Deuteronomy Chapter 4: Reminder to Israel to keep the Statutes and Judgments Because of Previous Misdeeds

Jan 29th, 2010 | By | Category: Deuteronomy, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Deuteronomy Chapter 4: Reminder to Israel to keep the Statutes and Judgments Because of Previous Misdeeds

Deut. 4:1 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.

“Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments.” “Statutes” and “judgments” are mentioned repeatedly in the Scriptures. Even though the translators of the King James were good scholars, it is unfortunate that the actual intonations, or subtle differences, in these words were not too well known or understood. For instance, the Hebrew words choq (translated “statutes” here) and mishpat (rendered “judgments”) are translated various ways elsewhere in Scripture. The point is that we feel no living scholar (Hebrew or otherwise) knows the intent here. Concordances use the words as synonyms and interchange them. Another problem is that in 1611, different groups of scholars were assigned to the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, etc. Each group had a leader, and then another scholar was given the authority to make the final decision on the translation. With this procedure, variances entered the King James translation in spite of the careful screening and supervision, and as a result, the English interpretation is not consistent.

We will try to set forth some ideas or guidelines for understanding the words “statutes” and “judgments.” The “statutes” are the ceremonial account. In Leviticus, for example, laws and instructions were given for certain days, such as the new moon, the Passover, and the first day of the month. Therefore, the thought of “statutes” in verse 1 is “ordinances” and “precepts.”

“Judgments” entail three processes. In a court case without a jury, (1) a judge decides between right and wrong, (2) he determines how the wrong will be handled, and (3) the judgment is carried out. Stated another way, (1) the judge decides if a person is guilty by rendering a verdict, (2) he gives the sentence (an elaboration of how the wrong deed is to be handled), and (3) then comes the execution of the verdict. Thus three primary actions are taken. With regard to the judgment, if a person is wrongly accused and, therefore, is innocent, he is set free. If he is guilty, he is punished or executed. The judge makes the determination.

“Statutes” are something we have been instructed in so that we know what to do and what not to do. For instance, the Ten Commandments are summarized as loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourself. In addition, there are a lot of “Thou shalt nots.” Thus “statutes” are the dos and the don’ts—but what we do is another matter. We fail at times because we lack knowledge or because the flesh is weak, and we suffer accordingly. Thank God, we are not under the Law but under grace.

Strong’s Concordance gives multiple definitions for “statutes” and “judgments.” That is proper, for under one circumstance, the Hebrew words have one meaning, and under another circumstance, they have a different meaning. How to apply the Hebrew words in a particular Scripture would depend largely on context and the specific case at hand. Moses verbalized what the statutes and the judgments were for the Israelites. He said, “I teach [them to] you, for [the intended purpose that if you] … do [that is, obey] them, … ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.”

Deut. 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Verse 2 reminds us of Revelation 22:18,19, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” There the judgment for adding to or diminishing the Word of God is given, the penalty for taking away, or subtracting, being more severe.

Here the word “commandments” refers to the moral instruction or law of God to His people, in contradistinction to the ceremonial law. Both are important, but of the two, the moral law is the most important. The ceremonial law is meaningless unless it is done in the proper spirit.

Deut. 4:3 Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baal-peor: for all the men that followed Baal-peor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you.

Baal-peor was a foreign god of a very lewd type of worship. The Moabite women, who worshipped Baal-peor, seduced many thousands of the Israelite men into illicit relationships, leading them even into false religious practices. For this gross sin to occur indicates that when the Israelites came to this vicinity, they remained there for a considerable period of time. They were down on the plain not far from the river Jordan, and on a nearby hill, there no doubt was a temple to Baal-peor. The temple worship fostered lewdness, sexuality, and lasciviousness, and the Israelite men went whoring after this god with the pleasures of the flesh.

Balaam the prophet was responsible for privately instructing King Balak how to bring a curse on Israel. He told Balak to have the daughters of Moab seduce the Israelite men. As a result, 24,000 Israelites died (Num. 25:1-9).

Q: Revelation 2:14 talks about the “doctrine of Balaam.” Since that doctrine led the Israelites to commit fornication, does the Revelation text refer to the harlotry of the false Church?

