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Deuteronomy 31:30-32:52


The Song of Moses (31:30-32:47) The Song of Moses (31:30-32:47) The Song of Moses (31:30-32:44) Israel Assembles to Hear the Song (31:28-32:44)
32:1-14 32:1-43 32:1-43 32:1-44
 (vv. 1-6)  (vv. 1-3)  (vv. 1-3)  (vv. 1-3)
   (vv. 4-9)  (vv. 4-6)  (vv. 4-9)
 (vv. 7-9)    (vv. 7-9)  
 (vv. 10-12)  (vv. 10-27)  (vv. 10-12)  (vv. 10-11)
       (vv. 12-14)
 (vv. 13-14)    (vv. 13-14)  
32:15-18    (vv. 15-18)  (vv. 15-39)
32:19-22    (vv. 19-22)  
32:23-27    (vv. 23-27)  
32:28-33  (vv. 28-33)  (vv. 28-33)  
 (vv. 34-35)  (vv. 34-38)  (vv. 34-38)  
 (vv. 36-38)      
 (vv. 39-42)  (vv. 39-43)  (vv. 39-42)  
       (vv. 40-42)
 (v. 43)    (v. 43)  (v. 43)
32:44-47 32:44-47  32:44  (v. 44)
    Moses' Final Instructions The Law, the Source of Life
    32:45-47 32:45-47
Moses to Die on Mount Nebo     Moses' Death Foretold
32:48-52 32:48-52 32:48-52 31:48-52

READING CYCLE THREE (see introductory section)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. This may be a literary genre of the ancient Near East whereby a leader gives his last blessing, warning, and prophecy before his death:

1. Jacob - Genesis 49 (also poetic form)

2. Moses - Deut. 29:2-34:12

3. Joshua - Josh. 23:1-24:33

4. Samuel - I Samuel 12

5. David - I Kgs. 2:1-9

B. Some scholars see this poem: (1) in light of a Hittite treaty pattern, but (2) others see it as a court scene. In the context of the book of Deuteronomy, option 2 seems best, although the whole book of Deuteronomy fits the second millennium B.C. treaty pattern (which gives evidence for Mosaic authorship).

C. The poem is ancient (archaic forms). Almost all scholars assume it goes back to ancient times in Israel's history.

D. There are many allusions to songs in the OT, particularly Psalms and Isaiah. They are sung at times of victory:

1. the Egyptian palace guard destroyed in the Red Sea, Exodus 15

2. before entering the transJordan, Num. 21:17

3. the Canaanite army of Hazor destroyed, Judges 5

4. Babylon destroyed (Isaiah 13) by YHWH's Messiah (Isaiah 11), Isa. 12:5

E. Hebrew Poetry




Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were complete:

31:30 "Then Moses spoke. . .the words of this song" This verse should go with chapter 32 of Deuteronomy. Notice that NASB marks it as the beginning of a paragraph with a final colon, not a period (cf. JPSOA).

▣ "in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel" One wonders how many people made up this assembly. It would have included men, women, and older children or the model of 31:12. But this referred to a city or town. How many people would have been able to hear one man speak? Usually the leader spoke to:

1. the tribal leaders and they passed it on (cf. 31:28)

2. the Levites and they passed it on


1"Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak;
And let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
2Let my teaching drop as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
As the droplets on the fresh grass
And as the showers on the herb.
3For I proclaim the name of the Lord;
Ascribe greatness to our God!
4The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.
5They have acted corruptly toward Him,
They are not His children, because of their defect;
But are a perverse and crooked generation.
6Do you thus repay the Lord,
O foolish and unwise people?
Is not He your Father who has bought you?
He has made you and established you.
7Remember the days of old,
Consider the years of all generations.
Ask your father, and he will inform you,
Your elders, and they will tell you.
8When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
When He separated the sons of man,
He set the boundaries of the peoples
According to the number of the sons of Israel.
9For the Lord's portion is His people;
Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.
10He found him in a desert land,
And in the howling waste of a wilderness;
He encircled him, He cared for him,
He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.
11Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
That hovers over its young,
He spread His wings and caught them,
He carried them on His pinions.
12The Lord alone guided him,
And there was no foreign god with him.
13He made him ride on the high places of the earth,
And he ate the produce of the field;
And He made him suck honey from the rock,
And oil from the flinty rock,
14Curds of cows, and milk of the flock,
With fat of lambs, And rams, the breed of Bashan, and goats,
With the finest of the wheat--
And of the blood of grapes you drank wine."

