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Deuteronomy: Chapter 32

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1

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; let the earth hear the words of my mouth. 2 May my teaching drop like the rain, my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass, like showers on new growth. 3 For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God!

4

The Rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is he; 5 yet his degenerate children have dealt falsely with him, a Q Ms Compare Gk Tg: MT the Israelites a perverse and crooked generation. 6 Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you? 7 Remember the days of old, consider the years long past; ask your father, and he will inform you; your elders, and they will tell you. 8 When the Most High a Sam Gk Compare Tg: MT found apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods; b Sam Gk Syr Tg: MT he ate 9 the LORD's own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share.

10

He sustained c Q Mss Sam Gk: MT lacks Jacob ate his fill him in a desert land, in a howling wilderness waste; he shielded him, cared for him, guarded him as the apple of his eye. 11 As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions, 12 the LORD alone guided him; no foreign god was with him. 13 He set him atop the heights of the land, and fed him with d Or that begot you produce of the field; he nursed him with honey from the crags, with oil from flinty rock; 14 curds from the herd, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs and rams; Bashan bulls and goats, together with the choicest wheat— you drank fine wine from the blood of grapes. 15 Jacob ate his fill; e Q Mss Gk: MT lacks was jealous Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked. You grew fat, bloated, and gorged! He abandoned God who made him, and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They made him jealous with strange gods, with abhorrent things they provoked him. 17 They sacrificed to demons, not God, to deities they had never known, to new ones recently arrived, whom your ancestors had not feared. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; f Cn: Heb he spurned because of provocation you forgot the God who gave you birth.

19

The LORD saw it, and was jealous; g Gk: Meaning of Heb uncertain he spurned h Q Ms Gk: MT nations his sons and daughters. 20 He said: I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children in whom there is no faithfulness. 21 They made me jealous with what is no god, provoked me with their idols. So I will make them jealous with what is no people, provoke them with a foolish nation. 22 For a fire is kindled by my anger, and burns to the depths of Sheol; it devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. 23 I will heap disasters upon them, spend my arrows against them: 24 wasting hunger, burning consumption, bitter pestilence. The teeth of beasts I will send against them, with venom of things crawling in the dust. 25 In the street the sword shall bereave, and in the chambers terror, for young man and woman alike, nursing child and old gray head. 26 I thought to scatter them a Q Ms Gk: MT lacks this line and blot out the memory of them from humankind; 27 but I feared provocation by the enemy, for their adversaries might misunderstand and say, “Our hand is triumphant; it was not the LORD who did all this.”

28

They are a nation void of sense; there is no understanding in them. 29 If they were wise, they would understand this; they would discern what the end would be. 30 How could one have routed a thousand, and two put a myriad to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, the LORD had given them up? 31 Indeed their rock is not like our Rock; our enemies are fools. a Q Ms Gk: MT lacks this line 32 Their vine comes from the vinestock of Sodom, from the vineyards of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of poison, their clusters are bitter; 33 their wine is the poison of serpents, the cruel venom of asps.

34

Is not this laid up in store with me, sealed up in my treasuries? 35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; because the day of their calamity is at hand, their doom comes swiftly.

36

Indeed the LORD will vindicate his people, have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone, neither bond nor free remaining. 37 Then he will say: Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, 38 who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their libations? Let them rise up and help you, let them be your protection!

39

See now that I, even I, am he; there is no god besides me. I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and no one can deliver from my hand. 40 For I lift up my hand to heaven, and swear: As I live forever, 41 when I whet my flashing sword, and my hand takes hold on judgment; I will take vengeance on my adversaries, and will repay those who hate me. 42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh— with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long‐haired enemy.

43

Praise, O heavens, a Q Ms Gk: MT his servants his people, worship him, all you gods! b Q Ms Sam Gk Vg: MT his land his people For he will avenge the blood of his children, c Sam Gk Syr Vg: MT Hoshea and take vengeance on his adversaries; he will repay those who hate him, b Q Ms Sam Gk Vg: MT his land his people and cleanse the land for his people. d Gk Syr Vg Compare Tg: Heb upon them

44Moses came and recited all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he and Joshua e Cn Compare Gk Sam Syr Vg: MT He came from Ribeboth‐kodesh, son of Nun. 45When Moses had finished reciting all these words to all Israel, 46he said to them: “Take to heart all the words that I am giving in witness against you today; give them as a command to your children, so that they may diligently observe all the words of this law. 47This is no trifling matter for you, but rather your very life; through it you may live long in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess.”

48On that very day the LORD addressed Moses as follows: 49“Ascend this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, across from Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites for a possession; 50you shall die there on the mountain that you ascend and shall be gathered to your kin, as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his kin; 51because both of you broke faith with me among the Israelites at the waters of Meribath‐kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, by failing to maintain my holiness among the Israelites. 52Although you may view the land from a distance, you shall not enter it—the land that I am giving to the Israelites.”

