Deuteronomy 31 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Deuteronomy 31)

Verse 1

[1] And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel.

Went and spake — Continued to speak, an usual Hebrew phrase.

Verse 2

[2] And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in: also the LORD hath said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan.

Go out and come in — Perform the office of a leader or governor, because the time of my death approaches.

Verse 9

[9] 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.

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

To 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.

The elders — Who were assistants to the priests, to take care that the law should be kept, and read, and observed.

Verse 10

[10] And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,

The year of release — When they were freed from debts and troubles, and cares of worldly matters, and thereby fitter to attend on God and his service.

Verse 11

[11] When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.

Thou shalt read — Thou shalt cause it to be read by the priest or Levites; for he could not read it himself in the hearing of all Israel, but this was to be done by several persons, and so the people met in several congregations.

Verse 12

[12] Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:

Together — Not in one place. But into divers assemblies or synagogues. Women who hereby are required to go to Jerusalem at this solemnity, as they were permitted to do in other solemnities.

Children — Such of them as could understand, as appears from Nehemiah 8:2,3, the pious Jews doubtless read it daily in their houses, and Moses of old time was read in the synagogues every sabbath day. But once in seven years, the law was thus to be read in public, to magnify it and make it honourable.

Verse 14

[14] And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation.

Give him a charge — Immediately from myself for his greater encouragement, and to gain him more authority with the people.

Verse 16

[16] And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.

The strangers of the land — That is, of the Canaanites, who will be turned out of their possessions, and become as strangers in their own land. This aggravates their folly to worship such gods as could neither preserve their friends, nor annoy their enemies.

Verse 17

[17] Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?

Hide my face — Withdraw my favour and help. Whatever outward troubles we are in if we have but the light of God's countenance, we are safe. But if God hide his face from us then we are undone.

Verse 19

[19] Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.

Write this song — Which is contained Deuteronomy 32:1-43, and is put into a song that it may be better learned, and more fixed in their minds and memories.

Put it in their mouths — Cause them to learn it, and sing it one to another, to oblige them to more circumspection.

A witness — Of my kindness in giving them so many blessings, of my patience in bearing so long with them, of my clemency in giving them such fair and plain warnings, and my justice in punishing such an incorrigible people.

Verse 21

[21] And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.

Their imaginations — Inclinations to Idolatry, which they do not check, as they ought; and some of them do not only cherish it in their hearts, but as far as they can and dare, secretly practise it, as may be gathered from Amos 5:25; Acts 7:43.

Verse 25

[25] That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying,

The Levites — The priests, Deuteronomy 31:9, who also were Levites.

Verse 26

[26] Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.

Take this book — Probably 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 publickly read by the king himself, for a witness against a people, who were then almost ripe for ruin.

In the side — In the outside, in a little chest fixed to it, for nothing but the tables of stone were contained in the ark, 1 Kings 8:9, here it was kept for greater security and reverence.

A witness against thee — Against thy people, to whom he turns his speech that they might be the more affected with it.