32:1-3 There is a series of imperatival language:

1. In v. 1 three related to hearing:

a. "give ear" - BDB 24, KB 27, Hiphil imperative

b. "speak" - BDB 180, KB 210, Piel cohortative

c. "hear" - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. In v. 2 two related to moisture:

a. "drop" - BDB 791, KB 887, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

b. "distill" - BDB 633, KB 683, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

3. In v. 3 "ascribe" - BDB 396, KB 393, Qal imperative (possibly "proclaim" as Qal imperfect is also used in a cohortative sense, which gives a balanced structure as in vv. 1 and 2)


32:1 "O heavens. . .the earth" These are two permanent things (cf. Micah 6:1-2). There was a need for two witnesses to confirm truth (cf. 4:26; chapters 4 and 31-32 [cf. 30:19; 31:28; 32:1] form a literary bracket). The "heavens" represents the sky (cf. Gen. 1:1). This phrase is similar to how Isaiah introduces YHWH's court case (cf. Isa. 1:2).

32:2 Moisture was used as an analogy of the life-giving qualities of God's word. Four different words for rain are used (BDB 564, 378, 973, 914). This is also a possible allusion to YHWH as the giver of fertility, not Ba'al (cf. 11:14,17; 28:12,24; 33:28).

32:3 "the name of the Lord" Hebrew names were very important as representing character. The rabbis said that "Lord" reflected God in His love, kindness, and mercy. See Special Topic at 1:3.

Notice in vv. 3-4 several attributes are used to describe Israel's God:

1. "greatness" - BDB 152, cf. 3:24; 5:24; 9:26; 11:2; 32:3; Num. 14:19

2. "His work is perfect" - BDB 1071, meaning "wholesome," "having integrity"

a. used of God's work, Deut. 32:4

b. used of God's way, Ps. 18:30

c. used of God's law, Ps. 19:7-8

3. "all His ways are just" - BDB 1048, cf Gen. 18:25; Ps. 33:5; 37:28; 99:4; 111:7; Isa. 5:16; 28:17; 30:18; 61:8

4. "a God of faithfulness" - BDB 53, cf. Ps. 36:5; 88:11; 89:1,2,5,8,24,33,49; 92:2, 119:90; Isa. 25:1; Hosea 2:22

5. "a God ... without injustice" - BDB 732, cf. Job 34:10, this is condemned in His people, Lev. 19:15,35; Deut. 25:16

6. "righteous is He" - BDB 843, cf. Job 34:17; Ps. 116:5; 119:137; 129:4; 145:17

7. "upright is He" - BDB 449, cf. Ps. 25:8; 92:15


▣ "God" This is from the Hebrew word Elohim. See Special Topic at 1:3.

32:4 "The Rock" This title (BDB 849) was used of God in vv. 15,18,30, and Ps. 18:1-2; 19:14; II Sam. 22:2ff; Ps. 78:35; Isa. 44:8). It speaks of (1) the strength, stability, the unchanging nature of the one true God or (2) God as a mighty, impregnable fortress.

▣ "perfect" The Hebrew word (BDB 1071) means "self-sufficient," "whole," "complete" (cf. II Sam. 22:31; Ps. 18:30).

Notice the different ways YHWH is characterized (i.e., "the greatness of God," v. 3):

1. His work is perfect - BDB 1071

2. all His ways are just - BDB 1048

3. a God of faithfulness - BDB 53

4. a God without injustice - BDB 732

5. He is righteous - BDB 843

6. He is upright - BDB 449

What a powerful description of the God of creation and salvation. A God in whom all humans can trust and rely (e.g., for other characterizations see Exod. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Deut. 4:31; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 103:8; 145:8).

▣ "A God of faithfulness" This is the same word (BDB 53) used in v. 20 referring to man's actions. It is translated "faith" in Hab. 2:4, "the righteous will live by his faith." This shows the priority that God puts on His faithfulness and v. 20 shows the priority He puts on the faith of His children. Faith and grace are both biblical concepts rather than just NT concepts. The only way to respond to God's grace is through faith. See Special Topic at 1:32.

