In this chapter Moses, having finished his sermon,
I. Encourages both the people who were now to enter Canaan
and Joshua who was to lead them,
II. He takes care for the keeping of these things always in their
remembrance after his decease,
1. By the book of the law which was,
(2.) Delivered into the custody of the priests,
(3.) Ordered to be publicly read every seventh year,
2. By a song which God orders Moses to prepare for their instruction
(1.) He calls Moses and Joshua to the door of the tabernacle,
(2.) He foretels the apostasy of Israel in process of time, and the
judgments they would thereby bring upon themselves,
(3.) He prescribes the following song to be a witness against them,
(4.) Moses wrote it,
And delivered it to Israel, with an intimation of the design of it, as
he had received it from the Lord,
|Solemn Warnings; Joshua Encouraged.
||B. C. 1451.|
1 And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel.
2 And he said unto them, I am a hundred and twenty years old
this day; I can no more go out and come in: also the LORD hath
said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan.
3 The LORD thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will
destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess
them: and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the LORD
4 And the LORD shall do unto them as he did to Sihon and to Og,
kings of the Amorites, and unto the land of them, whom he
5 And the LORD shall give them up before your face, that ye may
do unto them according unto all the commandments which I have
6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of
them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he
will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
7 And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight
of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go
with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto
their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit
8 And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be
with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not,
neither be dismayed.
Loth to part (we say) bids oft farewell. Moses does so to
the children of Israel: not because he was loth to go to God, but
because he was loth to leave them, fearing that when he had left them
they would leave God. He had finished what he had to say to them by way
of counsel and exhortation: here he calls them together to give them a
word of encouragement, especially with reference to the wars of Canaan,
in which they were now to engage. It was a discouragement to them that
Moses was to be removed at a time when he could so ill be spared:
though Joshua was continued to fight for them in the valley, they would
want Moses to intercede for them on the hill, as he did,
But there is no remedy: Moses can no more go out and come in,
Not that he was disabled by any decay either of body or mind; for his
natural force was not abated,
But he cannot any longer discharge his office; for,
1. He is 120 years old, and it is time for him to think of
resigning his honour and returning to his rest. He that had arrived at
so great an age then, when seventy or eighty was the ordinary stint, as
appears by the prayer of Moses
might well think that he had accomplished as a hireling his day.
2. He is under a divine sentence: Thou shalt not go over Jordan.
Thus a full stop was put to his usefulness; hitherto he must go,
hitherto he must serve, but no further. So God had appointed it and
Moses acquiesces: for I know not why we should any of us desire to live
a day longer than while God has work for us to do; nor shall we be
accountable for more time than is allotted us. But, though Moses must
not go over himself, he is anxious to encourage those that must.
I. He encourages the people; and never could any general animate his
soldiers upon such good grounds as those on which Moses here encourages
1. He assures them of the constant presence of God with them
The Lord thy God. that has led thee and kept thee hitherto
will go over before thee; and those might follow boldly who were
sure that they had God for their leader. He repeats it again
with an emphasis: "The Lord thy God, the great Jehovah, who is
thine in covenant, he it is, he and no less, he and no other,
that goes before thee; not only who by his promise has assured
thee that he will go before thee; but by his ark, the visible
token of his presence, shows thee that he does actually go
before thee." And he repeats it with enlargement: "Not only he goes
over before thee at first, to bring thee in, but he will continue with
thee all along, with thee and thine; he will not fail thee nor
forsake thee; he will not disappoint thy expectations in any
strait, nor will he ever desert thy interest; be constant to him, and
he will be so to thee." This is applied by the apostle to all God's
spiritual Israel, for the encouragement of their faith and hope; unto
us is this gospel preached, as well as unto them He will never fail
thee, nor forsake thee,
2. He commends Joshua to them for a leader: Joshua, he shall go over
One whose conduct, and courage, and sincere affection to their
interest, they had had long experience of; and one whom God had
ordained and appointed to be their leader, and therefore, no doubt,
would own and bless, and make a blessing to them. See
Note, It is a great encouragement to a people when, instead of some
useful instruments that are removed, God raises up others to carry on
3. He ensures their success. The greatest generals, supported with the
greatest advantages, must yet own the issues of war to be doubtful and
uncertain; the battle is not always to the strong nor to the bold; an
ill accident unthought of may turn the scale against the highest hopes.
