Deuteronomy 31
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
E. Chs. 31–34. Last Days and Discourses of Moses

The Laws and Discourses accompanying are at an end (cp. Deuteronomy 31:1) except for some belated fragments, Deuteronomy 31:9-13 (24–26?), Deuteronomy 32:45-47, that contain only one fresh statement: that Moses wrote the Law. The remaining chs. though with deuteronomic elements contain contributions from JE, P, and other sources, belong therefore to the Pent. as a whole, complete its framework, and connect it with the Book of Joshua. This is recognised even by critics otherwise most conservative.

E.g. Orr (Problem of the O.T. pp. 248, 251) says that 31–34 are ‘appended’ to Deut. and due to an editor; ‘the last part of the work, with its account of Moses’ death and in one or two places what seem unmistakeable indications of JE and P hands, points clearly to such a redaction.’

The sections, in great disorder as to their subjects—unless we adopt some emendation of their text—are as follows: Deuteronomy 31:1-8, Appointment of Joshua (deuteronomic); Deuteronomy 31:9-13, Moses’ delivery of the written Law to the Priests and Elders, though possibly Joshua was originally in place of them (deuteronomic); Deuteronomy 31:14 f., Deuteronomy 31:23, God’s charge to Joshua (E); Deuteronomy 31:16-22, God’s revelation to Moses of Israel’s delinquency after his death, as the motive to the Song in ch. 32 (partly deuteronomic, partly not); Deuteronomy 31:24-29, another delivery of the Law to the Levites (Deuteronomy 31:24-26) unless we read Song for Law, with another introduction to the Song (Deuteronomy 31:27-29) (deuteronomic); Deuteronomy 31:30, editorial title to the Song; Deuteronomy 32:1-43, the Song of Moses (source unknown); Deuteronomy 32:44, concluding note; Deuteronomy 32:45-47, exhortation on the Law (deuteronomic); Deuteronomy 32:48-52, Moses’ call to death (P); Deuteronomy 32:33, the Blessing of Moses (source unknown); Deuteronomy 32:34, the death of Moses (JE, P, etc.).

Appointment of Joshua

Moses declares his inability to continue his active offices with the people and God’s decree that he shall not cross Jordan (Deuteronomy 31:1 f.). Under God Joshua shall lead Israel, the nations shall be destroyed like Siḥon and ‘Og, and Israel shall treat them as commanded (Deuteronomy 31:3-5). May Israel be strong and unafraid, God shall not fail it (Deuteronomy 31:6). Joshua is exhorted in similar terms (Deuteronomy 31:7 f.).—The style is almost wholly deuteronomic, but consists largely of phrases common in 1–3 and 5–11, contains (Deuteronomy 31:3-6) doublets and a change in the form of address, and (Deuteronomy 31:2) a trace of P; so that it is probably due to an editor. The design of such a passage just here along with the other fragments on Joshua , Deuteronomy 31:14 f., Deuteronomy 31:23, and possibly Deuteronomy 31:9-13 (q.v.), must have been to connect the Books of Deut. and Joshua.

By many (Dillm., Dri., Steuern., Berth., Marti) the passage is taken, in whole or part, as from the same hand as chs 1–3 and as the necessary continuation of Deuteronomy 3:26-28, on these grounds:—it contains many of the phrases of 1–3; Deuteronomy 31:1, these words, can refer only to something preceding and implies not words already spoken by Moses to Israel (such as now immediately precede, in chs 29–30) but words addressed to Moses himself, and on the subject of Joshua’s succession (such as Deuteronomy 3:26-28). But the text of Deuteronomy 31:1 is uncertain (see below) and we have already found the completion of Deuteronomy 3:26-28 in the misplaced Deuteronomy 3:21 f. More probably the passage is editorial (cp. Bacon, Triple Tradition of Exodus, 265, 267) and this is borne out by its containing echoes not only of 1–3 but of 5–11 (see above). If some clauses are due to the author of 1–3 they have been worked over.—Cullen (pp. 182 ff.) defends the interesting theory of a ‘Joshua redaction’ of Deut. in the Exile, with special regard to Joshua the colleague of Zerubbabel in leading back the exiles to the holy land (Haggai 1:1, Zechariah 3:1).

And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel.
1. went and spake these words] This can only refer to something preceding; see small print above. But LXX read finished speaking these words.

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.
2. an hundred and twenty years old] So P Deuteronomy 34:7, cp. Exodus 7:7. As we have seen, dates in the Pent. are nearly all from P; 120 = 3 × 40, the usual round number for a generation.

go out and come in] See on Deuteronomy 13:13 (14) and Deuteronomy 28:6.

the Lord hath said, etc.] Deuteronomy 3:27.

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.
3. will go over before thee] Deuteronomy 9:3, where also there follows (with much else) as here, he will destroy, thou shalt dispossess or succeed them (but in another form of the vb.). This part of the v. may be a later intrusion, for the remainder follows naturally in Deuteronomy 31:2.

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.
4. Sihon … Og] Deuteronomy 2:32 ff., Deuteronomy 3:1 ff., Deuteronomy 29:7; Amorites, Deuteronomy 3:8.

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.
5. deliver them up before you] Deuteronomy 1:8, Deuteronomy 7:2, etc., with both Sg. and Pl. The change to Pl. here is confirmed by Sam. LXX.

all the commandment, etc.] i.e. that in Deuteronomy 7:2 ff.

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.
6. Be strong and of a good courage] Cp. Deuteronomy 3:28 : encourage and strengthen him (causative forms of the same vbs.).

fear not, nor be affrighted] The phrase usual with Pl. passages (for the corresponding Sg. see Deuteronomy 1:21 and below Deuteronomy 31:8). Deuteronomy 1:29 takes these vbs. in the reverse order. The Pl. in this part of the v. is confirmed by Sam. The LXX has Sg. per incuriam.

doth go with thee] Deuteronomy 20:4; before thee, Deuteronomy 1:30. Sam. confirms Sg. The LXX has Pl.

fail thee] let thee drop; Deuteronomy 4:31 : not fail nor forsake thee, so Deuteronomy 31:8, Joshua 1:5 (deuter.), 1 Chronicles 28:20, Hebrews 13:5. Sg. is confirmed by Sam. LXX.

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.
7. in the sight of all Israel] Deuteronomy 34:12.

Be strong and of a good courage] As in Deuteronomy 31:6 but Sg.; cp. Deuteronomy 3:28. LXX: ἀνδρίζου καὶ ἴσχυε.

go with] Rather bring, as in some Heb. MSS, Sam. Vulg. and Deuteronomy 31:23.

sworn] Deuteronomy 1:8.

cause them to inherit] Deuteronomy 1:38, Deuteronomy 3:28.

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.
8. See on Deuteronomy 31:6. On the phrase fear not, neither be dismayed, characteristic of the Sg. passages, see on Deuteronomy 1:21.

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.
9. Moses wrote this law] Besides Deuteronomy 31:24 the only statement to this effect in Deut.

this law] Heb. Tôrah, see on Deuteronomy 1:5. In Deut. the Code (possibly with hortatory additions, but we cannot tell the exact extent of it here intended, see Deuteronomy 27:3) is called Tôrah only in Deuteronomy 1:5, Deuteronomy 4:8 (parallel to statutes and judgements), Deuteronomy 4:44 (a title); twice in the law of the King Deuteronomy 17:18 f., and nowhere else in chs. 5–26, but in chs. 27–31 no fewer than 14 times, 5 of which are within Deuteronomy 31:9-26, and in Joshua 1:8. This unequal distribution is very striking.

the priests the sons of Levi] See on Deuteronomy 10:8, Deuteronomy 18:1. Steuern. takes the sons of Levi as secondary, because omitted by LXX, but it is only LXX B which omits the phrase; LXX A and other Codd. have it.

which bare the ark, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 10:8.

the elders] See on Deuteronomy 19:12. Marti omits the whole clause, the priests … covenant of the Lord, as a later substitute for the original Joshua; but if this theory be correct the rest, and unto all the elders of Israel, must also be secondary, since the imperatives in 11 f. are sing.

9–13. The Law written and delivered to the Levites, etc.

