Deuteronomy 32:1-43 . MOSES' SONG, WHICH SETS FORTH THE PERFECTIONS OF GOD.
1. Give ear, O ye heavens; . . . hear, O earth--The magnificence of the exordium, the grandeur of the theme, the frequent and sudden transitions, the elevated strain of the sentiments and language, entitle this song to be ranked amongst the noblest specimens of poetry to be found in the Scriptures.
2, 3. My doctrine shall drop, &c.--The language may justly be taken as uttered in the form of a wish or prayer, and the comparison of wholesome instruction to the pure, gentle, and insinuating influence of rain or dew, is frequently made by the sacred writers ( Isaiah 5:6 , Isaiah 55:10 Isaiah 55:11 ).
4. He is the Rock--a word expressive of power and stability. The application of it in this passage is to declare that God had been true to His covenant with their fathers and them. Nothing that He had promised had failed; so that if their national experience had been painfully checkered by severe and protracted trials, notwithstanding the brightest promises, that result was traceable to their own undutiful and perverse conduct; not to any vacillation or unfaithfulness on the part of God ( James 1:17 ), whose procedure was marked by justice and judgment, whether they had been exalted to prosperity or plunged into the depths of affliction.
5. They have corrupted themselves--that is, the Israelites by their frequent lapses and their inveterate attachment to idolatry.
their spot is not the spot of his children--This is an allusion to the marks which idolaters inscribe on their foreheads or their arms with paint or other substances, in various colors and forms--straight, oval, or circular, according to the favorite idol of their worship.
6. is not he thy father that hath bought thee--or emancipated thee from Egyptian bondage.
and made thee--advanced the nation to unprecedented and peculiar privileges.
8, 9. When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance--In the division of the earth, which Noah is believed to have made by divine direction ( Genesis 10:5 Deuteronomy 2:5-9 Acts 17:26 Acts 17:27 ), Palestine was reserved by the wisdom and goodness of Heaven for the possession of His peculiar people and the display of the most stupendous wonders. The theater was small, but admirably suited for the convenient observation of the human race--at the junction of the two great continents of Asia and Africa, and almost within sight of Europe. From this spot as from a common center the report of God's wonderful works, the glad tidings of salvation through the obedience and sufferings of His own eternal Son, might be rapidly and easily wafted to every part of the globe.
he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel--Another rendering, which has received the sanction of eminent scholars, has been proposed as follows: "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam and set the bounds of every people, the children of Israel were few in numbers, when the Lord chose that people and made Jacob His inheritance" (compare Deuteronomy 30:5 , Genesis 34:30 , Psalms 105:9-12 ).
10. found him in a desert land--took him into a covenant relation at Sinai, or rather "sustained," "provided for him" in a desert land.
a waste howling wilderness--a common Oriental expression for a desert infested by wild beasts.
11. As an eagle . . . . fluttereth over her young--This beautiful and expressive metaphor is founded on the extraordinary care and attachment which the female eagle cherishes for her young. When her newly fledged progeny are sufficiently advanced to soar in their native element, she, in their first attempts at flying, supports them on the tip of her wing, encouraging, directing, and aiding their feeble efforts to longer and sublimer flights. So did God take the most tender and powerful care of His chosen people; He carried them out of Egypt and led them through all the horrors of the wilderness to the promised inheritance.
13, 14. He made him ride on the high places, &c.--All these expressions seem to have peculiar reference to their home in the trans-jordanic territory, that being the extent of Palestine that they had seen at the time when Moses is represented as uttering these words. "The high places" and "the fields" are specially applicable to the tablelands of Gilead as are the allusions to the herds and flocks, the honey of the wild bees which hive in the crevices of the rocks, the oil from the olive as it grew singly or in small clumps on the tops of hills where scarcely anything else would grow, the finest wheat ( Psalms 81:16 , 147:14 ), and the prolific vintage.
15. But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked--This is a poetical name for Israel. The metaphor here used is derived from a pampered animal, which, instead of being tame and gentle, becomes mischievous and vicious, in consequence of good living and kind treatment. So did the Israelites conduct themselves by their various acts of rebellion, murmuring, and idolatrous apostasy.
21. those which are not a people--that is, not favored with such great and peculiar privileges as the Israelites (or, rather poor, despised heathens). The language points to the future calling of the Gentiles.
23. I will spend mine arrows upon them--War, famine, pestilence ( Psalms 77:17 ) are called in Scripture the arrows of the Almighty.
29. Oh, . . . that they would consider their latter end--The terrible judgments, which, in the event of their continued and incorrigible disobedience, would impart so awful a character to the close of their national history.
32. vine of Sodom . . . grapes of gall--This fruit, which the Arabs call "Lot's Sea Orange," is of a bright yellow color and grows in clusters of three or four. When mellow, it is tempting in appearance, but on being struck, explodes like a puffball, consisting of skin and fiber only.
44-47. Moses . . . spake all the words of this song in the ears, &c.--It has been beautifully styled "the Song of the Dying Swan" [LOWTH]. It was designed to be a national anthem, which it should be the duty and care of magistrates to make well known by frequent repetition, to animate the people to right sentiments towards a steadfast adherence to His service.
52. thou shalt see the land, but thou shalt not go thither--( Numbers 27:12 ). Notwithstanding so severe a disappointment, not a murmur of complaint escapes his lips. He is not only resigned but acquiescing; and in the near prospect of his death, he pours forth the feelings of his devout heart in sublime strains and eloquent blessings.