Notes:

b Q Ms Compare Gk Tg: MT the Israelites

c Sam Gk Compare Tg: MT found

d Sam Gk Syr Tg: MT he ate

e Q Mss Sam Gk: MT lacks Jacob ate his fill

f Or that begot you

g Q Mss Gk: MT lacks was jealous

h Cn: Heb he spurned because of provocation

a Gk: Meaning of Heb uncertain

a Q Ms Gk: MT nations

b Q Ms Gk: MT lacks this line

c Q Ms Gk: MT his servants

d Q Ms Sam Gk Vg: MT his land his people

e Sam Gk Syr Vg: MT Hoshea

a Gk Syr Vg Compare Tg: Heb upon them

b Cn Compare Gk Sam Syr Vg: MT He came from Ribeboth‐kodesh,

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

31.30–32.43 : The Song of Moses.

The Song is a late insertion that reflects upon Israel's history, probably presupposing the exile. In form it is a revised and expanded prophetic lawsuit (Isa 1; Jer 2; Mic 6; Ps 50 ) with this structure: introduction and summoning of witnesses (vv. 1–3 ); accusation (vv. 4–6 ); recital of God's loving actions (vv. 7–14 ); indictment (vv. 15–18 ); declaration of punishment (vv. 19–25 ). Yet God interrupts his own judicial sentence to recognize a risk to his honor: Other nations might conclude that Israel's God was weak should they see Israel destroyed (vv. 26–27 ). God reverses himself, cancels the punishment, and decides instead to punish Israel's enemies so as to vindicate Israel (vv. 28–42 ). The Song concludes with a call for the divine council to praise God for his actions; the call may originate from within the divine council itself (v. 43; similarly Ps 29.1 ). A prose frame links the Song to Deuteronomy, identifying Moses, otherwise unmentioned, as its speaker ( 31.30; 32.44 ).

32.2 :

Teaching, the original prophetic lawsuit has been combined with wisdom themes (Prov 1.5; 4.2; 17.21 ).

4 :

Rock, more accurately, “Mountain,” a title applied to the high god of ancient Canaan (see v. 8n. ) and to the biblical God (vv. 15,18,30–31,37; Isa 44.8; Ps 78.35 ).

6 :

Created you, when God redeemed Israel from Egypt (Ex 15.16 , correcting NRSV “acquired”).

8 :

Most High, or Elyon (text note a), is the title of El, the senior god who sat at the head of the divine council in the Ugaritic literature of ancient Canaan. The Bible applies El's title to Israel's God (Gen 14.18–22; Num 24.16; Ps 46.4; 47.2 ; esp. 78.35 , where it is parallel to Rock). Gods, the lesser gods who make up the divine council (Ps 82.1; 89.6–7 ), to each of whom Elyon here assigns a foreign nation.

9 :

The Lord's own portion, NRSV has added own in order to identify Yahweh with Elyon and avoid the impression that Yahweh is merely a member of the pantheon; see also 4.19n.

10 :

Sustained, more likely “found” (Hos 9.10 ). Overlooking the Egypt traditions, the Song here traces the beginnings of Israel to the wilderness period, romanticizing its ideal purity (similarly Hos 2.14–15; Jer 2.2–3 ; contrast Deut 9.6–7,22–27; Ezek 20 ). Apple of his eye, lit. the aperture or pupil of the eye.

11 :

Israel as God's fledgling; see Ex 19.4 .

13 :

Heights, see Ex 15.17 .

14 :

Curds, symbolic of extravagant hospitality offered to special guests (Gen 18.8; Judg 5.25 ). Bashan, in northern Transjordan, was famous for its cattle.

15 :

Jeshurun, probably meaning “upright,” is a poetic term for Israel ( 33.5,26; Isa 44.2 ).

17 :

Demons, better, “protective spirits” (also Ps 106.37 ). Not God, the language is sarcastic: “a non‐god” (see v. 21 ). To deities, better, “to gods.”

18 :

God is depicted as a woman; gave you birth refers specifically to labor pain (Isa 51.2; cf. Isa 42.14 ).

21 :

Jealous refers to the covenant's demand for exclusive loyalty to God ( 5.8; 6.15; Num 25.11 ). Accordingly, the punishment for breach of the covenant metes out precise retributive justice (see 19.19n. ). The Hebrew emphasizes the sarcasm: thus, with what is no god and what is no people, lit. “with a non‐god,” “with a non‐people.” Their idols, lit. “their vapors” or “their vanities,” even “their vapidities” (Jer 8.19; 10.15; 16.19; Eccl 1.2 ).

