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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

Deuteronomy 32

 

 

Verses 1-43

2. The Song of Moses

CHAPTER 32:1-43

1. The introduction and the theme (Deuteronomy 32:1-4)

2. The foolish people (Deuteronomy 32:5-6)

3. How Jehovah loved them (Deuteronomy 32:7-14)

4. Their apostasy (Deuteronomy 32:15-18)

5. The results of the apostasy (Deuteronomy 32:19-33)

6. Jehovah’s final dealing with Israel (Deuteronomy 32:34-42)

7. The glorious consummation (Deuteronomy 32:43)

The song of Moses is a great prophecy. The first great prophetic utterance is found in the parables of Balaam. The second prophetic discourse is this song. The song of Moses embraces the entire history of Israel, past, present and future. It bears in a most remarkable way every mark of being a prophetic testimony from the inspired leader of God’s people. The men, who deny this and who boast of literary ability, must be wilfully blind. The critics have denied to a man, that Moses wrote a single word of this song. But they have not informed us who wrote this wonderful ode. “The assertion that the entire ode moves within the epoch of the kings, who lived many centuries after the time of Moses, rests upon a total misapprehension of the nature of prophecy” (Keil).

Moses began his song by calling heaven and earth to hear the words of his mouth. What he was about to say concerned indeed heaven and earth. Isaiah too began his book with the same call (Isaiah 1:2). The name of Jehovah is exalted. He is the Rock and His work is perfect. He is a God of truth, just and right. But His people, what are they? Their character is described in verses 5 and 6. How He uncovers the true nature of the people, who had acknowledged Him as Jehovah! Corrupt, perverse, crooked, foolish, unwise, are the terms used to describe their character. The failure they would be, their apostasy and the necessity of disciplinary dealings of Jehovah with them, are thus mentioned in the first stanza of this song.

The third section, verses 7-14, reveals the goodness and the love of the Lord for them. The eighth verse has a deep meaning. “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” This verse carries us backward. The boundaries of the nations were made by God with a direct reference to the children of Israel. The name of God used here, “the Most High,” is the millennial title, which He will have when His blessed Son our Lord receives His Kingdom. (See Genesis 14:19.) When that time of blessing comes and Israel converted is no longer the tail but the head of the nations, this divine division will then be fully made known. And how they are reminded again what Jehovah did for them! “He found him, He led him, instructed and kept him.” Verses 9-14 are wonderful words. And they apply to us spiritually as they described Jehovah’s goodness to Israel.

But how great is the contrast when we reach the fourth section of this prophetic song? (See verses 15-18.) The first step in their apostasy is the forsaking of God and the worshipping of false gods. The next step is, they “lightly esteemed the rock of His salvation.” No doubt this latter statement refers to the rejection of the son of God, when He appeared in the midst of His people.

The awful consequences of this rejection are seen prophetically. Here again we have history prewritten. But these predictions were so minutely fulfilled, the unbelieving heart of man refuses to accept these words as being the words of Moses. Here again we have a striking evidence of inspiration. God foretells through Moses the future of an apostate people. Compare verse 21 with Romans 10:19; Romans 11:10-11. The call of the Gentiles is anticipated in Moses’ song; salvation came to us Gentiles by their fall. It seems almost as if they are going to perish completely as a nation. But the song changes suddenly. Jehovah will yet arise in their behalf. It will be in a time when their power is gone, when they are helpless and their enemies press down upon them as never before in their long, dark night of suffering and tears. That will happen in the end of this present age, during the predicted time of great trouble, which is to come upon them. Compare verse 39 with Hosea 5:15; Hosea 6:1-3. The judgment, which is announced by Moses in verses 40-42 is the judgment which will fall upon Gentile nations in the day when the Lord appears in His glory. To follow this throughout the entire prophetic Word is as helpful as it is interesting.

The last verse of this song (verse 43) shows the glorious consummation. After the storm of judgment and indignation, peace will come to this earth. The nations will learn war no more; they will learn righteousness. Then the world will be converted. The Lord will be merciful unto His land and to His people. The blessings and glories promised to Israel have come. Therefore the nations will rejoice with His people. The song of Moses is the key to all prophecy.


