Deuteronomy 32:33
Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Deuteronomy 32:33. Their vine is the poison of dragons — An expression of the same import with the former, signifying their fruits or works to be most depraved and pernicious, (Revelation 17:2,) and so resembling the poison of dragons. The cruel venom of asps — The venom of asps is called cruel, because it is accounted the most subtile and acute of all poisons, instantly penetrating into the vital parts.

32:26-38 The idolatry and rebellions of Israel deserved, and the justice of God seemed to demand, that they should be rooted out. But He spared Israel, and continues them still to be living witnesses of the truth of the Bible, and to silence unbelievers. They are preserved for wise and holy purposes and the prophecies give us some idea what those purposes are. The Lord will never disgrace the throne of his glory. It is great wisdom, and will help much to the return of sinners to God, seriously to consider their latter end, or the future state. It is here meant particularly of what God foretold by Moses, about this people in the latter days; but it may be applied generally. Oh that men would consider the happiness they will lose, and the misery they will certainly plunge into, if they go on in their trespasses! What will be in the end thereof? Jer 5:31. For the Lord will in due time bring down the enemies of the church, in displeasure against their wickedness. When sinners deem themselves most secure, they suddenly fall into destruction. And God's time to appear for the deliverance of his people, is when things are at the worst with them. But those who trust to any rock but God, will find it fail them when they most need it. The rejection of the Messiah by the Jewish nation, is the continuance of their ancient idolatry, apostacy, and rebellion. They shall be brought to humble themselves before the Lord, to repent of their sins, and to trust in their long-rejected Mediator for salvation. Then he will deliver them, and make their prosperity great.Their vine - i. e., the nature and character of Israel: compare for similar expressions Psalm 80:8, Psalm 80:14; Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1.

Sodom ... Gomorrah - Here, as elsewhere, and often in the prophets, emblems of utter depravity: compare Isaiah 1:10; Jeremiah 23:14,

Gall - Compare Deuteronomy 29:18 note.

32. vine of Sodom … grapes of gall—This fruit, which the Arabs call "Lot's Sea Orange," is of a bright yellow color and grows in clusters of three or four. When mellow, it is tempting in appearance, but on being struck, explodes like a puffball, consisting of skin and fiber only. The poison of dragons; for although some write that the dragons of Greece have no poison in them, yet that the African and Arabian dragons, of which Moses here writes, have poison in them, is confessed by ancient heathen authors.

The cruel venom of asps; whose poison kills certainly and speedily, as Aristotle and others write.

Their wine is the poison of dragons,.... Of these creatures, both land and sea dragons; see Gill on Micah 1:8; See Gill on Malachi 1:3; Pliny says (l) the dragon has no poison in it; yet, as Dalechamp, in his notes on that writer observes, he in many places prescribes remedies against the bite of the dragon; but Heliodorus (m) expressly speaks of some archers, whose arrows were infected with the poison of dragons; and Leo Africanus (n) says, the Atlantic dragons are exceeding poisonous: and yet other writers (o) besides Pliny have asserted that they are free from poison. It seems the dragons of Greece are without, but not those of Africa and Arabia; and to these Moses has respect, as being well known to him. The Targum of Jerusalem is,

"the poison of this people is like the poison of dragons as they drink wine;''and the Targum of Jonathan,"as the poison of dragons, when they are at or from their wine;''that is, after and as soon as they have drank it; for, according to natural historians, serpents, though they need and use but little drink, yet are very fond of wine: and it seems that thereby their poison becomes more sharp and intense, as Bochart (p) observes; wherefore the allusion is very proper and pertinent, and denotes the wine of fornication of the apostate church of Rome, frequently spoken of Revelation 14:8; which is no other than her corrupt doctrines, intoxicating, enticing, and leading to idolatry and superstition; and as the true Gospel of Christ is sometimes compared to wine, so the false doctrines of this church; but then it is such that is not only loathsome and abominable, but poisonous and pernicious to the souls of men, damnable and ruinous, and brings upon them swift destruction, 2 Peter 2:1; and may well be compared to the poison of dragons for such reasons; as also because they are doctrines of devils, and come from the great dragon, that old serpent called the devil and Satan, 2 Timothy 4:1,

and the cruel venom of asps; which, of all kind of serpents, Pliny (q) says is the least curable; nay, according to the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions of this clause, it is incurable; and so Aristotle says (r) there is no remedy for it; and so says Aelianus (s), who also observes (t), that the mark it makes is so small, that it is scarcely discerned by the sharpest eye. Pliny (u) represents it as a most revengeful creature; when its mate is killed by any, it will pursue the slayer, flee where he will, and as far and fast as he can: it breaks through all difficulties, and is not to be stopped by rivers, or any obstacles, and will attack the person, whom it presently knows, let him be in ever such a crowd: and therefore it and its poison may well be called cruel; and as the poison of this creature lies under its tongue, this is a fit simile to express the poisonous and pernicious doctrines of the apostate church.