Moses wrote this Law and gave it to the priests and elders, charging them to read it every seventh year at the Feast of Booths to all Israel, women, little ones and gerim included, that they and their children might evermore fear God and do its words upon the land.—The language is almost purely deuteronomic, and the passage may be original to D (Dillm. Dri., etc.) or from the edition of D, introduced by 1–3 (‘not impossible,’ Berth. Marti). Steuern. takes parts of it as original to his Sg. author, the rest due to later expansion, but his analysis is precarious; Cullen (147, 159) as part of the epilogue to the Torah. The order of the passage, between two others relating the commission to Joshua, is inexplicable, unless we suppose that in place of the priests, the sons of Levi … and the elders, to whom Deuteronomy 31:9 describes that Moses entrusted the written law, the name of Joshua himself originally stood. And for this there is some evidence in the sing. thou shalt read and assemble of Deuteronomy 31:11 f. But the text is not certain.

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,
10. At the end of every seven years … the year of release] See Deuteronomy 15:1 ff. set time] Heb. mo‘ed, in Deuteronomy 16:6 of a fixed hour of day; here as in Exodus 23:15 (see Dri.’s note) of a season fixed for a sacred festival; for another application see Deuteronomy 31:14.

the feast of Booths] See Deuteronomy 16:13-15.

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.
11. appear before, etc.] Rather see the face of, as in Deuteronomy 16:16; thy God, Sam. LXX A and other codd, your God LXX B.

in the place, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 12:5.

thou shalt read this law] The Sg. address is striking; for according to Deuteronomy 31:9 Moses is addressing the priests and elders; nor because of the following before all Israel can the whole nation be here addressed. We are left therefore with the supposition that the charge described in this passage was originally addressed to one individual, and the context Deuteronomy 31:1-8; Deuteronomy 31:14 ff. make it probable that this was Joshua. Yet the text is uncertain: Sam. has he or one shall read (not, as Steuern. and Berth. say, shall be read, for the vb. is followed by an accusative); the LXX codd. (with few exceptions) have Pl. ye shall read, as also in next v.; this, however, may be due to harmonising. On this law see on Deuteronomy 31:9.

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:
12. Assemble the people] Again Sg. confirmed by Sam. though LXX codd. have Pl. Cp. Deuteronomy 4:10, assemble me the people. On assemble see Deuteronomy 5:22. It is not necessary to take Assemble … gates as a later intrusion (Marti) on the grounds that the command to assemble the people is out of order after the previous v., for this may be explained by the looseness of the writer’s style and by the writer’s use of the Sg., for as we have seen there are reasons for supposing that this is original. On men, women … gates see Deuteronomy 29:11.

hear … learn … fear, etc.] See Deuteronomy 4:10, Deuteronomy 14:23, Deuteronomy 17:19.

observe to do] Deuteronomy 5:1; all the words of this law, Deuteronomy 5:9.

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.
13. their children] Again the characteristic inclusion of these; see on Deuteronomy 4:9 f., Deuteronomy 6:7; which have not known, Deuteronomy 11:2.

The text of the forms of address in this v. is uncertain:—your God, some Sam. readings have your, others their, LXX B has thy, but AF etc. your, and others our. Ye live, some Sam. you, others they, LXX they. Ye go over, so Sam. and LXX, on this last phrase see Deuteronomy 4:14, Deuteronomy 6:1, Deuteronomy 9:1, and cp. Deuteronomy 5:31.

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.
14. And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold] No parallel passage in Deut. (Deuteronomy 1:42, Deuteronomy 2:9, Deuteronomy 3:2; Deuteronomy 3:26, Deuteronomy 4:10, Deuteronomy 5:28, Deuteronomy 9:13, Deuteronomy 10:1; cp. Deuteronomy 2:3; Deuteronomy 2:17) includes behold except Deuteronomy 31:16.

thy days, etc.] Lit. thy days for dying draw near. Only here and in J, Genesis 47:29, and 1 Kings 2:1.

present yourselves] Lit. take your stand, elsewhere in Deut. of standing up to a foe (Deuteronomy 7:24, Deuteronomy 9:2, Deuteronomy 11:25, Joshua 1:5), but in JE as here of taking up one’s position before the presence of God (Exodus 19:17; Exodus 34:5, Numbers 11:16; Numbers 23:3; Numbers 23:15, Joshua 24:1), or before Pharaoh (Exodus 8:16; Exodus 9:13).

tent of meeting] Heb. mo‘ed denotes what is fixed, ordained either, as in Deuteronomy 31:10 (q.v.), of time, or, as here, of place, where by appointment God meets with man, see Exodus 25:22, virtually therefore tent of revelation (Germ. ‘Offenbarungszelt’); both in E, Exodus 33:7, Numbers 11:16; Numbers 12:4, and no fewer than 132 times in P; not elsewhere in Deut., in which indeed the Tabernacle is mentioned only here.

that I may give him a charge] In Deuteronomy 3:28 Moses is commanded to charge Joshua.

