Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
The Second Command
1HEAR, O Israel: Thou art to pass1 over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven. 2A people great [mighty] and tall, the children of the Anakims, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before the children of Anak? 3Understand therefore [And thou understandest] this day, that the Lord thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming [eating] fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out [and thou dispossessest them and destroyest], and destroy them quickly, as the Lord hath said unto thee. 4Speak not thou in thine heart, after that [since] the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but2 [since] for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee. 5Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations, the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and [in order] that he may perform3 [fulfil] the word which 6the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand therefore [And thou understandest] that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land 7to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiff-necked people. Remember, and forget not [thou shalt not forget this, that] how thou provoked the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against [with 8respect to] the Lord. Also [And even] in Horeb ye provoked the Lord to wrath, so that the Lord was angry with you to have destroyed you. 9When I was gone up into the mount, to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread, nor drink water [bread I did not eat, and water I did not drink]: 10And the Lord delivered [gave] unto me [the] two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written [omit was written] according to all the words which the Lord spake with you in the mount, out of the midst of the fire, in the day of the assembly. 11And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the Lord gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant. 12And the Lord said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded 13them; they have made them a molten [founded, cast] image. Furthermore [And] the Lord spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 14Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven: and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater [more 15numerous] than they. So [And] I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in [upon] my two hands. 16And I looked, and behold, ye had sinned against the Lord your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the Lord had commanded you. 17And I took [seized] the two tables, and cast them out of [from upon] my two hands, and brake them before your eyes. 18And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger. (19For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure wherewith the Lord was wroth against you to destroy you.) But [And] the Lord hearkened unto me at that time also. 20And the Lord was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and I prayed for Aaron also the same time. 21And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small4 [ground it well], even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount. 22And at Taberah, and at Massah, and at Kibroth-hattaavah, ye 23provoked the Lord to wrath. Likewise when [And as] the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you; then ye rebelled against the commandment [mouth] of the Lord your God, and ye believed him not, nor hearkened to his voice. 24Ye have been rebellious against the 25Lord from the day that I knew you. Thus [And] I fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights, as [which] I fell down at the first [omit at the first]; because the Lord had said he would destroy you. 26I prayed therefore [And I prayed] unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, which thou hast 27brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember [Think upon] thy servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; look [turn] not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin: 28Lest the land whence thou broughtest us out, say, Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he hath brought them out to 29slay them in the wilderness. Yet [And still] they are thy people and thine inheritance which thou broughtest out by thy mighty power and by thy stretched out arm.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. Deut 9:1–5. Hear, sq. Deut 9:1 calls attention to a new, as 6:4 to the first command (5:1). הַיּוֹם (hoc die, hodie), at this time לָבֹא, 4:1. לָרֶשֶׁת גוֹיִם, what these possess (7:1). Comp. 2:12, 21, 22. The description of the nations and cities drawn from 1:28. Since the second command is directed against images, its exposition could not start from any deeper basis, than when it begins from that imagination which caused the heart of Israel to melt, while in truth it should have kept the image of Jehovah in His word of promise in the heart, and have held it against any such thought or imagination. The words are partly different from those in 7:1.