But Moses had warrant from God to assure Israel that, notwithstanding
the disadvantages they laboured under, they should certainly be
victorious. A coward will fight when he is sure to be a conqueror. God
undertakes to do the work--he will destroy these nations; and
Israel shall do little else than divide the spoil--thou shalt
Two things might encourage their hopes of this:--
(1.) The victories they had already obtained over Sihon and Og
from which they might infer both the power of God, that he could do
what he had done, and the purpose of God, that he would finish what he
had begun to do. Thus must we improve our experience.
(2.) The command God had given them to destroy the Canaanites
to which he refers here
that you may do unto them according to all which I have commanded
you), and from which they might infer that, if God had commanded
them to destroy the Canaanites, no doubt he would put it into the power
of their hands to do it. Note, What God has made our duty we have
reason to expect opportunity and assistance from him for the doing of.
So that from all this he had reason enough to bid them be strong and
of a good courage,
While they had the power of God engaged for them they had no reason to
fear all the powers of Canaan engaged against them.
II. He encourages Joshua,
1. Though Joshua was an experienced general, and a man of approved
gallantry and resolution, who had already signalized himself in many
brave actions, yet Moses saw cause to bid him be of good
courage, now that he was entering upon a new scene of action; and
Joshua was far from taking it as an affront, or as a tacit questioning
of his courage, to be thus charged, as sometimes we find proud and
peevish spirits invidiously taking exhortations and admonitions for
reproaches and reflections. Joshua himself is very well pleased to be
admonished by Moses to be strong and of good courage.
2. He gives him this charge in the sight of all Israel, that
they might be the more observant of him whom they saw thus solemnly
inaugurated, and that he might set himself the more to be an example of
courage to the people who were witnesses to this charge here given to
him as well as to themselves.
3. He gives him the same assurances of the divine presence, and
consequently of a glorious success, that he had given the people. God
would be with him, would not forsake him, and therefore he should
certainly accomplish the glorious enterprise to which he was called and
commissioned: Thou shalt cause them to inherit the land of
promise. Note, Those shall speed well that have God with them; and
therefore they ought to be of good courage. Through God let us
do valiantly, for through him we shall do victoriously; if we resist
the devil, he shall flee, and God shall shortly tread him under our
|The Reading of the Law.
||B. C. 1451.|
9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests
the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD,
and unto all the elders of Israel.
10 And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every
seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the
feast of tabernacles,
11 When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in
the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before
all Israel in their hearing.
12 Gather the people together, men, and women, and children,
and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear,
and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe
to do all the words of this law:
13 And that their children, which have not known any thing,
may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live
in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.
The law was given by Moses; so it is said,
He was not only entrusted to deliver it to that generation, but to
transmit it to the generations to come; and here it appears that he was
faithful to that trust.
I. Moses wrote this law,
The learned bishop Patrick understands this of all the five books of
Moses, which are often called the law; he supposes that though
Moses had written most of the Pentateuch before, yet he did not finish
it till now; now he put his last hand to that sacred volume. Many think
that the law here (especially since it is called this law, this
grand abridgment of the law) is to be understood of this book of
Deuteronomy; all those discourses to the people which have taken up
this whole book, he, being in them divinely inspired, wrote them as the
word of God. He wrote this law,
1. That those who had heard it might often review it themselves, and
call it to mind.
2. That it might be the more safely handed down to posterity. Note, The
church has received abundance of advantage from the writing, as well as
from the preaching, of divine things; faith comes not only by hearing,
but by reading. The same care that was taken of the law, thanks be to
God, is taken of the gospel too; soon after it was preached it was
written, that it might reach to those on whom the ends of the world
II. Having written it, he committed it to the care and custody of the
priests and elders. He delivered one authentic copy to the priests, to
be laid up by the ark
there to remain as a standard by which all other copies must be tried.
And it is supposed that he gave another copy to the elders of each
tribe, to be transcribed by all of that tribe that were so disposed.