A: That is one form of harlotry. Another form, individually speaking, is improper divorce and remarriage, which Jesus called “adultery” (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). Remarriage is fornication unless one has scriptural justification for a divorce and, consequently, the freedom to remarry. If it is known (not just imagined) that a husband or wife has committed adultery, there is justification to file for divorce, and the innocent party is free to remarry. The ecclesia where this problem occurs should handle the matter. Otherwise, brethren would be kept busy for the rest of their Christian career with various cases. The primary responsibility is on the home ecclesia to act.

Comment: Numbers 31:15-17 reads, “And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.”

Reply: This incident reveals one of the ways that Satan operates. Perhaps the most successful of all his temptations is to work though the flesh.

Deut. 4:4 But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day.

The Israelites who felt the consolation of verse 4 had faithfully resisted that temptation. Of course many of the Israelites were not tempted; for instance, the Israelite women were not tempted by the Moabite women.

Deut. 4:5 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.

Comment: Moses faithfully did what God had commanded him to do.

Reply: We are only in the beginning of Moses’ two discourses to the children of Israel, which he gave without notes. In the two speeches, he discussed numerous subjects of the past. Not only did God give Moses the ability to memorize all that He had spoken, but also Moses had the ability to put the words in writing. In fact, one reason the Israelites remained about a month in this vicinity before crossing the Jordan River was to give Moses time to complete the scroll to give to Joshua. (The scroll was put on the side of the Ark of the Covenant.) For Moses to write down all the words with the means available at that time was an exhausting work.

Incidentally, although Moses wrote the great bulk of Deuteronomy, it is obvious from the nature of the comments that certain parts were added later by Ezra, and Joshua may also have inserted a few tie-ins. However, basically speaking, Moses wrote 90 percent of the Book of Deuteronomy by hand under very hard circumstances. What he was able to accomplish is astounding! For example, consider his physical strength to run up and down Mount Sinai several times, and he twice went without food for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses was a most remarkable man, yet he was the meekest man in all the earth (Num. 12:3). For a man with such capabilities to be so meek is outstanding.

Deut. 4:6 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.

By extension, we can see the wonderful influence the Bible has had on the various nations in the Western Hemisphere. The gospel, the Word, went westward and has been a blessing to all the nations through which it passed. Finally, the last messenger, Charles Russell, was here in the United States.

“Surely this great nation [Israel] is a wise and understanding people.” This statement is evidenced in the number of Nobel Prize winners who are Jewish. The tiny nation of Israel has the greatest representation among the elite scholars, doctors, scientists, etc., of the world.

Comment: God set apart Israel as a unique nation, not only morally and spiritually but also as His elect people.

Reply: This setting apart can be visually seen in the incident where the Logos, representing God, appeared to Moses in the burning bush. The fact that the bush did not perish shows the keeping power of God, which is another aspect.

Deut. 4:7 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?

Comment: The Biblical Israel was a true theocracy. The nation was ruled and led by God.

Reply: Yes, as Moses said, “The LORD our God is one LORD” (Deut. 6:4). God dealt directly with the people through His spokesperson Moses. Unfortunately, some brethren have minimized from the platform the instruction of the Law, whereas the Law is actually superior to the Grace Covenant, for in a new form, it will be what God requires of all His people both in the Kingdom and in all ages beyond. There will be no more grace after the end of the Kingdom Age. From that time forward, anyone who sins will receive no forgiveness or mercy because enough knowledge and instruction will have been given to mankind and future generations for them to be entirely responsible for life or death. God’s Law is His thinking on all subjects. The Gospel Age is an exception, a very unusual circumstance, that will not apply in the future.

Deut. 4:8 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?

Comment: Having a codified law set Israel apart from the other nations.

Reply: Yes, and that law was “so righteous.”

Deut. 4:9 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;

Comment: Psalm 78:10,11 reads, “They [the Israelites] kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law; And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shown them.”

Reply: Yes, they forgot in spite of this instruction in Deuteronomy.

Comment: Israel had responded at the time of the giving of the Law Covenant, “All that the LORD hath spoken we will do” (Exod. 19:8; 24:3,7).

