1.And this is the blessing. The bitterness of the Song was seasoned, as it were, by this palliative, wherein Moses left a testimony with respect to God’s future and perpetual grace, as if depositing an inestimable treasure in the hands of the people. For, as God, after the deliverance of His people, and the giving of the Law, renewed the covenant which Jacob had testified of and proclaimed, so Moses was, as it were, their second father, to ratify anew its blessings, lest the memory of them should ever be lost.
In order to beget confidence in his benedictions, he commences by magnifying his vocation before he proceeds to them; for, although the word benediction is equivalent to a prayer for success, yet must it be borne in mind that Moses does not here pray in the ordinary manner, like a private person, in such a way as fathers are wont to offer supplications for their children; but that, in the spirit of prophecy, he sets forth the blessings which were to be expected from God. This, then, is the reason why he extols the dignity and glory of his office as ruler in such lofty terms, viz., that the twelve tribes of Israel may be thoroughly assured that God is the author of these blessings. For the same reason he calls himself “the man of God:” that the people may receive what he is about to say as if it. proceeded from God, whose undoubted minister he is. Nor is the circumstance of time without its weight — “before his death,” or, “in his death,” which adds to the prophecy the force of a testament.
And this is the blessing wherewith Moses – blessed, etc. – The general nature of this solemn introduction, says Dr. Kennicott, is to show the foundation which Moses had for blessing his brethren, viz., because God had frequently manifested his glory in their behalf; and the several parts of this introduction are disposed in the following order: –
1. The manifestation of the Divine glory on Sinai, as it was prior in time and more magnificent in splendor, is mentioned first.
2. That God manifested his glory at Seir is evident from Jdg_5:4 : Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the fields of Edom, the earth trembled and the heavens dropped, etc.
3. The next place is Paran, where the glory of the Lord appeared before all the children of Israel, Num_14:10.
Instead of he came with ten thousand saints, by which our translators have rendered מרבבת קדש meribeboth kodesh, Dr. Kennicott reads Meribah-Kadesh, the name of a place: for we find that, towards the end of forty years, the Israelites came to Kadesh, Num_20:1, which was also called Meribah, on account of their contentious opposition to the determinations of God in their favor, Num_20:13; and there the glory of the Lord again appeared, as we are informed Num_20:6. These four places, Sinai, Seir, Paran, and Meribah-Kadesh, mentioned by Moses in the text, are the identical places where God manifested his glory in a fiery appearance, the more illustriously to proclaim his special providence over and care of Israel.
Deuteronomy 33:1 And this is the blessing wherewith Moses, the man of God, blessed the children of Israel before his death – And he said
Deu_33:2. Jehovah came from Sinai, And he arose upon them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, And he came from Meribah-kadesh: From his right hand a fire shone forth upon them.
Deu_33:3. Truly, he loved the people, And he blessed all his saints For they fell down at his feet, And they received of his words.
Deu_33:4. He commanded us a law, The inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.
Deu_33:5. And he became king in Jeshurun; When the heads of the people were assembled, Together with the tribes of Israel.
We have already seen that Dr. Kennicott reads מריבה קדש Meribah-Kadesh, the name of a place, instead of מרבבת קדש meribeboth kodesh, which, by a most unnatural and forced construction, our version renders ten thousands of saints, a translation which no circumstance of the history justifies. Instead of a fiery law, אש דת esh dath, he reads, following the Samaritan version, אש אור esh ur, a fire shining out upon them. In vindication of this change in the original, it may be observed,
1. That, though דת dath signifies a law, yet it is a Chaldee term, and appears nowhere in any part of the sacred writings previously to the Babylonish captivity: תורה torah being the term constantly used to express the Law, at all times prior to the corruption of the Hebrew, by the Chaldee.
2. That the word itself is obscure in its present situation, as the Hebrew Bibles write it and esh in one word אשדת eshdath, which has no meaning; and which, in order to give it one, the Massorah directs should be read separate, though written connected.
3. That the word is not acknowledged by the two most ancient versions, the Septuagint and Syriac.
4. That in the parallel place, Hab_3:3, Hab_3:4, a word is used which expresses the rays of light, קרנים karnayim, horns, that is, splendours, rays, or effulgence of light.
5. That on all these accounts, together with the almost impossibility of giving a rational meaning to the text as it now stands, the translation contended for should be adopted.
Instead of All his saints are in his hand, Dr. Kennicott reads, He blessed all his saints – changing בידך beyadecha, into ברך barach, he blessed, which word, all who understand the Hebrew letters will see, might be easily mistaken for the other; the ד daleth and the ר resh being, not only in MSS., but also in printed books, often so much alike, that analogy alone can determine which is the true letter; and except in the insertion of the י yod, which might have been easily mistaken for the apex at the top of the ב beth very frequent in MSS., both words have the nearest resemblance. To this may be added, that the Syriac authorizes this rendering. Instead of לרגלך leraglecha, and מדברתיך middabberotheycha, Thy feet, and Thy words, Dr. Kennicott reads the pronouns in the third person singular, לרגליו leraglaiv and מדברותיו middabberothaiv, His feet, His words, in which he is supported both by the Septuagint and Vulgate. He also changes ישא yissa, He shall receive, into ישאו yisseu, They shall receive. He contends also that משה Mosheh, Moses, in the fourth verse, was written by mistake for the following word מורשה morashah, inheritance; and when the scribe found he had inserted a wrong word, he added the proper one, and did not erase the first. The word Moses, he thinks, should therefore be left out of the text, as it is improbable that he should here introduce his own name; and that if the word be allowed to be legitimate, then the word king must apply to him, and not to God, which would be most absurd. See Kennicott’s first Dissertation, p. 422, etc.
2And he said, The Lord came from, Sinai. In these words he reminds them that he is setting before them, a confirmation of the covenant, which God had made with them in this Law, and that it is nothing different from it; for this connection was of exceeding efficacy in establishing the certainty of the blessings, provided only the Law was duly honored; for nothing was better adapted to confirm the grace of God than the majesty which was displayed in the promulgation of the Law. Some, as I conceive improperly, translate it, — “God comes to Sinai,” whereas Moses rather means that he came from thence, when His brightness was made manifest. By way of ornament, the same thing is repeated with respect to Seir and Paran; and, since these three words are synonymous, therefore to go forth, to rise up, and to come, also represent the same thing, viz., that manifestation of the divine glory which should have ravished into admiration the minds of all; as though he had said that his blessings were to be received with the same reverence, as that which God had procured for His Law, when His face was conspicuously displayed on Mount Sinai. The Prophet Habakkuk (Hab_3:3) has imitated this figure, though with a different object, viz., that, the people might confidently rely upon his power, which had formerly been manifested to the fathers in visible brightness.
By “ten thousands of sanctity,” I do not understand, as many do, the faithful, but the angels, by whom God was accompanied as by a royal retinue; for God also commanded the ark to be placed between the Cherubim, in order to show that the heavenly hosts were around Him. So in Isaiah, (Isa_6:6,) the Seraphim surround His throne; and Daniel says that he saw “ten thousand times ten thousand,” (Dan_7:10;) thus designating an infinite multitude, as does Moses also by “ten thousand.” It is probable that both Paul and Stephen derived from this passage their statement that the Law was “ordained by Angels in the hand of a mediator,” (Gal_3:19; Act_7:53;) for its authority was greatly confirmed by its having so many witnesses (obsignatores.)
The Law is placed at His right hand, not only as a scepter or mark of dignity, but as His power or rule of government; for He did not merely show Himself as a king, but also made known how He would preside over them. The Law is called fiery, in order to inspire terror and to enforce humility upon them all; although I am not adverse to the opinion that Moses alludes in this epithet to the outward signs of fire and flame, of which he spoke in Exo_20:0. But, since the word דת, dath, means any statute or edict, some restrict it to the prohibition that none should more closely approach the mountain. In my own mind, however, there is no doubt but that it designates all the doctrine whereby God’s dominion is maintained.
Keil and Delitzsch
“Jehovah came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; He shone from the mountains of Paran, and came out of holy myriads, at His right rays of fire to them.” To set forth the glory of the covenant which God made with Israel, Moses depicts the majesty and glory in which the Lord appeared to the Israelites at Sinai, to give them the law, and become their king. The three clauses, “Jehovah came from Sinai…from Seir…from the mountains of Paran,” do not refer to different manifestations of God (Knobel), but to the one appearance of God at Sinai. Like the sun when it rises, and fills the whole of the broad horizon with its beams, the glory of the Lord, when He appeared, was not confined to one single point, but shone upon the people of Israel from Sinai, and Seir, and the mountains of Paran, as they came from the west to Sinai. The Lord appeared to the people from the summit of Sinai, as they lay encamped at the foot of the mountain. This appearance rose like a streaming light from Seir, and shone at the same time from the mountains of Paran. Seir is the mountain land of the Edomites to the east of Sinai; and the mountains of Paran are in all probability not the mountains of et-Tih, which form the southern boundary of the desert of Paran, but rather the mountains of the Azazimeh, which ascend to a great height above Kadesh, and form the boundary wall of Canaan towards the south. The glory of the Lord, who appeared upon Sinai, sent its beams even to the eastern and northern extremities of the desert. This manifestation of God formed the basis for all subsequent manifestations of the omnipotence and grace of the Lord for the salvation of His people. This explains the allusions to the description before us in the song of Deborah (Jdg_5:4) and in Hab_3:3. – The Lord came not only from Sinai, but from heaven, “out of holy myriads,” i.e., out of the midst of the thousands of holy angels who surround His throne (1Ki_22:19; Job_1:6; Dan_7:10), and who are introduced in Gen_28:12 as His holy servants, and in Gen_32:2-3, as the hosts of God, and form the assembly of holy ones around His throne (Psa_89:6, Psa_89:8; cf. Psa_68:18; Zec_14:5; Mat_26:53; Heb_12:22; Rev_5:11; Rev_7:11). –
The last clause is a difficult one. The writing דַּת אֵשׁ in two words, “fire of the law,” not only fails to give a suitable sense, but has against it the fact that דַּת, law, edictum, is not even a Semitic word, but was adopted from the Persian into the Chaldee, and that it is only by Gentiles that it is ever applied to the law of God (Ezr_7:12, Ezr_7:21, Ezr_7:25-26; Dan_6:6). It must be read as one word, אשׁדת, as it is in many MSS and editions – not, however, as connected with אֶשֶׁד, אֲשֵׁדֹות, the pouring out of the brooks, slopes of the mountains (Num_21:15), but in the form אִשֶּׁדֶת, composed, according to the probable conjecture of Böttcher, of אֵשׁ, fire, and שָׁדָה (in the Chaldee and Syriac), to throw, to shoot arrows, in the sense of “fire of throwing,” shooting fire, a figurative description of the flashes of lightning. Gesenius adopts this explanation, except that he derives דַּת from יָדָה, to throw. It is favoured by the fact that, according to Exo_19:16, the appearance of God upon Sinai was accompanied by thunder and lightning; and flashes of lightning are often called the arrows of God, whilst shaadaah, in Hebrew, is established by the name שְׁדֵיאוּר (Num_1:5; Num_2:10). To this we may add the parallel passage, Hab_3:4, “rays out of His hand,” which renders this explanation a very probable one. By “them,” in the second and fifth clauses, the Israelites are intended, to whom this fearful theophany referred. On the signification of the manifestation of God in fire, see Deu_4:11, and the exposition of Exo_3:2.
And he said. Here begin the words of Moses. He commences by depicting the majesty of Jehovah as he appeared to Israel when he came to make the covenant with them and give them his Law. The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them, etc. Seir is the mountain land of Edom to the cast of Sinai. Mount Paran is probably the range of lofty hills which form the southern boundary of the Promised Land to the north of the desert of Et-Tih. These places are not mentioned as scenes of different manifestations of the Divine glory, but as indicating the extent to which the one manifestation given at Sinai reached. The light of the Divine glory that rested on Sinai was reflected also from the mountains of Seir and Paran. (cf. Heb_3:3; Jud_1:5:4) He came with ten thousands of saints; rather, he came from ten thousands of holy ones; literally, out from myriads of holiness; i.e. “from his celestial seat, where myriads of angels surround his throne” (Rosenm The rendering “with,” though that of the Targum, LXX, and Vulgate, cannot be retained; nor does Scripture represent God as attended by angels when he comes forth to manifest his glory to men. They are represented as surrounding his throne in heaven (1Ki_22:19; Job_1:6; Dan_7:10) as his servants awaiting his behest, and his host that do his pleasure (Gen_28:12 Gen_32:2, Gen_32:3; Psa_103:21) and God is represented as dwelling in the midst of them. (Psa_68:17) Hence he is represented here as coming forth from among them to manifest himself to his people.
A fiery law. There is a various reading here; instead of tD vae, fire of law, many codices have tdva in one word, and this is supported by the Samaritan text and other authorities, and is accepted by most critics and interpreters. It is a fatal objection to the textual reading that tD is not a Semitic word, but one of Persian origin, brought by the Jews from Babylonia, and found only in the post-exilian books (Est_1:8, 19 2:8, 12 3:8, 14 4:11, 15; Ezr_7:12, 21 8:36; Dan_2:9, Dan_2:13, 15 6:5, 9, 13, 16) and in them as applied to the Law of God only by heathens. It is, therefore, altogether improbable that this word should be found in any Hebrew writing anterior to the Captivity. Besides, what is the sense of tD vae, supposing td to mean “law?” The words cannot be rendered, as in the Authorized Version, by “fiery law;” they can only be rendered by “a fire, a law,” or “a fire of law,” and What either of these may mean it is not easy to see. The ancient versions vary here very considerably: LXX, ejk dexiwn aujtou aggeloi met aujtou: Vulgate, fin dextera ejus ignea lex; Targum of Onkelos, “Written by his right hand, from the midst of the fire, a law gave he to us;” Syriac, “With myriads of his saints at his right hand. He gave to them, and also caused all peoples to love them.” The best Hebrew manuscripts have tdva as one word. The Masoretic note is, “The Chatiph is one word, and the K”ri two.” The word tdva is best explained as a compound of vae, fire, and adv, an Aramaic word signifying to throw or dart; the Syriac, or the Hebrew hd; y; having the same signification, so that the meaning is “fire-dartings:” from his right hand went rays of fire like arrows shot forth. (cf. Hab_3:4; Exo_19:16) To them; i.e. to the Israelites, to whom this manifestation was vouchsafed.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR. Ver. 2. A fiery Law.
The fieriness of the Law, significant:
1. Of the holiness from which the Law emanated.
2. Of the fiery sanctions by which it is guarded.
3. Of the threatening aspect which it wears to sinners.
4. Of the purifying effects which it exerts in the hearts and consciences of believers. J.O.
3.Yea, he loved the people. If it be preferred to apply this to the Gentiles, the sentence must be thus resolved, “Although He loves all human beings, still His saints are honored with His peculiar favor, in that He watches over their safety;” but it is more correct to expound it as referring only to the children of Abraham, whom He calls “peoples,” because, on account of the multitude into which they had grown, in their several tribes, they might be reckoned as so many nations. And since the particle אף, aph, signifies prolongation of time, like adhuc in Latin, the following sense will be very satisfactory, that, Although the descendants of Abraham were divided into various races, and might therefore seem to be no longer a single family, nevertheless God still continued to regard them all with affection, and their numbers and divisions did not prevent Him from accounting them to be a single body. The sum is, that God’s favor towards them was not extinguished, either by the progress of time, or the increase of the people; but that it was constantly extended to the race of Abraham, however far or widely it might be spread.
It must, however, be observed, that in proof of His love, it is presently added, that they were in the hand of God. Hence we infer that, from the time that God has embraced us with His favor, He is the sure guardian of our safety; whence also arises the firm assurance of eternal life. The change of person, from the third to the second, throws no obscurity on the meaning. Since many hypocrites were mixed up with the faithful — for the Church of God has always been like a threshing-floor — Moses restricts this special grace of God to those who willingly submit themselves to Him, and with pious teachableness embrace this instruction, by which sign he distinguishes between the true children of God, and those spurious or degenerate ones, who falsely assume the name. Where my translation is, “They cleaved to thy feet,” others render the words, “They were struck at thy feet,” but in my judgment constrainedly. Others extract from it a useful piece of instruction, that “they were subdued by God’s chastisements, so as to render Him obedience;” but the metaphor is rather taken from disciples, who, according to the common usage of the Hebrew language, are said to sit at their master’s feet, in order to attend more diligently. And this is confirmed by the context, for the faithful are said to have attached themselves to God’s feet, that they might receive of this words, i.e., profit by His instruction.
Keil and Delitzsch
“Yea, nations He loves; all His holy ones are in Thy hand: and they lie down at Thy feet; they rise up at Thy words.” עַמִּים חֹבֵב is the subject placed first absolutely: “nations loving,” sc., is he; or “as loving nations – all Thy holy ones are in Thy hand.” The nations or peoples are not the tribes of Israel here, any more than in Deu_32:8, or Gen_28:3; Gen_35:11, and Gen_48:4; whilst Jdg_5:14 and Hos_10:14 cannot come into consideration at all, for there the word is defined by a suffix. The meaning of the words depends upon whether “all His holy ones” are the godly in Israel, or the Israelites generally, or the angels. There is nothing to favour the first explanation, as the distinction between the godly and the wicked would be out of place in the introduction to a blessing upon all the tribes. The second has only as seeming support in Dan_7:21. and Exo_19:6. It does not follow at once from the calling of Israel to be the holy nation of Jehovah, that all the Israelites were or could be called “holy ones of the Lord.” Least of all should Num_16:3 be adduced in support of this. Even in Dan 7 the holy ones of the Most High are not the Jews generally, but simply the godly, or believers, in the nation of God. The third view, on the other hand, is a perfectly natural one, on account of the previous reference to the holy myriads. The meaning, therefore, would be this: The Lord embraces all nations with His love, He who, so to speak, has all His holy angels in His hand, i.e., His power, so that they serve Him as their Lord. They lie down at His feet. The ἄπ. λεγ. תֻּכּוּ is explained by Kimchi and Saad. as signifying adjuncti sequuntur vestigia sua; and by the Syriac, They follow thy foot, from conjecture rather than any certain etymology. The derivation proposed by modern linguists, from the verb תָּכָה, according to an Arabic word signifying recubuit, innixus est, has apparently more to support it. יִשָּׂא, it rises up: intransitive, as in Hab_1:3; Nah_1:5; Hos_13:1, and Psa_89:10. מִדַּבְּרֹתֶיךָ is not a Hithpael participle (that which is spoken); for מִדַּבֵּר has not a passive, but an active signification, to converse (Num_7:89; Eze_2:2, etc.). It is rather a noun, דַבְּרֹת, from דַּבְּרָה, words, utterances. The singular, יִשָּׂא, is distributive: every one (of them) rises on account of thine utterance, i.e., at thy words. The suffixes relate to God, and the discourse passes from the third to the second person. In our own language, such a change in a sentence like this, “all His (God’s) holy ones are in Thy (God’s) hand,” would be intolerably harsh, but in Hebrew poetry it is by no means rare (see, for example, Psa_49:19).
Yea, he loved the people. The proper rendering is, he loveth peoples ( This is generally understood of the tribes of Israel; but some would understand it of nations in general, on the ground that such is the proper meaning of the word, as in Deu_32:8 and other places. A reference to nations at large, however, would seem incongruous here; and the use of the word in relation to Israel in such passages as Gen_28:3; Jud_1:5:14; Isa_3:13; Hos_10:14; Zec_11:10, justifies the taking it so here. All his saints are in thy hand. The people of Israel are here called God”s saints, or holy ones, because they were chosen by and consecrated to him. It is not probable, as some suggest, that the angels are here intended. The change from the third person to the second is not uncommon in Hebrew poetry. (cf. Deu_32:15; Psa_49:14, etc.) They sat down at thy feet. The verb rendered “sat down” here (WKTu) is found only in this passage, and is of uncertain meaning. Kimchi explains it as they united or assembled together to follow thy steps;” Knobel makes it “they wandered at thy feet,” and understands it of Israel”s following the lead of Jehovah in the wilderness, when the ark of the covenant preceded them in their march; Gesenius and Furst, “they lie down at thy feet.” This last is accepted by Keil, and seems to have most in its favor. Every one shall receive of thy words. Some render here, they rise up at thy words; but though the verb acn; is sometimes used intransitively, it is properly an active verb, and there seems no reason why it should not be so regarded here: every one receives the singular, aCyi, used distributively thy words.
1. Their happiness loved of God.
2. Their safety in God”s hand.
3. Their attitude sitting at God”s feet at the feet of God”s Son. (Luk_10:3, Luk_10:9)
(1) Willing to know God”s will.
(2) Seeking instruction in it.
(3) Waiting on God for that instruction.
(4) Their duty to receive of God”s words.
The receiving to be of the practical kind of hiding God”s words in the heart, and going on to put them in practice. J.O. (Mat_13:23)
“The people” are the twelve tribes, not the Gentiles; and his saints refer to God’s chosen people just before spoken of. Compare Deu_7:18, Deu_7:21; Exo_19:6; Dan_7:8-21.
4Moses commanded us a law. What he had declared respecting the glory of God, and the excellency of the Law, he now applies to his own person, since it was his purpose, as I have said, to establish the authority of his own ministry. In order, therefore, to prove the certainty of his mission, he boasts that he was appointed by God to be the teacher of the people, and that not for a brief period, but throughout all ages; for by the word “inheritance,” the perpetuity of the Law is signified. He then claims for himself the royal supremacy, not because he had ruled after the manner of kings, but that the dignity of this high office might add weight to his words. He says that “the heads of the people and the tribes were gathered together,” with reference to their unhappy disorganization, which was tending to their destruction, as much as to say that, under his guidance, rind by his exertions, the state of the people was reestablished.
