Deuteronomy 4
Matthew Poole's Commentary
Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.
An exhortation to obey the law, Deu 4:1-13; and warning against idolatry, Deu 4:14-24; from the mischief of it upon themselves and children, Deu 4:25-28; God’s promise upon their repentance, Deu 4:29-31; and from God’s wonders towards them, Deu 4:32-40. Cities of refuge are appointed, Deu 4:41-43.

The statutes; the laws which concern the worship and service of God. The judgments; the laws concerning your duties to men. So these two comprehend both tables, and the whole law of God.

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Ye shall not add, by devising other doctrines or ways of worship than what I have taught or prescribed; see Numbers 15:39,40 Deu 12:8,32 1 Kings 12:33 Proverbs 30:6 Matthew 15:9; for this were to accuse me of want of wisdom or care or faithfulness in not giving you sufficient instructions for my own service.

Neither shall ye diminish, by rejecting or neglecting any thing which I have commanded, though it seem never so small.

Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you.
No text from Poole on this verse.

But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
For though the generality of heathen people in the latter and degenerate ages of the world, did, through inveterate prejudices, and for their own lusts and interest, condemn the laws of the Hebrews as foolish and absurd, yet it is most certain that divers of the wisest heathens did highly approve of them, so far that they made use of divers of them, and translated them into their own laws and constitutions; and Moses, the giver of these laws, hath been mentioned with great honour for his wisdom and learning by many of them. And particularly the old heathen oracle expressly said, that the Chaldeans or Hebrews, who worshipped the uncreated God, were the only wise men.

For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
God nigh unto them, by glorious miracles, by the pledges of his special presence, by the operations of his grace, and particularly, as it here follows, by his readiness to hear our prayers, and to give us those succours which we call upon him for.

And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
Whereby he implies that the true greatness of a nation doth not consist in pomp or power, or largeness of empire, as commonly men think, but in the righteousness of its laws.

Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;
No text from Poole on this verse.

Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.
Some of them stood in Horeb in their own persons, though then they were but young; the rest stood then in the loins of their parents, in whom they may well be said to stand there, because they are said to have entered into covenant with God, because their parents did so in their name and for their use.

And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.
Flaming up into the air, which is oft called heaven; and the midst or the heart of it is not only that which is strictly and properly the middle part, but that which is within it, though but a little way, in which sense places or persons or things are said to be in the heart of the sea, Exodus 15:8 Proverbs 23:34 Ezekiel 28:2; and Christ in the heart of the earth, Matthew 12:40.

And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.
i.e. No resemblance or representation of God, whereby either his essence or properties or actions were represented, such as were usual among the heathens.

And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.
Statutes and judgments, i.e. the ceremonial and judicial laws, which are here distinguished from the moral, or the ten commandments, Deu 4:13.

Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire:
By which caution he insinuates man’s great proneness to the worship of images.

God, who in other places and times did appear in a similitude, in the fashion of a man, now in this most solemn appearance, when he comes to give eternal laws for the regulation and direction of the Israelites in the worship of God, and in their duty to men, he purposely avoids all such representations, to show that he abhors all worship of images, or of himself by images of what kind soever, as it here follows, Deu 4:16-19, because he is the invisible God, and cannot be represented by any visible image. See Isaiah 40:18 Acts 17:29.

Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
i.e. Lest ye corrupt your minds with mean and carnal thoughts of God. Or, corrupt your ways or courses, by worshipping God in a corrupt manner, or by falling into idolatry.

A graven image, to wit, for worship, or for the representation of God, as it is explained Deu 4:19, for otherwise it was not simply unlawful to draw the picture or make a figure of a man or a beast.

The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air,
Whereby the heathen nations did represent and worship God, some by an ox, some by a goat, or a hen, or a serpent, or a fish, &c.

The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:
No text from Poole on this verse.

And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.
Driven to worship them, i.e. strongly inclined, and in a manner constrained, partly by the glory of these heavenly bodies, which may seem to be made for higher purposes than to enlighten this lump of earth; partly from that natural propension which is in men to idolatry. Or, shouldest be driven or thrust, to wit, out of the way of the Lord, (as it is more fully expressed, Deu 13:5) or be seduced, or led aside, as silly sheep easily are, and worship them. Or, shouldest be cast down, or throw down thyself and worship them, i.e. worship them by falling down before them.

Unto all nations, which are not gods, but creatures, made not for the worship, but for the use of men, yea, of the meanest and most barbarous people under heaven, and therefore cannot without great absurdity be worshipped, especially by you who are so much advanced above other nations in wisdom and knowledge, and in this, that you are my peculiar people.

But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.
i.e. The furnace wherein iron and other metals are melted, to which Egypt is fitly compared, not only for the torment and misery which they there endured, but also because they were thoroughly tried and purged thereby, as metals are by the fire.