32:5 As YHWH is described in vv. 3-4, now His covenant children, who were supposed to reflect His character (cf. vv. 3-4), but did not, are described:

1. "acted corruptly toward Him" - BDB 1007, KB 1469, Piel perfect, cf. 4:16,25; 9:12; 31:29; Gen. 6:12; Exod. 32:7; described in Ps. 14:1-3, it usually denotes idolatry

2. "not His children" - BDB 119 negated

3. "because of their defect" - BDB 548

a. physical mutilation which excluded one from priestly service, cf. Lev. 21:17,18,21,23, and animals from being offered as sacrifice, cf. Lev. 22:20-21; Deut. 15:21; 17:1

b. moral blemish, cf. Lev. 22:25; Job 11:15; Pro. 9:7

4. "perverse" - BDB 786 I, cf. v. 20, the basic meaning is twisted, which denotes a defection from the standard (rule) of YHWH's character (righteous)

5. "crooked" - BDB 836, found only here, the meaning is parallel to #4


32:6 "He your Father" The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 222, has an interesting comment on this metaphor for God. It is used reluctantly in the OT because of the possible association with fertility worship (e.g., Jer. 2:27). This song of Moses is one of the earliest usages to describe God (cf. Exod. 4:22; Deut. 1:31; 8:5 and later in the prophets, cf. Isa. 1:2; 63:16; Jer. 3:19; Hos. 11:1-3; Mal. 1:6). God's "fatherhood" is mentioned in vv. 6,18 and 19-20.

This fatherhood of corporate Israel is identified in God's relationship to the Davidic king (cf. II Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7; and 89:26).

Family metaphors (father-son; husband-wife) are the most powerful ways to communicate the intimate relationship that God desires with His human creation (made in His image and likeness). Humans can understand the depth of God's feelings and commitment by analogy to these foundational human experiences (i.e., family, marriage, children).

32:6-14 This continues a description of Israel and begins a legal case against them by enumerating all that YHWH had done for them:

1. their actions toward YHWH

a. "foolish" - BDB 614 I, cf. V. 21

b. "unwise" - BDB 314, opposite in v. 29; 4:6; Ps. 107:43

2. YHWH's actions toward them:

a. He was their Father, v. 6 - BDB 888 I, KB 1111, Qal perfect

b. He made them, v. 6 - BDB 793 I, KB 889, Qal perfect, cf. Gen. 14:19,22 (this could refer to initial creation, but more likely in context, His founding them as a nation in the Exodus)

c. He established them, v. 6 - BDB 465, KB 464, Polel imperfect, Job 31:15; Isa. 62:7

d. He found them, v. 10 - BDB 592, KB 679, Qal imperfect

(1) in a desert land

(2) in a howling waste of wilderness

e. He encircled them, v. 10 - BDB 685, KB 738, Polel imperfect, i.e., for protection

f. He cared for them, v. 10 - BDB 106, KB 122, i.e., for protection, i.e., attentively consider (only here)

g. He guarded them, v. 10 - BDB 665, KB 718, Qal imperfect, cf. Ps. 25:21; 31:23; 41:11-12; 61:7; Isa. 26:3; 42:6; 49:8

h. cared for them as a mother eagle, v. 11, cf. Exod. 19:4

(1) "stirs up its nest" - BDB 734, KB 802, Hiphil imperfect, i.e., to activity

(2) "hover over" - BDB 934, KB 1219, Piel imperfect, cf. Gen. 1:2

(3) teach babies to fly

(a) spread wings - BDB 831, KB 975, Qal imperfect

(b) caught them - BDB 542, KB 534, Qal imperfect

(c) carried them - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperfect

i. He guided them, v. 12 - BDB 634, KB 685, Hiphil imperfect

j. He made them ride on the high places of the earth, v. 13 - BDB 938, KB 1230, Hiphil imperfect, cf. Isa. 58:14

k. He fed them, vv. 13-14

(1) "ate" - BDB 37, KB 46, Qal imperfect

(2) "suck" - BDB 413, KB 416, Hiphil imperfect

(3) "drank" - BDB 1059, KB 1667, Qal imperfect


32:7 There are several commands in this verse related to Israel remembering YHWH's care and provision:

1. "remember" - BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperative

2. "consider" - BDB 106, KB 122, Qal imperative

3. "ask" - BDB 981, KB 1371, Qal imperative

4. "elder will tell you" - BDB 616, KB 665, Hiphil jussive

It was this historical information testified to in (1) the ancestral tradition passed down from generation to generation (cf. 4:9-10; 6:7,20-25; 11:19; 32:46) and (2) this Song of Moses that witnessed against Israel!