14–23. Again Joshua’s Commission, with Introduction to Moses’ Song

The composition is very curious. In Deuteronomy 31:14-15; Deuteronomy 31:23 we have an account of the charge to Joshua, which is in substance not the continuation of the deuteronomic one in Deuteronomy 31:1-8, but parallel to that, and is couched in a phraseology resembling that of E (see notes), to which source it is generally assigned. It is interrupted by Deuteronomy 31:16-22, which have nothing to do with Joshua, but are an address of the Lord to Moses, and without connection with Deuteronomy 31:14-15, except that the motive in both cases is the imminent death of Moses. The language, while containing some phrases of E and some deuteronomic formulas, gives to the latter a peculiar turn, and contains besides elements not elsewhere found in the Hex. and speaks of Israel in the masc. sing. in a fashion confined to itself. The passage forms an introduction to the Song in ch. 32. Its source is uncertain.

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.
15. the Lord appeared … in a pillar of cloud] With LXX (except for a few cursive MSS) omit in the Tent: as the v. goes on to say, the pillar stood over against the door of the Tent. Also it is probable that appeared is an emendation (by the change of one letter) for the more anthropomorphic came down, which we find in E, Exodus 33:9, Numbers 11:25; Numbers 12:5. On this verse, Deuteronomy 31:23 follows immediately (see below).

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.
16. Commences another saying of the Lord to Moses not connected with Joshua or with 14 f. except by reference to the approaching death of Moses.

And the Lord said … Behold] See on 14.

thou art about to sleep with thy fathers] In J, Genesis 47:30, and frequently in Kings.

go a whoring after the strange gods of the land] Jehovah was Israel’s husband, and her worship of other gods is therefore figured as whoredom (as by Hosea), but the figure is the more forcible that such worship often involved physical unchastity as well. Strange, or foreign, gods, not elsewhere in Deut. (though in the Song, Deuteronomy 32:12), is found in E, Genesis 35:2; Genesis 35:4, Joshua 24:20; Joshua 24:23, and in some later books. Of the land whither it goeth in is probably a gloss (Klost., Dillm., Dri., etc.), for it renders the construction of the v. very awkward, which R.V. seeks to relieve by inserting the words ‘to be.’ Forsake me, Deuteronomy 28:20, and in E, Joshua 24:16; Joshua 24:20. Break my covenant is found in the Hex. only here, Deuteronomy 31:20 and H, Leviticus 26:15; Leviticus 26:44 and P, Genesis 17:14, but is not uncommon elsewhere.

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?
17. None of the clauses in this v. is characteristic of Deut. My anger shall be kindled against it, JE, Numbers 11:10; for in that day, as Dillm. points out, Deut. has elsewhere at that time; I will forsake them, contrast Deuteronomy 31:6; Deuteronomy 31:8, Deuteronomy 4:31; hide my face from them, in Pent. only here and Deuteronomy 31:18; it shall be devoured, cp. Deuteronomy 7:16; come upon me because my God is not in my midst, Deuteronomy 1:42. Note that in Deuteronomy 31:16-18; Deuteronomy 31:20 Israel is referred to in the Sg. Yet Sam. and LXX have many plurals here.

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.
18. hide my face] Some Heb. MSS, Sam., LXX, etc., add from them; but the Heb. has the next vbs. in Sg. evil which it has wrought, and it turned to other gods (Sam. they and they). The Heb. vb. is panah, not used exactly so elsewhere in Deut., but cp. Deuteronomy 29:18 (17), Deuteronomy 30:17, and below Deuteronomy 31:20.

