Deuteronomy 32 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Deuteronomy 32)

Verse 1

[1] Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.

O heavens, O earth — You lifeless and senseless creatures, which he calls upon partly to accuse the stupidity of Israel, that were more dull of hearing than these: and partly as witnesses of the truth of his sayings and the justice of God's proceedings against them.

Verse 2

[2] My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass:

As the rain — Look what effect rain and dew have upon herbs and grass which they make fresh and fragrant and growing, the same effect may my discourse have upon your hearts, that is, to make them soft and pliable and fruitful.

Verse 3

[3] Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.

The name of the Lord — His glorious excellencies and righteous actions, by which he hath made himself known as a man is known by his name, and by which it will appear both that there is no blame to be laid upon him whatsoever befals you, and that it is gross madness to forsake such a God for dumb idols.

Ascribe ye — As I am about to publish the majesty and glory of God, so do you also acknowledge it.

Verse 4

[4] He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

A rock - As for the stability of his nature, and invincibleness of his power, so also for his fixedness and immutability in his counsels and promises and ways; so that is there shall be a sad change in your affairs, remember that this proceeds from yourselves and from the change of your ways towards God, and not from God, in whom there is no variableness or shadow of change, James 1:17.

His work — All his works and actions are unblameable, perfect, wise and righteous.

His ways — All his administrations in the world and particularly with you are managed with wisdom and justice.

A God of truth — Constant to his promises: you cannot accuse him of any unfaithfulness to this day.

Verse 5

[5] They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.

They — The Israelites.

Their spot — The wickedness with which they are stained, is not of his children - Plainly shews they are not his children, but the devil's. God's children have no such spot. Indeed this text does not affirm, they have any spot at all.

Perverse — Froward and untractable: Crooked - Irregular and disorderly.

Verse 6

[6] Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?

O foolish people and unwise! — Fools and double fools! Fools indeed, to disoblige one, on whom you so entirely depend! Who hath bewitched you! To forsake your own mercies for lying vanities! Bought thee - That hath redeemed thee from Egyptian bondage.

Made thee — Not only in a general by creation, but in a peculiar manner by making thee his peculiar people.

Established — That is, renewed and confirmed his favour to thee, and not taken it away, which thou hast often provoked him to do.

Verse 7

[7] Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.

The days of old — The events of ancient days or former ages, and thou wilt find that I had a respect unto thee not only in Abraham's time, but long before it.

Verse 8

[8] When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.

Their inheritance — When God by his providence allotted the several parts of the world to several people, which was done Genesis 10:1-32; Genesis 11:1-9.

When he separated — Divided them in their languages and habitations according to their families.

He set the bounds — That is, he disposed of the several lands and limits of the people so as to reserve a sufficient place for the great numbers of the people of Israel. And therefore he so guided the hearts of several people, that the posterity of Canaan, which was accursed of God, and devoted to ruin, should be seated in that country which God intended for the children of Israel, that so when their iniquities were ripe, they might be rooted out, and the Israelites come in their stead.

Verse 9

[9] For the LORD's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.

His people — It is no wonder God had so great a regard to this people, for he chose them out of all mankind to be his peculiar portion.

Verse 10

[10] He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.

He found him — Not by chance, but as it were looking out and seeking for him. He did indeed manifest himself to him in Egypt, but it was in the wilderness at Sinai, God found him in an eminent manner, and revealed his will to him, and entered into covenant with him, and imparted himself and his grace and blessing to him. By this word he also signifies both their lost condition in themselves, and that their recovery was not from themselves, but only from God who sought and found them out by his grace.

In the waste howling wilderness — In a place destitute of all the necessaries and comforts of life, which also was a type of that desolate and comfortless condition in which all men are before the grace of God finds them out; where instead of the voices of men, is nothing heard but the howlings and yellings of ravenous birds and beasts.

He led them — He conducted them frons place to place by his cloudy pillar and providence. Or, he compassed him about, by his provident care, watching over him and preserving him on every side.

As the apple of his eye — As men use to keep the apple of their eye, that is, with singular care and diligence, this being as a most tender, so a most useful part.

Verse 11

[11] As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:

Her nest — Her young ones in the nest; which she by her cry and motion provoketh to fly.

Her wings — As preparing herself to fly.

On her wings — Or, as on her wings, that is, gently, and tenderly and safely too, as if she carried them not in her claws for fear of hurting them, but upon her wings. Some say, the eagle doth usually carry her young ones upon her wings.

Verse 12

[12] So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.

Did lead them — When they were shut up in Egypt as in their nest whence they durst not venture to fly nor stir, he taught and encouraged and enabled them to fly out from that bondage, he dealt tenderly with them, bearing with their infirmities, keeping them from all harms.

