Deuteronomy 31:11
When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.
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31:9-13 Though we read the word in private, we must not think it needless to hear it read in public. This solemn reading of the law must be done in the year of release. The year of release was typical of gospel grace, which is called the acceptable year of the Lord; for our pardon and liberty by Christ, engage us to keep his commandments. It must be read to all Israel, men, women, children, and to the strangers. It is the will of God that all people should acquaint themselves with his word. It is a rule to all, therefore should be read to all. Whoever has read of the pains taken by many persons to get scraps of the Scriptures, when a whole copy could not be obtained, or safely possessed, will see how thankful we should be for the thousands of copies amongst us. They will also understand the very different situation in which the Israelites were placed for many ages. But the heart of man is so careless, that all will be found too little, to keep up a knowledge of the truths, precepts, and worship of God.Compare the marginal references. It is not to be supposed that the whole of the Pentateuch was read, nor does the letter of the command require that it should be so. This reading could not be primarily designed for the information and instruction of the people, since it only took place once in seven years; but was evidently a symbolic transaction, intended, as were so many others, to impress on the people the conditions on which they held possession of their privileges and blessings. 10, 11. At the end of every seven years, … thou shalt read this law—At the return of the sabbatic year and during the feast of tabernacles, the law was to be publicly read. This order of Moses was a future and prospective arrangement; for the observance of the sabbatic year did not commence till the conquest and peaceful occupation of Canaan. The ordinance served several important purposes. For, while the people had opportunities of being instructed in the law every Sabbath and daily in their own homes, this public periodical rehearsal at meetings in the courts of the sanctuary, where women and children of twelve years were present (as they usually were at the great festivals), was calculated to produce good and pious impressions of divine truth amid the sacred associations of the time and place. Besides, it formed a public guarantee for the preservation, integrity, and faithful transmission of the Sacred Book to successive ages. Thyself in part, for the Jews tell us that the king was in person to read some part of it; or, at least, thou shalt cause it to be read by the priests or Levites, for he could not read it himself in the hearing of all Israel, but this was to be done by several persons, and to the people met in several congregations. See Nehemiah 8:1, &c.

When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God,.... As all the males were obliged to do three times in the year, and one of those times was the feast of tabernacles, and so a proper season for the reading of the law; see Exodus 23:14;

in the place which the Lord shall choose; the city of Jerusalem, and the temple there:

thou shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing; the book of Deuteronomy, as Jarchi, or it may be the whole Pentateuch: who were to read it is not expressly said; the speech seems to be directed to the priests and elders, to whom the law written by Moses was delivered, Deuteronomy 31:9; and who were either to read it themselves, or take care that it should be read. Josephus (x) ascribes this service to the high priest; he says, standing in an high pulpit (or on an high bench),"from whence he may be heard, he must read the laws to all;''but the Jewish writers commonly allot this work to the king, or supreme governor, who at least was to read some parts of it; so Jarchi says, the king at first read Deuteronomy, as it is said in the Misnah (y);"he read from the beginning of Deuteronomy to Deuteronomy 6:4; hear, O Israel, &c. and then added Deuteronomy 11:13; then Deuteronomy 14:22; after that Deuteronomy 26:12; then the section of the king, Deuteronomy 17:14; next the blessings and the curses, Deuteronomy 27:15, with which he finished the whole section;''and so we find that Joshua, the governor of the people after Moses, read all his laws, Joshua 8:35; and so did King Josiah at the finding of the book of the law, 2 Kings 23:2, and Ezra, Nehemiah 8:3. The king received the book from the high priest standing, and read it sitting; but King Agrippa stood and read, for which he was praised.

(x) Antiqu. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 12. (y) Sotah, ut supra. (c. 7. sect. 8.)

When all Israel is come to appear {e} before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.

(e) Before the Ark of the covenant, which was the sign of God's presence, and the figure of Christ.

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.