(l) Nat. Hist. l. 29. c. 4. (m) Ethiopic. l. 9. c. 19. p. 438. (n) Descriptio Africae, l. 9. p. 763. (o) Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 8. c. 4. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 72. (p) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 3. c. 14. col. 438, 439. (q) Nat. Hist. l. 29. c. 4. (r) Hist. Animal. l. 8. c. 29. (s) De Animal. l. 1. c. 54. & l. 6. c. 38. (t) Ibid. l. 9. c. 61. (u) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 23.

Their {r} wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.

(r) The fruit of the wicked are as poison, detestable to God, and dangerous for man.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
33. venom of dragons] Or, foam of.

pitiless poison of asps] Poison, rôsh, as in Deuteronomy 29:17; asps, or according to some, cobras, the hooded kind, in Egypt and the lower parts of Syria, especially S. of Beersheba, Heb. pethanîm, Isaiah 11:8, etc.

Verse 33. - The wine of these grapes is poison and venom. Dragons; tannin (cf. Exodus 7:9, 10). Cruel [deadly] venom of asps. The pethen, one of the most poisonous of snakes, the bite of which was immediately fatal (Kitto, 'Bibl. Cycl.,' 3:494; Smith's 'Dict.,' 1:21). These figures express the thought that Israel had utterly corrupted their way and become abominable; probably also it is intimated that, as they had imitated the impiety of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, they deserved to perish as they did (J.H. Michaelis). Deuteronomy 32:33"For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are poisonous grapes, bitter clusters have they. Dragon-poison is their wine, and dreadful venom of asps." The connection is pointed out by Calovius thus: "Moses returns to the Jews, showing why, although the rock of the Jews was very different from the gods of the Gentiles, even according to the testimony of the heathen themselves, who were their foes, they were nevertheless to be put to flight by their enemies and sold; and why Jehovah sold them, namely, because their vine was of the vine of Sodom, i.e., of the very worst kind, resembling the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, as if they were descended from them, and not from their holy patriarchs." The "for" in Deuteronomy 32:32 is neither co-ordinate nor subordinate to that in Deuteronomy 32:31. To render it as subordinate would give no intelligible meaning; and the supposition that it is co-ordinate is precluded by the fact, that in that case Deuteronomy 32:32 and Deuteronomy 32:33 would contain a description of the corruptions of the heathen. The objections to this view have been thus expressed by Schultz with perfect justice: "It is priori inconceivable, that in so short an ode there should be so elaborate a digression on the subject of the heathen, seeing that their folly is altogether foreign to the theme of the whole." To this we may add, that throughout the Old Testament it is the moral corruption and ungodliness of the Israelites, and never the vices of the heathen, that are compared to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Israelites who were forsaken by the Lord, were designated by Isaiah (Isaiah 1:10) as a people of Gomorrah, and their rulers as rulers of Sodom (cf. Isaiah 3:9); the inhabitants of Jerusalem were all of them like Sodom and Gomorrah (Jeremiah 23:14); and the sin of Jerusalem was greater than that of Sodom (Ezekiel 16:46.). The only sense in which the "for" in Deuteronomy 32:32 can be regarded as co-ordinate to that in Deuteronomy 32:31, is on the supposition that the former gives the reason for the thought in Deuteronomy 32:30, whilst the latter serves to support the idea in Deuteronomy 32:30. The order of thought is the following: Israel would have been able to smite its foes with very little difficulty, because the gods of the heathen are not a rock like Jehovah; but Jehovah had given up His people to the heathen, because it had brought forth fruits like Sodom, i.e., had resembled Sodom in its wickedness. The vine and its fruits are figurative terms, applied to the nation and its productions. "The nation was not only a degenerate, but also a poisonous vine, producing nothing but what was deadly" (Calvin). This figure is expanded still further by Isaiah 5:2. Israel was a vineyard planted by Jehovah, that it might bring forth good fruits, instead of which it brought forth wild grapes (vid., Jeremiah 2:21; Psalm 80:9.; Hosea 10:1). "Their vine" is the Israelites themselves, their nature being compared to a vine which had degenerated as much as if it had been an offshoot of a Sodomitish vine. שׁדמת, the construct state of שׁדמת, floors, fields. The grapes of this vine are worse than wild grapes is snake-poison. Tannin: see Exodus 7:9-10. Pethen: the asp or adder, one of the most poisonous kinds of snake, whose bite was immediately fatal (vid., Rosenmller, bibl. Althk. iv. 2, pp. 364ff.). These figures express the thought, that "nothing could be imagined worse, or more to be abhorred, than that nation" (Calvin). Now although this comparison simply refers to the badness of Israel, the thought of the penal judgment that fell upon Sodom lies behind. "They imitate the Sodomites, they bring forth the worst fruits of all impiety, they deserve to perish like Sodom" (J. H. Michaelis).

The description of this judgment commences in Deuteronomy 32:34. Israel had deserved for its corruption to be destroyed from the earth (Deuteronomy 32:26); yet for His name's sake the Lord would have compassion upon it, when it was so humiliated with its heavy punishments that its strength was coming to an end.

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