the words of this song, until they were ended; which song is recorded in the following chapter, Deuteronomy 32:1.
INTRODUCTION TO Deuteronomy 32
This chapter contains the song mentioned and referred to in the former, the preface to it, Deuteronomy 32:1; the character of the divine and illustrious Person it chiefly respects, Deuteronomy 32:4; the ingratitude of the people of the Jews to him, who were a crooked and perverse generation, aggravated by his having bought, made, and established them, Deuteronomy 32:5; and which is further aggravated by various instances of divine goodness to them, first in providing and reserving a suitable country for them, at the time of the division of the earth to the sons of men, with the reason of it, Deuteronomy 32:7; then by what the Lord did for them in the wilderness, Deuteronomy 32:10; after that in the land of Canaan, where they enjoyed plenty of all good things, and in the possession of which they were, when the illustrious Person described appeared among them, Deuteronomy 32:13; and then the sin of ingratitude to him, before hinted at, is fully expressed, namely, lightly esteeming the rock of salvation, the Messiah, Deuteronomy 32:15; nor could they stop here, but proceed to more ungodliness, setting up other messiahs and saviours, which were an abomination to the Lord, Deuteronomy 32:16; continuing sacrifices when they should not, which were therefore reckoned no other than sacrifices to demons, and especially the setting up of their new idol, their own righteousness, was highly provoking; and by all this they clearly showed they had forgot the rock, the Saviour, Deuteronomy 32:17; wherefore, for the rejection of the Messiah and the, persecution of his followers, they would be abhorred of God, Deuteronomy 32:19; who would show his resentment by the rejection of them, by the calling of the Gentiles, and by bringing the nation of the Romans upon them, Deuteronomy 32:20; whereby utter ruin and destruction in all its shapes would be brought upon them, Deuteronomy 32:22; and, were it not for the insolence of their adversaries, would be entirely destroyed, being such a foolish and unwise people, which appears by not observing what the enemies of the Messiah themselves allow, that there is no rock like him, whom they despised, Deuteronomy 32:26; which enemies are described, and the vengeance reserved for them pointed out, Deuteronomy 32:32; and the song closed with promises of grace and mercy to the Lord's people, and wrath and ruin to his and their enemies, on which account all are called upon to rejoice in the latter day, Deuteronomy 32:36; and this song being delivered by Moses, the people of Israel are exhorted seriously to attend to it, it being of the utmost importance to them, Deuteronomy 32:44; and the chapter is concluded with a relation of Moses being ordered to go up to Mount Nebo and die, with the reason of it, Deuteronomy 32:48.
the words of my mouth. This song is prefaced and introduced in a very grand and pompous manner, calling on the heavens and earth to give attention; by which they themselves may be meant, by a "prosopopaeia", a figure frequently used in Scripture, when things of great moment and importance are spoken of; and these are called upon to hearken, either to rebuke the stupidity and inattention of men, or to show that these would shed or withhold their influences, their good things, according to the obedience or disobedience of Israel; or because these are durable and lasting, and so would ever be witnesses for God and against his people: Gaon, as Aben Ezra observes, by the heavens understands the angels, and by the earth the men of the earth, the inhabitants of both worlds, which is not amiss: and by these words of Moses are meant the words of the song, referred to in Deuteronomy 31:29; here called his words, not because they were of him, but because they were put into his mouth, and about to be expressed by him, not in his own name, but in the name of the Lord; and not as the words of the law, which came by him, but as the words and doctrines of the Gospel concerning Christ, of whom Moses here writes; whose character he gives, and whose person and office he vindicates against the Jews, whom he accuses and brings a charge of ingratitude against for rejecting him, to which our Lord seems to refer, John 5:45; the prophecies of their rejection, the calling of the Gentiles, the destruction of the Jews by the Romans, and the miseries they should undergo, and yet should not be wholly extirpated out of the world, but continue a people, who in the latter days would be converted, return to their own land, and their enemies be destroyed; which are some of the principal things in this song, and which make it worthy of attention and observation.
as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: the first of those words for "rain", according to Jarchi, has the signification of a stormy wind, but that seems to contradict the gentle dropping and distilling of it; rather it signifies "hairs" (h), and denotes, as our version, the smallness of the rain, being as small, thin, and light as hairs; and the latter word (i) has the signification of millions and thousands, there being such vast, numbers as those in a shower of rain: the "tender herb" and "grass" may denote the multitude of persons to whom the Gospel would come, and be made useful; and may describe sensible sinners, tender consciences, such as are weak in themselves, with whom it is the day of small things, are newborn babes, little children; who are just springing up in grace, as among the grass, and as willows by the water courses: now all this is said by Moses, to recommend his doctrine, as well as what follows.
(f) a "accepit". (g) Hor. Hieroglyph. l. 1. c. 26. (h) a "pilus", Leviticus 13.10. (i) a "multum", see Psal. cxliv. 13.
ascribe ye greatness unto our God; to Christ, the rock of salvation, who is truly God, our God, God in our nature, God manifest in the flesh, and who is the great God, and our Saviour, and therefore greatness is to be ascribed to him: he is great in his person and perfections; his works are great, those of creation and providence, and particularly of redemption and salvation; he is great in his offices, a great Saviour, a great High priest, a great Prophet, a great King, and the great Shepherd of the sheep: those that are called upon to give greatness to him, which is his due, are the heavens and the earth, Deuteronomy 32:1; and both have, literally and figuratively considered, bore a testimony to his greatness; the heavens, at his birth a wonderful star appeared, directing the wise men to him; at his death the sun was darkened; at his ascension the heavens were opened and received him, and still retain him; even God in heaven, by a voice from thence, bore witness of him as his beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased; also by raising him from the dead, declaring him to be the Son of God with power, and by exalting him at his right hand as a Saviour, and by the effusion of the Spirit on his apostles, to preach and spread his Gospel; the angels in heaven ascribed greatness to him, by their worship of him when he came into the world, by the declaration they made of him at his incarnation, and by the testimony they bore to his resurrection, and by their subjection to him in all things: the church below, sometimes called heaven, in the book of the Revelation, ascribe all honour, glory, and greatness to him: the earth, the whole terraqueous globe, in it have been displayed the greatness of Christ, the power and glory of his divinity; in the sea by becoming a calm at his word of command, in the rocks by being rent at his death, and will be in both by delivering up the dead in them, at the last day: the inhabitants of the earth, especially the redeemed from among men, ascribe greatness to him, by attributing daily to him all the perfections of the Godhead, and the glory of their salvation: Aben Ezra says, Moses refers to the heavens and the earth, or respects them, and compares with this Psalm 19:1.
his work is perfect; not so much the work of creation or of providence, which are both the works of Christ, but that of redemption and salvation, in which there is not only a display of all the divine perfections, but is complete in all its parts; the law is perfectly fulfilled, justice is fully satisfied, a perfect righteousness is wrought out, a complete pardon is procured, perfect peace is made, full atonement of sins obtained, and the whole work is finished; and is so perfect that nothing is wanting in it, or can be added to it, nor can it be unravelled or undone again: likewise the work of building the church on this rock is carrying on, and will be perfected when all the elect of God, all given to Christ and redeemed by his blood, shall be called by grace and gathered in; when the last of the chosen ones, and redeemed of the Lamb, is brought in and laid in the building; when Christ shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father complete, and God shall be all in all, and his church and people will be in a perfect state to all eternity:
for all his ways are judgment; his ways, which he himself has taken and walked in; his ways of providence are according to the best judgment and highest wisdom, and according to the strictest justice and equity; his ways of grace towards the salvation of his people, and the building up his church on himself, the rock; all the methods he took in eternity and time were all formed according to the counsel of God, and planned with the greatest wisdom, founded in his righteous nature, and according to covenant compact with his Father, and entered into in the most honourable manner; and in which he brought about the salvation of his people, in perfect consistence with the justice and holiness of God, and to the honour of them and his holy law: and he has executed all his offices of prophet, priest, and King, in the most just and righteous manner: the ways which he has prescribed his people to walk in, and in which he leads them, are ways of truth, righteousness, and holiness; such are all his ordinances and commandments:
a God of truth; so Christ is called; see Gill on Isaiah 65:16; or the true God, which also is his name, 1 John 5:20; and is so called in opposition to fictitious deities, and such who are only so by name or office, but not by nature; whereas he is truly and properly God, as appears from his names and nature, from his perfections, works, and worship, ascribed to him: or "God the truth" (l), for he is "the truth", John 14:6; the truth of all types, promises, and prophecies, which all have their accomplishment in him; the sum and substance of all truths and doctrines, from whom they all come, and in whom they all centre: or "the God of faith" or "faithfulness" (m); the object of faith, and the author and finisher of it; and who is faithful, as the God-man and Mediator, to him that appointed him, being intrusted with all the elect of God, with all promises and blessings of grace for them, with the fulness of grace to communicate unto them, with the glory of God in their salvation, and with their future and final happiness; and is faithful in the discharge of his offices of prophet, priest, and King:
and without iniquity; in his nature, in his heart, in his lips, and in his life; nor was ever any committed by him:
just and right is he; just, both as a divine Person, and as man and Mediator; a lover and doer of righteousness, a worker out of righteousness for his people, and the justifier of them by it; just and righteous, as the, servant of God, as King of saints, and Judge of the whole world; "right" or "upright", which is the character of a divine Person, agrees with Christ, and may denote his sincerity, uprightness, and faithfulness.
