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Deuteronomy 32:11

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

As an eagle stirreth up her nest - Flutters over her brood to excite them to fly; or, as some think, disturbs her nest to oblige the young ones to leave it; so God by his plagues in Egypt obliged the Israelites, otherwise very reluctant, to leave a place which he appeared by his judgments to have devoted to destruction.

Fluttereth over her young - ירחף yeracheph, broodeth over them, communicating to them a portion of her own vital warmth: so did God, by the influences of his Spirit, enlighten, encourage, and strengthen their minds. It is the same word which is used in Genesis 1:2.

Spreadeth abroad her wings, etc. - In order, not only to teach them how to fly, but to bear them when weary. For to this fact there seems an allusion, it having been generally believed that the eagle, through extraordinary affection for her young, takes them upon her back when they are weary of flying, so that the archers cannot injure them but by piercing the body of the mother. The same figure is used Exodus 19:4; (note); in the note. The נשר nesher, which we translate eagle, is supposed by Mr. Bruce to mean the rachama, a bird remarkable for its affection to its young, which it is known actually to bear on its back when they are weary.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 1-42

Song of Moses

If Deuteronomy 32:1-3 be regarded as the introduction, and Deuteronomy 32:43 as the conclusion, the main contents of the song may be grouped under three heads, namely,

(1) Deuteronomy 32:4-18, the faithfulness of God, the faithlessness of Israel;

(2) Deuteronomy 32:19-33, the chastisement and the need of its infliction by God;

(3) Deuteronomy 32:34-42, God‘s compassion upon the low and humbled state of His people.

The Song differs signally in diction and idiom from the preceding chapters; just as a lyrical passage is conceived in modes of thought wholly unlike those which belong to narrative or exhortation, and is uttered in different phraseology.

There are, however, in the Song numerous coincidences both in thoughts and words with other parts of the Pentateuch, and especially with Deuteronomy; while the resemblances between it and Deuteronomy 28:15; Leviticus 26:14), and describe it in general terms. If once we admit the possibility that Moses might foresee the future apostasy of Israel, it is scarcely possible to conceive how such foresight could be turned to better account by him than by the writing of this Song. Exhibiting as it does God‘s preventing mercies, His people‘s faithlessness and ingratitude, God‘s consequent judgments, and the final and complete triumph of the divine counsels of grace, it forms the summary of all later Old Testament prophecies, and gives as it were the framework upon which they are laid out. Here as elsewhere the Pentateuch presents itself as the foundation of the religious life of Israel in after times. The currency of the Song would be a standing protest against apostasy; a protest which might well check waverers, and warn the faithful that the revolt of others was neither unforeseen nor unprovided for by Him in whom they trusted.

That this Ode must on every ground take the very first rank in Hebrew poetry is universally allowed.

Deuteronomy 32:1-3

Introduction. Heaven and earth are here invoked, as elsewhere (see the marginal references), in order to impress on the hearers the importance of what is to follow.

Deuteronomy 32:4

He is the Rock, his work is perfect - Rather, the Rock, perfect is his work. This epithet, repeated no less than five times in the Song Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:30-31, represents those attributes of God which Moses is seeking to enforce, immutability and impregnable strength. Compare the expression “the stone of Israel” in Genesis 49:24; and see 1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 18:2; Matthew 16:18; John 1:42. Zur, the original of “Rock,” enters frequently into the composition of proper names of the Mosaic time, e. g., Numbers 1:5-6, Numbers 1:10; Numbers 2:12; Numbers 3:35, etc. Our translators have elsewhere rendered it according to the sense “everlasting strength” Isaiah 26:4, “the Mighty One” Isaiah 30:29; in this chapter they have rightly adhered to the letter throughout.

Deuteronomy 32:5

Render: “It” (i. e. “the perverse and crooked generation”) “hath corrupted itself before Him (compare Isaiah 1:4); they are not His children, but their blemish:” i. e., the generation of evil-doers cannot be styled God‘s children, but rather the shame and disgrace of God‘s children. The other side of the picture is thus brought forward with a brevity and abruptness which strikingly enforces the contrast.

Deuteronomy 32:6

Hath bought thee - Rather perhaps, “hath acquired thee for His own,” or “possessed thee:” compare the expression “a peculiar people,” margin “a purchased people,” in 1 Peter 2:9.

