How should one chase a thousand - If therefore they had not forgotten their Rock, God their author and defense, it could not possibly have come to pass that a thousand of them should flee before one of their enemies.
Song of Moses
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
With him - i. e., with God. The Lord alone delivered Israel; Israel therefore ought to have served none other but Him.
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.
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.
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.
They provoked him to jealousy - The language is borrowed from the matrimonial relationship, as in Deuteronomy 31:16.
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.
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.
I will see what their end shall be - Compare the similar expression in Genesis 37:20.
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 32:26, 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.
The defeat of Israel would be due to the fact that God, their strength, had abandoned them because of their apostasy.
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.
Gall - Compare Deuteronomy 29:18 note.
Rather: “Vengeance is mine and recompence, at the time when their foot slideth.
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.”
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).
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.
Already has the power of darkness placed its mold and superscription upon the work that should stand forth untainted, unpolluted from Satan's cunning devices. We lift our voice of warning upon the social attractions by worldly bids and worldly baits. Keep clear. Touch not the unclean thing. Let not the world's direction and propositions be given to God's people to control them. Woe be unto him whose wisdom is not from above but from beneath! Men of superficial piety, by their desire to receive patronage, to obtain fame, betray the most sacred interests into the hands of unbelievers. TM 277.1
Let not money be obtained by touching or sanctioning any unclean practices. Let the grace of Christ be brought into the heart, and if the workers be few and God can work with them in our institutions, they will prevail. There must be no deceiving power at work, for it is an unclean thing. There must be no hands that are defiled. Clean hands and a pure heart God will recognize. “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” TM 277.2Read in context »
Our minds must be prepared to stand every test, and to resist every temptation, whether from without or from within. We must know why we believe as we do, why we are on the Lord's side. The truth must keep watch in our hearts, ready to sound an alarm, and summon us to action against every foe. The powers of darkness will open their batteries upon us; and all who are indifferent and careless, who have set their affections on their earthly treasure, and who have not cared to understand God's dealings with His people, will be ready victims. No power but a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, will ever make us steadfast; but with this, one may chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight. OHC 332.5Read in context »
The world's Redeemer presents to His followers the plan of the battle in which they are called to engage, and He bids them count the cost. He assures them that angels who excel in strength shall be in His army, and will enable those who trust in Him to fight valiantly. One shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight—not through their own strength, but through the power of Omnipotence.... The Captain of the Lord's host is with them, taking the command of the armies, and leading them on to victory. OHC 311.2Read in context »
The powers of darkness will open their batteries upon us; and all who are indifferent and careless, who have set their affections on their earthly treasure, and who have not cared to understand God's dealings with His people, will be ready victims. No power but a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, will ever make us steadfast; but with this, one may chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight. Mar 217.7Read in context »