(k) "quod attinet ad rupem illam", Piscator; "rupes illa", Van Till; "rupes illa", Vitringa. (l) "Deus veritas", Pagninus, Montanus. (m) "Deus fidei", Vatablus, Cocceius; "Deus veritatis sive fidei", Vitringa.
their spot is not the spot of his children; of the children of the divine Person before described; Christ the rock has "children" given him by his Father, in whose adoption he has a concern, and by whose Spirit they are regenerated: these have their "spots"; by which are meant sins, and by those men are stained and polluted; so called in allusion to the spots of animals, as leopards; or to spots in faces and garments, through dirt and the like: by nature they are as others, and while in an unregenerate estate, and indeed after conversion; though they are washed from their sins by the blood of Christ, and are justified by his righteousness, and so without spot, yet in themselves they are not without spots or sins, as their confessions and complaints, and all experience testify: but the spots or sins of wicked men are not like theirs; the children of Christ sin through infirmity of the flesh, and the force of temptation, but wicked men through the malignity of their hearts, willingly and purposely; what good men do of this kind they hate, but what Christless and graceless sinners do they love; saints do not continue in sin, but ungodly men do, and proceed to more ungodliness, and wax worse and worse; gracious souls when they sin, are sorry for it, repent of it, are melted for it, and take shame to themselves on account of it; but unconverted men repent not of their wickedness, are hardened in it, and glory of it; see the character of the Jews in Christ's time, to which this song refers, John 8:44; though these clauses may be rendered to another sense, more agreeably to the context, and to the Hebrew accents, as they are by some; "is there any corruption in him? no" (n), that is, is there any corruption in the illustrious Person before described, as without iniquity, just, and right? no, none at all in his nature, divine or human; not in his divine nature, being the incorruptible God; nor in his human nature, which is entirely free from that corruption by sin, common to all that des, tend from Adam by natural generation, he being conceived under the power of the Holy Ghost; nor any in his life and conversation, being perfectly agreeable to the pure and holy law of God; nor any in his doctrines, however they may be charged by ignorant and malicious men, a proof of which follows: or "his children are their spot" (o); so the clause may be rendered; the spots of the Jewish nation, the most wicked and vilest among them, became his children; not only the lowest and meanest of them, as to civil and worldly things, but the more ignorant and the more wicked, even publicans and harlots; these, and not the righteous, he came to call and save, and did receive; these were regenerated by his grace, and they believed in him; and to them gave he power to become his children: but then did they remain the wicked persons they had been? no, they were made new creatures, they were internally sanctified, and lived holy lives and conversations; a clear proof this, that there was no corruption in Christ, nor in his doctrine, and that he neither by his tenets nor example encouraged sin, but all the reverse; Wisdom is justified of her children, Matthew 11:19; but then the rest, and the far greater part of the Jewish nation, in his time, have their character truly drawn, as follows:
they are a perverse and crooked generation; men of perverse and crooked natures, tempers, dispositions, ways, and works; who walked contrary to the will and law of God, and were indeed contrary to all men, 1 Thessalonians 2:15; this is the very character that is given of them, Matthew 17:17.
(n) "an est ipsi corruptio? non", Cocceius, van Till, Vitringa. (o) "filii ejus macula eorum", Van Till; "filii ejus labes ipsorum", Cocceius.
is not he thy Father, that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee,
and established thee? Moses, in order to aggravate this their ingratitude, rehearses the various instances of divine goodness to them, from the beginning of them as nation; it was the Lord that was the founder of them as a nation, whose Son, when sent unto them, was rejected by them; it was he that bought them, or redeemed them from Egyptian bondage, that made or formed them into a body politic, or civil commonwealth, that established and settled them in the land of Canaan: this is expressed in general terms; particular instances of the goodness of God to them are after enumerated: or if this is to be understood of Christ himself, who was rejected by them, it is true of some among them, in a spiritual and evangelic sense, and so, by a figure, the whole is put for a part, as sometimes the part is for the whole: Christ, the everlasting Father of the world to come, had many children in the Jewish nation, for whose sake he became incarnate, and whom he came to seek and to save; and whom he "bought" with his precious blood, and whom, by his Spirit and grace, he "made" new creatures, the children of God, kings and priests unto God; and "established" them in the faith of him, and upon him, the sure foundation; or whom he fashioned, beautified, and adorned with his righteousness, and with the graces of his Spirit.
ask thy father, and he will show thee; either their immediate parents, father for fathers, or such as were their seniors, or rather Abraham, their father, is meant; whom they might inquire of, not by personal application to him, but by consulting the writings of Moses, and observe what is there related of him; how he was called out of Chaldea to go into the land of Canaan, his seed was after to inherit; and how he had an express grant of that land to his posterity, and where they might be shown and see the prophecy delivered to him of their being in Egypt, and coming out from thence; and what he knew of the Messiah, whose day he saw, and rejoiced at, now rejected by them his offspring:
thy elders, and they will tell thee; not their present elders who rejected the Messiah, but those in ages past; the elders of Israel, who saw the glory of the God of Israel, and were present at the covenant made at Horeb, Exodus 24:9; or rather the sons of Noah, by whom the earth was divided, to which Deuteronomy 32:8 refers; or the ancient writers, the writers of the Scriptures: Jarchi, by "father", understands the prophets, and by "elders", the wise men: the Targum of Jonathan is,"read in the books of the law and they will teach you, and in the books of the prophets and they will tell you.''
when he separated the sons of Adam; one from another; distinguished by the persons from whom they descended, by the tribes and nations to which they belonged, and by the countries they inhabited; for though they descended from Noah and his sons, they were the sons of Adam, the first man: or rather "the children of men", as the wicked of that generation were called, in distinction from the sons of God, or his people and worshippers; and may have respect to the separation of them at Babel, where their languages were confounded, and they were scattered about, and some went into one part of the world, and some into another, according to the appointment and direction of divine Providence; so the builders of Babel are called, and this was what befell them, Genesis 11:5; which sense the above Targum confirms,"when he separated the writings, the languages of the children of men in the generation of the division:''
he set the bounds of the people; or nations, the seven nations of the land of Canaan; he pitched upon and fixed the land they should inherit, and settled the bounds of it, how far it should reach, east, west, north and south:
according to the number of the children of Israel: the sense is, that such a country was measured out and bounded, as would be sufficient to hold the twelve tribes of Israel, when numerous, and their time was come to inhabit it; and which, in the mean while was put into the hands of Canaan and his eleven sons to possess; not as their proper inheritance, but as tenants at will, until the proper heirs existed, and were at an age, and of a sufficient number to inherit; in which may be observed the wise disposition of divine Providence, to put it into the hands of a people cursed of God, so that to take it from them at any time could not have the appearance of any injustice in it; and their enjoying it so long as they did was a mercy to them, for so long they had a reprieve: now here was an early instance of the goodness of God to Israel, that he should make such an early provision of the land flowing with milk and honey for them, even before they were in being, yea, before their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, existed; as early as the days of Noah; and yet, ungrateful as they were despised and set at nought his Son, the rock of salvation, when sent unto them: thus the heavenly inheritance, typified by the land of Canaan, was not only promised, but prepared, provided, secured, and reserved for the spiritual Israel of God, before the foundation of the world, from all eternity, and which is appointed according to their number; there is room enough in it for them all, though they are many; in it are many mansions for the many sons to be brought to glory.