Deuteronomy 32:8

That is, while nations were being constituted under God‘s providence, and the bounds of their habitation determined under His government (compare Acts 17:26), He had even then in view the interests of His elect, and reserved a fitting inheritance “according to the number of the children of Israel;” i. e., proportionate to the wants of their population. Some texts of the Greek version have “according to the number of the Angels of God;” following apparently not a different reading, but the Jewish notion that the nations of the earth are seventy in number (compare Genesis 10:1 note), and that each has its own guardian Angel (compare Deuteronomy 32:9-14

These verses set forth in figurative language the helpless and hopeless state of the nation when God took pity on it, and the love and care which He bestowed on it.

Deuteronomy 32:10

In the waste howling wilderness - literally, “in a waste, the howling of a wilderness,” i. e., a wilderness in which wild beasts howl. The word for “waste” is that used in Genesis 1:2, and there rendered “without form.”

Deuteronomy 32:11

Compare Exodus 19:4. The “so,” which the King James Version supplies in the next verse, should he inserted before “spreadeth,” and omitted from Deuteronomy 32:12. The sense is, “so He spread out His wings, took them up,” etc.

Deuteronomy 32:12

With him - i. e., with God. The Lord alone delivered Israel; Israel therefore ought to have served none other but Him.

Deuteronomy 32:13

i. e., God gave Israel possession of those commanding positions which carry with them dominion over the whole land (compare Deuteronomy 33:29), and enabled him to draw the richest provision out of spots naturally unproductive.

Deuteronomy 32:14

Breed of Bashan - Bashan was famous for its cattle. Compare Psalm 22:12; Ezekiel 39:18.

Fat of kidneys of wheat - i. e., the finest and most nutritious wheat. The fat of the kidneys was regarded as being the finest and tenderest, and was therefore specified as a part of the sacrificial animals which was to be offered to the Lord: compare Exodus 29:13, etc.

The pure blood of the qrape - Render, the blood of the grape, even wine. The Hebrew word seems (compare Isaiah 27:2) a poetical term for wine.

Deuteronomy 32:15

Jesbarun - This word, found again only in Deuteronomy 33:5, Deuteronomy 33:26, and Isaiah 44:2, is not a diminutive but an appellative (containing an allusion to the root, “to be righteous”); and describes not the character which belonged to Israel in fact, but that to which Israel was called. Compare Numbers 23:21. The prefixing of this epithet to the description of Israel‘s apostasy contained in the words next following is full of keen reproof.

Deuteronomy 32:16

They provoked him to jealousy - The language is borrowed from the matrimonial relationship, as in Deuteronomy 31:16.

Deuteronomy 32:17

Devils - Render, destroyers. The application of the word to the false gods points to the trait so deeply graven in all pagan worship, that of regarding the deities as malignant, and needing to be propitiated by human sufferings.

Not to God - Rather, “not God,” i. e., which were not God; see the margin and Deuteronomy 32:21. Compare Deuteronomy 13:7; Deuteronomy 29:25.

Deuteronomy 32:19

The anger of God at the apostasy of His people is stated in general terms in this verse; and the results of it are described, in words as of God Himself, in the next and following verses. These results consisted negatively in the withdrawal of God‘s favor Deuteronomy 32:20, and positively in the infliction of a righteous retribution.

Daughters - The women had their full share in the sins of the people. Compare Isaiah 3:16 ff; Isaiah 32:9 ff; Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 44:15 ff.

Deuteronomy 32:20

I will see what their end shall be - Compare the similar expression in Genesis 37:20.

Deuteronomy 32:21

God would mete out to them the same measure as they had done to Him. Through chosen by the one God to be His own, they had preferred idols, which were no gods. So therefore would He prefer to His people that which was no people. As they had angered Him with their vanities, so would He provoke them by adopting in their stead those whom they counted as nothing. The terms, “not a people,” and “a foolish nation,” mean such a people as, not being God‘s, would not be accounted a people at all (compare Ephesians 2:12; 1 Peter 2:10), and such a nation as is destitute of that which alone can make a really “wise and understanding people” Deuteronomy 4:6, namely, the knowledge of the revealed word and will of God (compare 1 Corinthians 1:18-28).

Deuteronomy 32:24

Burning heat - i. e., the fear of a pestilential disease. On the “four sore judgments,” famine, plague, noisome beasts, the sword, compare Leviticus 26:22; Jeremiah 15:2; Ezekiel 5:17; Ezekiel 14:21.

Deuteronomy 32:26, Deuteronomy 32:27

Rather, I would utterly disperse them, etc., were it not that I apprehended the provocation of the enemy, i. e., that I should be provoked to wrath when the enemy ascribed the overthrow of Israel to his own prowess and not to my judgments. Compare Deuteronomy 9:28-29; Ezekiel 20:9, Ezekiel 20:14, Ezekiel 20:22.

Behave themselves strangely - Rather, misunderstand it, i. e., mistake the cause of Israel‘s ruin.

Deuteronomy 32:30

The defeat of Israel would be due to the fact that God, their strength, had abandoned them because of their apostasy.

Deuteronomy 32:31

Our enemies - i. e., the enemies of Moses and the faithful Israelites; the pagan, more especially those with whom Israel was brought into collision, whom Israel was commissioned to “chase,” but to whom, as a punishment for faithlessness, Israel was “sold,” Deuteronomy 32:30. Moses leaves the decision, whether “their rock” (i. e. the false gods of the pagan to which the apostate Israelites had fallen away) or “our Rock” is superior, to be determined by the unbelievers themselves. For example, see Exodus 14:25; Joshua 2:9 ff; 1 Samuel 4:8; 1 Samuel 5:7 ff; 1 Kings 20:28. That the pagan should thus be constrained to bear witness to the supremacy of Israel‘s God heightened the folly of Israel‘s apostasy.

Deuteronomy 32:32

Their vine - i. e., the nature and character of Israel: compare for similar expressions Psalm 80:8, Psalm 80:14; Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1.

Sodom … Gomorrah - Here, as elsewhere, and often in the prophets, emblems of utter depravity: compare Isaiah 1:10; Jeremiah 23:14,

Gall - Compare Deuteronomy 29:18 note.

Deuteronomy 32:35

Rather: “Vengeance is mine and recompence, at the time when their foot slideth.

Deuteronomy 32:36

Repent himself for - Rather, have compassion upon. The verse declares that God‘s judgment of His people would issue at once in the punishment of the wicked, and in the comfort of the righteous.

None shut up, or left - A proverbial phrase (compare 1 Kings 14:10) meaning perhaps “married and single,” or “guarded and forsaken,” but signifying generally “all men of all sorts.”

Deuteronomy 32:40-42

Render: For I lift up my hand to heaven and say, As I live forever, if I whet, etc. On Deuteronomy 32:40, in which God is described as swearing by Himself, compare Isaiah 45:23; Jeremiah 22:5; Hebrews 6:17. The lifting up of the hand was a gesture used in making oath (compare Genesis 14:22; Revelation 10:5).

Deuteronomy 32:42

From the beginning of revenges upon the enemy - Render, (drunk with blood) from the head (i. e. the chief) of the princes of the enemy.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Moses gives particular instances of God's kindness and concern for them. The eagle's care for her young is a beautiful emblem of Christ's love, who came between Divine justice and our guilty souls, and bare our sins in his own body on the tree. And by the preached gospel, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, He stirs up and prevails upon sinners to leave Satan's bondage. In ver. 13,14, are emblems of the conquest believers have over their spiritual enemies, sin, Satan, and the world, in and through Christ. Also of their safety and triumph in him; of their happy frames of soul, when they are above the world, and the things of it. This will be the blessed case of spiritual Israel in every sense in the latter day.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 255

Let God's own workmen who have His cause at heart do something for the Southern field. Let not God's stewards be content with just touching it with their fingers’ ends. Let those at the heart of the work plan for the field in earnest. You have talked about it; but what are you doing as the stewards of God's means? TM 255.1

Has God given us a work to do? Has God bidden us to go amid opposing influences and convert men from error to truth? Why have not the men and women who have so frequently gathered to the large assemblies in Battle Creek put into practice the truth which they have heard? If they had imparted the light which they had received, what a transformation of character we would have seen! For every grace imparted God would have given grace. The work that has been done for them has not been prized as it should have been, or they would have gone forth into the darkened places of the earth and shed abroad the light which God has shed upon them. They would have given to the world the message of the righteousness of Christ through faith, and their own light would have become clearer and clearer, for God would have worked with them. Many have gone into the grave in error, simply because those who professed the truth have failed to communicate the precious knowledge they have received. If the light that has shone in superabundance in Battle Creek had been diffused we would have seen many raised up to become laborers together with God. TM 255.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 83