With him — To assist him at that work or to deliver them. The more unworthy they in giving to idols a share in that worship which they owe to God only.

Verse 13

[13] He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock;

The high places — To conquer their strongest holds, which often are in the mountains, and their cities fenced with walls of greatest height and strength. To ride upon, in scripture phrase, is to subdue or conquer.

Out of the rock — This being a land flowing with honey, where the bees made honey in the holes of rocks, or in the trees that grew upon or among the rocks.

Out of the flinty rocks — The olive-trees grow and bear most fruit in rocky or hilly places.

Verse 14

[14] Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.

Fat of lambs — For though the fat wherewith the inward parts were covered was not to be eaten by them, but offered to God, yet that fat which was mixed with the flesh they might eat, as the Jewish doctors note.

Basham — A place famous for excellent cattle.

Fat of kidneys of wheat — With the finest of the grains of wheat; compared to kidneys for their shape and largeness.

Verse 15

[15] But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.

Jeshurun — Israel whom he calls right or upright, (as the word signifies) partly by way of instruction to mind them what they professed and ought to be; and partly by way of exprobration, to shew them what a shame it was to degenerate so much from their name and profession.

Kicked — As well fed cattle use to do: he grew insolent and rebellious against God and against his word and spirit.

Verse 16

[16] They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger.

To jealousy — To anger and fury, for jealousy is the rage of a man. And withall it implies the ground of his anger, their falseness to God whom they had accepted as their husband, and their spiritual whoredom with other gods.

Verse 17

[17] They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.

Unto devils — Unto idols, which the devils brought into the world in opposition to God, in and by which the devils often manifested themselves to men, and gave them answers, and received their worship. The Gentiles pretended to worship God in those idols, and the devils which inspired them, deluded the nations with pretences that they were a sort of lower gods. Moses takes off this mark, and shews the Israelites that these pretended gods were really devils, and therefore that it was the height of madness to honour or worship them.

Not to God — For God utterly rejected those sacrifices which they offered to him together with idols.

They knew not — Or, who never knew them, that is, never shewed any kindness to them, or did them any good: New gods - Not simply or absolutely, for some of these had been worshipped for many generations, but comparatively to the true God, who is the ancient of days, Deuteronomy 7:9, and who was worshipped from the beginning of the world.

Feared not — Served not, worshipped not.

Verse 18

[18] Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.

Of the rock — Of God, one of whose titles this is, or of Christ, who is called the rock, 1 Corinthians 10:4, whom the Israelites tempted.

Verse 19

[19] And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters.

His sons and daughters — Such they were by calling and profession.

Verse 20

[20] And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.

I will see — I will make them and others see, what the fruit of such actions shall be.

No faith — No fidelity: perfidious, that have broken their covenant so solemnly made with me.

Verse 21

[21] They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

I will move them to jealousy with those that are not a people — With the Heathen nations, who are none of my people, who scarce deserve the name of a people, as being without the knowledge and fear of God, which is the foundation of all true policy and government, and many of them destitute of all government, laws and order. And yet these people I will take in your stead, receive them and reject you; which, when it came to pass how desperately did it provoke the Jews to jealousy? A foolish nation - So the Gentiles were both in the opinion of the Jews and in truth and reality, notwithstanding all their pretences to wisdom, there being nothing more foolish or brutish than the worship of idols.

Verse 22

[22] For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.

A fire is kindled — Great and grievous judgments shall be inflicted, which often come under the name of fire. Are they proud of their plenty? It shall burn up the increase of the earth. Are they confident of their strength? It shall destroy the very foundations of the mountains. It shall burn unto the lowest hell: it shall bring them to the very depth of misery in this world, which yet will he but a faint resemblance of their endless misery in the next.

Verse 23

[23] I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them.

Spend mine arrows — Even empty my quiver, and send upon them all my plagues, which, like arrows shot by a skilful and strong hand, shall speedily reach and certainly hit and mortally wound them.

Verse 24

[24] They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.

With hunger — With famine, which burns and parches the inward parts, and make the face black as a coal, Lamentations 4:8.

Burning heat — From fevers or carbuncles, or other inflaming distempers.

Verse 27

[27] Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, and the LORD hath not done all this.

The wrath — Their rage against me, as it is expressed, Isaiah 37:28,29, their furious reproaches against my name, as if I were cruel to my people or unable to deliver them. The fear hereof is ascribed to God after the manner of men.

Strangely — Insolenty and arrogantly above what they used to do.

Verse 28

[28] For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them.

Void of counsel — Their enemies are foolish people, and therefore make so false and foolish a judgment upon things.

Verse 29

[29] O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!

They — Israel.