Verse 44

3. The Blessing of Moses

CHAPTERS 32:44-33:29

1. Introduction (Deuteronomy 32:44-52)

2. Jehovah’s manifestation (Deuteronomy 33:1-5)

3. The blessing of Reuben, Judah and Levi (Deuteronomy 33:6-11)

4. The blessing of Benjamin and Joseph (Deuteronomy 33:12-17)

5. The blessing of Zebulon and Issachar (Deuteronomy 33:18-19)

6. The blessing of Gad, Dan, Nephtali and Asher (Deuteronomy 33:20-25)

7. Happy art thou, O Israel! (Deuteronomy 33:26-29)

Moses and Joshua (same as Hoshea) spoke the song in the ears of the people. They had to learn it. He exhorts them once more to set their hearts to do all these words. “It is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life.” But they could not keep the law and therefore could not obtain life and the blessing promised to them. The law cannot bestow life and blessing. It can only curse. But grace gives life. To illustrate this very fact, that the law is for condemnation, the death of Moses is once more announced by Jehovah, as well as his sin at Meribah-Kadesh. He could see the land from afar, but could not enter in. The great man through whom the law was given, the humble Moses, the self-sacrificing, faithful servant of Jehovah, on account of the one transgression, was excluded from the possession of the land.

In the foreground of Moses’ prophetic blessing of the tribes stands a description of the manifestation of Jehovah in His glory. This theophany is more than a description of how Jehovah came from Sinai. It is a prophetic picture of how He will come again. Compare this with Habakkuk 3. The blessing of the tribes is different from the blessing which Jacob put upon his sons when they gathered about him (Genesis 49). Jacob foresaw the entire history of his offspring. (The reader is referred to the section on Genesis, where the different periods of the nation are given as indicated in Jacob’s prophecy.) The blessing of Moses describes the blessing, which the people Israel will enjoy, when the Lord has been manifested. For this reason it is correct to say (a fact seldom mentioned by exposition), the blessing of Moses is an inspired expansion of the last verse of his song. That verse (32:43) speaks of the Lord’s people rejoicing and the Gentiles rejoicing with them.

What Israel will possess and enjoy during the millennium are the contents of these last utterances of Moses. As a closer exposition of these blessings is beyond the scope of these annotations, we confine ourselves to a few hints which will show the way to a deeper study of this remarkable closing section of Deuteronomy. Reuben’s, Judah’s and Levi’s blessings reveal the salvation of the Lord that Israel will enjoy in that coming age of blessing. Benjamin’s and Joseph’s blessings picture most beautifully the things which the sacred nation will enjoy during the millennium. This section is a most precious one. Zebulun’s and Issachar’s blessings make known the fact, that the nation will enjoy the abundance of the seas (the Gentiles). The correct translation of verse 19 is “they shall call the peoples (Gentiles) to the mountain.” The mountain is Mount Zion and the Lord’s house, which will be a house of prayer for all nations. The nations will go there to worship (Isaiah 2:14). We have therefore a prophetic description of the blessings which Gentiles receive through a saved Israel. The blessings of Gad, Dan, Naphtali and Asher, speak of the full blessing and supremacy the converted and restored nation will enjoy.

Simeon is left out. We shall not give the different explanations which are offered, nor burden our pages with the unworthy theories of higher criticism.3

We quote the beautiful ending of this chapter in a revised metrical version:

There is none like the God of Jeshurum (upright), Who rideth on the heavens for thy help, And in His majesty, upon clouds. The eternal God is thy home And underneath, the everlasting arms. And He shall drive out the enemy from before thee, And shall say: Destroy! Then Israel shall dwell in safety alone, The fountain of Jacob, In a land of corn and new wine, His heavens also shall drop down dew. Happy thou, O Israel! Who is like thee, people saved by Jehovah, The shield of thy help, And the sword of thy excellency! Surely thine enemies shall crouch before thee, And thou shalt tread upon their high places.

And the same Jehovah is our Lord. May we know Him more fully as our home, with the everlasting arms underneath and taste the happiness of our salvation, till we shall see Him face to face.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 32:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/deuteronomy-32.html. 1913-1922.

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