Deuteronomy 31:25
That Moses commanded the Levites, which bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying,
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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.31:23-30 The solemn delivery of the book of the law to the Levites, to be deposited in, or rather by the side, of the ark, is again related. The song which follows in the next chapter is delivered to Moses, and by him to the people. He wrote it first, as the Holy Spirit taught him; and then spake it in the hearing of all the people. Moses tells them plainly, I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves. Many a sad thought, no doubt, it occasioned to this good man; but his comfort was, that he had done his duty, and that God would be glorified in their dispersion, if not in their settlement, for the foundation of God stands sure.The Levites, which bare the ark - i. e., as in Deuteronomy 31:9, "the priests the sons of Levi." The non-priestly Levites could not so much as enter the sanctuary or touch the ark (compare Numbers 4:15). Though in the journeys through the wilderness the ark was borne by the non-priestly Kohathites, yet on occasions of a more solemn and public character it was carried by the priests themselves (Joshua 3:3 ff, Joshua 4:9-10; Joshua 6:6, Joshua 6:12; Joshua 8:33; 1 Kings 8:3).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. The Levites, i.e. the priests, Deu 31:9 who also were Levites. That Moses commanded the Levites,.... These were not the common Levites, but the priests who were also Levites, to whom the law was given, Deuteronomy 31:9; and none but they might touch the ark, or go so near it as, they are bid to do, to put the law on the side of it; so Aben Ezra; it follows:

which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord; as the priests are said to do; see Gill on Deuteronomy 31:9; for though in journeying the Kohathites carried it, yet not until it was covered by the priests, for they must not touch it; as these must do when they put the law on the side of it, as they are ordered in Deuteronomy 31:26.

saying; as follows.

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.Verse 25. - The Levites, which bare the ark; i.e. the priests whose business it was to guard and to carry the ark of the covenant; "the priests the sons of Levi," as in ver. 9. According to Numbers 4:4, etc., it was the Kohathites who carried the ark on the journey through the desert; but they seem merely to have acted in this respect as the servants or helpers of the priests, who alone might touch the ark, and by whom it was carefully wrapped up before it was handed to the Kohathites. On special occasions the priests themselves carried the ark (cf. Joshua 3:3, etc.; Joshua 4:9, 10; 6:6, 12; 8:33; 1 Kings 8:3). "And now," sc., because what was announced in Deuteronomy 31:16-18 would take place, "write you this song." "This" refers to the song which follows in ch. 32. Moses and Joshua were to write the song, because they were both of them to strive to prevent the apostasy of the people; and Moses, as the author, was to teach it to the children of Israel, to make them learn it, that it might be a witness for the Lord (for Me) against the children of Israel. "This" is defined still further in Deuteronomy 31:20, Deuteronomy 31:21 : if Israel, through growing satisfied and fat in its land, which was so rich in costly good, should turn to other gods, and the Lord should visit it in consequence with grievous evils and troubles, the song was to answer before Israel as a witness; i.e., not only serve the Lord as a witness to the people that He had foretold all the evil consequences of apostasy, and had given Israel proper warning (Knobel), but to serve, as we may see from Deuteronomy 31:20, Deuteronomy 31:21, and from the contents of the song, as a witness, on the one hand, that the Lord had conferred upon the people so many benefits and bestowed upon them such abundant blessings of His grace, that apostasy from Him was the basest ingratitude, for which they would justly be punished; and, on the other hand, that the Lord had not rejected His people in spite of the punishments inflicted upon them, but would once more have compassion upon them and requite their foes, and thus would sanctify and glorify Himself as the only true God by His judgments upon Israel and the nations. The law, with its commandments, promises, and threats, was already a witness of this kind against Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 31:26); but just as in every other instance the appearance of a plurality of unanimous witnesses raises the matter into an indisputable truth, so the Lord would set up another witness against the Israelites besides the law, in the form of this song, which was adapted to give all the louder warning, "because the song would not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed" (Deuteronomy 31:21). The song, when once it had passed into the mouths of the people, would not very readily vanish from their memory, but would be transmitted from generation to generation, and be heard from the mouths of their descendants, as a perpetual warning voice, as it would be used by Israel for God knew the invention of the people, i.e., the thoughts and purposes of their heart, which they cherished (עשׂה used to denote the doing of the heart, as in Isaiah 32:6) even then before He had brought them into Canaan. (On Deuteronomy 31:20, vid., Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 9:5, and Exodus 3:8.) - In Deuteronomy 31:22 the result is anticipated, and the command of God is followed immediately by an account of its completion by Moses (just as in Exodus 12:50; Leviticus 16:34, etc.). - After this command with reference to the song, the Lord appointed Joshua to the office which he had been commanded to take, urging him at the same time to be courageous, and promising him His help in the conquest of Canaan. That the subject to ויצו is not Moses, but Jehovah, is evident partly from the words themselves, "I will be with thee' (vid., Exodus 3:12). (Note: Knobel's assertion (on Numbers 27:23) that the appointment of Joshua on the part of Moses by the imposition of hands, as described in that passage, is at variance with this verse, scarcely needs any refutation. Or is it really the case, that the installation of Joshua on the part of God is irreconcilable with his ordination by Moses?)
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