—רַבִּים occurs there, and עֲצֻמִים מִמֶּךָ, which are found here, are there dependent upon רַבִּים, while the description of the cities is there entirely wanting. The enumeration there rules the description (7:7). On the other hand the transfer from 1:28 is so exact, that the רָם, which is omitted Deut 9:1, occurs in Deut 9:2, and the sons of Anak are expressly mentioned as those well-known, and the mention of whose name Israel heard with the greatest terror. Moses speaks designedly in the very words of the spies. It is an ironical citation. Deut 9:3. Israel now understands, how could it be otherwise after the victory over Sihon and Og, that Jehovah is (He) the Captain at its head (3:28). As a consuming fire recalls the punishment upon the former generation; but since we have here an exposition of the prohibition of images, it is literally a resumption of 4:24 in its connection with this prohibition. The quality referred to has only an introductory reference to the destruction of the Canaanites. For He shall destroy them is explained by the clause: He shall bring them down before thee.—יַכְנִיעֵם, alluding to the name Canaan, and intimating the terror, the breaking, with which Israel should easily accomplish their expulsion. Observe the three-fold and emphatic הוּא. The thought is in unison with 8:17 sq. מַהֵר is not in opposition to 7:22, but is only modified by it, viz. as quickly as it may be best for thee, quickly in a general sense, and in whatever way As the Lord hath, sq. may be understood. [Their destruction would be quick compared with what might be expected in the circumstances in any ordinary human conquest, but not quick, or at once, so as to endanger their interests.—WORDSWORTH calls attention to the fact that in 7:22 Moses is speaking of the nations; here he speaks of a particular race, the sons of Anak. There is no lapse of memory or inconsistency.—A. G.] While 8:17 sq. treats in entire accordance with the first command, of the grossest form of self-exaltation, the apotheosis of their own strength, Deut 9:4 here, in agreement with the second command, speaks of the refined pride, of self-righteousness and the corresponding rewards ascribed to it; the cultivation of hypocritical Pharisaism. It is not sufficient that Moses guarding against this thought, has directly opposed his but for, sq.; he resumes it once more and emphatically in Deut 9:5. He meets the Pharisaism which usually rests in a simple external righteousness, with the added inward uprightness of the heart. The wickedness of these nations already mentioned is in like manner supplemented by the word and oath of the promise, 4:37, 38; 7:8. Deut 9:6 forms the conclusion through the certainly (Deut 9:3) to be presumed self-knowledge of Israel, which, in connection with the wickedness of the Canaanites, takes away every other natural right to Canaan than that in the free love of Jehovah to the fathers. The designation as stiff-necked (Ex. 32:9) prepares the way for what follows. It is a characteristic expression with the leader of Israel, and describes Israel as stubborn under the yoke laid upon him; hence as an untractable beast of burden (comp. Matt. 11:28, 29!), Acts 7:51; Isa. 48:4. [This chapter, with other passages, gives rise to the title of Deuteronomy as a “book of reproofs.” The censure is sharp. There is no concealment of the sins of the people, especially of its ingratitude and rebellion. This unsparing reproof is itself a strong argument in favor of the Mosaic authorship. For any later author wishing to impose his work upon the people, would have sought to conciliate and thus prepare the way for the reception of his book. And as WORDSWORTH well says, “it is impossible to believe that a whole people should have conspired to accept a libel against itself, and to have venerated it as an oracle of God,” as they must have done if it is not from Moses.—A. G.]
2. Deut 9:6–24. The large experience which Moses had of the truthfulness of this declaration of Jehovah concerning Israel determines his emphatic demand in Deut 9:7, through which he designs to impress more clearly upon the mind of the people its natural peculiarity and unworthiness. לְמִן־ (4:32), comp. Ex. 14:11. He begins significantly with a deed of kindness, as the deliverance from Egypt, in order by contrast to characterize the shameful conduct of Israel. Comp. upon 1:26. עִס־, with [A. V. against], brings out more clearly the shamefulness, through the actual connection, upon the covenant relation. Deut 9:8. The apostasy at Horeb (Ex. 32) forms the very core of the historical proof, because it is the most striking illustration with respect to the second command. The ו signifies also, even: directly after the covenant had been concluded, Ex. 24. Comp. upon 1:37 (5:9). [So also BIB. COM.: “The conjunction introduces a special example of a general statement.