Reply: Yes, the Israelites made a commitment as a nation. When the Bible tells that God delighted in the children of Israel during their wilderness wanderings, the reference is to the younger generation, not to those who perished.

Comment: Moses specially emphasized “the things which thine eyes have seen.” Nothing more could be done when the Israelites actually saw the Lord’s hand in all their happenings.

Reply: Yes, the people were without excuse, but it is amazing how we, too, can forget, even from a natural standpoint, unless we meditate on and allow this lesson to be absorbed so that it will have the intended effect. As Christians, we need to pay strict attention to God’s Word and instruction.

It seems unbelievable that the very next day after the destruction of Dathan and Abiram, when the earth swallowed them up, the people blamed Moses for killing “the people of the LORD.”

The incident shows that even in the Kingdom Age, the people will need to observe and meditate and reflect deeply upon the instruction they are given because many individuals will be destroyed at that time too (Num. 16:1-41).

Deut. 4:10 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.

Comment: In Exodus 19:10-15, God told Moses to gather the people together.

On almost all occasions, God spoke through the Logos, but what we believe is astounding in this case at Horeb (Mount Sinai) is that God Himself spoke. A close analysis of several statements on this subject seems to indicate that Jehovah actually spoke, although the people saw no similitude of Him (Deut. 4:15,16). The movement they saw in the cloud and the fire represented Jehovah’s coming down. They heard a voice but did not see any distinct form. In the New Testament, on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus and three apostles heard God’s voice from heaven say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Pet. 1:17). It would have been awesome to hear and to realize that there was this relatively close affiliation between the Creator of heaven and earth and Jesus, and it is rather touching that the great Creator condescended to come down and communicate to these little human creatures on this tiny, insignificant planet.

Deut. 4:11 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.

Comment: The burning mountain is mentioned in Hebrews 12:18, “For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest.” It is also referred to in Exodus 19:18, “And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.”

Reply: The fire proceeded from the bottom upward, as if the mountain belched from the mouth of the earth.

“Ye came near and stood under the mountain.” On Mount Sinai is a little natural platform from which one can look down on the amphitheater-like Valley of Rahah, where the Israelites encamped. It is likely that Moses spoke to the people from that spot. Since the platform has a sharp edge and is like a pulpit that extends outward, it can be said the people “stood under the mountain.” From that platform, the acoustics are excellent.

Deut. 4:12 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.

Comment: The fact the Israelites heard the voice means, by extension, that although they did not see a form, God does have a shape, a similitude.

Reply: Yes, God has hands, eyes, feet, etc., as mentioned “here a little, and there a little” in Scripture (Isa. 28:10).

Comment: The expression “the voice of the words” shows that the voice had purpose and words that the people could understand.

Deut. 4:13 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.

God literally wrote the Ten Commandments upon the two tables of stone.

Deut. 4:14 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.

Comment: “Statutes and judgments” are mentioned repeatedly in this chapter: verses 1, 5, 8, 14, and 45.

Reply: The Book of Deuteronomy contains a lot of repetition. Moses’ discourses were not structured such as the Book of Hebrews, which Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God allowed Moses to speak in an emotional fashion. We believe the intonation of his voice manifested his feelings as he tried to impress the lessons upon the people, for he knew they would disobey. He wanted to faithfully discharge his responsibility so that his ministry would be without fault. Moses spoke in an extemporaneous fashion, yet his words are Scripture. Having many parts, his discourses were not structured in the normal way. Ezra, and possibly Joshua, inserted comments to tie together some of the parts.

Comment: God commanded Moses to teach the statutes and judgments to the people before they entered the Promised Land.

Reply: That is true for several reasons. First, the Israelites would not have Moses when they entered the land. Second, while Joshua was the leader, the people had to engage in six years of fighting, and under that condition, they could not receive instruction in a congregational fashion. Thus, when the Israelites came to a relatively peaceful situation, it was important for them to be able to recall what they had previously been taught. If they had not seriously committed the instruction to memory, they would be careless and lack the proper reverence for the statutes and judgments of God.

Deut. 4:15 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:

Comment: Verse 15 indirectly indicates, “Do not think for a moment that you are not being watched.”