Latter end — What their end will be, and that tho' God spare them long, yet at last judgment will certainly overtake them.

Verse 30

[30] How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut them up?

One — Israelite.

Their rock — Their God, who was their refuge and defence.

Sold them — Namely, for bond-slaves, had given themselves up into their enemies hands.

Shut them up — As it were in the net which their enemies had laid for them.

Verse 31

[31] For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.

Being judges — Who by their dear bought experience have been forced to acknowledge that our God was far stronger than they and their false gods together.

Verse 32

[32] For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter:

For — As if he had said, This is the reason why their rock hath shut them up.

Their vine is of the vine of Sodom — The people of Israel, which I planted as a choice vine, are now degenerated and become like the vine of Sodom, their principles and practices are all corrupt and abominable.

Bitter — Their fruits are loathsome to me, mischievous to others, and at last will be pernicious to themselves.

Verse 34

[34] Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?

This — All their wickedness mentioned before. My long suffering towards them may make them think I have forgotten their sins, but I remember them punctually, they are sealed up as in a bag, Job 14:17, and as men seal up their treasures.

Verse 35

[35] To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.

Their feet shall slide — They who now think they stand fast and unmoveable, shall fall into utter destruction.

In due time — Though not so soon as some may expect, yet in that time when it shall be most proper, when they have filled up the measure of their sins.

At hand — Heb. is near. So the scripture often speaks of those things which are at many hundred years distance, to signify, that though they may be afar off as to our measures of time, yet in God's account they are near, they are as near as may be, when the measure of their sins is once full, the judgment shall not be deferred.

Verse 36

[36] For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.

For — Or, nevertheless, having spoken of the dreadful calamity which would come upon his people, he now turns his discourse into a more comfortable strain, and begins to shew that after God had sorely chastised his people, he would have mercy upon them and turn their captivity.

Judge his people — Shall plead their cause, shall protect and deliver them.

Repent — Of the evils he hath brought upon them.

None shut up — Either in their strong cities or castles or other hiding places, or in the enemies hands or prisons, whence there might be some hope or possibility of redemption; and none left, as the poor and contemptible people are neglected and usually left by the conquerors in the conquered land, but all seem to be cut off and destroyed.

Verse 37

[37] And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted,

He shall say — The Lord, before he deliver his people, will first convince them of their former folly in forsaking him and following idols.

Verse 38

[38] Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.

Which did eat — That is, to whom you offered sacrifices and oblations after the manner of the Gentiles.

Help you — If they can.

Verse 39

[39] See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.

See now|-Learn by your own sad experience what vain and impotent things idols are.

I am he — The only true, omnipotent and irresistible God.

Verse 40

[40] For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.

I lift up my hand — I solemnly swear, that I will do what here follows.

I live — As sure as I live.

Verse 41

[41] If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.

If I whet my sword — If once I begin to prepare for war and for the execution of my sentence.

Judgment — Of the instruments of judgment, of the weapons of war. A metaphor from warriors, that take their weapons into their hand, when they intend to fight.

Verse 42

[42] I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.

Captives — Whom my sword hath sorely wounded, though not utterly killed.

From the beginning — When once I begin to revenge myself and my people upon mine and their enemies, I will go on and make a full end.

Verse 43

[43] Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.

Rejoice — He calls upon the nations to rejoice and bless God for his favours, and especially for the last wonderful deliverance which shall be given to the Jews, when they shall be converted to the gospel in the last days; which they have all reason to do, because of that singular advantage which all nations will have at that time and upon that occasion.

Verse 44

[44] And Moses came and spake all the words of this song in the ears of the people, he, and Hoshea the son of Nun.

He and Hoshea — Or Joshua. Probably Moses spoke it to as many as could hear him, while Joshua in another assembly at the same time delivered it to as many as his voice would reach. Thus Joshua, as well as Moses, would be a witness against them, if ever they forsook God.

Verse 47

[47] For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.

Not vain — It is not an unprofitable or contemptible work I advise you to, but well worthy of your most serious care.

Verse 48

[48] And the LORD spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying,

That self-same day — Now he had finished his work, why should he desire to live a day longer? He had indeed formerly desired and prayed, that he might go over Jordan: but now he is entirely satisfied, and saith no more of that matter.

Verse 49

[49] Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession:

Nebo — A ridge or top of the mountains of Abarim.

Verse 51

[51] Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.

Because ye trespassed — God reminds him of the sin he had committed long before. It is good for the holiest of men to die repenting, even of their early sins.

Verse 52

[52] Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel.

Yet thou shalt see the land — And see it as the earnest of that better country, which is only seen with the eye of faith. What is death to him who has a believing prospect and a steadfast hope of eternal life?