32:8 This verse asserts that Israel's God is also the only God (cf. 4:35,39; Isa. 54:5; Jer. 32:27). He and He alone sets the boundaries of all nations (cf. 2:5,9,19; Genesis 10). This is not henotheism, but monotheism!

▣ "The Most High" This name for God (BDB 751) is first used in Num. 24:16 (Elyon). This seems to be an abbreviation for El Elyon (cf. Gen. 14:18,19,20,21; Ps. 78:35). This name for deity is used in connection with "the nations" (cf. Ps. 47:1-3). See Special Topic: Names For Deity at 1:3.

NASB"According to the number of the sons of Israel"
NKJV, NJB"according to the number of the children of Israel"
NRSV"according to the number of the gods"
TEV"He assigned to each nation a heavenly being"
REB"according to the number of the sons of God"

The Septuagint has "the number of the angels of God" (El). This translation seems to fit better (cf. The Jewish Study Bible, p. 441) because: (1) cf. 29:26; (2) it follows the reading of the scroll from cave four of Qumran scrolls; (3) national angels are mentioned in Daniel 10 and 12. Each nation had an assigned angel (cf. Dan. 10:13), but Israel had YHWH (although Michael is also said to be Israel's angel, cf. Dan. 12:1).

32:9 "the Lord's portion is His people" Conversely His people's portion is God Himself (cf. Exod. 19:5; Ps. 16:5; 73:26; Lam. 3:24). The Israelites were in a unique sense YHWH's special covenant people (cf. 4:20; 7:6; 14:2; 26:18). See Special Topic: Bob's Evangelical Biases at 4:6.

32:10 "He found him in a desert land,

  And in the howling waste of a wilderness" This is an allusion to YHWH's choice of Israel in romantic terms (cf. Jer. 2:23-; Hos. 2:14-15). This imagery supplements the exodus motif (cf. 1:19). It expresses in a powerful metaphor YHWH's initiating love for Israel (cf. 10:14-15; Amos 3:2).

There are two contrasting ways in the Mosaic literature of evaluating the wilderness wandering period:

1. a time of faith and faithfulness

a. Deut. 32:10-14

b. Jer. 2:1-3

c. Hosea 2:14-23

2. a time of faithlessness

a. Num. 14:1-17:11

b. Deut. 1:26-33

c. Ps. 95:8-11

d. Hosea 9:10-14

e. Jer. 2:4-13

f. Ezekiel 23


▣ "the pupil of His eye"

In English this would be "the apple of His eye." This is another metaphor which denotes Israel as a special child (cf. Ps. 17:8). Literally the Hebrew is "little man of His eye."


NASB, NKJV"Like an eagle. . .that hovers over its young"
NRSV"like an eagle that stirs up its nest"
TEV"like an eagle watching its nest"
NJB"as an eagle watches over its young"

This shows God as an extremely protective and powerful parent (cf. v. 19). This concept of God as an eagle is that of God as a mother bird (cf. v. 18; Gen. 1:2; Exod. 19:4; Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34). Deity is described as both male (cf. v. 6) and female (cf. v. 11). The NJB and REV translations follow the Septuagint.


32:12 "The Lord alone guided him" This term (BDB 94) is used to designate YHWH's exclusive relationship to Israel. He and He alone guided them!

32:13 "ride on the high places of the earth" This is a metaphor for YHWH's abundance (as is all of v. 14) given to Israel (cf. Isa. 58:14; Hab. 3:19).

▣ "honey from the rock" This refers to the honey of wild bees, which often lived in the cracks of the rocks (cf. Ps. 81:16).

▣ "oil from the flinty rock" This refers to the wild olive trees that grew where not even grass could grow. Verses 13 and 14 are talking about the abundant produce of the Promised Land.

15"But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked-
You are grown fat, thick, and sleek-
Then he forsook God who made him,
And scorned the Rock of his salvation.
16They made Him jealous with strange gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
17They sacrificed to demons who were not God,
To gods whom they have not known,
New gods who came lately,
Whom your fathers did not dread.
18You neglected the Rock who begot you,
And forgot the God who gave you birth.

32:15 "Jeshurun" This word means "the upright one" (BDB 449), and is a poetic name for Israel (cf. 33:5,26; Isa. 44:2, see Special Topic: Israel the Name at 1:1). This is a touch of sarcasm (i.e., vv. 15-16).