he led him about; when he brought the people of Israel out of Egypt, he did not lead them the nearest way to the land of Canaan, through the the land of the Philistines, but he led them about the way of the wilderness of the Red sea; and when they were come to the borders of the land, because of their murmurings, and disobedience, they were ordered back into the wilderness again; nor were they suffered to go through the land of Edom when on the confines of it, which would have been a shorter way; but they were obliged to go round that land, which was very discouraging to them, see Exodus 13:17; and thus the Lord, though he could if he would, bring his people at once to heaven; he could sanctify them at once, as well as justify them; he could take them the moment he regenerates them into his kingdom, as the thief on the cross; yet this is not his usual way: though he calls them out from among the men of the world, he continues them in it, having something for them to do or suffer for his name's sake; he indeed leads them soon into the right and plain way of salvation, and not in a roundabout way of duties; yet he leads them in many roundabout ways in Providence, which are all right, though sometimes rough; they seem at times to be near to heaven, and then they are turned into the world again; nay, the Apostle Paul was in heaven, and yet sent into the wilderness of the Gentiles again, for the good of souls and the interest of a Redeemer; however, they all at last come safe to heaven and happiness: the words may be rendered, "he surrounded" or "compassed him about" (p), and the rather, since leading them about seems to be by way of resentment or punishment, whereas Moses is enumerating instances of goodness and kindness, as this was one; he covered them with the clouds of glory, so the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, Jarchi and Aben Ezra: he protected them with his power and providence, and preserved them from serpents and scorpions, and the wild beasts of the wilderness, as well as from all their enemies: and the Lord surrounds his spiritual Israel with angels, who encamp about them; with himself, who is a wall of fire round about them; with his power, in which they are kept as in a garrison; and with his love, which encompasses them as a shield:
he instructed him; he taught him the law, as the Targum of Jonathan; so Jarchi and Aben Ezra; or the decalogue, as the Jerusalem Targum; he instructed him in the knowledge of the true God and his worship; in the knowledge of the Messiah, and of his righteousness, and salvation by him; for he instructed him by his good Spirit, Nehemiah 9:20; so the Lord instructs his spiritual Israel, by his Spirit, his ministers, his word and ordinances, in the knowledge of themselves, and of himself in Christ, and of Christ and the way of life by him; and this being joined with the Lord's leading about his people, may suggest that he instructs them by adverse dispensations of Providence: the word (q) signifies causing to understand; and God only can teach and instruct in such sense as to give men an understanding of the things they are taught and instructed in:
he kept him as the apple of his eye; in the most careful and tender manner: the apple of the eye is an aperture in it, which lets in rays of light into the "retina" or chamber where the images of things are formed; this is wonderfully guarded in nature, for, besides the orbit of the eye, which is strong and bony, and the eyelids, which in sleep are closed, to prevent anything falling into the eye to disturb it; and the eyebrows, which are fringed with hair to break off the rays of light, which sometimes would be too strong for it; besides all these, there are no less than six tunics or coats to keep and preserve it: and in like manner did the Lord keep and guard Israel, while passing through the wilderness, from fiery serpents, scorpions, and the nations, that none might hurt, as Jarchi; and especially thus he keeps his spiritual Israel, who are parts of himself, one with him, near and dear to him; and about whom he sets guard upon guard, employs all his perfections to secure them, and constantly watches over them night and day, and keeps them from all evil and every enemy, and preserves them safe to his kingdom and glory.
(p) "circumdedit eum", Piscator; so Cocceius, Van Till, Vitringa. (q) "intelligere fecit eum", Pagninus, Cocceius.
fluttereth over her young; by that means to get them out of the nest, and teach them to fly, as well as to preserve them from the attempts of any to take them away; for though some writers represent the eagle as hardhearted to its young, casting them out of the nest, when they are taken care of by the offifrage; yet this is to be understood of it when tired with nursing, and when its young are capable of taking care of themselves; or of some sort of eagles; for Aelianus (r) testifies, that of all animals the eagle is most affectionate to its young, and most studiously careful of them; when it sees anyone coming to them, it will not suffer them to go away unpunished, but will beat them with its wings and tear them with its nails: Jarchi thinks this phrase is expressive of the manner of its incubation on its young; it does not, he says, lie heavy upon them, but lifts up herself, and touches them as if she did not touch them; but it rather signifies the motion she makes with her wings to get her young, when fledged, out of the nest, and to teach them to make use of their wings, as she does; and we are told that young eagles, when their wings are weak, will fly about their dams and learn of them to fly (s); and hence it is that young eagles while they are eating flutter their wings, that motion being so natural to them, and seeing their dams do so likewise (t): this passage seems to contradict a notion that has obtained with some, that an eagle only breeds one at a time; the philosopher says (u), the eagle lays three eggs and casts out two of them; according to the verse of Musaeus, it lays three, casts out two, and brings up one; and so, he says, it commonly is the case: but sometimes three young ones are seen together; and the black eagles are more kind to their young, and careful in the nourishment of them; and the same says Pliny (w); yea we are told, that sometimes seven are seen in a nest (x):
spreadeth abroad her wings taketh them, beareth them on her wings; that is, spreads forth her wings when she flutters over her young to instruct them; or she does this in order to take up her young and carry them on them: it is said that eagles fly round their nest, and vary the flights for the instruction of their young; and afterwards taking them on their backs, they soar with them aloft, in order to try their strength, shaking them off into the air: and if they perceive them too weak to sustain themselves, they with surprising dexterity fly under them again, and receive them on their wings to prevent their fall (y); See Gill on Exodus 19:4; thus the Lord, comparable to this creature for his affection to the people of Israel, his care of them, and his strength to bear and carry them, did bear them as on eagles' wings, and carried and saved them all the days of old; even Christ, the Angel of Jehovah's presence, the rock of salvation they rejected, see Exodus 19:4; and all this in a spiritual and evangelic sense may be expressive of the gracious dealings of God with his spiritual Israel; teaching and enabling them to mount up with wings as eagles, to soar aloft in the exercise of faith, hope, and love, entering thereby within the vail into the holiest of all, and living in the constant and comfortable expectation of heaven and happiness; and of the Lord's taking his people up from the low estate in which they are, and raising them up to near communion with himself, bearing them on his heart, in his hands, and on his arm, supporting them under all their afflictions, and carrying them, through all their troubles and difficulties, safe to eternal glory and happiness.
(r) Hist. Animal. l. 2. c. 40. (s) Suidas, vol. 1. p. 89. (t) Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 2. c. 3. col. 178. (u) Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 6. c. 6. (w) Nat Hist. l. 10. c. 3.((x) Vid. Bochart ut supra. (t)) (y) See Harris's Voyages, vol. 1. B. 1. c. 2. sect. 14. p. 486.
and there was no strange god with him; with Israel; so Aben Ezra, no idolatry among them then; to which sense are the Targums of Jerusalem and Jonathan; but it may rather signify that the Lord alone was the leader of his people, and he had no assistant in that work, and therefore all the glory should be given to him: he is the leader of his people, in a spiritual sense, out of a state of unregeneracy, which is a state of darkness and bondage; out of the ways of sin, and from the pastures of their own righteousness, into an open state of grace, which is a state of light and liberty; in Christ the way, and in the paths of faith, truth, holiness, and righteousness, unto the heavenly glory, typified by the land of Canaan, the blessings of which are next described: the Jews say (z), this will be in the days of the King Messiah; when there will be no abominable thing in Israel, the Lord alone shall lead him.
(z) Tikkune Zohar, Correct. 18. fol. 32. 2. 36. 2.
that he might eat the increase of the fields: the produce of them, particularly corn for bread, and which the Israelites ate of as soon as they came into the land of Canaan, Joshua 5:11; an emblem of the Gospel, and the truths of it, which are salutary, nourishing, strengthening, reviving, and cheering, and of Christ the bread of life, which believers by faith eat of, and feed upon and live:
and he made him to suck honey out of the rock; not water out of the rock, as sweet to them as honey, that they had in the wilderness; but either the honey of bees that made their nests in rocks, as a swarm of them did in the carcass of a lion; and so in like manner as honey came out of the lion, it may be said to be sucked out of the rock: so Homer (a) speaks of swarms of bees out of a hollow rock: or this was the honey of palm trees, as Aben Ezra observes, some say, which might grow on rocks; see Gill on Deuteronomy 8:8; and this is favoured by the Targum of Jonathan, which paraphrases the words,"honey from those fruits which grow on the rocks,''unless it means honey gathered by bees from such fruits; the rock may typify Christ, and the honey out of it the Gospel, which is from him and concerning him; comparable to honey for the manner of its production and gathering, by the laborious ministers of the word; for its nourishment, and especially for its sweetness, its precious promises, and pleasant doctrines:
and oil out of the flinty rock; that is, oil out of the olives, which grow on rocks, and these delight to grow on hills and mountains; hence we read of the mount of Olives, see Job 29:6; and so the Targum of Jonathan,"and oil out of the olives and suckers which grow on the strong rocks;''this may signify the Spirit and his graces, the unction which comes from Christ the Holy One, and the blessings of grace had from him, and the Gospel and its truths; which are cheering and refreshing, mollifying and healing, feeding and fattening, pure and unmixed, and useful for light, as oil is.
