Deuteronomy 9:1
Hear, O Israel: You are to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fenced up to heaven,
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(1) Hear, O Israel.—A fresh portion of the exhortation begins here. The cause of Israel’s conquest of Canaan is not to be sought in their own merit, but in the choice of Jehovah.

Thou art to pass.—Literally, thou art passing: i.e., just about to pass.

Nations greater and mightier than thyself.—If this is true (and there is no reason to doubt it), the responsibility of the conquest does not rest with Israel; they were the Divine executioners. (See Note on Joshua 5:13-14.)

Cities . . . fenced up to heaven.—Comp. the expression in Genesis 11:4, “a city and a tower whose top may reach unto (literally, is in) heaven.” So here, “cities great and fortified in the heavens.” Was St. Paul thinking of this expression when he said, “We wrestle against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly regions?” (Ephesians 6:12).

Deuteronomy 9:1-2. This seems to be a new discourse, delivered at some distance of time from the former, probably on the next sabbath day. This day — That is, shortly, within a little time, the word day being often put for time. To possess nations — That is, the land of those nations. Mightier than thyself — This he adds that they might not trust to their own strength, but wholly rely upon God’s help for the conquering them, and after the work was done, might ascribe the glory of it to God alone, and not to themselves. Who can stand — This seems to have been a proverb used in those times.9:1-6 Moses represents the strength of the enemies they were now to encounter. This was to drive them to God, and engage their hope in him. He assures them of victory, by the presence of God with them. He cautions them not to have the least thought of their own righteousness, as if that procured this favour at God's hand. In Christ we have both righteousness and strength; in Him we must glory, not in ourselves, nor in any sufficiency of our own. It is for the wickedness of these nations that God drives them out. All whom God rejects, are rejected for their own wickedness; but none whom he accepts are accepted for their own righteousness. Thus boasting is for ever done away: see Eph 2:9,11,12.The lesson of this chapter is exactly that of Ephesians 2:8, "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."

In referring to their various rebellions, Moses here, as elsewhere, has regard not so much for the order of time as to that of subject. (Compare Deuteronomy 1:9-15 note.) Such reasons as convenience and fitness to his argument sufficiently explain the variations observable when the statements of this chapter are minutely compared with those of Exodus 32-34. In these variations we have simply such treatment of facts as is usual and warrantable between parties personally acquainted with the matters.


De 9:1-25. Moses Dissuades Them from the Opinion of Their Own Righteousness.

1. this day—means this time. The Israelites had reached the confines of the promised land, but were obliged, to their great mortification, to return. But now they certainly were to enter it. No obstacle could prevent their possession; neither the fortified defenses of the towns, nor the resistance of the gigantic inhabitants of whom they had received from the spies so formidable a description.

cities great and fenced up to heaven—Oriental cities generally cover a much greater space than those in Europe; for the houses often stand apart with gardens and fields intervening. They are almost all surrounded with walls built of burnt or sun-dried bricks, about forty feet in height. All classes in the East, but especially the nomad tribes, in their ignorance of engineering and artillery, would have abandoned in despair the idea of an assault on a walled town, which to-day would be demolished in a few hours.Israel’s march over Jordan to possess Canaan, Deu 9:1-3. But must not ascribe it to their own righteousness, Deu 9:4-6. A rehearsal of their manifold provocations at Horeb, Deu 9:8, at Taberah, Deu 9:22, and at Kadesh-barnea, Deu 9:23.

This day, i.e. shortly, within a little time, the word day being oft put for time, as John 8:56 1 Corinthians 4:5 Revelation 16:14, within two months; for Moses spake this on the first day of the eleventh month, Deu 1:3, and they passed over Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, Joshua 4:19. Nations, i.e. the land of those nations; for that only they were to possess, but as for the nations or people they were not to possess, but to destroy them. Thus they are said to inherit Gad, Jeremiah 49:1, i.e. the country and cities of Gad, as it is there explained.

Greater and mightier than thyself: this he adds, partly that they might not be surprised when they find them to be such; partly that they might not trust to their own strength, but wholly rely upon God’s help, for the destroying of them, and, after the work was done, might ascribe the praise and glory of it to God alone, and not to themselves.

Fenced up to heaven, as the spies reported, Deu 1:28. See on Genesis 11:4.

