Deuteronomy 32

The Word Made Fresh

1“Listen, heavens; I will now speak. Listen, earth, to my words.

2Let my words fall like rain; let my words gather like dew,

like the rain falling on the grass to water the new growth.

3I proclaim the LORD’s name; Great is our God!

4“God is our Rock, whose works are flawless, and whose ways are fair.

5But the LORD’s faithless children have not been true,

they are sinful and deceitful.

6Is this how you repay the LORD, you foolish, ignorant people?

Isn’t the LORD the one who gave you life?

Isn’t the LORD the one who formed you as a people?

7Remember your past history from years long gone;

ask your parents, and they will tell you:

8when God Most High established the nations’ boundaries

and separated the peoples of the earth,

9the LORD’s own people were given a portion,

a share was allotted to Jacob.

10The LORD found him in a wilderness, in a windy, barren wasteland;

protected him, took care of him, watched over him as a favorite child,

11just as an eagle prepares its nest and protects its young,

spreading its wings and carrying them high on its feathers,

12the LORD guided Jacob; no other god protected him.

13The LORD settled him in the hills,

and nourished him with the crops of the fields;

cared for him with honey from the stony crevices,

and gave him oil from the rocky soil.

14The LORD provided curds and milk from the herds and the flocks,

with fat of lambs, and rams, and bulls of Bashan, and goats as well.

The LORD gave him the finest wheat,

and he drank sweet wine from the trodden grapes.

15You children of Jacob had plenty to eat, and grew fat and heavy,

and you turned your back on God who made you.

You rejected the Rock who established you.

16You provoked the LORD’s jealousy,

worshiping strange gods and doing wicked things.

17You offered sacrifices to devils instead of to God,

and worshiped gods you had never heard of before,

gods recently invented, whom your ancestors had never known.

18You turned away from the Rock who carried you,

the God who gave life to you.

19The LORD saw this and resented it,

and turned away from the people.

20‘I will turn away from them,’ said the LORD.

‘And I will decide what should become of them,

because they are a wicked generation

in whom there is no concept of faithfulness.

21They provoked me by worshiping fake gods,

provoked me with idols they made with their own hands.

In return I will provoke them with people I have disdained.

I will punish them with the foolish people they copied.

22My rage lights a fire that burns to the depths of Sheol

and will destroy the earth’s produce and set the mountains ablaze.

23I will cover them with one disaster after another,

and send all my weapons against them.

24I will waste them away with hunger and plague them with disease.

I will send wild beasts with bare teeth against them.

I will afflict them with the poison of creatures that crawl in the dirt.

25The sword will attack them in the street,

and terror will overwhelm them in their homes –

young men and women, nursing child, and gray-haired elders alike.

26I considered scattering them across the earth,

and erasing the memory of them from all the peoples.

27But I was afraid their enemies would arrive at a different conclusion,

and say, ‘We won! The LORD didn’t do this; we did!’

28Those people have no sense. They don’t understand.

29If they did they would figure out why things happened the way they did.

30They would wonder, ‘How can one of them chase a thousand?

How can two put ten thousand on the run,

unless their Rock sold them out; unless their LORD gave them up?

31Their rock is not like ours. They are fools.

32They must be the descendants of Sodom,

or maybe of Gomorrah.  They have drunk from the grapes of wrath.

33Their wine is infused with snake poison, the venom of asps.

34Don’t I already know this?

Isn’t it hidden away in the treasury of my knowledge?

35Revenge belongs to me. The payoff is mine to deliver.

I will determine when the day of their disaster comes,

and their doom sweeps them away.’

36But surely the LORD will preserve the right of the LORD’s people,

and have compassion on them when they are at their weakest,

and there are none remaining, slave or free.

37Then the LORD will say, ‘Where are the gods of those people?

Where is the power in which they took refuge?

38Who enjoyed the fat from their sacrifices?

Who drank the wine they poured out on their altars?

Let those gods come to your defense. Let them protect you!

38‘Do you see now that I am the LORD? That there is no God but me?

Do you see that I put to death, and I give life? That I wound, and I heal?

That no one can take from my hand?

40My hand is raised to the heavens. I declare that, as I live forever,

41when I unsheathe my sword and my hand dispenses justice,

I will take vengeance on my enemies, and I will repay those who hate me.

42My arrows will drink their blood, and my sword will eat their flesh,

and the blood of their slain and their captives.

43‘Rejoice, all you nations, with the LORD’s people.

For the LORD will take vengeance for the blood that was shed,

attack their enemies, and restore the LORD’s people and their land.’”

44Moses and Joshua, the son of Nun, spoke all the words of this song to the people. 45When they were finished, Moses said to them, 46“Take into your hearts these words of warning you have heard me speak today. Teach your children to diligently obey every word of these laws 47Your life depends on it. If you honor the LORD’s words you will live long in the land which you will possess when you cross the Jordan.”

48On that very day the LORD said to Moses, 49“Go into the Abarim mountains in the land of Moab and climb Mt. Nebo across the Jordan from Jericho. There you can look across at the land of Canaan I am giving to Israel. 50Then you will die on the mountain and join your ancestors just as Aaron your brother joined them when he died on Mt. Hor. 51The two of you disobeyed me in front of the Israelites at Meribath-Kadesh in the Zin wilderness. You did not honor my holiness before the people. 52You may look across and see the land I am giving to the Israelites, but you will not enter it.”

Commentary

1-3: A typical introduction to a Hebrew song.

4-6: He contrasts God’s fidelity with Israel’s perversity.

7- 9: Remember the distant past: God divided humanity and gave Jacob (Israel) a portion.

10-14: Remember the recent past: God took care of them in the wilderness. God is presented as their protector and provider of all their needs. In poetic hyperbole, verses 13 and 14 describe the abundance with which God sustained them.

15-18: Jeshurun is a rare name for Israel (Deut. 33:5, 25, and Isaiah 44:2 contain the other occurrences), and many ancient texts do not use it here. They grew fat, but in spite of God’s provision, Moses says, they turned against God and began worshiping other deities.

19-27: Moses describes God’s anger at their apostasy. Verse 24 recalls the story of the poisonous snakes that killed so many of them. God will send other “enemies,” he says, to systematically destroy them. The mention of streets and homes in verse 25 indicates that God’s anger comes at the time after they had begun to settle towns and villages in Moab. God pauses in verse 27 and considers that the destruction of Israel might give their enemies reason to think they were responsible for Israel’s defeat rather than God.

28-33: The nations that God has used to punish Israel, however, are mistaken. After all, how could they think they could be successful unless God allowed it?

34-35: Because these other nations are so cruel, God will then turn and punish them.

36-38: God will vindicate Israel, and this will challenge their enemies’ gods.

39-42: The poem continues with a powerful declaration that God is the God before whom no other gods can stand.

43: The poem ends with a call to praise God – even the other gods should praise God!

44-47: Now we are told that both Moses and Joshua gave the song to Israel: Joshua is being primed as the next leader. Moses exhorts the people again to be faithful to the covenant law.

48-52: So, on the very day that Moses sang his song recounting their past, God tells him it’s all over for him. Up the mountain he must go, there to die. He can see the land, but he can’t enter it, all because he and Aaron insulted God ‘way back at Meribah (you may want to review Numbers 20:1-13). In spite of this announcement, however, Moses will pronounce “blessings” on the tribes before he ascends Mt. Nebo (see chapter 33).

Takeaway

God knew that Israel would turn away after they settled the land of Canaan, and God already plans to rescue them. Do you know that God already knows how you will turn away? Do you know that God has already planned for your rescue?