"kicked" This verb (BDB 127, KB 142, Qal imperfect) is used only twice in the OT and seems to be a metaphor of rejection (cf. I Sam. 2:29). As cattle kick at their owners so Israel kicks at her God!

32:15-18 "fat" When Israel was blessed (cf. 31:20) she rejected YHWH:

1. "forsook God who made him" (cf. v. 6) - BDB 643, KB 695, Qal imperfect, cf. 31:16,17; Jdgs. 10:6

2. "scorned the Rock of his salvation" (cf. v. 4) - BDB 614, KB 663, Piel imperfect, this is the verb form of the adjective "foolish," found in v. 6 (cf. Ps. 74:18)

How did Israel "forsake" and "scorn" YHWH?

1. they made Him jealous with strange gods, v. 16

2. the made Him jealous with abominations, v. 16

3. they sacrificed to demons, v. 17

a. who were not known

b. new gods

c. unknown to their fathers

4. they neglected the Rock, v. 18 - BDB 1009, KB 1477, Qal jussive but in an imperfect sense (only here)

5. they forgot their God, v. 18 - BDB 1013, KB 1489, Qal imperfect, cf. 4:23, forgetting the covenant is forgetting YHWH


32:17 "They sacrificed to demons who were not God" This concept is also used in Ps. 106:37. The OT talks very little about the demonic. Paul alludes to this verse in I Cor. 10:20.



19"The Lord saw this, and spurned them
Because of the provocation of His sons and daughters.
20Then He said, 'I will hide My face from them,
I will see what their end shall be;
For they are a perverse generation,
Sons in whom is no faithfulness.
21They have made Me jealous with what is not God;
They have provoked Me to anger with their idols.
So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people;
I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation,
22For a fire is kindled in My anger,
And burns to the lowest part of Sheol,
And consumes the earth with its yield,
And sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.

32:19-22 This paragraph is repetitious of preceding themes. Poetry is very repetitious. God's covenant people reject Him and He rejects them (cf. Hosea 1:9; 2:23; Rom. 9:25). His rejection (i.e., anger) is for the purpose of reconciliation. He will use "a people" to provoke Israel to jealousy (and hopefully faith, cf. Rom. 11:11,14). This sounds very much to me like Paul's discussion in Romans 9-11. Paul even quotes v. 21 in Rom. 10:19!

The added irony is that Israel left YHWH for non-existent gods (i.e., vanities, cf. Jer. 2:13). Oh, the stupidity of human idolatry (cf. Isa. 40:19-20; 44:9-20; Jer. 10:3-5,14)!

32:20 "I will hide My face from them" This is a metaphor for the cessation of YHWH's personal care and attention (cf. 31:17-18).

"For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom is no faithfulness" These two lines of poetry describe the tragedy of Israel who had YHWH's special care and presence (cf. Rom. 9:4-5). They are characterized as:

1. perverse (BDB 246) - a term usually used in Proverbs (cf. 2:12,14; 6:14; 8:13; 10:31,31; 16:30; 23:33). It is related to the Hebrew word for "stocks" (BDB 246), which put one's body into a crooked or twisted posture.

2. no faithfulness (BDB 53 negated) - a term also common to Proverbs (cf. 13:17; 20:6; also note Ps. 31:23; Isa. 26:3; see Special Topic at 1:32).

3. This characterization is parallel to 32:5:

a. perverse (BDB 786 I)

b. crooked (BDB 836)

YHWH is the true standard or rule (see Special Topic at 1:16). His covenant people have deviated from the standard.

▣ "I will see what their end shall be" YHWH had previously shown Moses the future of Israel in 31:29, as He will later do Joshua in 24:19.

32:21 "idols" This is literally "vapor" or "vanity" (BDB 210) and represents that which is worthless or non-existent. Here, like Jer. 2:5; 8:19; 10:14-15; 16:19-20, it is used of idols. See a play on the word in Isa. 57:13.

32:22 This verse is metaphorical of the complete destruction and judgment that God will bring on rebellious Israel (cf. Jer. 15:14; 17:4). All of God's creation (i.e., earth, sheol) are affected! This is not a reference to the place of eternal punishment.