Deuteronomy 31:11Moses then handed over the law which he had written to the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant, and to all the elders of Israel, with instructions to read it to the people at the end of every seven years, during the festal season of the year of release ("at the end," as in Deuteronomy 15:1), viz., at the fast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23:34), when they appeared before the Lord. It is evident from the context and contents of these verses, apart from Deuteronomy 31:24, that the ninth verse is to be understood in the way described, i.e., that the two clauses, which are connected together by vav. relat. ("and Moses wrote this law," "and delivered it"), are not logically co-ordinate, but that the handing over of the written law was the main thing to be recorded here. With regard to the handing over of the law, the fact that Moses not only gave the written law to the priests, that they might place it by the ark of the covenant, but also "to all the elders of Israel," proves clearly enough that Moses did not intend at this time to give the law-book entirely out of his own hands, but that this handing over was merely an assignment of the law to the persons who were to take care, that in the future the written law should be kept before the people, as the rule of their life and conduct, and publicly read to them. The explanation which J. H. Mich. gives is perfectly correct, "He gave it for them to teach and keep." The law-book would only have been given to the priests, if the object had been simply that it should be placed by the ark of the covenant, or at the most, in the presence of the elders, but certainly not to all the elders, since they were not allowed to touch the ark. The correctness of this view is placed beyond all doubt by the contents of Deuteronomy 31:10. The main point in hand was not the writing out of the law, or the transfer of it to the priests and elders of the nation, but the command to read the law in the presence of the people at the feast of Tabernacles of the year of release. The writing out and handing over simply formed the substratum for this command, so that we cannot infer from them, that by this act Moses formally gave the law out of his own hands. He entrusted the reading to the priesthood and the college of elders, as the spiritual and secular rulers of the congregation; and hence the singular, "Thou shalt read this law to all Israel." The regulations as to the persons who were to undertake the reading, and also as to the particular time during the seven days' feast, and the portions that were to be read, he left to the rulers of the congregation. We learn from Nehemiah 8:18, that in Ezra's time they read in the book of the law every day from the first to the last day of the feast, from which we may see on the one hand, that the whole of the Thorah (or Pentateuch), from beginning to end, was not read; and on the other hand, by comparing the expression in Deuteronomy 31:18, "the book of the law of God," with "the law," in Deuteronomy 31:14, that the reading was not restricted to Deuteronomy: for, according to v. 14, they had already been reading in Leviticus (ch. 23) before the feast was held - an evident proof that Ezra the scribe did not regard the book of Deuteronomy like the critics of our day, as the true national law-book, an acquaintance with which was all that the people required. Moses did not fix upon the feast of Tabernacles of the sabbatical year as the time for reading the law, because it fell at the beginning of the year,

(Note: It by no means follows, that because the sabbatical year commenced with the omission of the usual sowing, i.e., began in the autumn with the civil year, it therefore commenced with the feast of Tabernacles, and the order of the feasts was reversed in the sabbatical year. According to Exodus 23:16, the feast of Tabernacles did not fall at the beginning, but at the end of the civil year. The commencement of the year with the first of Tisri was an arrangement introduced after the captivity, which the Jews had probably adopted from the Syrians (see my bibl. Archaeol. i. 74, note 15). Nor does it follow, that because the year of jubilee was to be proclaimed on the day of atonement in the sabbatical year with a blast of trumpets (Leviticus 25:9), therefore the year of jubilee must have begun with the feast of Tabernacles. The proclamation of festivals is generally made some time before they commence.)

as Schultz wrongly supposes, that the people might thereby be incited to occupy this year of entire rest in holy employment with the word and works of God. And the reading itself was nether intended to promote a more general acquaintance with the law on the part of the people, - an object which could not possibly have been secured by reading it once in seven years; nor was it merely to be a solemn promulgation and restoration of the law as the rule for the national life, for the purpose of removing any irregularities that might have found their way in the course of time into either the religious or the political life of the nation (Bhr, Symbol. ii. p. 603). To answer this end, it should have been connected with the Passover, the festival of Israel's birth. The reading stood rather in close connection with the idea of the festival itself; it was intended to quicken the soul with the law of the Lord, to refresh the heart, to enlighten the eyes, - in short, to offer the congregation the blessing of the law, which David celebrated from his own experience in Psalm 19:8-15, to make the law beloved and prized by the whole nation, as a precious gift of the grace of God. Consequently (Deuteronomy 31:12, Deuteronomy 31:13), not only the men, but the women and children also, were to be gathered together for this purpose, that they might hear the word of God, and learn to fear the Lord their God, as long as they should live in the land which He gave them for a possession. On Deuteronomy 31:11, see Exodus 23:17, and Exodus 34:23-24, where we also find לראות for להראות (Exodus 34:24).

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