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.
19. write ye this song for you] This Pl. can be justified only by reference to Moses and Joshua both, but only Moses is addressed in Deuteronomy 31:10, and in the light of the following singular imperatives teach thouand (Sam., LXX, Syr.) put, and of Deuteronomy 31:22, Moses (alone) wrote, read write thou … for thee. LXX has the plural throughout, Syr. repeats the Heb. text.

a witness for me against the children of Israel] By showing that God had sufficiently forewarned, and pleaded with, them (cp. Deuteronomy 31:26). Apart from the question of the date of the Song there is no doubt that Israel had been forewarned by the prophets, that they would perish if they ventured to reject His commands; and further it is generally true that no punishment for sin is ever unforeseen by the conscience of the sinner. On children of Israel, never found in D, but always editorial in Deut., see on Deuteronomy 31:23.

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.
20. For I shall bring it into the land which I sware unto its fathers] Deuteronomy 6:10, but also in E. On flowing with milk and honey, see Deuteronomy 6:3.

and it shall eat and be satisfied and grow fat] Cp. Deuteronomy 6:11, Deuteronomy 8:12, Deuteronomy 32:15. Here even the deuteronomic phrases receive a peculiar form. And it will turn, as in Deuteronomy 31:18; despise me, not elsewhere in Deut., but in JE, Numbers 14:11; Numbers 14:23; Numbers 16:30, and in the Song, ch. Deuteronomy 32:19; break my covenant, as in Deuteronomy 31:17. The only plur. vbs are serve, despise.

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.
21. many evils … are come upon it] Cp. Deuteronomy 31:17; this song shall testify to its face, the same vb. as in Deuteronomy 19:18; as a witness, Deuteronomy 31:19; its seed; its imagination, yéṣer, lit. moulding. This term and its synonyms are applied in the O.T. to evil imaginations in rebellion against God (e.g. Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21, Psalm 10:2; Psalm 140:2, Proverbs 6:18, Lamentations 3:60 f.) except in two passages (1 Chronicles 28:9; 1 Chronicles 29:18), where they are used indifferently, and in Isaiah 26:3 where the yéṣer or imagination is described as stayed on God.

before I bring it into the land, etc.] See Deuteronomy 31:20.

Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel.
22. See Deuteronomy 31:19.

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.
23. The immediate continuation of 14 f., which we have seen reasons for assigning to E.

And he gave] The subject is not Moses, as the present context of this v. suggests, but must be Jehovah, as in Deuteronomy 31:15; this is quite certain. from the following I sware unto them and I will be with thee.

Song of Solomon of Nun] Deuteronomy 1:38.

Be strong and of a good courage] As in Deuteronomy 31:6-7; only found in Deut., and the deuteron. Joshua 1:6; Joshua 1:9; Joshua 1:18; Joshua 10:25; but possibly derived from E.

children of Israel] Not deuteronomic (see on Deuteronomy 4:44), but a frequent term for the people in E, Exodus 3:9-11; Exodus 3:13-15; Exodus 9:35; Exodus 10:20; Exodus 10:23; Exodus 13:18 f., Deuteronomy 14:10, Deut 20:22, Deuteronomy 24:5, Deuteronomy 32:20, Deuteronomy 33:5; and also found in J and P.

bring into the land] So in E, Joshua 24:8, Exodus 13:5; Exodus 13:11.

I will be with thee] So in E, Exodus 3:12, but also in J and in Deut.

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,
24. had made an end of writing the words of this law] If Law be the original reading, Deuteronomy 31:24-26 are not the sequel, but a parallel to Deuteronomy 31:9-13, for 9 also implies the completion of the writing of the Law in recording its delivery to the priests, the sons of Levi. But, as already said, it has been conjectured that for Law = Tôrah we should read Song = Shîrah.

until they were finished] Deuteronomy 31:30, Deuteronomy 2:15; cp. Joshua 4:10; Joshua 5:6; Joshua 8:24; Joshua 10:20.

24–30. Again the Law-Book (?) and the Song

A less vague description of these vv. is not possible. The text says that Moses having written the Law in a book charged the Levites to put it beside the Ark as a witness against thee (Deuteronomy 31:24-26). For Israel, which has been rebellious in his life—here the address changes from Sg. to Pl.—will be more so after his death (Deuteronomy 31:27). They shall assemble the elders of their tribes and officers that he may recite to them these words and call heaven and earth to witness against them. For after his death they will corrupt themselves and evil will befall them in the latter days (Deuteronomy 31:28-30).—These words can hardly refer to the Law, already recited to the people; they must be the words of this Song (Deuteronomy 31:30) which follows in 32. If the text be original which reads Tôrah = Law in Deuteronomy 31:24; Deuteronomy 31:26, then Deuteronomy 31:24-26 are parallel (not consecutive) to Deuteronomy 31:9-13, and we cannot conjecture a reason for separating the two passages by Deuteronomy 31:14-23, on Joshua and the Song.