Some observe that the elders, as well as the priests, were entrusted
with the law, to intimate that magistrates by the power, as well as
ministers by their doctrine, are to maintain religion, and to take care
that the law be not broken nor lost.
III. He appointed the public reading of this law in a general assembly
of all Israel every seventh year. The pious Jews (it is very probable)
read the laws daily in their families, and Moses of old time was
read in the synagogue every sabbath day,
But once in seven years, that the law might be the more magnified and
made honourable, it must be read in a general assembly. Though we read
the word in private, we must not think it needless to hear it read in
public. Now here he give direction,
1. When this solemn reading of the law must be, that the time might add
to the solemnity; it must be done,
(1.) In the year of release. In that year the land rested, so that they
could the better spare time to attend this service. Servants who were
then discharged, and poor debtors who were then acquitted from their
debts, must know that, having the benefit of the law, it was justly
expected they should yield obedience to it, and therefore give up
themselves to be God's servants, because he had loosed their bonds. The
year of release was typical of gospel grace, which therefore is called
the acceptable year of the Lord; for our remission and liberty
by Christ engage us to keep his commandments,
(2.) At the feast of tabernacles in that year. In that feast they were
particularly required to rejoice before God,
Therefore then they must read the law, both to qualify their mirth and
keep it in due bounds, and to sanctify their mirth, that they might
make the law of God the matter of their rejoicing, and might read it
with pleasure and not as a task.
2. To whom it must be read: To all Israel
men, women, and children, and the strangers,
The women and children were not obliged to go up to the other feasts,
but to this only in which the law was read. Note, It is the will of God
that all people should acquaint themselves with his word. It is a rule
to all, and therefore should be read to all. It is supposed that, since
all Israel could not possibly meet in one place, nor could one man's
voice reach them all, as many as the courts of the Lord's house would
hold met there, and the rest at the same time in their synagogues. The
Jewish doctors say that the hearers were bound to prepare their
hearts, and to hear with fear and reverence, and with joy and
trembling, as in the day when the law was given on Mount
Sinai; and, though there were great and wise men who knew the
whole law very well, yet they were bound to hear with great
attention; for he that reads is the messenger of the
congregation to cause the words of God to be heard. I wish those
that hear the gospel read and preached would consider this.
3. By whom it must be read: Thou shalt read it
"Thou, O Israel," by a proper person appointed for that purpose; or,
"Thou, O Joshua," their chief ruler; accordingly we find that he did
read the law himself,
So did Josiah,
2 Chronicles 34:30,
And the Jews say that the king himself (when they had one) was the
person that read in the courts of the temple, that a pulpit was set up
for that purpose in the midst of the court, in which the king stood,
that the book of the law was delivered to him by the high priest, that
he stood up to receive it, uttered a prayer (as every one did that was
to read the law in public) before he read; and then, if he pleased, he
might sit down and read. But if he read standing it was thought the
more commendable, as (they say) king Agrippa did. Here let me offer it
as a conjecture that Solomon is called the preacher, in his
Ecclesiastes, because he delivered the substance of that book in a
discourse to the people, after his public reading of the law in the
feast of tabernacles, according to this appointment here.
4. For what end it must be thus solemnly read.
(1.) That the present generation might hereby keep up their
acquaintance with the law of God,
They must hear, that they may learn, and fear God, and observe to do
their duty. See here what we are to aim at in hearing the word; we
must hear, that we may learn and grow in knowledge; and every time we
read the scriptures we shall find that there is still more and more to
be learned out of them. We must learn, that we may fear God, that is,
that we may be duly affected with divine things; and must fear God,
that we may observe and do the words of his law; for in vain do
we pretend to fear him if we do not obey him.
(2.) That the rising generation might betimes be leavened with religion
not only that those who know something may thus know more, but that
the children who have not known any thing may betimes know this,
how much it is their interest as well as duty to fear God.
||B. C. 1451.|
14 And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that
thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the
tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And
Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle
of the congregation.
15 And the LORD appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a
cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the
16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with
thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after
the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be
among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I
have made with them.
17 Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and
I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they
shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them;
so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon
us, because our God is not among us?