—A. G.] The narrative which follows is so thoroughly personal and Mosaic, and bears the stamp of one’s own experience so clearly, that we cannot think of the art and skill of a later deuteronomist. Deut 9:9; comp. Ex. 24:12, 13. Thus precisely when nothing could have been more unexpected than the apostacy of the people. Moses went to bring the very tables of the covenant, Israel ought to have awaited it with the most sacred suspense and attention (5:19; 4:13; 5:2, 3); comp. Ex. 24:18. The number 40 intimates the character of the desert, namely, the tempting, testing nature for Israel of this residence of Moses. They had waited for Moses forty years; now they would not wait forty days and nights. The fast which, Ex. 34:28, was related in connection with the second tables of the law, is not transferred from that passage to this, but as is clear from Ex. 24:11, it is there tacitly intimated. To this entire absorption in God on the part of Moses, Israel on its part formed the exact counterpart. Deut 9:10. Comp. Ex. 31:18; 32:16; (8:15; Luke 11:20) 4:10 sq.; 5:5, 19. Thus the wonderful authentic document of the covenant. Deut 9:11 is not merely a resumption of the giving of the tables; but, as at the end, sq. shows, after the apostacy of Israel had already occurred, i.e., the given tables must now become the formal and solemn testimony against the unfaithful people, and at the same time for the faithfulness of Jehovah, who even in anger—for His anger is in love—guards the integrity of His covenant. Hence the same expression as in Deut 9:9. Deut 9:12. Comp. Ex. 32:7 sq. מַהֵר answers to the following מַהֵר, if the apostacy occurs so quickly, the mediator also must quickly appear, both with respect to the judgment as for mediation, if it is still possible to mediate and save. שִׁחֵת. Comp. upon 4:16, where the word is borrowed from Ex. 32:7, as in the highest degree descriptive of image worship. Thy people, sq., sounds as if the people were rejected, but also as fitting to the mediator of the people. The way commanded Israel, relates to the manner in which Israel should not worship God, 4:16; 5:8, explained by the following clause, they, sq. מַסֵּכָה from נָסַךְ, to pour, here used in reference to the golden covering, or as a description of the whole. The casting and working of metals was long practised in Egypt, and hence known to the Israelites. Ex. 32:2 sq. Deut 9:13. (Ex. 32:9). Comp. upon Deut 9:6. The appearance now reveals their real nature. Deut 9:14. הֶרֶף for הָרְף imper. apoc. (הַרְפֵּה) from רָפָה with מִן following: to desist from, to let alone, and presupposes, as in Ex. 32:10, where it also occurs in a similar way, the here omitted intercession of Moses. Comp. 7:24. Deut 9:15. (Ex. 32:15). As already in Deut 9:10, so here, the fire is brought into prominence Comp. 4:11 sq. It (Ex. 24:17 sq) shines upon the two tables which he bore with himself, in his hands, and resting against his breast, as the law itself, coming down from the mount. Deut 9:16 agreeing with Deut 9:12 sq. A calf. A symbol, according to the Egyptian pattern (Apis. Mnevis) truly of the general power of God (Elohim), hence upon the general level of heathenism, although Jehovah may have been represented therein as the object of worship. On the other hand the fire, and Moses with the tables, symbolized the deficient holiness. The casting down and breaking, Deut 9:17, occurred in indignation at the breach of the covenant on the part of Israel (Ex. 32:19); corresponding to that which Moses had heard from God upon the mount, Deut 9:14. The mediator of the covenant sharing in the anger of Jehovah, recognizes in that way the divine judgment which casts away Israel to destruction, as righteous. But after that the holiness and righteousness of God had thus been sufficiently cleared, His grace and mercy could be invoked, Deut 9:18. When Moses casts himself before the Lord, he gives a proof that he did not think that the covenant itself was one, “discontinued on the part of the Lord,” (SCHULTZ). Doct. and Eth. 13, upon . 1:6–4:40. Intercession rests upon the covenant faithfulness of God, notwithstanding all our unfaithfulness. The forty days and nights (Ex. 34:28) are expressly (as at first) compared with those mentioned, Deut 9:9, having thus plainly the same object, viz., the obtaining at this time the second tables of the law-covenant. All that took place after Moses’ descent from the mount, as related in Ex. 32:30, 31, upon which the occurrences Ex. 33:1 sq. came to pass, down to Ex. 34:28, is here omitted, since Moses went up to obtain the new tables of the law. We have not here different accounts (of the Jehovist, of his first and second documents) which we are to harmonize, but on the contrary a compressed statement, and one as to its aim, fully corresponding with the one complete statement of Exodus. As the intercessory character of the given time, by which it is distinguished from the former residence, so the second fast of Moses has its accessory reasons in the sin of Israel. [BIB. COM.: “Moses interceded for the people before he came down from the mountain the first time, Ex. 32:11–13. This intercession is only briefly alluded to here. Afterwards he spent another forty days in the mount, Ex. 34:9, and the intercession of Moses made therein is that brought forward here, and in 25–29.”