23"'I will heap misfortunes on them; I will use My arrows on them.
24They will be wasted by famine, and consumed by plague
And bitter destruction;
And the teeth of beasts I will send upon them,
With the venom of crawling things of the dust.
25Outside the sword will bereave,
And inside terror -
Both young man and virgin,
The nursling with the man of gray hair.
26I would have said, "I will cut them to pieces,
I will remove the memory of them from men,"
27Had I not feared the provocation by the enemy,
That their adversaries would misjudge,
That they would say, "Our hand is triumphant,
And the Lord has not done all this."'

 32:23-25 This paragraph describes metaphorically YHWH's judgment on Israel:

1. "I will heap misfortunes on them" - BDB 705, KB 763, Hiphil imperfect, found only here. The Qal means "to sweep away" or "snatch away."

2. "I will use My arrows on them" - BDB 477, KB 476, Piel imperfect. This verb's basic meaning "is to bring something to completion," i.e., totally destroy (cf. v. 22).

a. wasted by famine, v. 24, cf. 28:22

b. consumed by plague, v. 24 (or famine, BDB 536 II, "burning heat")

c. bitter destruction, v. 24 (or poisonous pestilence, cf. #e)

d. the teeth of beasts, v. 24, cf. Lev. 26:22

e. venom of crawling things, v. 24, cf. Amos 5:18-19

f. sword (outside), v. 25

g. terror (inside), v. 25

(1) young men (of marriageable age)

(2) young women (virgin of marriageable age)

(3) children (nursing)

(4) elderly (man of gray hair)


32:26-27 YHWH would have destroyed them:

1. cut them to pieces, v. 26 - BDB 802, KB 907, Hiphil imperfect, but cohortative in meaning to match the next verb (only here, LXX has "scattered them")

2. remove the memory of them, v. 26 - BDB 991, KB 1407, Hiphil cohortative (i.e., totally exterminate)

3. This is only one of several texts which assert Israel's complete annihilation if they disobey the covenant (cf. 4:26; 28:20-22; 30:19).

But to do so would thwart His purpose for Israel. Israel's enemies would claim victory and attribute it to YHWH (cf. v. 27).

28"For they are a nation lacking in counsel,
And there is no understanding in them.
29Would that they were wise, that they understood this,
That they would discern their future!
30How could one chase a thousand,
And two put ten thousand to flight,
Unless their Rock had sold them,
And the Lord had given them up?
31Indeed their rock is not like our Rock,
Even our enemies themselves judge this.
32For their vine is from the vine of Sodom,
And from the fields of Gomorrah;
Their grapes are grapes of poison,
Their clusters, bitter.
33Their wine is the venom of serpents,
And the deadly poison of cobras.

32:28-33 The question is to whom this paragraph is directed-Israel or their enemies (cf. vv. 26-27)?

1. against Israel?

a. vv. 28-29

b. v. 30 as reverse holy war

c. v. 32 Israel's current rebellion

2. against her enemies?

a. v. 30 as current military failure of Israel's part (cf. Josh. 23:10)

b. v. 30-31, their Rock had sold them and the Lord had given them up

c. vv. 32-33, Canaanite abominations

d. vv. 34-43 are about YHWH's rejection and judgment of Canaanite idolatry


32:28-29 Notice the words in vv. 28-29 for "thinking":

1. "lacking in counsel" - BDB 1, KB 2, Qal active participle

2. "no understanding in them" - BDB 108 negated

3. "that they were wise" - BDB 53, Qal perfect

4. "they understood this" - BDB 968, KB 1328, Hiphil imperfect

5. "that they would discern" - BDB 106, KB 122, Qal perfect

Israel is incapable of right thinking!

32:30 Notice the parallel of verse 30 c and d:

1. "their Rock had sold them" - BDB 569, KB 581, Qal perfect, cf. Jdgs. 2:14; 3:8; 4:2; 10:7; Ps. 44:10; Isa. 50:1

2. "the Lord had given them up" - BDB 688, KB 742, Hiphil perfect

Israel's defeat is possible because the divine Warrior (holy war) has left them because of the covenant disobedience. Verses 32-33 are an extended metaphor of wine symbolizing Canaanite worship. It is deadly (i.e., poison, bitter, venom)!

