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,
Verse 1. - This day; at this time, very soon. Nations, etc. (cf. Deuteronomy 7:1). Cities (cf. Deuteronomy 1:28).
A people great 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!
Verse 2. - Anakim (cf. Deuteronomy 1:28). It was a common saying, Who can stand before the sons of Anak? But even these gigantic foes should be unable to stand before Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 7:24):
Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee.
Verse 3. - Understand therefore this day; rather, And thou knowest today or now. The expression corresponds to ver. 1, "Thou art to pass... and thou knowest." In the victory they had obtained over Sihon and Og, they had already had experience of the Lord's going before them, and leading them on in triumph. The repetition of the He in this verse is very emphatic. Consuming fire (cf. Deuteronomy 4:24). Quickly, or suddenly. There is no contradiction here of what is said in Deuteronomy 7:22; for there the reference is to the possession of the land by Israel, here it is to the destruction which was to come on the Canaanites - the former was to be by degrees, the latter was to come suddenly and overwhelmingly. As Jehovah hath said unto thee (cf. Exodus 23:23, 27, etc.; Deuteronomy 2:24, etc.).
Speak not thou in thine heart, after that 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: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.
Verses 4, 5. - Speak not thou in thine heart (cf. Deuteronomy 8:17). The distinction between righteousness and uprightness (straightness) of heart, is that the former (צֶדֶ) has reference to rectitude of conduct, the latter (ישֶׁר) to rectitude of motive and purpose. "By naming justice [righteousness], he excludeth all merit of works, and by righteousness [uprightness] of heart, all inward affections and purposes. which men might plead, notwithstanding that they fail in action. Yet these two are the chief things which God respecteth in men (Psalm 15:1, 2; 1 Chronicles 29:17)" (Ainsworth).
Not 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 that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people.
Verse 6. - Stiffnecked, hard of neck; stubborn, obstinate, rebellious.
Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst 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 the LORD.
Verses 7-25. - Moses reminds them of many instances of their rebelliousness by which they had provoked the Lord, from the time of their escape out of Egypt until their arrival in the plains of Moab. Their rebellion began even before they had wholly escaped from their oppressors, before they had passed through the Bed Sea (Exodus 14:11). Even at Horeb, where, amid the most affecting manifestations alike of the Divine majesty and the Divine grace, just after the Lord had spoken to them directly out of the fire, and whilst Moses had gone up to receive the tables of the Law, on which the covenant of God with Israel was based, and whilst that covenant was being struck, they had sinned so grievously as to make to themselves a molten image, which they worshipped with idolatrous rites (Exodus 31:18-32:6; cf. Deuteronomy 24:12, etc.).
Also in Horeb ye provoked the LORD to wrath, so that the LORD was angry with you to have destroyed you.
When 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:
Verse 9. - The clause, Then I abode... water, is a parenthesis; the sentence runs on from. When I was gone, etc., to Then [not And] the Lord delivered unto me, etc.
And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them 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.
Verse 10. - The day of the assembly; the day when the people, called out by Moses, were gathered together in the plain at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:17).
And 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.
And 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 them; they have made them a molten image.
Verses 12-14. - (Cf. Exodus 32:7-10.) Let me alone; literally, Desist from me, i.e. Do not by pleadings and entreaties attempt to prevent me; in Exodus 32:10 the expression used is, "Let me rest; leave me in quiet (הַנָּיחָה לִי); cease to urge me."
Furthermore the LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
Let 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 than they.
So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands.
And 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.
And I took the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes.
Verse 17. - Moses cast from him the two tables of stone on which God had inscribed the words of the Law, and broke them in pieces in the view of the people, when he came down from the mount and saw how they had turned aside from the right way, and were become idolaters. This was not the effect of a burst of indignation on his part; it was a solemn declaration that the covenant of God with his people had been nullified and broken by their sinful apostasy.
And 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.
Verses 18-20. - Moses interceded with God for the people before he came down from the mount (Exodus 22:11, etc.); but this he passes over here, merely referring to it in the words, "as at the first," and makes special mention only of a subsequent intercession, that mentioned in Exodus 34:28. In the account in Exodus nothing is said of Moses interceding for Aaron specially, as well as for the people generally; but prominence is given to this here, "not only that he might make the people thoroughly aware that at that time Israel could not boast even of the righteousness of its eminent men (cf. Isaiah 43:27), but also to bring out the fact, which is described still more fully in Deuteronomy 10:6, sqq., that Aaron's investiture with the priesthood and the maintenance of this institution was purely a work of Divine grace" (Keil). That Aaron, however, was regarded as especially to be blamed in this matter is clearly intimated in Exodus 32:21, 22.
For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you. But the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also.
And the LORD was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and I prayed for Aaron also the same time.
And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount.
And at Taberah, and at Massah, and at Kibrothhattaavah, ye provoked the LORD to wrath.
Verses 22-24. - Not only at Horeb, but at other places and on other occasions, had Israel provoked the Lord to wrath by their contumacy. At Taberah, by their complaining and discontent (Numbers 11:1-3); at Massah, by their murmuring because of the want of water (Exodus 17. l, etc.); at Kibroth-hattaavah, by despising the manna, and lusting for flesh to eat (Numbers 11:4, etc.); and at Kadesh-barnea, when on the confines of the Promised Land, they distrusted God, reproached him for having brought them there to be destroyed, and sought to return to Egypt (Numbers 14:1, etc.; Deuteronomy 1:26). "The list is not arranged chronologically, but advances from the smaller to the morn serious forms of guilt: For Moses was seeking to sharpen the consciences of the people, and to impress upon them the fact that they had been rebellious against the Lord (see at ver. 7) from the very beginning, 'from the day that I knew you'" (Keil).
Likewise when the LORD sent you from Kadeshbarnea, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you; then ye rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and ye believed him not, nor hearkened to his voice.
Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.
Thus I fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the LORD had said he would destroy you.
Verse 25-29. - Having enumerated these instances of the rebelliousness of the people, Moses reverts to the apostasy at Sinai, in order still more to impress on the minds of the people the conviction that not for any righteousness or merit of theirs, but solely of his own grace, was God fulfilling to them his covenant with their fathers. Verse 25. - Thus I fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; rather, the forty days and forty nights in which I fell down. The reference is to the intercession before Moses came down from the mount, described in Exodus 32:11-13. (For the form of the expression, cf. Deuteronomy 1:46.)
I prayed therefore 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 brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
Verses 26-29. - In these verses the substance of Moses' intercession is given, and it is substantially in agreement with the account in Exodus. Moses pleaded with God not to destroy that people which was his own, which he had redeemed for himself and brought out of Egypt; besought him to remember their pious ancestors, and not to look on the stubbornness and sin of the people; and urged that the Divine honor was concerned in their being conducted to Canaan, and not let perish in the wilderness.
Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin:
Lest 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 slay them in the wilderness.
Verse 28. - The land, that is, the people of the land, as in Genesis 41:36 - the Egyptians; the verb, accordingly, is in the plural. Were the Israelites to perish in the wilderness, the Egyptians might say that God had destroyed them, either because he was unable to obtain for them the land he had promised them, or because he had ceased to regard them with favor, and had become their enemy. Neither of these could be, for were they not the people of his inheritance, and had he not showed his power already in delivering them out of Egypt? As Moses in this chapter recalls to the remembrance of Israel this and that place, time, and occasion of their sinning, so should each one often seriously reflect on his past life. This conduces to humility, to watchfulness, and to effort at improvement (Herxheimer).
Yet they are thy people and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest out by thy mighty power and by thy stretched out arm.