22 :

Sheol, the underworld (Gen 37.35; 1 Sam 2.6; Ps 139.8 ). The abode of all the dead, not a place of damnation like the later idea of hell.

23 :

Arrows, divine punishments (v. 42; Ezek 5.16; Ps 7.13; 18.14; 38.2 ).

24 :

Burning consumption, the name of the Ugaritic god of pestilence; thus better, “devoured by Plague.”

25 :

Woman, better, “young woman,” to emphasize the double merism ( 28.3–6n. ), which symbolizes the totality of the slaughter.

26–27 :

The Song here pivots from judgment of Israel to her vindication at the expense of the foreign invaders.

27 :

I feared, God has feelings and vulnerabilities (as at Gen 6.6 ).

28–33 :

God's soliloquy is interrupted by another voice, who refers to God in the third person and speaks on behalf of Israel (vv. 30–31 ).

28–29 :

The foreign nation, like Israel, has failed in wisdom, justifying God's judgment (see v. 6 ).

30 :

Ironically inverts the holy war idea ( 3.22; 20.1 ): The enemy is reproached for failing to understand that it owes its triumph over Israel to God rather than force of arms. God will thus punish Israel's conquerors to preserve his own honor (see 9.25–29; Num 14.13–16 ).

32 :

Sodom … Gomorrah, here symbolizing moral corruption more than ruinous devastation (cf. 29.23n. ).

34 :

This, the punishment of the foreign nation, which is about to be announced (vv. 35–42 ). Laid up … sealed up, the formal legal procedures for rolling and then sealing a witnessed deed or contract with wax, so that the unaltered document can subsequently be introduced into court as evidence (Isa 8.16; Jer 32.9–15 ).

35 :

Vengeance, better, “vindication,” since the idea is not revenge but justice.

36 :

Their power is gone, neither bond nor free, God will act when no one survives who can take charge or provide assistance (2 Kings 14.26; cf. 1 Kings 14.10; 21.21; 2 Kings 9.8 ).

39 :

Similar to exilic Second Isaiah (Isa 41.4; 43.10,13; 44.6; 45.6–7,22; 48.12 ).

41 :

Take, lit. “return,” in retributive justice. Thus, vengeance gives the wrong idea (see v. 35n. ). Those who hate me, treaty language that refers to disloyal action that violates the covenant; thus better translated, “those who reject me” ( 5.9 ).

43 :

The second, fourth, and fifth lines have been restored in light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. With heavens and land, the verse forms a frame or inclusio to “heavens … earth” (v. 1 ), thus framing the poem and returning the focus to Israel's impending entry into the promised land. All you gods, the divine council (v. 8n.; Ps 29.1 ), probably removed from the received Heb text because of the conflict with monotheism (see vv. 8–9n. ). Avenge the blood, God as divine blood avenger (cf. 19.6 ), who removes the stain of Israel's blood from the land by requiting the aggressor for having spilled it ( 19.11–13 ). Cleanse, since the moral stain on the land can only be “wiped clean” (the word's literal meaning) with the blood of the murderer (Num 35.33–34; cf. Deut 21.8 ): here, the foreign nation. God's position is nonetheless morally ambiguous, since it was he who had sanctioned the foreign invasion as punishment for Israel's wrongdoing (vv. 19–26 ). His people, instead, referring to God: “O heavens, rejoice with him!”

32.44–47 : Double conclusion.

Two originally separate conclusions joined by Deuteronomy's editors.

44 :

All the words …, an inclusio (see 31.30 ).

45–47 :

A separate section, the original continuation of 31.29 prior to the insertion of the Song.

46 :

All the words, the laws of Deuteronomy ( 31.24 ); now, following the insertion of the Song, reinterpreted to refer to both.

32.48–52 : Moses commanded to die.

This section repeats the announcement of Moses’ death (Num 27.12–14 ) and thus joins it to its logical continuation, the narrative of that death (Deut 34 ). The original connection between these two Priestly sections was broken by Deuteronomy's insertion into the Pentateuch.

49 :

This mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, as in the Priestly narrative (Num 27.12; 33.47 ); but, according to the Deuteronomistic tradition, Pisgah ( 3.27 ). The two traditions are joined at 34.1 .

50 :

You shall die, lit. “Die … !” This unusual imperative establishes that Moses both lives and dies at God's command ( 34.5n. ). Gathered to your kin, burial in a family tomb, where the bones of the generations would be gathered together (2 Kings 8.24; 22.20; cf. 1 Kings 13.31 ); here used metaphorically, since Moses’ burial place is unknown ( 34.6 ). Mount Hor, consistent with the Priestly tradition (Num 20.22–29; 33.37–39 ); but, in the Deuteronomistic tradition, “Moserah” ( 10.6 ).

51 :

You broke faith, see Num 20.1–13 .

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