34"'Is it not laid up in store with Me,
Sealed up in My treasuries?
35Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,
In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near,
And the impending things are hastening upon them.'
36For the Lord will vindicate His people,
And will have compassion on His servants,
When He sees that their strength is gone,
And there is none remaining, bond or free.
37And He will say, 'Where are their gods,
The rock in which they sought refuge?
38Who ate the fat of their sacrifices,
And drank the wine of their drink offering?
Let them rise up and help you,
Let them be your hiding place!
39See now that I, I am He,
And there is no god besides Me;
It is I who put to death and give life.
I have wounded and it is I who heal,
And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.
40Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven,
And say, as I live forever,
41If I sharpen My flashing sword,
And My hand takes hold on justice,
I will render vengeance on My adversaries,
And I will repay those who hate Me.
42I will make My arrows drunk with blood,
And My sword will devour flesh,
With the blood of the slain and the captives,
From the long-haired leaders of the enemy.'
43Rejoice, O nations, with His people;
For He will avenge the blood of His servants,
And will render vengeance on His adversaries,
And will atone for His land and His people."

32:34 It seems to me contextually that v. 34 can relate to vv. 32-33. It is also possible that it refers to v. 35 (a quote from YHWH [i.e., vv. 34-35] like vv. 39-42). The larger context is still YHWH heaping judgment on Israel so that the nations will not get the wrong message. YHWH will judge them and vindicate His people. It does not state whether Israel repents or that YHWH's eternal redemptive purposes must be allowed to manifest in history. A rebellious covenant people is the lesser of two evils (i.e., the idolatrous nations). The Messiah will come and Israel will still be covenant breakers!

This verse has two Qal passive participles:

1. laid up in store - BDB 485, KB 481 (found only here)

2. sealed up - BDB 367, KB 364, cf. Job 14:17


32:35 The first line of this verse is quoted in the NT in Rom. 12:19 and Heb. 10:30. The term "vengeance" (BDB 668) is also mentioned in vv. 41 and 43. It is often used by Isaiah and Jeremiah:

1. against Israel - Isa. 59:17

2. against Israel's enemies - Isa. 34:8; 35:4; 61:2; 63:4; Jer. 46:10; 50:15,18; 51:6,11

The term "retribution" (BDB 1024) is also found in Isa. 59:18 (twice) in a context where YHWH will restore a sinful Israel (i.e., Zion).

▣ "In due time their foot will slip" This verb (BDB 556, KB 555, Qal imperfect) can refer to:

1. a personal fall into trouble - David in Ps. 38:17

2. a divine judgment - Isa. 24:19

3. a divine promise of restoration - Ps. 94:18; Isa. 54:10

Humans stumble and nature is disrupted (cf. Isa. 24:19), but God will restore both (cf. Rom. 8:18-25).

The last two lines of poetry in v. 35 denote the rapid and sure coming of God's justice:

1. day of calamity (BDB 15) is near (BDB 898)

2. the impending things are hastening upon them (BDB 301 I, KB 300, Qal active participle)


32:36 In this song of warning and prediction of Israel's disobedience resulting in divine judgment, there is also the promise of YHWH's forgiveness and restoration.

1. The Lord will vindicate His people - BDB 192, KB 220, Qal imperfect, cf. Ps. 135:14

2. The Lord will have compassion on His servants - BDB 636, KB 688, Hithpael imperfect

God will judge His people (Ps. 7:8; 96:10), but in so doing, will establish them!

32:37-38 YHWH mocks Canaanite idolatry (cf. Jer. 2:27-28; 11:12-13). He calls on their gods to act on their behalf (v. 38):

1. Let them rise - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal imperfect used as a jussive

2. Let them help - BDB 740, KB 810, Qal imperfect used as a jussive

3. Let them be your hiding place - BDB 224, KB 243, Qal jussive (this term [BDB 340, KB 337, Qal perfect] is always used of taking refuge in YHWH. He and He alone is the safe place)


32:39-40 YHWH establishes His uniqueness (monotheism). Notice the use of antithetical parallelism:

1. See - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperative

2. I am He - cf. Exod. 3:13-14 (YHWH)

3. There is no god beside Me - cf. 4:35,39; 33:26; Exod. 8:10; 9:14; Isa. 44:6,8; 45:7

4. I who put to death or give life - cf. I Sam. 2:6; II Kgs. 5:7 (also note Romans 9)

5. I have wounded, and it is I who heal - cf. Job 5:18; Isa. 45:7; Hos. 6:1; Amos 3:6 (often in the OT all causality is attributed to God as a way to express the truth of monotheism)

6. There is no one who can deliver from My hand - cf. Ps. 50:22; Isa. 43:13; Dan. 4:35

In v. 40 YHWH (the ever-living, only living God) takes an oath by His own character! This lifting of the hand (BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperfect) may be in contrast to the nations (i.e., lifting their hand as a sign of victory over Israel) in v. 27. YHWH lifts His hand to swear an oath (cf. Ezek. 20:5-6).