He begins with Reuben, the first-born, and so far removes or mitigates the ignominy of that condemnation wherewith he had been branded by his father Jacob, as only to stop short of restoring him to his place of honor. For the holy Patriarch had pronounced a severe sentence, namely, that Reuben should be “as unstable as water, and should not excel.” (Gen_49:4.) Lest, therefore, the whole of his posterity should be discouraged, or should be rejected by the other tribes, he abates the severity of his disinheritance, as if to pardon the condemned. In short, he assigns to the family of Reuben a place among the sons of Jacob, lest despair should drive them to headlong ruin. The second clause admits of two contrary meanings. Literally it is, “Let him be small in number;” and, in fact, this tribe was not of the more numerous ones. Since, however, it occupied a middle place, and surpassed several of the others, some repeat the negative, “Let him not die, nor let him be few in number.” But it appears more probable that an abatement is made from the rank to which his primogeniture entitled the family of Reuben, and thus that some remainder of dishonor was introduced into the promise of grace. And, in fact, not only the tribe of Judah, but those of Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphthali, surpassed it in size. Thus the qualification will be by no means inappropriate, that, although Reuben was to be reckoned among the people of God, still he should not altogether recover his dignity.
Keil and Delitzsch
“Moses appointed us a law, a possession of the congregation of Jacob. And He became King in righteous-nation (Jeshurun); there the heads of the people assembled, in crowds the tribes of Israel.” The God who met Israel at Sinai in terrible majesty, out of the myriads of holy angels, who embraces all nations in love, and has all the holy angels in His power, so that they lie at His feet and rise up at His word, gave the law through Moses to the congregation of Jacob as a precious possession, and became King in Israel. This was the object of the glorious manifestation of His holy majesty upon Sinai. Instead of saying, “He gave the law to the tribes of Israel through my mediation,” Moses personates the listening nation, and not only speaks of himself in the third person, but does so by identifying his own person with the nation, because he wished the people to repeat his words from thorough conviction, and because the law which he gave in the name of the Lord was given to himself as well, and was as binding upon him as upon every other member of the congregation. In a similar manner the prophet Habakkuk identifies himself with the nation in ch. 3, and says in Hab_3:19, out of the heart of the nation, “The Lord is my strength,…who maketh me to walk upon mine high places,” – an expression which did not apply to himself, but to the nation as a whole. So again in Psa_20:1-9 and Psa_21:1-13, which David composed as the prayers of the nation for its king, he not only speaks of himself as the anointed of the Lord, but addresses such prayers to the Lord for himself as could only be offered by the nation for its king. “A possession for the congregation of Jacob.” “Israel was distinguished above all other nations by the possession of the divinely revealed law (Deu_4:5-8); that was its most glorious possession, and therefore is called its true κειμήλιον” (Knobel). The subject in Deu_33:5 is not Moses but Jehovah, who became King in Jeshurun (see at Deu_32:15 and Exo_15:18). “Were gathered together;” this refers to the assembling of the nation around Sinai (Deu_4:10.; cf. Exo_19:17.), to the day of assembly (Deu_9:10; Deu_10:4; Deu_18:16).
Some refer this to Moses, but Moses was never recognized as king in Israel: he “was faithful in all his house as a servant”; (Heb_3:5) but Jehovah alone was King. (Exo_15:18; Psa_47:6, Psa_47:7) Jeshurun. (cf. Deu_32:5) The gathering together refers to the assembling of the people at Sinai, when Jehovah came forth as their King to give them his Law.
1.And Moses went. up from the plains of Moab. It is not certain who wrote this chapter; unless we admit the probable conjecture of the ancients, that Joshua was its author. But since Eleazar the priest might have performed this office, it will be better to leave a matter of no very great importance undecided.
We have elsewhere said, that one part of mount Abarim was called Nebo, as another was called Pisgah, because they were distinct summits.
Now, the ascent of Moses was equivalent to a voluntary going forth to death: for he was not ignorant of what was to happen, but being called by God to die, he went to meet death of his own accord. Such willing submission proceeded from no other source than faith in God’s grace, whereby alone all terror is mitigated, and set at rest, and the bitterness of death is sweetened. Doubtless to Moses, as to every one else, it must have been naturally an awful thing to die; but inasmuch as the testimony of God’s grace is interposed, he does not hesitate to offer himself without alarm; and Because he was firmly persuaded that the inheritance of the people would be there set before his eyes, he cheerfully ascended to the place from which he was to behold it. Already, indeed, by faith had he beheld the land, and the promise of God had been, as it were, a lively representation of it; but; since some remaining infirmities of the flesh still environ even the most holy persons, an ocular view of it was no slight consolation, in order to mitigate the bitterness of his punishment, when he knew that he was prevented from actually entering it by the just sentence of God.
When it is said, that God “showed him all the land,” it could not have been the case without a miracle. For, although history records that some have been endued with incredible powers of vision, so as to have been able to see further than the whole length of Canaan; there is still a peculiarity to be remarked in this case, that Moses distinctly examined every portion of it, as if he had been really on the spot. I allow, indeed, that Naphtali, and Ephraim, and Manasseh are mentioned by anticipation, but, nevertheless, the Holy Spirit would express that every part was shown to Moses, as if they were close beneath his feet. Else the vision would have been but unsatisfactory and useless, if he had not been allowed to behold the future habitation of the people. And to the same effect is also what is afterwards added, that it was the land, which God sware to give unto His servants; for otherwise the desire of Moses would not have been satisfied, unless he had seen what a pleasant, fertile, and wealthy region the sons of Abraham were about to inhabit.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Deu_34:1-12. Moses from Mount Nebo views the land.
Moses went up from the plains of Moab — This chapter appears from internal evidence to have been written subsequently to the death of Moses, and it probably formed, at one time, an introduction to the Book of Joshua.
unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah — literally, the head or summit of the Pisgah; that is, the height (compare Num_23:14; Deu_3:17-27; Deu_4:49). The general name given to the whole mountain range east of Jordan, was Abarim (compare Deu_32:49), and the peak to which Moses ascended was dedicated to the heathen Nebo, as Balaam’s standing place had been consecrated to Peor. Some modern travelers have fixed on Jebel Attarus, a high mountain south of the Jabbok (Zurka), as the Nebo of this passage [Burckhardt, Seetzen, etc.]. But it is situated too far north for a height which, being described as “over against Jericho,” must be looked for above the last stage of the Jordan.
the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead — That pastoral region was discernible at the northern extremity of the mountain line on which he stood, till it ended, far beyond his sight in Dan. Westward, there were on the horizon, the distant hills of “all Naphtali.” Coming nearer, was “the land of Ephraim and Manasseh.” Immediately opposite was “all the land of Judah,” a title at first restricted to the portion of this tribe, beyond which were “the utmost sea” (the Mediterranean) and the Desert of the “South.” These were the four great marks of the future inheritance of his people, on which the narrative fixes our attention. Immediately below him was “the circle” of the plain of Jericho, with its oasis of palm trees; and far away on his left, the last inhabited spot before the great desert “Zoar.” The foreground of the picture alone was clearly discernible. There was no miraculous power of vision imparted to Moses. That he should see all that is described is what any man could do, if he attained sufficient elevation. The atmosphere of the climate is so subtle and free from vapor that the sight is carried to a distance of which the beholder, who judges from the more dense air of Europe, can form no idea [Vere Monro]. But between him and that “good land,” the deep valley of the Jordan intervened; “he was not to go over thither.”
And Moses went up – This chapter could not have been written by Moses. A man certainly cannot give an account of his own death and burial. We may therefore consider Moses’s words as ending with the conclusion of the preceding chapter, as what follows could not possibly have been written by himself. To suppose that he anticipated these circumstances, or that they were shown to him by an especial revelation, is departing far from propriety and necessity, and involving the subject in absurdity; for God gives no prophetic intimations but such as are absolutely necessary to be made; but there is no necessity here, for the Spirit which inspired the writer of the following book, would naturally communicate the matter that concludes this. I believe, therefore, that Deu_34:1-12, should constitute the first chapter of the book of Joshua.
On this subject the following note from an intelligent Jew cannot be unacceptable to the reader: –
“Most commentators are of opinion that Ezra was the author of the last chapter of Deuteronomy; some think it was Joshua, and others the seventy elders, immediately after the death of Moses; adding, that the book of Deuteronomy originally ended with the prophetic blessing upon the twelve tribes: ‘Happy art thou, O Israel! who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord,’ etc.; and that what now makes the last chapter of Deuteronomy was formerly the first of Joshua, but was removed from thence and joined to the former by way of supplement. This opinion will not appear unnatural if it be considered that sections and other divisions, as well as points and pauses, were invented long since these books were written; for in those early ages several books were connected together, and followed each other on the same roll. The beginning of one book might therefore be easily transferred to the end of another, and in process of time be considered as its real conclusion, as in the case of Deuteronomy, especially as this supplemental chapter contains an account of the last transactions and death of the great author of the Pentateuch.” – Alexander’s Heb. and Eng. Pentateuch.
This seems to be a perfectly correct view of the subject. This chapter forms a very proper commencement to the book of Joshua, for of this last chapter of Deuteronomy the first chapter of Joshua is an evident continuation. If the subject be viewed in this light it will remove every appearance of absurdity and contradiction with which, on the common mode of interpretation, it stands sadly encumbered.
Vers. 2-4. Unto the utmost sea; rather, the hinder sea, viz. the Mediterranean (cf. Deu_11:24) The south; the Negeb, the pasture-land in the south, towards the Arabian desert. The plain of the valley of Jericho; the extensive plain through which the Jordan flows, extending from Jericho to Zoar, at the south end of the Dead Sea. This wide prospect could not be surveyed by any ordinary power of vision; so that Moses must for the occasion have had his power of vision miraculously increased. There is no ground for supposing that he saw the scene in an ecstatic vision, and not with his bodily eyes.
Keil and Delitzsch
And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, After blessing the people, Moses ascended Mount Nebo, according to the command of God (Deu_32:48-51), and there the Lord showed him, in all its length and breadth, that promised land into which he was not to enter. From Nebo, a peak of Pisgah, which affords a very extensive prospect on all sides, he saw the land of Gilead, the land to the east of the Jordan as far as Dan, i.e., not Laish-Dan near the central source of the Jordan (Jdg_18:27), which did not belong to Gilead, but a Dan in northern Peraea, which has not yet been discovered (see at Gen_14:14); and the whole of the land on the west of the Jordan, Canaan proper, in all its different districts, namely, “the whole of Naphtali,” i.e., the later Galilee on the north, “the land of Ephraim and Manasseh” in the centre, and “the whole of the land of Judah,” the southern portion of Canaan, in all its breadth, “to the hinder (Mediterranean) sea” (see Deu_11:24); also “the south land” (Negeb: see at Num_13:17), the southern land of steppe towards the Arabian desert, and “the valley of the Jordan” (see Gen_13:10), i.e., the deep valley from Jericho the palm-city (so called from the palms which grew there, in the valley of the Jordan: Jdg_1:16; Jdg_3:13; 2Ch_28:15) “to Zoar” at the southern extremity of the Dead Sea (see at Gen_19:22). This sight of every part of the land on the east and west was not an ecstatic vision, but a sight with the bodily eyes, whose natural power of vision was miraculously increased by God, to give Moses a glimpse at least of the glorious land which he was not to tread, and delight his eye with a view of the inheritance intended for his people.
I have caused thee to see it – The sight thus afforded to Moses, like that of “all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time” Luk_4:5, was no doubt supernatural.
5.So Moses the servant of the Lord died. Since it was mark of ignominy to die without the borders of the Holy Land, Moses is honored with high eulogy, in order that the Israelites might learn the more to tremble at the judgment of God, who did not spare even his most illustrious servant. And it is expressly added, “according to the word (or mouth) of the Lord,” lest they should despise the threatenings which were accomplished in so memorable a manner. For, if God spared not His own distinguished Prophet, but at length executed upon him what He had threatened, how should the ordinary multitude escape?
What follows, “he buried him,” some render passively, “he was buried;” and others transitively, “he buried himself;” but in both cases improperly; for, whilst they are afraid to assign this office to God, they labor to avoid an absurdity which does not exist; since it may be gathered from the end of the verse, that Moses was buried by divine means, for it is said that his sepulcher is unknown. It is likely that an effort to discover it was not omitted, or neglected to be made by the people; since it would have been barbarous for them not to discharge the last offices of humanity towards such, and so great a man. Since, therefore, no signs of his funeral, nor his body itself, were anywhere to be found, it might be inferred that he was hidden by God’s determinate counsel; whilst it is superfluous to discuss in what manner God buried him, inasmuch as all the elements are under His control. It was enough, therefore, for Him to signify (annuere) to the earth, that it was to receive the body of the holy man into its bosom: nor was there any necessity to call in the assistance of angels, as some think, since the earth would have instantly obeyed the command of its Creator. From the Epistle of Jude (Jud_1:9) we learn that it was a matter of no slight importance that the sepulcher of Moses should be concealed from the eyes of men, for he informs us that a dispute arose respecting it. between Michael the archangel, and Satan: and, although the cause of its concealment is not stated, still it appears to have been God’s intention to prevent superstition; for it was usual with the Jews, and it is a custom for which Christ reproves them, to kill the prophets, and then to pay reverence to their tombs. (Luk_11:47.) It would have, therefore, been probable that, in order to blot out the recollection of their ingratitude, they would have paid superstitious veneration to the holy prophet, and so have carried his corpse into the land, from which the sentence of God had excluded it. Timely precaution, then, was taken, lest in their inconsiderate zeal the people should attempt to subvert the decree of heaven.
So Moses – died – according to the word of the Lord – על פי יהוה al pi Yehovah, at the mouth of Jehovah; i. e., by the especial command and authority of the Lord; but it is possible that what is here said refers only to the sentence of his exclusion from the promised land, when he offended at the waters of Meribah.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
he buried him — or, “he was buried in a valley,” that is, a ravine or gorge of the Pisgah. Some think that he entered a cave and there died, being, according to an ancient tradition of Jews and Christians, buried by angels (Jud_1:9; Num_21:20).
no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day — This concealment seems to have been owing to a special and wise arrangement of Providence, to prevent its being ranked among “holy places,” and made the resort of superstitious pilgrims or idolatrous veneration, in after ages.
Keil and Delitzsch
After this favour had been granted him, the aged servant of the Lord was to taste death as the ages of sin. There, i.e., upon Mount Nebo, he died, “at the mouth,” i.e., according to the commandment, “of the Lord” (not “by a kiss of the Lord,” as the Rabbins interpret it), in the land of Moab, not in Canaan (see at Num_27:12-14). “And He buried him in the land of Moab, over against Beth Peor.” The subject in this sentence is Jehovah. Though the third person singular would allow of the verb being taken as impersonal (ἔθαψαν αὐτόν, lxx: they buried him), such a rendering is precluded by the statement which follows, “no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” “The valley” where the Lord buried Moses was certainly not the Jordan valley, as in Deu_3:29, but most probably “the valley in the field of Moab, upon the top of Pisgah,” mentioned in Num_21:20, near to Nebo; in any case, a valley on the mountain, not far from the top of Nebo. – The Israelites inferred what is related in Deu_34:1-6 respecting the end of Moses’ life, from the promise of God in Deu_32:49, and Num_27:12-13, which was communicated to them by Moses himself (Deu_3:27), and from the fact that Moses went up Mount Nebo, from which he never returned. On his ascending the mountain, the eyes of the people would certainly follow him as far as they possibly could. It is also very possible that there were many parts of the Israelitish camp from which the top of Nebo was visible, so that the eyes of his people could not only accompany him thither, but could also see that when the Lord had shown him the promised land, He went down with him into the neighbouring valley, where Moses was taken for ever out of their sight. There is not a word in the text about God having brought the body of Moses down from the mountain and buried it in the valley. This “romantic idea” is invented by Knobel, for the purpose of throwing suspicion upon the historical truth of a fact which is offensive to him. The fact itself that the Lord buried His servant Moses, and no man knows of his sepulchre, is in perfect keeping with the relation in which Moses stood to the Lord while he was alive. Even if his sin at the water of strife rendered it necessary that he should suffer the punishment of death, as a memorable example of the terrible severity of the holy God against sin, even in the case of His faithful servant; yet after the justice of God had been satisfied by this punishment, he was to be distinguished in death before all the people, and glorified as the servant who had been found faithful in all the house of God, whom the Lord had known face to face (Deu_34:10), and to whom He had spoken mouth to mouth (Num_12:7-8). The burial of Moses by the hand of Jehovah was not intended to conceal his grave, for the purpose of guarding against a superstitious and idolatrous reverence for his grave; for which the opinion held by the Israelites, that corpses and graves defiled, there was but little fear of this; but, as we may infer from the account of the transfiguration of Jesus, the intention was to place him in the same category with Enoch and Elijah. As Kurtz observes, “The purpose of God was to prepare for him a condition, both of body and soul, resembling that of these two men of God. Men bury a corpse that it may pass into corruption. If Jehovah, therefore, would not suffer the body of Moses to be buried by men, it is but natural to seek for the reason in the fact that He did not intend to leave him to corruption, but, when burying it with His own hand, imparted a power to it which preserved it from corruption, and prepared the way for it to pass into the same form of existence to which Enoch and Elijah were taken, without either death or burial.” – There can be no doubt that this truth lies at the foundation of the Jewish theologoumenon mentioned in the Epistle of Judge, concerning the contest between Michael the archangel and the devil for the body of Moses.
The valley in which God is supposed to have buried Moses was probably some depression on the Pisgah range, upon or close by Nebo. The rabbins say that Moses was buried by retiring into a cavern, where he died and where his body remained. It is probable that, like Enoch and Elijah, he was transferred to the invisible world without seeing corruption. Hence his appearance along with Elijah in bodily form on the Mount of the Transfiguration; and hence also, perhaps, the tradition of the contest for the body of Moses between Michael and Satan. (Jud_1:9) If the body of Moses was actually buried, the concealment of his grave so that no man knew of it may be justly regarded as “the first instance on record of the providential obliteration, so remarkably exemplified afterwards in the gospel history, of the “holy places” of Palestine; the providential safeguard against their elevation to a sanctity which might endanger the real holiness of the history and religion which they served to commemorate” (Stanley). The reverence which the Jews paid to graves shows that there was no small danger of their coming under a superstitious regard to that of Moses had it been known.
7And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old. Again he celebrates a special favor of God, viz., that all the senses of Moses remained unimpaired to extreme old age, in order that he might be fit for the performance of his duties: for thus it was manifested how dear to God was the welfare of the people, for which He so carefully provided. Some, indeed, though very few, are found, who are capable of public government, even to their hundredth year. Already, however, at that period, the rigor of the whole human race had so diminished that, after their seventieth year, they dragged on their life in “labor and sorrow,” as Moses himself bears witness. (Psa_90:10.) It was, consequently a conspicuous sign of the paternal favour wherewith God regarded His people, that Moses should have been thus unusually preserved in rigor and strength. If the powers of Moses had failed him long before their entrance of the promised land, his debility would have been very inconvenient to the people: yet naturally he would not have been so long sufficient for the performance of his onerous duties. It follows, then, that when God did not suffer him to fail, He showed wonderful consideration for the people’s welfare. Mention is specially made of his eyes, by synecdoche, yet the sum of the matter is this, that he was neither imbecile nor feeble, for neither were the faculties of his mind exhausted, nor his body dried up.
It needs not that I expound at any length, what is added respecting the solemn mourning, because I have elsewhere shown, that the ancients were particular in their attention to the performance of funeral rites, on account of their faith not being as yet so elevated from the measure of revelation they had received, as to be easily able to forego those external aids to it, for which there is not the same necessity under the Gospel. It is natural to man to mourn for the dead; and, besides, this mourning was justly instituted in consequence of the loss which the Church had sustained; but a ceremony is here recorded, which was brought to an end with the fulfillment of the shadows of the Law. Our dead are, therefore, now to be buried in such a manner as that our grief may be restrained by the hope of resurrection so clearly revealed by the coming of Christ.
Days, as they had done for Mary [Miriam] and for Aaron: (Josephus) the usual term was only seven days. (Calmet) — The Jews would probably have prolonged their mourning for Moses forty days, in honour of the years of his government, if they had not been ordered to cross the Jordan. (Salien)
9.And Joshua the son of Nun. It is again shown how perseveringly God provided for the welfare of the people. We have already seen how, at the request of Moses, Joshua was chosen to succeed him. Now, when he is about to take upon him his office, “thespirit of wisdom” was imparted to him, that it might be effectually manifested that he was appointed by God. He had been, indeed, previously endowed with excellent gifts, but he was now much more splendidly adorned with the ensigns of dignity, in order that his calling by God might be more certainly proved; for thus is God wont to furnish those, whom He calls, with capacity for action. The imposition of hands was also subjoined, which was no empty symbol of God’s grace. But inasmuch as I have already fully spoken of these things, I now only lightly touch upon them.
Although dead, Moses still ruled. His spirit reappeared in his successor. The principles of Moses had been planted in the nature of Joshua: these had flourished and come to maturity. The memory of Moses was still a mighty power in Israel, and they “did,” all through the days of Joshua, “as the Lord commanded Moses.” The legislator had molded and trained the warrior. Moses was promoted to higher honor, because Joshua was better qualified for this new work the realization of Israel”s destiny.
I NOTE THE HIGH QUALIFICATION OF JOSHUA. He was “full of the spirit of wisdom.” This is a rare gift. By nature he had been endowed with strength and fearless courage, so that he had been military lieutenant to Moses all through the desert. He was illustrious also for diligence and fidelity in a long career of service. Among the spies dispatched to Canaan, he (in company with Caleb) had been “faithful among the faithless found.” Now to courage and unbending loyalty there was added another endowment, and this in amplest measure: he was “filled with the spirit of wisdom.” “To him that hath, it shall be given.
II OBSERVE THE METHOD BY WHICH THIS WISDOM WAS ACQUIRED. “Moses had laid his hands upon him.” We need not limit our thoughts to a solitary act, even though it might be a solemn and religious act. We may rather think of the plastic, formative influence which Moses had exerted over the growing character of this young man. It is astonishing what immense power God has entrusted to our hands for fashioning and embellishing the spiritual nature of men. By a wise employment of spiritual energy, we can direct into right channels the lives of many; by implanting right principles into youth, and by awakening into vigorous activity the latent forces of character, we may elevate a city we may influence the destinies of the world.
III MARK THE BENEFICIAL EFFECT. “The children of Israel hearkened unto him.” Moses influenced for good his servant Joshua. Joshua influenced for good the nation of Israel. The twelve tribes felt the force of Joshua”s character, and yielded to the wisdom which he displayed. They were a different people as the consequence of Joshua”s leadership. He touched, through Israel, the fortunes of the world. The high example of Joshua provoked the imitation of the tribes. His combined wisdom and energy led them on to triumph. By virtue of his superlative wisdom he became, in God”s hands, a Savior, and remains, in name and office, the type of the world”s Redeemer. D.
10And there arose not a prophet. This eulogy seems to have been added, that the children of Abraham might place dependence on Moses until the manifestation of Christ; for although prophets were from time to time raised up, still it was fitting that the superiority should remain with Moses, lest they should decline in the smallest degree from the rule of the Law. It must be concluded, therefore, that Moses was here placed in a position of supremacy, so as to be superior to all the prophets; as also Malachi (Mal_4:4) exhorts the ancient people, in order that they may continue obedient to the law of Moses. Two signs of his excellency are here recorded, namely, his familiar acquaintance with God, and the glory of his miracles. We have elsewhere seen that, by this prerogative, Moses was distinguished from the other prophets, that God spake to him face to face. For, although Jacob makes the same declaration respecting himself, still we know that God was more intimately revealed afterwards to Moses; not indeed that He beheld His glory in its perfection, but because, in comparison with others, he went beyond them all. As regards miracles, though they were wrought by others, still none of them came near to Moses in their performance.
Keil and Delitzsch
Joshua now took Moses’ place as the leader of the people, filled with the spirit of wisdom (practical wisdom, manifesting itself in action), because Moses had ordained him to his office by the laying on of hands (Num_27:18). And the people obeyed him; but he was not like Moses. “There arose no more a prophet in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,” i.e., so far as the miracles and signs were concerned which Moses did, by virtue of his divine mission, upon Pharaoh, his servants, and his land, and the terrible acts which he performed before the eyes of Israel (Deu_34:11 and Deu_34:12; vid., Deu_26:8, and Deu_4:34). “Whom Jehovah knew:” not who knew Him, the Lord. “To know,” like γινώσκειν in 1Co_8:3, relates to the divine knowledge, which not only involves a careful observance (Deu_2:7), but is also a manifestation of Himself to man, a penetration of man with the spiritual power of God. Because he was thus known by the Lord, Moses was able to perform signs and wonders, and mighty, terrible acts, such as no other performed either before or after him.
In this respect Joshua stood far below Moses, and no prophet arose in Israel like unto Moses. – This remark concerning Moses does not presuppose that a long series of prophets had already risen up since the time of Moses. When Joshua had defeated the Canaanites, and conquered their land with the powerful help of the Lord, which was still manifested in signs and wonders, and had divided it among the children of Israel, and when the tribes had settled down in their inheritance, so that the different portions of the land began to be called by the names of Naphtali, Ephraim, Manasseh, and Judah, as is the case in Deu_34:2; the conviction might already have become established in Israel, that no other prophet would arise like Moses, to whom the Lord had manifested Himself with such signs and wonders before the Egyptians and the eyes of Israel. The position occupied by Joshua in relation to this his predecessor, as the continuer of his work, would necessarily awaken and confirm this conviction, in connection with what the Lord had said as to the superiority of Moses to all the prophets (Num_12:6.). Moses was the founder and mediator of the old covenant. As long as this covenant was to last, no prophet could arise in Israel like unto Moses. There is but One who is worthy of greater honour than Moses, namely, the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, who is placed as the Son over all the house of God, in which Moses was found faithful as a servant (compare Heb_3:2-6 with Num_12:7), Jesus Christ, the founder and mediator of the new and everlasting covenant.
cf. Exo_33:11. Whom the Lord knew. “For the Lord was revealed to him face to face” (Onkelos). The knowledge here referred to was not merely that cognizance which God as the Omniscient has of all men, but that special knowledge by which men, being known of God, are made to know him (cf. 1Co_8:3) The statement in this verse could only have been inserted some time after the death of Moses, and after the people had had manifestations of God”s presence with them, both by communications from him through the prophets and by the successes which he had given them over their enemies. But it is not necessary to suppose that a long period during which a lengthened succession of prophets had arisen had elapsed. Moses was the founder and mediator of the old covenant. As long as this covenant was to last, no prophet could arise in Israel like unto Moses. There is but One who is worthy of greater honor than Moses, namely, the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, who is placed as a Son over all the house of God, in which Moses was found faithful as a servant. (comp. Heb_3:2-6; Num_12:7) Jesus Christ, the Founder and Mediator of the new and everlasting covenant” (Keil).
Vers. 10-12. The distinctive greatness of Moses.
These closing verses do not touch upon the character of Moses, but upon his unique position as a prophet. “There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses,” etc. (ver. 10). This does not exactly ascribe inferiority, but rather dissimilarity to all who had followed, up to the date of this editorial postscript. “Nothing can have two beginnings;” and in this lies the one and sufficient reason why Moses could not be followed in the after ages by any one who took a like position with his own. Purposely avoiding any outline of the character of Moses, we propose to enumerate a few of those features in which the work of Moses was altogether unique, and ever must so remain.
I MOSES WAS THE FIRST TO DISCLOSE THE GLORIOUS NATURE OF GOD AND HIS GRACIOUS RELATIONSHIPS TO OUR RACE, AS THE CORNER-STONE OF A GREAT COMMONWEALTH.
II HE WAS THE FIRST TO PROCLAIM, BY HIS SACRIFICIAL INSTITUTES AND TEACHINGS, THE ONE PRINCIPLE THAT “WITHOUT SHEDDING OF BLOOD IS NO REMISSION.” Sacrifice was adopted in other nations as a human expedient for appeasing Divine wrath; Moses declares it to be a Divine appointment for the acknowledgment of human sin and of the Divine holiness.
III HE WAS THE FIRST TO PROCLAIM THE ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES AND THE TRUE BASIS OF THE NOBLEST HUMAN ETHICS “BE YE HOLY; FOR I AM HOLY.
IV HE WAS THE FIRST TO REQUIRE OF A PEOPLE LOVE TO GOD AS THE SPRING OF ALL OBEDIENCE, AND TO ASSIGN AS THE REASON FOR THEIR LOVE THE CARE OF GOD TO THEM. (Deu_5:6)
V HE WAS THE FIRST, YEA, THE ONLY ONE IN ALL HISTORY, TO DEMAND OF A TYRANT THE LIBERATION OF AN OPPRESSED PEOPLE, AND TO FORM THEM INTO A NEW COMMONWEALTH, WITH THE AVOWED AIM AND PURPOSE OF PLANTING IN THE WORLD A NEW RELIGIOUS FAITH AND LIFE. (Deu_7:1-11 Deu_9:1-6)
VI HE WAS THE FIRST WHO MADE PROVISION FOR THE EDUCATION OF A WHOLE PEOPLE IN THE THINGS OF GOD; WITH VIRTUE AND PIETY FOR ITS LESSONS, AND THE HOME FOR ITS TRAINING-SCHOOL. (Deu_31:12, 13 6:1-9 10:12-22 11:18-21)
VII HE WAS THE FIRST WHO AIMED AT EDUCATING A PEOPLE TO SELF-GOVERNMENT. They were to choose their own officers, judges, and magistrates, according to principles of righteousness. And (as we have shown in loc.) even the government of Jehovah was not forced upon them. Their consent was asked again and again; and their solemn, loud “Amen” was required, confirming the sentence of God as if it were their own. Thus from the first the people were made “workers together with God.
Others might follow on in all these respects, but no one else ever could be like Moses in starting all this new national life, thought, and virtue, in organized form. And yet how much more than one like Moses do we need for a world”s regeneration and a Church”s education! “If there had been a Law given which should have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the Law.” But “what the Law could not do,” God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ. Moses can give rules. Only the Lord the Spirit can give life. A Greater than Moses has come, and has created by his power a new commonwealth, whose politeuma is in the heavens. In this “new Jerusalem, which cometh down from God out of heaven,” lo! “all things are made Dew.
Face to face;” or, the secret of power.
the Lord knew face to face.” Such is the remarkable expression used with regard to Moses. This certainly implies that there was in his case unwonted closeness of fellowship with God. There are expressions not dissimilar in Num_12:7, Num_12:8, but yet we must make allowance for the prevalence of the vividness of Eastern imagery, and not press the literalness of the words too closely. In fact, we are guarded against that by the words Exo_33:20.
To what extent Moses saw any manifested form, it is not likely we shall ever in this state of being, be able to tell. It is the duty of thoughtful men to penetrate beneath the archaisms and Orientalisms of the ancient text, and to seize the permanent truth which underlies them. The thought which we here detect as that which is under the surface is this that Moses had very close communion with God.
Every spirit which yearns after God may hold communion with God. And inasmuch as “every man”s life is a plan of God,” God may make that fellowship serve any purposes he has for the man to fulfill. By such communion there may be:
(1) an inner life of devotion and an outer life of godliness to be nurtured and sustained; or there may be
(2) a spur and a pressure applied to high and holy service in one specific direction, this is the case where men are borne along to the fulfillment of a special mission; or there may be
(3) some new truth or clearer light which God wills to impart to and through the soul so communing with him.
Now, there is a specific term for each of these three effects of communion with God. When it simply subserves the life of holiness which all may lead, we call it religion; when it is made tributary to a special form of service, we call it inspiration; when it is made the means of causing new truth to appeal”, we call it revelation.
The latter has been realized by those few extremely few of the human race by whom God has unfolded new truth. The medial one has been experienced by the more numerous souls who have been borne along as by a special outside force to the fulfillment of a great mission. The first-named is the common privilege of all God-fearing souls.
Moses was one of the very few who enjoyed the privilege of “seeing the Unseen One” for all three purposes; and the four following sentences will sum up his life:
I By the power of RELIGION he lived the life of the saint.
II By that of INSPIRATION he discharged the functions of leader, administrator, and recorder.
III By that of REVELATION he had the visions of the seer.
IV COMMUNION WITH GOD was the secret of all: “face to face.
To those who understand communion with God, either of the three will be regarded as in the highest degree reasonable, intelligible, and credible. Those who do not know what it is to pour out the soul unto God, may indeed accept all three in a formal manner, but they can go no further. And if such formal believers should chance to be subject to the fierce storms of modern criticism, there is no telling but they may come to deny them all; yea, they may come to think that religion, inspiration, and revelation are swept clean away; and all because they understand nothing of man”s highest privilege Communion with God!
Vers. 10-12. Communion with God the secret of real power.
Leaving out of view our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no man who has left so deeply the impress of his character upon the world as the Jewish legislator. By no man have so many and such mighty works been achieved. By no man has such wise legislation been devised for the government of human society. By no man has a great national emancipation been so skillfully and successfully executed. At the time of our Lord, Moses still wielded a mighty scepter among the Jewish nation; and from that day to this, the influence of Moses has been powerfully felt. The history of the Western world would have been very different from what it is, if Moses had found an early grave among the rushes of the Nile. The secret of it is he was a “man of God.
I COMMUNION WITH GOD IS THE HIGHEST ADVANTAGE MAN CAN ENJOY. The friendship of a wise and great man is an inestimable boon. To be in the society of a good man for an hour leaves a purifying and an elevating stimulus behind. We feel better and nobler for the contact. And if the friendly influence of a good man can find its way to intellect and conscience and feeling, how much more can the influence and energy of God! There is no doubt that God can find access to the nature he has made, and can enrich it with all good. The question is whether, considering our great demerit, Will he? This question also is completely answered by himself. He invites us to the closest friendship welcomes us to fullest intimacy. The words of Jesus Christ suffice to allay all doubt, “If any man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” We may not have visions of God precisely after the form and fashion that Moses had: these were adapted to a particular state of human development; but we may have contact with God as close communion as sweet and tender, as ever Moses enjoyed. “The fellowship of the Holy Ghost” is our special privilege. To us “the Spirit of truth” is given. And “truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
II COMMUNION WITH GOD PRODUCES REAL GREATNESS OF CHARACTER. As a result of the intimacy between God and Moses, we read, there “arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses.” Intercourse with God purifies every feeling, elevates every aspiration, energizes every sterling principle, ennobles the whole man. The creative influence of the Almighty renews our innermost life. In the presence of God we become ashamed of our meanness and pride and folly. We see and feel how noble it is possible to become. We confess into his fatherly ear our sin: we resolve to do better in the future. The assurance of his sympathy and aid encourages us. We grow up into his image; we gradually find that this is our proper destiny be conformed to the image of his Son.
III COMMUNION WITH GOD GIVES US POWER OVER NATURE AND OVER MEN. It is admitted by scientists that the human will is the greatest force known, save the power of God. Now, fellowship with God strengthens that will. To his chosen friends, God conveys new power. On man was originally bestowed complete dominion over nature; and this prerogative is to be restored through the man Christ Jesus. Thus the prodigies wrought by Moses are declared to be signs symbols of greater things yet to be achieved. Our Lord has taught us that true faith can overturn the mountains. The possessor of faith is predicted to outstrip even Christ in mighty deeds. D.
Vers. 10-12. The greatness of Moses.
It was a greatness entirely unique. “There arose not a prophet,” etc. (ver. 10). His greatness lay largely in character. As a man in respect of qualities of character Moses was one of the greatest men who have ever lived; perhaps, all things taken together, the greatest next to Christ. But so entirely is Moses the man lost in his relation to God as instrument of his will and work, that his greatness in the former respect is not in these verses even referred to. Moses is overshadowed by the God of Moses, whose power he wielded, and in whose Name alone he wrought. This greatness of Moses arose
I FROM THE RELATION OF PECULIAR INTIMACY HE HELD TO GOD. “There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (ver. 10). In this greatness Moses stood alone till there arose that greater Prophet, whose advent he had predicted. (Deu_18:18)
II FROM THE GREATNESS OF HIS WORK. (Ver. 11.) He was sent to Egypt to deliver Israel. In this also a type of Christ.
III IN THE POWER OF GOD PUT FORTH THROUGH HIM. (Vers. 11, 12.) True greatness therefore lies:
(1) in power of near approach to God;
(2) in great work done for God; and
(3) in spiritual power exerted through God acting m and with us. J.O.