Staerk (followed by Steuern. and Berth.) holds that Tôrah was originally Shîrah = Song. This conjecture is attractive. It restores unity to Deuteronomy 31:24-30 and their natural connection with Deuteronomy 31:16-22, and gets rid of the improbable fact that both Law and Song are described as witness against Israel; note too that this book (Deuteronomy 31:24; Deuteronomy 31:26) is not to be put in, but beside, the Ark. At the same time there is no other evidence (in the versions or elsewhere) that Shîrah may have stood in place of Tôrah, the Law may equally well with the Song be described as a witness against Israel, and the phrase these words more usually refers to what precedes than to what follows it. Notice a symptom of compilation, in that while the Levites are addressed in Deuteronomy 31:25 it is all Israel, against thee, which is addressed in Deuteronomy 31:26. The whole passage is therefore editorial, and the questions it raises are insoluble by us.

Staerk distinguishes two introductions to the Song, Deuteronomy 31:16-22; Deuteronomy 31:24-30, and so independently Driver; note the difference in their styles. Cullen (p. 181) retains the reading Tôrah = Law, and takes Deuteronomy 31:24-29 as a later addition to Deuteronomy 31:9-13, the original conclusion of the epilogue to the Code of D composed when Israel’s attitude to this was still satisfactory, and added when the nation fell away. For another view see the Oxf. Hex.

That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying,
25. the Levites which bare, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 31:9, Deuteronomy 10:8, Deuteronomy 17:18. These cannot be P’s Levites, who could not enter the Holy of Holies where the Ark lay. On the Ark of the Covenant see note on Deuteronomy 10:8.

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.
26. this book of the law] Deuteronomy 29:21 (20), Deuteronomy 30:10.

for a witness, etc.] Not a deuteronomic phrase; but cp. testimonies in Deuteronomy 4:45; against thee, here all Israel is addressed, whereas in Deuteronomy 31:25 it is the Levites.

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?
27. thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck … ye have been rebellious] Cp. Deuteronomy 1:26; Deuteronomy 1:43, Deuteronomy 9:6 f., Deuteronomy 9:13; Deu 9:23 f., Deuteronomy 10:16.

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.
28. Assemble] Imperative Pl. See on Deuteronomy 31:12, and Deuteronomy 5:22.

elders of your tribes, etc.] LXX heads of your tribes, adding and your judges, and some LXX codd. also add elders. Cp. Deuteronomy 5:23, Deuteronomy 29:10 (9).

these words] Though this phrase usually refers to what precedes, it is more probable that here what follows, i.e. the Song, is meant, as indubitably is the case in Exodus 20:1.

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.
29. after my death] Readers of the Heb. text will compare with the position of this clause in the v. the construction in Deuteronomy 13:12 (13).

ye will surely corrupt yourselves] See on Deuteronomy 4:16; Deuteronomy 4:25, and for another form of the same vb. Deuteronomy 9:12, Deuteronomy 32:5.

turn aside, etc.] Deuteronomy 9:12; Deuteronomy 9:16, Deuteronomy 11:28.

evil will befall you] As in Jeremiah 44:23; another vb. is used in Deuteronomy 31:17; Deuteronomy 31:21. For in the latter days see on Deuteronomy 4:30.

do that which is evil, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 4:25, where the phrase is also followed as here by to provoke him to anger. Cp. Deuteronomy 9:18.

work of your hands] That is idols, Jeremiah 25:14. Contrast work of thy hand in a good sense, Deuteronomy 2:7.

And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended.
30. Editor’s Title to the Song

30. all the assembly of Israel] See on Deuteronomy 5:22.

the words … finished] See on Deuteronomy 31:24. This v. is no doubt from the hand of an editor; see below.

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

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Deuteronomy 30
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