Reply: In Egypt, there were “pictures” of a multitude of visible false gods. The Egyptians needed something visual to pray before and make offerings to. They wanted a visible object just like the Catholic Church down through the Gospel Age with all kinds of statues of Mary, Joseph, angels, etc. To the contrary, the Christian has a picture in his heart and mind. Instead of something visible, the “picture” should be in the memory bank of the mind and heart.

Comment: In regard to not seeing God’s form, the word “similitude” is mentioned twice, once in verse 12 and again in verse 15, to prepare the people for the instruction not to make a graven image, a similitude, of anything on this earth to worship.

Comment: In verses 15-19, Moses was amplifying the first two commandments: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Exod. 20:3-5).

After a century or so, the Israelites began to do the very things they were commanded not to do here in Deuteronomy. They worshipped the sun, the moon, Molech, Ashtoreth, and all kinds of similitudes. From time to time, the Lord woke them up with a shock treatment. Momentarily they repented and reformed, but lo and behold, after a few years, they were back in the same rut of disobedience. However, it is startling that ever since the 70-year period of desolation of the land and captivity in Babylon from 606 to 536 BC, the Jewish nation has not made graven images. The lesson finally sunk in and sobered them when Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple were destroyed and the experience of desolation occurred.

Comment: Some examples of disobedience with graven images are the following. Aaron made a golden calf, which the people worshipped when Moses was in the mount receiving the Ten Commandments. Jeroboam made golden calves at Dan and Beth-el to rival the worship at Jerusalem. King Ahab adopted a foreign god when he married Jezebel.

Reply: Jezebel introduced forms of Baal worship under different configurations. Jeroboam was equally destructive with regard to the ten-tribe kingdom. With the Kaaba at Mecca, the counterfeit representation of the Tabernacle, the custom is to kiss the right rear pillar, or post, as the Muslims face the black box. And much earlier, the custom in the worship of the golden calves at Dan and Beth-el was that when an individual paid his devotions, he kissed the behind of the calf. In fact, that practice is the derivation of the statement still used today “Kiss my behind.” A number of other slang statements in current use in English jargon have unwittingly come down from the past, a few in the favorable sense and most in a derogatory sense.

Deut. 4:16 Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,

Deut. 4:17 The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air,

Deut. 4:18 The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:

A “graven image” is a carved image in the likeness of any male or female figure, any beast, any winged fowl, anything that creeps on the ground, or any fish. Egypt was divided into many provinces, and each province selected a particular animal to worship—a crocodile, a hippopotamus, a bull, or whatever. The people seemed to delight in that personal, provincial custom, which helped to identify them when they traveled. In other words, through the animal that was worshipped, they could easily recognize a fellow traveler from the same place. A correspondency is the Masons, who have a secret type of handshake and phrase. Such secret customs and peculiar demonstrations of identification and communication proliferated throughout the various nations. Even in hostile environments, people found a rapport with those who were of a kindred mind.

Comment: The fact Moses included both male and female in the prohibition is an indictment of the Catholic Church with all of its statuary. The instruction went beyond just animals.

“The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground.” What depravity for humanity to worship an insect! For example, the scarab beetle was worshipped in Egypt, supposedly being the symbol of resurrection because of a certain habit the insect has.

Comment: Worship of the serpent, which “creepeth on the ground,” was common in the Egyptian religion. A serpent on the headdress of the Pharaohs was related to Satan.

Reply: Yes, the serpent, a symbol of Satan, was supposed to be a symbol of wisdom. Jesus said to his followers, “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and [but] harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).

For example, the Lord’s people should not be so guileless that they get into a situation of evil communication of one form or another when they could easily avoid it by just walking in a different direction.

Comment: We have little information about the appearance of the serpent before the Fall.

Reply: Originally, the serpent had legs, and probably the two front legs were used like hands to pluck fruit from the forbidden tree. Pictures of the serpent that are thousands of years old did not just come out of thin air.

Israel was guilty of making graven images in spite of this explicit instruction from the Lord through the Logos and then Moses. Christians have used the fish not as an idol or object of worship but to indicate a place of Christian interest and reverence. In other words, the fish was like a secret code. Probably the origin of the fish in Christianity was Jesus’ statement that he would make his disciples “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). Christians in the Dark Ages needed a secret method of communication lest the authorities hunt them and put them to death. There were some severe periods of persecution.