At this time I was shown that the Lord had been trying us for our good, and to prepare us to labor for others; that He had been stirring up our nest, lest we should settle down at ease. Our work was to labor for souls; if we had been prospered, home would be so pleasant that we would be unwilling to leave it; trials had been permitted to come upon us to prepare us for the still greater conflicts that we would meet in our travels. We soon received letters from brethren in different states inviting us to visit them; but we had no means to take us out of the state. Our reply was that the way was not open before us. I thought that it would be impossible for me to travel with my child. We did not wish to be dependent, and were careful to live within our means. We were resolved to suffer rather than get in debt. I allowed myself and child one pint of milk each day. One morning before my husband went to his work, he left me nine cents to buy milk for three mornings. It was a study with me whether to buy the milk for myself and babe or get an apron for him. I gave up the milk, and purchased the cloth for an apron to cover the bare arms of my child. 1T 83.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 150

People are encouraged to settle in Battle Creek, to give their influence to the building up of a modern Jerusalem. This is not after God's order. Thus other places are deprived of facilities that they should have. Enlarge ye; spread ye; yes, but not in one place only. Go out and establish centers of influence in places where nothing, or next to nothing, has been done. Break up your consolidated mass; diffuse the saving beams of light into the darkened corners of the earth. A work similar to that of an eagle stirring up her nest needs to be done. 8T 150.1

“Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed.” Jeremiah 48:11. This is true of many of the believers who are coming to Battle Creek. Many have a spasmodic zeal in battle, but their light is like that of a meteor that flashes across the heavens and then goes out. 8T 150.2

Let God's workmen who have the interests of His cause at heart do something for the colored people in the Southern field. Let not God's stewards be content merely to touch this field with the tips of their fingers. Let those at the heart of the work plan in earnest for this field. Many have talked about it, but what are they doing as the stewards of God's means? Why do they feel at liberty to bind up God's capital of means in Battle Creek? Why do they do the very things that they have been warned not to do? The matter is becoming serious, for warnings and entreaties have been given in vain. The arms of power in Battle Creek are being extended more and more widely, seeking to control the work far and near, and to crush that which they cannot control. I lift my voice in protest. The spirit that now controls is not the Spirit of the Lord. 8T 150.3

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 469

In all the dealings of God with His people there is, mingled with His love and mercy, the most striking evidence of His strict and impartial justice. This is exemplified in the history of the Hebrew people. God had bestowed great blessings upon Israel. His loving-kindness toward them is touchingly portrayed: “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him.” And yet what swift and severe retribution was visited upon them for their transgressions! PP 469.1

The infinite love of God has been manifested in the gift of His only-begotten Son to redeem a lost race. Christ came to the earth to reveal to men the character of His Father, and His life was filled with deeds of divine tenderness and compassion. And yet Christ Himself declares, “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.” Matthew 5:18. The same voice that with patient, loving entreaty invites the sinner to come to Him and find pardon and peace, will in the judgment bid the rejecters of His mercy, “Depart from Me, ye cursed.” Matthew 25:41. In all the Bible, God is represented not only as a tender father but as a righteous judge. Though He delights in showing mercy, and “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,” yet He “will by no means clear the guilty.” Exodus 34:7. PP 469.2

The great Ruler of nations had declared that Moses was not to lead the congregation of Israel into the goodly land, and the earnest pleading of God's servant could not secure a reversing of His sentence. He knew that he must die. Yet he had not for a moment faltered in his care for Israel. He had faithfully sought to prepare the congregation to enter upon the promised inheritance. At the divine command Moses and Joshua repaired to the tabernacle, while the pillar of cloud came and stood over the door. Here the people were solemnly committed to the charge of Joshua. The work of Moses as leader of Israel was ended. Still he forgot himself in his interest for his people. In the presence of the assembled multitude Moses, in the name of God, addressed to his successor these words of holy cheer: “Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.” He then turned to the elders and officers of the people, giving them a solemn charge to obey faithfully the instructions he had communicated to them from God. PP 469.3

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