(a) Iliad. 2. l. 87, 88.
and milk of sheep: which they give, though not in such plenty as the kine, yet what is very wholesome and nourishing: the philosopher (b) observes, that sheep give more milk in proportion to the size of their bodies than cows: and Pliny (c) says their milk is sweeter and more nourishing, and the butter made of it is the fattest:
with fat of lambs; or fat lambs, rich and delicious food:
and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats; a fruitful country abounding with pasturage, where rams and goats of the best sort were and the breed of them was coveted and had in the land of Canaan; the kine of Bashan are mentioned elsewhere, Psalm 22:12,
with the fat of kidneys of wheat: that is, the best wheat, the grains are plump and full; and Aben Ezra observes, that a grain of wheat has some likeness to a kidney, see Psalm 81:16,
and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape; wine which comes from the grape, red wine, pure and unmixed, see Genesis 40:11; the land of Canaan was a land of vines, and abounded with good wine, Deuteronomy 8:8; which the Israelites, when they came into it, drank of in common, who had only drank water in the wilderness, and had but little flesh, and lived on manna, and now abounded with plenty of all good things; all which are observed as instances of divine goodness, and to aggravate their ingratitude in rejecting the Messiah, they then enjoying all these good things, the land being alike fertile and affluent then, as appears from Isaiah 7:14; Jarchi applies this fruitfulness to the times of Solomon, as the butter of kine, and the kidneys of wheat, 1 Kings 4:22; and fat of lambs, and the blood of the grape, to the times of the ten tribes, Amos 6:4; but this was the constant fertility of the land, and lasted to the times of the Messiah: now all these may be expressive of the blessings of grace, and the spiritual food of the Gospel: Ainsworth very prettily remarks, that here is both food for babes and for grown persons, butter and milk for the one, and meat for the other, and drink for them both: the plain truths of the Gospel are like butter, soft and easy to be taken in, and like milk, easy of digestion, cooling, nourishing, sweet, and pleasant; the more sublime truths of the Gospel are meat for strong men, signified by the flesh of fat lambs, rams, and goats; which all being used in sacrifices were typical of Christ; as also the finest of wheat is an emblem of him the bread of life, on whom the weakest believer lives by faith; and the drink for both, the wine the blood of the grape, may signify the love of Christ, the Gospel and the truths of it, and the blessings of grace, which come through the everlasting covenant.
(b) Aristot. Problem. sect. 10. qu. 6. (c) Nat. Hist. l. 28. c. 9.
thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; which is repeated and expressed by different words, both for the certainty of it, and to denote their great affluence of good things, and so the more to aggravate their impiety and ingratitude, next observed:
then he forsook God which made him; the worship of God, as the Targum of Jonathan, giving into idolatry in times past; and the written word of God, by giving heed to the traditions of the elders, to the making void and of none effect the word of God; or Christ, the essential Word of God; so the Targum of Jonathan,"and left the Word of God, who created them;''that Word of God which was in the beginning of all things, and by whom all things were made, and they also; who in the fulness of time was made flesh, and dwelt among men, John 1:1,
and lightly esteemed the rock of his salvation; the same divine Person, described in Deuteronomy 32:4; and there called "the Rock"; see Gill on Deuteronomy 32:4; here "the rock of salvation"; because salvation flows from him: he is the author of it, and it is to be had of him, and no other; and this epithet shows not only his ability and strength to effect it, but the security of it in him, which being wrought out is an everlasting one. He is said to be the rock of "his" salvation, Jeshurun or Israel, he being of the Jews, raised up among them, and sent unto them, and was the Saviour of some of them actually, even of the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and on account of his salvation deserving of universal esteem. But the Jews "lightly esteemed" him, had no value for him, set this rock and stone at nought; he was refused and rejected by the builders, who is now the head of the corner; they despised him, mocked at him, and treated him with the utmost contempt and disdain, yea, with abhorrence; all which, and more, is signified by the word here used: they traduced him as a vile and wicked person, and charged and, treated him as such, so some render the word (f); and, as others (g), they made a dead carcass of him, they crucified and slew him; this is the crime of ingratitude hinted at in Deuteronomy 32:6; and all between is an enumeration of instances of divine goodness to this people, mentioned with a view to aggravate this unheard of sin.
(d) "rectum esse". (e) "cernere, intueri", Cocceius, Van Till. (f) "pro scelerato tractavit", Cocceius. (g) "Cadaver fecit", Van Till.
with abominations provoked they him to anger; by advancing the traditions of the elders to an equality with, and above the word of God; and by continuing sacrifices, after the great sacrifice was offered up, when they ought to have ceased; for, by continuing them, it was saying Christ was not come in the flesh, nor his sacrifice offered up; it was trampling under foot the Son of God, and treating his blood and sacrifice with contempt; which must be an abomination to God, and highly provoking of his anger, when that sacrifice was of a sweet smelling savour to him; and especially what was abominable to him, and grievously provoked him to anger and wrath, was their setting up the idol of their own righteousness, refusing to submit to the righteousness of Christ, Romans 10:3; and indeed, whenever anything is set up in competition with him, or in opposition to him, be it what it will, it must be an abomination to God; because it opposes his purposes and resolutions of saving men by Christ alone, reflects on his wisdom in the scheme of salvation, flies in the face of his love, grace, and mercy, makes the death of Christ of none effect, advances pride in the creature, gives God the lie, who says there is no other Saviour, and is a total slight and neglect of his Gospel; all which must be abominable, and dreadfully provoking to him; see Isaiah 65:5;
(h) "per alios", Cocceius.
to gods whom they knew not, to gods that came newly up; such as angels, into the worship of which they fell, as their writings testify (i), and to which the apostle seems to have respect, Colossians 2:18,
whom your fathers feared not; paid no regard unto, put no trust or confidence in; or, as the Targum of Jonathan,"with whom your fathers had nothing to do:''as they had not with the idol of man's righteousness, but wholly looked unto and trusted in the grace and righteousness of Christ, and expected salvation alone by him: the Gospel of righteousness and salvation by Christ was preached to our first parents in Eden's garden, which they embraced and believed in; Noah was an heir and preacher of the righteousness of faith, that is, of the righteousness of Christ, received by faith; that righteousness, which was what Abraham believed in, was imputed to him for his justifying righteousness; and Jacob waited for the Messiah, the salvation of God; in short all the Old Testament saints were saved by the grace of Christ, as we are; the idols, the works of men's own righteousness, are new deities they paid no deference to, placed no confidence in.
(i) Vid. Van Till in loc.
and hast forgotten God that formed thee: for the rock they were unmindful of and forgot is the true God and eternal life, the essential Word of God, as both the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem interpret it; him the Jewish nation forgot; they forgot the characters given of him in the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament; and therefore they knew him not when he came and fulfilled the voices of the prophets they were ignorant of in condemning him: hence they were unmindful of his person, his offices, his works, his benefits, and the great salvation by him; as indeed too many are that call themselves Christians: some observe that the word here used signifies bringing forth children with pain, and so way respect the bitter sorrows and sufferings of Christ, sometimes expressed by a word (l) which signifies the pains of women in childbirth, Acts 2:24; and called the travail of his soul, Isaiah 53:11; and so a further aggravation of their ingratitude, that they should forget him that suffered so much, at least on account of some of them; for, those he endured to bring forth children unto God, or to gather together the children of God, scattered abroad both in Judea and in the whole world, John 11:51.
(k) "rupem cognationis tuae", i.e. "fratrum tuorum", Van Till; see Rom. ix. 4, 5. (l) "parturientis te", Montanus; "parturitorem tuum", Van Till.
he abhorred them; in his heart, despised them, and at last rejected them with contempt and abhorrence, very righteously and in just retaliation, see Zechariah 11:8; as for what before observed, so for what follows:
because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters; which is not to be understood of the Lord being provoked to wrath by the sins of those who called themselves or were called his sons and daughters; for these are such who were truly his sons and daughters, and different from those in Deuteronomy 32:20, said to be "children in whom is no faith": these are no other than the disciples and followers of Christ, that believed in him, both men and women, and so the children of God, his sons and his daughters by special grace; and the "provoking" of them is the wrath of the enemy against them, as the same word is used and rendered in Deuteronomy 32:27; and should be here, "because of wrath", or "indignation against his sons and his daughters" (m); meaning the affliction, distress, and persecution of them, through the wrath of the unbelieving Jews; for after the death of Christ they persecuted his apostles, they beat them and cast them into prison, and put some to death; a persecution was raised against the church at Jerusalem, in which Saul was concerned, who breathed out threatenings and slaughters against the disciples of the Lord, and haled men and women, the sons and daughters of God, and committed them to prison, and persecuted them to strange cities, and gave his voice to put them to death; and in the Gentile world, when the Gospel was carried there, the Jews stirred up the Gentiles everywhere against the followers of Christ, to harass and distress them; and this the Lord saw, and he abhorred them for it, and rejected them.
(m) "prae ira in filios suos", Pagninus; "propter iram in filios suos", Van Till; so Maimon. Moreh Nevochim, par. 1. c. 36.
I will see what their end shall be: their destruction, called in the New Testament "the end of the world"; the end of the Jewish church state and commonwealth: this the Lord said, not as ignorant what it should be, or when it would be; but the sense is, either that he would cause them and others to see it, when he should bring wrath upon them to the uttermost; or that he would look upon it with pleasure and delight, which would be an aggravation of their punishment, Proverbs 1:26,
for they are a very froward generation; men of perverse spirits, of a contrary and contradictory temper and disposition, who pleased not God, and were contrary to all men; as well as contradicted and blasphemed the Gospel of Christ, were men of distorted principles in religion, implicated and inconsistent, they wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction; and were obstinate, stubborn, and inflexible in their notions and practices, and that to the last, which was their ruin:
children in whom is no faith; for though they had faith in one God, in the Scriptures of the Old Testament as the word of God, in the law of Moses, and in a future state, the resurrection of the dead, and judgment to come; especially the Pharisees, the greater part of the Jews; yet though they were the children of Abraham, and would be thought to be the children of God, they had no faith in Jesus, the true Messiah; him they disbelieved and rejected; and as their fathers could not enter into the land of Canaan, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness, because of unbelief; so these were cast out of the land, and from the Lord, because of their unbelief in the rejection of the Messiah. Aben Ezra observes, that it may be interpreted there is no men of faithfulness, or no faithful men among them, as in Psalm 12:1; they were a faithless generation, covenant breakers, broke their covenant with God, and therefore he rejected them.
