Deuteronomy 31:21
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 swore.
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(21) This song . . . shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed.—And it is not forgotten now. St. Paul made special use of it in the last days of the second Temple. This song is a favourite piece of Hebrew poetry to this day. Rashi observes: “This is a promise to Israel that the law shall not be utterly forgotten by their seed.”

I know their imagination.—Heb., yêtzer, the same word employed in Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21. It is the word commonly used in Rabbinical literature for the evil nature or good nature in any man. The nature which they are forming, or making, this day, would be a literal rendering of the sentence in this verse. And yet with all this, He made Balaam say, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob nor seen perverseness in Israel” (Numbers 23:21). Comp. 1Chronicles 28:9, “The Lord . . . understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts,” and Psalm 103:14, “He knoweth our frame (yêtzer); He remembereth that we are dust.”

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 7:43.31:14-22 Moses and Joshua attended the Divine Majesty at the door of the tabernacle. Moses is told again that he must shortly die; even those who are most ready and willing to die, need to be often reminded of its coming. The Lord tells Moses, that, after his death, the covenant he had taken so much pains to make between Israel and their God, would certainly be broken. Israel would forsake Him; then God would forsake Israel. Justly does he cast those off who so unjustly cast him off. Moses is directed to deliver them a song, which should remain a standing testimony for God, as faithful to them in giving them warning, and against them, as persons false to themselves in not taking the warning. The word of God is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of men's hearts, and meets them by reproofs and correction. Ministers who preach the word, know not the imaginations of men; but God, whose word it is, knows perfectly.A witness for me against them - i. e., an attestation from their own mouths at once of God's benefits, their own duties, and their deserts when they should fall away. Being in verse it would be the more easily learned and kept in memory. The use of songs for such didactic purposes was not unknown to the legislators of antiquity. Compare also the advice of Paul, "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" Colossians 3:16.19. Now therefore write ye this song—National songs take deep hold of the memories and have a powerful influence in stirring the deepest feelings of a people. In accordance with this principle in human nature, a song was ordered to be composed by Moses, doubtless under divine inspiration, which was to be learnt by the Israelites themselves and to be taught to their children in every age, embodying the substance of the preceding addresses, and of a strain well suited to inspire the popular mind with a strong sense of God's favor to their nation. It shall not be forgotten: this seems not to be a precept that they should remember it, but a prediction, that God would give them sad occasion to remember it, by bringing upon them the dreadful calamities mentioned in it.

Their imagination which they go about, even now; either their inward inclinations to idolatry, which they do not check, as they ought, but rather entertain with delight; 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 5:26 Acts 7:43; or their secret purposes to allow themselves therein, when they are settled in their land, which were clearly known to God, though it may be not fully evident to themselves. And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them,.... As did in the times of the judges, in the Babylonish captivity, and do now in their present exile:

that this song shall testify against them as a witness; which so clearly points at their sins, with all their aggravated circumstances, and describes so fully their calamities, distresses, and punishment for them:

for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed; which shows that it respects time to come, their later posterity, whose memory of this song would be conjured up by the evils that should come upon them for their sins; nor is it forgotten by them to this day, who acknowledge there are some things in it now fulfilled or fulfilling in them:

for I know their imagination which they go about even now: or are "making" (c); forming and framing within themselves, there being a secret inclination in their minds to idolatry, which were working and contriving schemes to bring it about, and set it up; and this, God, the searcher of hearts, knew full well, and that in process of time this evil imagination would break forth into act, in an open and flagrant manner:

before I have brought thee into the land which I sware; to their fathers, to give it to them for an inheritance, as is suggested in Deuteronomy 31:20.

(c) "faciens", Montanus; "quam facit", Pagninus.

And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall {l} 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.

(l) That these evils are come upon them, because they have forsaken me.

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.After handing over the office to Joshua, and the law to the priests and elders, Moses was called by the Lord to come to the tabernacle with Joshua, to command him (צוּה), i.e., to appoint him, confirm him in his office. To this end the Lord appeared in the tabernacle (Deuteronomy 31:15), in a pillar of cloud, which remained standing before it, as in Numbers 12:5 (see the exposition of Numbers 11:25). But before appointing Joshua, He announced to Moses that after his death the nation would go a whoring after other gods, and would break the covenant, for which it would be visited with severe afflictions, and directed him to write an ode and teach it to the children of Israel, that when the apostasy should take place, and punishment from God be felt in consequence, it might speak as a witness against the people, as it would not vanish from their memory. The Lord communicated this commission to Moses in the presence of Joshua, that he also might hear from the mouth of God that the Lord foreknew the future apostasy of the people, and yet nevertheless would bring them into the promised land. In this there was also implied an admonition to Joshua, not only to take care that the Israelites learned the ode and kept it in their memories, but also to strive with all his might to prevent the apostasy, so long as he was leader of Israel; which Joshua did most faithfully to the very end of his life (vid., Joshua 23 and 24). - The announcement of the falling away of the Israelites from the Lord into idolatry, and the burning of the wrath of God in consequence (Deuteronomy 31:16-18), serves as a basis for the command in Deuteronomy 31:19. In this announcement the different points are simply linked together with "and," whereas in their actual signification they are subordinate to one another: When thou shalt lie with thy fathers, and the people shall rise up, and go a whoring after other gods: My anger will burn against them, etc. קוּם, to rise up, to prepare, serves to bring out distinctly the course which the thing would take. The expression, "foreign gods of the land," indicates that in the land which Jehovah gave His people, He (Jehovah) alone was God and Lord, and that He alone was to be worshipped there. בּקרבּו is in apposition to שׁמּה, "whither thou comest, in the midst of it." The punishment announced in Deuteronomy 31:17 corresponds most closely to the sin of the nation. For going a whoring after strange gods, the anger of the Lord would burn against them; for forsaking Him, He would forsake them; and for breaking His covenant, He would hide His face from them, i.e., withdraw His favour from them, so that they would be destroyed. לאכל היה, it (the nation) will be for devouring, i.e., will be devoured or destroyed (see Ewald, 237, c.; and on אכל in this sense, see Deuteronomy 7:16, and Numbers 14:9). "And many evils and troubles will befall it; and it will say in that day, Do not these evils befall me, because my God is not in the midst of me?" When the evils and troubles broke in upon the nation, the people would inquire the cause, and would find it in the fact that they were forsaken by their God; but the Lord ("but I" in Deuteronomy 31:18 forms the antithesis to "they" in Deuteronomy 31:17) would still hide His face, namely, because simply missing God is not true repentance.
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