18 And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils
which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other
19 Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the
children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be
a witness for me against the children of Israel.
20 For when I shall have brought them into the land which I
sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and
they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then
will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me,
and break my covenant.
21 And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are
befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a
witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their
seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now,
before I have brought them into the land which I sware.
I. Moses and Joshua are summoned to attend the divine majesty at
the door of the tabernacle,
Moses is told again that he must shortly die; even those that are most
ready and willing to die have need to be often reminded of the approach
of death. In consideration of this, he must come himself to meet God;
for whatever improves our communion with God furthers our preparation
for death. He must also bring Joshua with him to be presented to God
for a successor, and to receive his commission and charge. Moses
readily obeys the summons, for he was not one of those that look with
an evil eye upon their successors, but, on the contrary, rejoiced in
II. God graciously gives them the meeting: He appeared in the
tabernacle (as the shechinah used to appear) in a pillar of a
This is the only time in all this book that we read of the glory of God
appearing, whereas we often read of it in the three foregoing books,
which perhaps signifies that in the latter days, under the evangelical
law, such visible appearances as these of the divine glory are not to
be expected, but we must take heed to the more sure word of
III. He tells Moses that, after his death, the covenant which he had
taken so much pains to make between Israel and their God would
certainly be broken.
1. That Israel would forsake God,
And we may be sure that if the covenant between God and man be broken
the blame must lie on man, it is he that breaks it; we have often
observed it, That God never leaves any till they first leave him.
Worshipping the gods of the Canaanites (who had been the natives, but
henceforward were to be looked upon as the strangers of that land)
would undoubtedly be counted a deserting of God, and, like adultery, a
violation of the covenant. Thus still those are revolters from Christ,
and will be so adjudged, who either make a god of their money by
reigning covetousness or a god of their belly by reigning sensuality.
Those that turn to other gods
forsake their own mercies. This apostasy of theirs is foretold to be
the effect of their prosperity
They shall have eaten and filled themselves; this is all they
will aim at in eating, to gratify their own appetites, and then they
will wax fat, grow secure and sensual; their security will take off
their dread of God and his judgments; and their sensuality will incline
them to the idolatries of the heathen, which made provision for the
flesh to fulfil the lusts of it. Note, God has a clear and
infallible foresight of all the wickedness of the wicked, and has often
covenanted with those who he knew would deal very treacherously
and conferred many favours on those who he knew would deal very
2. That then God would forsake Israel; and justly does he cast those
off who had so unjustly cast him off
My anger shall be kindled against them, and I will forsake them.
His providence would forsake them, no longer to protect and prosper
them, and then they would become a prey to all their neighbours. His
spirit and grace would forsake them, no longer to teach and guide them,
and then they would be more and more bigoted, besotted, and hardened in
their idolatries. Thus many evils and troubles would befal them.
which would be such manifest indications of God's displeasure against
them that they themselves would be constrained to own it: Have not
these evils come upon us because our God is not among us? Those
that have sinned away their God will find that thereby they pull all
mischiefs upon their own heads. But that which completed their misery
was that God would hide his face from them in that day, that day
of their trouble and distress,
Whatever outward troubles we are in, if we have but the light of God's
countenance, we may be easy. But, if God hide his face from us and our
prayers, we are undone.
IV. He directs Moses to deliver them a song, in the composing of which
he should be divinely inspired, and which should remain a standing
testimony for God as faithful to them in giving them warning, and
against them as persons false to themselves in not taking the warning,
The written word in general, as well as this song in particular, is a
witness for God against all those that break covenant with him. It
shall be for a testimony,
The wisdom of man has devised many ways of conveying the knowledge of
good and evil, by laws, histories, prophecies, proverbs, and, among the
rest, by songs; each has its advantages. And the wisdom of God has in
the scripture made use of them all, that ignorant and careless men
might be left inexcusable.