(z) De Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 5. sect. 3.
they have provoked me to anger with their vanities; such were their false Christs they in vain trusted in, and such the idol of their own righteousness they set up, but could not make to stand; and such were the traditions of their elders; they put upon an equality with, or above the word of God; all which stirred up the wrath and anger of God against them:
and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people: this is not to be understood of any particular nation, but of the Gentiles in general, and of God's elect among them, and of the calling of them; which would be provoking to the Jews, as the Apostle Paul has taught us to understand it, Romans 10:19. These were not the people of God, or not my people, as he says Romans 9:25; In some sense indeed they were his people, being chosen by him, and taken into covenant with him; for he is God not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also; and those were given to Christ as his people, and are his other sheep which were not of the Jewish fold; and who were redeemed by him to be a peculiar people out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation, all which was before their calling: yet, in another sense they were not his people; they were without any spiritual privileges, the word and ordinances, without the knowledge of God and Christ, without communion with them; they were not a people near unto the Lord, he had not laid hold on and formed them for himself in regeneration and conversion; they were not reckoned the people of God, nor called so, and especially by the Jews, who accounted themselves to be the only people of God; see Ephesians 2:11,
I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation; either the Romans in particular are meant, so called because of their gross idolatry, to which they were addicted, who otherwise in their political affairs were a wise and understanding people; to these Judea became a province, and were subject to tribute; and by the exactions of the Romans, and their ill usage of them, they were provoked to rise against them, which issued in their ruin: or rather the Gentiles in general, who might be called foolish because of their superstition and idolatry, ignorance, and blindness in religious matters, and especially were so in the account of the Jews; and the elect of God among them in particular, who in their state of unregeneracy were foolish, as all unregenerate men are; both their principles and practices were foolish, and they were the foolish things of the Gentile world that God chose and called: and the calling of them was exceedingly provoking to the Jews; which was as if a man, moved to jealousy by the behaviour of his wife, should strip her of her ornaments and jewels, and reject her as his wife; and take another before her eyes of mean estate, and marry her, and put her ornaments on her, to which the allusion is; for the Lord, being moved to jealousy by the conduct of the Jewish nation towards him, rejected them from being his people, and stripped them of all their privileges, civil and religious, and took the Gentiles in the room of them, and so in just retaliation moved them to jealousy and wrath. It was displeasing to the carnal Jews to hear of the prophecies of the calling of the Gentiles, Romans 10:20; and the first display of grace to them was resented even by believing Jews themselves at first, Acts 11:2. The anger of the Scribes and Pharisees on this account is thought by some to be hinted at in the parable of the two sons, Luke 15:27. The Jews were offended with Christ for eating with publicans, the Roman tax gatherers, and were greatly displeased when he told them the kingdom of God would be taken from them, and given to another nation, Matthew 9:10 Matthew 21:43. Their rage and envy were very great when the Gospel was first preached to the Gentiles, Acts 13:41; and there is such an extraordinary instance of their spite and malice to the Gentiles, and of their jealousy and anger they were moved unto, as is not to be paralleled, 1 Thessalonians 2:15.
and shall burn unto the lowest hell; which denotes an entire destruction, like that of the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone from heaven; which issued in a sulphurous lake, and which sulphureous matter sunk to the bottom of the Dead Sea; and to that destruction is this of the land of Judea compared, Deuteronomy 29:23,
and shall consume the earth with her increase: the land of Judea, with the cities and towns in it, and buildings on it, and the fruits of the earth; which were either gathered into their barns and storehouses, or were growing in their fields, and vineyards, and oliveyards; all were destroyed and consumed at or before the destruction of Jerusalem, or quickly after it:
and set on fire the foundations of the mountains; the city of Jerusalem, as Jarchi himself interprets it, whose foundations were by the mountains, according to Psalm 125:2; and the temple of Jerusalem particularly was built on Mount Moriah, and that as well as the city was utterly consumed by fire: and it is remarkable that when Julian the apostate attempted to rebuild it, as is related even by an Heathen historian (a), that flames of fire burst out from the foundations, and burnt the workmen; so that he was obliged to desist from his rash undertaking.
(a) Ammian. Marcellin. l. 23. in initio.
I will spewed mine arrows upon them; God is here represented as an enemy to the Jews, as having bent his bow against them like an enemy, Lamentations 2:4; and as having a quiver, and that full of arrows, and as determined to draw out and spend everyone of them, in taking vengeance upon them; which arrows are his four sore judgments mentioned Ezekiel 14:21; and expressed in Deuteronomy 32:24.
and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction; with burning fevers, pestilential ones, with the plague, the arrow of the Lord that flies by day, the pestilence that walks in darkness, and the destruction that wastes at noonday, Psalm 91:5; and which also raged at the siege of Jerusalem, arising from the stench of dead bodies, which lay in all parts of the city, and is one of the signs of the destruction of it given by our Lord, Matthew 24:7,
I will also send the teeth, of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust; another of the arrows in the quiver of the Lord of hosts, or of his four judgments, and which he used to threaten the people of the Jews with in case of disobedience, Leviticus 26:22. And such of the Jews who fled to deserts, and caves and dens of the earth, for shelter, could not escape falling into the hands of wild beasts, and of meeting with poisonous serpents that go upon their bellies, and feed on the dust of the earth; and besides, when Titus had taken Jerusalem, he disposed of his captives some one way and some another; and, among the rest, many were cast to the wild beasts in the theatre, as Josephus relates (d); add to this, that both Rome Pagan, and Roman Papal, are called beasts, Revelation 13:1; into both whose hands the Jews fell, and from whom they have suffered much; with which in part agrees the Targum of Jerusalem,
"the teeth of the four monarchies, which are like to wild beasts, I will send upon them;''and particularly the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it,"and the Greeks, who bite with their teeth like wild beasts, I will send upon them;''but it would have been much better to have interpreted it of the Romans.
(b) , de Bello Jud. l. 5. c. 23. sect. 4. (c) R. Moses Hadarsan. (d) De Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 9. sect. 2. & l. 7. c. 3. sect. 1.
and terror within; within the city, on account of the sword of the Romans, and the close siege they made of it; and on account of the famine and pestilence which raged in it, and the cruelty of the seditious persons among themselves; all these filled the people with horror and terror in their houses; and even in their bedchambers, as the word signifies, they were not free from terror; yea, from the temple, and inward parts, and chambers of that, which may be referred to, terror came, that being in the hands of the seditious; they sallied out from thence, and ravaged the city, and filled all places with the dread of them; and many, no doubt, through fear died, as well as by the sword and other judgments; which it is threatened
shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also,
with the man of gray hairs; none of any age or sex were spared, even those unarmed; not the young man, for his strength and promising usefulness; nor the virgin for her beauty and comeliness; nor the suckling for its innocence and tenderness; nor the aged man through any reverence of his gray hairs, or on account of the infirmities of old age, but all would be destroyed; and never was such a carnage made at the siege of anyone city in the world before or since; no less than 1,100,000 persons perished in it, as Josephus relates (e).
(e) De Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 9. sect. 3.
I would scatter them into corners; which does not fitly express the sense of the word used, and besides this was what was done; it is notorious that the Jews were and are scattered into the several corners of the world, and there is no corner where they are not; whereas the phrase is expressive of something that could and might have been done, but was not: moreover, to disperse them into the several parts of the world does not agree with what follows; for that, instead of making their remembrance to cease, would make them the more known, and the more to be remembered. But the word literally taken may be rendered, "I will corner them" (f); drive them up into a corner, and cut them off together, or search for them in, and ferret them out of, every corner in which they should get, and destroy them all: agreeably to which is the Targum of Onkelos,"mine anger shall rest upon them, and I will destroy them;''and so Aben Ezra interprets it of the destruction of them, and observes, that otherwise it would not agree with what follows. There may be an allusion in it to the corner of the field, which was ordered to be left to the poor, and not reaped, Leviticus 19:9; and so the sense is, I could and might have determined when the harvest of this land and people was come, or the time of wrath upon them, to cut down every corner, and leave none, no, not one standing stalk of corn, but make clean riddance of them:
I would make the remembrance of them cease from among men; as of the Amalekites, Moabites, Midianites, Edomites, Chaldeans, and others, whose names as well as nations are no more. This is what the enemies of the Jews plotted and conspired to do, Psalm 83:4; and what God could and might have done, but has not; the Jews continue to this day a distinct people, though it is now near 1900 years since the destruction of their city and temple, and their dispersion in the various parts of the world; which is what was never known of any other people in the like circumstances, and which is a most amazing and surprising event; the reasons of it follow.