—A. G.]. At the same time Deut 9:19 hints at all that is related in Ex. 33, for the full hearing and answering followed first in Ex. 34:10 sq. Until that occurred, there was ground indeed for fear ( Heb. 12:21), since Jehovah only in this way and by degrees, and from the beginning in a restricted manner, revealed His condescension. The forty days and nights are thus a continuous wrestling with God, of the Mediator, for his people. At that time, as before, e.g., Ex. 14:15; 17:9, and again later Num. 11:2; 14:20 The destruction of Israel was averted, and the covenant confirmed anew through Moses alone, in whom only the position of mediator, and the promise of God (Deut 9:14, I will make thee, sq.) are conspicuous. But this is still Deut 9:20, carried out with respect to Aaron. The anger of Moses, Ex. 32:21 sq., illustrates the anger here attributed to Jehovah; on the other hand Exodus contains nothing of any special intercession for Aaron. That here in Moses, Levi enters in the room and office of Aaron is the first intimation of a feature genuinely deuteronomic (comp. Intro., § 4, I. 22) introductory to chap. 10. Deut 9:21. Your sin, the calf which they had made, in which their sin as a fact lay as it were tangible (the corpus delicti). Through this symbolical transaction, with which comp. Ex. 32:20, the sin was energetically removed from their midst. The brook descending from the mount is presupposed in the “water,” Ex. 17:6; and since they drank of the brook, the drinking there, Ex. 32:20, is here intimated in the allusion to the brook; it was a circumstance of secondary moment. Deut 9:22. Comp. upon Num. 11:1–3; upon Ex. 17; upon Num. 11:33, 34. The general national character of Israel is revealed in Deut 9:7, and hence, beside the great apostacy at Horeb, other instances earlier and later are alluded to. Deut 9:23. Comp. 1:19 sq.; 26:32, 43. Thus Deut 9:24 returns in a summary way to Deut 9:7 (Ex. 6:9, 12). [In enforcing his admonition against self-righteousness, Moses selects such instances in their history as may serve his purpose best, without any strict regard to the order of time. He uses those parts of events more fully related elsewhere, which are fitted to his end, without even professing to give any full or detailed statement. This is just what is constantly done in all similar discourses. There is no inconsistency or contradiction.—A. G.].
3. Deut 9:25–29. In a brief, summary way, Deut 9:25 is also a resumption of the intercession of Moses, Deut 9:18, and with this agrees Deut 9:26 sq. The contents of this intercessory prayer are essentially taken from Ex. 32:11–13, for this first prayer, breaking forth from the heart of the mediator, contains all that follows: It is only ever repeated. Destroy not. Comp. Deut 9:12. They have destroyed (corrupted) themselves, hence it is for God not to destroy, but to save, (Luke 9:56). It sounds characteristically New Testament like, in the Old Testament, as negatively Old Testament like. It is a Psalm title, Pss. 57, 59, 75. Thy people returns on good grounds the thy used by God, Deut 9:12. Inheritance, preparatory to Deut 9:27. God has inherited it from the fathers. Comp. upon 4:20. At the same time a denial that Moses had ever wrought any mighty deed (Deut 9:12), it was all the greatness of God (7:8). Profound and subtle is the full designation of the fathers of the people, Deut 9:27; with respect to its conceded nature it descends from these fathers! As if Moses would say, what labor and patience hast thou not also had with them! let the love and forbearance shown to the fathers designated as servants of the Lord, i.e., as those who can come into view according to their obedience, avail for Israel (4:37; 7:8). Look (turn) in order to see, and then to punish. Deut 9:28. As Israel thought little of Jehovah’s honor, so the mediator of Israel gives the greater thought and care to that honor (Deut 9:3) and love (1:27). The land, i.e., the people of the land from whom Jehovah had wrested Israel (Ex. 14:4, 17, 18). Moses places the inability (Num. 14:16) first, pointing to the unwillingness. מִ From these reasons, because. Deut 9:29. Comp. Deut 9:26. The contrary assertion closes the prayer, is the true, and is also the actual.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The grace, promise, and gifts of God are in order to bring men low, and lay them before Him. Comp. 1:8. (Matt 22:4; Luke 14:17). Faith has merely to take, and any delay in the possession is merely the result of the unbelief and disobedience of men. With respect to time also; for faith it is this day, or still shortly, (Luke 18:8; Rev. 1:1). But such utterances of God are to be understood in the spirit, since a thousand years are with Him as one day; 2 Pet. 3.