1. This song, if rightly improved, might be a means to prevent their
apostasy; for in the inditing of it God had an eye to their present
imagination, now, before they were brought into the land of
God knew very well that there were in their hearts such gross conceits
of the deity, and such inclinations of idolatry, that they would be
tinder to the sparks of that temptation; and therefore in this song he
gives them warning of their danger that way. Note, The word of God is a
discerner of the thoughts and intents of men's hearts, and meets
with them strangely by its reproofs and corrections,
1 Corinthians 14:25.
Ministers who preach the word know not the imaginations men go about,
but God, whose word it is, knows perfectly.
2. If this song did not prevent their apostasy, yet it might help to
bring them to repentance, and to recover them from their apostasy. When
their troubles come upon them, this song shall not be forgotten,
but may serve as a glass to show them their own faces, that they may
humble themselves, and return to him from whom they have revolted.
Note, Those for whom God has mercy in store he may leave to fall, yet
he will provide means for their recovery. Medicines are prepared
before-hand for their cure.
|The Song of Moses.
||B. C. 1451.|
22 Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it
the children of Israel.
23 And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, 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
24 And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing
the words of this law in a book, until they were finished,
25 That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the
covenant of the LORD, saying,
26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark
of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a
witness against thee.
27 For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while
I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against
the LORD; and how much more after my death?
28 Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your
officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call
heaven and earth to record against them.
29 For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt
yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded
you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will
do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through
the work of your hands.
30 And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of
Israel the words of this song, until they were ended.
I. The charge is given to Joshua, which God has said
he would give him. The same in effect that Moses had given him. The
same in effect that Moses had given him
Be strong and of a good courage,
Joshua had now heard from God so much of the wickedness of the people
whom he was to have the conduct of as could not but be a discouragement
to him: "Nay," says God, "how bad soever they are, thou shalt go
through thy understanding, for I will be with thee. Thou shalt
put them into possession of Canaan. If they afterwards by their sin
throw themselves out of it again, that will be no fault of thine, nor
any dishonour to thee, therefore be of good courage."
II. The solemn delivery of the book of the law to the Levites, to be
deposited in the side of the ark, is here again related
of which before,
Only they are here directed where to treasure up this precious
original, not in the ark (there only the two tables were preserved),
but in another box by the side of the ark. It is probable that
this was the very book that was found in the house of the Lord (having
been somehow or other misplaced) in the days of Josiah
(2 Chronicles 34:14),
and so perhaps the following words here, that it may be a witness
against thee, may particularly point at that event, which happened
so long after; for the finding of this very book occasioned the public
reading of it by Josiah himself, for a witness against a people who
were then almost ripe for their ruin by the Babylonians.
III. The song which follows in the next chapter is here delivered to
Moses, and by him to the people. He wrote it first
as the Spirit of God indited it, and then spoke it in the ears of
all the congregation
and taught it to them
that is, gave out copies of it, and ordered the people to learn it by
heart. It was delivered by word of mouth first, and afterwards in
writing, to the elders and officers, as the representatives of their
by them to be transmitted to their several families and households. It
was delivered to them with a solemn appeal to heaven and earth
concerning the fair warning which was given them by it of the fatal
consequences of their apostasy from God, and with a declaration of the
little joy and little hope Moses had in and concerning them.
1. He declares what little joy he had had of them while he was with
It is not in a passion that he says, I know thy rebellion (as
once he said unadvisedly, Hear now, you rebels), but it is the
result of a long acquaintance with them: you have been rebellious
against the Lord. Their rebellions against himself he makes no
mention of: these he had long since forgiven and forgotten; but they
must be made to hear of their rebellions against God, that they may be
ever repented of and never repeated.
2. What little hopes he had of them now that he was leaving them. From
what God had now said to him
more than from his own experience of them, though that was discouraging
enough, he tells them
I know that after my death you will utterly corrupt yourselves.
Many a sad thought, no doubt, it occasioned to this good man, to
foresee the apostasy and ruin of a people he had taken so much pains
with, in order to them good and make them happy; but this was his
comfort, that he had done his duty, and that God would be glorified, if
not in their settlement, yet in their dispersion. Thus our Lord Jesus,
a little before his death, foretold the rise of false Christs and false
notwithstanding which, and all the apostasies of the latter times, we
may be confident that the gates of hell shall not prevail against
the church, for the foundation of God stands sure.