(f) "angulabo illos", Oleaster, Vitringa; "ad angulos usque quaeram ipsos, seu ad verbum, angulabo ipsos", Van Till; "ab angulo succidam ipsos", Cocceius. Vid. Gusset. Ebr. Comment. p. 661.
lest their adversaries; the Romans, who fought against them, took them, and carried them captive:
should behave themselves strangely; alienate the glory of God from him, and give it to their strange gods; which the Romans were wont to do, when they obtained victories, and did do something of this kind to Jupiter Capitolinus, when they carried the Jews captive, and their trophies in triumph to Rome: yet there was such an apparent hand of God in this affair, that the Heathens were obliged to own it. Titus the conqueror himself confessed that it was God that favoured him, and that it was he that brought the Jews out of the fortresses and fastnesses in which they were; and that no hands of men, or machines, were anything against such towers as they had (g): and when some neighbouring nations would have crowned him because of his victories over the Jews, he refused it, saying, he was unworthy of it, he had not done this of himself, but had only lent an hand to God that was angry with them (h). Cicero also observes (i) the hand of God in the conquest, captivity, and servitude of the Jewish nation; moreover, a remnant was preserved to be to the Romans, as the Canaanites were to the Israelites, thorns in their sides, and pricks in their eyes; to be a burden to them, a dead weight upon them, and to check their ovations and triumphs over them; for, that people conquered gave them great trouble, raised commotions and insurrections in many places, which obliged the emperors in succeeding reigns to come from distant parts, and quell them, and were the occasion of vast quantities of blood being shed; insomuch that one of their poets (k) wishes Judea had never been subdued by them: likewise a number of them was preserved to prevent the growth and spread of idolatry, and that they might be a standing example and caution to Christians among the Gentiles not to give into it, when they should observe what they suffered on the account of it, as their prophecies, extant in their sacred books preserved, abundantly testified and declared:
and lest they should say, our hand is high, and the Lord hath not done all this; lest anyone should say among the Gentiles, as particularly deists, lest they should lift up their horn on high, and speak with a stiff neck, and deny that ever any such things were done for this people the Scriptures speak of, as the miracles in the land of Egypt, at the Red sea, and in the wilderness; and confidently affirm there never was any such people, and defy Christians to show them a Jew if they could: now here was a reserve made of them, to be a standing proof of the truth of divine revelation against such infidels; as also that they might be a check unto all false teachers, and leave them inexcusable who embrace the same errors that have been condemned in them, and God has shown his displeasure at, and which they still retain; such as the doctrines of freewill, of justification by a man's own righteousness, of salvation not being wholly by the Messiah, and of his being non-Jehovah, or only a mere creature; for the words may be rendered, "non-Jehovah hath done all this" (l); or he that is not Jehovah hath done all that is done for the people of the Jews; and say, all that the Messiah hath done, with respect to salvation, is done by him that is not Jehovah, or God, but a creature. These were the doctrines of the Jews in Christ's time; the Pharisees, the prevailing sect among them, were freewillers, as Josephus relates (m); and the whole nation were self-justiciaries, as the Apostle Paul assures us, and sought for righteousness not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law, Romans 9:31; and such they are to this day, as well as Unitarians to a man; now Arians, Socinians, Pelagians, and Arminians, may look upon these people, who are continued, as having imbibed the same errors; and may read theirs in them, and God's displeasure at them.
(g) Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 9. sect. 1.((h) Philostrat. Vit. Apolion. l. 6. c. 14. (i) Orat. 24. pro Flacco. (k) "Atque utinam nunquam Judaea subacta fuisset", Rutilius. (l) "et non Jehovah operatus est omne hoc", Cocceius; so Van Till, Vitringa. (m) Antiqu. l. 18. c. 1. sect. 3.
neither is there any understanding is them; of divine and spiritual things, of the Scriptures, and the doctrines of them; of the person of Christ, and his divine perfections, or they would never deny his deity; of the righteousness of God, of that which is required in the law, and revealed in the Gospel, or they would never set up a righteousness of their own for justification; and of themselves, their unrighteousness, impurity, and impotence to that which is good; or they would never so strongly assert the purity of human nature, and the power of man's freewill: God foreseeing all the folly, and want of counsel and understanding in the Gentile world, under different characters, preserved a remnant of the Jews as a standing admonition to them.
that they would understand this; namely what follows:
that they would consider their latter end; either the latter end of the Jews; had they wisdom, they would understand and observe that the displeasure of God against them, and his destruction of them, was for their lightly esteeming the rock of salvation, as Arians do; and for setting up their own righteousness, in opposition to the righteousness of Christ, as do Pelagians and Arminians; and were they wise, they would be hereby cautioned against such notions; and though imbibed by them, would relinquish them; as they may justly fear some such like end will be theirs: for if God does not give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth their end must be miserable; since the errors they embrace and profess are what the apostle calls "damnable heresies"; who, denying the Lord that bought them, bring on themselves swift destruction; and whose judgment, he says, lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not, 2 Peter 2:1.
(k) "o si sapcrent", Tigurine version; "si sapuissent", Vatablus; "si saperent", Cocceius.
except their rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up; that is, unless the Lord, who was their rock and fortress, and in whom they should have trusted as such, had forsaken them, and given them up into their enemies' hands, shut up as they were in the city of Jerusalem in the times of Titus, and afterwards in Bither in the times of Adrian; it is a plain case that this was of God, and not owing to the idols of the Gentiles; see Psalm 44:9; Cocceius and Van Till interpret this of Constantine overcoming Maxentius, Licinius, and Maximinius, whereby the whole Roman empire on a sudden became Christian nominally, when but a little before Dioclesian had erected a trophy with this inscription on it,"the Christian name blotted out;''so that the odds between the Christians and Pagans were as one to a thousand, and two to ten thousand, and the victory therefore must be ascribed to God; this could never have been unless Satan, the great red dragon, had given his kingdom to the beast, which was done by the permission and sovereign will of God; see Revelation 6:14; so those interpreters, but the former sense seems best.
even our enemies themselves being judges; as has been confessed of the God of Israel by the Heathens; see Exodus 14:25; and was by Titus with respect to the destruction of Jerusalem; See Gill on Deuteronomy 32:27; and by the Roman emperors when conquered by the Christians, who asked pardon of the God of the Christians, and owned that the God of Constantine was the true God; See Gill on Revelation 6:16.
their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter; which may denote the large number of the members of this church clustered together, and the many religious orders in it; which make a fair show in the flesh, but are in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity; and the variety of ordinances and institutions of man's devising: so as the ordinances of the true church of Christ are compared to clusters of grapes, Sol 7:7; the ordinances of the false church are like clusters of bitter grapes, both for their quantity and quality; and may mean also their many evil works and actions, especially their oppression and cruelty in persecuting the saints, and shedding their blood; just as the wild grapes of the vine of Judah are interpreted of oppression and a cry, Isaiah 5:4.
"the poison of this people is like the poison of dragons as they drink wine;''and the Targum of Jonathan,"as the poison of dragons, when they are at or from their wine;''that is, after and as soon as they have drank it; for, according to natural historians, serpents, though they need and use but little drink, yet are very fond of wine: and it seems that thereby their poison becomes more sharp and intense, as Bochart (p) observes; wherefore the allusion is very proper and pertinent, and denotes the wine of fornication of the apostate church of Rome, frequently spoken of Revelation 14:8; which is no other than her corrupt doctrines, intoxicating, enticing, and leading to idolatry and superstition; and as the true Gospel of Christ is sometimes compared to wine, so the false doctrines of this church; but then it is such that is not only loathsome and abominable, but poisonous and pernicious to the souls of men, damnable and ruinous, and brings upon them swift destruction, 2 Peter 2:1; and may well be compared to the poison of dragons for such reasons; as also because they are doctrines of devils, and come from the great dragon, that old serpent called the devil and Satan, 2 Timothy 4:1,
and the cruel venom of asps; which, of all kind of serpents, Pliny (q) says is the least curable; nay, according to the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions of this clause, it is incurable; and so Aristotle says (r) there is no remedy for it; and so says Aelianus (s), who also observes (t), that the mark it makes is so small, that it is scarcely discerned by the sharpest eye. Pliny (u) represents it as a most revengeful creature; when its mate is killed by any, it will pursue the slayer, flee where he will, and as far and fast as he can: it breaks through all difficulties, and is not to be stopped by rivers, or any obstacles, and will attack the person, whom it presently knows, let him be in ever such a crowd: and therefore it and its poison may well be called cruel; and as the poison of this creature lies under its tongue, this is a fit simile to express the poisonous and pernicious doctrines of the apostate church.