A people of inheritance; his peculiar possession from generation to generation. See Exodus 19:5 Deu 7:6 Titus 2:14. And therefore for you to forsake God, and worship idols, will be not only wickedness and madness, but most abominable ingratitude.

Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance:
God hath granted you the favour which he denied to me, which greatly increaseth your obligation to God.

But I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan: but ye shall go over, and possess that good land.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee.
Or, commanded thee, to wit, not to do, which is easily understood by comparing this place with Exodus 20:4,5, and with Genesis 3:11, where this phrase is fully expressed. See more on Leviticus 4:2 Deu 2:37.

For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.
A consuming fire; a just and terrible God, who, notwithstanding his special relation to thee, will severely punish and destroy thee if thou provokest him by idolatry, or other ways.

A jealous God, who being espoused to thee, will be highly incensed against thee, (if thou followest after other lovers, or committest whoredom with idols,) and will bear no rival or partner.

When thou shalt beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger:
In the sight of the Lord: these words are here added, either,

1. As a caution. Your idolatry, though possibly secretly and cunningly managed, will not be hid from him; he sees it, and he will punish it. Or,

2. To aggravate their spiritual whoredom, as being committed in the sight and presence of their Lord and Husband, whose eye is alone peculiarly upon them in all their ways, than it is upon other people. Or,

3. By way of opposition unto men’s judgment. Idolatry ofttimes seems good, and reasonable, and religious in the eyes of men, but, saith he, it is evil in the eyes of the Lord, whose judgment is most considerable.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.
Heaven and earth; either,

1. Figuratively, i.e. God, and angels, and men. Or rather,

2. Properly; it being usual in Scripture to call in the senseless creatures as witnesses in such cases, as Deu 32:1 Isaiah 1:2 Jeremiah 2:12.

And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.
i.e. Idols. You shall be compelled by men, and given up by me to idolatry. So that very thing which was your choice shall be your punishment; it being just and usual for God to punish one sin by giving them up to another, as is manifest from Romans 1:24,25.

But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
If thou seek him; if thou desirest his help and favour. See Deu 30:2 Isaiah 45:6.

With all thy heart, i.e. sincerely and fervently.

When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
In the latter days; either in general, in succeeding ages and generations; or particularly, in the days of the Messias, which are commonly called in Scripture

the latter, or last days, as Isaiah 2:2 Hosea 3:5 Micah 4:1 Daniel 2:44 Hebrews 1:2 9:26. And so this may respect the conversion and redemption of the Jewish nation even in those times when their case seems most desperate, when they have forsaken their God and rejected their Messias for many ages, to wit, towards the end of the world.

(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.
i.e. Made with thy fathers, including their posterity, as Genesis 17:7.

For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?
From the one side of heaven, i.e. of the earth under heaven. Ask all the inhabitants of the world. Compare Matthew 24:31, with Mark 13:27.

Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?
i.e. And was not overwhelmed and consumed by such a glorious appearance. See Exodus 24:11 33:20

Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?
By temptations; by tribulations and persecutions, which are commonly called temptations, which are here fitly mentioned as one great occasion first of their cries unto God, and then of God’s coming for their rescue. Or, temptations is the general title, which is explained by the following particulars,

signs and wonders, & c., which are called temptations, because they were trials both to the Egyptians and Israelites, whether thereby they would be induced to believe and obey God or no.

Great terrors, raised in the minds of the Egyptians, as the history showeth; compare Deu 2:25 34:12; or by terrible things done among them.

Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.
Out of heaven, i.e. out of the air, above Mount Sinai. See Exodus 19:9 20:18,22. Upon earth; at the top of Mount Sinai.

And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;
In his sight; keeping his eye fixed upon him, as the father doth on his beloved child. Or, with his presence, i.e. he did not send them forth by Moses, but he himself was present with them, and as it were marched along with them, in the pillar of cloud and fire.

To drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Then Moses severed three cities on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;
As God had commanded him Numbers 35:6,14

That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live:
No text from Poole on this verse.

Namely, Bezer in the wilderness, in the plain country, of the Reubenites; and Ramoth in Gilead, of the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, of the Manassites.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel:
Which hath been generally intimated already, but is more particularly and punctually expressed in the following chapter, to which these words are a preface.

These are the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which Moses spake unto the children of Israel, after they came forth out of Egypt,
No text from Poole on this verse.

On this side Jordan, in the valley over against Bethpeor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon, whom Moses and the children of Israel smote, after they were come forth out of Egypt:
No text from Poole on this verse.

And they possessed his land, and the land of Og king of Bashan, two kings of the Amorites, which were on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;
No text from Poole on this verse.

From Aroer, which is by the bank of the river Arnon, even unto mount Sion, which is Hermon,
No text from Poole on this verse.

And all the plain on this side Jordan eastward, even unto the sea of the plain, under the springs of Pisgah.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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