Comment: Cardinals’ hats are “fish” hats.

Reply: Yes, the open mouth of the fish is designed into the top of the hats. The people of Nineveh worshipped Dagon, the fish god, who was also the god of the Philistines. Because of this type of worship, those in Nineveh hearkened to Jonah.

Deut. 4:19 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.

Nor were the Israelites to worship celestial bodies. The heavens have had a profound influence on many nations, and until the 70-year Babylonian captivity, such worship cropped up in Israel from time to time.

Comment: King Josiah stopped the worship of the sun, the moon, the planets, and all the host of heaven (2 Kings 23:5).

Reply: Yes, he did a cleaning-out work that had a good effect.

“God hath divided [the celestial bodies] unto all nations under the whole heaven.” The signs of the zodiac rotate very, very slowly, requiring 25,000 years for a complete rotation. Some parts of the zodiac can be seen only in the Southern Hemisphere, and other parts in the Northern Hemisphere. Some nations worshipped the particular sign they dwelled under. Thus national astrology, as well as personal astrology, has had adherents.

Deut. 4:20 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.

In 1 Kings 8:51, Egypt is likened to an iron furnace, which is a picture of persecution, trial, and hardship. “Iron” indicates an unyielding condition.

Deut. 4:21 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:

Deut. 4:22 But I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan: but ye shall go over, and possess that good land.

Moses had to die—he could not enter “that good land”—because he had smitten the rock the second time in his own strength instead of in God’s name only. Although the smiting is a symbol of Second Death, the act does not detract from Moses’ character in the final analysis, for he “was faithful in all his house” (Heb. 3:2). Nevertheless, he did technically commit a sin through human weakness.

“Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your [the Israelites’] sakes.” In smiting the rock twice, Moses was a type of the Second Death class. In other words, his little fit of temper was partially judged by God to make a type of smiting Christ the second time. Although Moses was an imperfect human being, he was 100 percent for God, and he was judged a faithful Ancient Worthy; it was just that his flesh could not perfectly conform. God used that one act of disobedience not only as a type but also as a lesson that one should pay strict attention to and reverence and obey Him because He is a consuming fire—and eventually He expects perfect obedience from perfect human beings and will not tolerate any mistakes. After the Kingdom Age is complete and the saved world of mankind enters the ages of ages, there will be no more mercy. Any act of disobedience will be promptly dealt with. These pictures show what God ultimately expects of all His creatures. When future generations on other planets look down here on planet Earth and see what happened in the past, they will understand very graphically that perfect obedience is to be expected and the least infraction will be dealt with summarily.

Comment: Psalm 106:32,33 gives a balanced account of the incident where Moses struck the rock twice. “They [the Israelites] angered him [Moses] also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes: Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.”

Reply: How thankful we are that God does not deal with our mistakes the same way!

Comment: Knowing Moses’ desire, the Heavenly Father instructed him to go to the top of Mount Pisgah, and there this faithful servant was given a beautiful view of the Promised Land.

With few exceptions, the older generation of Israelites who came out of Egypt expired during the 40 years in the wilderness. The Lord was pleased with the younger (or second) generation, who eventually entered the Promised Land. That generation profited by their experiences and by Moses’ instructions.

The purpose of this study of the Book of Deuteronomy is to get an overview and thus to familiarize ourselves with the account. Then, as individuals, we can go back and restudy the book to see other details and jewels of information. Now we are getting a helpful background and seeing the earnestness of Moses and his custodianship. A true mediator between God and the Israelites under the Law Covenant, he handled that responsibility probably better than any other man could have done at that time. In other words, he was the right man for the job, and his whole heart and soul were in this exhortation.

Deut. 4:23 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.

Deut. 4:24 For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

Moses again cautioned the Israelites not to worship an image (a substitution), for Jehovah is “a jealous God.” His glory as Emperor of the universe will He “not give to another” (Isa. 42:8).

The Apostle Paul quoted in Hebrews 12:29, “For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire.”

Deut. 4:25 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:

Deut. 4:26 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.

Deut. 4:27 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.

Deut. 4:28 And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.