32:41-43 YHWH describes His actions of justice against idolaters (vv. 41-42). In v. 43 He asserts His commitment to His promise to Israel.

Paul uses the first line of v. 43 in Rom. 15:10 and asserts that it shows that YHWH loves and includes Gentiles. Paul, in Romans 15, also quotes Ps. 18:49 or II Sam. 22:5; Ps. 117:1 and Isa. 11:10; 42:4 (cf. Matt. 12:21) to assert the same truth.

YHWH is willing to forgive Israel based on His character and promises, not their actions. This, in essence, is the new covenant of Jer. 31:31-34 and Ezek. 36:22-38. Human hope is ultimately in the unchanging character of a gracious God in Whose image and likeness they are created!

32:43 "Rejoice" This verb (BDB 943, KB 1247) is a Qal imperative. It is a shout of joy, cf. Job 38:7; Isa. 12:6; 24:14; 44:23; 49:13; 54:1; Jer. 31:7.

There is a phrase added here by the Septuagint which is quoted by the author of the NT book of Hebrews (who used the Septuagint) in 1:6.

Notice how the pronouns in vv. 34-43 change from first person to third person. This is literary variety, not different authors. YHWH is speaking.

44Then Moses came and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he, with Joshua the son of Nun. 45When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46he said to them, "Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. 47For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess."

32:44 "Joshua" The names Joshua and Jesus are based on the same two Hebrew words, "YHWH" and "salvation" (a verb must be supplied).

Joshua is positioned with Moses before the people to confirm and establish his leadership role.

32:46 "Take to your heart" This VERB (BDB 962, KB 1321) is a Qal imperative. The same idiom can be seen in Ezek. 44:5. Israel has a choice, an informed choice based on YHWH's past actions and current promises (cf. 4:26; 30:19; 31:28), but she must choose now!

For "Heart" see Special Topic at 2:30.

▣ "you shall command your sons" This emphasizes the educational responsibility of parents (cf. v. 32:7).

32:47 "it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life" This is the concept of God's word as having an independent power once spoken (cf. Duet. 8:3; Ps. 33:6,9; Isa. 55:11). This word (Moses writings) can bring life and health (cf. 30:20) or death and destruction (cf. 30:19). Obedience is the continuing key to its effectiveness!

48The Lord spoke to Moses that very same day, saying, 49"Go up to this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab opposite Jericho, and look at the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the sons of Israel for a possession. 50Then die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, 51because you broke faith with Me in the midst of the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the sons of Israel. 52For you shall see the land at a distance, but you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving the sons of Israel.

32:49-50 These two verses have several imperatives:

1. "go up," v. 49 - BDB 748, KB 828, Qal imperative

2. "look at," v. 40 - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperative

3. "die," v. 50 - BDB 559, KB 562, Qal imperative

4. "be gathered," v. 50 - BDB 62, KB 74, Niphal imperative

The last acts of Moses are scripted by a God who loved him, used him, and held him responsible for his actions!

32:49 "Abarim" This is the mountain range (cf. Num. 27:12-14).

▣ "Mount Nebo" This is the highest peak in that mountain range. Possibly this peak is very close to the northern part of the Dead Sea across from Jericho on the opposite side of the Jordan Valley.

32:50 "Then die on the mountain" The implication of the verse is that this will be the end of Moses' earthly life (cf. v. 34), but he will live on with his family and countrymen who have died before.

▣ "Mount Hor" Aaron's death and burial are first recorded in Num. 20:22-29; 33:38-39. However, Deut. 10:6 says he died and was buried at Moseroth (cf. Num. 33:30-31). Hard Sayings of the Bible, p. 166, says Moserah is the name of the area and Mount Hor the name of the specific mountain.

32:51 "because you broke faith with Me" (cf. Numbers 20; 27:14; Deut. 1:37; 3:23-27). This is parallel to "because you did not treat Me as holy." Moses' open and obvious disobedience before all the people in Numbers 20 and again in Numbers 27, caused him to be publicly judged by God and not allowed to enter the Promised Land.

32:52 This is further expanded in chapter 34.

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