Deuteronomy 31:9
And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it to the priests the sons of Levi, which bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel.
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(9-11) And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests . . . And . . . commanded them, saying . . . thou shalt read.—This must be distinguished from the deliverance of the “book” to the Levites in Deuteronomy 31:25-26. The deliverance here must be understood as a charge and a trust conveyed to the priests, making them responsible for the “reading of the law,” and for the instruction of the people. This is the special duty of the priests. They are said to “bear” the ark of the covenant here; not because they always carried it (they did sometimes, as in Joshua 3), but because they were responsible for it, just as they were also responsible for the exposition of the law (Deuteronomy 17:9). This is another example of the distinction between priests and Levites in the book of Deuteronomy.

(10, 11) At the end of every seven years, in the . . . year of release, in the feast of tabernacles . . . thou shalt read this law.—The fulfilment of this command, as far as the reading of the law is concerned, is described in Joshua 8:34-35; and again “at the feast of tabernacles” in Nehemiah 8. That the law read on these occasions was especially the book of Deuteronomy appears from the Talmudical treatise Sotah (p. 41), where the reading of it by the king is described as beginning with Deuteronomy 1:1 : “These are the words.” It is in this connection that the story is told of Agrippa that he wept when he came to Deuteronomy 17:15, “Thou mayest not set a stranger over thee.” But they said, “Fear not, Agrippa, thou art our brother,” and he then finished the reading. It was read from a platform erected in the forecourt of the temple. From this passage it is clear that the “reading” was understood to refer specially to the book of Deuteronomy.

(13) That their children . . . may hear.—It is obvious from this that the existence of many copies of the law was not contemplated by the writer. Comp. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 : “These words shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them.”

Deuteronomy 31:9. Moses wrote this law — Largely so called, comprehending not only the contents of this book of Deuteronomy, but the whole law or doctrine delivered unto him, contained in these five books. Or rather it is probable the whole Pentateuch is here intended, which is the meaning of the word law in many parts of Scripture. And delivered it unto the priests — Who were in duty bound to be peculiarly conversant with it, to keep it carefully and religiously, and to bring it forth upon occasion, and instruct the people out of it. And unto all the elders — The magistrates, whose office it was to see that these laws of God were duly observed. The Jews allege that Moses, having delivered one copy unto the priests, gave one likewise to each tribe, which he committed to the care of the elders of it.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.Moses hands over to Joshua that office as leader of the people, to which he had already been designated Deuteronomy 1:38; Numbers 27:23. He assigns also to the Levitical priests and the elders, as the ecclesiastical and civil heads of the nation, the responsibility of teaching the law and enforcing its observance Deuteronomy 31:10-13. Both these were symbolic acts, designed to mark the responsibility of the parties concerned after the death of Moses. De 31:9-13. He Delivers the Law to the Priests, to Read It Every Seventh Year to the People.

9-13. And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests—The law thus committed to writing was either the whole book of Deuteronomy, or the important part of it contained between the twenty-seventh and thirtieth chapters. It was usual in cases of public or private contract for two copies of the engagement to be made—one to be deposited in the national archives or some secure place for reference, should occasion require. The other was to remain in the hands of the contracting parties (Jer 32:12-14). The same course was followed on this renewal of the covenant between God and Israel. Two written copies of the law were prepared, the one of which was delivered to the public representatives of Israel; namely, the priests and the elders.

the priests, … who bare the ark of the covenant—In all ordinary journeys, it was the common duty of the Levites to carry the ark and its furniture (Nu 4:15); but, on solemn or extraordinary occasions, that office was discharged by the priests (Jos 3:3-8; 6:6; 1Ch 15:11, 12).

all the elders of Israel—They were assistants to the priests and overseers to take care of the preservation, rehearsal, and observance of the law.

This law, largely so called, the whole law or doctrine delivered unto Moses contained in these five books.

Delivered it unto the priests, that they might keep it carefully and religiously, and bring it forth upon occasion, and read it, and instruct the people out of it.

Which bare the ark, to wit, sometimes in great solemnities, as Joshua 3:13,17 6:12 1 Kings 8:3; though the Levites also might bear it, as appears from Num 3 Num 4 Num 10 1 Chronicles 15:2.

The elders of Israel were assistants to the priests, and overseers to take care that the law should be kept, and read, and observed. And Moses wrote this law,.... The book of Deuteronomy, or the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, which he had now finished, and which all of them together are sometimes called the law, Galatians 4:21,

and delivered it unto the priests, the sons of Levi; who were the teachers of the law, as Aben Ezra observes; see Malachi 2:7; and therefore it was proper to put it into their hands, to instruct the people in it, and that the people might apply to them in any matter of difficulty, or when they wanted to have any particular law explained to them:

which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord; for though they were the Levites, and particularly the Kohathites, who in journeying carried the ark; see Numbers 4:5; yet sometimes it was borne by the priests; see Joshua 3:13,

and unto all the elders of Israel; the judges and civil magistrates in the respective tribes; for as there were in the book of the law several things which belonged to the priests to perform, and all of them they were to instruct in, so there were others which were to be the rule of judgment to judges, and all civil magistrates, and which they were to take care were put in execution; and therefore it was proper that they should have a copy of this law, and which must be here understood; for it cannot be thought that one and the same copy should be given both to the priests and to all the elders. The Jews say Moses wrote thirteen copies of the law, twelve for the twelve tribes, and one to be put into the ark, to convict of fraud or corruption, should any be made (s).

(s) Debarim Rabba, sect. 9. fol. 244. 2.

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.Verses 9-13. - Moses turns next to the priests and the elders, and to them he commits the Law which he had written, with the injunction to read it to the people at the end of every seven years during the festival of the year of release, viz. at the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Leviticus 23:34), when they appeared before the Lord. At the end of every seven years (cf. Deuteronomy 15:1). The Law was committed to the priests and elders, not merely to preserve it in safe keeping, but that they might see to its being observed by the people; else why commit it to the elders whose it was to administer rule in the nation, as well as to the priests who alone had access to the ark of the covenant where the Law was deposited? Moses "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" (Keil). By the Law here is meant the Pentateuch; but it does not necessarily follow that the whole of the Pentateuch was to be thus read. As the reading was to be only once in seven years, it may be concluded that it was not so much for the information of the people that this was done, as for the purpose of publicly declaring, and by a solemn ceremony impressing on their minds the condition on which they held their position and privileges as the chosen people of the Lord; and for this the reading of select portions of the Torah would be sufficient. The Feast of Tabernacles was appointed as the season for the reading, doubtless because there was a connection between the end for which the Law was read and the spirit and meaning of that festival as a festival of rejoicing because of their deliverance from the uncertainty and unsettledness of their state in the wilderness, and their establishment in a well-ordered state where they could in peace and quietness enjoy the blessings which the bounty of God bestowed. When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 16:16). Thou shalt read this law (cf. Joshua 8:34; 2 Kings 23:2; Nehemiah 8:1, etc.). But although Moses could not, and was not to lead his people into Canaan, the Lord would fulfil His promise, to go before Israel and destroy the Canaanites, like the two kings of the Amorites; only they (the Israelites) were to do to them as the Lord had commanded them, i.e., to root out the Canaanites (vid., Deuteronomy 7:2.; Numbers 33:51.; Exodus 34:11.).
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