Foreknowing (through the Holy Spirit) that the Israelites would disregard the warning, Moses prophesied of their disobedience. In spite of all this admonition, they would, in time, do the very things they were told not to do, and as a result, they would be scattered in foreign lands. Thus Israel’s dispersion was predicted. Here we are reminded of Leviticus 26.

“Ye shall not prolong your days upon it [the land], but shall utterly be destroyed.” To all practical effects—speaking from a broad-brush viewpoint—when the Israelites were taken into Babylonian captivity, they numbered only in the hundreds, being a relative handful. Thus Moses qualified his statement by saying they would be “left few in number among the heathen.” They were “utterly … destroyed” from the standpoint that Solomon’s Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed and the great bulk of the people (about 98 percent) were slain.

In time, the Israelites worshipped Astoreth, Baal, the sun, the moon, etc. However, as a result of their experiences in Diaspora, subsequent to the Gentiles’ coming into gospel favor, the Jews forsook the worship of false gods, “which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.” The fact this statement is inserted in verse 28 indicates that God can do these things. Moreover, He has a shape (a form) and a voice (John 5:37).

Moses repeated the same warnings over and over. He was not satisfied to just make the statement once but, through repetition, tried to drum the admonitions into the heads of the people. His repetitive exhortative efforts and continual reminders were effective for at least two generations, for when Joshua took over and instructed the Israelites, their obedience was so remarkable that they accomplished extraordinary things. But with the third generation, the Israelites forgot. They mixed in with the Gentile foreign powers and tried to serve not only Jehovah but also other gods.

Comment: In Romans 1:22,23, Paul verified what Moses predicted of the Israelites’ history as time passed: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”

Deut. 4:29 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.

Deut. 4:30 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;

Deut. 4:31 (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.

Deut. 4:32 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?

Deut. 4:33 Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?

Deut. 4:34 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?

Deut. 4:35 Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.

Deut. 4:36 Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he showed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.

Deut. 4:37 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;

Deut. 4:38 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.

Deut. 4:39 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.

Verses 29-39 emphasize the power of Almighty God and how much He did for the Israelites, even going back to creation. God audibly spoke to them as a people on Mount Sinai (verses 33 and 36). Whoever heard of such a thing? The Logos was not speaking but God Himself. In the incident with the burning bush, the Logos spoke as God’s representative and mouthpiece but not in the particular case at Mount Sinai (Exod. 3:2-4; Acts 7:30-35). The LORD God caused the Israelites to actually hear His voice.

“God is a merciful God.” Even when the Israelites disobeyed as a nation, if they turned to God in full sincerity of heart, He heard them, remembering the covenant He had made with them. No other nation has had the experience of Israel with God’s deliverance, and He led them in a very tender fashion in the wilderness. In reading of the thunder of His judgments when the Israelites disobeyed, we sometimes overlook the mercy aspect. He watched over them as if they were a little infant, washing, drying, and wrapping them in a blanket, as it were, and bearing them on eagles’ wings instead of destroying them for their disobedience (Exod. 19:4).

In studying how God dealt with the Israelites in the past, we, as Christians, should not get so depressed when we have done something amiss that we foolishly conclude God has forsaken us or is not interested in us. God’s dealings with Israel are encouraging and uplifting. Seeing His character reflected in His dealings with the children of Israel should intensify our focus of attention and our reverence for Him. If a Christian sins after consecration and sincerely repents, there is retrieval.

“Because he [God] loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt.” The second generation responded favorably, whereas the first generation soon “forgat” (Psa. 106:13). Verse 30 is a promise regarding the “latter days” (the end of the age) that the faithful Jews (the Holy Remnant) will notice. “When you are in tribulation in the latter days, if you turn to me, I, the LORD God, will hear you” (paraphrase).

Comment: In all of human history up to this time, Israel was unique in the way God had dealt with them. For example, He spoke to them direct and pulled them out of a mightier nation, yet how would they repay God for His mercy and all that He had done for them? They would serve the wood and stone works of men’s hands.

Reply: It is astounding that even today, with all of the trouble in Israel, the nation does not get down on its knees and pray to God. The nation should do what Nineveh did after Jonah’s preaching. Even the cattle had to participate in the fasting.

There is something about the condition of hardness of heart—once a person is converted, the condition is more enduring. While no fault is found with a person who is very loving, kind, and sympathetic, it is desirable to have underneath that disposition a diamond or hard-like quality, which the Jewish people seem to have. Even in their blindness, there is a hardness that, when changed, will become of a superior quality like the character of the Apostle Paul. But only God, with His Holy Spirit, can effect such a transformation.

Comment: The principle is stated in Luke 7:47 in regard to the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with the hairs of her head: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”

Reply: That is true. The Pharisees’ attitude toward Jesus was, “Don’t you know that she is a sinner?” He replied in effect, “The changed love that comes from a person to whom much is forgiven is superior, for that love comes out of the depths of emotion.” The other kind of love is not to be downgraded, but there is a depth, a higher quality, to love that is extracted from the mire of a radical change. A diamond is made from carbon, the softest material, but starting with hard material is very good too. Most of the precious stones are of corundum instead of silicon. A certain study of character is manifest in Scripture and in nature.

Deut. 4:40 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.

Blessings, even health and long life, would be given to the Jews in proportion to their obedience.

Deut. 4:41 Then Moses severed three cities on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;

Deut. 4:42 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:

Deut. 4:43 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.

Three cities of refuge were given on each side of the Jordan River, for a total of six cities of refuge out of the 48 Levitical cities (Num. 35:6,7). The three cities east of Jordan are listed, one city in each tribe of Reuben, Gad, and one half of Manasseh. These three cities were spread out, the half tribe of Manasseh being up near the Sea of Galilee. King Og had been in this territory, and Sihon had been to the south near Ammon. In principle, the cities of refuge were for the innocent, that is, for those who accidentally killed another. The guilty ones were put to death.

Today in the courts of judgment, the reasons or principles for providing cities of refuge are all being discarded, one by one, by Satan. We can see the corruption that is taking place. Whatever goodness remains is a result of God’s dealings with natural and spiritual Israel, but these principles are also being expunged. What we see is not Jesus’ tearing down the kingdoms of this world but, to the contrary, Satan’s building up his kingdom on the ruins of God’s and Christ’s moral laws. Satan is still the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4).

Deut. 4:44 And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel:

Deut. 4:45 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,

Deut. 4:46 On this side Jordan, in the valley over against Beth-peor, 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:

Deut. 4:47 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;

Deut. 4:48 From Aroer, which is by the bank of the river Arnon, even unto mount Sion, which is Hermon,

Deut. 4:49 And all the plain on this side Jordan eastward, even unto the sea of the plain, under the springs of Pisgah.

The “sea of the plain” is the Dead Sea. Prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Dead Sea did not exist, for Lot chose a well-watered plain. When Sodom was destroyed, the violent earthquake made a huge hole for the Dead Sea and blocked the exit for the Jordan River to Eilat. Not only is the Dead Sea the lowest part of the earth, but the sun is so hot there that the water evaporates rapidly.

The “springs of Pisgah,” natural springs that emptied into the Dead Sea, help to identify the location of Pisgah. Spiritually speaking, Christians drink the water of truth from the springs, and with the eye of faith, they view the Promised Land (heaven) from Mount Pisgah.

The whole land of the 2 1/2 tribes east of the Jordan River is given a general description from south to north. Israel west of Jordan is similarly described as being from Dan to Beer-sheba (from north to south). The promised inheritance or boundary east of Jordan extends from the Arnon River and the city on its banks all the way up to Mount Hermon.

Verse 48 mentions “mount Sion,” so there were two Mount Zions, one being Mount Hermon on the east side of the Jordan River and the other being near the city of David in the Jerusalem area. Being exalted and pure with snow, Mount Hermon is likened to heaven, God’s throne.

At this time, the Israelites were not too near the Jordan, but nothing was obstructing their route to the river. They had defeated the Amorite kings Og and Sihon and the people, but they remained in this area long enough for Moses to record the sermons he was giving. Thus God had determined that the Israelites should pause and receive instruction before they entered the Promised Land and before Moses handed over the administration to Joshua. Once Joshua took command, action ensued, and there was little time for sermonizing.

(2003-2005 Study)

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