Hear, O Israel,.... A pause being made after the delivery of the preceding discourse; or perhaps what follows might be delivered at another time, at some little distance; and which being of moment and importance to the glory of God, and that Israel might have a true notion of their duty, they are called upon to listen with attention to what was now about to be said:

thou art to pass over Jordan this day; not precisely that very day, but in a short time after this; for it was on the first day of the eleventh month that Moses began the repetition of the laws he was now going on with, Deuteronomy 1:3, and it was not until the tenth day of the first month of the next year that the people passed over Jordan, Joshua 4:19 which was about two months after this:

to go in and possess nations greater and mightier than thyself; the seven nations named Deuteronomy 7:1 where the same characters are given of them:

cities great and fenced up to heaven; as they were said to be by the spies, Deuteronomy 1:28, and were no doubt both large and strongly fortified, and not to be easily taken by the Israelites, had not the Lord been with them, Deuteronomy 9:3.

Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan {a} this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven,

(a) Meaning shortly.

1. Hear, O Israel] Deuteronomy 6:4.

thou art to pass over Jordan this day] Similarly Deuteronomy 30:18 (and cp. Deuteronomy 2:18), Sg.; Deuteronomy 4:14; Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 11:31; Deuteronomy 31:13, Pl., but apparently editorial.

to possess] or dispossess. Deuteronomy 2:12; Deuteronomy 2:21 f., Deuteronomy 11:23, Deuteronomy 12:2; Deuteronomy 12:29, Deuteronomy 18:14, Deuteronomy 19:1, Deuteronomy 31:3, with personal object as here. For another form of same vb. see on Deuteronomy 4:38.

nations greater and mightier than thyself] So Deuteronomy 4:38 also Sg.; Deuteronomy 11:23, Pl.: cp. Joshua 23:9.

cities … fenced, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 1:28.Verse 1. - This day; at this time, very soon. Nations, etc. (cf. Deuteronomy 7:1). Cities (cf. Deuteronomy 1:28). But if the Israelites were to eat there and be satisfied, i.e., to live in the midst of plenty, they were to beware of forgetting their God; that when their prosperity - their possessions, in the form of lofty houses, cattle, gold and silver, and other good things - increased, their heart might not be lifted up, i.e., they might not become proud, and, forgetting their deliverance from Egypt and their miraculous preservation and guidance in the desert, ascribe the property they had acquired to their own strength and the work of their own hands. To keep the people from this danger of forgetting God, which follows so easily from the pride of wealth, Moses once more enumerates in Deuteronomy 8:14-16 the manifestations of divine grace, their deliverance from Egypt the slave-house, their being led through the great and terrible desert, whose terrors he depicts by mentioning a series of noxious and even fatal things, such as snakes, burning snakes (saraph, see at Numbers 21; 6), scorpions, and the thirsty land where there was no water. The words from נחשׁ, onwards, are attached rhetorically to what precedes by simple apposition, without any logically connecting particle; though it will not do to overlook entirely the rhetorical form of the enumeration, and supply the preposition בּ before נחשׁ and the words which follow, to say nothing of the fact that it would be quite out of character before these nouns in the singular, as a whole people could not go through one serpent, etc. In this parched land the Lord brought he people water out of the flinty rock, the hardest stone, and fed them with manna, to humble them and tempt them (cf. Deuteronomy 8:2), in order (this was the ultimate intention of all the humiliation and trial) "to do thee good at thy latter end." The "latter end" of any one is "the time which follows some distinct point in his life, particularly an important epoch-making point, and which may be regarded as the end by contrast, the time before that epoch being considered as the beginning" (Schultz). In this instance Moses refers to the period of their life in Canaan, in contrast with which the period of their sojourn in Egypt and their wandering in the desert is recorded as the beginning; consequently the expression does not relate to death as the end of life, as in Numbers 23:10, although this allusion is not to be altogether excluded, as a blessed death is only the completion of a blessed life. - Like all the guidance of Israel by the Lord, what is stated here is applicable to all believers. It is through humiliations and trials that the Lord leads His people to blessedness. Through the desert of tribulation, anxiety, distress, and merciful interposition, He conducts them to Canaan, into the land of rest, where they are refreshed and satisfied in the full enjoyment of the blessings of His grace and salvation; but those alone who continue humble, not attributing the good fortune and prosperity to which they attain at last, to their own exertion, strength, perseverance, and wisdom, but gratefully enjoying this good as a gift of the grace of God. חיל עשׂה, to create property, to prosper in wealth (as in Numbers 24:18). God gave strength for this (Deuteronomy 8:18), not because of Israel's merit and worthiness, but to fulfil His promises which He had made on oath to the patriarchs. "As this day," as was quite evident then, when the establishment of the covenant had already commenced, and Israel had come through the desert to the border of Canaan (see Deuteronomy 4:20).
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