(l) Nat. Hist. l. 29. c. 4. (m) Ethiopic. l. 9. c. 19. p. 438. (n) Descriptio Africae, l. 9. p. 763. (o) Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 8. c. 4. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 72. (p) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 3. c. 14. col. 438, 439. (q) Nat. Hist. l. 29. c. 4. (r) Hist. Animal. l. 8. c. 29. (s) De Animal. l. 1. c. 54. & l. 6. c. 38. (t) Ibid. l. 9. c. 61. (u) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 23.
and sealed up among my treasures; his treasures of wrath, denoting the secrecy of it, and the sure and certain performance of it, and the authority of Christ to execute it; to whom this sealed diploma is given, and all judgment committed; and particularly this to judge the whore of Rome; and who, is able to open the sealed book of God's purposes and decrees, and to accomplish them; and among the rest those which relate to the utter ruin of antichrist, and the antichristian states: so the Targum of Jerusalem, interprets it of the vengeance of the Lord, laid up for the wicked;"is not the cup of the judgment of vengeance mixed and prepared for the ungodly sealed up among my treasures, to the day of the great judgment?''it is true of the cup of the wine of the fierceness of the wrath of God, or of the wine of the wrath of God poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation, which he will make great Babylon, and all the worshippers of the beast, drink of, Revelation 14:9.
their foot shall slide in due time; there is a time fixed for the reign of antichrist, when it will end, forty two months, or 1260 days; that is, so many years; see Revelation 11:2; and a little before the expiration of them, his foot will begin to slide, as the slipping of the foot is just before a fall; and then will the foot of antichrist slip and slide, when the witnesses slain by him shall revive and stand upon their feet, and cause fear to fall on them that are on the earth; and when they shall ascend up into heaven, or rise to superior power and authority, greatness and splendour, than they formerly had, and this in the sight of their enemies; and when there will be earthquakes and revolutions in the several antichristian states; and the tenth part of the great city shall fall, and many persons of renown be slain, and others frightened, and will give glory to the God of heaven; when an angel, or a set of Gospel ministers, shall fly in the midst of heaven, with the everlasting Gospel, to preach to all nations; which will be immediately followed by another, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; when the kings of the earth will dislike and resent various things done by the pope of Rome, and shall hate him, and meditate his ruin, and then may his foot be said to slide; see. Revelation 11:11,
for the day of their calamity is at hand; a cloudy day, as the word signifies, when the kingdom of the beast will be full of darkness and confusion, Revelation 16:10; and when all those calamities shall come upon Babylon, expressed in Revelation 14:8,
and the things that shall come upon them make haste; even all those evil things God has determined in his counsels and purposes, and which are foretold in prophecy, these shall come upon antichrist in haste; for, though his judgment and damnation may seem to linger and slumber, it shall not; God will hasten it in his due time, and all his judgments will come on Babylon in one day, Revelation 18:8.
and repent himself for his servants; by whom are meant not only the ministers of the Gospel, his witnesses that prophesy in sackcloth, and who will be slain when they have finished their testimony; but all that are effectually called by grace, who though they have been the servants of sin, and the vassals of Satan, yet by the grace of God become the servants of God and of righteousness; dislike and cast off their old masters; readily, willingly, and cheerfully, take upon them the yoke of Christ, and freely obey him, constrained by his love, and influenced by views of interest in him: and so serve him without any selfish views, owning that, when they have done all they can, they are but unprofitable servants: now for or on account of these he will repent himself, because of the evils he has suffered to come upon them, being moved with pity, and compassion to them in their miserable circumstances, as they will be in when the witnesses his servants will be slain; not that, properly speaking, repentance is in God; he never changes his mind, counsel, and purposes; he never alters his love, his choice, nor his covenant; or repents of his gifts, and calling of special grace; though he is sometimes said to repent of outward good things he has bestowed, or promised to bestow conditionality; and of evils he has threatened or inflicted; yet this is only to be understood of a change of his outward dealings and dispensations with men, according to his changeable will; and this will be the case now with respect to his servants, whom he will have suffered to be slain, and lie unburied; but repenting or changing his manner of conduct to them will revive them, and cause them to ascend to heaven; see Revelation 11:11,
when he seeth that their power is gone; not the hand and power of the enemy, going and prevailing over them, and strong upon them, as the Targum of Jonathan and Jarchi; but rather the hand and power of the righteous, as the Targum of Jerusalem; and respects not their internal power and strength, which they have not in themselves, but in Christ; though the exertion of that power, and the exercise of their graces, as faith, and hope, and love, will be greatly declined; but their external power, and protection which they had from Protestant princes; they being removed, and others not like them succeeding, or apostatizing to the church of Rome: the outward court or national establishments are a fence and protection to the inward court worshippers, or servants of God; when that shall be given to the Gentiles, the Papists, as it will, Revelation 11:2; the power or hand, the protecting sheltering hand of the saints, will be gone, and they will become a prey to their adversaries:
and there is none shut up or left; a phrase used to express the miserable state and condition of a people, when none are left, but all are carried off, or cut off, and destroyed, and there is none to help them; see 1 Kings 14:10; when there are none shut up in garrisons, and left there to defend a people; or there are none shut up in prison, or any left to till the ground; which is sometimes the case when a nation is conquered, and the greater part are carried captives; but it denotes such a general destruction, that there are none remaining any where, and thus it will be at the slaying of the witnesses. This passage has respect to their dead bodies, which will not be shut up in graves, nor any left to bury them, Revelation 11:9. There will scarcely be a professor of religion, or any that will appear to favour the witnesses slain in any respect; there will be"none to support and uphold,''as the Targum of Jerusalem; not to support and uphold the true religion, or to help the people of God in these their distresses: and when the Lord shall see all this, he will look upon them with an eye of pity and compassion; he will repent for his servants, according to the multitude of his tender mercies; and will plead their cause, and judge them, and will put on the garments of vengeance, and repay fury and recompense to his and their enemies, Isaiah 59:15; who will insultingly say as follows.
their rock in whom they trusted? that is, it shall be said to the people of God, when in the low estate before described, and which will make it still more distressing; it shall be said to them by their enemies in a sneering way, where is the Lord their God they boasted of, and the rock of salvation in whom they trusted? which agrees with other passages of Scripture, Psalm 42:3. The persons insulted and upbraided are the Protestant witnesses at the time of their being slain; when "they that dwell upon the earth", the Papists, "shall rejoice over them", Revelation 11:10; they are such who are true believers in the God and Father of Christ, as their God and Father in Christ, who of his own free grace has blessed them with all spiritual blessings in him; and who trust in Christ the rock alone for justification before God, for acceptance with him, and for their whole salvation; rejecting the Popish notion of justification by works, the doctrines of merit, and of works of supererogation, and the like; who now will be taunted at, and triumphed over, saying, where is the God of the Protestants they gloried in, as being on their side? and where is their rock on which they say the church is built, and not on Peter?
(w) Aben Ezra & R. Nehemiah in Jarchi in loc.
let them rise up and help you; their God and their rock, Jehovah the Father, their covenant God, and his Son the rock of their salvation, in whom they trust; and so they will arise and help them in this time of extreme distress; though they may seem as asleep, and to take no notice of the sad estate of saints, they will arise in wrath and indignation at their enemies, and deliver them out of their hands; the Spirit of life from God shall be sent to bring to life the slain witnesses, and Christ will rise up in the exertion of his kingly power; he will take to himself his great power, and reign, and destroy them that destroyeth the earth, Revelation 11:11,
and be your protection; or "let him be your hiding place" (x); that is, the rock in whom they trusted, and so he is, and will be "an hiding place the wind, and a covert from the storm", Isaiah 32:2; not only from the wrath and justice of God, but from the rage and fury of men; Christ will protect and defend his people against all their enemies, and in his own time will deliver them from them; who, in answer to these taunts and derisions, rises up, and thus he says, as follows.
(x) "absconsio", Pagninus, Montanus; "latibulum", Tigurine version; "latebra", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
and there is no god with me; this the Redeemer and Saviour says elsewhere, Isaiah 44:6; see Deuteronomy 32:12; there is but one God, and Christ the Word, with the Father and the Spirit, are that one God, 1 John 5:7; and there is no other with him; he is the true God, in opposition to all factitious and fictitious gods; he is not a made god, nor a god by office, nor by name and title only, but by nature the one, true, only, and living God; and so it may be most truly believed of him, that he is able to do, and will do, what he next says:
I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I:heal: Christ is the sovereign disposer of life and death, of sickness and health, in a temporal sense; and in a spiritual sense he wounds and kills, by the law in the hand of his Spirit; and he heals and makes alive by his Gospel, as it is accompanied by his Spirit and grace also: this is by some referred to the resurrection from the dead, which will be by Christ the resurrection and the life, the earnest, exemplar, and efficient cause of it; so the Targum of Jerusalem,"I am he that kills the living in this world, and quickens the dead in the world to come:''but it refers to another resurrection previous to that, namely, the reviving of the witnesses after they have been slain three days; who, as they will be killed in a civil sense, in the same sense they will be quickened by the Spirit of life from Christ; that is, they will be raised from that very low estate into which they will be brought, into a glorious one, signified by their ascending up into heaven; which will be done by Christ when he takes to himself his great power, and reigns; then as he suffered his witnesses and people to be wounded and killed, he will make them alive, and heal them, and restore comforts and happiness to them, see Revelation 11:11,
neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand; for, at the same time that he saves his people, he will take their enemies into his hands, out of which there will be no escape; at this time seven thousand names of men, or men of name, will be slain; see Gill on Revelation 11:13.
and say, I live for ever; which is the form of an oath; when men swear, they are to swear, the Lord liveth, or to swear by the living God, and him only, Jeremiah 4:2; and when the Lord swears in this manner, he swears by his life, by himself, because he can swear by no greater; and his form of swearing is, "as truly as I live, saith the Lord", Numbers 14:21; so the above angel is said to swear by him that liveth for ever and ever, Revelation 10:6; and since Christ is the living God, without beginning of days, and end of life, and lives for evermore, he may be thought to swear by himself, by his own life, which is for ever; and as the oath of the Lord is used in condescension by him, to confirm the faith of his people in the immutability of his counsel and promises, and to ascertain unto them the sure performance of them; so it is also used to assure wicked men of the certain performance of his threatenings; and it is as if Christ here said, as sure as I am the living God, and do and shall live for ever, I will most certainly do the things which next follow.
and my hand take hold on judgment: in order to execute it; the allusion is to the laying hold on the instruments of justice and death, as the glittering sword before mentioned, and arrows afterwards; and may have respect to the four sore judgments, or at least to some of them, which the Lord will execute on mystical Babylon, Ezekiel 14:21; and particularly to the seven vials of God's wrath, which will be poured out on the antichristian states, Revelation 16:1,
I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and I will reward them that hate me; his enemies that hate him, and will not have him to rule over them, are the followers of antichrist, who has his name from his opposition to Christ, his hatred of him, and enmity against him; opposing him in his kingly office, taking upon him to exercise dominion and tyranny over the consciences of men, making new laws, and imposing them on them, and dispensing with the laws of Christ; and setting aside his priestly office by the sacrifice of the Mass, granting pardons and indulgences, and advancing the works and merits of men, in opposition to the righteousness of Christ, and pretending even to works of supererogation; making of none effect, as much as in him lies, his prophetic office, by setting up unwritten traditions before the word of God, and making them the rule of faith and practice, and assuming to himself an infallible interpretation of the sense of Scripture. The vengeance Christ will render, as a righteous reward to those his enemies, is expressed by destroying antichrist with the breath of his mouth; by the beast going into perdition; by leading them captive who have led others; by killing them with the sword who have killed others with it; by pouring out the vials of his wrath on them; by giving them the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath; by smiting them with the sword that comes out of his mouth, and by bringing upon them death, mourning, and famine, and burning them with fire; all which he will most surely render unto them, 2 Thessalonians 2:8 Revelation 19:15.
and my sword shall devour flesh: the flesh of kings, of captains, of mighty men, of horses, and of them that sit on them the flesh of all men, bond and free, small and great, Revelation 19:18; that is, shall destroy great multitudes of men:
and that with the blood of the slain, and of the captives; that is, his arrows should be drunk not only with the blood of these that were wounded and killed, but of the captives; who commonly are spared, but in this case should not, their blood should be shed: it may be rendered, "because of the blood of the slain", &c. (y); because of the blood of the saints whom they have killed, and carried captive, and who have died in prisons:
from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy; or "of the enemy"; that is, from the time the enemy began to oppress the saints, and take revenge on them, and shed their blood; all that blood shall be found in them that has been from the beginning shed, and charged to their account, and revenged on them; just as the blood of all the righteous, from the beginning of the world, was brought upon the Jews, Matthew 23:35. The Targum of Jerusalem is,"from the heads of their mighty men, the generals of their armies;''to, which agrees the Septuagint version,"from the head of the princes of the enemies;''and so may refer to the head or heads of the antichristian people, the pope of Rome, and his princes, the cardinals, and all the antichristian kings and states, the captains and generals of their armies, which will be brought to Armageddon, and there destroyed, see Psalm 68:21.
(y) "propter sanguinem", Pagninus, Tigurine version.
for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries; by his servants are meant the martyrs of Jesus, whose blood has been shed by antichrist, and the antichristian powers, his adversaries; as the blood of the Waldenses in the valleys of Piedmont, the Albigenses in Spain, and the Petrobrussians in France, the Bohemians in Germany, the Wickliffites, Lollards and the "martyrs" in Queen Mary's days in England, with many others; and when inquisition is made for blood, the blood of those will be found out, and vengeance rendered for it:
and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people: or "will atone for" (z), expiate, cleanse, and purge both land and people; clear the whole earth, which is the Lord's, from Mahometanism, Paganism, and Popery, and cover it with the knowledge of the Lord by the everlasting Gospel, which will be preached to all nations; and particularly the land of Canaan, laid under an anathema or curse, as threatened, Malachi 4:6; under which it has lain ever since the destruction of it by the Romans, and has ever since been inhabited by Pagans, Mahometans, and Papists; and, though once a land flowing with milk and honey, has been turned into a barren wilderness, and will thus remain, and Jerusalem, its metropolis, trodden down by the Gentiles, until their times are fulfilled; which now will be, and then it will be restored to its former fruitfulness and fertility, Luke 21:24; and will be inhabited by the converted Jews, to whom the Lord will be pacified, upon the foot or Christ's atonement, which now will be made known and applied unto them, with the full and free pardon of all their sins, Romans 11:25; and thus ends this most excellent and wonderful song, which is of such a large extent and compass, as to reach from the beginning of the Jewish nation, and before it, to the conversion of the Jews in the latter day; an history of more than four thousand years already; and how long more is yet to come before all in it is fulfilled no man call say.
(z) "propitiabitur", Pagninus, Montanus; "expiabit", Vatablus; "expiat", Junius & Tremellius.
and spake all the words of this song in the ears of the people; which is observed both before and after the reading of it, to show the certainty of it, and how punctually and faithfully he had delivered it:
he, and Hoshea the son of Nun; the same with Joshua, whose name at first was Hoshea, Numbers 13:16, probably Joshua read the song to one part of the people, while Moses read it to the other.
set your hearts to all the words which I testify among you this day; it was not enough to hear them, but they were to lay them up in their hearts, and retain them in their memories; and not only so, but reflect on them in their minds, and closely apply to the consideration of them, and get the true knowledge and sense of them, and put it in practice:
which ye shall command your children to observe, to do all the words of this law; which shows that the exhortation does not respect the song only, but the whole law delivered in this book; which they were not only to attend to themselves, but to transmit to their children, and enjoin them the observance of, that so religion might be perpetuated in their posterity.
because it is your life: if obeyed, the means of a comfortable and happy life, in the enjoyment of all good things, of the preservation and continuance of it to a length of time; and long life was always reckoned a great temporal mercy:
and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land whither you go over Jordan to possess it; that is, through their obedience to the law they should live long in the land of Canaan, which they were just going to possess; which explains what is meant by its being their life; their comfortable living and continuance in the land depended on their obedience to the law; see Isaiah 1:19.
saying; as follows.
(a) Apud Ludolf. Lex. Ethiop. p. 537.
unto Mount Nebo; which was one of the mountains of Abarim, and had its name either from its height, or a city of this name, to which it was near, see Numbers 32:38; Jerom says (b), in his lays it was shown six miles from Heshbon to the east; it should be read, to the west:
which is in the land of Moab; it formerly belonged to it, but was taken from he Moabites by Sihon, and now possessed by Israel:
that is over against Jericho; which lay on the other side of Jordan, in the land of Canaan:
and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession; which he might take a view of from the high mountain of Nebo, especially his sight being strengthened by the Lord, as no doubt it was; and this would give him a pleasure to behold, though he might not go into it, and confirm his faith that Israel would possess it, as well as be an emblem to him of the heavenly Canaan he was going to inherit.
(b) De loc. Heb. fol. 93. N.
and be gathered unto thy people; to the spirits of just men made perfect in heaven, his more immediate and more remote ancestors, the souls of good men; for otherwise there were none that died, and were buried here, before him, and therefore can have no respect to the buryingplace of his people:
as Aaron thy brother died in Mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people; of which Moses was an eyewitness; and which is observed, because there was a great likeness between the death of him, and what Moses was now called to, both as to the place and manner of it; and likewise the cause of it, later mentioned; as also to make death more easy and familiar, and less terrible to him, when he cared to mind how calmly, cheerfully, and comfortably, his brother Aaron died; see Numbers 20:25.
at the waters of Meribahkadesh; so called, to distinguish it from another Meribah, where also there was a contention on account of water, Numbers 20:13,
in the wilderness of Zin; where Kadesh was, and further describes and distinguishes this place; of the one we read in Exodus 17:7; and of the other, which is here referred to, in Numbers 20:1,
because ye sanctified me not in, the midst of the children of Israel; through their unbelief and disagreeable behaviour, they sanctified him not themselves, and gave no honour to him, nor were the cause of his being sanctified by the Israelites; and this was the reason why Moses and Aaron might not enter into the land of Canaan, Numbers 20:12.