And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel.Deuteronomy 31:1-2. Went and spake — Continued to speak, a usual Hebrew phrase. Go out and come in — Perform the office of a leader or governor, because my death approaches.
And he said unto them, I am an 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.
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 hath said.
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 destroyed.
And the LORD shall give them up before your face, that ye may do unto them according unto all the commandments which I have commanded you.
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.Deuteronomy 31:6. Be strong — In faith in God. He will not fail thee nor forsake thee — Will not leave thee to thyself, but will be always present with thee to assist and make thee successful in thy undertakings. This promise, though made at this time particularly to Israel and Joshua, yet belongs to all believers, Hebrews 13:5.
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 it.Deuteronomy 31:7. Moses — said to him in the face of all Israel — Lest any should question or deny his authority after Moses’s death. Be strong and of good courage — The same exhortation and promise are given to him in particular, that were before given to them all, because he was to bear the charge of them all, and the toil and burden of governing them, and conducting their affairs.
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.
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.Deuteronomy 31:9. Moses wrote this law — Largely so called, comprehending not only the contents of this book of Deuteronomy, but the whole law or doctrine delivered unto him, contained in these five books. Or rather it is probable the whole Pentateuch is here intended, which is the meaning of the word law in many parts of Scripture. And delivered it unto the priests — Who were in duty bound to be peculiarly conversant with it, to keep it carefully and religiously, and to bring it forth upon occasion, and instruct the people out of it. And unto all the elders — The magistrates, whose office it was to see that these laws of God were duly observed. The Jews allege that Moses, having delivered one copy unto the priests, gave one likewise to each tribe, which he committed to the care of the elders of it.
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,Deuteronomy 31:10-11. The year of release — The most proper time that could be chosen for the purpose, when they were freed from debts, and troubles, and cares of a worldly nature, and at liberty to attend to the reading of it without distraction; and when all Israel were required to appear before the Lord, even the women and children, Deuteronomy 31:12. Thou shall read — The chief governor was either to do it himself, or take care that it was done by the priests and others who had the charge of instructing the people. Thus, Joshua himself read all the words of the law before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers, Joshua 8:34; Josiah and Ezra did the same, 2 Chronicles 34:30; Nehemiah 8:2. But Jehoshaphat employed the priests and Levites to do it, 2 Chronicles 17:9. This law before all Israel in their hearing — It was to be read from this original copy, for the greater solemnity of the action, and that it might make a deeper and more lasting impression on their minds. The pious Jews who had copies of the law, doubtless read it frequently in their houses. Some portion of it was read in the synagogues every sabbath day, Acts 15:21. In Jehoshaphat’s time it was read by his command in the different cities of Judah, and the people were instructed out of it by the priests and Levites; but at every year of release it was to be read, not only publicly, to all the people, but throughout.
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.
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:
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.
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.Deuteronomy 31:14. That I may give him a charge — Immediately from myself, for his great encouragement, and to gain him more authority with the people.
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 tabernacle.
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.Deuteronomy 31:16. Thou shalt sleep with thy fathers — Sleep is a common word for death, and, to those who believe a resurrection, has a peculiar propriety, to remind them that death shall not have dominion over them for ever, but that they shall awake as certainly as they fall asleep. This people will go after the gods of the strangers — That is, the Canaanites, who will be turned out of their possessions, and become as strangers in the land. This aggravates their folly to worship such gods as could neither preserve their friends nor annoy their enemies. What a convincing proof is this that these sacred writings are indeed divine! For what human knowledge could or would have pronounced this at a time when the whole people were undoubtedly actuated with the greatest willingness, and the strongest resolution to keep the commandments of God? Or what mere human legislator would, at the same time that he gave his laws, have left it upon record that his people would certainly forsake and break them?
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?Deuteronomy 31:17. Then my anger shall be kindled against them — So it was upon their first defection to idolatry, (Jdg 2:14,) and so it continued to be in all ages, as we read in that and the following sacred books. I will hide my face from them — A metaphor borrowed from kings, who will not allow those who have offended them to come into their presence and see their face. It signifies, I will withdraw my favour and my help. Whatever outward troubles we are in, if we have but the light of God’s countenance, we are safe. But if God hide his face from us, then we are undone. Are not these evils come upon us because God is not among us? — Here we see the true source of most national, domestic, and personal troubles, the absence of God, or his withdrawing his power, protection, and blessing. This made so remarkable a change in their affairs, that it could not but at last make them reflect on the cause of it. See Jdg 3:9-15; Jdg 4:3.
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 gods.
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.Deuteronomy 31:19. Now, therefore, write this song — Recorded in the next chapter, the contents of which were put into a song, that they might be better learned and more fixed in their minds and memories. For it has always been thought the most profitable way of instructing people, and communicating things to posterity, to put them into verse. For which reason Aristotle reports that people anciently sung their laws. And Tully tells us it was the custom of the ancient Romans to have the virtues and praises of their famous men sung at their feasts. Teach it the children of Israel — Cause them to learn and understand it, and have it daily in their mouths. That this may be a witness for me — Of my kindness in giving them so many blessings, of my patience in bearing so long with them, of my clemency in giving them such fair and plain warnings, and of my justice in punishing such an incorrigible people.
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.
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.Deuteronomy 31:21. This song shall testify against them as a witness — That they were sufficiently admonished of their duty, and forewarned what would be the consequence of their defection from me and my worship, (Deuteronomy 32:18-19,) and be a clear evidence that the calamities which befall them are judgments sent from me for the punishment of their transgressions. How ought this to be remarked with wonder! For, to this very day, above three thousand years after, this song is a strong proof and demonstration, both to Jews and Christians, that Moses did indeed speak by the commandment of God. I know their imagination — Inclination to idolatry, which they do not check as they ought: and some of them do not only cherish it in their hearts, but, as far as they can and dare, secretly practise it, as may be gathered from Amos 5:25; Acts 7:43.
Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel.
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 with thee.
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,
That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying,Deuteronomy 31:25-26. The Levites — The priests, (Deuteronomy 31:9,) who also were Levites. Put it in the side — Or, by the side of the ark, as the same word is rendered, 1 Samuel 6:8. For it does not appear that it was laid up within the ark, it being expressly said that there was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, 1 Kings 8:9; 2 Chronicles 5:10. Probably this was the very same book which, after having been some way misplaced, was found in the house of the Lord in the days of Josiah, and publicly read by the king himself, for a testimony against the people, who were then almost ripe for ruin.
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.
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?
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.Deuteronomy 31:28-30. Gather unto me all the elders — It is probable that Moses, having spoken to the people what he was commanded, dismissed them again till he should write the following song; which having done, he summoned the elders (and people, Deuteronomy 31:30) to deliver to them from his own mouth what he had written. Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation — Pronounced himself, with an audible voice, to the representatives of the congregation, and afterward ordered to be repeated to the people of every tribe, the following song or hymn.
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.
And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended.