes mischievous and vicious, in consequence of good living and kind treatment. So did the Israelites conduct themselves by their various acts of rebellion, murmuring, and idolatrous apostasy.
They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger.
They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.
17. They sacrificed unto devils—(See on Le 17:7).
Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.
And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters.
And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.
They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
21. those which are not a people—that is, not favored with such great and peculiar privileges as the Israelites (or, rather poor, despised heathens). The language points to the future calling of the Gentiles.
For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.
I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them.
23. I will spend mine arrows upon them—War, famine, pestilence (Ps 77:17) are called in Scripture the arrows of the Almighty.
They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.
The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.
I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men:
Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, and the LORD hath not done all this.
For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them.
O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
29. Oh, … that they would consider their latter end—The terrible judgments, which, in the event of their continued and incorrigible disobedience, would impart so awful a character to the close of their national history.
How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut them up?
For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.
For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter:
32. vine of Sodom … grapes of gall—This fruit, which the Arabs call "Lot's Sea Orange," is of a bright yellow color and grows in clusters of three or four. When mellow, it is tempting in appearance, but on being struck, explodes like a puffball, consisting of skin and fiber only.
Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?
To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.
For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.
And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted,
Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.
For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.
If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.
I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.
Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.
And Moses came and spake all the words of this song in the ears of the people, he, and Hoshea the son of Nun.
44-47. Moses … spake all the words of this song in the ears, &c.—It has been beautifully styled "the Song of the Dying Swan" [Lowth]. It was designed to be a national anthem, which it should be the duty and care of magistrates to make well known by frequent repetition, to animate the people to right sentiments towards a steadfast adherence to His service.
And Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel:
And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law.
For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.
And the LORD spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying,
48-51. Get thee up … and die … Because ye trespassed … at Meribah—(See on Nu 20:13).
Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession:
And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people:
Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of MeribahKadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.
Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel.
52. thou shalt see the land, but thou shalt not go thither—(Nu 27:12). Notwithstanding so severe a disappointment, not a murmur of complaint escapes his lips. He is not only resigned but acquiescing; and in the near prospect of his death, he pours forth the feelings of his devout heart in sublime strains and eloquent blessings.