2. The providence of God, especially His preservation, is a continual creation; so also His gracious leading of His people is a constant salvation from the deserved judgment. The moment of redemption outweighs every other in the sin in which we are involved. Hence Moses not only at first reminds Israel of the exodus from Egypt, but in his intercessory prayer reminds the Lord of that redemption. So much is evident from Deut 9:26. The world, according to its origin, is set upon nothing (Heb. 11:3) the sinner (Gen. 2:17) according to justice is set for destruction.
3. The repeated testimony that Moses received the tables from God, which contained all His own words (Deut 9:9, 10, 11, 15) emphasizes one aspect of the mediation, that in which he stands as the representative of God to the people. As this is confirmed upon the most trustworthy grounds, so also the other side, in which he stands as the representative of the people toward God. As in Abraham, Israel is determined according to the promise, so in Moses according to the law. He received the law not only for Israel, but he was (Deut 9:19) regarded expressly as Abraham, as acting for the whole people. It is therefore in accordance with the character of mediator when Moses, the agent of the people, brings his intercession with God for them to its issue; the more so as Aaron, to whom belongs all the priestly mediation of Israel, in the transaction at Horeb, had not acted for God, but for the people, so that Moses must enter for him, as he had for the people. The relation which lies at the basis of the representation of many through one, is that of Adam, of Christ a truly theological.
4. “Even to his High Priest,” says BAUMGARTEN, “he could not appeal, for the anger of Jehovah burned also against Aaron (Deut 9:20). Only one point seemed to remain, that Moses had given his forty days’ fasting and tears as an atonement for Israel (Deut 9:18, 25–28). But this Moses could not cross the Jordan, he also must die on account of his sins in the wilderness.” Consequently, as the leadership of the hosts of Israel upon earth must pass into the hand of Joshua, so must the leading of the cause of Israel before God await another mediator, Heb. 8:6; 9:15 sq.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
LUTHER: “Moses in this chapter cuts off all spiritual pride.” Deut 9:1–6. For and against Israel: 1) For Israel speaks the promise which will be fulfilled; for Israel the Lord contends who goes before Him. 2) Against Israel is his own heart and his stiff neck. Our enemies are not our greatest danger, but our own hearts and nature. Deut 9:3. The knowledge that the Lord goes before us, and stands for us, is the certain and daily experience of the believer. Deut 9:4. SCHULTZ: “The knowledge of sin is the only source in which the earnest strivings to live anew can have their origin and be strengthened.” Deut 9:7 sq. STARKE: “A Christian should suffer himself to be reminded when he has sinned, Ps. 141:5.” Deut 9:14. FREYLINGHAUSEN: “O what a gracious word, that the Lord should represent Himself as weak, as if Moses alone by his intercession could turn away this terrible judgment.” AUBERLEN: “God makes faith much easier to him than to Abraham.” CALVIN: “He still continues with tears, as all the saints, although their prayers are heard and answered.” Deut 9:20. STARKE: “Christians should pray for one another, James 5:15.” Deut 9:24. “What a sad testimony.” Deut 9:25 sq. KRUMMACHER: “To bring the availing sacrifice was kept for another. Who thinks not of His prostrations, His tears, His strong cries, etc.” Deut 9:26–29. PISCATOR: “The true form and manner of prayer that we may be heard: 1) To whom should such prayer be offered? To the Lord of Lords. 2) What reasons should impel us? The command of God, His promise, and our necessity. 3) To what end should it be directed? That God would remember His honor, truth, and almighty power. 4) How the prayer should be made? In a hearty confidence in the truthfulness and mercy of God. 5) What should one ask? For grace, the forgiveness of sins, and the preservation of the Church. (Comp. further upon Ex. 32 sq.).
1[Deut 9:1. Passing—about to pass.—A. G.]
2[Deut 9:4. Lit.: and in.]
3[Deut 9:5. Lit: cause to stand, confirm.—A. G.]
4[Deut 9:21. Lit.: well, diligently, with great care.—A. G.]
Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven,