corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 3

 

 

Verse 4

4.And we took all the cities. He here more fully relates what He had brieflytouched upon in Numbers. He says that sixty, well-fortified cities were taken, besides the villages. Hence we infer both the extent of the country, and also the special power of God in the aid He afforded them, in that they took, in so short a time, so many cities well closed in, and begirt with high walls; as if they were merely travelling, through a peaceful land in security, and with nothing to do.

After the eighth verse, lie repeats connectedly what he had separately related respecting the two kingdoms; and in order that the places might be more certainly identified, he mentions two other names for mount Hermon, stating that it was called Sirion by the Sidonians, and Shenir by the Amorites. Finally, he adds that Og, king of Bashan, was a giant, and the only survivorof that race. As a memorialof his lofty stature, he alleges his iron bedstead, the length of which was as much as nine cubits, according to the common measure of that period. By this circumstance he again magnifies the marvellous help of God, in that he was overcome by the children of Israel, who might, by his stature, have singly terrified a whole army.

The enormous stature of the giants is apparent from this passage. Herodotus records, (136) that the body of Orestes, disinterred by command of the oracle, was seven cubits in length. Pliny, (137) although he does not cite his authority, subscribes to this testimony. Gellius (138) thinks that this was fabulous, as also what Homer (139) writes with respect to the diminution of men’s height in process of time; but his erroneous view is confuted by almost universal consent. What Pliny (140) himself relates is indeed incredible, that in Crete a body was discovered, by an opening of the earth, forty-six cubits long, which some thought to be the body of Orion, and others of Etion. But if we believe that there were giants, (which is not only affirmd by the sacred Scriptures, but also recorded by almost all ancient writers,) we need not be surprised if they were more than eight cubits in height. Although, however, the race of giants began to disappear in the time of Moses, still, in after ages, there existed persons who approached to this ancient stature, (141) as in the time of Augustus and Claudius there was one man about ten feet in height, and another nine feet nine inches. Moses, therefore, intimates nothing more than that this monstrous race of men gradually died out, so that the enormous height of Og, king of Bashan, was an unusual sight.


Verse 12

12.And this land, which we possessed at that time. In this passage Moses confirms his decision, that the possession of the country beyond Jordan should be insured to the Reubenites and Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh. For, since it had fallen to them exceptionally, the matter might be brought into controversy with posterity. Lest, then, any should disturb them, he again declares that they were the rightful possessors of that district. Moreover, inasmuch as the very gift of it might be called in question, since it was situated outside the bounds of the inheritance promised by God, Moses anticipates this objection also, asserting that God had not in vain given it to be possessed by His people. Hence it follows that the right of inhabiting it was conferred upon them. Lest, then, so unequal a partition should be made a subject of contention, he marks out their boundaries on every side, as though he set up the authority of God as a wall and rampart against any who should presume to invade it.

With reference to the names of the places, the Dead Sea is called the Sea of Salt, and the Lake of Genesera or Gennesareth, Chinnereth. As to the “outpourings of the hill,” translators are not agreed; for some consider Ashdoth-Pisgah to be the proper name of a city. (220) I prefer, however, to take the word “outpourings” (effusionum) appellatively, not for fountains and streams, but for the root (of the hill) where the ground by a gentle descent seems in a manner to pour itself forth. We shall presently see that Pisgah was one of the summits of Mount Abarim.


Verse 18

18.And I commanded you at that time. This address is directed only to those to whom an inheritance was given on the other side of Jordan; but Moses declares that he had introduced an agreement that the two tribes and a half should not enjoy their possession until they had accommpanied their brethren in the subjugation of the land of Canaan. He says, therefore, that he had given them a place, not where they were at once to settle themselves, but where they might deposit their wives and cattle, until the whole people were peaceably established in their land.


Verse 21

21.And I commanded Joshua at that time. He repeats what we have already seen, that he exhorted Joshua together with the whole people to prepare themselves to occupy the land with alacrity, relying as well upon God’s promise, as upon the numerous proofs of His assistance, which were so many pledges of the future continuance of His grace.


Verse 23

23And I besought the Lord. (239) Others have, “I besought;” but I have preferred using the pluperfect tense, because, in my opinion, Moses interrupts himself to show why he had resigned his office to another, and did not rather declare that he would be their leader, as heretofore, and at the same time an example to the people of courage. He says, therefore, that when he had prayed that he might be permitted to enter the land, he received a refusal. For it is not probable that, after he had substituted Joshua for himself, he straightway conceived a desire, which was in direct opposition to it.

The drift of the prayer is that God, by granting him permission to enter the land, should thus fill up to the full the measure of His grace towards him: for he enumerates the blessings already vouchsafed to him, as the ground of his confidence in asking, and that God, who is not wont to forsake the work of His own hands, might carry on to the end the mercies He had begun. For this reason he says that the might of God had been shown him; modestly hinting that it was natural to expect that he should be a partaker of the crowning blessing, in order that the end might correspond with the beginning. He also magnifies the power of God as proclaimed by the miracles; that so magnificent a work might not be interrupted. On the other hand, he speaks in commendation of the goodness of the land, and expressly shows that his desire to see it springs from earnest piety; for I willingly subscribe to the opinion of those who understand Sion by the “goodly mountain;” for, with the exception of Lebanon, there was no other mountain so delectable in the land; whereas Lebanon, as if next to it in rank, is mentioned in the second place.


Verse 26

26.But the Lord was wroth with me. Some imagine that God was offended by such a longing as this; but Moses is rather giving the reason why he did not obtain what he sought, viz., because he had been already excluded from it. For, although he by no means enters into debate with God, as if he had been unjustly condemned for the faults of others, still he indirectly reflects upon the people, since it was well that they should be all reminded that the punishment which had been inflicted upon God’s distinguished servant was incurred by the guilt of them all. We have elsewhere seen (240) how it was that the penalty of their common transgression was with justice imposed upon Moses.

Its mitigation then follows, when God commands him to get up into the top of Mount Abarim, which is here called Pisgah, and elsewhere Nebo, that he might nevertheless enjoy a sight of the promised land.

In conclusion, he more clearly explains why he exhorted Joshua, viz., because he was about to go over before the people; and in the last verse he assigns the reason of their delay, and why they remained so long in the valley near Mount Abarim; for it is precisely as if he had said that they were retained by the extension of God’s hand, in order that they should not proceed any further until Joshua had been installed as his successor.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 3:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/deuteronomy-3.html. 1840-57.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology