Deuteronomy 4
Benson Commentary
Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.
Deuteronomy 4:1. Now therefore hearken, O Israel — Having called to their remembrance the extraordinary dispensations of Divine Providence toward them, both in the way of mercy and judgment, he now calls upon their whole assembly, in the most serious and earnest manner, to consider what influence these things ought to have upon their conduct, answerable to the design of such mercies and judgments; namely, to render them punctually obedient to the laws of God, and cautions of offending him; this being the very intent for which they were conducted to the promised land, and the absolute condition of their peaceful and happy enjoyment of it. We may observe Moses here to speak with all possible energy of language. The greatness of the subject he is upon inspires him with more than usual warmth, and he cannot take a view of the extraordinary privilege and happiness bestowed upon his people, in having divine statutes and judgments to direct them, without rapture and admiration. He sees the happiness of their condition therein, and bestows all his zeal and spirit to make them sensible of it. He regards nothing but this only, as knowing this would be every thing to them, to make them great and happy. The statutes — The laws which concerned the worship and service of God. The judgments — The laws concerning their duty to men. So these two comprehend both tables, and the whole law of God.

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Deuteronomy 4:2. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you — By desiring other doctrines, or ways of worship, than what I have taught or prescribed. For this were to accuse me of want of wisdom, or care, or faithfulness, in not giving you sufficient instructions for God’s service. Neither shall ye diminish aught from it — By rejecting or neglecting any thing which I have commanded, though it seem ever so small; but take my word, as it is, for your sole rule and guide in things temporal and eternal.

Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you.
Deuteronomy 4:3-4. Are alive every one of you this day — A singular providence watched over them, to preserve them in such good healthy that not one of so many thousands was dead since that time. Nor, in the war with the Midianites, did they lose so much as one man, Numbers 31:7-49.

But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day.
Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
Deuteronomy 4:6. In the sight of the nations — For though the generality of heathen, in the latter ages, did, through inveterate prejudices, condemn the laws of the Hebrews, yet it is certain the wisest heathen did highly approve of them, so that they made use of divers of them, and translated them into their own laws and constitutions; and Moses, the giver of these laws, hath been mentioned with great honour for his wisdom and learning by many of them. And particularly the old heathen oracle expressly said, “That the Chaldeans, or Hebrews, who worshipped the uncreated God, were the only wise men.”

For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
Deuteronomy 4:7-8. So nigh — By glorious miracles, by the pledges of his special presence, by the operations of his grace, and particularly by his readiness to hear our prayers, and to give us those succours which we call upon him for. So righteous — Whereby he implies that the true greatness of a nation doth not consist in pomp and power, or largeness of empire, as commonly men think, but in the righteousness of its laws.

And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;
Deuteronomy 4:9-10. Only take heed — Their only danger was, lest they should grow careless and unmindful of all the wonderful things that God had done for them; for which reason he would have every Israelite to make these weighty concerns the subject of his most frequent study and intense meditation. Especially the day — When God delivered the law from mount Sinai to them, with such awful appearances of divine majesty. Thou stoodest — Some of them stood there in their own persons, though then they were but young; the rest in the loins of their parents.

Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.
And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.
Deuteronomy 4:11-12. The midst of heaven — Flaming up into the air, which is often called heaven. No similitude — No resemblance or representation of God, whereby either his essence, or properties, or actions were represented, such as were usual among the heathen.

And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.
And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.
And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.
Deuteronomy 4:14. To teach you statutes and judgments — This relates to the rest of the laws which God gave to Moses, immediately after he himself had delivered to them the ten commandments, (Exodus 21.,) it being the people’s desire that God would communicate to them the rest of his will by Moses.

Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire:
Deuteronomy 4:15. Ye saw no similitude in Horeb — God, who, in some other places and times, did appear in a human form, now in this most solemn appearance, when he came to give eternal laws for the direction of the Israelites in the worship of himself, and in their duty to their fellow- creatures, purposely avoided all such representations, to show that he abhors all worship by images, of what kind soever, because he is the invisible God, and cannot be represented by any visible image.

Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
Deuteronomy 4:16-17. Lest ye corrupt yourselves — Corrupt your minds with mean thoughts of God, your hearts by suffering any creature to alienate your affections from him, or your ways by worshipping him in a corrupt manner, or by falling into idolatry. And make you a graven image — For worship, or for the representation of God; which he forbids under the penalty of his displeasure. The likeness of any beast, &c. — Dr. Chandler observes, that “this is the very picture of Egypt, which had gods of all sorts; dead persons deified, male and female, and numerous images of them; who worshipped as deities bulls, cows, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, birds, the ibis and hawk, serpents, crocodiles, river-horses, together with the sun, moon, and stars of heaven.”

The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air,
The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:
And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.
Deuteronomy 4:19. Lest thou shouldest be driven — Strongly inclined; to worship them. Which the Lord hath divided unto all nations — Which are not gods, but creatures, made not for worship, but for the use of men; yea, of the meanest and most barbarous people under heaven, and therefore cannot, without great absurdity, be worshipped, especially by you, who are so much advanced above other nations in wisdom and in knowledge, and in this, that you are my peculiar people.

But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.
Deuteronomy 4:20. The Lord hath taken you — Of his own free mercy, unmerited by you; and brought you forth out of the iron furnace — The furnace wherein iron and other metals are melted, to which Egypt is compared, from the torment and misery which the Israelites there endured. To be unto him a people of inheritance — His peculiar possession from generation to generation; and therefore for you to forsake God, and worship idols, would be wickedness and ingratitude to the highest degree.

Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance:
Deuteronomy 4:21. That I should not go over Jordan — And as God has granted you the favour which he has denied me, your obligation to him is greatly increased.

But I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan: but ye shall go over, and possess that good land.
Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee.
Deuteronomy 4:23. Lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God — Lest you either disregard the knowledge of God’s law, or wilfully disobey it, now it is declared to you, and thereby bring misery and destruction upon yourselves.

For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.
Deuteronomy 4:24. A consuming fire — A just and terrible God, who, notwithstanding his special relation to you, will severely punish you, if you provoke him. A jealous God — Who, being espoused to you, will be highly incensed against you if you follow after other lovers, or commit whoredom (so to speak) with idols, and will bear no rival or partner.

When thou shalt beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger:
Deuteronomy 4:25. And shall corrupt yourselves — This seems to be evidently a prediction of what Moses foresaw would take place; which that he did is still more manifest in Deuteronomy 4:30.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.
And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you.
And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.
Deuteronomy 4:28-29. Ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands — You shall be compelled by men, and given up by me, to idolatry. So that very thing which was your choice, shall be your punishment: it being just and usual for God to punish one sin by giving men up to another. If from thence thou seek the Lord — Whatever place we are in, we may from thence seek him. There is no part of the earth which has a gulf fixed between it and heaven.

But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
Deuteronomy 4:30-31. In the latter days — Either in general in succeeding ages and generations, or particularly in the days of the Messiah, commonly called in Scripture, the latter, or last days. Here the apostacy and misery of the Jewish nation in the latter days is clearly foretold, as it is more at large in chap 28. But the passage also gives encouragement to hope for their conversion and redemption; and that even in those times when their case should seem most desperate; when they should have forsaken God and rejected the Messiah, toward the end of the world.

(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.
For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?
Deuteronomy 4:32-34. The one side of heaven — That is, of the earth under heaven. Ask all the inhabitants of the world. And live — And was not overwhelmed and consumed by such a glorious appearance. By temptations — Temptations is the general title, which is explained by the following particulars, signs, and wonders, &c., which are called temptations, because they were trials both to the Egyptians and Israelites, whether they would be induced to believe and obey God or not. By terrors — Raised in the minds of the Egyptians, or, by terrible things done among them.

Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?
Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?
Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.
Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.
And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;
Deuteronomy 4:37. Brought thee out in his sight — Keeping his eye fixed on thee, as a father doth on his beloved child. He himself was present with thee, and marched along with thee in the pillar of cloud and fire. With his mighty power — And not by any natural strength of thy own, thou wast delivered from that bondage in which all the thousands of Israel so long lived in Egypt.

To drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day.
Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.
Deuteronomy 4:39. Know and consider it in thy heart — From all that thou hast seen, heard, and experienced. That the Lord he is God, &c. — Settle it in thy heart that none but the Creator of all things could perform those mighty acts.

Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.
Then Moses severed three cities on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;
That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live:
Namely, Bezer in the wilderness, in the plain country, of the Reubenites; and Ramoth in Gilead, of the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, of the Manassites.
And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel:
Deuteronomy 4:44. This is the law — More particularly and fully expressed in the following chapter, to which these words are an introduction.

These are the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which Moses spake unto the children of Israel, after they came forth out of Egypt,
On this side Jordan, in the valley over against Bethpeor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon, whom Moses and the children of Israel smote, after they were come forth out of Egypt:
And they possessed his land, and the land of Og king of Bashan, two kings of the Amorites, which were on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;
From Aroer, which is by the bank of the river Arnon, even unto mount Sion, which is Hermon,
And all the plain on this side Jordan eastward, even unto the sea of the plain, under the springs of Pisgah.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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